Ubuntu – “I am because of you”

I found it hard to surmise the life of such an impressive man, whose actions bettered the lives of so many, so in reflection I ended up painting –

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A butterfly is a lovely symbol of the soul and transformation, like the ripple in the ocean, they may be small in the grand scheme of things but they are mighty insects that migrate tremendous distances in their short life spans.

As touched on in this brilliant TED talk I feel that one of Mandela’s greatest achievements was his own very personal transformation which took place while in jail. Holding steadfast to his values he underwent a long introspective process of the interior self, which enabled him to internalise the values he stood for externally, so they became the walking undeniable fabric of his being – unusually freed from the fears and tremors of the ego power play we see many leaders struggle with today. This gave him true resiliency in the worst of times, and profound widespread respect for his unfaltering lead by example. An example of how one person’s actions can make an enormous difference.

As my human rights professor told me once – “live by your dreams”
Don’t slave for them in some distant future on palm-tree lined shimmering shores but try to embody your values, all that you love and hold dear now, each and every moment.

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Soil is so cool

Dirt, mud, the earth from where all life has sprung is miraculous stuff, and perhaps where a lot of the answers to the mysteries of the universe reside. It often takes repeated exposure to what sometimes appears very mundane information, until there is suddenly a light bulb moment which permanently alters your perspective. I had one of these moments today which has finally rammed home a deep, profound respect for plain and simple soil.

I had already heard that 5g/1tsp of healthy soil contains more living organisms than humans on this earth. But I hadn’t really considered the implication of this until I saw a 3D graphic image of 1g of soil spinning round on a big screen, illuminating all the porous spaces (said to contain up to 10,000,000 cells, 5km of fungi, 10,000 different species). It was a wake-up call to visually see how much life is simply taking place under our finger nails! (soil traceability being a very important part of forensic evidence in criminal investigations)

Helen Browning of the Soil Association introduced the speakers at the Soil Symposium this year, with some astonishing facts. No news to the organic farmers and growers present but perhaps of interest to people like myself who don’t come into daily contact with soil and aren’t conscious of its vital importance to our survival.

  • It takes 500 years or so to create an inch of fertile top soil and only a decade or so to deplete it
  • Worldwide we have damaged over 15% of our land, destroying soils 10 times faster than creating them
  • In the UK 2 million tonnes of soil is lost each year, which is £150-250 millions worth of soil damage

The talks that followed all upheld the importance of bio-dynamic farming, which use organic methods in soil cultivation to essentially feed the soil and maintain high levels of bio-diversity, creating more nutritionally dense, fertile and high yielding soils.

Professor Dr. Urs Niggli from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture, advocated a new approach for farmers to prevent soil depletion called ‘eco-functional intensification’ rather than the over-used meaningless term ‘sustainable intensification’. In 2002 a report showed how this sort of farming, using reduced tillage and organic fertilisers, doubles the physical and microbial properties of soil – data which even the pro-GM Avery clan of this world couldn’t refute. The soil becomes more porous-retains more water, carbon and biomass which creates healthier, high yielding soils.

The underlying truth to highlight is that much like the universe, our brains, uncharted ocean depths, we understand very little about the life of soil at the microscopic level. It still remains to be discovered but one thing is clear that biodynamic farming is the way forward to ensure a thriving planet that can sustain us.

Seeking Slow – a food & art mash-up

The theme was the future of food and our relationship with technology – slowing down might be the desire of many when it comes to food and technology but the size of these topics are of another extreme – enormous.

Despite the days best intentions to bring people together across the food supply chain to begin a slow-revolution, the event did bring a good mix of people to Testbed1 art space to enjoy chef Mark Jankel’s delicious food from The Street Kitchen, and perhaps start new unlikely collaborations or at least share different insights and ideas.

There were guests from Volcano Coffee Works, Lalani & Co tea and La Fromagerie cheese who ethically source from small independent farmers and producers. Guy Watson of Riverford Organic Farms and Simon Palfry from Laverstoke Park Farm represented the farming industry and dispelled any romantic notions anyone may have of the farming life. In the evening we enjoyed Dodd’s gin cocktails courtesy of The London Distillery Company, incorporating The London Honey Company’s harvest and The New Dawn Traders brought a whole new level of slow to the event. We heard how they were about to embark on a seven month voyage by sail to Brazil, to highlight a highly oil dependent freight trade industry that is neglecting to exploit wind and solar power with new technologies to green-up food trade.

Workshops held during the day helped you learn how to better nourish yourself mentally and physically, from The Stranger Collective and The Viva Mayr diet respectively. The Stranger Collective dedicate every tenth working day to creative nourishment which will in turn lead to better productivity and inspired ideas for their clients. Dr Stossier of the Viva Mayr diet advocated simple remedies like chewing your food longer and really tasting the flavours to aid digestion, as well as a glass of bicarbonate of soda in the morning or evening to reduce acidity in the body, a pre-cursor for many diseases – and most importantly ‘nothing raw after four’ to prevent fermentation in the body.

The whole event took place amongst an Our Autonomous Nature temporary art-installation, featuring an array of nature-inspired art work, creating the perfect back-drop to dinner with talks around the environmental impact of our consumer lifestyles.

The event had a different atmosphere to most conferences and convergences that often preach to the choir, with those who played a part in making it happen as much in attendance, as outsiders. In fact everyone who attended had some connection to collaborators giving it a lovely, relaxed atmosphere that supported everyone’s pursuits and passions, and encouraged a cross-collaboration and pollination of ideas!

Thank you House of Devon and The Doodle Bar for hosting the event.. more like this please : )