Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Change in December 2011

This month has been full of hopeful signs of what H. H. Dalai Lama has been calling our transition away from the century of bloodshed to the century of dialogue.
This month Kim Jeong-il is dead after 17 years of his dictatorship in North Korea which have caused the systematic impoverishment and starvation of millions of Korean people. There has always been a lot of nationalistic sentiment against the North Koreans in South Korea since the Korean war. It seemed natural to think that this may have manifested in some celebration at the death of Kim Jeong-il. However, there are no crowds cheering in the streets. In fact most people interviewed by the media in South Korea said they are hoping for change in North Korea. They have expressed hope that the North Korean people will now get more to eat and that displaced families, separated by the post Korean War border, may see each other again. It is amazing and refreshing to hear that the people are choosing a more compassionate and hopeful view of the situation.
Also today the last of American troops have left Iraq after nine years of senseless and bloody war. The Iraq war was started for no apparent reason other than economic interests of the United States and it has now ended. (I think Joseph Palermo said everything there is to say about this topic in the first few paragraphs of his fantastic piece for the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-a-palermo/the-end-of-the-iraq-war-a_b_1157086.html). This is a great relief for billions of people who are victims of violent US foreign policy and are hopeful that the military force of the United States may finally stop working to serve the bottom line of giant business and American commerce. The dialogue has begun about a possible future where the United States does not serve as the world police but instead cooperates and participates in a fair and just world.

What is more, the streets and web pages are filled with the peaceful protesters and voices of the 99 percent who are saying that time is up for the ill formed feudalist style economies. This is very hopeful news. 

In support of all this and more here is a quote from the Dalai Lama's 'An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life'
I find that because of modern technological evolution and our global economy, and as a result of the great increase in population, our world has greatly changed: it has become much smaller. However, our perceptions have not evolved at the same pace; we continue to cling to old national demarcations and the old feelings of 'us' and 'them'. War seems to be part of the history of humanity. As we look at the situation of our planet in the past, countries, regions and even villages were economically independent of one another. Under those circumstances, the destruction of our enemy might have been a victory for us. There was a a relevance to violence and war. However, today we are so interdependent that the concept of war has become out dated. When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer relevant. We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation and always keep in mind the interests of others. We cannot destroy our neighbors! We cannot ignore their interests! Doing so would ultimately cause us to suffer. I therefore think that the concept of violence is now unsuitable. Nonviolence is the appropriate method.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Smokey The Bear Sutra

Just listening to a podcast from Green Gulch Farm last July. Reb Anderson gave a dharma talk on consciousness and karma, he cited Smokey the Bear in that talk and it reminded me of this poem:



Once in the Jurassic about 150 million years ago, the Great Sun Buddha in this corner of the Infinite Void gave a discourse to all the assembled elements and energies: to the standing beings, the walking beings, the flying beings, and the sitting beings--even the grasses, to the number of thirteen billion, each one born from a seed, assembled there: a Discourse concerning Enlightenment on the planet Earth.
"In some future time, there will be a continent called America. It will have great centers of power called such as Pyramid Lake, Walden Pond, Mt. Rainier, Big Sur, Everglades, and so forth; and powerful nerves and channels such as Columbia River, Mississippi River, and Grand Canyon. The human race in that era will get into troubles all over its head, and practically wreck everything in spite of its own strong intelligent Buddha-nature."
"The twisting strata of the great mountains and the pulsings of volcanoes are my love burning deep in the earth. My obstinate compassion is schist and basalt and granite, to be mountains, to bring down the rain. In that future American Era I shall enter a new form; to cure the world of loveless knowledge that seeks with blind hunger: and mindless rage eating food that will not fill it."
And he showed himself in his true form of


A handsome smokey-colored brown bear standing on his hind legs, showing that he is aroused and watchful.
Bearing in his right paw the Shovel that digs to the truth beneath appearances; cuts the roots of useless attachments, and flings damp sand on the fires of greed and war;
His left paw in the mudra of Comradely Display--indicating that all creatures have the full right to live to their limits and that of deer, rabbits, chipmunks, snakes, dandelions, and lizards all grow in the realm of the Dharma;
Wearing the blue work overalls symbolic of slaves and laborers, the countless men oppressed by a civilization that claims to save but often destroys;
Wearing the broad-brimmed hat of the west, symbolic of the forces that guard the wilderness, which is the Natural State of the Dharma and the true path of man on Earth:
all true paths lead through mountains--
With a halo of smoke and flame behind, the forest fires of the kali-yuga, fires caused by the stupidity of those who think things can be gained and lost whereas in truth all is contained vast and free in the Blue Sky and Green Earth of One Mind;
Round-bellied to show his kind nature and that the great earth has food enough for everyone who loves her and trusts her;
Trampling underfoot wasteful freeways and needless suburbs, smashing the worms of capitalism and totalitarianism;
Indicating the task: his followers, becoming free of cars, houses, canned foods, universities, and shoes, master the Three Mysteries of their own Body, Speech, and Mind; and fearlessly chop down the rotten trees and prune out the sick limbs of this country America and then burn the leftover trash.
Wrathful but calm. Austere but Comic. Smokey the Bear will Illuminate those who would help him; but for those who would hinder or slander him...


Thus his great Mantra:
Namah samanta vajranam chanda maharoshana Sphataya hum traka ham mam
And he will protect those who love the woods and rivers, Gods and animals, hobos and madmen, prisoners and sick people, musicians, playful women, and hopeful children:
And if anyone is threatened by advertising, air pollution, television, or the police, they should chant SMOKEY THE BEAR'S WAR SPELL:





And SMOKEY THE BEAR will surely appear to put the enemy out with his vajra-shovel.
Now those who recite this Sutra and then try to put it in practice will accumulate merit as countless as the sands of Arizona and Nevada.
Will help save the planet Earth from total oil slick.
Will enter the age of harmony of man and nature.
Will win the tender love and caresses of men, women, and beasts.
Will always have ripened blackberries to eat and a sunny spot under a pine tree to sit at.
...thus we have heard...
(may be reproduced free forever)

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi

The Master instructed the group, saying: "Those who study the Dharma of the buddhas these days should approach it with a true and proper understanding. If you approach it with a true and proper understanding, you won't be affected by considerations of birth and death, you'll be free to go or stay as you please. You don't have to strive for benefits, benefits will come of themselves.
"Followers of the Way, the outstanding teachers from times past have all had ways of drawing people out. What I want myself to impress on you is that you mustn't be led astray by others. If you want to use this thing, then use it and have no doubts or hesitations!
"When students today fail to make progress, where's the fault? The fault lies in the fact that they don't have faith in themselves! If you don't have faith in yourself, then you'll be forever in a hurry trying to keep up with everything around you, you'll be twisted and turned by whatever environment you're in and you can never move freely. But if you can just stop this mind that goes rushing around moment by moment looking for something, then you'll be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas. Do you want to get to know the patriarchs and buddhas? They're none other than you, the people standing in front of me listening to this lecture on the Dharma!"Students don't have enough faith in themselves, and so they rush around looking for something outside themselves. But even if they get something, all it will be is words and phrases, pretty appearances. They'll never get at the living thought of the patriarchs!
"Make no mistake, you followers of Ch'an. If you don't find it in this life, then for a thousand kalpas you'll be born again and again in the three-fold world, you'll be lured off by what you think are favorable environments and be born in the belly of a donkey or a cow!
"Followers of the Way, as I look at it, we're no different from Shakyamuni. In all our various activities each day, is there anything we lack? The wonderful light of the six faculties has never for a moment ceased to shine. If you could just look at it this way, then you'd be the kind of person who has nothing to do for the rest of his life.
"Fellow believers, 'There is no safety in the threefold world; it is like a burning house.' This is no place for you to linger long! The deadly demon of impermanence will be on you in an instant, regardless of whether you're rich or poor, old or young.
"If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, then never look for something outside yourselves. The clean pure light in a moment of your mind--that is the Essence-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undifferentiated light in a moment of your mind~that is the Bliss-body of the Buddha lodged in you. The undiscriminating light in a moment of your mind--that is the Transformtion-body of the Buddha lodged in you. These three types of bodies are you, the person who stands before me now listening to this lecture on the Dharma! And simply because you do not rush around seeking anything outside yourselves, you can command these fine faculties.
"According to the expounders of the sutras and treatises, the threefold body is to be taken as some kind of ultimate goal. But as I see it, that's not so. This threefold body is nothing but mere names. Or they're three types of dependencies. One man of early times said, 'The body depends on doctrine for its definition, and the land is discussed in terms of the reality.' This'body' of the Dharma-realm, or reality, and this'land' of the Dharma-realm we can see clearly are no more than flickering lights.
"Followers of the Way, you should realize that the person who manipulates these flickering lights is the source of the buddhas, the home that all followers of the way should return to. Your physical body made up of the four great elements doesn't know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. Your spleen and stomach, your liver and gall, don't know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. The empty spaces don't know how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma. What is it, then, that knows how to preach the Dharma or listen to the Dharma? It is you who are right here before my eyes, this lone brightness without fixed shape or form--this is what knows how to preach the Dharma and listen to the Dharma. If you can see it this way, you'll be no different from the patriarchs and the buddhas.
"But never at any time let go of this even for a moment. Everything ~ that meets your eyes is this. But'when feelings arise, wisdom is blocked; when thoughts waver, reality departs,' therefore you keep being reborn again and again in the threefold world and undergoing all kinds of misery. But as I see it, there are none of you incapable of profound understanding, none of you are incapable of emancipation.
"Followers of the Way, this thing called mind has no fixed form; it penetrates all the ten directions. In the eye we call it sight; in the ear we call it hearing; in the nose it detects odors, in the mouth it speaks discourse; in the hand it grasps, in the feet it runs along. Basically it is a single bright essence, but it divides itself into these six functions. And because this single mind has no fixed form, it is everywhere in a state of emancipation. Why do I tell you this? Because you followers of the Way seem to be incapable of stopping this mind that goes rushing around everywhere looking for something. So you get caught up in those idle devices of the men of old.
Someone asked, "What is the Buddha devil?" The Master said, "If you have doubts in your mind for an instant, that's the Buddha devil. But if you can understand that the ten thousand phenomena were never born, that the mind is like a conjurers trick, then not one speck of dust, not one phenomenon will exist. Everywhere will be clean and pure, and this will be Buddha. Buddha and devil just refer to two states, one stained, one pure. "As I see it, there's no Buddha, no living beings, no long ago, no now. If you want to get it, you've already got it--it's not something that requires time. There's no religious practice, no enlightenment, no getting anything, no missing out on anything. At no time is there any other Dharma than this. If anyone claims there is a Dharma superior to this, I say it must be a dream, a phantom. All I have to say to you is simply this. "Followers of the Way, this lone brightness before my eyes now, this person plainly listening to me--this person is unimpeded at any point but penetrates the ten directions, free to do as he pleases in the threefold world. No matter what the environment he may encounter, with its peculiarities and differences, he cannot be swayed or pulled awry. In the space of an instant he makes his way into the Dharma-realm. If he meets a buddha he preaches to the buddha, if he meets a patriarch, he preaches to the patriarch, if he meets an arhat, he preaches to the arhat, if he meets a hungry ghost, he preaches to the hungry ghost. He goes everywhere, wandering through many lands, teaching and converting living beings, yet never becomes separated from his single thought. Every place for him is clean and pure, his light pierces the ten directions, the ten thousand phenomena are a single thusness.
Followers of the Way, the really first-rate person knows right now that from the first theres never been anything that needed doing. Its because you dont have enough faith that you rush around moment by moment looking for something. You throw away your head and hunt for your head, and you cant seem to stop yourselves. You are like the bodhisattva of perfect and immediate enlightenment, who manifests his body in the dharma realm but who, in the midst of the pure land, still hates the state of common mortal and prays to become a sage. People like that have yet to forget about choices; their minds are still occupied with thoughts about purity and impurity. But the Chan school doesnt see things that way. What counts is this present moment; theres nothing that requires a lot of time. Everything I say to you is for the moment only, medicine to cure the disease. Ultimately it has no true reality. If you can see things in this way you will be true people who have left the household, free to spend ten thousand pieces of gold every day.
Followers of the Way, dont let just anyone put their stamp of approval on your face; dont say, I understand Zen; I understand the Way, spouting off like a waterfall. All that sort of thing is karma, leading to hell. If you are a person who honestly wants to learn the Way, dont go looking for the worlds mistakes, but set about as fast as you can looking for true and proper understanding. If you can acquire true and proper understanding thats clear and complete, then you can think about calling it quits.
"Followers of the Way, you take the words that come out of the mouths of a bunch of old teachers to be a description of the true Way. You think, 'This is a most wonderful teacher and friend. I have only the mind of a common mortal, I would never dare to try to fathom such venerableness.' Blind idiots! You go through life with this kind of understanding, betraying your own two eyes, cringing and faltering like a donkey on an icy road, saying, 'I would never dare speak ill of such a good friend, I'd be afraid of making mouth karma!'
"Followers of the Way, the really good friend is someone who dares speak ill of the Buddha, speak ill of the patriarchs, pass judgment on anyone in the world, throw away the Tripitaka, revile those little children, and in the midst of opposition and assent search out the real person. So for the past twelve years, though I've looked for this thing called karma, I've never found so much as a particle of it the size of a mustard seed.
"Those Ch'an masters who are as timid as a new bride are afraid they might be expelled from the monastery or deprived of their meal of rice, worrying and fretting. But from times past the real teachers, wherever they went, were never listened to and were always driven out--that's how you know they were men of worth. If everybody approves of you wherever you go, what use can you be? Hence the saying, let the lion give one roar and the brains of the little foxes will split open.
"Followers of the Way, here and there you hear it said that there is a Way to be practiced, a Dharma to become enlightened to. Will you tell me then just what Dharma there is to be enlightened to, what Way there is to practice? In your present aetivities, what is it you lack, what is it that practice must mend? But those little greenhorn monks don't understand this and immediately put faith in that bunch of wild fox spirits, letting them spout their ideas and tie people in knots, saying, 'When principle and practice match one another and proper precaution is taken with regard to the three types of karma of body, mouth, and mind, only then can one attain Budhahood.' People who go on like that are as plentiful as springtime showers.
"A man of old said, 'If along the road you meet a man who is master of the Way, whatever you do, don't talk to him about the Way.' Therefore it is said, 'If a person practices the way, the Way will never proceed. Instead, ten thousand kinds of mistaken environments will vie in poking up their heads. But if the sword of wisdom comes to cut them all down, then even before the bright signs manifest themselves, the dark signs will have become bright. Therefore a man of old said, 'The everyday mind--that is the Way.' "Fellow believers, what are you looking for? This man of the Way who depends on nothing, here before my eyes now listening to the Dharma--his brightness shines clearly, he has never lacked anything. If you want to be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, learn to see it this way and -- never give in to doubt or questioning. When your mind moment by moment never differentiates, it may be called the living patriarch. If the mind differentiates, its nature and manifestations become separated from one another. But so long as it does not differentiate, its nature and manifestations do not become separated."
Someone asked, "What do you mean by the true Buddha, the true Dharma, and the true Way? Would you be good enough to explain to us?" The Master said, "Buddha--this is the cleanness and purity of the mind. The Dharma--this is the shining brightness of the mind. The Way--this is the pure light that is never obstructed anywhere. The three are in fact one. All are empty names and have no true reality.
"The true and proper man of the Way from moment to moment never permits any interruption in his mind. When the great teacher Bodhidharma came from the west, he was simply looking for a man who would not be misled by others. Later the Second Patriarch encountered Bodhidharma, and after hearing one word, he understood. Then for the first time he realized that up to then he had been engaged in useless activity and striving.
"My understanding today is no different from that of the patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the first phrase, you can be a teacher of the patriarchs and buddhas. If you get it with the second phrase, you can be a teacher of human and heavenly beings. If you get it with the third phrase, you can't even save yourself!"
Someone asked, "What was Bodhidharma's purpose in coming from the west?" The Master said, "If he had had a purpose, he wouldn't have been able to save even himself!"The questioner said, "If he had no purpose, then how did the Second Patriarch manage to get the Dharma?" The Master said, "Getting means not getting." "If it means not getting," said the questioner, "then what do you mean by not getting?"
The Master said, "You can't seem to stop your mind from racing around everywhere seeking something. That's why the patriarch said, 'Hopeless fellows--using their heads to look for their heads!' You must right now turn your light around and shine it on yourselves, not go seeking somewhere else. Then you will understand that in body and mind you are no different
from the patriarchs and the buddhas, and that there is nothing to do. Do that and you may speak of'getting the Dharma.'
"Fellow believers, at this time, having found it impossible to refuse, I have been addressing you, putting forth a lot of trashy talk. But make no mistake! In my view, there are in fact no great number of principles to be grasped. If you want to use the thing, then use it. If you don't want to use it, then let it be.
"Followers of the Way, don't take the Buddha to be some sort of ultimate goal. In my view he's more like the hole in a privy. Bodhisattvas and arhats are so many cangues and chains, things for fettering people. Therefore, Manjushri grasped his sword, ready to kill Gautama, and Angulimala, blade in hand, tried to do injury to Shakyamuni.
"Followers of the Way, there is no Buddha to be gained, and the Three Vehicles, the five natures, the teaching of the perfect and immediate enlightenment are all simply medicines to cure diseases of the moment. None have any true reality. Even if they had, they would still all be mere shams, placards proclaiming superticial matters, so many words lined up, pronouncements of such kind.
"Followers of the Way, there are certain baldheads who turn all their efforts inward, seeking in this way to find some otherworldly truth. But they are completely mistaken! Seek the Buddha and you'll lose the Buddha. Seek the Way and you'll lose the Way. Seek the patriarchs and you'll lose the patriarchs.
"Fellow believers, don't mistake me! I don't care whether you understand the sutras and treatises. I don't care whether you are rulers or great statesmen. I don't care whether you can pour out torrents of eloquence. 1 don't care whether you display brilliant intellects. All I ask is that you have true and proper understanding."
"Fellow believers, do not use your minds in a mistaken manner, but be like the sea which rejects the bodies of the dead. While you continue to carry such dead bodies and go racing around the world with them, you only obstruct your own vision and create obstacles in your mind. When no clouds block the sun, the beautiful light of heaven shines everywhere. When no disease afflicts the eye, it does not see phantom flowers in the empty air.
"Followers of the Way, if you wish to be always in accord with the Dharma, never give way to doubt. 'Spread it out and it fills the whole Dharma-realm, gather it up and it's tinier than a thread of hair.' Its lone brightness gleaming forth, it has never lacked anything. 'The eye doesn't see it, the ear doesn't hear it.' What shall we call this thing? A man of old said, 'Say something about a thing and already you're off the mark.' You'll just have to see it for yourselves. What other way is there? But there's no end to this talk. Each of you, do your best! Thank you for your trouble."
The Master was entering an army encampment to attend a dinner when he saw one of the officers at the gate. He pointed to a bare wooden gatepost and said, "A common mortal or a sage?" The officer had no reply. The Master struck the gatepost and said, "Even if you had managed a reply, it would still just be a wooden post!" With that he entered the camp.
Someone asked, "what is the true nature of mind?" The Master replied, "officially even a needle cannot enter; unofficially you can drive a horse and cart through."

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Organic Vietnam

I've just arrived in Hanoi and am traveling around Vietnam to get a sense for the agricultural scene  and to see where organic fits in and how it is going. Essentially I have been planning this as a vacation with an eye to the soil and farms. 

So far my impression is that Vietnamese farmers (and all  agricultural actors) are in need of knowledge and fresh ideas about  how to create a sustainable and safe agricultural supply. The farmers I have met are relying on chemicals but do not trust them and the  consumers I have met want to buy safe food but cannot find it. The local Vietnamese NGOs I have met with do not have a clear vision for the  kind of work that they want to do so they are waiting for donor  funding and jumping from project to project (worm castings in one  province and NTFP in another), more or less completely ineffective for  the whole farm system and commodity chain. 

The ADDA project seems to be making real changes on the ground and could be developed more. 

Keeping in mind the social, ecological and economic aspects  of the whole commodity chain. I'd like to spend some time with the  farmers, on the ground, and see how the farms are being run. - The  socialist system of agriculture calls for communal farming and  prescribes a crop per region. Driving by motorbike on the dirt roads through the countryside one can find whole regions of tomatoes and elsewhere whole regions of corn.  - It is clear that a diverse cropping system with utilization of organic matter for inputs and a spreading of  knowledge for pest management and crop rotations would make a world of  difference here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


A note from the 350 team I thought I'd pass along:

You don't necessarily need to camp out to help support this movement. You can also attend the daily general assemblies, take part in discussion groups, donate supplies or money, or put your unique artistic, media, or culinary skills to work. If you've been with 350.org for a while, this open-source approach probably feels familiar. It's more like a potluck where everyone brings a dish than a dinner party with a single host.
Look for an #occupy group near you:

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rules for a Sustainable Community

Since Wendell Berry has opted out of the computer age in favor of a simple life it is up to us bloggers to do what we can with his deep wisdom here in the blogosphere.

Here are his 17 rules for a sustainable community. May it inspire us to get up and walk away from our computers, into the forests and fields.

1. Always ask of any proposed change or innovation: What will this do to our community? How will this affect our common wealth.

2. Always include local nature – the land, the water, the air, the native creatures – within the membership of the community.

3. Always ask how local needs might be supplied from local sources, including the mutual help of neighbours.

4. Always supply local needs first (and only then think of exporting products – first to nearby cities, then to others).

5. Understand the ultimate unsoundness of the industrial doctrine of ‘labour saving’ if that implies poor work, unemployment, or any kind of pollution or contamination.

6. Develop properly scaled value-adding industries for local products to ensure that the community does not become merely a colony of national or global economy.

7. Develop small-scale industries and businesses to support the local farm and/or forest economy.

8. Strive to supply as much of the community’s own energy as possible.

9. Strive to increase earnings (in whatever form) within the community for as long as possible before they are paid out.

10. Make sure that money paid into the local economy circulates within the community and decrease expenditures outside the community.

11. Make the community able to invest in itself by maintaining its properties, keeping itself clean (without dirtying some other place), caring for its old people, and teaching its children.

12. See that the old and young take care of one another. The young must learn from the old, not necessarily, and not always in school. There must be no institutionalised childcare and no homes for the aged. The community knows and remembers itself by the association of old and young.

13. Account for costs now conventionally hidden or externalised. Whenever possible, these must be debited against monetary income.

14. Look into the possible uses of local currency, community-funded loan programmes, systems of barter, and the like.

15. Always be aware of the economic value of neighbourly acts. In our time, the costs of living are greatly increased by the loss of neighbourhood, which leaves people to face their calamities alone.

16. A rural community should always be acquainted and interconnected with community-minded people in nearby towns and cities.

17. A sustainable rural economy will depend on urban consumers loyal to local products. Therefore, we are talking about an economy that will always be more cooperative than competitive.

Get the poster from YES http://store.yesmagazine.org/other-products/17-rules-for-sustainable-community-poster

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Agroecology and the Right to Food

This year the United Nations Human Rights Council received the report, Agroecology and the Right to Food from Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur.
His conclusions are based on an extensive review of the scientific literature published in the last five years.
In it he says:
"We won't solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations. The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers' knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development… If key stakeholders support the measures identified in the report, we can see a doubling of food production within 5 to 10 years in some regions where the hungry live…Most efforts in the past have focused on improving seeds and ensuring that farmers are provided with a set of inputs that can increase yields, replicating the model of industrial processes in which external inputs serve to produce outputs in a linear model of production. Instead, agroecology seeks to improve the sustainability of ecosystems by mimicking nature instead of industry. This report suggests that scaling up agroecological practices can simultaneously increase farm productivity and food security, improve incomes and rural livelihoods, and reverse the trend towards species loss and genetic erosion… However, in moving towards more sustainable farming systems, time is the greatest limiting factor. Whether or not we will succeed will depend on our ability to learn faster from recent innovations and to disseminate works more widely…"

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Slow Down Korea

Living in Korea I am getting to know first hand how rapid industrialization and the obsession with growth changes a people. The shift happened so fast here (under the ruthless Park Administration 1961-79) that some traditional farm houses still stand between tall buildings and the farmers can still be found ploughing the earth beside the highway and wild collecting in the cryptoforests. Guerrilla gardening is the norm in Seoul.

In the countryside, among the farmers and foodies, it is still possible to get a feel for the slowness and quality of the traditional Korean life. A lifestyle which is in danger of becoming extinct in the frenzy of achievement, success and growth that keeps people in the office and in the classroom from morning till midnight.

The shift from traditional agrarian society to an 'Asian Tiger' of economic growth has been a harsh and violent one, filled with ideological struggles and the division of the people. The history of internal conflict since WW2, resulting in multiple mass massacres, has been repressed by the Korean and other foreign governments.

Many questions remain and a lot of work for the visionaries, movers and shakers of Korea.

As inspiration for a move toward a more just and equitable society I am posting the manifesto of the group who gets closest to hitting the mark. This manifesto marked the beginning of Slow Food in 1989.

The Slow Food Manifesto 

Our century, which began and has developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.

We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.

To be worthy of the name, Homo Sapiens should rid himself of speed before it reduces him to a species in danger of extinction.

A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life.

May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.

Our defense should begin at the table with Slow Food.
Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.

In the name of productivity, Fast Life has changed our way of being and threatens our environment and our landscapes. So Slow Food is now the only truly progressive answer.

That is what real culture is all about: developing taste rather than demeaning it. And what better way to set about this than an international exchange of experiences, knowledge, projects?

Slow Food guarantees a better future.

Slow Food is an idea that needs plenty of qualified supporters who can help turn this (slow) motion into an international movement, with the little snail as its symbol.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

History of Organic Agriculture

Looking for the History of organic Agriculture I was surprised to find that it was so heavy on Western names and philosophies.

The origin of the philosophical ideas which are the foundations of Organic are clearly Buddhist and Hindu. Sir Albert Howard '"The father of modern organic agriculture" and his wife Gabrielle spent a lot of time in Indore India. His work there is the origin of composting in western agriculture. It is also, very likely, the origin of the modern western organic farmers care for the soil and soil amendments. His work on An Agricultural Testament was influential for Lady Eve Balfour (the Haughley Experiment, The Living Soil) and J.I. Rodale (Rodale Institute).

Eastern philosophy had a lot to do with Steiner's development of the Biodymnamic practices as well. Not to mention the philosophical influences on the early transcendental and conservationist nature writers.

The Asian Agri-History Foundation (AAHF) is a non-profit organization which uses agricultural history to promote research on sustainable agriculture in the South and Southeast Asia. Historically South Asia has always had strong food security and the most sustainable agricultural management technologies for all its many agroecoregions. Today it is often seen as a food-deficient region in danger of mass-scale starvation, with malnutrition, food insecurity and unsustainable 'green revolution' agricultural practices being massively adopted.

The sustainability of modern agricultural technologies is being reconsidered by organizations like AAHF who look to traditional wisdom and the indigenous, time-tested technologies that have sustained the farmers of South and Southeast Asia in the past. The historical perspective of gradual development of traditional technologies for adaptation and developing appropriate technologies for a truly sustainable agriculture.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Community Based Conservation

Former White House advisor and retired dean of Yale Law School James Gustave Speth has written a new book called 'The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability'. It is bound to be an incredible read and I look forward to finding a copy here in Korea.
Surfing around on the Yale website with Speth's book and research in mind I came across this study in Environment 360 which shows that community conservation may be a more successful strategy for forest conservation than establishment of 'protected areas' http://ning.it/oeZ4rc - The report, by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), is titled: "Community managed forests and forest protected areas: An assessment of their conservation effectiveness across the tropics". http://ning.it/mU41Or
More from the Redd Monitor on Community Conservation vs. 'Protected' forests http://ning.it/pNYv2U

Thursday, 25 August 2011

List of Quotes from TED Singapore

I read through these while checking out the TED Singapore site and wanted to repost them all here:

An idea that is 
developed and put into action is more important 
than an idea that exists only as an idea. 
Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, 
founder of Buddhism, c500 B.C.

The value of an idea 
lies in the using of it. 
Thomas Edison

If you can dream it,
you can do it. 
Walt Disney.

Dream different dreams 
while on the same bed. 
Chinese proverb

Live out your imagination, 
not your history
George S. Patton

Think left and think right 
and think low and think high. 
Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.
Dr. Seuss

We must become the change 
we wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Ghandi

A journey of a thousand miles 
must begin with a single step.
Chinese proverb

You must act as if
it is impossible to fail.
Ashanti proverb

The person who says it cannot be done 
should not interrupt the person doing it. 
Chinese proverb

I like nonsense, 
it wakes up the brain cells.
Dr. Suess

New ideas pass through three periods: 
1. It can't be done. 
2. It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing. 
3. I knew it was a good idea all along! 
Arthur C. Clarke

First they ignore you,
then they laugh at you,
then they fight you, 
then you win.
Mahatma Ghandi

I can't understand 
why people are frightened of new ideas. 
I'm frightened of the old ones. 
John Cage

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. 
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. 
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Vision without action is a daydream. 
Action without vision is a nightmare.
Japanese proverb

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. 
Art is knowing which ones to keep. 
Scott Adams

If at first, the idea is not absurd, 
there is no hope for it. 
Albert Einstein

The best way to have a good idea 
is to have lots of ideas.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Every child is an artist. 
The problem is how to remain an artist 
once he grows up.
Pablo Picasso

Observe Everything.
Communicate Well.
Draw, Draw, Draw.
Frank Thomas, Disney Animator

Add legs to the snake 
when you have finished drawing it.
Chinese proverb

All difficult things 
have their origin in that which is easy, 
and great things in that which is small.
Lao Tzu

Great souls have will, 
feeble ones have wishes. 
Chinese proverb

You see things, you say 'Why?' 
But I dream things that never are, and say 'Why not? 
George Bernard Shaw

Discovery consists of looking at the same thing 
as everyone else and thinking something different. 
Albert Szent Gyorgi

Every truth in this world 
has an opposite somewhere. 
U Nu

The reverse side 
also has a reverse side.
Japanese proverb

If you're not failing every now and again, 
it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative. 
Woody Allen

Everyone is a genius at least once a year. 
The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together. 
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

Do something. 
If it doesn't work, do something else.
No idea is too crazy.
Jim Hightower

Ideas are like rabbits. 
You get a couple and learn how to handle them, 
and pretty soon you have a dozen. 
John Steinbeck

Lack of money is no obstacle. 
Lack of an idea is an obstacle.
Ken Hakuta

A person with a new idea is a crank 
until the idea succeeds. 
Mark Twain

Life is so short, 
we must move very slowly.
Thai saying

There is more to life 
than increasing its speed.
Mahatma Ghandi

There is a better way, 
find it.
Thomas Edison

Dig a well 
before you are thirsty.
Chinese proverb

It is the mark of an educated mind 
to be able to entertain a thought 
without accepting it. 

An inventor is simply a fellow 
who doesn't take his education too seriously.
Charles Kettering

The best way to predict the future 
is to invent it. 
Alan Kay

Imagination is more important 
than knowledge.
Albert Einstein

Imagination is the beginning of creation: 
You imagine what you desire,
you will what you imagine
and at last, you create what you will.
George Bernard Shaw

You cannot depend on your eyes 
when your imagination is out of focus. 
Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Don't confuse the art of the possible
with the art of the profitable.
David Tansley

If you don't risk anything, 
you risk even more. 
Erica Jong

The more you know,
the less you understand.

You may be disappointed if you fail,
but doomed if you do not try.
Beverly Stills

The most successful people are those 
who are good at Plan B.
James Yorke

Great ideas often receive 
violent opposition from mediocre minds.
Albert Einstein

A bamboo that bends is stronger 
than the oak that resists.
Japanese proverb

If you have an apple and I have an apple 
and we exchange these apples 
then you and I will still each have one apple. 
But if you have an idea and I have an idea 
and we exchange these ideas, 
then each of us will have two ideas.
George Bernard Shaw

When eating fruit, 
think of the person who planted the tree
Vietnamese proverb

Nothing is more dangerous than an idea,
when it is the only idea we have. 
Henri Fourier

Ask youself constantly.
'What is the right thing to do?' 

A great person is one 
who has not lost the heart of a child.
Lao Tzu

There is nothing more powerful 
than an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo

Change your thoughts
and you change your world.
Norman Pool

All that we are 
is the result of what we have thought.

The beginning of wisdom 
is to call things by their right names.
Chinese proverb

I dreamt of a thousand new paths. 
I woke and walked my old one.
Chinese proverb

There are many paths to enlightenment. 
Be sure to take the one with a heart. 
Lao Tzu

They always say time changes things, 
But you actually have to change them yourself. 
Andy Warhol

No wind, no waves.
Chinese proverb

Do not wait for leaders. 
Do it alone, person to person. 
Mother Teresa

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

IFOAM Organic World Congress History

Here at the KOC office we were saddened to see that the full history of the IFOAM OWC was not available anywhere online. Therefore we have done the footwork and here present the IFOAM Organic World Congress History:
It was Known as the IFOAM International Scientific Conference from it's conception in 1977 until 2000:
1st: Sissach, Switzerland (1977)
2nd: Montreal, Canada (1978)
3rd: Brussels, Belgium (1980)
4th: Boston, USA (1982)
5th: Kassel-Witzenhausen, Germany (1984)
6th: Santa Cruz, USA (1986)
7th: Quagadougou, Burkina Faso (1989)
8th: Budapest, Hungary (1990)
9th: Sao Paulo, Brazil (1992)
10th: Christchurch, New Zealand (1994)
11th: Copenhagen, Denmark (1996)
12th: Mar del Plata, Argentina (1998)
13th: Basel, Switzerland (2000)

It then became known as the IFOAM Organic World Congress:
14th: Victoria, Canada (2002)
15th: Adelaide, south Australia (2005)
16th: Modena, Italy (2008)
17th: Palddang, Korea (2011)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Joys and Lessons of Failed Work

Listening to a talk from the San Francicso Zen Center last night on failure I contemplated all my own failures and how much space and opportunity was in them.

I could not be more thankful for the failing and the realization they provide: that I can relax into comfortable happy Lucky Idiot-hood and smile.

Failure in good company:

The Joys and Lessons of Failed Work by Wendell Berry

I go by a field where once
I cultivated a few poor crops.
It is now covered with young trees,
for the forest that belongs here
has come back and reclaimed its own.
And I think of all the effort
I have wasted and all the time,
and of how much joy I took
in that failed work and how much
it taught me. For in so failing
I learned something of my place,
something of myself, and now
I welcome back the trees.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Use of Zostera marina for conservation

Seagrass has a number of important eco system functions including habitat for fish spawning, nutrient cycling, erosion protection and buffering of pollutants (Han et al. 2008). The eelgrass, Zostera marina L., has traditionally been used for a myriad of purposes in these North Atlantic coastal communities (Alm 2003). Unfortunately, During the 1930s, a widespread infection of the slime mold, Labryinthula spp., stopped the harvest of this plant species (Cottam 1934; Muhlstein 1989). The plant community rebounded shortly thereafter and was briefly used for the collection of a product called sea-felt. Fiberglass soon filled that cultural and economic niche and ended the wild harvest once again (Wyllie-Echeverria et al. 2000). Thereafter, the areas where the species had previously been protected for the harvest began to be developed and mismanaged.
The hopeful news is that there may be more uses, which will lead to conservation, for the troubled seagrass habitat areas the circumpolar North Atlantic. Ethnobotany plays a role in these cultural conservation mechanisms (Norton & Hannan 1997). Ethnobotany and paleo-ethnobotany of the species was explored through the archives and structured interviews throughout the North Atlantic. Based on these interviews, awareness raising about the cultural and ecological diversity of Z. marina and its habitat have already lead to preservation of historical work sites and habitat conservation in Nova Scotia (Wyllie-Echeverria et al. 2000).

Alm T. 2003. On the Uses of Zostera marina, Mainly in Norway Economic Botany. 57(4):640-45

Cottam, C., 1934. Eelgrass disappearance has serious effects on waterfowl and industry. pp 191-93 in US Department of Agriculture Yearbook of Agriculture ed by M.S. Eisenhower.

Han, Qiu-Ying; Shi, Ping. 2008. Progress in the study of seagrass ecology, Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research for Sustainable Development, Chinese Academy of Sciences. 28(11):5561-5570.

Muhlstein, L. K., 1989. Perspectives on the wasting disease of eelgrass, Zostera marina. Diseases of Aquat. Organ. 7: 211-21

Norton B.G., Hannon B. 1997, Environmental Values: A place-based theory. Environ. Ethics 19: 227-45.

Wyllie-Echeverria, S., Arzel, P., Cox, P. A. 2000. Pacific Conservation Biology. 5:329-35

Monday, 27 June 2011

Rethinking Property

Above is a cartoon by Edward Linley about the imperialist and colonialist Cecil Rhodes. His vision for a world under British colonial rule has had serious and lasting implications on politics everywhere. His life offers a good example of how morality is missing from both education and visions for 'development' around the world. He was an extremely brilliant Oxford graduate who managed to cause a lot of suffering in his short life.

Today land grabbing, changes in uses of land and general misuse of land is begging attention to some basic fundamental questions about land ownership. To get deeper into this topic I am planning to join the "Re-thinking property. Towards a Well-being Society?" exchange platform from the 25th to the 27th of August in Bangkok.  

Talks are planned from many amazing people including:
Sulak Sivaraksa, Peace Activist
Dasho Karma Ura, Bhutan ("100% organic country"-movement)
Silke Helfrich, Commons Strategy Group, Germany
Takayoshi Kusago, Social Systems Design, Japan
Nicanor Perlas, Centre for Alternative Development Initiatives...

Learn more at the School for Wellbeing Studies and Research

Here is 'Just Enough' by Nanao Sakaki, a short poem to drive home the notion of enough:

Soil for legs
Axe for hands
Flower for eyes
Bird for ears
Mushroom for nose
Smile for mouth
Songs for lungs
Sweat for skin
Wind for mind

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Ethnobiology and Conservation

Conservation through utilization. 

Work needs to be done that looks at ways to improve the relationship of people to nature through efficient and sustainable use of a diversity of species from native habitats. - I think of it as 'use it or lose it'. I also know that 'we will not fight for what we do not love' and that the cultural importance of native species has lead to much of the activism for environmental conservation. 

Work still needs to be done to find out how ethnobiology can best help with the maintenance of indigenous knowledge of native species, and what the challenges and benefits of this cooperation are. 

Here is a poem about work from Mary Oliver:

My work is loving the world.

Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Buffalo Urban Outdoor Education, Inc.

The Buffalo Urban Outdoor Education, Inc. (BUOE) is a small organization that makes a huge impact on the lives of low-income youth in Western New York.  It has recently been chosen as a semi-finalist in a local video contest hosted by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

The winner of the video contest will win a $10,000 unrestricted grant and the runner-up will win a $5,000 grant.  This funding could make a huge difference in BUOE's ability to serve WNY youth with extraordinary, on-water programming on Lake Erie.


To vote for the video, please click on the link below:


You may vote every day between June 13 - June 26.  VOTE TODAY!


The Greenhorns are a small radical group of young farmer activists. I first met the organizer of this group Severine v T Fleming at Slow Food's Terra Madre in Torino Italy a few years ago. 

Here is what the Greenhorns are about from Severine herself, the greenhorn in chief: 

"We produce events for young farmers and farm aspirants because we wish to support the boldness, the bravery of choosing agriculture as a career. We think that young farmers are particularly potent protagonists in the project of restoring our country-- they are powerful, but also vulnerable. Farming is hard, inadequately paid work. There are big risks, it is low status, it is a marginalizing activity.  These educational and celebrational events are our way of coming together and feeling our force." 

Here are some upcoming Greenhorns events: 

Rhode Island/ Newport+Providence Screenings - 6/17 and 6/18

Catskills NY/ Andes Hotel - 6/18

New York/ Clearwater Festival  - 6/18 and 6/19

Oakland Museum, Oakland CA - 6/19
"I Felt Oakland" in The Greenhorns SEED CIRCUS event series

North Country New York/ ESSEX Midsummer Grange Hall Mixer - 6/25

*For a copy of the press release, email events@thegreenhorns.net*
Or find it on the Facebook event page