Sunday, 30 June 2013

Cappuccino, Poetry and Heroes

I am sitting at the JOMA cafe in Luang Prabang drinking a delicious Organic Fair Trade cappuccino and being distracted from work on a warm Sunday afternoon. I was reading again through Walt Whitman's 'A Child Sad What Is The Grass?' (a good thing to do for Sunday afternoon distraction)- which, somehow lead me to some short stories by Campbell, which, in turn, then inspired me to write this short poem about the story of the hero. I think I will call it 'A hundred Thousand Myths':

Phase 1
The hero leaves the community.
Then the middle part,
Tests and difficulties.
Till the end,
Mystery, love and death.

The old cowboy love story,
With the big shootout,
That leaves the hero dead
dead as dead as dead.

But the hero lives,
And brings a new life to the community.
The hero life bringer.

A new life from death and sacrifice,
Shared to the community again,
An offering.

Nature and culture,
Bread and wine,
Given to mystery.

Burned, they turn to heat and light,
And light as smoke,
They disappear,
As wine poured on the earth,
As an offering,
And we drink.

We drink and tell the story till we fall down
We offer ourselves to the earth.
In the earth,
Where communities and heros and stories grew
As vines climbing up toward the light.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Organic Farm Poetry from Japan

Preparing for Tokyo I just visited the translated web page of Mr. Kaneko Yoshinori's Shimosato Farm in Ogawa cho town, Saitama prefecture.

While looking around the farm's webpages I picked this poem out of the jumbled automated translation of a farm trainees story. - It is about the trainees plan to make a book of the farming experiences and life experiences to share with farmers in Cambodia. - It is not clear who the author is so I cannot give proper credit but in the original text the author thanks the farmers Kaneko Noboru, Tomoko, Ishikawa, and Chigusa, as well as the fellow farm trainees learned together, and the people of Shimosato farm and Ogawa cho town. Perhaps forwarding this appreciation on is enough.

Farm Stare Future; Farm Frost 

Organic farming, intuition, the way to live life,
Became me in the farm frost.
The thing clasped about, 
Blood smears from this hand.  

In youth, traveling through India, 
Watching cremations, much until night fall. 
Three days, from fall to rise on the Ganges, 
Continue to burn hours after catching fire in the body, 
Smoke aims up to heaven, 
Ash, flow and hover to the river.
Meat and bone remaining burnt, 
Dog food and cow lick. 

Among those who have seen such a sight, 
In me, all life that I have led was born. 

Later, learning from local people in Cambodia. 
The important thing in life, without, at all, 
such a thing as power, 
such as position, 
such as honor, 
such as money. 

To value life, 
To live bright with the family, 
The people of the village, 
To live richly together,
To know such things 

The philosophy more than anything else, 
Is to cherish life. 

That there is only that day in and day out, 
To keep the stack small and steady. 

Bad things in themselves are also getting better, 
As the villagers say, 
The land is no good in spirit unless it is rich. 

And it is to the agriculture taken for granted, 
That will live on for granted. 
This village, 
The living land and soil, 
And all the live beautiful strong richness of farming 

We light a lamp in one corner.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Peace Research

I am very grateful to Dr. Peter J. Matthews and all the researchers, science writers, editors, translators, illustrators, and publishers at the The Research Cooperative for adding the new group Peace Research

This was the topic of a dharma talk heard yesterday from the San Francisco Zen Center. The dharma teacher shared an insight he had after working in conflict resolution for many years: another one-word description for 'conflict' could be 'relationship'.

It seems that a lot of the work we are doing in ecology studies, especially field work, is about conflict resolution. We are looking for ways to resolve the conflict between modern human lifestyle and the rest of the life and ecosystems of the earth in the anthropocene.

For my part conflict resolution through Human Ecology and Ethnobotany with indigenous people is a kind of peace work. Through the recording of knowledge about uses for native plant species we are taught about the conservation related aspects of the relationship that is established between people and the environment. - I think of it as 'use it or lose it' and I also know that we will not fight for what we do not love. - Conservation in the anthropscene is a function of creating a healthy relationship in the midst of the current one.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Tryin' On Clothes

When I was traveling around in Ireland I thought I would leave the delicious-food-and-Jamesons-filled confines of the Dublin couchsurfing ambassador's house to head over to stay for a few days on a nudist colony. - After chatting with the people at the nudist colony through CS a few times it made me think that it is not my scene. Plus Ireland is really too cold and rainy to be naked all day long, even in summer.

Anyway, I read this poem by Shel Silverstein at the time called 'Tryin' On Clothes' and thought of it as a silly nudist poem. Today I rather see it as a deep ecology poem about a true and close relationship between humans and nature. - The amazing diversity of outward expressions of identity and culture sometimes help us to have a deeper sense of place (i.e. indigenous clothing) but the majority of it seems to be about ego and consumerism (see 'the story of stuff'). - So it I see this as a poem about 'Tryin' On Clothes' in a deep ecology sense and perhaps allowing a kind of nudity of the ego and of outward expression in deference and connection to a true natural self and place.

I tried on the farmer's hat,
Didn't fit...
A little too small -- just a bit
Too floppy.
Couldn't get used to it,
Took it off.
Tried on the dancer's shoes,
A little too loose.
Not the kind you could use
For walkin'.
Didn't feel right in 'em,
Kicked 'em off.
I tried on the summer sun,
Felt good.
Nice and warm -- knew it would.
Tried the grass beneath bare feet,
Felt neat.
Finally, finally felt well dressed,
Nature's clothes fit me best.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Religious Forest Sites map

Some hopeful resources may be emerging from the academic world: The Biodiversity Institute at Oxford University is working in partnership with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation and the World Database on Sacred Natural Sites to create something called the The Religious Forest Sites map.

The lead professor from Oxford Sonil Bhagwat has said: "Where data is available about the boundaries of these forests, it will hopefully give the local communities an instrument to help argue that these are the sites that they have traditionally been protecting for a long time. They are sites which have lasted through several generations."

Nothing is on the map yet about Animist forests (other than the Shinto) so there seems to be a lot to do to get this map up-to-date.

Alliance of Religions and Conservation is attempting to start crowdsourcing information about more sacred forests areas:

Oxford is also accepting notes and information

Here is a poem from Wendell Berry entitled 'How to be a Poet (to remind myself)' about the sacredness of forests and of the human-nature relationship.

Make a place to sit down. 
Sit down. Be quiet. 
You must depend upon 
affection, reading, knowledge, 
skill-more of each 
than you have-inspiration 
work, growing older, patience, 
for patience joins time 
to eternity… 

Breathe with unconditional breath 
the unconditioned air. 
Shun electric wire. 
Communicate slowly. Live 
a three-dimensional life; 
stay away from screens. 
Stay away from anything 
that obscures the place it is in. 
There are so unsacred places; 
there are only sacred places 
and desecrated places. 

Accept what comes from silence. 
Make the best you can of it. 
Of the little words that come 
out of the silence, like prayers 
prayed back to the one who prays, 
make a poem that does not disturb 
the silence from which it came.

― Wendell Berry

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Permaculture and Biodynamic

Today in Chico News and Review there was an interesting piece about the Heartseed Community Farm. It seems that the Heartseed farmers Kee, Ron Toppi, and Elliott Proffitt were inspired by Paul Kaiser at Singing Frogs Farm and are running a farm based on Permaculture principles and some of the ideas of biodynamic farming. Reading about their awesome farm and the great ideas of these farmers made me want to revote Permaculture and Biodymnamic to think again and compare and contrast.

A little history: Biodynamics is a farming religio-philosophical practice that grew out of the lectures of Rudolph Steiner and the Anthroposophy movement in the early 1900s. Permaculture is a philosophy-design farming and living method that grew very recently out of the books and talks of Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Both permaculture and biodynamics seek to create sustainable patterns of living and growing food based on systems of ethics that deal with how humans treat the earth and each other.

Farming Practices: Biodynamics is considered to be beyond organic while permaculture is not necessarily organic. Biodynamic farming has restrictions for chemical and intensive farming methods while permaculture relies on good planning and the know-how and sensibility of the people in the system.

Culture: Biodynamics has more of a structured community - there are groups that inspect and certify 'biodynamic' or 'demeter' foods. There are also many communities, schools, and businesses that are tied in with the biodynamic movement. Permaculture more of a movement, there are legal limits on who can offer permaculture design courses but the word permaculture itself is not regulated in any way.

Philosophy: As I said before both are based on sustainable patterns of living and social and ecological ethics. - Biodynamics also includes some ideas that might be described as 'mystic' or astrological although that is a rather small portion of the movement's beliefs. Steiner was a philosopher who was interested in metaphysics, and this is central to biodynamic farming. Permaculture has more of an ecological-science approach - the mystical and esoteric is something each individual deals with as they like.

So the point is that these two systems of farming can be complimentary. A permaculture farmer can be biodynamic as well. Neither is mutually exclusive but each is unique enough not to confuse one for the other (you won't necessarily find a permaculture farmer out burying horns filled with manure under the full moon or a biodynamic farmer with swales dug across the contours of his fields). To paraphrase Bill Mollison 'Permaculture is the wardrobe and biodynamic can be a hangar inside the wardrobe'.

"Die Kunst ist ewig, ihre Formen wandeln sich.
(The art is eternal, their shapes are changing.)"
― Rudolf Steiner

"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,
the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."
― Bill Mollison

"Traditional agriculture was labour intensive, industrial agriculture is energy intensive, and permaculture-designed systems are information and design intensive."
― David Holmgren

More reading on permaculture and biodynamic (Han et al., 2015; Whitney, 2013, 2015).

Han, E., Whitney, C. W., Niether, W., Nelson, W., and Baars, T., 2015. Effects of Biodynamic Preparation 500 (P500) Cow Horn Manure on Early Growth of Barley, Pea, Quinoa, and Tomato under Saline Stress Conditions, Tropentag Berlin, Germany “Management of land use systems for enhanced food security: conflicts, controversies and resolutions”,
Whitney, C. W., 2015. Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture, Permaculture, 86, 4-5.
Whitney, C. W., 2013. Permaculture and Biodynamics: sustainable systems of living and growing, Resurgence & Ecologist, Green Living, 4.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (SUPSFM)

Great news: the World Bank has approved a 19 million dollar grant from the International Development Association to support the Scaling-Up Participatory Sustainable Forest Management (SUPSFM) project in Laos; to expand community participation in forest management in priority areas, as well as pilot forest landscape management in northern provinces*.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will implement the SUPSFM project in close partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment who's forestry strategy to the year 2020 aims to improve the quality and quantity of forested areas, and to generate a sustainable stream of forest products. - SUPSFM will support these efforts by promoting payment for ecosystems services and will work closely with other development partners including the forest carbon partnership facility to develop environmentally sound and sustainable growth opportunities.

*Reading through the Ministry Of Agriculture And Forestry framework it was not clear where exactly but I read: Luangnamtha and Bokeo, and forests in Dong Sithouane in Savannakhet Province and Dong Phousoi in Khammouane Province.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Wicked Happy Old Farmer

Moldy photo of a wicked happy farmer in Laos chucking hay with a bamboo pitchfork.