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Category: Resilency

Way Of The Water Lilies: Science and Ancient Traditions


PHOTO: Cherry’s grandson Kelvin Lingiari holding some lily pods with seeds inside exposed (Emilie Ens)

Part of the problem with dealing with Global Warming is the commodification of the world’s resources by mostly first world countries. This wholesale mining of resources based strictly on a profit motive has not accounted for the fact that earthly resources are, in the end, finite, and therefore non replaceable. Additionally once you remove resources from the web of life, those profit motives are also not taking into account the holes left in the earthly infrastructure, and what will happen to the rest of that now weakened system.

While many in the developed world would not want to return to what they might term a more “primitive” type of existence, one which lacks the 21st century “luxuries” they now enjoy, there are important lessons about compatibility and sustainability to be learned from indigenous people and their methods. Lessons about obtaining balance with the environment we live in and entering into a mutually enhancing and supporting relationship with it.


PHOTO: Maritza in 2013 (on left) and friend (Karen Yunupingu) pointing over some of the 20,000 square kilometres of country looked after by the Rangers (Emilie Ens)

The indigenous peoples can also learn and take advantage of the scientific insights of the west to strengthen and enhance what they are already doing.

Both can learn from each other, and in the process, all can benefit by building a whole, more sustainable planet. A good case is the story of the billabongs or waterlilies and the Aboriginal people in Ngukurr, Australia. Anna Salleh writes:

(Cherry) says these billabongs were sung into existence by an ancestral sand ridge goanna spirit called “motolo” that started at Parsons Range.

This is a pretty different way to how western science describes the creation of these same lands. So with such contrasting perspectives, how do the rangers and the scientist actually work together?

Dr Ens says it is all about “cross-cultural ecology” that helps build understanding and common ground.

“This involves building the capacity of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to understand the country using scientific and Indigenous approaches,” she said.”


PHOTO: Good water lily cover at Namaliwiri billabong is a measure of success from both a western scientific and Indigenous perspective (Emilie Ens)

Read the whole article: Way of the Water Lilies: Where Science Meets the Billabong

Imagining a Better Future

IMG_1687As someone who reads a lot about climate change, it can get downright depressing. If the science wasn’t bad enough, we have dysfunctional leaders. The vast majority of lawmakers can’t even agree to change the name of a post office let along pass legislation to address the climate crisis. Those of us doing climate work need each other to keep from growing weary and overwhelmed. And we need to regularly stir up hope along with visions of a better future.

A regular segment of the Climate Stew Podcast is a broadcast from the future, 150 years into the future. From the year 2165 Timothy Meadows, with an other worldly voice, shares That Day in Climate History. A historian, Meadows looks back to our time, to us–the Climate Generation–to consider the many things, big and small, we did to rise to the occasion and address global warming.

These segments are based on research and current work that people are doing along with imaginings of what various groups of people might well do. I consider faith communities, LGBTQ, mothers, teenagers, and even pet owners. I weave in humor and even add a little ad from the year 2165 so that you can find out what future generations are consuming.

Here are some samples of That Day in Climate History. Perhaps they will help you see that a hopeful future is within our grasp.


Overwhelmed by the Internet? Tips for navigating a cyber-driven world

I admit it, I am not only a consumer of the Internet, I am consumed by it. Pretty much every waking moment of my day, except for when I am in the pool or in the shower, I am looking at the screen of desktop computer, an iPad, and a smart phone or all three at the same time. When I drive, I listen to podcasts and might occasionally (clears throat) check emails or Twitter. I like to think of it as multi-tasking, but really it is just out of control.

Don’t get me wrong I love the Internet and use it regularly as a vital tool in my work as a performance artist and activist. I setup and advertise gigs, research, write, learn, and share ideas. It connects me with the most important people in my life–family and friends who live far away or even nearby. I get educated, challenged, and entertained through the myriad options it offers. And like most people I get drawn into rabbit holes of endless Youtube video watching, celebrity gossip, and porn–which include naked bodies but also garden supplies, shaving equipment, and coffee making products. Other than passing out through a sleeping pill, there is no easier way to see two hours disappear right before your eyes than to casually approach the Internet.

Pensive Peterson Toscano

Pensive Peterson Toscano

What is your morning ritual? What are the first things you do when you wake up? For me it almost always has been:

  • Move a cat off my body (I don’t toss and turn as much as my husband so they end up settling on me)
  • Then I reach over in the dark and miraculously plop my hand right onto iPhone.
  • I first check Twitter. Any retweets? Responses?
  • I then check Facebook. How many people like my post? Who responded? How can I respond back?
  • Then I check my email which will not only be flooded with junk (no, I do not want to give her pleasure all night. I am sure she can handle that herself.) and with work-related messages. Typically something annoys me that requires a response, and my mind immediately starts formulating the words.
  • Finally I get out of bed feeling grumpy and rushed even before my first cup of coffee.

Last week I tried something new. Something that felt strangely radical. I decided that I would not go on-line for the first hour of my day. No iPhone check ins, no New York Times on my iPad, no quick peek at the notifications on my desk top. I pretended that the Internet did’t exist. Not an option. What happens then?

I actually have some experience with this. Whenever I am home these day, I try to make Sundays an Internet-free day (I allow for some texting or else I might hyperventilate.) I wrote about it some months ago: Silent Sundays–My Personal Digital Detox. My Internet-free Sundays are some of my happiest days of the week. I can relax in a whole different way. Enjoy a book. Focus on a household chore and find joy in the moment. Settle into conversation, cooking, or listening to music without the constant tug to look something up.

Renewable 9781631529689_FullCover 3Nov14.inddSo these days I am trying to start the day without the Internet. I turn on the light, look at my wristwatch (something I needed to buy because of Internet-free Sundays) and reach for book. I have been reading Eileen Flanagan’s Renewable–One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope. Like me, Eileen is a Quaker concerned about climate change and wants to figure out how to move beyond simply lowering our individual carbon footprint to engaging in climate action. I also have started reading Jennifer Grace Bird’s new book, Permission Granted–Take the Bible into Your Own Hands. It is the perfect book for someone like me who is serious about the Bible and needs to sort through years of religious oppression.

After reading in bed for about 30 minutes, I get up, greet my hubby in the kitchen, make coffee or tea and a little breakfast, then sit in the living room and read our local paper, The Sunbury Daily Item, which gets delivered to our house and then fed to our composting worms, used in the garden, recycled. When I say local paper, I mean I practically read about what is happening in my own patio. I learn about local and regional politics, read the letters to the editors, scan the events for the day (lots of bingo and fish fries these days) and look for specials at the nearby stores.

I clean up the dishes, make some more tea or coffee, then head up to my study relaxed, focused, and in a good mood.

With so much information out there, much of it bad news or scary news, along with the billions of ways to distract ourselves from the pain of this world, I find I need to protect myself from too much time on-line. It may sound like a little step, but so far that first hour without Internet centers me for much of the day.

What about you? How do you manage your time on-line?

Resilency in the Time of Ebola


A Unicef worker assembling school kits intended to help prevent another Ebola outbreak. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

I like stories when people faced with nearly impossible tasks, quickly learn to adapt surprising everyone and even themselves with their own resilence. A story out of West Africa gives me hope for tough times on a changing planet.

In September of last year the US Centers for Disease Control predicted that by the end of January 2015 the number of ebola patients in Liberia and Sierra Leone could reach almost 1.5 million. Gratefully the CDC was dead wrong.


A baby delivered in the West Point township of the city. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

According to Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times reports, “By that time only 21,797 were recorded” in those two countries and Guinea resulting in 9,000 deaths.

That is a tragically large number of fatalities, but far less than what was feared. While there are still new cases of ebola being reported, the number of cases “have fallen sharply in the last month, dropping to fewer than 100 in a week at the end of January–a level not seen in the region since June.”

What brought about the stunning turn of events? Was it all of the foreign aid and help that flooded the nations affected by the disease? Yes, in part, but the turn around happened before most of the new treatments centers were built and staff were in place. The resiliency of the local people who quickly adapted to the situation staved of the expected catastrophe.


A wedding reception in Monrovia. Credit John Moore/Getty Images

Dr. David Nabarro, the United Nations special envoy on Ebola said, “Fundamentally this is about the extent to which societies change their behaviors, how they change them and the speed at which they change them.”


What did these changes look like?

With little or no outside help in the early months, the groups educated their communities about Ebola, a disease new to this part of Africa, and collected money to set up hand-washing stations at key spots. They kept records of the sick and the dead. Many also placed household under quarantine and restricted visits by outsiders. As the sick were turned away at the gates of treatment centers because of lack of beds, people inside homes began protecting themselves better, covering their arms in plastic shopping bags as they cared for ailing relatives.

Dr. Mosoka Fallah, a Liberian epidemiologist said, “Heroes emerged in every community. The volunteer task forces may be the biggest reason behind the drop in October.”


FEAR FADING Beachgoers in Monrovia, Liberia, recently ravaged by Ebola. As fear of the virus ebbs, Liberians are slipping back into their daily rhythm. Credit John Moore/Getty Images


Similarly in Sierra Leone, citizens organized their own responses:

Laid-off teachers tracked infections, some villages set up informal isolation centers, and residents in some neighborhoods set up blockade, taking the temperatures of those who entered.

“The cavalry wasn’t coming,” said David Mandu Farley Keli-Comber, the paramount chief from the Mandu chiefdom in Sierra Leone’s east. “We were the cavalry.

He said that the region’s chiefs enlisted the traditional leaders in the area and put together bylaws that barred residents from hiding their sick, interfering with health workers or carrying out traditional burials that increased the risk of spreading the disease by touching infected corpses.

This is what we have seen over and over on small scales with families in the midst of a crisis and on large scales when whole nations and continents are rocked by war, disease, and natural catastrophes. Yes, people still suffer, but they can also figure out ways to survive, to thrive, and to remain human.

See the entire article: As Ebola Ebbs in Africa Focus Turns from Death to Life