A sixth branch of the This Sustainable Life family tree has started. Michèle Watson started This Sustainable Life: Biodiversity & Conservation.
Congratulations and welcome aboard, Michèle!
She posted the first two episodes. As usual, the first episode featured me, as first episodes emerge from the podcast host training I provide. The second episode features an impressive Tony Frost. Among more conservation work, he served as a member of the Minister of Environment Affairs Advisory Forum, the South African Biodiversity Institute, the JSE Sustainability Index Advisory Committee, the NBI Sustainable Futures Advisory Board. For 5 years until February 2007 he was Chief Executive of the WWF in South Africa and served on several the WWF International Strategic Global Committees, the Percy Fitzpatrick Advisory Board and others.
Michèle is posting from Switzerland. She grew up in Zimbabwe, though born Swiss and lived in East Africa and Zaïre. In her words, from her About page:
I grew up in Africa, studied in Europe, lived in Asia, speak more than six languages, have gone to schools belonging to five different faiths, lived in eleven countries.
The shores of Lake Victoria were my playground.
It was normal to cross the Serengeti in order to fly back “home” to Switzerland.
My mother’s solution to flies in the kitchen was to tell me to find a chameleon who would live on the mosquito screen for a day.
Fun with my brother was to take photos of waterbuck antelopes at night.
My fondest memories of the Philippines are all of scuba-diving.
For more background, she let me post from an email she sent me about a documentary (by the people behind My Octopus Teacher) about the San bushmen in southern Africa. Keep in mind, she only wrote it for me, so didn’t edit it for the world, but you get an idea of her reflection, passion, and African roots:
Here are my thoughts on the movie and your conversation with James Suzman.
The San are one of the few people who still know how to live with nature sustainably. Sadly, they are losing their ways, their wisdom, as they have not been allowed to live in the ancestral way and their knowledge/life experience is no longer being passed down to younger generations. That is a huge loss – not just for them, their own culture that is disappearing, but for the whole of humanity. They are the only people who know how to live and thrive in the Kalahari. “White/civilised” men would be quite unable to live sustainably. Yet laws and modern ways are erasing this wisdom.
For me true civilisation means knowledge or culture that allows a people to live sustainably long term in an environment without degrading that environment. Which means that 99% of humans are rather uncivilised and many so called “primitive” cultures are the much wiser ones.
All “great” civilisations failed due to unsustainable growth. If only modern days society would finally get that lesson, that physical and economic growth is NOT the answer. Romans, Greeks, Mayans, Aztecs, Egyptians – all destroyed by their unsustainable growth. Even in smaller, less known cultures like in Zimbabwe, the Monomatapa also had a “greater” civilisation, built a great city, but overgrazing, cutting down all the wood for fuel in the area- the whole thing collapsed and they dispersed. When John Cecil Rhodes arrived in Zimbabwe, there was no “great civilisation” there any longer, but only smaller villages who knew not to overpopulate the area with their cattle (and themselves.)
The only thing that is truly worth growing is love, joy, compassion, kindness… living a more spiritual life.
As for the tracking and becoming the animal and that tracking and dancing are being connected to “God” /“Life” (whichever term you prefer), I totally agree with the hunter. Between hypnotherapy and learning inter-species communication with Anna Breytenbach, it opened up a whole new perspective of Life for me.
The film also touched on the importance of collaboration vs. competition – even biologists/naturalists now understand how natural life forms are in fact collaborating, not competing against each other, sorry about that, Mr. Darwin, he didn’t quite understand the whole story.
Back to the movie. I think it really shows that when we’re in tune with nature, with the whole of life, we live more deeply and feel more fulfilled with “what is.” Living with a feeling of contentment, finding the wealth and abundance in our surroundings, instead of continuously feeling lack and wanting more, more stuff, more money, more power…. I noticed, living in different countries and different cultures, that often, the people who had “less” were in fact more joyful. By all Western standards, a family in Uzbekistan who struggles to make ends meet, where it is normal to sleep three or four to a room, should be depressed and angry and discontented. Yet these people were so joyful and full of life! And resilient, still appreciating the “simple” things in life. And when I would return to Switzerland, I would notice how my compatriots, who, by all standards, “had it all” were mostly complaining about how things were not good enough, quite oblivious to how good they had it in comparison to the average Uzbek, using Western life standards.
Listening to your talk with James Suzman, I explain this search for emotions linked to unsustainable activities and behaviour is due to the fact (my opinion) that humans have become disconnected to Life/spiritual living.
When you start living in a more Life connected way, recognising that everything is alive and filled with its own energy (which science does prove) and when you get in tune with that, then more simple things give you immense satisfaction. Such as going for a walk in nature numerous times a week 😉
Things like spending quality time with friends and focusing on being kind, loving, compassionate, joyful.
When we do that, becoming more aware of our emotions and their origin, two things happen. For one, we no longer feel this inner void/sensation of lack – which then means that two, we no longer seek unsustainable ways to fill this emotional void.
The hunter gatherer, in order to be “successful” in daily living, needs to live in tune with his surroundings, the nature around him. And that behaviour gives you the feeling of oneness with Life, it fills you up.
Instead of feeling that there are not enough berries when the rains are scarce, you are more likely to be in tune with nature, notice that the rain pattern is changing, and start moving to where the rains are more abundant, or find other berries that are edible. But you don’t end up farming. Our lives are governed by our mindset. And if you live your life believing that the world is an abundant one, you will take different actions than if you believe the world is one of scarcity. Isn’t that one of Einstein’s sayings? The most important decision to make in one’s life is whether you live in a benevolent world, or a malevolent one? Same kind of thing.
Like James Suzman said—farming leads to a lack mentality. Or maybe a lack mentality led to farming. Chicken or the egg argument. Either way.
When one leads a life feeling and believing that all we need (not want) is always available, we make very different choices in life. I believe that a hunting gathering lifestyle is filled with contentment with how things are and thus avoids all the pitfalls that modern life has created for itself. The San feels deep fulfilment and connection when hunting and feeling Oneness with his prey. The women feel the same way when they are foraging and find an edible root or berries.
You know that feeling from your own experience. It’s deeply satisfying. In a healthy way – not like watching a movie you’ve been aching to see. Then once done, well, you ache for the next high. Whereas foraging is somehow satisfying in a simpler yet more wholesome way.
If I were to sum up my thoughts? The answer lies in turning inside, being more in tune with our values, our emotions, and tuning in with nature and becoming aware of the oneness of it all, how our mutual well-being is so interlinked. It’s an inside job.
Michèle’s first two episodes
To save you clicks, here’s episode 1, with me:
Episode 2, with Tony Frost:
You’re welcome to join and make a branch of the podcast too, in your field of interest. You’ll help create the greatest, most effective movement to protect Earth’s ability to sustain life, meet incredible people, and have fun doing it. Contact me and we’ll start your training.
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