Whisper by the Tree

14 Nov

Brought by a  Golden Leaf flying off the mighty Tree…

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They come and they go.
They burst, they glow and they fall.
They remind me of you and of me… of us all.
Looks change with the season.
With all them stories passing through, passing by.
Deeply rooted tree,
firmly united with earth,

silently grows ever stronger.

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All part of the neverending story.

Autumn

What’s the Time?

20 Oct

It’s 2 minutes to 12!

Whats the time1

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Whats the time2

So, how long can the growth continue as a result of the discovery of 3 new bottles: this quadrupling of the proven resource?

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Whats the time3

Can we continue with the same rate of population growth?

Can we continue with the same rate of oil extraction?

grandma to child

Earth can surely provide to satisfy everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed!

It is not so much about the numbers – it is about the attitude we have towards other living beings, towards Planet Earth, towards limited resources!

“Earth is the home we all share, providing us with the air & water we all breathe & drink. When talking about planet Earth, which I find the most loving & motherly, it never occurs to me to think of any *isms*…  we are all human beings, capable of understanding what is happening, and what we’re doing…. sometimes, all we need is a pinch of  clarity.

When I come accross such anomalies as exponential population growth, it reminds me of a behaviour of virus, which spreads for the price of life of the host, and of itself… we may have a tendency to behave like virus… but we are not virus, we can think and act to protect and to care for life…. We are all expression of the same Self. It’s not about what we think we are, it’s about who we truly are.

I dare to believe that most people are simply too busy with their daily lives, earning their daily bread and they can’t see the consequence of our small daily actions.

A bit of light always helps to see things clearly.

Exponential Population Growth and Sustainability – Part 1

19 Oct

We all inhabit Planet Earth – a space defined by boundaries. According to the studies conducted by NEF (New Economic Foundation) it currently takes the biosphere about 18 months to produce what humanity consumes in only 12 months. This tipping point happened sometimes in 1960s.

footpirntplanetNEF

If every nation in the planet consumed the same amount of natural resource as the US does, we would need between 5 -6 planet earths, to satisfy everybody’s needs.

The above data is from 2007. I was comparing this data to other sources, which vary for – / + 0.5. Looking at 2012 data, India increased from 0.4 to 0.8, China is up to 1.2 and Brazil to 1.9. The largest consumers of natural resources, not on this chart are the United Arab Emirates.

World_population_pie_chart

Source: http://esa.un.org/wpp/

Using 2012 data, China and India represent 2.6 billion people – rougly 38% of the world population – and growing.

One of the key factors related to global demand of natural resources is increasing number of population. However, we cannot neglect country’s purchasing power – their market position, access to natural resources and their level of development. For example – global oil consumption is  89 million barrels a day. United States consume 20 million barrels a day (22% of the global use) while they represent a fraction – only 4.5% of the total world population.  China currently uses 7m/b/day and has 1.35 billion people, with increasing needs and demands.

Global population growth represents exponential growth (a chart pattern that is often called a “hockey stick”).

popgrowth

For the last few months I’ve been working and living in Mexico and would like to demonstrate exponential growth of Mexico City. The city has between 20 and 22 million people ( 2012). In 1900, only 113 years back, the number was 0.5 million.

How does steady growth turn into exponential growth?

Let’s apply arithmetic, which I learned from Dr. Albert A. Bartlett. I have great respect for his wisdom, especially for the message he was trying to convey: “The greatest shortcoming of the Human Race is our Inability to Understand the Exponential Function.”

What is exponential function?

Exponential function is a mathematical function, used to describe the size of anything that is growing steadily, for example – 5% per year.

I came to realize how this problem affects numerous critical areas we’re facing at the moment, one of them being population growth. The case I have chosen demonstrates the importance of understanding unsustainable exponential growth and can be applied in others area; for example GDP – promotion of 5% steady growth of GDP, which is constantly brought forward by politicians as a solution to our current economic crisis.

Why it cannot work?

We are talking about a situation where the time that is required for the growing quantity to increase by a fixed fraction is constant. (e.g. 5% per year – 5% is a fixed fraction, 1 year is a fixed length of time). If it takes a fixed length of time to grow 5%, than it follows, that it takes a longer fixed length of time to grow by 100%. This longer time is called the doubling time.

a)      To calculate doubling time we need to apply a simple formula (using example of 5% annual growth)

Formula for Exponential GrowthCan we really achieve 10% growth in 14 years, 20% in 28 years and 40% and 42 years time?  Having limited amount of resources, lagging technology,  continuous investment in dwindling fossil fuel extraction and increasing CO2 emission? I think it’s about time to redefine growth!

b)      Let’s apply the calculation for population growth in Mexico City.

Based on National Statistical Data, the number of population in 1900 was approximately 0.5 million, 4.5 million in 1960 and 9 million in 1980, following the average growth of 3.5% yearly until 2000 when it dropped to 2%.

Year

No. of population according to our calculation

Doubling time

Numbers according to Nat. Statistics

1900

500.000

Recorded average 3.5% growth between 1900 and 2000

70/3.5 à 20

Every 20 years the number of people doubles

500.000

1920

1.000.000

1940

2.000.000

1960

4.00.000

4.500.000

1980

8.000.000

The growth rate fell to 2% in 2000s, it takes now 35y for the population to double

9.000.000

2000

16.000.000

2013

22.000.000

20 -22.000.000

2035

32.000.000

?

The results of calculation match with the actual data. There is minor deviation due to the average of 3.5%  between 1900 and 2000, which is acceptable and accurate enough to confirm the validity of results. Using other important indicators, which affect life on earth we notice similar patterns.

Hockey Stick

Graphs above follow the same “hockey stick” pattern, typical for unsustainable exponential growth (Melting of Arctic Sea Ice, Global Land and Ocean Temperature, Number of Weather related Disasters, Global Ocean Acidification, Human Population Growth,  CO2, N2O and CH4 Emission, Oil Extraction).

Conclusion

We started off with a steady growth, lasting for 80 years, which tipped over into unsustainable exponential growth after 1980s. Mexico City has begun sprawling out and up the surrounding hills, once a home of rich biodiversity, covered with trees, to protect from landslides, today covered by concrete houses.

The natural conditions and the infrastructural foundations of Mexico City was not built to accommodate 32 million people.  What I’m currently able to see around me is poor infrastructure, inefficient transport system, pollution, poor quality of water, high level of food dependency, dependency on fossil fuels and increased social inequality. In addition to that, the city was built on plate tectonics, on soft unconsolidated sediments that fill a former Lake Texcoco, surrounded by volcanos. It has a history of earthquakes, the latest and most damaging one was in 1984 with the magnitude of 8.1 on Richter Scale. In 1980s, there were only 9 million people.

You may say it’s an extreme example, and yes, I agree – it is. It just happens to be that I’m currently working and living in this city, hence it’s real to my eyes and I have a direct overview and experience of how it functions on daily basis.

Such extreme examples indicate our extreme inability to connect the dots and think & live sustainably. This example shows we don’t think carefully enough about the future, we don’t protect the environment and the generations yet to come and we are not ensuring them access to clean water, healthy food and breathable air.

Such is the case with Mexico City. Despite all, Mexicans remain one of the happiest, most optimistic and good hearted people I have ever met and I’m fully grateful for the experience. I only wish they would be encouraged to think about the bigger picture, not only about the American dream, that exists only in dreams. Most of the people living in this city struggle to earn their daily bread, to make it through the day, week or month. Current system doesn’t do much to support and/ or encourage a more sustainable way of thinking and living. My comments are made based on general observation and conversation I had with variety of people including students and faculty from privately owned and state Universities.

MexicoCity,22mpeople1,485squarekmMexico City

We can apply exponential growth to other areas. Graphs above show a similar pattern in many critical areas we’re presented with at the moment. They are affecting the whole globe. Knowing how exponential growth works, we can realize that current understanding of steady GDP growth is not only impossible; promoting such growth by policy makers and certain experts is deceiving and destructive in a long term. It can simply not be sustained.  We all inhabit Planet Earth – a space defined by boundaries.

Next: Part 2: Deforestation

Introduction of a new Journey – Education and SustainAbility

19 Oct

I was inspired to share my observation and understanding of Sustainability after seeing a Facebook post on my friend’s wall with a title “Human Induced Climate Change is False”. I followed the link with a video and listened carefully, with an open mind to what the person was about to share.

From where I came to be and from what I came to understand about this topic, I noticed this person using the word complexity, without grasping its meaning. He was talking about economic, social and environmental problems as being unrelated to implications of Climate Change. He spoke of unnecessary investments and efforts to create a more sustainable ways of living and doing business.

Such presentations can easily misguide many, especially newcomers who are still forming an understanding about Climate Change and Sustainability; even more so during times when critical thinking is in decline. My understanding is not complete; but I’m confident to say it is more complete when compared to much of what I hear, read and see in connection to Sustainability.  However, I leave you with a “ResponseAbility” not to take what you see and read for granted, but to form “your” own opinion, while keeping your heart and mind open.

Inquiry into Sustainability   Author: Brigi

The topic is broad, hence I have decided to divide the areas of Sustainability affecting the health of the biosphere our lives depend upon into several parts. In my next post I will present part one – “Population Growth”. The parts I’m about to share are interconnected and interdependent – hence I will emphasise the focus of the one I have chosen, while drawing connection between all of them.

My journey of intellectual and a more holistic understanding of Sustainability started in September 2011 at Schumacher College in Devon, when I signed up for a full time Master’s in Economics for Transition – a program specialized in Environmental Sustainability, Low Carbon Economy and Holistic Education.

I have deeply delved in the area of sustainability for the past 2 years and have tried to see it from as many perspectives as possible – as a human being – biologist, economist, banker, investor, psychologist, agriculturist, anthropologist, educator, ecologist, mathematician… and most importantly, as part of nature.

 Ecocentric Egocentric                  Author: Brigi

My intention to learn and know more is being driven by the care for all of life that surrounds us. To address the issues we are facing I wish to shed light on the process of what is happening. By my humble opinion, it is the process that matters most – means that lead to a never ending end.

Next: Part 1: “Population Growth in Relation to Sustainability

Learning from Nature

8 Jan

The origin of the word education comes from the Latin word “educare”; meaning “to draw out”, to draw out something that is within.

Education” is a process of shaping the mind through external sources. “Educare” is a process of shaping the mind through internal source; it’s about tapping into the source of wisdom each of us carries within.

Author: Brigita Laykovich – interview with Satish Kumar; founder of The Small School, co-founder of Schumacher College and Editor of Resurgence and Ecologist

Rabindranth Tagore was one of the greatest scholars who  placed the greatest value on nature as our most important teacher, which has been taken away from classrooms and replaced with abstract lessons, that cuts the stream of ideas directly from nature. “Education should revolve around nature, classes should be held in the open air, under a tree, with connection to the plants, animals and changes of the season. Students should spend lots of time learning from the nature” (Tagore).

He believed nature to be the greatest of all teachers. He saw this concept being thwarted at every step by the human teacher who believes in machine-made lessons rather than life lessons. Through such actions he saw the growth of the child’s mind injured and forcibly spoiled.

Tagore believed in education which takes count of the organic wholeness of human individuality that needs for its health a general stimulation to all its faculties, mental and bodily. He introduced an active vigour of work activities (such as cooking, weaving, gardening, improving their surroundings, rendering services to others), knowing that the joyous exercise of inventive and constructive energies help to build up the character. This approach brought a strong sense of reality.

The greatest success for Tagore was to see pupils perceive education as a permanent part of the adventure of life. Education was not a painful hospital treatment for curing them of the congenital malady of their ignorance, but a function of health and the natural expression of their mind’s vitality.

“An ideal educational institution should be a perpetual creation by the cooperative enthusiasm of teachers and students, growing with the growth of their soul; a world in itself: self-sustaining, independent, rich with ever renewing life, radiating life across space and time, attracting and maintaining round it a planetary system of dependent bodies. Its aim should be in imparting life-breath to the complete man, who is intellectual, as well as economic: bound by social bonds, but aspiring towards spiritual freedom and final perfection” (Tagore).

Teaching for Learning

23 Oct

Painted by: Edward Campbell, Photo: BrigiTree

During my visit at Brockwood Park School I met with dr. Gopal, who shared a video with me. Its called  “Teaching for Learning”. I found the question about emotional dependance most revealing. You can hear it the video between min 38,20 and min 40,30.

Later on Gopal gives an interesting example about creation of emotional dependence, drawing upon the experiment conducted in the school during the process of evaluation:

A child interacts with a teacher, showing his drawing of a flower (for the first time). His eyes remain glued on the flower. Teacher showed an emotionally charged appreciation towards the child, praising the child. Next time the little one presented another drawing. His little eyes were no longer glued on the image, they were looking towards teacher’s eyes – waiting to receive appreciation.

Gopal points out this can lead to emotional dependance. Focus of a teacher should stay on the “flower”. Appreciation and interest have to be expressed but the attention, conversation and focus have to be managed with care and awareness.

“Absorbed” Photo: Brigitree

What would educational system look like if grades were taken out of equation, if people learned for the sake of learning?

Do you think there would be a completely different attitude and motivation, which doesn’t create dependence? Would that true motivation come from within? Would individuals no longer cling on to other people’s reactions but become more self confident, independent, curious?

Would this support a different way a being, a Self-driven way of being, fueled by one’s own will to learn, live, to be, to explore, without waiting/ fearing to be endorsed or punished for doing or not doing something/ anything?

The Small School in Hartland

21 Oct

Visit to the Small School

Driving from Totnes to Hartland, over the misty Dartmoor felt like flying through 4 seasons in less than 3 hours’ time.

We arrived at Hartland at 11am with a great wholehearted sunny welcome and were kindly received at the Small School by a newly appointed head teacher Louise Hopkinsons, offered a cup of herbal tea by two lovely school girls who later on give us a tour around the small school. We shown through class rooms, photo studio, computer room, music balcony, kitchen, big dining room, beautiful backyard with fresh vegetable garden and a climbing tree.

Finally we entered a buzzing classroom with 8 school children and Louise. We quietly sat down and joined the lesson. What an inspiring Friday lesson it was; discussing about emotions, feelings and how to deal with them in and outside the school. Comments coming from 11 year old ones were incredibly mature and wise.

They should not be forgotten; hence I have captured few of them in a short video you can access just below.

After some time we headed off to the kitchen and helped peeling apples for a desert. Lunch was being made by one of the parents and 2 school girls. It was pasta day and everybody was looking forward to the moment, when everybody sits down at the table to eat like one big family. School felt like home and I have truly shared that feel, which was mentioned often by children.

Lunch was a bit delayed, but not a big thing; we were well entertained by Eddie and two other boys, playing music on drums, bass and electric guitar.

After half an hour we moved down the stairs to the dining area, said our grace and received a wonderful, nourishing, locally and organically grown food cooked with love. After finishing our second portion of delicious desert Wendy suggested to run out and climb up the tree. It was a kindly climbable tree and the sun decided to cast few more spells and make the playful break even more enjoyable.

At two o’clock it was time to continue the class.

That Friday was a special day; a cherry blossom tree planting day, which Louise was gifted by her ex staff members. We were all participating in decision making process, walked around the grounds to find the best spot for the cherry blossom tree.  Decision was made mutually, we all had a say and everybody was happy with the final choice.

This tree was planted with much love and respect; it will grow strong and one day it will offer its branches so we can humbly climb up again and see what a wonderful world it can be.

Thank you Small School! You may be Small by Size but you are surely great by Heart.

We couldn’t leave without saying hello and goodbye to the vast, blue Atlantic Ocean, soaking in sun, filled with glitters as far as eyes can see!

The road took us back home through setting sun and rising moon over the rolling hills of Dartmoor.

A good day, full of inspiration and hope!

VIDEO:

Author: Brigita Laykovich
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