Water – Wiser

By: Melissa Baird

I met the Japanese author and researcher; a natural “scientist” Dr Maseru Emoto in 2008, the same year I launched Life in Balance , South Africa’s first conscious-consumer, lifestyle publication. His research in to the power of thought and its impact on water was astounding and prompted me to conduct an experiment that has since then been repeated many times by curious people. Back then I worked as the managing editor for a golf publication. Life in Balance was produced out that office as well and I had a tough time with the paradox that Life in Balance’s first issue was themed “Water” whilst golf courses were famed for their wanton use of it and the golf journalists for their disdain for environmentalists. I was keen to prove something to them. Would this experiment ‘prove’ that water had consciousness and what would that mean for us (as humans) who are -at varying points of our- lives over 70% water?

The method was (and is) simple; take two glass jars, fill each with the same quantity of purified water, add a small quantity of uncooked rice (equal to both jars), label one jar “love” and one “hate”. Put the ‘hate’ jar away from human contact and the ‘love’ jar preferably where you can constantly project affirmative words towards it. Weeks later compare the two. Despite persistent efforts from the golf journalists and publisher (who would randomly walk in to my office and swear profusely at the jar labelled ‘love’) – the experiment proved that the water that was loved didn’t fester – whilst the water in the jar labelled ‘hate’ became fetid and dark.

In the same year Dr Anthony Turton – a scientist and water expert at the CSIR was fired for his report Three Strategic Water Quality Challenges that Decision-Makers Need to Know About and How the CSIR Should Respond CSIR Report No. CSIR/NRE/WR/EXP/2008/0160

It is a fascinating report and in it he outlined three drivers that would impact the country’s ability to develop sustainably (and avoid social collapse). These are: Climate change, Dilution Capacity and Spatial DevelopmentAdd to these the complex historical landscape of South Africa and how access to water was founded on a political agenda, not one based on equal social development, and one can see why he was silenced.

Since then I have had the privilege of learning from and working with Dr Turton. As a result, I understand the fact that water (as much as it responds to conscious thought) is a renewable resource and our future water security will depend largely on the technology that can recycle waste water. Implementing the technology and renovating the waste water treatment plants will require huge political will, investment and a massive shift in thinking to accept that recycled water is the water of the future.  Whilst the politicians obfuscate and deliberate we can at least begin developing our water wisdom and make different choices that are for the love of water, not for its waste.

Have you considered the water footprint of the products you buy and their impact on waste water once used? I wonder how the consumer landscape would change if water intensive products were costed as such; what would a hamburger, beer, soft drink or diamond cost if that was a factor? During this terrible drought (a result of low rainfall, mismanagement and utter lack of knowledge of the hydrological cycle) we are all being encouraged to save water, use less and make use of grey water to keep our gardens alive. But what is grey water made of? The stuff you clean your home, body and clothes with.  Generally, products laden with phthalates, petrochemical derivatives and non-biodegradable entities that once in the water system – stay there.

Consumers need to assimilate into their buying decisions the impact of a product on the water cycle, its water footprint and whether it leaves the water system healthier or not.  Remember the origins of life on this planet, it all emerged from the watery depths. The sea holds great treasure and is also being destroyed by untreated sewerage effluent, single use plastic pollution and unsustainable fishing practises. We live in a closed biosphere and all the water on the planet now is as it was at the time of the dinosaurs. Water constantly regenerates itself if allowed to follow its natural course through wetlands before re-entering the sea or rivers; essential filtration processes that ensure its regeneration and constant ability to be -used. But what is happening now is the pollution of the water sources is reaching a point where it will not be able to be regenerated without highly advanced technology that can return it to usable condition.

This is what Dr Turton meant by ‘Dilution capacity” and it is something we all need to be aware of because what goes in to the sewage systems and what goes into the grey water is a direct result of what we put in to it.  Have you read the labels and are you clear about what the ingredients do to water and therefore to you? I stopped using commercially produced cleaning products over seven years ago as I became aware of the poisons that were used in many of them. I remember picking up a bottle of famous dishwashing liquid and reading the label through a haze of green fluid: Contains “Amongst other things anionic detergents, solubilisers, colourants and perfume”. There was not clarity on what those “other things” may be but I thought of 20million households using this in varying quantities and what that collective impact is on the water treatment plants that are unable to recycle water as it can be in to a regenerative and re-usable resource.

Check the products that you use are not harmful to this our most precious resource and to you.

” South Africa has lost its dilution capacity, so all pollutants and effluent streams will increasingly need to be treated to ever higher standards before being discharged into communal waters or deposited in landfills.”

Dr Anthony Turton – CSIR report

This article is published in Plaastoe – South Africa’s leading agricultural and lifestyle publication.

Water Expert, Dr Anthony Turton on Cape Town’s Water Crisis

Cape Town residents queueing for water at one of the city’s mountain spring pipes.

Former senior researcher at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Anthony Turton talks to Radio New Zealand about Cape Town’s current water crisis.

Dr Turton, who was suspended from the CSIR in 2008 on the grounds that the findings of his keynote address, ‘A Clean South Africa’ would bring the council into disrepute, warns the country’s decision-makers of the water crisis the country is headed for.

Dr Turton expresses his opinion in the interview that drought is a normal condition in South Africa and that this reason is, “a red herring that politicians are putting out there to deflect the blame away from themselves.”

To read the paper which caused Dr Turton’s suspension, go to : http://www.anthonyturton.com/assets/my_documents/my_files/Keynote_Address_CSIR_2008_Ver_2.pdf

 Water – water everywhere but how much left to drink?

water World Water Day

World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The international day of awareness began in 1993 and is meant to unite the world in its action in how to conserve and recycle water as the world’s population increases and demands for fresh water escalate.

AS one of the largest cities in the world, Sao Paolo in Brazil ( population over 20 million people)  is currently grappling with a crippling water crises it is making people pay much more attention to water and how it matters in everyday life. That sounds ridiculous to say but there is very little connection between the water that comes out of a tap  (if you are lucky) and the water systems that feed municipal systems. The rivers and lakes and wetlands that perform vital functions in water storage and water purification are constantly under strain and many are at breaking point in this country.water 3

Drought and mushrooming development and pollution has led to Sao Paolo’s water emergency. In South Africa we have seen social unrest leading to deaths of protestors because of lack of water. Imagine a city of 20 million residents fighting for water? No, don’t. During this crises their water supply was being cut off between 1 pm and 7am every day and on 7th March hundreds of thousands of residents marched through the streets demanding their government take action.

InWorld-Water-Day-2015Walkthon-for-water-2015-smaatindia South Africa we have time to sort out our water issues. But not much and this is where as a citizen you can do your very best to recycle and install grey water systems, have a rain water tank and use your water with care and consideration. It is everyone’s ‘problem’ and like our energy grid showing how we need to work together, the impending water crises will require smart local municipal decision makers who can make choices about using water technology and waste water treatment technology that prevents raw sewage from entering our rivers and the continued destruction of wetlands in favour of development. Wetlands are capable of purifying water before it enters the sea and lakes and should be treated with utmost care. But there are a lot of ‘shoulds’ and not enough ‘have-dones’ in this debate. I’ll write about wetlands on the next issue and take you on a journey of their roll in water purification.

The United Arab Emirates is now investing in desalination plants and waste water treatment units because it lacks fresh water. As crown prince General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan admitted: “For us, water is [now] more important than oil.”

( The Guardian March 8 2015)

water 2


The Essential Ingredient : Love


Comfort food means something different for each individual but what is commonly shared are the quality of the memories a meal cooked and served with love evokes. They are never to be forgotten and continually abundant.
Mine is my granny’s lovingly cooked casseroles, served with perfect vegetables. Or her carefully prepared whole wheat bread sandwiches that my little fingers would clutch and savour. She cooked and prepared food in a tiny kitchenette, on a single hot plate in her bachelor flat, as she lived the last days of her colourful life.

loveI think of her every time I cook buttery scrambled ‘happy chicken’ eggs, just textured enough to melt in my mouth or remember to eat my greens and lots of them.
Making wonderful food is a process akin to alchemy beginning with quality ingredients. For every recipe however there is the option to add a generous splash of a fundamental ingredient that is lacking fast food menus, food giants’ balance sheets and pro-GMO scientific reports, that ingredient is Love.
The wonderful news is there are a growing number of farmers who are putting their passion and care on a level equal to that of the myriad skills required to farm successfully . They are the unsung heroes who are recreating paths towards a more conscious relationship with food, the ones who eschew factory farming and violent chemical manipulation of their crops. These farmers are bringing to market produce that tastes heavenly because it is made with their love.

Closer to town, food gardeners are actively growing healthy vegetables that can feed families living on the breadline. Food security is not a halcyon vision; community and environmental rehabilitation is all possible by growing vegetable gardens.
Our relationship with food is meant to be a nourishing, enlivening one. We are caught in an economic maelstrom of disproportionate imbalance – the scales have tipped. Food – like the weather – has become a topic of national and international significance. Historically the greatest revolutions have been born out of hunger. It need not be a repetitive pattern; the solutions are being practised every day as more and more people begin growing their own produce. The tasty and nourishing reward is the beginning of a life-long, expansive love affair with food that can be trusted.

I am an idealist shuttered by pragmaticism. I was raised knowing what it meant to be stomach gnawingly hungry. This is why I got to truly appreciate the simplest of ingredients cooked with care. I developed a taste for the profane when it came to food laden with chemicals or that was sloppily prepared. My understanding of food was that it was precious, not easily come by and deserving of reverence when it was presented and there to enjoy. I knew where my food came from. It came from the hands of my grandmother and she knew all there was to know about what made it good, and how to create deliciously magical abundance out of a single potato and an egg.

The economists and politicians and activists are arguing how to mitigate resource depletion, carbon emissions, mass population growth and environmental destruction. The focus on power and economic projections is all consuming. Natural capital is becoming a significant factor in realigning the true cost of our food and commerce. What is missing in the equations however is the only essential natural capital item that has the power to change a heart forever, able to inspire random acts of kindness and bring laughter to the most starved soul. As the arguments continue and solutions for food security in a changing climate are sought at the foundation of all of it is the productivity of the food chain and the seven billion people who need to be fed.
And loved.



January has flown past and what a month for weather, for work, for life and for love. No category proved to offer what was at first promised and overall the one word I can use to sum up the month’s events is nothing less than ‘astonishing’ – and one little word it may be – but I had many a reason to experience its infinite nuances. Guided by this verb I began thinking about words and the power they contain, yet even so, how they fail to entirely paint a clear picture of an event.

3427-0-0-0_2206456Once upon a time there was ‘the word’ – it heralded the beginning of creation and as mankind loped its way through generations, evolving and developing, so too did the words they used to describe their processes and ‘reasoning’. Then the printing press was invented and access to words was forever changed. Governments and organised religion began controlling the words that were expressed and yet the words continued circulating, changing people’s perceptions and their understanding of the world around them.
Fast forward to our current reality and the words relating to the ‘green’ era, to sustainablility, to energy efficiency, to global climate issues, to dwindling resources, the collapse of economies and we have a language of fear, crises, finality.
I believe that a new language is required, one that will serve to inspire a generation to want to participate in and innovate its way out of the problems in order to embrace a changing world.

Let’s play with a new lexicon that can serve to reveal the deeply complex connectivity that we all share and do so in a way that brings excitement and hope to the adaptation process this generation needs to engage with. How can language guide us to do better in our place in the world and make us better tenants of planet earth? What words will unify us rather than continue to draw barriers and divide those actively creating solutions to the problems from the economic giants and energy cartels that steer certain governmental policies?
What words would inspire you to adapt, what words would inspire you to reclaim your responsibility with everything that you encounter? ‘Life’, like ‘love’ is a doing word; so too is ‘custodianship’. We are custodians of the families we are born into and create and we are custodians of the planet we rely on for everything that is astonishing; the birds, the bees, the sunrise, the life giving water that enables the creation of every life form on this planet, the outstretched hand of a child in joy and in pain, the outstretched hand of an old person, of you on your journey through your life…the chance for astonishment is endless.
And astonishment works in the reverse too. Since when did it become ‘ok’ for energy giants and huge multi-nationals to commit ‘ecocide’? This is a new word that been tabled and born of this generation. Ecocide is the only word that can describe the heinous, deeply criminal actions that are being committed daily in the quest for energy and in order to continue with unsustainable agricultural practises that leads to mass deforestation.

Ecocide is not at all ok – neither is the language of mendacity surrounding the truth of what is going on. I remain astonished. MB 6-2-12

The heart of the matter

I was visiting a good friend the other day and he was in an upset state about what he believed was the ‘loss of heart’ in worldly matters. What a big concept ‘worldly matters’ is but it got me thinking about the ‘heart’ of the malaise in economic, environmental and social politics.

The current way of deducing value is based on a measurement and profit assessment. What is put in or taken out, must result in a marketable profit at the end. Goods and services are not valued at their core root, rather the projections of what the intrinsic value is, is measured against what the straight cost of manufacture is.

IMG_4717The remarkable missing link in all these projections of course is the natural ‘capital’ of an item and what the cost would be if that item was suddenly to disappear. Take for instance water. In no balance sheet is water considered as an irreplaceable asset. Without that value, its vital contribution is ignored; or in full hubris of man, considered ‘manageable’.
Without that factor, what is produceable can be sold to you at a ‘profit’. This makes sense to a point but then you pause and wonder; what is the true ‘cost’ of what I am ‘buying’? As the trend of ethical consumerism is on the rise it will cause a ripple effect and urge pause for thought for the consumers out there who do consider the full value chain of what it is they are buying in to.
I am one of them and gone are the days when I could just go and buy some washing powder, or heaven forbid, milk. The way in which it has been manufactured and brought to me becomes a very real consideration as to whether I will engage with that product or not. And as a result my current choices for every day goods are very limited.

I was chatting to an editor friend of mine who runs a much more challenging publication than this and he said to me (jokingly), “After you have read what I have to say you will hardly want to buy or eat another thing, ever again.” This is a paradox I have to escape. Of all things, what I choose to wear, eat and fill my home with should not come at a cost of the values that I wish to see espoused in the world. Why should I be caught up in a paradigm of the ‘lesser of two evils’ when all around there are solutions for a remarkable and healthy lifestyle that can actually contribute to the planet?

As I write that I question my lifestyle; how I work, eat, participate, contribute and consume. This is the condition that comes from being active in the paradigm of economic and social awareness linked to environmental custodianship. Being conscious is not without its contradictions and as I run a hot bath in the face of a freezing day I acknowledge the many who can not do such a thing. As I drive to work and balance my ‘no-car’ day, I acknowledge the many who rely on a volatile pubic transport system to get them to the place they earn their living. As I walk past racks of meat in the supermarket, slaughtered in the conventional way, I block my ears against the injustice of factory farming and the heinous cruelty the mammals that feed so many have to live in before they end up as dinner.
Yet when the wish to change these practises is enthused, the black board reminder about the ‘economics’ of the impact of the decision takes the classroom stage. We are told that unless it makes sense on the balance sheet it will never be considered.
As I listen to this reasoning, my heart beats like an untimely clock and it asks loudly, “Who decides the value of the heart of things? At what stage does the unquantifiable overtake the bottom line of an accountant’s balance sheet and the health of an ecosystem or the value of a creature extend beyond that of a currency note and a shareholder’s limited interest?”

At what stage do the hearts that make up this world find a common reasoning to live with intent and the cause of common good, rather than profiteering and the concept of loss if we have a change of heart? What does that change of heart cost?

Manu – the frog


It was a typical Cape Town winter’s morning, dark with some rain and Dr Miaow – the intrepid cat who lives with me – had been on his early morning (pre-dawn) jaunt. I heard him call and knew the sound well; it was the sound of a proud cat that had brought me a ‘gift’.
In the time we have shared a home I have had a mouse (that I caught with a red plastic cup and relocated) an elephant shrew (dead but still warm) an eviscerated snake (on the door step) and one still alive (sorted that one in the vege patch), a gecko (tail ravaged) and a lizard (stunned but intact). Then it was a perfectly dead bird and soon after a baby bird in a nest.
A massacre of creatures and an unresolved awareness that the creature I love is a hunter and a very adept one at that. His latest prize was spread eagled in the corner of the sun room; a beautiful Cape River frog the size of my open hand and injured, his side was pierced and part of his green and gold skin torn. In spite of this he was very much alive.

I ran to the kitchen to get a plastic dish and lid and carefully placed it in the container and on the counter with a book on top just in case it was planning to fling its frogness into further trouble.

I had no idea what to do. Having had just spent time observing the common platanna frog during a Biomimicry course and marvelling overall at the incredible creature that is a frog, how they use their powerful webbed feet and bow legs to inject themselves through the water they live in, how they can sing and how they can indicate the health of our waterways. I was in amphibian awe. I learned that the platanna frogs were used as pregnancy test frogs between the 1930’s and 1950’s; the reason being they lay eggs like crazy when exposed to human oestrogen. AS a species they are extraordinary and I was deeply dismayed my cat had caught and injured one of them. Like bees; if things are not well with the frogs it sure isn’t a good tiding for us humans.
In its injured state I couldn’t release it back to the river and as grandiose as my healing wishes are I certainly didn’t know how to heal an amphibian. Who would? The vet?

3427-0-0-0_2105075I arrived at his surgery and handed him the dish with the frog in it. He was charming and dismayed – noting he had not been given an amphibian in many years and yet reassured me he would do his best; and so he did. After calling a number of vets in Cape Town he found a willing co healer who was prepared to assist him in anesthetising the frog and performing surgery on its wounds. Dr Miaow’s teeth had pierced his body and they needed to stitch him up.
This was day one. I went out, told friends of the story of the frog so far and was remanded, “you cannot perform surgery on a frog, and the anaesthetic will kill it!” “Just let the frog be, let a dog lick him and the saliva aid it’s healing.” Some of the more bizarre healing advice I was given that night but suffice to say I was not in full agreement with the surgery and vowed to visit the vet the next day to explain further. When I arrived his assistant met me and we exchanged happy chatter about the frog. The vet came out of his back room and brought the frog to me. They had performed the surgery and I must say the frog looked a lot better. He went back to place him under the lights he had set up to allow him to convalesce and I carried on chattering. Then there was an exclamation from him, “He’s gone!” And out he stepped holding the dish with the frog and his fingers in its mouth trying to elicit some kind of response. I asked him to just let the frog be and declared that he was not gone, in fact was he aware that many times a human had been declared dead only for them to revive later at the gargantuan dismay of the mortuary staff? He looked at me and his assistant did too. “It will be alright” I announced and thanked him for his effort. As I was leaving I said to his assistant to let me know the bill (R150) and reassured her frog would live, I just knew it.
As I walked outside I raised my hands to the sky and called on the spirits of healing and of animal guardianship. “Let the frog live,” I pleaded. At home I had a long conversation with Dr Miaow about the need to desist from bringing me any sort of creature with a respiratory system. The phone rang. It was the vet.
‘ “He moved, he is alive!”The joyous cries that broke out made Dr Miaow run for cover and the entire neighbourhood’s furry creatures were brought to cacophonous life by the human sounds of joy because a frog lived!
Two days later the vet called me to tell me he had released the frog – in a river with many other of his kind. “He was a wild one, “he said, “Was trying to jump right out of the container so I could not let him be kept any longer”.
I never saw the frog again but since then as I lay in bed on another winter’s morning, I heard the songs of the frogs – grooving in the river close to where I live. Their song made me so happy and I thought of the one frog adding his voice to their orchestra, the one we did not give up on.

Later I read a beautiful story about a frog that carries a message from earth to heaven; the love note of a prince longing to marry the daughter of father sun and mother moon. No other creature could assist the prince in his quest and carry the message between heaven and earth save the frog. His name was Manu and he would clamber into the water jars of heaven’s handmaidens who came to earth on the silken threads of spider’s web in order to collect water. In this way he facilitated the marriage between earth and heaven.
I think of a gold and brown striped Cape river frog that survived a surgical procedure and despite being in the jaws of Dr Miaow and being declared dead after a huge dose of anaesthetic – he lives, singing his song in a river close to the sea. What a super frog – long live his kind.Image from Wikipedia

Snap, crackle and pop!


By: Mel


Despite changing the venue at the last minute, around 300 people made it to the Shell public meeting at Kelvin Grove in Cape Town regarding their fracking prospectus for the greater Karoo. Shell’s representatives and an independent facilitator were on hand to field the many questions asked by concerned land owners, members of the public and environmental groups.

3427-0-0-0_2024193A quick review of the facts; Shell has applied for permission to frack for natural gas and if the Environmental Management Plan is approved it will grant the ‘right’ to explore 24 wells over 3 blocks of land of 30 000 sqm each.

Shell’s marketing executive ‘assured’ the audience they would not compete for water resources that are meant for the population and for the animals but as yet it remains unclear as to where exactly the water will come from. Millions of litres are required for each well and even though they stood before the audience ‘reassuring’ that the technology for fracking has improved, Shell’s track record and its exploration for fossil fuel energy resources are not something you would want to support without a shadow of doubt.
Another question was what type of chemicals would be used in the water to enable the fracking process to take place. Even direct questions were sideswiped and it became clear to everyone present that there is a lot of information Shell is not ready to disclose because they do not have the answers. Instead we were told that the chemicals they would use would depend on the type of rocks they encountered as they drill down up to 3kms at a time.

When you consider the road systems required for transporting water, rigs, well infrastructure, etc. you start to see geographical engineering logistics that will be in direct conflict with the pristine open spaces and delicate ecosystems that make up this vast landscape. The greater Karoo is an extreme place where the natural forces determine how the farmers can go about their business.
Land values will be devastated by the wells, and to top it all Shell can’t even disclose where they intend to begin their prospecting. Does one take the map, throw a dart at it, as if to a dart board, and then declare, “Well, that looks like a good spot.”? Or will it be the result of a farmer selling his land to them that will decide where they begin?
If this energy source was sustainable and led to long term economic improvement of the whole region then it may be a point to debate but with all the negatives associated with this process and the very real threat of aquifer contamination, it is a totally unsustainable venture.
But now we have to listen to rhetoric, delivered as if to a grade 6 class of eager geography and science students, who know instinctively this whole thing stinks to high heaven.
Lewis Pugh was the champion who looked into the eyes of the Shell representatives and laid claim after claim about their appalling behaviour in Nigeria, the millions of gallons of oil dumped into the Niger Delta and their implication in the murder of an environmental activist Ken Saro Wiwa (they paid a 15.5 million USD ‘settlement’ to his widow and those of 8 other activists murdered http://wiwavshell.org/.

Lewis became our voice as he stood before them holding our hard fought for constitution and told them in no uncertain terms they have a fight on their hands. He challenged them as only a man who can swim the waters of the Arctic can – resolved, focused and invincible.
We do have a chance to voice our stern rejection of this proposal and to voice the rejection of the proposals also in place by Anglo, Sasol and Bundu Gas to do the same thing.

Please join the action groups, post the speech to your Facebook page, share it on Twitter and extend this news to your whole network as this is one of the most important fights we have on our hands since the dark days of apartheid. This land is our land and this land is your land; our water rights are our rights to life and we cannot let another energy giant destroy a pristine environment when there are alternatives like solar and wind that require just as much exploration.

Points to note:

  • No BEE partner for this venture has been decided ‘yet’
  • All land owners have NOT been notified of this prospecting application
  • Why an area of 90 000 sqm if only 28 wells are to be explored?
  • Transient employment is created for the period 3 – 9 years but no further commitment to economic development for the region is declared
  • No clarity on what happens to the waste water and how it is contained has been tabled
  • The government is supposed to work for the people and it is our civil right to say NO to the destruction of an environment and water resource should (and this always means ‘when’) an accident occurs.
  • Where is the gas going to be sent? A Shell representative said it may be used for electricity – which means power lines will need to be built.
  • The deep water issues have not been succinctly addressed and saline water can be used for cattle farming so this rules any saline water found under the ground OUT for use in the process.
  • We need at least another 120 days to respond to the final EMP report and currently it looks as if the report will only be complete when the license is due to be granted.
  • The regulator is the Petroleum Agency of South Africa but no representatives from this agency were present, nor was the Minister for the Environment Martinus Van Schalkwyk
  • Gareth Morgan, MP, is unable to get information from government on any mines that have deviated from their environmental impact assessment plans so there is no accountability. Consider the acid mine drainage problem in Gauteng and you see the lack of accountability, or concern for clean up actions after the mines have closed down.
  • The largest telescope in the world is operated out of Sutherland and the Northern Cape has more sun the Mexico so where is the exploration for solar energy?
  • What percentage of Shell’s profits is ploughed back into sustainable energy ventures? The Shell representatives ‘don’t know’.
  • Who stands to profit from this venture?



By: Mel

Walking along the seashore today I observed flocks of sea birds, some of whom I recognise and a few others I don’t. The wind was blowing and they were facing the direction of the wind, head on, their heads low and feathers being roughed up by the strong gusts coming towards them from the land. Kelp lay thick and steaming on the shore and the wagtails and swifts were dive bombing the myriad insects that swarm above the rotting seaweed. There was a dead seal, his teeth bared and a dead cormorant, wings flattened against the sand – washed up within metres of each other.

Twenty two years ago my father’s body also washed up on this beach and the memory of this event is less painful now because I have come to understand that the end of one cycle always precedes the beginning of another, and within that, the chance for rebirth and regeneration. The return to source is life’s fate, but what is the fate of the inanimate things we leave behind during our life time?

Mixed in with the kelp and insects and shells and sand were pieces of broken glass, some of them roughed up enough not to be dangerous, but a few sharp enough to pierce the unsuspecting foot of a human, or the paw of a leapingly excited dog. Amongst the organic detritus were plastic bottles and lids and broken bits of polystyrene, rusting cans as well as the ubiquitous plastic bags. Thankfully this stretch of the southern peninsula is not as polluted as some island beaches I have seen in remote places of the world. But how do these items regenerate? They are not part of nature’s cycle; they have been created by us and are used by us every single day and then unthinkingly, discarded.

I have tried to count how many plastic bags I have used in my life, thrown away in my life and I can’t. They would be as many, if not more, than the grains of sand stuck to my feet. Because I don’t see the result of years of waste I have thrown away I am ‘immune’ to its total staggering quantity. But then I visited a landfill site and was beyond astonished at the sheer volumes of stuff that has been chucked away and left to rot, scavenged over by sea gulls and landfill ‘harvesters’ who make a meager wage collecting what can be recycled from them.

Landfills are nearing capacity in most parts of this country. The urgent need to recycle has never been more relevant because we face a waste Tipping reduce-reuse-recyclePoint and without a mass call to action to shift the behaviour of consumers the problem will just escalate. The Tipping Point is the point of no return. After that critical peak there is an escalation of events and in this case a very dirty chain of events will ensue. It is a massive challenge but one that can be overcome and transformed into a regenerative chain given the right practise and understanding.

If we can recycle our waste then it will not be waste. Recycling PET bottles is an example. All PET plastics bottles (think all soft drinks and water bottles, peanut butter jars and other plastic food stuff containers with the 1 plastic id code) can be recycled. Synthetic fibres are recreated from reclaimed and recycled PET plastic and made into a host of other useful items, like clothing and mattress fillers, duvet and pillow fillers. The industrial capacity to recycle PET is in place but the recycling capacity has not been reached because not enough bottles are making their way back to the recyclers. They end up in landfills instead.

Glass can be re-used; paper can be recycled into paper seven times before it has to become something else. Tin cans are completely recyclable. Empty jars and containers can be re-used. These things can regenerate in our hands because we sought to create them in the first place. We just have to know how to take care of the things and activate some juicy creativity when devising new uses for our stuff.

Reduce – re-use – regenerate.

The Green Conundrum

By: Mel

I’ve been out and about this week meeting interesting people from the world of “Sustainability”. Generally a very pro-active collection of thought leaders and scientists, engineers, consumer activists and the heads of brands who hold the keys to a lot of the immediate doorways to solutions for many of the resource issues that are being grappled with. That said I got to thinking just how complicated it is to come to grips with the full gamut of what being ‘sustainable’ entails.

heart_chakra2In the urgent drive towards becoming, and being part of, a sustainable entity, a lot of bandwagons are being jumped on. The ‘green’ bandwagon is claiming a lot of passengers at present with brands making bold statements about how ‘green’ they are or declaring how many major steps are being taken to get them ‘greener’.

The other bandwagon is the grand ‘natural’ one with its passengers, ‘eco friendly’, ‘organic’ and the champions of biodiversity. Somehow the passengers are viewed with deep suspicion, and GM agriculture is leading the attack against their global arrival. The quest to return to sound, earth-based principles that allow for respect, rest and regeneration in order to generate abundance is not yet on the big boy’s radar.

Then there is the wagon of ‘economic development’ and its gargantuan passenger, ‘energy needs’. If all of these wagons trundle off in different directions there won’t be any crash. However, on this journey, there is only one road – the one called earth. Crisscross it all you like, you eventually end up where you started.

The journey towards sustainability is going to require a powerful commitment from all of us in order to reach. The web of interconnectivity can no longerheartchakra be broken up into single compartments without consideration of the other pieces of the whole. Supply chains are vital in rectifying the pollution and waste issues our society faces, as well as the (excuse the pun) drain on water resources. Reduced access to water leads directly to economic contraction. Suddenly the basics become the most fundamental of all and the balance sheets will require serious amendments.

Green is the colour of the heart chakra. The heart chakra is the love centre of our human energy field and if there is a stagnation of energy in this region, the body manifests various heart related diseases. My granny used to say she suffered from heart trouble and advise on tonics for the heart. The universal panacea is love, of course. Miraculous healing occurs in the presence of love. So no matter which wagon you decide to get on, make sure you take some love with you and see if it spurs you ever faster on the journey.