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Does a pig have the right to play?

28 Nov

Last Friday we took the second half of our B.Sc. students (Course: Nutrition Ecology) on an excursion to a local commercial pig farm with about 2.000 swine. The course is built around a value chain approach to the food system and thus includes a ‘chapter’ on food production where we look at typical and alternative production forms. The piggies we saw had an outside stall area in addition to the inside stall. The outside stall had  playthings: a chain with a piece of wood on which the piggies can chew, which they like to do.project-buta-tot-zo-ver_001-540x405_klein

That pigs like to play is not new. Thus you can find many shops with hog toys such as this one. As a matter of fact there is a Dutch research project on this: Playing with Pigs. The project is an outcome of research on “Ethical room for manoeuvre in livestock farming”, a collaboration between the Utrecht School of the Arts, Wageningen University and Wageningen UR Livestock Research. Within the project, a game which allows interaction between pigs and people was developed; see it in a clip on vimeo here. The researchers say one of the things they’ve discovered is how much pigs like to play with light.

playingwithpigs_kleinNot just pigs like to play. Many animals have been observed, photographed and filmed at play – within their own and across species borders. I still have an old National Geographic edition with the title story Animals at Play.

23594676[1]One of the animals-at-play featured was a crow that was photographed lying on its back and sliding down a snow-covered incline, only to get up and repeat the process. This has been filmed and featured again and again, and many other stories too, such as here as well as this whole entry on tail-pulling by mischievous crows on Jenn(ifer Campbell-Smith)’s lovely Corvid blog here.

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Invite someone dangerous to tea

19 Feb

Beuys_klein

Translation into English can be found here. Teas can be found here. Doesn’t Pu-Erh sound like something Winnie-the-Pooh would contemplate, after too much honey maybe?

Learn to watch snails

19 Feb

Everyone is an artist

Let yourself fall.
Learn to observe snails.
Plant impossible gardens.
Invite someone dangerous to tea.
Make little signs, that say “Yes” and distribute them around your house.
Be a friend of Freedom and Uncertainty.
Look forward to dreams.
Cry during movies.
Swing yourself as high as you can, on a Swing by Moonlight.
Cultivate various moods.
Refuse to be “responsible”. Do it out of love.
Take lots of naps.
Give away money. Do it now. The Money will follow.
Believe in magic.
Laugh often.
Bathe in moonlight.
Dream wild, imaginative dreams.
Draw on the walls.
Read every day.
Imagine, you were enchanted.
Giggle with children.
Listen to the old.
Open up, dive in, be free.
Bless yourself.
Relinquish fear.
Play with everything.
Entertain the child within.
You are innocent.
Build a castle from blankets.
Get wet.
Hug a tree.
Write love letters.

Loose translation from German of Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler by Joseph Beuys found here.

Naturalists

21 Jan

“The naturalists I know
have brown arms and green thumbs,
and butterflies roost in their beards.
[…] and when they sneeze
they pollinate peaches and plums.”

First stanza from the poem “Naturalists” by Chris Mann, South African poet, playwright and performing singer-songwriter.

Beard to tail, anyone?

12 Jan

There I was just following up a short little mention of a pop-up restaurant in London called Beard to Tail, when I uncovered the biggest foodie-fight around (that’s what it felt like to me anyway) – on the etymology of the word barbecue! Intrigued by visions of animals with beards and managing to think only of goats, I decided to pursue this into the Interwebs. According to various media coverages of the restaurant, it gets it name from the French root of barbecue, i.e. barbe à queue, which literally means beard to tail. It certainly gives added depth to going the whole hog. Buuut, as you will discover, if you too pursue this, that is just one of two major and hotly contested schools of thought on the origins of the word barbecue. The other major school claims its derived from barbacoa, a word attributed to various peoples in the Caribbean (Guyana, Haiti, West Indies, depending on your source) which has something to do with a framework of sticks or a sacred fire, again, depending on your source. Actually, the BBQ explanation I like most of all is Bar,Beer,Cue,(Pig) – from a whiskey bar, a beer hall and a pool establishment which offered whole roasted porkeroos. If you have some time while your mustachioed spare ribs are slow-cooking you can visit a really comprehensive take here.

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Need a remedy for ‘compassion fatigue’?

29 Nov

My good friend Robert (thanks mate!) sent me a link to the video of the new charity single Africa for Norway (here). Just in time for Christmas the Norwegian group Radi-Aid is asking Africans to send over radiators to Norway to combat frostbite and cold. The spoof campaign draws very serious attention to outdated and hopefully soon defunct ‘poverty porn’ communication of social plights, i.e. the Bleeding Heart Communication strategies we mentioned here. Have a look at what they want here.

The current top youtube comment is a neat extension of the stereotyping issues underlying the campaign: “the radiators will just be stolen and fuel their viking tribal warfare. They’ll have a population explosion and then they’ll just need more radiators. By interfering, you’re just going to increase the misery. Let them freeze, that’s their way of life.” (fellaciousderp)

And for more of the same there’s a good article by Nathaniel Whittemore at co.exist with a few more vids too. There’s a lovely one called Call Me Hope (on Paul Simon’s You Can Call Me Al)  by mamahope.org. Its one out of a series in their campaign Stop The Pity. Support The Potential., see more here.

How to communicate sustainability

14 Nov

IMHO one of the sustainability areas we are struggling with is that of communication. Sure, there are some neat green ads out there, and maybe some smart campaigns and initiatives, and arresting visuals, as we mentioned here. But how much is really changing at the ground level? How much transformation are we effecting?

A lot of the messages going out about any aspect of sustainable development, and there are a whole host of attention vieers (just look at our lorem sustaina ipsum for a few), are based on one dimension, on one premise.

They are positioned mostly in the intellect, in knowledge and facts, such as when you are confronted with CO2e or virtual water data for consumer goods, with rise in global temperatures and sea levels data, or with numbers of species or forest units lost per second. The message senders hope in vain for a mental light to be switched on in the darkness of unsustainable habits and activities and an immediate conversion from Unsustainable Saul to Sustainable Paul.

NGOs and CSOs and some individual Sustainability Missionaries tend to position their messages in the emotions, making sure they are personal and designing them to touch you. Suffering animals, people and planet are a recurring motif. But a Bleeding Heart has largely moved people to donate time or money on a guilt-filled once-off excursion.

There are to date very, very few communication initiatives that position themselves solely in a do-message, in an active principle, in action. Maybe the various challenges, like the 100-things challenge would qualify for this dimension.

I think Messages for Sustainability, to be successful, need to Speak to the Head, the Heart and the Hand in concert. If you are not explaining to someone’s mind, while reaching for their empathy and giving them a leg-up to get doing, your message is not going to work sustainably.