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Songs for Sustainability 3

30 Jan

“Oh mercy mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be
No no
Where did all the blue sky go?
Poison is the wind that blows
From the north, east, south, and sea
Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be
No no
Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas
Fish full of mercury
Oh mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain’t what they used to be
No no
Radiation in the ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Oh mercy mercy me
Oh things ain’t what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land?
How much more abuse from man can you stand?
My sweet Lord…My sweet Lord…My sweet Lord”

Gotta love Marvin Gaye. Thought of him at the mention of Motown here. Lyrics of his song Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology) from the album What’s going on. Maybe we should make that the first “Albums for Sustainability” and that’s from the early 70’s. Wonder what he would write today. Just found reference to a biography Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye by Michael Eric Dyson here. Might make a good read. Just after I finish the one on Laurens van der Post I’ve just picked up.


An Example of Equanimity

29 Jan

Imagine this is your life’s story:

You, of Mexican working class lineage, are born into the early Detroit 40’s in Michigan, USA, a year before the race riots. By the time you hit your 20’s Motown has been founded, Martin Luther King spoke of his Dream, and while Detroit’s having more race riots in the late 60’s you release a low-impact single and follow it with two low-impact albums in the early 70’s. But no grand music career develops. You work in manual labour for the next 20 years, raise your family and dabble a bit in local politics. But no great political career develops. Then, you’re about 56, two chaps from the tip of some wild continent come and tell you that you’re a star in their country. Not only that, but they arrange for you to tour to packed  halls there. Repeatedly. Then elsewhere. And they make a film about the story.

And you, in the film Searching for Sugar Man, you just take the highs and the lows that your life presents you with, with such an equanimity that I am reminded of another of the Vipassana precepts: Remain equanimous, keep a balanced mind in the face of all vicissitudes of life. Remain without craving for pleasant sensations, remain without aversion to unpleasant sensations. Equanimity is purportedly one of the four sublime states of mind taught by the Buddha: Love or Loving-kindness, Compassion,  Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity.

If you want to see what Equanimity looks like, watch the man as the story of Rodriguez unfolds in the film. And the film is just great anyway. Much, much more here.


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 Its one out of a series in their campaign Stop The Pity. Support The Potential., see more here.

Ok, do we go or does this, too, pass?

26 Nov

Just spent a 10-day silent retreat (Vipassana) at Dhamma Pataka, 10 kms (6 miles) West of Worcester, a town on the main highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Meditation Centre accommodated us in chalets, below you see the view from our balcony.

Dhamma Pataka lies at the ankle (well, if it was the foot we’d hardly be elevated enough to see the lovely view now, would we) of the Brandwacht Mountains so its a bit above the valley in which Worcester and the wine farms lie. The view continues on the way to the dining hall, as you can see in the next picture.

Just now the Bougainvillea was magnificent in its full bloom. There are a few more photos of Dhamma Pataka on Bobbie Nystrom’s travelblog entries from 2007 here.

One of the central tenets of the course is that everything changes, that this too shall pass. Its illustrated in a little story about two rings that you can read here, for example. The story is universal, though; its been attributed to Zen, Sufi, Hebrew and Christian origins.  What tickles me (you complete the colour it tickles me, yeah, go on) and delights me is that the Chicago indie rock band Ok Go and their quirky-beserky Rube Goldberg video rendition that went viral is of their song with the title This too shall pass. Click on the picture below for the link to the video, its grand.


Fun as a path to sustainability?

30 Apr

Tina Roth Eisenberg over at her swissmiss blog introduced the project walk [your city] a few days ago. Matt Tomasulo and the design company cityfabric started this up, in line with their focus to engage people with their urban spaces through simple (yay, simple!) tactics. Described as a public arts project the aim is to get people walking. Um, walking? That rings a bell for anyone in the food-(related-)business used to hearing all about health, weight gain and obesity development in society.

Any sign for your city – which you can make using their online free application – will indicate the distance in minutes, use a colour code to differentiate the types of destinations and sport a qr-code for smartphoners linking to a ready route on a google map.

Thats sounds like a fun way to get people walking and reminds me of a related project to get people to use the stairs. To entice commuters off the escalators, the stairs at the Odenplan Metro station in Stockholm, Sweden, were wired for sound and decorated to look like a keyboard. Then a camera was set up to observe any behavioural changes. Most people prefferred to be musical… Do yourself a favour and watch the short clip here. In fact, the funtheory-website has more than 30 pages of suggestions for encouraging desirable behaviours, e.g.  making zebra crossings into bubble wrap paths, recycling batteries by using them as pinball-machine-money, bins exchanging doggy dos for doggy biscuits.

Songs for Sustainability 2

24 Apr

“Die Zeit läuft mir davon
zu warten wäre eine Schande
für die ganze Weltbevölkerung.
Ich muss jetzt los
sonst gibt’s die große Katastrophe.
Merkst du nicht das wir in Not sind?

Ich muss jetzt echt die Welt retten
[…] Danach flieg ich zu dir
Noch 148.713 Mails checken”

Excerpt from the lyrics of Nur noch kurz die Welt retten as sung by Tim Bendzko. A loose English translation could be

“The clock is ticking,
for me to wait would be scandalous
for the whole population of the world.
I have to go now,
otherwise there’ll be a big catastrophe.
Don’t you see that we are in dire straits?

Now I really have to save the world
[…] after that I’ll fly to you
Still have 148,713 emails to check”

Songs for Sustainability

7 Apr

“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
Hey farmer, farmer
Put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples
But LEAVE me the birds and the bees

Excerpt from the lyrics of Big Yellow Taxi as sung by Counting Crows, originally by Joni Mitchell