I remember the day I became aware of climate change, and the real impact it has ... it was after watching 'An Inconvenient Truth' with Al Gore. Before that I was aware of some of our environmental impacts ... the need to recycle, I'd seen posters about how many fields of waste were being created each day ... but the stark realisation of the urgency of our situation threw me into a state. Why was the world continuing as usual when we need to change things urgently! The documentary expressed the problem, but no solutions, so I started madly researching about what I could do... I changed all my lightbulbs, turned off anything that was normally on standby mode, started to walk more, joined the local environmental action group (whom I left shortly afterwards ... as I felt they weren't doing enough). The more I learned, the more lifestyle changes I made.... But some days I would just become depressed, you know they even have a name for it now ... eco-anxiety. For a time, I worked towards having a no-impact life – with a plan to live off grid and off the land… but I realised at some point, this would make less negative impact ... but it wouldn't necessarily make a positive impact in the bigger picture ... as I'd be living in my bubble and the other 8 billion+ people on earth may just continue with business as usual.
This time of year is always very nostalgic for me as my daughters were born at the end of April and the beginning of May. It is autumn in Cape Town, a time of pendulum swings in weather, weirdly warm days contrasting with days of rain and crisp more typically wintery weather. I remember the early autumnal time of having a tiny baby, the wonder of this new little being in our lives, figuring out their rhythms and personalities. My mum, who passed when they were very little, always used to say that new babies were like tightly closed rosebuds which then gradually unfurled as they grew into the world. My daughters have just celebrated their 19th and 16th birthdays, and we are a world away from those autumn days. It is a hard time to be a young person right now after two very challenging years. Young people are calling us to account like never before about the state of the world and the future they are inheriting. This article shared in a Whatsapp group recently really sums it up in its title: “The kids are not okay”.
Mycelium has been very involved in food stories over the last few months - food flows in urban spaces, food research, and connecting (and re-connecting) to various communities and organisations working with and around food. I have also had my own interactions with food since I moved with my family from Cape Town to Zimbabwe in January 2022 and we have been living in a small community called Kufunda Village. Our food journey at Kufunda has been a great learning experience in relation to sustainability, local foods and eating simply. We have had to get used to a new way of buying food, finding and keeping foods. We live about 25km away on a rough “road” from the type of grocery shops we are accustomed to, and 6km from the nearest market and basic goods shops. The so-called road is rocky and badly rutted in parts, and after rain, parts of the road becomes gullies. So its not an easy pop over to the shops, like we have in Cape Town!
Our past, present and future are connected through so many things but did you know that our bones can tell a story no one else can. We are often so preoccupied with what is happening on top of the earth that we forget to delve a little deeper to discover what is underneath. It only takes one day of heading out to the beach, exploring while walking your favourite hiking trail or even scratching around in your own backyard to realise there is a world full of wonderful mystery to be found.A few years ago I had a conversation with someone who said to me that there will come a day when we will look at the earth exploring the bones underneath only to discover we no longer have wildlife but only human, dog and cat bones. It’s a moment I won’t soon forget and something that has stayed with me till this day. Life has a way of changing one’s perspective and when you find yourself in a space where you have the responsibility of being caregiver to two little souls you realise just how much you adore the time you spend with them. Yes my kids are a force to be reckoned with but they have this ability to open up my eyes to things I have either missed or forgotten. These are the moments that give me a second to just take a step back and give thanks.
I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the holiday season as much as I have at the end of 2021. The past two years have been tough and I needed a breather. For a long time I’ve worn the title of workaholic like a proud belt around my waist. But in essence this belt just tied me down. I simply had to feel what it was like to just let go and completely ignore the world outside and spend quality time with not only myself but my family too. And almost like a magic wand wishing things away that don’t need to be there I felt an instant lift in my soul when I made this decision. It’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in a very long time. My hope for 2022 is that we can all find a place in our own hearts to forgive ourselves and those around us. That we can improve our social bonds between one another. That we can allow others to shine and learn to love with a certain pureness that you only find in a child. It’s time for us to connect with that young being we all have inside, to clean up the messes we have created and be grateful that we have so much to be thankful for. I feel it’s only in this moment that we can connect with everything else and become better human beings.
“It’s that time of year…” I have been hearing that phrase quite a lot lately as work ramps up, everyone gets busier and people start to look frazzled and weary. And of course there’s two years of COVID… But let’s not talk about that for now! Let’s rather focus on the change and impact that we are all making in our own small or big ways. As humans we generally endeavour to do better and there have been some amazingly inspiring projects that have happened this and last year. Whether the changes are due to the shove that COVID has given us or just the fact that Mother Nature really needs some nurturing. We have made a difference. So instead of feeling down and out and exhausted, let’s pat ourselves on the back for surviving. For striving and for keeping hopeful that things can and will and are changing.
Sometimes the challenges we face feel overwhelming, sometimes it feels as if the rapid deterioration of our social and ecological systems is inevitable, sometimes it feels as if we cannot possibly make a better world. That is how I felt this morning when trying to draft this welcome note. And then I read the contributions to this month’s newsletter, and was reinvigorated. I was struck not only by the multitudes of angles through which people and organisations are trying to support a transition to a more sustainable and just future, but also by the creativity with which they are doing it. And it is creativity (as displayed by Living-Language-Land), innovation (such as that used by Rewoven) and reconnection with nature (see Wild Food Walks) that sets the tone for the concrete actions we need to take. It provides a framework of wellbeing (for people and planet) in which the rollout of renewables needs to happen, investments are made, and global policy is created.
With the end of this year trundling towards us as we enter the last quarter of 2021, I always feel that regular moments of reflection are hugely important. I’ve been participating in a step process focusing on ecological grief, that has allowed me to do this. Titled ‘10 Steps to Personal Resilience & Empowerment in a Chaotic Climate’, this 10-week group coaching and support process has been a wonderful space to speak about the rage, grief, fear and overwhelm that I, and many others, feel at this time about the state of the world. Based on the same step process as Alcoholics Anonymous or other programs, the group is invited to process our heavy feelings, share our vulnerability, deprogram our thoughts to explore who we are apart from the destructive culture, and where best to place our energy. I have gone through a range of emotions over the period, and felt most noticeably moved by the step that encourages us to face and accept our mortality – which sent me into a flat spin to live EACH and every moment with vigour! Pretty tiring that week was….
If you follow us on social media, over the past few months you would have seen a series of stories highlighting different Water Protectors featured on the Water Stories website. Mycelium are proud to be part of this collaborative partnership with the aim of communicating academic research, water activism and water creativity to a wider audience. We worked closely with researchers from Environmental Humanities South at UCT and Environmental Nano Sciences at UWC to develop the content and design of the website. One of the most exciting aspects of Water Stories is that the team is almost entirely women, and we got to highlight the work of women doing critical work in science and science studies towards a clean and equitable urban water cycle in Cape Town. The social media posts featuring these researchers elicited a huge organic response, telling us that young women in science and academia is a story that is really resonating.
I really hate flying. I get incredibly anxious that I’m going to miss my plane or die in the air, not to mention the guilt of the environmental impact. Yet I found myself once again in an airport waiting to catch a flight to Johannesburg so I could film a video about water filters… However two hours later as I was gliding over Johannesburg’s patchwork landscape I was reminded of the impact technology can have in people’s lives, but also the responsibility we have over our surroundings. The next morning, I had to get up really early to meet Murendeni Mafumo, the founder and inventor of Kusini Water Filters – a specialised water filtration system that uses nanotechnology and macadamia nut-shells, to filter water in rural and water scarce areas. As we drove towards the township of Hammanskraal, I remembered why I love my job – one that allows me to enter worlds I would never enter in my day to day to life. To ask questions of strangers I would never meet if it wasn’t for being on an assignment.