If you leave your veg cuttings in the tupperware on your kitchen counter for too long, you land up with a mouldy mess. Yet when they quickly make their way to the compost heap in your garden, they turn into wonderful, rich humus, full of microbes. Microbes are a whole world unto themselves … there are millions of bodies at work, but we can’t see them with our naked eye, we can only see the outcomes of what occurred.
It feels as if life is getting faster with the advent of more and more technological fixes (see our stories on AI and gaming for farming success) and more and more interventions to try and stave off ecological collapse (carbon credit markets and grass proteins). Sometimes in that fastness, we can forget the importance of slow things – encouraging the emergence of community voices, creating equitable and safe spaces for discussions about our common future and remembering that sustainability will only come about through living with the natural systems that surround us, not despite them.
Happy new year to all our readers. As we enter 2023, I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes excellent leadership for the multiple environmental and social crises of our times. Many of us continue to ruminate on the quality of global and continental guidance shown last month at the COPs 27 and 15, whose implications for Africa are a focus of this newsletter. Then, it was dismaying to watch as former President Bolsonaro prompted his extremist supporters to refuse to accept the return to the Brazilian Presidency of Lula, whose re-election, including on a promise of far greater protections for the Amazon, was greeted with relief by regenerative thinkers across the globe. What a strong contrast between Bolsonaro’s departure and the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, who announced that she won’t run for a second term because she recognizes how exhausted she is after leading her country through the aftermath of a massacre and a pandemic. Now that is a high-quality leader!
November has been an exciting month in the Mycelium web. Our network has expanded with wonderful new members in the regenerative and multimedia space, and with that new opportunities are emerging for collaboration. Jacqueline attended COP27 and Culture COP in Egypt, while following two characters in her documentary HotSpot which features activists from 5 Southern African countries. They are now filming in Madagascar, where a young activist is opposing a sand mine that could destroy the livelihoods of communities who live nearby. Other members of the Mycelium team then took a trip to join me in celebrating my Picnic Wedding, and what a magical day it was. I’ve never seen the appeal of a big white wedding organised by someone else…. and instead thought we’d do something creative, organic and natural. What unfolded was more amazing than anything I could have imagined, with beautiful input and energy from family and friends. It felt a gift to experience the coming together of community in the celebration of love.
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.