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.
As Spring comes to an end and Summer starts to take hold, we see flowers, fruits and seeds revealing themselves in abundance. Cape Point’s white carpet of everlastings are spreading over the gentle hills and vibrant orange and yellow nasturtiums are on every pavement and crack. For a while now, us at Mycelium Media Colab, have been hatching up a scheme to grow our mushrooms. Our tendrils have always been reaching, connecting and spider webbing. We have been blown away at the organic flow of our co-op but finally we have made it official and our network is evolving. Finally we have new members from all over Africa whom we welcome into this space with open arms. Ready for what they bring, the challenges, solutions and most importantly growth and change.
Spring is in the air and as I write it is the Equinox where day and night are in balance. Flowers are popping up everywhere, the air smells fragrant and there is something different about the quality of the light that comes with the return of the sun. I am currently in Johannesburg where everyone is waiting with bated breath for the return of the rains, and the amazing smell that comes from the earth as it soaks up the drops; whilst in Cape Town we have been watching the levels of the dams wondering if there has been enough to see us through the hot, dry summer months.
When I look back at the memories of my childhood it feels as if so many of those moments happened just yesterday. Forever etched in my mind like a loop of life that gets replayed over and over. While weekdays were dedicated to school, sports and cultural activities, weekends were when I could relax and enjoy being a kid. I slept in late, watched my favourite cartoons, wrote a little poetry (there was this side wall of our house I enjoyed climbing and once on top would get the best view of Cape Town sunsets with Table Mountain as my backdrop while writing) and playing hopscotch in the road where I lived where my friends and I used bricks to mark the outline of the game
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!