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.
Looking at satellite weather maps always reminds me of how small we are. Giant swirls of cloud, the size of continents, move between oceans and land. In Cape Town we’ve experienced a shift from thick hot air, to freezing, howling winds and rain gushing from the sky (and in some cases through our roofs). As I watch the giant swirls move, I feel the interconnectedness of everything, of how what happens on one side of the globe, ripples through and impacts the other. A metaphor for the paradox of how small we are, and yet how much impact we can have through our actions, that can affect things far and wide without our knowing.
As a child I always wished for a summer birthday. Living in land locked Jo’burg, I longed for a pool party .. rather than a party where I was dressed up like the Oros man. Fast forward 30 years, and I can’t imagine a cold winters day stopping me from diving into the ocean. There’s something about swimming in ice cold water that gets everything flowing. Science says it increases your white blood cell count. The sea is also filled with incredible minerals that we can absorb through our skin. Some say swimming in the ocean is an excellent antioxidant and also ‘grounds’ us – or neutralises the EMFs we pick up from the huge amount of technology we interact with. Whatever the case may be, on those dark sleepy mornings, when it’s hard to get out of bed, nothing makes me feel more alive and prepares me for the day, quite like a morning swim in our beautiful ocean.
Welcome to our 7th Mycelium newsletter, that continues to share stories, connections and news about inspiring and regenerative solutions to some of our greatest challenges. People across the world celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd, and in my corner, or echo chamber, it seems that many people are aware, reflecting on or acting on the huge challenges we face with biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, and the impact that humans are having on this planet, our only earth. But that is just in my little bubble… Do most people have the bandwidth to mark a day like this? Shouldn’t every day be earth day? In my mind, if we realise that these great environmental problems are connected to our warped economic systems, to poverty, and to social inequality, we can be in a better position to shift something.
If there’s one thing I have always enjoyed it’s the feeling of sand between my toes and soil between my fingers. I guess I’ve loved nature before I was even born because that intense feeling I get - of utter bliss, of disconnection from the urbanised way of life and just absolute heaven - feels so surreal. Now years ago - when I discovered my health was not where it should be - I started exploring what I’m eating. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a health nut but I was surprised, even till this day, at just how much more I need to learn. I then embarked on creating my own vegetable and herb garden and my realisation of all this is, is that it’s a science to farm but it’s also got a lot to do with how much you care for your plants. When I’m tending to the soil and placing more nourishment so that their roots can soak up all that yummy goodness, it feels as if I am pouring an abundance of love into them.
By 2030, six out of ten people world wide will live in urban areas. Africa is currently the least-urbanised continent, but that is changing quickly - estimates project that African cities will have 1.5 billion urban residents by 2050, most of them young people. How do we respond to the resources challenges of these growing populations for housing, transport, food, energy and water which all affect citizens’ physical health and well being? The United Nations has chosen to focus specifically on sustainable cities and communities in their Sustainable Development Goal number 11 (SDG 11) to examine how to amplify innovative thinking, technology and proactive responses to environmental risk can promote a better life for city dwellers. Added to this, the COVID-19 pandemic “has brought into sharp relief some of the fundamental inequalities at the heart of our towns and cities”, according to the head of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif.
Our transition into the New Year is usually a time of reflection and renewal. The December solstice co-incided with a rare conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter, reminding us of our place in the unfolding universe. The Northern Hemisphere starts to move toward longer days; we in the Southern Hemisphere move into the second half of summer and gradually shortening days till our own Winter Solstice. 2020 has certainly been a year like no other, with planetary tipping points being reached all over. So the transition to 2021 has come with the sober realization that things are not going just miraculously disappear. The COVID-19 pandemic will roll on for some time to come, the cracks in society that it has revealed for all to see will continue to test us, the feeding frenzy on the last wild places gains momentum with every passing day.