Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Make Your Voice Count—Get out & Vote!

In line, waiting... At least I am lucky to live in a country that gives me the responsibility to vote. So today, I am exercising my citizen duty.

Today, I vote for all the young lives who lost their lives in mass shootings and did not have a vote on the matter. I vote for their families and for their young friends who might vote for the first time today. My crying heart needs a rest that is never at reach as shootings and massacres are our life routine here in America. I am voting against the silence and against the lies that it can't change without having us lose our human decency any further... This has to change.

Today, I vote for the families that were separated for months and those who have been separated and still have no news about their little ones, or still know nothing about where their parents are. I also vote against walls of shame, and against a world of despair walks... This has to change.

Today, I vote for the millions of Americans who can't access a decent healthcare. I vote for the millions of families who have a hard time to put food on their table, and for the one-fifth of our kids living in poverty... This has to change.

Today, I vote thinking of all our women who denounced their abusers and have been ridiculed by the system. I also vote for my sisters and our daughters who have been silenced, as well as for those who remained silent for fear of being punished, laughed at or dismissed... This has to change.

Today, I vote for the millions of us in the world, who understands the impact of our actions on the climate, on the Earth's ecosystems, on our own species, and the millions of species that we share this world with -and that we are losing at an unprecedented rate (with the latest indicators published last week estimating a recorded and accelerating 60 % decline in the world's vertebrate populations abundance). I vote against ignorance and denialism... This has to change.

I have many more reasons to go to the voting booth, but these are the few that I have in mind and will keep in my heart when I check those boxes on my ballot in a minute. Changes happen with the public servants we chose to put in the Congress and House seats. Those choices are the expression of our votes together. That vote is our citizen responsibility. Make your voice count. Go vote.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Together, celebrating Biodiversity all year long at the Fells

I am very excited to see Earthwise Aware (EwA) and the Friends of the Fells offering a new fun and engaging Nature program: ‘EwA at the Fells’.

Our joint mission is to foster awareness of species and habitat biodiversity and develop an understanding of the importance of ecology, phenology, ethics while helping science through citizen science and through Nature & field journaling.

What is EwA?

For those of you who don't know EwA yet, Earthwise Aware is a young Nature conservation nonprofit which focuses on ecological literacy, ethics, and leadership. We are dedicated to reconciling environmental attitude, science & behavior, and we are committed to strengthening our connection with Nature.

EwA is both a global and a local organization. Global, since our science and conservation collaborators —who help us developing our content— come from anywhere in the world where we have connections. Our core team itself is American, French, British, Romanian and Indian. Local, because we believe that Nature conservation starts at home, and so, we collaborate with local organizations to bring Nature experiences here where I and a few of us, at EwA, live.

Our tools are a wide range of guides, etiquettes, and tips for the engagement of the people and professionals with our immediate environment, Nature habitats, and wildlife.

We also provide ‘practice’ tools in the form of Nature experiences, which we call Nature circles. EwA circles cultivate mindful ecological experiences combining science, wellness, ethics & art. Anyone of us, anywhere in the World can participate and implement EwA Nature circles activities that are freely available on our site.

Last November, we launched local circles and run 'spontaneous' events anywhere where something interesting was happening at the moment: snowy owls at Crane beach and Newburyport, Fall's colors at Beaver Brook reservation, Winter Trees in Somerville, etc.

The beginning of an inspiring partnership

Crane fly on a Pink Lady's Slipper (The Fells)
But we also wanted to lead events on a regular basis, in a few ‘dedicated’ locations that would become our exploration bases. Doing so, we would provide 'bonding' experiences that get our local circle members familiar and knowledgeable about the ecology of specific interesting places.

Then, of course, The Fells, with its beauty and the richness of its diverse habitats naturally came to our mind. And, as I am a member of the Friend of the Fells, it was also natural to reach out to the Friends and discuss a potential collaboration, as we thought that EwA’s circles would be a terrific addition and complement to the many wonderful programs that the Friends of the Fells already offer.

It took only a meeting with Ron, Ann, and Lindsay from the Fells of the Friends this past April, to know that, indeed, we wanted to work together. So there we are: the result of this collaboration materialized and is ready to start this June!

'EwA at the Fells' — Together with the Friends of the Fells, celebrating Biodiversity all year long

‘EwA at the Fells’ is a 2 series program that we will run yearly. A citizen science series (Fells’ Biobliss: Biodiversity & Citizen Science), and a Nature & field journaling series (The Fells’ Naturalists & Sketchers Circle).

Both series will explore different habitats of the Fells. We'll look at everything: birds, amphibians, insects, fungi, plants, you name it - big and small, and even smaller... We'll also pay attention to the relationships between species and reflect on the meaning and implications of these relationships in relation to the forest, the cities around and further away. This intimate exploration will help us build a deep understanding of the place over time while documenting, journaling and/or sketching its many species wonders for the benefits of the Fells, its scientists, and ultimately our communities.

These 2 series are wonderful opportunities to connect with like-minded people who want to learn, enjoy Nature, and be active protectors of this incredible gem that the Fells is.

Come join us! Be part of these Nature experiences —be part of Nature with us!

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Takeover of our Imagined Reality

Homo Sapiens have been living in a dual reality ever since the Cognitive Revolution, which happened some 70000 years ago or so.

"On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees, and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations, and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees, and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google"... (in Sapiens by Yuval Harari)

Now, to be fair, our imagined reality also enabled the concept of Human rights (yes, as well as walking on the moon, fake the human heart, and so much more)... But going back to 'our' rights, in short, our ability to create and believe in myths fostered:
a. the cooperation between very large numbers of strangers. 
b. The rapid innovation of social behavior.

And wondering where all these myths will lead us down the road. Here in the U.S. we are living under the very destructive Trump alt-reality. Many of the current World myths are not that great or sustainable either... Time will tell I suppose.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Forest Immersion: Going Back Home

We've been developing a new EwA Nature Circle lesson, and it's about to be ready for publication! Yet some impatient Friends have asked for a preview. So... Here it is!

EwA Nature Circle Lesson > Forest Immersion: Going Back Home

We also call this circle lesson: Forest Attuning

This is a circle lesson focused on attuning to the forest. We also run variations of it in meadows, on ocean shores. And we describe it formally in an open-access Nature Circle lesson that is about to get out, finally! :-)

At a very high level, here are the lesson steps: There are 3 parts (Before, During and After). And this is usually a long session 2-3 hours min. 
  1. Clarity of Intention >  Express our commitment 
  2. Revisiting Safety > Revisiting "bio"-hazards (ticks, poison ivy), making sure that we have sunscreen, insect repellent, water, hat, and that we are properly dressed for the habitat.
  3. Entering the Quiet zone (practicality) > Phone off (or on airplane mode off), tune off (entering the quiet zone),
  4. Ethics of Reciprocity > We debrief about wildlife ethics. As well as we go over that we are an integral part of nature / that we are a critical element of the web. Describing it as a bidirectional relationship. We explore as a group what nature gives us, and then we share what we intend to give 'it'. 
  1. Forest Immersion Gate Opening > Tai Chi breathing and affirmation of state / Making it clear to our conscience that we are starting walking on the 'path'. Make note of a natural element (a tree or something else) and recognizing it as the gate, then 'pass it' symbolically. We've started!
  2. Local Sensory Explorations > Besides our regular senses (and myself I have used sound maps, and blindness as a way to bind people and create alertness). I also like to incorporate when I can (and depending on the audience) some easy Yang style movements into the mix to make people experience their our own energy and the energy of the place.
  3. Attuning / Blending In > Musing, light observations (as opposed to scientific or involved observations), slow walk (as slow as you want) interspersed with as many sittings or resting moments as wanted or necessary. Often myself I end up using my sitting time to draw as it slows time for me even more.
  4. Stillness & Reflection > It's not all about trees! Some Bretons were also known to worship thickets. I do that a lot, although it's not about 'worship' in the English sense in this step. In French we have a wonderful word, it's a reflective verb: "se receuillir" it represents a mix of meditating, honoring, reflecting, collecting oneself. That's what this moment is about. 
  5. Returning & Belonging > Before we pass the closing gate and if we have collected something, we make the effort to return most of our collection back to the forest, taking only a token. It's an appreciation of need vs. want, and acknowledging the belonging of what we took. It also allows us to loop back to ethics (of what is 'collectable' and not). Often at this step, that is where I share a personal story of returning a volcanic stone to the sea // and asking for forgiveness of Pele for avoiding her mythical anger :-)
  6. Forest Immersion Gate Closing > Here were mean 'Closing' as in sheltering the moment (from the external potentially elements). It's an attempt to make its effect last longer, and make it a persistent experience.
  1. Sharing Among Friends > Here it's about sharing a moment about this circle with the other 'circlers': a drawing, something we collected (and kept) and that we are offering to the others. 
  2. Until Next Time > Departure with maybe a promise to come back and celebrate further this path together.
There we are! enjoy! 

Some Background...

I have 'practiced' forest immersions for the past 35 years, in a way that originated from where I am coming from: Brittany, in the Northwest of France. I 'parenthesized' practice, because this is not something that we usually say or used to say there. For the longest time, it was somehow obvious that when you enter the forest, you're there to listen, see, smell, taste, feel, and converse with the forest. It was obvious that in a forest you de facto 'attune'. If my fellow Bretons lost the way, I would not know as I don't go back to Brittany very often. But glancing at some of the cultural groups over there, the thought seems to be persisting that attuning is what you do in the landscapes of Brittany.

Anyway, about 20 years ago I started incorporating some elements of the Tao Te Ching and Tai Chi. I liked the simplicity of the breathing and the moves, and it felt natural to use them to deepen my experience. There the word 'practice' makes more sense, because reaching simple breathing and fluidity of simple movement is actually hard (but that's another story). However, trying to reach breath-and-move-simplicity perfection is not what I practice when I 'immerse'. 

A little background about these 3 components: 

1 - Britanny / Armorican culture.
Armorica was the name of an ancient part of the Gaul in France and that included the Brittany peninsula. Brittany is also known as Lesser Britain. There, celts succeeded a megalith seeder culture mixing with the local population. They changed the culture, making it very special and strongly tied to Nature and its cycles. The people of this region were also known as the people of the landscape, and where that landscape is comprised of both the forest and the sea. Still, now you hear some people of this region (who are called Bretons), proudly state that they are rooted in the forests and gazing at the ocean's horizon. For those of the Bretons who specially worshiped the Brittany forests, there is one that has all the features of a Natural cathedral. This is the Broceliande forest, that is tied to the myth of King Arthur, his knights, and Merlin. There is a little dispute going on there between the Celts from Great Britain and the Celts from Lesser Britain: where that forest is located, as well as about the literary origins of the Arthurian legends. The Celts from my region believe that it's in Brittany and is the forest of Paimpont, and of course, us French in general claim that the Arthurian Legends are ours. The Greater 'Brits' contest that of course ;-) 

As for the trees, there is a mighty tree among them all for the Bretons: the oak. It symbolizes Strength and Wisdom. In ancient times, it was a place of gathering, celebrations and initiations. 
The choice of the oak as a mighty tree is not surprising: Oaks are somehow a quintessential wildlife plant. Indeed, no other plant genus supports more species of Lepidoptera (and therefore providing more diverse food to a diverse population of birds) than the mighty oak. From an ecological point of view, the Oak is known to support some 534 Lepidoptera species. The seconds in line are the Willow and the Cherry plum (around 456 species). Simply amazing!  

Anyway, Armorica always has been seen as being fiercely independent and rebellious, tough on the Romans, and the Kingdom of France after that. Eventually, Armorica was annexed to the crown of France around 1532 (I think). But still, this proud culture remains rebellious at heart, and proud of its forest and ocean roots and anchors.

That's my personal & cultural tradition. I spent big parts of my childhood, youth and young adulthood wandering forests and at sea. I never totally lost the forest and the sea, as I always made an effort to go back regularly, and to extend my experiences in various forest habitats of the world... Actually, I cannot say that it was an effort either: it's has been more like a deeply rooted need, probably fueled by the fact that forests and the ocean were also places of refuge for me.

And that's the thing... When people are quick to think that the ability 'to be' in a forest is the panache of a specific country or culture, it makes me feel very sad. Because we could not be more mistaken. Humans have a very long evolutionary history with forests. We come from the forests! There is a reason why forests are so beneficial from a health perspective: they are our familiar places. Cities are not. Our departure from the forest from an evolutionary timescale is very recent. And there is also a reason why the Tree of Life is a widespread myth in the history of human cultures: forests are our common human tradition.

2 - The concept of the Path that we brushed upon yesterday (also known as 'the Way') comes from the Tao Te Ching. This is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi. I've been a student of the Tao Te Ching for more than 20 years. The Way has a special meaning within the context of Taoism, where it implies the essential, unnamable process of the universe. I like the concept a lot, because it favors, or reminds us of, the importance of being humble. We cannot name or describe all things in the Universe, although we forget that a lot as a species.  

3 - Tai Chi often goes in pairs with Tao Te Ching, as it is for some a mental and physical practice of the Tao. More importantly, it is a philosophy of the forces of yin and yang, related to the moves. I use some of its gentle breathing exercises, and sometimes incorporate a few of the postures of the Yang style Tai Chi form, because they also demonstrate wonderfully the Qi (bioenergy) as well as it fosters mindfulness. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

The fallacy of aiming for stabilization of human numbers

“From an environmental sustainability perspective, what matters is the current and cumulative effect of absolute population size, not the rate at which our numbers grow.”

That a population’s size is stable in no way entails sustainability... And I'll add that focusing on the population growth rate as many do these days is an illustration of a complete lack of understanding of both ecology and statistics.

Anyway... this is a good article: well written, well documented and definitely 'food for thoughts' for those of us who are -or try to be- honest enough to face Reality.

Article » 'Any size population will do?': The fallacy of aiming for stabilization of human numbers by Karin Kuhlemann in The Ecological Citizen Vol 1 No 2 2018: 181–9

Article Excerpts

Concerns about population growth are often articulated in terms of the growth being too fast. Supposedly, we should aim at slowing down growth or stabilizing our numbers. In its most intellectually reprehensible incarnation, this framing of the problem translates into the argument that there is nothing to worry about because the rate of population growth is already slowing down. The easiest way to ‘solve’ a complex ethical and practical problem is, as ever, to deny that it exists.

The fear of population ‘decline’ or ‘ageing’ is primal and tribal, reflecting anxieties of a bygone era where survival depended upon how many young men one could round up for waging war or fighting o invasions. It makes no sense in today’s world, where the main threats to the long-term viability of human societies are ultimately rooted in there being too many of us – men and women, young and old – doing damage simply by peacefully leading our own lives.

The irrelevance of current food production

It is often suggested that we ought not to worry about population growth because we already produce enough food to feed 10 billion people. Supposedly we can, or should, let population growth run its course, whatever it may prove to be because we are safe on the food front. There are at least three reasons why this reasoning is fallacious. First, answering the question of how much food is produced now is not answering the question of how much food we can expect to produce over the foreseeable future. Current resource use in agriculture is unsustainable (see article for refs), and this is without taking into account the potentially devastating impact of climate change. Discussions about food waste and expansion of the agricultural frontier typically ignore the reality that not all waste can be prevented, that most productive land worldwide is already in use for agriculture (see article for refs) and that what is left is natural habitat that supports important ecosystem services and provides critical sanctuary for what remains of the world’s wildlife. Secondly, even if it were possible to sustainably produce enough food to feed a population of 10 or even 11 billion – and we have no reason to be confident it will be (see article for refs) – food production is not the only issue...

Already unsustainable

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) recognizes population growth as a primary driver of climate change (Pachauri et al., 2015), along with economic growth.

The most recent doubling of our numbers was accompanied by a loss of over half of wildlife numbers, driven by destruction of natural habitats and harvesting of wildlife to meet human needs and aggravated by environmental fouling from human activities (WWF, 2016).

Those of a particularly extreme speciesist or anthropocentric moral outlook may believe that there is no inherent wrong in causing other species to go extinct. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the interests of human beings are the only moral considerations that count. Even then, humanity’s impact on the natural world is a serious moral wrong of reckless risking of livelihoods and safety nets. Many millions of people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America rely on wildlife resources for their livelihoods and as a buffer to see them through times of hardship, such as unemployment and crop failures (e.g. Nasi et al., 2008; Ntuli and Muchapondwa, 2015).

An unconscionable taboo has developed whereby scientists, activists and policymakers ‘talk around’ population growth and gloss over or omit reference to the need for smaller family sizes when discussing climate change, food or livelihood insecurity, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation (e.g. Campbell and Bedford, 2009; Coole, 2013; Mora, 2014)


Friday, February 16, 2018

Our Children Lives vs. Guns? The Choice is Clear

Basically, we've made it clear that the life of our children is the price to pay to own guns without any reasonable regulation. As well as we made it clear that the feelings and opinions of the victims who survived those carnages one way or the other don't matter...

Yes, that's what we live for and we should stop being cowards but own that decision firmly and unequivocally so that we can move forward (or rather backward in that case). 

Now about those claims about mental health, racial differences, and all that jazz... Here are a few numbers and studies to help to understand what the Gun problem is possible and is not about (surely)!

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

Worldwide, Mr. Lankford found, a country's rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when he excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Cute Scoter Couple...

πŸ¦‰ Today's EwA Nature Circle was a success in that we had a wonderful day on our shores, and we got to observe many beautiful bird species: surf scoters, buffleheads, cormorants, common loons and so much more...
But no we did not get to spot this winter snowy owl resident. Sorry, they don't sit around waiting for us to catch a glimpse of them but rather simply do as they please and that's the way we like it! One year we made 4 trips in bitter cold before being granted to spot 2 gorgeous ones (a male, and a female or juvenile in 2 different locations)!
Well then, trying again will be on our calendar for the next snowy owl nature circle, then! (end of Feb most likely). Who's in? ☺️
Sighting recording & details » https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/9802899