Monday, 12 December 2016

Why We Will Suffocate If We Don't Change Our Ways

The importance of phytoplankton
One of the effects of climate change that is -strangely- hardly ever talked about, is that it depletes the oxygen levels in our oceans. Most people don't really see the harm in this, because they see themselves as separate from nature, oceans and other species, but the truth is that everything is interconnected, and the oceans are extremely important for human survival.

The vast majority of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans, or more specifically: from phytoplankton. If the oceans suffocate, then so do we. Nevertheless, due to continued overfishing and the rising temperatures of the oceans as a result of climate change, we have been creating oceanic dead zones like there is no tomorrow (and if we continue, there indeed won't be a tomorrow) and yet most people do not seem to feel overly concerned. At the same time we have been steadily cutting down rainforests, so it almost seems like we want to make sure that we don't make it out alive.

I hope we do though, and that we all start to take this problem seriously, and make the necessary changes in our lives (**NB: this link contains suggestions that will not be sufficient anymore to avert climate change, but which can offer a way for you to get started. Eventually (and rather sooner than later) a carbon neutral - and preferably carbon negative- lifestyle is the only way to go**).

Why are people not massively taking action?
The 'consensus' among the public seems to be that they won't be personally affected by climate change, they will still have time when disaster strikes, or perhaps that others should fix it. However, this is not so. When the oceans suffocate, then oxygen levels are likely to drop down to levels that are no longer sufficient for humans to survive, which will give us just a few more minutes on the planet (however much time is needed to suffocate) before we all go extinct. This shift is most likely to happen suddenly, without warning (other than the many warnings we have already had) and therefore result in almost instant, global human extinction - along with most other life on the planet. There will be nowhere to hide either. No safe zones. 

The solution
As we are all contributing to climate change with carbon output, we are all partly responsible for this and so it is up to us all to lower our collective carbon footprints, all the way down to zero and ideally into the negative - before it is too late. (Going moneyless can be a huge step in the right direction! I personally believe this is the only solution - as money has become so intimately connected with destruction to the planet, but I am always open to other suggestions.)

Remember that whatever objections you may have to making changes, whatever difficulties you project, or whatever you may think is more important for you to focus on right now, it all fades into insignificance when you consider the alternative: extinction.

Links for further reading:

Please read this article about oxygen depletion, which I think is the most important research related to climate change that is currently out there: (you need a university subscription in order to read the complete article, but if you don't have one you can email me a request: make sure to include the link).

The link at number 1 explained in a way that is easier to understand.

Check here to see if you have these misconceptions about climate change. (Again, if you cannot read the full article, but you want to read it, please email me this link with a request for the full article).

Clear description of the research about deoxygenation of the oceans.

The link between climate change and ocean oxygen depletion explained.

More on the link between climate change and the oceans, and an explanation of mass extinction.

More about climate change and ocean dead zones.

The relationship between climate change and capitalism, plus some history.

This article is from 2006, about biodiversity loss in the oceans. At that point it was still reversible. I hope that it still is. In any case it is a good reason not to consume ANY seafood anymore. Let's keep our oceans as healthy as possible, because the oceans are the basis for life on earth.

Mass extinction evidence from an article written in 2008 (basically old news by now from a scientific view point - remember that conditions continue to change, and changes are speeding up now as human populations continue to grow and continue to do more and more damage (on average).

On human domination of the planet, and how it has harmed other species and the land.

More about the suffocation of the oceans. (see 4)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Taking A Break From Moneyless Living: Why I Miss It


Right now I am on a trip to Australia by train, which I managed to make a part of my research project. This means that I am taking a break from living a moneyless life for the duration of this trip: I buy train tickets, overnight stays and some food.
I try to stick to minimal spending, but I am definitely using money. However, from the very first day I was missing rewilded / moneyless living  already, and here is what I miss about it.

People usually think that money buys them freedom, but this is actually not true. There is in fact a lot more planning and scheduling involved when you are using money: You have to book tickets that are only available in limited quantities, you have to book hotels or hostels that need to be arranged beforehand (also available in limited numbers) and if you only stick to using money, your travels are restricted to touristically developed areas.
You may think this buys you security at the very least (knowing you will have a place to stay), but this is not always the case either (there are always scammers around who are ready to take your money, hotels can get fully booked, you can end up in a less-than-great location or a hotel that is infested with bedbugs, etc).

Basic Kindness
It is interesting to see how just basic human kindness quickly gets lost as soon as money is involved. There have been several times here in China that people kindly offered to give me directions, but then wanted to sell me something (a ride, a ticket (far more expensive than the usual), or whatever), and then if I decline they happily send me off in the wrong direction, or lie about certain conditions. Several times these kinds of people have told me that 'the bus won't come for another hour! You will have to wait a long time!' I have time so I wait, and then of course it arrives within five minutes. It is very frustrating and quite sad to see how basic human kindness, helpfulness and love are lost just because of money. When money is the sole requirement for survival, all people care about is how much money they can squeeze out of you. They no longer see you as a fellow human being. No. They see you as an ATM. And that feels horrid. So I really miss the basic kindness and unconditionality that comes with living the moneyless life. In fact, kindness is what makes us human. It is what living beings are. Why compromise our very being and integrity just for some external reward? That is no reward. It is a punishment.

Somehow I feel less fulfilled when I am spending money. Not only is there an absence of a feeling of achievement as I take care of my needs (after all, there is not much creativity or skill required when you use money: no real survival skills are necessary, and no learning or personal growth is required to happen at all) but I also feel a sense of emptiness in my day-to-day activities. This latter part is hard to describe, but I will try. When money is involved, it seems like my actions lose meaning to some degree: there is an added sense of emptiness and that causes an additional need to create meaning; a need that would not be there in the absence of money, because then each (inter)action has meaning and purpose. I am still not entirely sure how to describe this aspect exactly, but I think it has something to do with the conditionality that money creates and how it feels fake, complicated, cumbersome and draining us of our natural qualities.

I miss the sense of connection that comes from living without money. It just naturally leads to a life that is connected to everything: my fellow beings (human and non-human), the resources I use, the ecosystem I am a part of, nature as a whole... everything! There is nothing that feels as good as being immersed in and connected to life. It brings peace of mind.

People often say that they like the independence that money gives them, but I actually enjoy and miss the interdependence that moneyless living brings. It forms bonds and relationships that are real and lasting. It brings intense gratitude, a sense of happiness and a feeling of purpose on both sides. And most of all; it demonstrates what really matters in life (relationships). Life is all about relationships and what we can give to and share with each other. This is the meaning of life. If you live without money this is just so obvious and clear. And when money enters the equation, all of this is lost. Not just this realization, but also the very meaning of life.

I still encourage everyone to try moneyless living, even if it is just for a while. You will notice the differences and you will understand what I am talking about. You will also understand most of the current problems in the world and see the connections. You will see the solutions too. There is a way for us to live awesome, connected lives and to live in harmony with nature. There is a way for us all to feel fulfilled and live happy and healthy lives. There is a way for humans to live in real freedom (not the limited, fake freedom we have created). And contrary to popular belief, the way to do this does not involve money.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Benefits of Train Travel

I have recently started my trip to Australia by train, and so far I am loving it! Here are some of the many benefits of train travel, especially compared to flying.

No jet lag!
When traveling to Australia by plane, usually people experience jet lag because the time is shifting so rapidly. There are also other -more serious- health concerns related to traveling by plane (especially long-distance), such as the risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis. Also, if you are traveling to high-altitude regions, there is a smaller risk of getting altitude sickness when you travel by train, because your body gets more time to adjust (depending on the route you take of course: e.g. the train from Beijing to Lhasa can be an exception if you don't make a stopover in Xining).

It brings you closer to main sights
You usually arrive in or near the city/town center, or close to interesting locations that you may want to visit, so you can rely on walking most of the time to get around. Also, if you want to travel further, there are usually plenty of buses around that can take you into all directions. If you fly, you usually arrive in a very uninspiring place and it can take a while to get away from there.

Guilin sunset, as viewed from one of the mountain tops (walking distance from the train station)

You see more along the way
While traveling by train you see scenery you would not have seen otherwise. On my trip so far I have encountered so many different landscapes and it is amazing to watch the landscape change as I travel across different countries, different climates and time-zones, and through urban as well as more remote regions. I have been traveling for nearly three weeks now and it has not been boring yet.

You get time to relax / slow down
Even though train travel is far from slow (see below) it does help you to slow down and do things you never have time for, because you are usually stuck in a space without internet (and sometimes also without electricity) for quite some time. It can be a very meditative experience to just stare out the window, watching the world go by and watching the scenery change continuously.

You meet interesting people
Because you are on a train for quite a while, often in compartments you share with other people, you get a chance to talk with them and hear their interesting stories. You can ask them questions about their home country and they can learn more about yours. I met only friendly people on the way so far and many of them were very interesting.

Raushan is one of those cool people I met along the way. Definitely a highlight!

It is more enjoyable
Because travel is slower and there is so much to see (and do) along the way, you tend to enjoy the journey more: the journey is the destination. It is the same with life, but sometimes we forget because we get too efficient in our way of thinking and planning everything. If everything happens (too) fast, we don’t get time to adjust and enjoy the road. We lose our flexibility and our flow.

The flexibility of train travel translates directly into more freedom: especially if you don’t pre-book anything. Even when I need to get visas, I try to book as little as possible in advance, because that gives me freedom to change my plans. Sometimes you may decide to take a different route, or stay somewhere longer (or shorter) than originally planned. For example, I decided to travel through China much faster than I planned originally, because I caught a severe cold and wanted to get to the warm weather as soon as possible. Right now I am in Guilin with 20C.
Every time you need to book a ticket in advance, it is restricting to some degree. Fortunately, when you travel by train it is often quite easy to get last minute tickets (which are usually the same price no matter when you buy them, unlike plane tickets which skyrocket the closer you get to your travel date).

Traveling by train is not that expensive, and relatively speaking it is much cheaper than flying if you count in all the extra places you can visit (plus considering you also get accommodation on overnight trains).

More environmentally friendly
Train travel is better for the environment than flying and can still be considerably better for the environment than car travel (especially if you travel with electric trains). I am hoping that popularization of train travel will encourage the electrification of trains around the world, which will make global train travel an even more sustainable option because it would cut carbon emissions on long-distance train travel even further.

To summarize:
As with most things in life: 
Less cost + slowing down (in this case slower travel) = more enjoyment, freedom and happiness.
I would like to add that traveling with slightly less comfort (third class tickets, staying overnight in simple locations) is also more interesting, because you experience the trip more fully and get pushed to appreciate the little things more and more. Also this way of traveling helps you to stay connected to where you are and what you are doing, and the challenges that may come with it help you to become a wiser and more balanced person. Life is no fun if you don't challenge yourself!

The details of my trip so far:

* I covered 6461 km in the first week (Helsinki - St Petersburg - Moscow - Astana - Almaty - Urumqi). I spent 356,22 Euros on train tickets for this part of the trip.
* I covered another 3793,1 km in the second week to get from Urumqi to Guilin (via Tianshui, Baoji, Chongqing and Guiyang). Tickets totaled 144,97 Euros for this part of the journey.
* That is a total of 501,19 euro so far, for 10.254,1 km, visiting 10 cities along the way.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Overpopulation: Why It Matters

I am extremely surprised that many people still believe that overpopulation is a myth. I wonder if it has something to do with Hans Rosling's talks, who uses very unconvincing (and unscientific) argumentation to 'prove' that overpopulation is a myth, while he is conveniently overlooking the interdependence between humans and other species and completely ignores our unsustainable ways and what it would take to change this. Let me address those points now to help make clear why overpopulation is a huge problem that needs to be addressed.

1. Carbon negative living is now the only way to stop climate change
Did you know that to make life on earth sustainable (and survive as a species) we all need to start living a carbon negative lifestyle right now? The main reason is that even if we would all stop emitting carbon from now on, and if we all went vegan overnight, still more carbon would be added to the atmosphere than can be absorbed. Part of the reason for this is the carbon that is released from the permafrost, which is melting due to already increased temperatures.
So this means we need to be focusing on rehabilitating nature and on making completely self-sustainable communities ASAP: no more mass-production of food (because that requires transport), no more mass production of unnecessary products (which may include more than you think) and no more jobs that do not contribute to the well-being of the planet (or worse: which cause destruction). If we just continue "doing our jobs", there won't be any human life left in a few decades.

2. Humans require space and natural surroundings to remain in touch with nature
Do you think the human population of the entire earth can live in harmony with nature (i.e. living a carbon negative lifestyle)? If you think so, have you ever been to the Netherlands, India, China and other densely populated places? If you live in those places, you hardly have any contact with other species. It might seem that humans are the only species there, or at least the most important ones, which is of course very misleading. Where are all those people going to live, if not in high-rise apartment buildings?
Have you ever watched the world population clock? Have you tried growing all of your own food year-round in areas like Canada, Norway and other places with long winters? Have you ever tried growing all the food you eat anywhere in the world, or living merely on foraged foods? Do you know how much land is required to do this sustainably? And do you know how much land is required for us to repopulate creatures that are on the brink of extinction and to restore forest areas enough to reverse our collective footprint into the carbon-negative?

3. Carbon negative living requires us to live in a temperate climate
Weather conditions are often not taken into account when overpopulation is discussed, yet it is a very important factor, especially with regards to carbon negative living. Have you tried compensating for the carbon you emit by planting trees, living a fully self-sustainable lifestyle with a carbon negative footprint? I would say try it. You would at least need to be growing all of your own food, give up any fossil-based transport/consumption and live without heating or air-conditioning. Give it a go and see how difficult it is; especially in colder climates. And then put human overpopulation into that new perspective.

4. We are part of the ecosystem
Perhaps the most important point is that humans depend on many other species for their survival. When overpopulation is discussed, strangely enough other species are often entirely overlooked. We are not the only species that matters. In fact, there are species that matter much more, and that do far more for nature and their relative ecosystems than humans (also because we have lost touch and most of us don't even know the role of humans in nature anymore).

Yes I agree that 'overpopulation' would just be a matter of lifestyles and distribution of resources IF humans were the only species that mattered AND if we were not part of an ecosystem, but that is a rather simplistic view. Some resources are not meant to be distributed. Resources are in a certain area for a reason. It makes the earth habitable for humans in that area. Distributing resources pollutes the earth AND disconnects us from those resources and therefore prevents us from being able to manage them properly.

At this point even moneyless living is not enough to save life on the planet. We need to be out there tearing down factories, planting trees and cleaning our rivers and lakes. Are we willing to do what it takes to save ourselves?

(This blog post is adapted from a Facebook update I posted on 8 October 2016)

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Is Life Too Loud?

For the past few weeks I have been traveling around the south-western United States, visiting all kinds of places on my way. I gravitate towards wilderness and quiet places, but my travels have also brought me in cities and other places I normally try to stay away from. After traveling from a big city to a cabin in the mountains, I realized how most people really spend most of their lives in the extreme loudness and noise of 'civilization', and how damaging this is to our mental and physical health. I don't know how those of us who live in cities manage to survive, and perhaps we hardly can.

The buzzing of computers and cars, the ticking of clocks, music playing on the radio and in most public places, people talking, mobile phones, and the list goes on.

We think we get used to the noise, and perhaps to some degree we do, but only by blocking off some of the noise that comes in. For most of us that means we shut part of ourselves off in order to escape the busy-ness that is going on all around us, most of the time. And in that process, a lot more gets lost and blocked off than just the excess noise.

The moment you realize this is when you find yourself in a peaceful place, where all you can hear is the chirping of birds and insects, and the occasional rustling of leaves. The mind may protest for a while and continue the rush of anxiety and stress that has often consequently taken over our systems. Some people have gotten so used to the noise and this constant state of almost-panic that they fear the silence, because in that silence they can suddenly hear their loud mind, which has become louder and louder over time in order to be heard and in order to function in the overwhelming, purpose-packed world of effectiveness we have created.

The good news is that we can find peace of mind again by immersing ourselves in nature. Spend some time in the wilderness and allow yourself to do nothing for a while; for as long as you need to. It is so important that we take the time to do this. It is the busy, noisy minds that want to swallow up, categorize and manage the wilderness, filling it up with purpose and efficiency, making it a part of our Loudness and Noisiness while drowning out the cries of the earth, each other and ourselves. But wilderness has its own purpose, that is far more valuable than anything we could create in that space. Space has value. It restores our inner balance. It helps keep our hearts and minds open. It keeps us sensitive to others' needs, including our precious earth. It gives us a direct opportunity to experience peace of mind, and once you know what it is and what it feels like, it is so much easier to integrate that into the rest of our lives.

I am so grateful for wilderness and places that have not been swallowed up by humanity yet, and I hope we can keep (and even expand) those places. These are the places of healing where people and other animals can meet soul-to-soul to restore and replenish their being. Where we can remind ourselves what it feels like to just 'be' instead of being somebody who has so many tasks and things that have to be done.

You may find yourself (almost) deafened by the noise of this world, or you may no longer feel the effects of the system on your mind and body. Whatever may be the case, make sure you take the time to go into the wild regularly, not as another task that has to be completed, but to reconnect with the flow of nature instead of the pace of mankind. Our lives and the survival of our species depends on it.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Happy Birthday, Mum!

Today it is my mum's birthday! Two months ago while I was writing a post about my dad for his birthday, I felt inspired to also write one for my mum. And luckily I did not have to wait long to post it!
Below are some things that my mum taught me. My mum and I share more differences than me and my dad, but I am getting to a point where I realize I have more in common with her than I previously thought, and many of those things I have been taking for granted, because at first glance they may not seem 'spectacular', 'bold' or 'extraordinary'. Most of us don't appreciate subtleties and intricacies anymore. 
However, the following points have proven to be important building blocks for me to become the person I am today and I am often reminded of them as I go about my life.

Treasure and respect nature
Throughout my life, mum taught me a lot about nature. We went berry picking, picking mushrooms and went for long walks in the park, marveling at all the different creatures, big and small, plants and trees. I learned to treat all beings like they matter, because they do. And not just outside the house, but also inside. She taught me how to catch creatures that had gone astray with respect and care by trapping them in a glass with a piece of paper covering it, and then leading them outside. That is how I still catch spiders, beetles and flies in my house (and even mosquitoes nowadays, which used to be the only exception). Mum taught me to see how we are all a part of the web of Life and that purposely killing a creature without provocation is always unnecessary.

Appreciate the little things
Mum has taught me awareness of many things that most people (including me) tend to take for granted most of the time. Mum often points out her gratitude for the air we breathe, the flowers, the trees around us, and all the wonderful beings we share the earth with. I have always been a big-picture-kind-of-person, so for me it is easy to forget about things that are always there. And nowadays I find myself more and more noticing the things my mum consistently and often pointed out to me while I was consistently overlooking them as I was growing up.

My mum offered her couch to travelers from near and far long before it became fashionable. I often had friends over that I met while exploring the globe and she always welcomed them with open arms. She loves learning about different cultures and is always eager to host people from anywhere to exchange views and experiences. We literally had visitors from each of the (habitable) continents on earth.

If you can help someone in need, help them
When I was about 17, I met a boy who soon after became homeless. He had no family to help him, a big debt and no job (and no hope of being considered for a job). He was recovering from an accident at work, and got zero support from the previous employer, nor the government. Then he lost his home – I think it was because the person he was living with disappeared. Once you lose your home, it is very difficult to get your life back on track (at least in the Netherlands). It is impossible to keep a bank account, because you don’t have an address. Without an address and bank account, you also can't get a job, nor receive any unemployment benefits. Once you no longer work in our society, you get discarded and treated like you don’t exist. You don't get health insurance either, because you need to pay for that in the Netherlands. And you can’t pay for it if you don’t have income (or a bank account). However, the government can fine you at any time for not being insured, because it is mandatory for all citizens.
He came over e to meet my parents and my mum adopted him as her own son from the moment she met him. She said he could stay with us and he ended up staying for a long time, much longer than I personally wanted, because he had a lot of problems which caused a lot of tensions in our house. Mum guided him through all of the red tape and bureaucracy of getting his finances back in order, getting him a bank account, getting him welfare and finally also helping him find a place of his own. It took about eight months. All the time my mum was always understanding, stuck up for him when he was having angry outbursts towards the system and helped us to try and see the world through his eyes - even for a moment. 

 I am pleased to say that my adopted brother is doing well and still part of the family, visiting my parents at least once a week. He has become somewhat of an expert with technical appliances, and often helps my parents out if they are having trouble with their phones or computer.
I was amazed though that it was so difficult for a person to get back into the system once they were out. It was my first experience of seeing how the state really has no interest in its citizens, only in the profit that is being generated. It made me realize how silly the system is, and how lives really don’t matter in that system. We are just a number, a spoke on a wheel. Our needs don’t matter, even our most basic ones. As soon as we need support - the support we pay for through taxes and by being a member of society - that support we believe exists is not given. And since we have been discarded from society, we lose our voice. No one will hear your cries and you will be left to die. People will walk past you as you lay crying in the curb, but most people will just think you are crazy and worthless - and leave you to die as well. Not my mum though. My mum will not give up on you. When she was 15 she also helped a friend to get back on her feet by offering her to live with her in her room for a couple of months (with the support of her mum), and another time when she was 18 with another friend. They are still good friends.

Coloring outside the lines: it’s okay to stand out
My mum is an artist. She creates her artworks from the heart and lets them flow from her personal experiences. Personal experience is never generalized. To have interesting ideas, it helps to have an interesting life. And to stand out, it is important to question the very fundamentals of society that most people blindly accept as the norm. Standing out may make you a target for criticism, but it also gets you seen and heard. If the message is worth it, then don’t be afraid to stand out and make yourself heard. It is not about you anyway: it is about the message.
Here are some of my mum’s beautiful works (and the catalogue of her most recent work can be found here):

Anti-waste mentality
Mum definitely knows who to save money, and my moneyless challenge was partly inspired by her. She hardly buys anything for herself and is very creative with what she has. She gives most of what she has to others. She also knows a lot about expiry dates and so I often turn to her for advice on the things I find. Following her guidelines, I have never been sick from dumpster food. I think I would never have had the courage to eat some of the things I found while diving if it wasn't for her reassurance. 

Patience and seeing the value of experiences
While me and my sister were growing up, mum had a lot of patience with us so that we could learn about life and explore and grow (even when things were challenging and not going particularly smoothly, because my sister and I are very different and had a lot of fights). We had real childhoods and spent a lot of time outdoors. We often came back with dirty or muddy clothes, sometimes with animals we found and often with interesting friends. My main friends as a young child were the ducks that lived in the nearby park. They stayed clear of most people but they came to me for cuddles and we spent a lot of time together. Some of them moved into our garden and practically lived there. Once one of them accidentally got trapped in the house. The whole house was full of duck-poo when we got back home.

I am extremely grateful for the childhood I have had, growing up in harmony with nature and learning about the value of Life. I am grateful that I got so much freedom and unconditional love growing up, and that I got to learn to make up my own mind. This has certainly helped me to choose an unconventional path in life. To me there is just no better feeling than knowing you are a part of Life, in all its facets, and having the freedom to follow your heart.

May all of us be able to find a way to create this for ourselves. <3

Monday, 5 September 2016

Starving The System


I often hear people say that we should create a new system that makes the old one obsolete. Of course this is true. However.... this phrase is often used as an explanation of why many people - even though they are opposed to the economic system and the destruction it causes to our fellow earthlings and ecosystems every day - still keep shopping and using money as a tool for fulfilling their needs (or keep doing other things that contradict their own values).

I find this decision remarkable and anything but rational, because while I fully agree that we should create a new system to make the old one obsolete, I also feel strongly that the people that have the power to change this (i.e. the people who have the most money) are unlikely to be willing to do so unless they are forced. And what better way to force them than to 'starve the system' as I like to call it: We need to stop feeding it from the bottom up.
So why not do both: create a new system and stop feeding into the old one.... starve it to death. That means stop using money to pay for the structures that are in place, as much as we can.

Maybe we fear that life will get uncomfortable... because life without money may be really uncomfortable.

Yes, we may need to change our lifestyles temporarily until the changes are complete. Yes we may need to let go of some comfort and embrace some much needed personal growth instead. Yes, we may lose some of the 'privileges' we have gotten used to, which -by the way- we can only keep getting with a very severe price-tag to the environment and our fellow beings.

On the other hand, if we keep consuming like it's no big deal, then nothing is going to change and we can come up with the most brilliant alternatives to our economic system that we can think of, but the people who benefit from keeping things the way they are (which also happen to be the people who have the most power) will do everything in their power (which is a lot) to stop any efforts of change.

In the meantime, there ARE alternatives to money. Which ones there are depends on your needs and your location. You will need to get creative. You can start small and increase your freedom from money step by step. You may need to resort to illegalities at times, but remember that it is okay to cheat or exploit the system, but never your fellow man. The system as it is right now exploits our fellow beings in every step of the way and it's legal, so 'legal' obviously doesn't equal 'right'. We all know that. Now let's act on it.

Life may temporarily become a little bit more uncomfortable than you were used to, but this will change very quickly. First of all on an individual level because you will soon find alternatives that are just as comfortable, more rewarding and more in line with your values than the way you were doing things before. It can be challenging but this is also exciting and fun. Secondly, things will soon get easier on a structural level if everyone chooses to follow this path in some way or other, because then the system will have to change. People in power will lose their power; it will be pulled from underneath them. We are the ones upholding their status. Once we all realize this and stop contributing, the system will be forced out of existence and a new one has to be put in place.

Also, this type of revolution is most of all needed in the 'materialistic societies'; mostly Western (or Westernized) countries, because they are doing most of the damage to our planet AND they generally also make it easiest to live without money. If you are living in one of those countries, you have a very important decision to make. It is really not even a decision: it's either changing or perishing. We, the people, have the same powers as the governments that claim to lead us and the companies that supply our needs and greeds: when we stop supporting those 'leaders', their power falls back onto us.

What are you waiting for? Find a way to oppose the system... and not just any system of course. Only the dysfunctional ones... until they function once again.

Peace out :)

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Pursuing What Matters

As a PhD candidate in Norway, I get a personal budget to spend on research and research-related travels. I have not used much of it yet, as I have been thinking about a good way to spend it. It is difficult to know what you want to pursue early on, because in the beginning everything seems interesting and it is difficult to choose. But as you get more into the topics, you start to see clearly what you would like to explore in more detail.

During summer I came up with a plan.

Norway can be quite a lonely place and therefore I felt like doing something that requires me to meet like-minded people and to connect with them. Also, my personal moneyless / rewilding experiences have allowed me to experience first-hand the changes in thinking that result from this new way of being, which is not always easy to understand for others who have not had these experiences, nor is it easy to explain. I would love to learn to communicate about this more effectively; not just from my own personal experience, but also from a deeper understanding of the processes involved and how the mind works. Furthermore, I would like this information to be available to everyone, so that it will be much easier for everyone to make decisions about their lives and so that we can all understand the consequences of our lifestyle choices for our own health and happiness (even when -or especially when- you think that you don't really have a choice!).

And so that is what I would like to get into and explore further: what kind of changes happen when people live alternative, more self-sufficient lifestyles? And what makes this so?

To investigate this further, I will be interviewing everyone I have come to meet (virtually until now) who lives (or has lived) without money or with very little and as self-sufficiently as possible as a conscious lifestyle choice. Most probably I will also look at the other side: people who disapprove of such a lifestyle. I think the personal budget is a great opportunity for me to research this, as I think it would be difficult to find funding for such a project otherwise. Luckily, my supervisor is very supportive and it is thanks to him that I will be able to carry out this plan very soon.

I will be traveling to the US next month for the first set of interviews. Unfortunately there was no way for me to avoid flying. However, the next trip goes all the way to Australia, and I will attempt to get there without flying. I will be taking a train all the way to Singapore and then find a way (hopefully) to get to Australia by ferry / sailing. Along the way I will be meeting people who live alternative, mostly self-sustainable lives (or the other side of the coin: people who strongly reject people who pursue such lifestyles). I will aim to rely on Couchsurfing as much as possible so that I can familiarize myself more easily with the countries I am visiting and have yet another opportunity to connect with amazing individuals. It will also help me to extend the trip even further and collect more data.

If you know anyone you think I should meet, please let me know! Also feel free to get in touch if you would like to host me or want to organize an event with me. I am open to doing workshops, speaking events, etc.

Source: - Silk route
If you are in a similar predicament and would like some guidelines on how to spend research budget, go for the following:
1. Choose something you are really passionate about
2. Choose something that is unlikely to get funded if you would submit it as a project directly
3. Choose something that can potentially change the world for the better in a big way (because we need that!)

The same goes for choosing a career.

I hope to meet many of you along the way!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Forager's Diet - What I've Been Eating So Far

Since starting the Foraging Challenge, I have been learning a lot about plants. It is not as easy as I thought, because each time of the year (and location) offers its own menu of delicious foods to choose from. This means you can't just learn about basic plants and rely on those for the whole year. Also, with wild foods (as well as store-bought foods), variety is very important, because most plants are not healthy to consume in very large quantities. So small quantities of many different ingredients is important to stay healthy.

I will continue researching edibles for the rest of the year, so that I learn about many of the different foods that nature offers throughout the year. Here is an update on some of the things I have been eating so far:

Ground Elder
Without a doubt one of my favorites in early spring! Very mild and pleasant taste, but later in the year the flavor changes and the leaf becomes tough and stringy, even if the plant remains small. Not recommended in late spring / early summer.

Pine Pollen

For a short time during spring, pine trees start to fill the air with yellow dust: pine pollen. You can easily harvest some by walking around with a clean plastic bag, putting the bag around each branch, shaking it lightly and moving on to the next. You can add the pollen to smoothies or eat it as is. No need to break the branches or damage the tree in other ways. Just shake some off. Great taste and very healthy!

Mushrooms (Penny Bun)

Penny Bun is very tasty, available in rainy times (late summer until autumn). There are many different kinds of mushrooms though and it is recommended not to try any unless you are very sure about the species you have harvested. Some can be very poisonous! Can work great as a meat substitute.

Also one of my favorite springtime treats! Not just because of their flavor, but also because they can be eaten safely in relatively large quantities. When they get bigger, they lose much of their flavor though. Spring offers a lot of nutricious vegetables, including chickweed. It comes in several variants: Giant chickweed, mouse-ear chickweed and common chickweed (the tastiest and the one pictured above).

Lambs Quarters

Also one of my favorites and available here in very large quantities in (early) summer time. As with most plants, it tastes best when the plant is still young (or else you can just use the tops). Tastes a bit like spinach. Great raw as well as stir-fried.

Sea Weeds

Most nutritious during spring time, sea weeds are a great source of minerals and vitamins. As far as I know, all sea weeds are edible, but still it is best to identify the species you have harvested to make sure it is in fact edible and to find out the best ways to prepare it as food. Also great dried (can be ground into flour as well).

Berry season has finally started (end of July), so at the moment I harvest berries every day. I love all of them! Here we mostly have blueberries, wild strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrant, blackcurrant and cloudberries. I have also found wild cherries (technically not a berry, but still delicious).

By the way, I have yet to taste a food that is as delicious as wild strawberry. It is my all-time favorite wild food up until this moment and no other food even comes close to the rich and wonderful flavor of the wild strawberry. Taste it once and you may never want store-bought strawberries again.

Eating berries interestingly has made me want to stop using traditional toilets, because it helps complete the circle of life (and obviously it is way better for the environment).

I will continue learning about free foods as I go along to build up to another attempt of living off the land 100%.