Stadsodling: Ekonomi vs kalori vs ekologi

Scoutar arbets- och (egentligen?) livsmöjligheter, både realistiska och drömska sådana. Jag fortsätter att längta efter en tydligare samhällsförändrande position. Att odla grönsaker i smarta system blir värdefullt framför allt om jag kommunicerar och forskar kring det. Att ”bara” odla räcker inte. I år har jag skrivit bloggar åt magasin Dagg för att iaf få ut en del av mina odlings-lärdomar till en mer publik arena. Men. Drömmen är ju att få till stånd hypoteser, analyser och mätningar av odingssystemen vilket skapar ett vetenskapligt uppbackat faktaunderlag. Att jobba i en grupp med en biolog, en nutritionist, en miljövetare, en ekonom från industriell symbios-arenan, en ingenjör från energisektorn, en agronom, kanske någon mer. Ta det lokala praktiska arbetets grönsaksvolymer, vattenflöden, gödningsmedel, biologiska mångfald mm genom en räknemaskin och se vad den reella effekten är. 

Hos Sasha har jag ex varit med och odlat ca 40 olika sorters grödor på strax över 1100 kvm bäddyta exklusive gångar. Hur många dagars standardbehov av 2000-2500 kilokalorier/dag har vi odlat? (Ja, jag ska räkna på det själv med siffror från Livsmedelsverket). Vilka habitat har vi skapat, vilka har vi utraderat? Vilken energi har vi stoppat in – bensin, muskulär, el osv – och vad fick vi ut? Odlar vi en bra sammansättning grönsaker rent kostmässigt? Bidrar vi till hälsofrämjande ätande? Hur kan vi återcirkulera kompost, urin och fekalier till odlingarna? Sker det genom ett mellansteg eller flera, ex biogasproduktion?

Jag har inte kompetensen att själv räkna på alla frågor som surrar i huvudet, men jag skulle mer än gärna samordna ett projekt med ett systemteoretiskt angreppssätt.

 

Stadsodling och stadsnära odling börjar äntligen ses som självklarheter. Det är fett bra. Problemet med utformningen just nu är enligt mig ett för obalanserat fokus på ekonomin bakom odlingarna. Att det ska vara möjligt att ha en funktionell privatekonomi och vara stadsbonde är ett baskrav, gott så. Men idag bygger många modeller på att odla det som växer snabbt och kan säljas dyrt. Vi mättar inte städernas befolkning genom att odla microgreens och salladsblad, även om det kan vara en ekonomiskt gångbar modell om man är en nutida stadsodlare. Hur forsätter vi att pusha för en utjämning av ekonomi vs kalori vs ekologi?

Once upon a time back in Violet Town…

Murrnong Farm. Hmm. Where to begin? Let’s tell it like a saga!

Once upon a time, way Down Under, there was a young man looking for a piece of land for himself and his lady. Not just a house with a garden, but a place where you could be and that you could live from. He wanted to create something, to get his hands dirty and just do it, do all those things that people were talking about if you listened in on the alternative scene of the day. He wanted to build a house, to grow food, to keep animals, to plant trees and keep bees and all other things that are part of a self-sufficient-and-beyond kind of farming ecosystem. Why only think about it, when you can act? And so the young man went out on a search for a Good Spot.

In Violet Town, a small place of some 650 inhabitants, he came across an old paddock. The rectangular 8 hectares had some good soil for tree growing and sat just at the edge of the village. It was close enough to a community but still provided space and privacy to do your own thing. Hm. Yes. This was it, this was the place. He just enough money to buy the piece of land, and to build a water storage pond. Bingo!

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So began the story of Murrnong Farm, by now a small and constantly evolving piece of land on this Earth.

The young man set about implementing all his ideas and skills, and step by step the transformation took place. What was once a plain cropping or pasture paddock (and maybe cultivated for the murrnong yam daisy before that?) turned into an interconnected system featuring humans, chooks, goats, cat, bees, birds, fruit trees, olive trees, trees for timber, nut trees, shrubs, perennials, kitchen gardens, buildings, water tanks, sheds, machines, ladders, tools, storage, irrigation and fertigation, and much, much more. All these different elements played their own parts at the farm, working together in the symphony of life, co-creating diversity and abundance.

At first the place had looked to some like a mad person’s project, with a bunch of built structures and a few young trees, but as the years passed the maturing system claimed its rightful status as a Proper but Different Farm. Things were really taking off, growing and multiplying and diversifying. As well as feeding the farm household, surplus food was now being rolled out from the former paddock, getting sold at markets on Saturdays. And hey, providing food is what farming is ultimately about, eh?

While the farm was developing, the young man and his lady had two children together but later went separate ways. The children of the farm grew into clever young adults. The young farming man grew into a wise man. All was good at Murrnong, almost. For the wise man, something was still missing in the human puzzle. A loving connection to a partner, another person with whom to share life and all in it. He found it, lost it, found it, lost it… Meanwhile people came to stay at the farm, to learn from hands-on work how a permaculture system can be shaped and maintained. Some were older, most were young. Once there was this one woman, she had something special… then, like other helpers, she went away to continue her life elsewhere. Nothing had happened, but an imprint was left with the wise man.

A few years later he saw news of the woman on the Book of Faces on the internet. ”You look nice in this picture!” he wrote, and that was the start of a long, long conversation. It ended with the woman marrying the wise man and moving Down Under to his Proper but Different Farm. Love. Yes. Yes! Now they were two, one wise man and one wise woman. Life on the farm kept rolling with the seasons, crops came and went, helpers came and went.

The wise woman had a connection to another young woman, who was out travelling the world with her partner. They were researching stuff, like permaculture and agroecology. The couple asked if they could come help out at the farm. Was there a need for more hands, for more skills, for more energy? Always, the answer came, and so they drove their little van to the farm.

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Two weeks flew by while moving goats, pruning trees, harvesting olives, chopping wood, mending broken things, making jam, cooking food etc. The couple jumped in with the rest of the current team, working away and thoroughly enjoying whatever they were doing (except when the young woman lured her partner into milking a goat, which he really wasn’t that keen on…). It felt good, deep down on the inside, to be a temporary part of the Murrnong Farm. It felt good to live the shimmering dream of a farming lifestyle and feel content, happy. Then again, it was time to move on.

The wise man and the wise woman were sad to see the young couple continuing onwards, but gave them good food and warm hugs and put them on a train. At Murrnong Farm, people come and people go, so it is.

Maybe one day, the right people will show up, the ones who will want to permanently move into the cob house where the young couple had been sleeping for some nights. Maybe one day the wise ones will have a second nucleus, a second home, forming at the farm, providing skills and stability, furthering the resilience.

I hope so.

The End.

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My preferred kind of ”office”

When I give in to my love for the land and just open up to the possibility of working on it, in it, with it, I feel so strong. So calm. So happy. So relaxed. So clever. So in the right place.

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All these positive emotions are pronounced and enhanced when the land I’m on is also geared towards food production, not just food for humans but for the ecosystem, hence a cyclic approach. There seems to me little point in farming a landscape unless you make sure that you over time enrich the soil biota, the carbon stored, the living mass above ground, the water cleaning structures etc. Mind you, I’m not arguing that all landscapes should or could be foodscapes with an output suitable for humans, its simply the version which happens to be my preferred kind of ”office”.

Back home, working as a gardener at Gothenburg Botanical Garden, I’ve had the chance to learn more about the skill of taking good care of plants which are not necessarily well suited for your climate. Being a living plant museum, there is so much information stored in the trees, shrubs, herbs, bulbs and tubers which are growing there. In a limited space such as this garden, there is no room for large scale ideas, and so most species have but a few individuals representing them, and we are all collectively pampering them as best we can. There is no special
focus on food, since the focus for a botanical garden by default is on maintaining a gene bank – and to present it in a beautiful and interesting way. I can totally roll with that, I think it’s a valid and useful raison d’être, but it took me some thinking to get there. During this long journey I’ve made a point out of visiting other botanical gardens and to talk with different staff members, and this has really helped furthering my understanding of the ”why, how, who, where and when” kind of questions related to my own judgement of the validity of preserving plant material in the setting of a botanical garden. I’m even more proud now than before of the place as a whole and of the work done back home in the garden in Gothenburg.
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Switching back to looking at gardening as a way of providing food, the strategy needs to be a bit different. At a farm, even at a place like Murrnong Farm (where Tim and I are working/wwoofing right now) which is based on the principles of permaculture, diversity will in a way be limited. A farms primary reason must be to provide food, or else it will not be able to continue. You can’t acquire the energy needed to maintain and regenerate your farm (and yourself and everyone else feeding from it) if you dilute the calorific outcome by going all in on diversity. Yes, diversity is key to allowing for anomalies in weather and it’s consequences, e.g. droughts, pests, frosts, floods a.s.o., but be mindful: how will you cope with the myriad of outputs that your farm system will deliver if you are putting diversity too high on the wish list? You can of course find and use many different seed sources within the same species or graft many different varieties of the same fruit tree, because that allows you to work with a meaningful and wide enough diversity. Step too far beyond that, and you might loose sight of the food. If you can’t be efficient enough, your not a viable farmer.

I do enjoy working in the diversity of the botanical garden, because the site is such a great teacher, and of course there are many skilled gardeners and others to ask for advice and information. I feel that everything I learn there will at some point come in handy again. There’s no regretting signing up for a couple of seasons there instead of going of to work at a farm. I’ve learnt through life to value all learning opportunities, you just have to zoom out to understand in what area these opportunities take place. For example, cleaning the husks of from hundreds of nuts last season after my colleagues brought back a batch of North American nut species was a perfect intro to now cleaning hundreds of walnuts and pecans grown for food here at the Murrnong farm. Honing your skills is not something that requires you to constantly be in the same kind of setting, for cross pollination can potentially bring you so much further. All kinds of experiences and skills count, as long as you can live with the fact that you don’t always know when you’ll be able to use them next time.

For me, I can truthfully say that I have a wide and broad range of skills listed on my internal CV. Not all of them seem relevant to a potential employer, but to me they are. So on paper I narrow it down to what’s applicable right now, and of I go.

I am a gardener. I am a food grower. I might one day be a farmer.

 

Life, Permaculture & Love

For years I’ve used permaculture as a tool. For years I’ve been wanting to share this way of thinking with my partner Tim. Finally, five years into our relationship, I got the chance to bring him to a permaculture course in Australia. Two full-on weeks with an international group of students and a myriad of teachers. It’s been intense on so many levels!

In all honesty, this course allowed me to reinstate my belief in our relationship. I’m sure there are others like me out there, people who are struggling to fit their permaculture life with their love life. The following thoughts are for you. I wish you all good luck!

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PDC reflections 1 – day 2

Passion can make you angry. Passion can make you righteous. Passion can bring you close to people but also push them away.

As I sit here and listen to all the people attending the course, and the teachers presenting it, I feel both at home and far, far away. I see myself there, a few years back, teaching with that flame burning through my words, my face, my posture, out onto the participants. The recognition makes me itch on the inside. I didn’t want to be that teacher anymore. I wished not to be perceived as righteous, since that meant scaring people away with my fire, but I could tell that sometimes I did. Were those few a worthy sacrifice for the larger group that went away empowered by the idea of permaculture? I’m not sure. And so I stepped down, outwards, to give time for reflection and to calm my mind.

I feel that there’s a huge potential in bridging worlds, left and right, academia and hands-on, but I can’t do that if I position myself to far into either of those spheres. Like an acrobat dancing the line, I wish to fall in and out of balance, in and out of those contradictions. To continue to be an agent of change and reflection, I need to be humble enough to listen to what others have to say, and strong enough to present my own view in a thought-through way.

Being here at this PDC, with persons who have been teaching a lot, allows me to zoom out during the lessons and observe the layout and the way the other participants react to it. It’s a rewarding process.

PDC reflections 2 – day 4

Much like with the freediving community, it feels good to be back with the permaculture community. I guess I need to take time outs in many different areas at different times.

Being here, observing what I have learned since the PDC back in 2010, I feel very empowered and glad about my own development. So many of the areas we touched back then, which were related to gardening, food, buildings, heat sources etc, are areas in which I have had the chance to hone my skills. The hardest nut for me to crack is still the people part of any system. So many ideas about community are circling around, being implemented in different places, and I just haven’t found a model that I thing might work for me, and for Tim, quite yet. Today we went to Patrick – Artist as a family – plus a small community garden and then to David and Sue’s Melliodora. Patricks places was around 1000 m2, established 8 years ago, and filled with diversity. Melliodora is about 8000 m2, established over 30 years ago, and filled with even more diversity. It gives hope to see these semi-urban places, knowing that I don’t feel like I would fit well with communal living, but that I want to live in a good neighbourhood. It might be in the countryside, or it might be just outside the city in a spot with good communications for coming and going, for inputs and outputs.

PDC reflections 3 – day 7

Through bringing us to all these different places, I am amazed at how well the course has been planned. The benefit of seeing an implemented design in all different stages and of all different kinds and qualities gives such a added depth to what we are learning during the more theoretical sessions. This is what I missed while partaking in my first PDC back in 2010 in Jordan with Geoff Lawton. Being a good storyteller and an empowering lecturer, he still got his points through, but the sublime, emotional part of being submerged in a permaculture landscape gives you a deeper understanding.

I also very much enjoy having a string of teachers passing through the course. Compared to an ecosystem, David is the philosophical, wise old tree who brings balance and depth. Sue is a mature, clever animal, social and cheeky, moving through our group spreading nuggets of laughter and wisdom. Angela with her soft voice but mental steel is the shepherd steering us through the course, adding missing links of info when needed and maintaining the group structure. Beck with all her in depth knowledge of ecosystems and cycles keeps a cool surface but underneath we can see her rebell nature bubble and thrive. She is also our shepherd, sharing the work with Angela, making sure that we all get access to the information a PDC contains, so that even though there are ten or more co-teachers, there is a clear learning outcome at the end.

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Staring each morning with a yoga session, we clear our minds and loosen up our bodies after a much needed night of sleep. A simple breakfast in silence, then karma yoga in service of the ashrams daily needs before we enter the classroom again. We use the largest yoga hall for our indoor sessions, everyone seated on the floor using low foldable tables and cushions and blankets. The teachers use a whiteboard and a projector, then swap over to using different materials and resources to convey the knowledge and experience, such as using an A-frame, drawing to scale with a scaled ruler, or taking soil samples for testing. During site visits, we get to hear other designers speak about their way of permaculture, how they have set up their systems, what sizes and budgets they have, and what has worked well compared to what has been challenging through their process of establishment. We get the full scale, from projects in their 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th and 30th year, which allows a for a richer understanding of how things might or might not develop. Back at the ashram, its forested surroundings lends themselves perfectly to exercises of reading the landscape. As we wander about with David, we learn more and more about what to look for and how to use our intuitive reading abilities handed down from our ancestors. From geology to trees, from topography to waterways, from soil structure to weeds, from wind patterns to human interaction, we see the landscape with new clarity. Layers over layers of information surround us, and using our eyes, fingers, noses, tastebuds, feet and skin we react to what we meet. Drawing conclusions from all these layers, an internal picture emerges of what has passed in the years gone by, what is happening right now, and what might come.

I let all this information fall into my already established mental framework. Back in 2010, it felt as if a made a huge reconstruction of synapses to allow for everything that I am and everything that I know to reiterate its place inside me and to form new pathways in between all these areas. I felt empowered from being allowed to use all that I am, not only the specialised knowledge that I had gathered from continuous studies within the educational system. It matters that I was planting carrots and onions and tomatoes with mum and dad when I was a kid. I matters that I was a leftist activist roaming the streets as a young adult. It matters that I have a huge chunk of technical knowledge. It matters that I have traveled and marvelled at the landscapes I’m in since my earliest memories. In a way, permaculture allows me to be me, and that is a very empowering gift.

Having a day of in the middle of the PDC allows for reflection. I feel that I couldn’t have made a better decision on which PDC to come to. This time, its not mainly about what I can learn from the full on experience, it is so much more important what Tim can get out of it and even more so what we as a couple can gain. In a shady corner of my heart, there is a little scared voice whispering: “Klara, are you really yourself truly and fully when you share your life so intimately with this Tim-person? He is not passionate about the big picture in the same way you are. He will not push you to find an alternative way, to build that new regenerative branch from our old society which you have been dreaming of your whole life. If you want to be that agent of change, can you really be with someone who is less keen on challenging himself and taking steps to reach that far flung goal?”

Silence. The voice is shrinking, transforming itself into a nurturing soup of philosophical love. The topics we are covering and the conversations they enable between the two of us are creating a new balance. Tim is entering further into my world view, my view of the world that I’ve been carrying, always. Permaculture isn’t changing me, but it has brought me a conceptual framework which allows me to express who I am through the words and ideas put forth by others who came before me. Now I get to intentionally and intimately share this view with Tim in a much more profound way, and our conversations are yielding a more solutions based mutual future. I have dreamt of this shared experience since the two of us first became a one, but knowing that I have no business trying to push anyone else into the sphere of thinking where I feel at home and where my future is blooming, I have moved slowly. It’s a delicate thing, love. After spending five years together, the opportunity and will to join in for a PDC arose through the mutual desire of a long journey. We have now set out on a 16-months long nomadic voyage, and permaculture is a part of it. The scared voice inside me was whispering: “This is it. This is the point where you either make it or brake it. Submerge Tim in your world of holistic thinking and see how he responds. If ge gets it, your safe. If he doesn’t, there is an alternative truth about your relationship.”

No. I never dared speaking about this fear with Tim. It felt as if it would do more damage than good. I’ve been thinking, “he must also have his fears about being us”, and then looking at the strong base we have built with our love for each other through nature, simple living, climbing, camping, traveling, cooking, and being active in so many ways, it seemed much wiser to let the whisper be left alone in that corner. I would have been concerned if it had grown stronger over the years, but it hasn’t. It just another balancing constant, I guess. By nature, I have an intensely questioning mind. This voice is simply another part of it, making sure that I stay on track through life, giving me a little scare but also providing a reality check. Are we compatible or not?

I’m so ridiculously glad that he gets it. We are safe. The base has grown even stronger, and now the next level awaits us.

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PDC reflections 4 – day 9

This was important. This was worth all the money, time and energy spent on the planning leading up to these two weeks and the immersion into permaculture during these two weeks. This was a key factor, maybe t h e key factor, in letting me know that Tim and I are a good match. Looking ahead, I can now rest my mind knowing that Tim has had a full on experience with permaculture design, and that he now knows what its all about, and that we can now share this way of systems thinking to plan our entwined future.

It’s a harsh thing to say, “do this or I will leave you”, but in essence, that’s what I did on a personal-mental level. I knew I needed Tim to understand at least the basics of permaculture for me to be able to plan for a long life together. Some things are just more important than others. I will never need to turn him into an avid freediver, because I can meet him on the rocks instead of in the ocean. We don’t have to work together side by side every day or have the same opinion on all subjects. But with permaculture being so strongly linked in with my core ethics, there was just no way that I could keep on leading a joint life, with Tim not knowing about those ethics and how they impact my life. Since 2010 I’ve been using permaculture as a framework through which I observe and analyse the world. It helps me to stay in line with my ethics and to view every decision from multiple angles, so that I know I can stand up for whatever I decide to do.

When analysing my relationship with Tim, I saw that we were aligned in most domains, but that I had a stronger emphasis on systems thinking in relation to my place in this world. I live with the mental framework of a compulsive analytical do-gooder. I can’t change that, but I can harness and use it as a strong beneficial quality of my personality. I need my life to fit with my personality, thus, I need Tim’s idea of our mutual life to fit with my personality.

I have a very strong need to understand my own patterns, so that I can tweak my way of living to provide a positive outcome through those patterns. Any pattern can lead to regeneration as well as degradation. I will not stand for degradation, will never accept that I can’t change whatever is going on into a regenerative force. That is also true when it comes to my relationship with Tim. Of course I have no intention of trying to force him to be different or to change, but I can strongly encourage him to take part of a piece of my world so that he can then make a facts based decision regarding wether or not he likes that part, and wether or not he would like to include it in his own life. Luckily enough, he chose to say yes when I said that I needed to take a Permaculture Design Course together with him. Luckily enough, he enjoyed it and learned new things. Luckily enough, I can now share myself more fully with him. Luckily enough, I can now say with renewed confidence that I believe in our mutual future. It’s not that I didn’t love Tim when he didn’t know what permaculture was all about, I just love him so much more now that he does know.

PDC reflections 5 – the aftermath

Two weeks, that’s often a short period of time. But boy, these two weeks have felt like two months. I’m such a course junkie… I love the intensity of just flooding your head and heart with information of all kinds and then see what comes out on the other end.

In a few words:

  • I want to keep living with Tim
  • I want to keep being a semi-nomad
  • I want to keep teaching permaculture
  • I want to keep working with creating regenerative landscapes
  • I want to work both in Sweden and in other countries

Thank you for sharing my thoughts.

Thank you Tim, David, Sue, Angela, Beck, Kelvin, Kim, Dave, Alessio, Jermy, Shahar, Ben, Kate, Katie, Clare, Kat, Liane, Stanley, Osti, Laura, Oana, Sylvain, Atma, Karly, Patrick, Joel, Ian, Mike, Lisa, Rod and all you others who took part in the course. You changed me.

Klara

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Rethinking ethics

Flying. Not totally comfortable with getting on a plane, to go somewhere just for fun, just for meeting another person. There is a heavy ethical and moral debate taking place deep within whenever I make decisions which seem not to comply with my own ethics.
Interestingly, the last two years something inside me has shifted. I am no longer as certain about my old ideals. My core is the same, but I have furthered my understanding of the world both on a anthropological and scientific scale. I believe I might be on my way to the next level of ethical thinking, which for me is an enormous gift in relation to personal development and mental relaxation.

This old idea of mine (and others) of living an ethically correct life seems to mean very different things depending on at what scale I as a person would like to operate. If I decide to act locally as a change maker to be able to move few resources and keep my carbon footprint down, then flying is out of the equation. Whatever I do to live and act out this local life will then probably also have a mostly local effect from a socially interactive perspective, and therefore a limited effect on a planetary scale.

That’s ok.

I could chose that way of life. It would make perfect sense to work with what I have at an arms length and make the best of it. I’m very glad that there are millions of people who have decided that this is their way of life, because that means there are millions of people acting as change making hubs on a local scale, with tools such as permaculture, the transition movement, circular economy, agroecology, chaos pilots etc. They bring others along and provide the social glue needed for a persisting, viable change.

I am at times one of these millions of local human hubs, guiding and teaching, but I am also at times one of the global bumblebees, who during their nomadic flights cross pollinate ideas and cultures and values, and thereby draft new iterations of who we are and what we are supposed to do with our lives, from a Homo sapiens perspective.
If I decide that I want to be this change making bumblebee and act on an intra- or intercontinental scale, then I will need to circle more resources through the system. I will most likely need to fly every now and then, not with my own wings but in an airplane. To reach a higher level of influence I need to not limit my own energy usage in the same way as I do when I act on a local scale. If I can’t funnel energy, I can’t have a great outreach. (Remember, we can’t really ”use up” energy, we can only transform it. The concept of exergy comes to mind, but let’s not go there now). Not even with this World Wide Web at my fingertips can I accomplish as much online as I can in flesh. This is also ok, but the scope of it is so much larger that it took me many more years to understand.

However, even though I can find a logic in why it is ok not to go Toyota on my own life, when acting on this continental bumblebee level there is an automated, instant feed back loop hardwired into my brain that tells me I’m a BAD PERSON!!! I’m a naughty ecosystem destroyer. I’m a cancer. I’m an abuser and overuser. Why should I be allowed to use more than my share, more than others? Doing ”good” is not a reason strong enough to override a taxing usage.

It is very, very hard to put that emotional reaction under scrutiny of my own logical brain, but at the times when I manage to do so I find a cluster of semi emotional- semi science based assumptions that seem to steer my actions. These assumptions seem to stem from a mixture of childhood memories, facts learnt in grade school, truths from my young adulthood… An internal, old school mirror of the society and the people I grew up with. I might have been a tabula rasa at my conception, but the blankness swiftly got scribbled over by me and others. I am of course me; I am also a logical iteration of this universe, of this planetary biosphere. I am unique but not very different. My ethics and truths are not mine but ours. In this societal age, climate change is the driving factor behind many personal sets of ethics, and I got I inoculated with these at an early age. (Unfortunately, the persons who gave me this strong sense of right or wrong couldn’t also provide me with the tools I needed for a life of regenerative work. I’m glad I’ve found a way forward on this arena myself, after three decades of searching).

When I get hit by the BAD PERSON emotions, I try to confront them, try to get inside them, try to see if they are worth being felt as ”truths” anymore. It’s my way of hitting back, of using a more scientific approach to unveil a potential falsity within myself. There is no point anymore in acting as an ethical slave in relation to ethics which in some cases have already gone out of date. Things do change. I’m a fan of dynamics, of acknowledging the fact that nothing is ever static, that the universe move from chaos to order over and over again, and so do I. History tells me that what someone thought was right and wise to do years ago often turned out to be a destructive choice. I can never ever know what impact I will have on life on this planet in the long rung, but I sure do my best at guessing, and then second guessing myself, striving for simplicity and a caring lifestyle.

What I dream of now is to use energy to gain momentum, to shift over to the next gear and ride the change effortlessly, like cruising with a bike through a warm summers eve. I will still be an ethical activist, will probably have a new set of assumptions to scrutinize, will always be annoyingly full of questioning thoughts, ready for the next level of thinking whenever I can reach it. I dream of an underwater garden, of a food hub, of a piece of land by the sea with a regenerative food producing system in place.

There’s a picture in my mind, I’ve seen it painted by many artists, of a foot leaving the ground and under it is a green, lush, growing space full of life. It’s a good metaphor of the Positive Footprint. I like it. I zoom out and I see that the other foot has stepped on something else, has had a potential negative footprint, but the total sum of these footprints is still positive. Positive. More than before.

I’ve given myself permission to live more grandly again, to do things which make me happy but has no thought of purpose for the rest of the ecosystem, after understanding that if I put a lot of energy into healing the planet, the biosphere will respond. So I get to be both egocentric and ecocentric. If it doesn’t respond, then in a billion years no organism of today will know or care anyway. Planet Earth will most likely still be here, but we humans won’t. The squirrels will be gone, the whales and oak trees to. The continents will have moved into a new pattern, climate changing with the movement. Life is dynamic. I embrace that fact and things fall into place.

Ethical living, free living

I want to live!

I never wanted to slip into some kind of sustainability expert guru role that scared people away. My goal was to stay a speckled animal, to be both in the normal world and in sustopia. But the more I went for being an example of the ethically correct ways of acting in the world of today, the more confined and separated I got. The more I tried to show with my actions ways of lessening your impact on this Earth system, the more strangled I got. I’ve had so many issues with money and how it’s made, with shame and why more of us are not ashamed of our actions, with the consumption society and endless growth, with individualistic ego trippers, the shortsightedness of man etc.

I wanted to live in a righteous way, but without using outdated religious assumptions. For some time I was also appalled by natural science and it’s love for details and blindness for the larger picture, seeing that the world view I grew up with and came to love also had its flaws. Unexamined assumptions, so potentially positively powerful but for the most, harmful…

– – –

I don’t believe anymore that there is the One True Idea that will appeal to everyone. For sure I was hoping for it, for the unity it would bring. Growing older and continuously traveling the world and submerging myself in various human cultures, I was looking for the similarities that would serve as examples of us all being more or less the same. And sure, they are there. Family. Love. Fulfilling work. Leisure. Freedom. And I was thinking, Yes! We all have the same mental and bodily roots, we could all want to save ourselves and the biological blanket which covers this pale blue dot spinning in space. And I was thinking, Yes! All we need is an evolution of our mutual consciousness and we’ll get there, all we need is free education for all so that we can speak the same symbols and words and meanings! And I was hopeful and strong and young, and I was the one who had to spearhead this change. And everyone I had met along my adventurous road of life had said ”Whoa, little lady, how did you dare do that? How could you swim so deep into the ocean on one breath? How could you walk across Spain? Solobike through Europe? Move to another country all alone? Live in a tent for months? Your such a strong young woman… I never even dreamt of doing any of those things. I mean, I never even had the thought enter my mind.”

And I pitied all the small, scared souls with no brave and great dreams. I did not understand that their dreams were just as brave and great but that we came from different backgrounds and probably with a different persona from day one. My soul is a lunar landscape, is the ocean, is a mountain range. It is wast and hugely unexplored and tantalizing and fantastic. It makes me curious and I want to get to know it, so I set out on all these physical adventures to be able to get to that point where body and mind are a singularity and the crossover is real. I need these experiences to function. Many others do not, they crave not the extreme corners but find their soul in other aspects of life. I thought, I must take what I have learned from being an adventurous soul and use it to my best ability in the every-day-work I will carve out for myself.

You see, I was fearing the takeover of the ego and an egoistic path, fearing that I would not be doing enough good in this world if I stuck to my adventure life, I said to my self, to my soul: Enough with the flying and the traveling. Start acting responsible where you once came from. Go home. Work with what you’ve got.

Engineering. Permaculture. Ethical banking. Urban gardening. Foraging. All responsible areas. I took them very seriously and lost myself along the way.

That decision of responsible acting, to more actively give back to society, was the start of a long internal journey in an ethical and moral landscape, inherited by me from a long tradition of thinkers from around the globe. I have loved and hated this journey. I guess it’s not over yet but at least I have passed one of the most treacherous stages, where I have been confronting the idea of being able to carry others along with carrying myself through life. I know now that I can’t. I will always continue to lend a hand when needed, but the rest each person must face themselves.

AndesI feel like I’ve been crossing over a high mountain pass, starting out strong and fully fueled up, coming up to the pass for a short break, taking in the view, seeing and mentally noting down the surrounding peaks I would love to climb in the future. Heading down on the other side I enter a new valley of life and it’s different and takes me by surprise. I’m tired as I come down to the flatlands again, I slip and fall and snap my knee backwards, but a slow river is calling me and I strip of all that I carry as I sink into its waters. I let this liquid carry me, I let everything be ok. I roll over to hold my breath in the crystal cold, and I finally enter the landscape of my soul as a free mind.

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep Sea, and music in its roar:
I love not Man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”
― George Gordon Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Gardening the Planet

We all want and need things in life. The ”wants” can differ in all directions, wanting a job or a phone, wanting a girlfriend or a new life. Emotional needs like feeling special and wanted intermingle with physical needs such as food and shelter.

Having had the opportunity throughout life to figure out some of my own wants and needs, I tend to also go meta level to try to see the patterns of these wishes so that I can make them happen more easily and often.

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Just below Cerro Rincon, Silver Mountains, Argentina.

A huge need for me is to live my life in an adventurous way. Pushing my own limits is a constant source of energy, and the opposite – not pushing – is draining. That’s why I freedive. That’s why I climb. That’s why I surf, go long distance cycling, go paragliding, hike for weeks and do all kinds of personal athletic challenges. It’s also why I study, study and study some more – my brain is always in need of new facts, new input. That’s why I started a company and put myself in front of hundreds of students and listeners as an educator.

But, that last bit of starting a company is – in retrospect – also the point when things started getting a bit complicated a few years back. It turned out to be less of an adventure and more of an eroding experience. I turned out more stressed and less free. Sure, it gave me a huge chunk of experiences and new wisdom plus a weird, organically composed human network to tap into, but it also dragged me towards the center of the mass where I really don’t feel that I belong.

This, on the other hand, this is where I belong. In places in nature where most people would think they are about to die, because they’re out of air or just to tired to hold on.

I’m an edge person. I hate being stuck in the middle of something, be that a group of people or an area of science. The way I kindled my little company to life was very much in an edgy way, but in the end the entrepreneurial gravity started tugging at me, spinning me inwards. I was choking and leaking, unable to reset my navigation.

Here’s two important clues as to what happened:

  • I was working solo ==> Not feeding my brain enough, that is: To few deep work relations, to many shallow ones.
  • I was working odd hours ==> Not feeding my personal social adventurous life enough, but instead draining myself of energy.

So what do you do in that position? Keep on going, hoping that you’re soon over the hill and that on the other side you’ll be able to hire colleagues, get a work space and set a routine for your working hours so that you can also have some ”free” time again?

Nah. I did one of my meta level zoomed out analyses and figured it was better to go low key with the entrepreneurial stuff, get a job at an established workplace and start honing my skills and up my experience in the field where I have finally realized that I want to be (even though I have yet to discover on what step in the hierarchy I shall place myself).

That field could be called something like Gardening the Planet, in the most regenerative way possible. I am sure I will get there, and it will be together with others. Meanwhile, I will also hold a large space for adventure.

So here I am, about to start my second season at the Botanical Garden in Gothenburg. I actually feel like I own all my titles now, that I AM a gardener, an engineer, a permaculturist, and that even though I don’t have a paper stating that I’m an adventurer, that doesn’t matter because I’ve always been that. I’m still ranked as the best female freediver in Sweden of all times. I still biked all the way to Gibraltar to look over the strait at Africa while chatting with monkeys. I still moved to Argentina and became una andinista. Those experiences will never go away, and I will be forever grateful to myself for being so annoyingly stubborn that I keep on setting myself new, odd goals.

This summer, we will be swimming for 10 days in a fjord somewhere in Norway, our equipment stuffed on SUP-boards. I am so looking forward to this little adventure and the gardening season, before the larger 15-months adventure goes boom in 2017.

Oskar, Klara and Eric swimming with a longboard in Gullmarsfjorden, 2009.
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Forza! Norway, 2012. I had gotten stung by a wasp, my left foot supersized, unable to squeeze into a pair of climbing shoes. Hiking in flip flops was the alternative option.
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This summer, MounTim will come with me, the sealion, on an ocean adventure… yay!

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