Read this Book Blog by Alan Heeks on Thomas Berry's book The Great Work: Our way into the Future. Berry believes the Great Work of our times is to reconnect humanity with nature.Read More
Naomi Klein’s recent book, No is not enough: defeating the new shock politics, is the most lucid, convincing, and alarming account I’ve seen yet of what Donald Trump is really about.Read More
Thomas Berry described himself as a cosmologist and Earth Scholar. The idea of the universe as a story that we are part of and can shape positively, was crucial to his work.
This short novel is an inspiring account of a search for enlightenment, and how challenges can play a crucial role in this. We follow the story of Siddhartha from a proud young man to a wise and humble old one.Read More
The essence of this story is in that amazing name, Glubb Pasha. John Glubb was a Brigadier in the British Army, who spoke Arabic fluently, rode a camel, and in the 1930’s was a Pasha, a kind of governor for the Bedouin tribes in Jordan.Read More
It’s been clear for several years that the pressures on people working in health care would keep growing past tolerability. Responding to this is a prime aim for Wisdom Tree, a small team I’ve gathered, offering resilience and wellbeing skills to ‘front line’ staff, especially in health and care provisionRead More
You may share my confusion about the National Health Service. There’s so much evidence of crisis, and yet recent experience of the NHS continues to be good. What’s going on? What can you do?Read More
To qualify for organic certification, a farm must leave some corners and edgeland wild, uncultivated. These margins contribute a lot to the community of life in a farm or garden.Read More
If you would like a completely different take on book ideas, here's a varied selection of books inspried by Hazel Hill Wood, and more widely about permaculture approaches, people and nature.Read More
A selection of web links to some of the most interesting responses to Trump's election victory.Read More
It seems that the present is so demanding that most people don’t want to consider the future. But surely the rapid changes and pressures we face now are likely to continue, and increase, and hopefully there will be progress to help us handle them.Read More
This is a new book by Chris Goodall, and significantly he is an economist, not a technologist or a green activist.Read More
Louv coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder: this book is a persuasive and upsetting account of a widespread problem.Read More
Our hero is Amory Blaine: handsome yet uncertain, desperate to explore life to the full. His life blossoms at Princeton: he loves the beauty of the place, the camaraderie, the magic of staying out all night, singing with “dreaming towers.” But the book plunges on beyond the dream.Read More
It’s always fascinating to visit the US in a presidential election year. This year has huge humour plus complex characters – if only it was mere entertainment.Read More
Most of this blog was written in 2014: I am updating it for the Brexit era because it shows us that many big business leaders share the concerns of the folk in the street.Read More
However you voted in the EU referendum, it's clear we are in a crisis, which we need to work through together. So what can we learn from a gardener's approach to a crisis? Here are my top tips:Read More
This excellent book is subtitled How to be strong and positive in a changing world: it’s a short, practical primer on techniques to raise your personal resilience.Read More
One image sums up my time in the Omo Valley: the remote area in south-west Ethiopia where tribal cultures still flourish.
I’m attending a wedding in a village several miles down a dusty path, barely usable by vehicles. The woman in front of me has the braided, red-dyed hair typical for women of the Hammar tribe, and the usual animal-skin skirt with yellow beading. I’m also impressed by the leather sling in which the naked baby seems relaxed. Just one anomaly: I’m looking at Lampard: 8, on the back of the Chelsea football shirt she’s wearing.
Guide books will tell you that the Omo Valley tribes are a tourist highlight of Ethiopia. When I was asked to run some training for a pioneering UK Charity, Farm Africa, in nearby Jinka, I scheduled a weekend trip to Omo. I had great difficulty imagining it, and now I see why.
This is such a different experience, it’s hard to take in, hard to describe, and hard to understand. Suddenly I’m in a coherent tribal society. It’s so visually different, it’s easy to get stuck at that level: with hairstyles, body painting, clothes and ornaments I’ve never seen before. Even with a ‘local’ guide, its hard to get beyond this to a sense of what tribal life is like, and why it has survived among tens of thousands of people in this area, but largely disappeared elsewhere.
I realise it’s horribly easy to project onto this situation. Everyone I see today looks happy and healthy, but how can I know? I do get the sense, as in tribal communities I’ve known elsewhere, that collective identities are more important than the individual or nuclear family. When we arrived, all the older men were together in the shade: they welcomed me as a fellow-elder, and shared their home-brewed drink borde, with me: it’s made from sorghum and millet and tastes indescribable. The sharing works both ways – when I started nibbling a cereal bar, they wanted to try it.
Mainstream Ethiopia is already a world away from Western Europe, especially in the country. In these villages, both these worlds converge with the tribal one. At its worst, tribal culture becomes a mere income source from gaggles of tourists with cameras. I made some effort to avoid these places, and it was blessedly clear that the Hammar wedding was simply that: the dance and ritual were done for their own sake, and there was friendly tolerance for a few tourists watching. But it’s still strange to see white folk plus their big white 4x4’s, and their entourage of drivers and guides, in a village like this.
Of my three tribal encounters, two were delightful, but the village of Kolcho, where the Karo tribe lives, was a low point. My guide book had warned of a caravan of 4WD’s: in fact, most of the village were constantly pestering visitors to take their picture for money. This included children, women and old men, offering some combination of body and face painting, exotic hair styles, guns, bare breasts, and flour grinding. It was clear that everything here was put on for tourists, and it all felt rather sad.
I’m left uplifted and enriched overall by my Omo Valley visit – but also wishing I could see into it more deeply. The ‘wild margins’ idea in my ecosystems model suggests that new mainstream solutions often come from a periphery that looks different and irrelevant: which may be why my curiosity has a point.
This blog explores how my gardening model of resilience may help you in these turbulent times.Read More