Slavery, War and the Environment

I’d never like to be politician, leave alone get involved in politics but the other day I found myself thinking; ‘How would life have been for me if I was born during the age of slave trade?’ Given my stature and demeanor, I would have probably survived any onslaught for many reasons. First I stand 5’7″ tall which MC Hammer’s calls “shoulder-height” (listen to his rap “can’t touch this”). This means that the length of my bones are optimal for excellent muscle development, in short translated to mean that I am of the stronger variety :-). Secondly, I have uncanny survival instincts translated to mean that I am not planning to DIE anytime soon! Not from a big mouth anyway! I would silently obey the shackles to my feet and tread diligently the straight and narrow that lead to eternal slavery.

These two traits alone would surely ensure that I make it past the “selection process” if you like, and assuming that I make it across the seas without dying from seasickness, malaria or plague, I would make an excellent slave, revered by his peers as the epitome of loyalty and hard work. In fact, I think many “masters” would scramble for me (swishing my black hair). I will probably not waste the chance of getting married to Potiphar’s wife or Lupita for that matter, if the Bible stories and movies are anything to go by.

I will live happily every after….. or not, based a set of choices I make and how well these choices resonate with my earthly masters. Well, to be quite honest, slave-life must have been a bit tougher,and not a simplistic as I want to make it. I unravel it as though it was in the 21st century of high-speed internet, twitter and selfies tagged #slavetings but truthfully, it is nothing to laugh about.

War on the other hand is as old as human society. I like it when people put it beyond themselves to be savage. War begins in one’s mind with a conflict of self, the idea that you have two opposing views at war within yourself. In the Bible Paul annotates by saying that “Those things that I wish to do, I do not, but those things that I wish not to do, that, I do”. War can escalate to “words” which we may be more familiar with where two or more people have a brief or not-so-brief vehement exchange.

Pregnancy is not a male thing but let’s not go to war about it, explore the world, your country – Makagutu, Eric, De Yuppie, Pechee & other cyclist

Cyclists particularly have a knack for this exemplary behavior where we’ll shout at the top of our voices, profanity or otherwise, to drive some sense into anybody who may be flouting the rules of the shared spaces. You can see this in action with a number of activists as well, whether local and global, agitating for ideological, political, environmental, social or even economical revolution.

Then, we have ideological war as we understand it today. Countries, states, regions, religions, etc. pitted against each other in bloody battles that never seem to end. Heavy machinery is employed.

Prior to the agrarian revolution wars accounted for the industry of swords, chariots, bows and arrows, etc. But by the time we got to the Vietnam, the sophistication of guns, missiles, tanks, bombs, land mines, jets, chemicals or anything that could inflict death, DECISIVELY, took over. The prime objective? Expunging societies, nations, people, ideologies and cultures. War in itself allocates more power to the powerful and extirpates the weak… a corroboration of “survival of the fittest” theory. Only that this time it’s instigated.

This is where in line with Mordecai Ogada’s famed words “calling class to order”, comes in. One of the greatest wars we continue to face in world today, certainly in Africa, is depravity of mind. Our minds have been so distilled by western way of life, that we no longer believe in our own ideals, we don’t even KNOW our own ideals. For instance, look at francophone countries under the puppet strings of France who provides them with a currency (CFA) that they manage through their central bank in terms of stabalizing the region. They flock their markets with French products and even endorse presidents in the name of LOVE. What’s that? Then again if you come from a country that was colonized, read your name again and tell me where your cultural identity lies. In a foreign name? For heaven’s sake them missionaries “took away” our God almighty in the name of idol worship!!!

What this means is that we no longer enjoy the independence of knowing who we are, being who we are and even capable of living authentic lives. We have our lives strung around western-generated goals that are lofty, unattainable in ways and then we have to depend on their “expertise” to reach them whether through education, donor aid, training and affirmation. Yet, we have always had the answers. Who’s agenda are we running then?

Some conservationists of our time that I know who are thinking different (right to left: Salehe from TZ; Karim – Kenya; Mercy – Kenya; Louisa – Kenya; Vincent – Kenya, Josef Garvi – Niger, Sareme – Ethiopia; Razingrim – Burkina Faso;

Conservation in Africa is broadly based on western ideology of building agrarian societies, which catapulted colonizers to build empires beyond their boundaries by “discovering” Africa. Africa gained but also blatantly suffered a good deal from civilization as nature, cultures, society and people were pushed aside for their lack of knowledge “vegetation climax” theories and “optimal stocking rates” have been asserted in the management of natural resources.

While scientific advances have an important role to play in studying socio-ecological societies, they are not the be-all and end-all when it comes to the management of natural resources in our society today. Local people have the mind and knowledge to live rewarding lives within their societies. They know how to coerce the land to produce food and fodder, store water in natural crevices which they retrieve during the drought, they know which roots to eat when there are no leaves on a tree, and even know where to go until the drought season blows over.

We are mentally enslaved if we think that our educated arrogance can serve the local cows with eternal fodder through our systems of mathematical antagonism. We are rude to think that western ways are better than our eastern and southern experience. We start bloody battles by pitting community against another, neighbor against neighbor by empowering the powerful to rule over the poor with endless greed. We totally ignore the peril of the people and put ourselves before others. More than anything, we totally ignore the fact that our actions will severely persist on our environment now, and for almost always.

Slavery and war have one thing in common, they steal minds of society either through displacement or removal. They also tend to assert one man’s ideology over another. “My way or the highway” kind-of-thinking! Don’t let them give you a number and take away your name.

There is no solace in living the life of another man.

This is your world, be the change!!

When I Die…may it not be of Viagra

Let me just start by saying that when I die, may it not be from A Viagra overdose man! It’s most embarrassing to say the least.

COVID19 times be difficult times man. You gotta be impressive and keep your performance STELLAR in every aspect yet you still have to deal with curfews, social distancing and delayed queues. So imagine, you’re stuck up on a queue, at a pharmacy (which is an essential service) and you are far behind the queue trying to get the antidote for the double dose of Viagra you took in the hopes of acing it. Two at the price of one? You obviously picked up the wrong item. You are obviously content with the social distancing guidelines for they work to your advantage while trying to keep your sweaty, vein-riddled, pain face straight. You are not nearly resentful enough of those people queuing for Laxatives and painkillers. You spot a number of idle teenagers who are there “just-because”.

There is no decency in death. That form of lifelessness one takes as you cease to breath, cold icy flesh replacing warm congenial senses, glazy and many-a-time deformed looks defining a thousand expressions that once made the face, nothing matters, pauper and prince are at par, the last dying wish you may imagine would be to live one more day: but that ends at that A WISH! Death is not an outcome that any of us wish for but when it shows face, you have to toe-the-line and follow the men in white across the blue divide, where destiny awaits.

Well, when this happens to me? I would like to urge you who is left behind, who read this blog, who claims to be family, friend, whoever you be, waste no time, CREMATE MY REMAINS. In 24 hours is good timing but it you don’t make that cut, 48 hours, do it! Dust to dust and what better way to incorporate it through ashes? Find me the shortest way to the soil and don’t make drama on my name. Play quiet or loud music if you must. Drink and drown your sorrows, at your own expense. Talk about me – good and bad – but please, don’t make drama!! I know I am onto a livid topic but hang on with me for a moment as I tell you why.

I come from a melodramatic society when it come to celebrations including birth, marriage and death. Burial in my context and experience is a social, environmental and economically upheaval. It has a lot of misgiving and lacks objectivity in many ways. Primarily, it is a feast ill-prepared and ill-targeted, resources consumed in copious quantities (normally unprecedented), glamour as people dress up the dead in divinity – a display that would shock a corpse to life if they knew. Then people start taking the piss, often in sarcastic undertones directed to your loved ones who are still living. Many times this happens on the backdrop of a-people living with perpetual hunger, indecency, homelessness and parochial piety that incessantly chip away on the impetuous strokes of paint they use to patch their lives. Nobody helps, nobody responds, nobody to cares – then you die.

You know Viagra seldom kills but it has its own history of harvest. Roughly 500 men died of using Viagra in the first year of use. So. take my advice, if you find yourself stuck behind a COVID19 queue and you’ve taken a double dose of Viagra and in need of an antidote, make a bee-line for the pharmacist’s counter. Besides being dilated in prominent area, people may only presume that you have COVID19 anyway because you will be perspirating heavily, hyperventilating, vomiting and perhaps looking weak, which are the exact symptoms of the pandemic. No questions asked. Please do not die because if you do, we’ll have to make up all sorts of stories about why you are dead and dilated inside your trousers. And that’s NO GOOD!

But, we’ll show up one day of your DEATH, to cement some solidarity by sinking you far below the surface as if you were a seed hoping to grow. We’ll all arrive in style and take turns to “pay last respects” even though we never respected you in the first place.

When I die, keep the casket CLOSED. I would rather everybody remembers me as a memory of who I was, what I stood for, OR not rather than my lifeless body. Don’t forget me too fast though, otherwise I may have to visit you in dreams.

Open casket funerals are anyway the reserve of those who die from Viagra overdose, for forthright reasons. Unless you reshape the casket, which would look suspect, you also end up with an open casket burial, if you don’t qualify for closed-partially. Get ahead of the queue!!

Economics, Money and Environmental Sustainability

Economics, Money and Environmental Sustainability

In this season of COVID19 I’m constrained to talk about this very dull topic of money, economics and sustainability as this pandemic ruthlessly ravages our society, harvests souls indiscriminately and slowly gnawing away on our well-being – painful and unapologetic. Many a pandemic have been recorded but none close to my heart as this one. I have seen people languish in pain, descend into comas, die without a loved ones to hold their hands, get buried like dogs in dug-out valley-of-graves with no last respects no final wishes.

These have been tough times as many around the world as millions have lost employment. Airlines have had shut down, restaurants have had to suspend “eating out”, transport system shut down, employees asked to stay home in the name of social-distancing, supermarkets have lost their super-lustre status as one-stop shopping stalls as a significant number of service providers can no longer deliver their good thanks to the lockdowns and worse still, as the general public surge deeper into cashlessness and are unable to afford even the stale bread rotting on the almost empty shelves. There’s just no MONEY.

World economics is flawed. The fathers of economics envisioned the creation of a mega-world system where markets were central and everybody participated to determine what the market would offer. People would have the “free will” to chose and through the amazing invisible hand, welfare would be maximised. Everybody goes home happy. This is not the case. If anything, markets have created more problems than they have solved.

I grew up in a rural setting where we had a more-than-big kitchen garden that supplied us with every basic, necessary food you can imagine. The garden was the source of kales, cabbages, carrots, dhanias, maize, beans, potatoes and many other perennial crops. It had a life of it’s own. I remember being unwittingly introduced into this trade – initially through a simple “Sonny, you want to know how the hoe work?” to “Dig up that half acre boy. Your school fees and life depends on it!” a few years later. Being expected to be a self-proclaimed farmer at the age of 10 years was nothing sexy, not even in my times. I swear I would sue for retroactive wages compensation if i lived in the UK. Child labor was REAL but I still love my parents too much. And so do the rest of you who know what i’m talking about.

This farm setting was a source of Jaded edges and Joys depending on the season. Planting, weeding and harvesting season were the worst, which covers pretty much the whole year huh! One thing I enjoyed though, was the joys of harvesting fruit in it’s season, whether in our backyard or another’s. Trust me it was all in good faith. Pruning is an important part of optimized plany growth, and i took the liberty of applying it on my neighbours’ garden, fiercely at times!! I must find time to thank my neighbors for contributing to my life, albeit unknowingly.

Briefly put, we were food secure. Within this small garden, we produced plenty to eat and spare for our neighbors. What we didn’t produce, we caught onto through barter exchanges or at the local markets. For micro-nutrients like vitamin C though haha! The neighbors vineyard at weird-o’clock would always do the trick. I said my hail Mary’s so quit judging! I will desist to name names of the delinquent syndicate at this point. I remember every one of you.

All said, the economic system has laid waste to a lot of farm level thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in economics for as far as it has allowed markets to be created and economies to thrive but that is not the case today. The economic systems are designed to make the rich wealthier and to make the poor poorer. The thought of maximizing welfare and that of economic optimization in a perfect market has never seen the light of day. Why do the rich boys in the industry say that raising wages will kill job employment yet you have a CEO who is paid 100 times the wages of a sweeper in the same context? Free choice is non-existent, you will spend because you have money in your pocket and you will die of hunger on the same principle, no money.

Small is beautiful is a reasonable book around economic sustainability that I really loved to read. It advances the thinking of how economics can really be used to build food sufficiency. In this type of economy, specialization happens at a scale where it’s fathomable and beneficial at local scale. For example if my neighbor produces potatoes and I produce fish, all that is left is for us to is raid a vinegar truck and voila!! Fish and chips and Vinegar!! However as the scale of specialization expands towards industrial level production, for instance in a country where most farmers are forced to abandon local sustainability in favor of specialized crops, the risk of market failure is magnanimous and many at times too costly to mitigate. Case in point and not to misuse Coronavirus pandemic, trade is utterly impossible at this point as many borders have been shut for business. It is also in this process of specialization that causes local goods and services to be undervalued through inconsistent valuation methodology and also where local knowledge and culture is undermined.

One of the ways we must respond is by ensuring that we don’t entirely lose the aspect of small and beautiful especially in Africa. I love Uganda and Tanzania so much because no matter what town you go to, they are never in depravity of food whether it is bananas, arrowroot, cassava, millet alongside a whole host of pulses and seeds, most of which I don’t even know by name. You get to eat to your fill. Some countries in west Africa are largely productive at local scales with only nascent influences of westernization overtaking the economies. Keeping tended gardens have multiple impacts on food security and environmental sustainability. There is also a delicate process of knowledge and skills transfer between generations through hands-on operations. You also offer the monkeys and monkey-neighbors like me an opportunity for being food secure and mischievous at the same time.

You know growing up chasing my dream of being a bus driver may have turned out to be the best dream I ever had. In those days the only important thing to me was to do what made me happy. My dad wouldn’t have it that way though haha! Now I am reduced to writing environmental blogs with no garden to tend. I wonder which is worse.

Greed ain’t good! It doesn’t make you a capitalist, it make you a sociopath. Ask the deputy president in a certain country. Inclusivity must allow people to participate in markets, and this means not only as laborers but more as capitalists, owners, even at a minuscule scale. Successful economies are gardens, not jungles. Every man for himself and God for us all? – NO. Markets must be tended as gardens. They must be structured to meet very basic needs which includes food and well-being. Well-being is about genuine relationship, belonging and happiness. Yes I said it HAPPINESS!


To Dream. A precursor to large living

Your eyes can only see what your heart believes. Take for example if you design an experiment where a number of people step out of the same door into a vast landscape full of everything imaginable, and their duty was to tell you what they see when they walk out.

It is inevitable that the mind will already create an image of what it will see, what it hopes to see, what it has seen before and maybe perhaps, even what you actually see. These images are fortunately or unfortunately limited by first by our experiences and secondly by our beliefs.

My boy always dreams of being superman, and idea that the mother doesn’t seem to have quite an appetite for. I… wanna be superman! Change the world by doing one good deed a a time. Superheroes are the world’s escapist solution from the bad we see in our world today: soaring crime rates in cities, war, cancer, death, alienation within our race, distrust, you name it!

However, it is within this same length of imagination that we will be able to impact our world. The good old book of adages “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” says: Begin with the end in mind. What do you want to see, how do you want it to be? This is one thing that nobody can take away from our lives, the ability to dream!

That said, I must confess that for most people; and I stand to be corrected here, dream much less that we used to, simply because we feel it is not in good social standing to do so. A dreamer, like Joseph of the Bible, is considered idealistic and high-minded, unable to articulate the day to day tasks. It is almost glorified not to dream. One of the things I find interesting with my scanty dreams is first I hardly remember them with crystal clarity and second, even when I remember, I cannot quite make sense out of them and they are quickly swept away by the dazzling of the day.

To dream is to live eternally! You can only be the best of the version you see of yourself most of the time. If you think you’ll be a great musician, a great poet, an outstanding leader, an orator, a great environmentalist, the greatest pilot, you name it, you will be! And I set no limitations here since our experiences are our own and no one else’s.

In my minds eye, I see a future where people rid themselves of selfishness, self-centredness. I see a society where love abounds. One where brother to brother talk to each other with no ills, mother and father are reconciled and the family can face each other without unnecessary baggage. I see a world where people care about the earth, they turn off their taps when they are not using them, they switch of lights to experience the dark, solar is used by choice even though fossil energy abounds, the carbon footprints of our society is something we no longer discuss and we share our lives, energy and resource with the less fortunate in society. I see a people who are not driven by greed, but a protectorate interested in the fair distribution of the wealth, opportunities abound, joblessness will be a thing of the past and hard work is rewarded. I see rural communities wallowing in abundance on biodiversity for their livestock and wildlife, no more thoughtless stoning of birds from the sky, a land productive rewarding its stewards with ripe crop at the end of every season as the songs of harvest time fill the dark hollows of the night-sky. I dream of a time when WORLD ECONOMICS will not be a ploy to impoverish the nations by the invisible hand but a balanced system that will make the poor richer and the rich content. I dream of a complete overhaul where people are bonded to nature, nature to the creator and creator to people in a string of harmonic cadences.

This my friends, wakes me up every single day and make me find my way to work on my two wheels as I sing in my heart, listen to the wind, and thank God for the opportunity of being able to interact with my space from a different angle and pace. It is the same for you if you only DREAM.

Dream, dream, dream! There are no limitations to who you can be. Dream, dream, dream. A prince, a god, a lion or a bear you will see. And if you can print the pieces of the the puzzle from A to Z, within the pieces you will find yourself, the lovely person you were meant to be!

My heart poured out

Fringes of lake Victoria in Musoma

https://2016.strava.com/en-gb/share/10773766

2017 was a year of many beginnings, many ends, many aims, misses a-good-one and lessons galore. I will start by defining myself here so that I can be understood; or scorned.

I was born a sanguine. “Everything will work out just fine, right?” Sanguines are optimists, happy-go-lucky people with generally high energy bringing life into teams but can be a piece of work when they drop off the ledge.

Soon after (when I was 6 years), I made two childhood friends, Cornelius Mwonya and the late Andrew Obura (sigh). The strokes of cane that I endured in those yesteryears, all occasioned by this tripartite contraption of a relationship, do not find any synonym in the current day and age. We had the time of our lives! From coming home with swollen faces from bee stings on honey harvesting adventures to burning down fences in the process, the joys of unsolicited fruit harvesting from neighbors’ gardens and getting lost in caves as we went for river adventures in the quest of finding its source and possible treasure (blame it on long John Silver), you name it – we did it. It in-turn earned us endless beatings on the bottoms and countless days of grounding so much so that I’m actually surprised that I still had any days left to walk out of the house before I was 18.

That said, I grew up into a sensible young man, self-declared, and more into a phlegmatic, learning to get a bit more organized, practical, calm, in control and cool. Say cool again :-)! With a stroke of luck, I turned out to be an environmentalist, loving music, loving people, abhorring anything that tends to be too serious. After all, “it will work out in the end, right?”

Getting ready for a bike trip

For the last two years, I have taken cycling a level higher. I have had to do it for two reasons which you can find more about on of my blog. As an environmentalist I keep asking myself, “is cycling a totally carbon neutral activity?” Well let’s do the calculations! (BOooRING! I know I’ve been there :-)). Please stay with me for TWO PARAGRAPHS ONLY!

According to Strava (by the way cool app for cycling) I cycled 4,907 Kms. Well, that does not factor in the moments when the App refuses to work and cuts short the ride midway. According to Britain’s most ethical insurer, ETA (and don’t ask me questions) cycling costs the environment about 21g of CO2 emmission per Km (mostly associated with manufacturing and production) which brings it to a total of 68 Kgs of CO2 emitted in 2017 on the bicycle. In tree-terms, I need to keep 3.22 fully grown trees alive to stay carbon neutral on my bike. What if I drove to work? The clever peeps say that an average car will produce 271g of CO2 per Km, on nice smooth tarmac roads with no traffic. So my emission for the same distance would be a cool 877 Kgs per year in tree-terms 41.7 trees to keep alive.

So now to the conversation. How many trees are those again? I must confess that as an environmentalist, my job still entails a lot of travel which profusely releases CO2 into the environment! In 2017 alone and for work only, I drove more than 16,000 Km, flew more than 8,000 km :-(. So much for sustainability huh? Shocking! Quite honestly, I still struggle with sustainability choices but I will not give up! Cycling in 2017 is a celebratory year in its own way though. It could have been worse!

Mara wetlands communities in a capacity building session

My work travels however were for good causes – to spur conversations on conservation. In the process, I met new friends, crossed new paths and learnt the way of endurance, which can be long, arduous and unrewarding in the moment. In making new friends, I learnt one “weird” thing: people will work with people they love, and this is exactly how the Mara wetlands in Tanzania happened to me.

I loved every bit of travelling to Musoma. I spent time thinking about how to enlighten Mara wetlands communities everyday, every month for the last three years. I spent time teaching, sharing and learning they ways of sustainable management, natural resources protection and the ups and downs of a wetlands society. I watched as their eyes and personalities glistened with knowledge. We shared many light bulb “aha!” moments and filled our lungs with laughter as I “totally annihilated” the Kiswahili language, many times bordering on insults. I learnt the cultural nuances of the Tanzania society and how to accord respect in every situation. I immersed in the ways of a people.

 

Fringes of lake Victoria in the Musoma

The family I found at Afrilux hotel (God Bless them) made every visit to Musoma worth it’s while. They fed me, talked to me and taught me. We had fun and we shared loads of laughter. More than that I fell in love with the Mara wetland, it’s biodiversity and its people. The birds, the fish… the humongous fish yes, are a site to behold especially in a plate. The sparse streets of Musoma filled with Kiswahili cheer, the land lined by the great blue lake, the fish eagles family on the trees overlooking the cliff, the cliff chats clad in collars of grey, the African sunset over the lake, the slender-billed weavers colonizing the water’s edge, (I could go on and on) stole my seat of love and oiled my heart to work for the people I love, the place I love.

“Good things come to an end”. I will track down the Englishman who coined this phrase and bring him to and end as well, but only if he is a good man. After three years of working in the Mara wetland, time came to pass on the baton to some more fleet-footed millennials, who also have become very good friends, including Emmanuel and Enock (God Bless them). More comes their way to ensure that conservation conversation never ends, that Mara wetland never dies.

2018 will be very different for me, but some things will always remain true; me on a bicycle, my love for people and my sanguine-phlegmatic nature.

Sunset on a rainy day in Buswahili

 

To speak to a man you’ve gotta speak a man’s language

Pollution Nairobi River Flowing Down the Fourteen Falls

Stuff got me thinking lately; are there times that you travel across the world and wish that the people   spoke your language? Or better still, are there times when people travelled to your world and you wished that they could speak your language?

Don’t get me wrong but let me start by mentioning our dear blood-mates them Chinese. These guys are renown for all the right and wrong reason alike. On one hand they are providing our frail, unsuspecting 3rd world governments with reverberant “aid” that will come back to bite our progeny in the backside. On the other hand they are a dominant producer of American goods, including i-phones. Yet the reference “made in China” sends spinal shivers and goose bumps at the scam of the earth cheap-for-nothing goods. These brothers are known to ingest anything known and unknown, mobile and stationery, alive or dead on the planet! Quite honestly, I find them to have some of the most intolerant habits anywhere I meet them around the world. My intention though is not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I was having a casual chat with friends in Ouagadougou recently when the intolerance of the short-small-eyed race bludgeoned and took over a very neat conversation. Their pervasive nature and unbridled desire to survive have led them to occupy the most remote areas of the planet, putting them in direct competition with the omnipresent God. I bet you will find these guys at the bottom of the sea, with the newly discovered shark species, if they are not the shark itself. Downside of it though is this, most Chinese I have met never seem to take the time to learn anything about the local people leave alone the local language but they rather transfer a China town in the “smallest” way to these spaces and “colonize”. In fact they only learn enough local language to help you learn their own. This is deplorable!

“First seek to understand then be understood”, is the first principle of “how to make friends and influence people”. Language constitutes many things including words, cultural nuances, way of life, points of view just but to mention a few. One book that exemplifies the simplicity and complexity of language is “The Four Languages of Love”, what you said and what he/she heard. Primarily though, language is an absolute important first step of communication.

Imagine with me for a minute, you have a team of the most exquisite experts on earth, trained in all sorts of skills including engineering, medicine, education, teaching, you name it; and you have to push towards a common goal. How hard would that task be if you didn’t speak the same language? And yes, throw in google translate to juggernaut the task further. In fact, whatever you set yourself to do would be insurmountable!! In the Bible, the last time human beings tried to unite to reach a goal, God scattered them by diffusing their language. He just made them yap in so many different kinds of gab that they could no longer push towards a common goal. That feat was thwarted!

In conservation it is certain that you will work with people of different languages and cultures. In my pursuit of this ever elusive dream of environmental sustainability, I have been privileged to work with different languages speakers other than the ones I have full command of. I have learnt the value of acceptance and being accepted. I have known that in order to understand the ailment of a-people, you have to listen in their language. In order for them to understand you, you have to speak their language.

Conservation many-a-times feels far removed from facets of society. It is almost left as a pursuit of the affluent in society and in many cases crowded with western influence of dominant and sectarian tendencies. The society is impoverished by lack of engagement the conservationists as they exert wholescale alien thinking with total disregard of local and indigenous knowledge. Both extremes provide constrained solutions with very little gains to progress.

In the society today as it has been from beginning of time, human endeavor has depended on natural resources, which has provided society with great gusto to grow and develop from height to height. It is the trees of the tropical forests that have provided the unique lamination boards on the floors and roofs for centuries while keeping the fire burning in the village kitchens. It is the water of the rivers that turn turbines to provide electricity that keep out cities lit and fills the calabashes of the playful children as they walk home to fill their water tanks. It is the lungs of the forests that immaculately breath in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen to support life on earth. It is the intricate cycles and seasons that we know little of, those processes that engulf the day and hide by night, that make each day bearable or less so than the other.

Despite the enormity of the task given to natural resources, we are still unable to unilaterally spur actions towards its protections. Natural resources can only be conserved at a local level by local people which is you and me. We therefore must understand the impacts and what effective conservation means. How the decision you make today about what to eat, what to wear, what to drive or what you buy impacts your life, and that of a million others. However, do you speak environmentalese?

Let me think about it for a moment!

Trapped in the Glass – How development alters animal behavior

Now, if you are crying out that life is not fair, think again. Fairness in the animal world goes somethings like this, first you are either born to a predator family or prey family. If you are born to a predator family, tough luck but… you could die before you are two days old if you are a lion, because your father will maul you!#heartaffairs

Well, so you made it to one year old and you have even started growing a mane (beard); you will have to fight for your space among many others, leave alone your brothers, to be the male to be reckoned with and perhaps progenerate. So this blissful life may last a year or two, if you actually make it to the apex of the family tree but what happens then? Younger, cooler, quicker peeps are born and they spoil it all for you. All over sudden, you are dropped like a hot cake and yes, your peers watch you as you rejoin them or if you happen to be a buffalo, they’ll even relegate you to a class lower than “them boys” and leave you groping in the wild with only a bad temper to show for your many year of hard work. Sort of like retiring from government but worse :-).

So you are born to a prey family… hmmm. Why were you ever born? You spend the rest of THE life on the run!! Then you are eaten, if you don’t die first.

On the contrary, being human is different and that is why we like to reiterate that we are not animals. We have rights for everything imaginable, and yes, I really mean UNIMAGINABLE. You see if you are born impaired, we have laws that will protect you, if you are weak there are laws that will not allow those stronger than you to take what you have, everyone is entitled to one spouse, at least by most constitutions in the world, you even have a right to be happy. Human rights have even made the wrong Okay.

I am sure things could be more fair but let me get to the point before this discussion gets political.

Have you ever noticed when animals look in the mirror, they develop a high sense of insecurity? They always wonder why their mirror mate is trying to trample their space. There is usually a revolt, momentary or one that could last hours, days, weeks, months or years as they struggle to dissipate their Unworthy opponent.

While taking a visit to the North of Kenya, Laikipia and Isiolo (by the way a nice country), two hornbills perched on my side mirror where we had parked the car and were furiously pecking away. They were obviously a male and female and they each took a turn at stabbing the mirror with their mighty horns. This of course is not the kind of thing I would call fun but yeah, there I was taking photos. This reminded me of an African black-headed oriole I made acquaintance with at one lodge in Isiolo called Rangeland Resort. The bird has been trapped in glass for the last couple of years, trying to displace it’s mirror image.

For those who know about the oriole, they are fairly shy birds that are found in woodland forest edges and are not necessarily garden birds. However for the number of nights I have spent at this resort, this individual religiously presents him/herself in early morning and mid-afternoon, constantly clawing away the nicely tinted windows that make the place look magnificent. It is not on purpose that this the owner built up the space but I can see how this has completely altered the behavior of this bird, perhaps forever. Woodland is fast disappearing in many of the rangelands around Kenya including the southern rangeland heading towards Magadi, the Northern rangelands out towards Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana just but to name a few. Development is good. What we give up must also be carefully considered. We should avoid “trapping animals in glass”. Development that does not create room for wildlife is retrogressive. It will only diminish our environmental experience to animals in the glass aka zoos!

So conclusion of the matter… yes things may seem bleek for your today but life is not unfair, it’s just life. Secondly, ensure that you create space for wildlife including birds, insects, mammals and the unknown bug, when you put up your building, or tell someone to do so!! Till next time.

What would you pay for a poop? Valuing Nature

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Mara River as in enters Lake Victoria in Musoma Tanzania

I recently visited Musoma in Tanzania. The road trip there was great and I kept marveling at the people, nature, mara river – Oh my! and Lake Victoria. Being only the fifth time to Tanzania, I was feeling much more confident of handling the new grounds with regards to border politics as well as any other issues that may arise from this trip.

Despite all this preparation, there’s one thing I must confess I still haven’t got a grasp of. The money!! Once I changed dollars into Tanzanian Shillings, I really had to develop a syntax of reversing the money back to Kenya Shillings and then comparing the value of that to what I know in Kenya. If you know a thing about our world system, you will know that this really doesn’t work. VALUE in essence is the physical, spiritual or otherwise, importance, one attaches to something.

Now, follow with me, at one point, I needed to use the bathroom for a “short-call” and there I was dashing toward the sign that showed male-female. Well, as I approached the throne, I heard a “bird call” and turned around to meet eye to eye with the custodian of the male-female throne-room. “It will be two thousand shillings”, he said. And for a moment, I stopped to apply the automated syntax in my head, not withstanding the constant distraction from my bladder, owing to its desire to be free. Amidst the distraction, I managed to make the math and God, wasn’t that an expensive leak! The next fraction of seconds was to decide whether I pay for the privacy or face the bush next to the toilet, in which case I would achieve the same result, at least from my point of view. My willingness-to-pay was obviously overtaken by the consequences that would possibly result from my misdemeanor.

A simple sense of life is that we all place a value on our surrounding whether it is the street folk, the food we eat, the housemaid, electricity, work, our family, you name it! However, value and knowledge work hand in hand. The more you know about something, the more you want to know it and the more you know it, the more you value it.

Our world, the earth is moving into an unprecedented era of destruction, pain, distress and dilapidation. The cause? You and Me. Like many of our earthling friends, we are still unable to make choices that show we value nature. We still love ourselves too much, think about others less often, place little value on the grass that prevent the soil from fragmenting and being washed off our backyards, trees that keep our compound and workplaces “cucumber cool”(or not), birds that provide a fête for our beings and that secretly ensure the maize and fruits ripen in the farms and bees that provide honey relentlessly over each year. We are unable to relate to life as we know it and we are rather stuck up at the malls, surrounded by the safety of the walls, experiencing “paid-up-for” pleasures, totally ignorant of the systems our very life depends on, save for the economic system that has so entrapped us. Don’t get me wrong “sio hatia (it is not a crime) to spend your money” in Yemi Alade’s words, but even in so doing, you should make the choices that will continually reflect your love for your neighbor (first) and then yourself.

You Can Only Value What you Know, And you Can Only Know What you Value!

Enough said!

Toothpaste – Stops Twerking

A cyclist indeed! I love the wordsmith in this!

A Cyclist and his Whisk

_MG_3949 copyToothpaste, an evolutionary invention after our ancestors got tired of using chicken bones as toothpicks to dislodge splinters in their teeth from using twig-toothbrushes (I take that back, I actually enjoy a good ‘mswaki‘ now and again for whatever teeth I have left). 

Toothpaste not only whitens, and strengthens, and protects, but, also stops involuntary twerking on the saddle. A hack I came across a while back when I bought a used 1970’s touring Swiss Mondia. A one of kind. First Touring Mondia. Alu 7005. 30 days heat treated. Art & Craft all in one. So artistic their impressionist effort however, that this first of its kind was left with the seat tube allowance too wide for the corresponding seat post.

That being said, the Mondia was my first love. The frame was as light as Froomeys smile and as determined as his blatant single minded ambition to be the…

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The Bus Trip

Water Lily

You see road trips still excite me! Maybe not as much as they used to when I was 5 years. This morning I found myself at the bus stage way before time. I have learned over years that time is important for me, even if it is not so for many others I interact with. Well, for a bus that is departing at 7am, 6.30am seemed ripe! Short version of the story is that we left at 7.36am. This was not without a few exciting moments. Buses issue tickets. Tickets have seat numbers. why people don’t like looking for their seat is far from hilarious and is borderline to annoying. I like the window seat not too far from the front. And this is where I was. This way, I feel under control. I don’t have to be brushed by everybody walking down the aisle and I am the one who controls the opening and closing of the window. A little luxury. Headboy – Headmaster kind of thing. After loads of shifting, disappointed intonations and pouting, we get underway.

The first minutes of the bus ride are intensely soothing, partly from the relief that we are finally moving and partly from the monotonous purr of the turbo engine. I strive to stay awake to get a last glance of home, knowing that I am heading down the same highway. Perhaps I may just see my daughter, son or my wife, or the neighbor, or the neighbor’s kid, or anybody who knows me, and in that odd instance call or wave. I have a short flashback to the days when people would come and wave goodbye beside the road when you were traveling. You had to sit on the left side, open the window, stick your head out so that your face was easily recognized. The tricky bit was that everybody had their head sticking out and so “your people” would have the hard task of identifying which torso was yours. It was a great outing those days. I go unnoticed this time. I fall half asleep, fueled by the crying child, the chatting of women, the incessant chatter of travellers on their phones in different languages that makes for an excellent cacophony of discordance, that my hardly tone-deaf ears cannot stand.

two and a half hours later, the bus stops over in Narok. We have already covered about one-third of our journey. People scramble to disembark, but I stay putt. I don’t believe in stopovers unless you need to use the bathroom. I take out my packed snacks, really pleased with myself to have made plans. I look at the calory load on the label and I am happy to gobble down some crisps, digestive and some soda. Contrary to my ideals, these stopovers stir a level of “food excitement” for travelers and for sure, they start walking back into the bus carrying black plastic bags oozing with the aroma of fries, sausages and all sorts, drenching the limited atmosphere of the bus. If you know the nostalgic aroma of fries, chicken and sausage that lives on Moi avenue or Tom Mboya street in Nairobi then you know what I am talking about. This concoction is nothing to desire at 10am, and furthermore in a public bus filled with other miscellaneous scent ranging from cheap perfume to groundnuts. The black plastic bags hauling the food is what get the better of my attention. Environmental disaster! The bus does not have any disposal bin and as for the people, I am not sure whether they know any better regarding waste disposal. The bus recommences the journey.

As sure as the sun rises, plastic start flying across the windows of the bus. Each satisfied soul takes turns to throw his, filled with plastic bottles and whatever is left over from their meal. I don’t understand who put in our minds that waste is a bad thing that needs to be as far from you as possible. Maybe they would have remembered to tell us that you need not generate it then you won’t have it! My heart bleeds, I feel the need to stand up and “preach” and I do just that!

I think of the Nairobi buses where you have preachers aboard with their sermonette, those who flog their bush medicine for nothing as much as a word, the people who are begging for a cause, and I imagine myself in the same bus, and what I should say! “Everybody listen up!” I take the plastic soda bottle I have and lift it up. “This my friends, is plastic. Good for holding your soda, good for reusing if you needed some water. However, this piece of *item* takes only 20 years to reintegrate into the environment. If you throw it out of the window, it first will stay where you left it until your new baby boy is about 20 years old. Meaning he will go to preschool, nursery, primary and secondary and perhaps still be able to collect it as a souvenir before he goes to college. The plastic bags you are throwing out of the window are useful for the moment but if you could have carried a container from home, you would have only needed to have the fried served into that. It takes planning and execution to think about your environment. It costs you less to plan to save the environment and indeed it will cost your future generations even less and ensure they can enjoy the same resources you enjoyed.” I sit down. Feeling well satisfied.

The only missing link is that all these was contemplated in the heart, but the gut did not allow me to execute this mini-lecture. Something can be done and needs to be done. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

As the bus speeds away, I stay lost in the thoughts of the myriad of ways we could approach environmental education. The purr of the bus draws nearer, the chatter of the women stops, travelers still stay loud on their phones and the children laugh and chatter with glee. I drift back to my half-sleep, crowded with thoughts of the risks to society because of environmental decay.