Graduation Day! A reflection of the years stained with blood, sweat and tears.
There were tears in their eyes. A piece of paper, a heart full of hope; they threw their hats Goodbye.
It was no ordinary day, THERE, an answer shining bright, took them by surprise.
Sixteen years of listen and learn, 16 seconds and they couldn’t get their damn name right!
Deep down they made a people proud, had distinctions even stood out from the crowd.
If only they could smile aloud, steady their trembling lips and dry their snout, drain back tears into their spout,
They would fight out! The devil that standing in the way of faith and doubt.
“What’s that you studied?” is the question they be asking like you was still in a lesson.
Even folk from their study, say “shut the trap up boy, go learn your lesson”.
Ten years you’re grinding still dreaming of a black mansion,
While you’re earning a minimum wage cut back with no pension.
You wake up early to serve a life sentence in a place you call your office,
Pulling up behind two-bars that dented your life savings beyond the surface.
Was graduation worth it or should you have dropped out when you still had it?
Taken a chance on genius, gone to the states, took on the American dream and lived it?
You’ll never know until you stick with it, live with it, until YOU BE IT!
Though we search for a moment to cling to… they seem to be too few to find.
In the span of one life, in the dimness of night, we search for a meaning in life.
It was the best day of their lives. Still the best day of our lives.
I dedicate this to millions of environmental graduates out there dedicated to service in nature, sustainability and development. Those whose hopes are still lingering as they try to make the best of everyday life. Those that are shattered, bruised, rejected and even trampled by the jobs industry. Those whose candle of hope have stopped burning. The last glimmer of hope is yet another step away from the faith you have. We’re looking forward to our best days… #stayalive
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!
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!
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?”
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!
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.
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.
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!
Toothpaste, 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…
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.
One of the greatest gifts of life is to be able to dream. When I was younger, I wanted to be a bus driver. I dreamed of being able to sit behind the mighty behemoth and pacing around like I own the world! My dream was ever strung around reversing the truck with multiple trailers. Let me say that this dream were short-lived as LIFE gradually replaced it! The realities of process as well as cause and effect! That said, the brighter side is that these dreams were replaced by even grandeur ones; traversing the world, being UNEP boss – ha! but was quickly limited by numerous challenges and fraught with dangers, that I equally dreamed of. Nowadays, I change the world a word at a time!
Recently I visited Lake Kanyaboli, a satellite lake on Lake Victoria in Siaya County. The scenery was beautiful, the nature pleasant, fresh air intoxicating and I just imagined myself sitting by the side of the lake with a book, taking stock of the changing moments, the rising of the sun, the innumerable bird species, the glistening waters, unadulterated environment, the fish, the people as they scramble to collect water amidst the livestock and the distant hills across the lake that constantly casts its shadow over the waters.
I met a man, Charles, who works with his hands! He is a craftsman, designing crafts out of papyrus which is abundant around the lakeside, as my eyes would say. His story is one of resilience, belief and hard work. He learnt the craft by tagging on to a man he met selling woven chairs off his bicycles on the dusty rugged roads of his village. He persuaded him to teach him the craft and for more than six months he would be an apprentice under him, stirring early in the morning everyday to harvest papyrus, a task which initially left his hands bloody and his back sore. Not to give up, he would quickly and efficiently accomplish this duty to ensure that he had time to observe and learn the actual art of weaving. To cut short the long story, he now has his own business that provides him with a means of putting food on the table and taking care of his family, running for more than 10 years now. He enjoins the services of two women who help him meet his demand.
For Charles, it has been well over the years but now he feels threatened by expansion of Agriculture and increased destruction of the swamp areas around lake Kanyaboli. His only hope is that he will continue to have the opportunity to run and expand his business. I also hope that he teaches the craft as an inheritance to his children.
For me something slightly different ticked off! As I watched him twisting together the tapestry of his product, I could almost see a radiance on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed what he was doing. There was a subtle state of comfort that prevailed making his work seem so effortless yet also a constant exertion stemming from the effort put leaving him with beads of sweat streaming down his cheeks. He seemed very in touch with the papyrus reeds that they almost seemed to know how to respond when he touched them. The swinging of hands, poking of holes and pulling of reeds almost produced a rhythmic cadence to a silent song that will never be sung.
For more than ten minutes I sat there in silence watching him and wondering what value he places on this papyrus. If the whole swamp is destroyed, it seems obvious what he would loose. In the same step, I reflect on the serene beauty that surrounds me just outside the door of Charles’ workshop. I look around at those living here going on with their daily chores, quite oblivious of my ways and thoughts. I smile and dream. What would this place would look like many years from now. A complete environmental disaster? Or a renewed Gem? It is only the many who live in these surrounding that will determine its future.
As it is for them, so it is for you and me. We can only reach where our dreams go! We can only dream of what we see, what we hear and what we know. Our lives are inextricably linked to nature, we come from it and we go back to it when we die. The dash in between our nascence and obliteration what we can dream of. I am dreaming of a better world, a better people and an even better next generation.
As I settle back into the car, I dream that if I would come back as a man (again) in my next life, then I will be a cobbler! Take care of people’s feet and let their feet take care of them.
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? 10 In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Job 12:7-10: NIV Bible
One fine morning in Schloss Klaus, Austria, my friends and I took a rope course just for fun. An ordinary day it was in this beautiful forested construct overlooking a stunning lake. All it was going to take at least as the Germans would put it is, “kinder spielen”(child’s play). Well, as you can imagine, a rope course embodies intricately thought out ways of making you SUFFER! Easy to start but, “why I am here again?” comes in quite quickly. Walking across swinging ropes, moving bases and all those contraptions that make your muscles ache and cry is not all-in-a-days-work for non-macho people and at 75+Kg, shifting weight is not an easy thing. On one section, I gave up more than 100 times, only to inch forward with a little rest. Of course out only a few of us made it to the very end. At the end of that day, with quaking limbs and aching muscle, I finally understood the GRIT I am made of!
This course is like a mirror on my life. What was two hours of a gruesome voluntary process, revealed to me how I handle issues of life. For one, I never give up easily. I change tact and do what it takes to get the job done! On the contrary, I am inadvertently averse to risk. I like solid ground. Most importantly, I derive loads of inspiration from my immersion in nature, and take courage from those who have been there before.
Recently, I enjoined myself as an audience to a most hilarious conversation. My friends were discussing issues of nature and conservation in a most tickling and ignorant manner, devoid of fact and knowledge! For instance, the assertion that the wildebeeste of Mara – Serengeti never coming to an end is acceptable because as you would say, tyranny of numbers but seeing a rattle snake is Kenya should be most absurd, no matter how dangerous it is! We watched a video of the meer cat hunting a hare. It would first do a ritualistic dance to get the hare entertained then without warning take it by the neck! Who eats their audience really? The tragedy of a python ripped on like a sleeping bag after swallowing a crocodile whole should be a good bedtime story for our kids with regards to greed.
Well in all, I was remained quite entertained with a smile on my face. I was satisfied by the fact that friends could indulge in a nature conversation independent of my prompting. Of course my nature experience would have it that I laud it over the rest on “specialist” matters but I am only so happy they acknowledge the existence of the wild. Geography and statistics can be dealt with at the PhD level when they get a chance.
Nature and culture shape the way we think. Our experiences are a sum total of who we are. That is to say, the richer your experience in nature and culture, the richer your appreciation for creation. There is always something amazing about being walking through the park, watching birds in your garden, watching a herd of elephants, pride of lions, antelopes, topis, the green that splashes the horizon in the wet season, the intense smell of earth at the start of the rains and all else in natures cycle. There is truly nothing more coveted that brushing through a stack of bushes and getting some blackjacks stuck on your trousers, and little compares to the blooming of a flower in the desert, once in every two years. To be there is heaven, a moment of exhilaration, a moment to savor. I must admit that there times that I cruise unfocused through nature that I fail to experience the here and now.
Nature has a lot to tell us about who we are and who God, the creator is. Nature keeps a record of the goods, as well as the ails and pains. So imprinted are the marks that we can tell what happened before our generation and so will the generations coming evidence our attitudes to nature. Careful studies have revealed intricate dependencies between the earth and man. Getting ourselves closer to nature is getting to understand who we are and why we are.
So just to get the facts straight. Rattle snakes are a preserve of North America’s deserts. Wildebeeste populations have been gradually declining over the years due to immense pressure on land resources, erection of fences along their migration routes and other ecological factors.
Whether you turn on your TV to discovery channel, take a walk in your garden, or plan a trip to Tsavo National Park, don’t miss the opportunity to remove your shoes and feel the soil. IMMERSE!
Over the past three weeks, it would almost be “legal” to tell someone bon voyage as you part ways in the evening! Why? Flooding – caused by torrential rains. Nairobi, Mombasa and Narok have made news but the more peripheral regions have not been spared either as some have suffered mudslides and to some extent flood related disasters. Well, it would be great to interrogate the issues in detail, but here’s my take on the matter.
When I first visited Nairobi many years ago and became acquainted with the city, I remember encountering several swamps in Kileleshwa, Karen, Nairobi West, Upper Hill, Madaraka, Loresho, Ngong, you name it! The green-leafy suburbs was not a name just for the sake of it! It was green and leafy.
Fast forward to 2015, the concrete jungle is being intricately fitted with cement and brick for good measure. Every inch of the land is measured for its worth as real estate rather than for the ecosystem functions that it performs, among them flood regulation! Our architects give a great after-thought to Nature-Design, asymmetrically assigning more effort to energy conservation including lighting and heating. Solar on the rooftop and grand window spaces for maximum lighting is misconstrued for eco-design.
Don’t get me wrong here, prudent use of energy has its role in environmental sustainability, but nature design by far engulfs a holistic sustainability approach that includes food provision, flood amelioration, cultural and recreational services, as essential ecosystem functions.
If Design was to consider these, then we would for one prefer to open our window and enjoy the sunlight, fresh air and amazing view from our apartment, houses, workspaces or coffee shops or we would probably take the opportunity to walk out, take a hoe and enjoy tending the kitchen garden behind the house, sit on a park bench and have our snack lunch, or enjoy the absolute pleasure of interacting with a squirrel, a bird, or a perhaps a waterbuck grazing by the reedbed. All thanks to nature conservation within our spaces.
However, what we have ended up with is locked doors for our children to ensure that the dangers of the outdoors remain unknown to them. For example broken glass, or some polluted element that could turn a Business-As-Usual day to Business-Unusual day! Shut windows grilled with grizzly iron or glazed with heavy blinds to keep out the eyes of nosy neighbors, whose window by the way is two metres away. Constantly lit bulbs, not in the name of ambience but occasioned by the large shadows cast by adjacent skyscrapers, perpetually keeping the room in darkness and all you ever experience of wild-life is the stray cat that is forever sneaking into your kitchen to grab a bite off the leftovers, and the pestering rats that continually spatter their tiny feet on your ceiling in the still of the night!
Silently, nature asserts itself when in one night of heavy rains, it looses the memory of its route. The swamps and reedbeds that once use to slow it’s pace is a house, an office or a parking lot. Places where water once went through are no longer “valid” pathways, ground seepage is no longer available since our driveways and exquisitely tart with bamburi cement product and therefore only discharges the water to other lower lying quarters. The streams are rife with with paperbags, plastic bottles and sediment so that stream flow is halved. The endpoint? You who are lowly and meek (literally) standing in a pool of water half-way through your house or having your car float for a change. Not as good as a rest this one!
Generally speaking, we experience one heavy downpour once in four years, in Kenya. The third and fourth year of this cycle tend to be drier with less than average precipitation. So, where we should place our effort during the in-between years is in building some personal and institutional resilience, and integrating nature designs, into our architectural tapestry. Land use planning should constantly consider nature designs, a concept that will put us ahead of time when it comes to Climate Change Adaptation. For now, we can contend with the change of climate by moving to higher ground.