Archives for the month of: October, 2020

It is an emotional moment when two people promise each other to love each other and one of them is your son. I see them, I hear them. 

We cannot touch or smell…separated in space and the digital interface….nonetheless a special moment, thankful for being a part in his, their lives. Two people becoming something bigger than their separate selves. Being citizens of different countries adds another, but fortunately not an insurmountable, layer.

Children and parents… we take time to raise our children and it is wonderful to see how they become sensible adults.

While consumed by these thoughts and sentiments it is all the more painful to read the story about 545 migrant children who were separated from their parents as part of U.S. border policies. Their parents were deported back to their homecountrsies and cannot be located.  

Not surprisingly, this policy, so-called ‘zero tolerance’ that started in 2017 has raised alarm around the world, in part because it  violates international human rights law. The right to family life and family unity is laid out in numerous provisions in international human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. These laws were generally adopted by the United Nations in 1948 in response to the atrocities that occurred during the Second World War. 

The practice of separating children from their parents is not an incidental practice unfortunately. In recent history, for about 100 years, from late 19th into 20th century, it was formal U.S. government policy to forcibly remove indigenous children from their homes to attend Indian boarding schools. A practice that was not limited to the United States but enforced in numerous places around the world. It continued far beyond (late 20th century) the adoption of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It raises a very uneasy question: what is the definition of being human? Who can claim those rights, the right to share your life with the people you care for and care for you?

Our current health crisis makes us blatantly aware how important it is, not only to see and hear each other, but also to touch and smell, to be together.

At the end of the previous century I got married. In Las Vegas. No, it is not a joke, we loved each other and just moved to the States; we decided to roll the dice. We bought an old car and if the car could make the trip, our love would be sealed. It did. Except our son, none of our family or friends were there to celebrate with us physically, but…it was an exciting time and everyone we invited across the world could follow the ceremony on webcam from the Little White Chapel. 1999. Although we broke up our marriage along the way, online, we are still friends. Now our son is getting married, times have changed. We have come a long way in our digital development, we are used to connect through screens. Yet the current corona crisis makes it blatantly clear how much we need physical contact. We won’t be able to attend our son’s wedding, but at least we can follow the ceremony online.

We have learned and gotten used to communicating using digital tools via digital devices, interfaces dividing our physical beings. Yet when our physical beings are geographically separated we can simulate physical closeness via our digital devices. Worlds apart, worlds reshuffled. I started using online teaching tools in the first years of the 21st century and the ability to create and analyze large amounts of data was pretty cool, but soon something started to trouble me, online communication was not so easy and what about all this data, did it become digital diarrhea? What about digital sustainability?  We thought the digital would provide a representation of the physical world, only better., augmented. It is not. Our online worlds, ruled by digital tools and devices are differently coded than our physical worlds. 

Don’t get me wrong; it is wonderful to be able to connect to different worlds, taking different perspectives never before possible. I am glad I can attend the wedding digitally, although I would have preferred to be there in physical person. 

Then again, the digital world is not a copy, it is not a replacement, experiences in the physical world are radically different than one’s that can be had in digital/virtual environments. The digital pollution is real, impacting our health. So enjoy the digital, but beware, embrace the physical, just not as much at the moment.

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30221-3/fulltext

https://www.nature.com/articles/srep14914

The day went by without me even knowing, apparently September 29 was declared by the UN as the first ever observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. How did I miss this, while my current daily work is all about food. 

A learning experience. Due to some personnel changes,  for a hopefully short time, I am the informal leader of the dairy production team at the farm where I work. As I told you in earlier postings, this is a biodynamic farm, community supported, which means we engage in direct marketing. This is great, and the way to go for the future if you ask me. 

An interesting experience indeed. I am mostly involved in the ‘white line’, yoghurt and fresh cheeses, which means the ‘road’ from source, the milk from the cows in the barn next to the dairy to consumer is very direct and the challenge each week is to produce enough to supply all the stores and coops with the variety of products they desire, but not too much that products remain too long in our cooling room and pass their ‘sell by date’. Food waste is what we want to avoid. Fortunately, most of the time, everything is eaten, by customers and by our farm community. 

The farm is doing well. The number of members has rapidly risen over the last few years. A good thing, customers are becoming more aware in general of the importance of organic food. The area farmed has also increased, a sign of the times. Many farms in the region can no longer manage, they still want their fields to be worked, to have organically worked fields is even advantageous, from an environmental standpoint obviously, but also from a financial standpoint in farm subsidies received. The farm therefor has an opportunity to expand its reach. Good, but also challenging.

Customers have changed. Or maybe it is only natural that the larger the customer base, the harder it is to have direct contact with everyone personally. Customers have changed nonetheless, and our work is much more supply and demand than it was before. The stores and the coops send in their order each week and we try to honor that. Yet it is also the case that all our products are intricately linked and this is not always communicated: We take the cream off before we make hard cheese, the cream is used to make butter. From the butter making process comes butter milk, as a ‘waste’ product. We make quark, from the quark making process we take off the cream, this is the sour cream. If we don’t make quark because of low demand, we take the cream from the cheesemaking process, it is also sour, but that means we make less butter. Making cheese also results in another waste product, the whey, it is mostly eaten by the pigs on the farm, but even they have a limit. The best product for me is yoghurt, hands down, no waste products, and relatively quick turn-around. At home, I make yoghurt cheese from left-over yoghurt, it keeps a long time and I mix it will all things, sweet or savory. 

The hard cheeses on the other hand, even though they can be stored for a long time, also need a lot of work, wash and turn, twice weekly. In short, more people eating organic products is a good thing, the challenge is to create awareness about production, shelf life and how to minimize waste and overconsumption.

Meeting the challenge of producing ‘just enough’ is not easy!

And this is as much as a problem as is the problem of people going hungry, or having access only to unhealthy food. It is the paradox of our current world, we can produce enough healthy food to feed the world, yet too much in one place, too little in another is our current conundrum. 

But if you have ever been involved in growing food, where people work hard for little pay, FOOD WASTE HURTS.

I believe in the system of direct marketing, to supply people with healthy food choices as well as to minimize food waste. Efforts to develop local food systems, support small and local growers, even though it may not always seem the optimum economic choice, I believe is the way to empower communities, to mitigate climate challenges and minimize over exploitation. It is not just a production or distribution problem. 

Inform yourself on all things food, too much too little, just enough, we can do this, together.

https://viacampesina.org/en/

https://terramadresalonedelgusto.com/en/

https://www.un.org/en/observances/end-food-waste-day

Volatile times, we are all affected to more or lesser degree, be it the virus, social inequality, environmental disaster, isolation, the list goes on. Retaining a sense of balance is always important but especially now. 

Hearing sounds is essential for keeping your balance, not just any sound, continuous background noise is most helpful, people use sounds like white noise to help unconsciously create a mental image of the environment to keep ourselves grounded. My favorite white noise is green noise.

Losing my thoughts under the trees, getting in sync with the leaves, I remember what R. Murray Schafer wrote in his book The Soundscape, the tuning of the world, originally published in 1977. Each tree, because of the shape and configuration of its leaves creates a unique sound, suddenly the canopy above me is a giant instrument, a green symphony. Listen, find some trees to ground yourself

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200312142303.htm