Is this world a shitty place...or do we just have to look on the bright side of life? Some of you will choose one statement over the other, while some of you will find themselves struggling between these opposite views on life. But what if I boldly dared to state that picking a “way of life” is just a complete waste of your time? That it is as useless as a gigantic, disorganized quantity of malodorous bovine feces? OK OK, I know that's not completely correct, there are some agricultural uses for a big pile of bullshit.
I dare say the forgoing now, but this hasn't always been my way of thinking. At the age of 17-18, I appropriated myself with the nickname: “antidish”. Obviously, it had come into my mind while doing the dishes, but as I was pretty much “anti” everything, this was by far the perfect pseudonym for me. As a communist I cursed the big bad companies for being so...bad, and as a vegetarian I cursed them even more for cutting down the rainforest and making a billion people grow hungry every day. So with a goal-justifies-the-means mentality, all I wanted was to start a revolution that would change the world. Many people probably still remember me as antidish, cause he was really stubborn and aggressive in trying to persuade everyone to see all the shitty things that were happening in this world.
|Me (left) with Pim (right) during a manifestation in Brussels against a visit|
from the American President, George W. Bush jr. (autumn 2004).
However, a man grows tired and depressed of being that negative all the time, it is not a very healthy way to live. So instead, I began looking at the positive and bright side of life. I stopped nagging about all the bad things in the world and I started being a good student, friend and boyfriend. But as I started accepting the fact that I could not change this society, I started to turn my back on all the shitty things that were happening in this world. I would have pulled up my shoulders if someone would have talked to me about the civil war in Syria and I would have zapped to another channel if the there would have been a program on television about Ecuador selling three million hectares of rainforest to Chinese oil companies. Cause in the end...there was nothing I could do, right?
Zjef says NO!
The first time I realized that there was also something wrong with the previous way of thinking was in the summer of 2011. As an intern for Better Globe Forestry I was conducting research at the Kiambere plantation, located in the drylands of Kenya. And although it was a very poor region, the people were happy and I enjoyed my stay there. Of course, as an ecologist I sometimes got caught up in discussions about climate change and pollution (a hot topic in a desertificating region like this). I was fully aware of the impact of our Western society on the worlds climate, but the fact that their region was so dry and the soil so degenerated, was also because their way of farming had completely destroyed the local ecosystems and had degenerated their lands severely. Yet still, the conversations always had the same conclusion: It's all the fault of the developed countries and there's nothing we can do about it...”There is nothing we can do about it”. Now doesn't that sound familiar?
|The five year old BGF tree-plantation surrounded by traditional farms during|
the dry season at Kiambere lake (Kenya, September 2011). The exposed
top-soils of the farmlands will be washed away when the rains start.
Before you start blaming poor Kenyan farmers for trying to feed their families, think about this: Have you ever met a person with a bad heart? Have you ever met a person who purposely destroys the environment and other people's lives because he is truly evil? I certainly have not! In my life, I have only met people who just want to be happy and who want the best for themselves, their family and their friends! Yes, I have only met good people in my life.
Recognizing this, I started accepting the fact that I'm also a part of this society. I started noticing that I too had an impact on the people around me and that I, in a way, walk through this life as a living example to everyone around me. So instead of accepting how the economic system worked, I started seeing the actual reality: Everything has always been changing, everything is changing right now, and everything will keep on changing in the future!
Today, my personal quest to build a Vertical Farm has brought me to Ticino, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland and a southern extension of the Alps. Together with Patrick Rota, a fantastic person and electronic engineer, I'm working on a project to start a vertical farming research center. We are establishing a business called Plantibo (which has a pretty cool meaning btw) and are trying to involve some other companies like Omaga-Gardens, Plantagon and Urban Farmers. With this collaboration we will create an international movement on the field of vertical farming and we will try to involve as many companies, universities and people as possible (Yes indeed, you will be able to join too). Plantibo and the Movement will break with the current economic mindset and we will thrive on trust and cooperation instead of competition. We truly believe that this way of business will significantly accelerate the the development of Vertical Farming in a responsible manner, therefore it will also accelerate the evolution towards a more sustainable society!
In my opinion, I'm doing a pretty good job as I dedicate my life to what I believe is good. However, as I'll be the last person to judge you on how you live your life, I do encourage you to think and to question everything. Is the world a shitty place, or do you just have to look at the sunny side of life? To answer these questions for myself, I had to dig a little deeper than that. Many of you might have already even recognized these issues as they are a part of a very famous philosophy: Yin and Yang, life and death, hate and love, light and darkness... As all is one, none can exist without the other. We can only live our lives fully, by accepting both. So no matter how you look at it, you're a part of everything and everything is a part of you. As you dedicate your life to doing good or bad, you will always be a part of both, and both of them will be a part of you. This also means that society is composed by all of us, and all of us are composed by society.
Quite depressing I hear you think? Well, my friends, not at all! As everyone is a creator, you have the power to define it all. You have the power to choose how bad, “bad” is, and you have the power to decide how good, “good” is. Hell, there's even a ready-made cookbook formula on how to do it:
“Be the change you want to see in this world”.