Thursday, 26 February 2009

prepared to be radical

My sons went to a number of schools. In England and in South Africa, in Pretoria and Cape Town, private and government, traditional and art-centred. They all had one thing in common: they were designed in various ways to stifle creativity and lateral thinking.

I remember attending parent-teacher meetings where time and again I was told "he asks too many questions" and each time it left me despairing for the future. Why is it that we take young, enquiring minds and stuff them into uniform boxes?

Why can't teachers understand that it is the individuals who dared to ask "why" and "what if" and "why not" that brought us out of the caves, and will bring us into a brighter future if we let them.

Maybe that's why, even in adulthood, creativity is looked at as something strange. Creative, lateral thinkers seem to take the role of medieval court jesters. Society likes to have a few of them around, but they must stay in their rigidly prescribed place.

There are few things that irritate me as much as people who say "oh, but you're arty" as if they need to categorise me to make an excuse for my behaviour.

I was asked recently if I would wear a suit for a meeting, and while my response was - I think - polite, I was ready to scream. I don't own a suit, I don't want to be a corporate clone, I think people who follow fashion regardless of whether it suits them are just sad. (Just think of all those too fat tummies looking like that aerosol expanded foam that builders use, between hip high jeans and skimpy tops).

When I was growing up, my mother's favourite answers to my "why not" questions was "because it's just not done".

By who? And who made the rules anyway?

It is projects like the sliding house in this video that restore my faith in humanity. Watch it, and I hope you'll be inspired to believe that the way things are is not necessarily the only way things can be.

I hope it sparks some creative, lateral thinking. I hope that something happens in your day to blast you out of your box. And if it does, please tell me about it. I need some hope.

PS... here's a link to Julie who was also inspired by the video

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

just for fun

I saw this on Ohfortheloveofblog and thought it was fun. Hope I don't get tracked down by the copyright police (but the picture was also taken by a Lynne. Spelled right too!)

1 - Go to wikipedia.
Hit “random... Read More”or click Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 - Go to Random Quotations or click
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 - Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days”or click
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 - Use photoshop or similar to put it all together. (It's album art, so make the picture square)

5 - TAG the friends you want to join in.
Consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

moving through a changing world

"Adam Fier recently sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin 6-year-old girls out of elementary school in Montgomery County. He and his wife packed the family's belongings and moved to New Zealand -- a place they had never visited or seen before, and where they have no family or professional connections. Among the top reasons: global warming." This from a story in the Washington Post yesterday.

As one of his reasons for the move, he says that one of his daughters "will still be alive in 100 years" (which implies great longevity...) and he wants them to live in a place that provides the best quality of life.

I remember when I moved temporarily to New Zealand with my first husband in 1980, people were choosing to live there because it was the best place to be in case of a nuclear war between the US and USSR.

Its interesting what makes people move. I believe the itchy feet of the migrants are something that is genetically wired into many of our DNA. The work of Dr Spencer Wells and his team on the Genographic Project shows that early people moved up from southern Africa to populate the world.

This last week I was working at a workshop to launch the first regional Sustainable Urban Development Network. You can read some of the stories we produced there. One fact that really stood out for me was that 100 000 people a day are moving into cities all over the world but most rapidly in Africa.

Lars Reuterswald, Director of UN Habitat, said at the workshop: "There are 1.3 million architects worldwide. Of these, 30 000 are in Africa, (the same number that there are in Italy). And 20 000 of those African architects live in Egypt, so there is a huge issue of capacity and quality.

"These are very important issues. our mandate is not to solve the problems but to highlight issues that need to be taken seriously.

"We are looking ahead... there are 25 'Cape Towns' needed every year, on a continent where the slum population increases by 70 000 every day. Our prime task is not to upgrade slums but to go to the source and to stop them developing, hence our focus on sustainable development. We need to make sure that we focus on the systemic changes that can and will change the world. I know it can happen. We have to change the way things are and how they work."

I was inspired by his commitment, passion and hope. What a contrast to people who choose to leave without trying to make a difference. (And yes, as I know only too well, sometimes you want to leave out of desperation, when trying to make a difference just doesn't seem to be working.)

When it comes to issues of sustainability and global warming, there is still lots of work to be done. As one of the delegates at the workshop told me, "In Namibia we don't mind about climate change. Our country is a desert. If the climate changes and we get more rain, that will be good for us."

In other parts of the world, it seems that people are desperate enough to try anything.

According to the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende researchers will wrap an area at the edge of a glacier east of Kangerlussuaq in the western part of Greenland with 10 000sq m of snow white synthetic foil to reflect the sun and ensure that the temperature will not rise.

Should we really be going that far to hold back the tide?

Saturday, 21 February 2009

keeping time

Pad onderhoud = road maintenance

Beginning in the fourth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, then time-savers, then time-servers,” wrote Neil Postman, a man described by Wikipedia as an "American author, media theorist and cultural critic". “In the process, we’ve learned irreverence toward the sun and seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded."

I've spent the last few weeks thinking about time and planning for the future. Looking for new opportunities and deciding what is worth hanging onto.

And, this past week in the unexpected pleasure of a few days and nights in the centre of Cape Town, noticing all the clocks in the city (and wishing I hadn't left my camera in the hotel room) and listening to them all chiming out of sync through the nights.

I remember reading Jung's Memories, Dreams and Reflections when I was 17 and being totally offended by his refusal to allow his wife to have any time saving devices such as a washing machine. I thought then it was just male chauvinist arrogance that meant more work for his long suffering wife.

Now, many years later, I see the value of what he was saying.

Imagine what the world would be like if we had followed his recommendation of working a four-hour day and spending the rest of the time growing our own food on a small plot of land. He said we should spend little time on radio, television, newspapers, and all supposed time-saving devices, "which do not, paradoxically, save time but merely cram our time so full we have no time for anything."

Maybe it is time to turn back the clock.