Wade Davis: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World – The Long Now

Last week I attended an incredible talk by Wade Davis titled: The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World – The Long Now. It was hosted by the Long Now Foundation at Herbst Theater in Fort Mason.

Mr. Davis is a fantastic storyteller – I’m not even sure I could catch him breathing… the words flowed out of him like water from the sky, a cascade of anecdotes, facts, feelings and extraordinary intelligence. After the break is an intro by Stuart Brand of the Long Now, and a link if you want to listen to the whole talk as a podcast here: Wade Davis – Long Now Podcast – 50MB

Native guidance

What does it mean to be human and alive?

The thousands of different cultures and languages on Earth have compellingly different answers to that question. “We are a wildly imaginative and creative species,” Davis declared, and then proved it with his accounts and photographs of humanity plumbing the soul of culture, of psyche, and of landscape.

He began with Polynesians, the wayfinders who mastered the Pacific ocean in the world’s largest diaspora. Without writing or chronometers they learned 220 stars by name, learned to read the subtle influence of distant islands on wave patterns and clouds, and navigated the open sea by a sheer act of integrative memory. For the duration of an ocean passage “navigators do not sleep.”

In the Amazon, which used to be thought of as a “green hell” or “counterfeit paradise,” living remnants may be found of complex forest civilizations that transformed 20 percent of the land into arable soil. The Anaconda peoples carry out five-day rituals with 250 people in vast longhouses, and live by stringent rules such as requiring that everyone must marry outside their language. Their mastery of botany let them find exactly the right combination of subspecies of plants to concoct ayahuasca, a drug so potent that one ethnobotantist described the effect of having it blown up your nose by a shaman as “like being shot out of a rifle barrel lined with Baroque paintings and landing in a sea of electricity.”

In the Andes the Incas built 8,500 miles of roads over impossibly vertical country in a hundred years, and their descendents still run the mountains on intense ritual pilgrimages, grounding their culture in every detail of the landscape.

In Haiti, during the four years Davis spent discovering the chemical used to make real-life zombies, he saw intact African religion alive in the practice of voodoo. “The dead must serve the living by becoming manifest” in those possessed. It was his first experience in “the power of culture to create new realities.”

The threat to cultures is often ideological, Davis noted, such as when Mao whispered in the ear of the Dalai Lama that “all religion is poison,” set about destroying Tibetan culture.

The genius of culture is the ability to survive in impossible conditions, Davis concluded. We cannot afford to lose any of that variety of skills, because we are not only impoverished without it, we are vulnerable without it.

PS. Wade Davis’ SALT talk was based on his five Massey Lectures in Canada last year, which are collected in a book, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.

— by Stewart Brand

This is your Brain on Techno

Non-Newtonian Fluid Dynamics demonstrates what may be happening inside your skull when you listen to music at a club! This scientific experiment uses a tone generator, an amplifier and a speaker cone to create chaotic waveforms inside a a mixture of cornstarch and water.

Hexayurt Project – Shelter for $100

The Hexayurt is a new kind of sheltering solution. To make the simplest hexayurt, make a wall by putting six sheets of plywood on their sides in a hexagon. Cut six more sheets in half diagonally, and screw them together into a shallow cone. Lift with a large group on to the wall, and fasten with more screws. This shelter will last for several years and costs less than $100. It may be ideal for a variety of disaster relief situations.

(via: Hexayurt Project.)

Shelter 2.0

Over one million people will go to sleep this year without proper shelter and in the wake of our countries current economic situation and the continual growth of tent cities here in America, it is the mission of Shelter 2.0 that everyone should have the right to a roof over there head and a floor under there feet. Shelter 2.0 is both  affordable and easily assembled without any prior construction experience or the use of power tools other than a cordless drill, making it easy and safe for a volunteer workforce. The shelters are easily enlarged by adding to either end since there are very few parts that are different. You can ship some ShopBots and a couple of truckloads of plywood and tarps and have an instant shelter factory on site, or cut them all over the world in a distributed network of Fabbers.

Shelter 2.0.

Wild Minds Demo Trailer

In November 2009 I was approached by Adventure Pictures, a SF based TV production company, who wanted me to be a host for a new show they were pitching to the Discovery/Science channel called “WILD MINDS.”

We filmed for a day at KSW headquarters in West Oakland, and I interviewed Dick Vennerbeck (AKA the Steam Wizard) and Jody Medich. Within a week they had this “trailer” edited together and sent off to the decision makers:

I’m still waiting to hear the final word… sometimes these things take a while to get sorted… so cross your fingers!

wild minds demo trailer.

Spring 2009 Update

Hey Friends,

Just a quick update to tell you where I’m at

After moving back to the Bay Area for six months… I’m about to mix it up again… where to? I’m not exactly sure!

We had some great success and challenges with the documentary film project – Andrea and I met up in Northern India last year to interview Tibetan Exiles about non-violence, China, the Olympics… you can see some of our work online here:

due to lack of funding and general life being what it is … the project of making a full length documentary is on hold…. but if you are interested in helping or have any film-maker resources, please clue me in!

I’m looking for places to go visit and work/live for a bit – specifically farms, cooperatives, retreat centers, land projects where there is a need for some skilled hands and a commitment to Art, Community, Activism and just plain having a good ‘ole time…. so if you know of anything like that out there please let me know.

I’m also looking to buy a truck that can be my workhorse – a good truck for traveling, working on a farm, maybe through a camper on it, tow a trailer with some tools and camera and stilts and my chef knives…. a gypsy wagon!

My short term plan is to explore and have a respite from the city for 6-mo or a year, and then see where that leads me or perhaps go back to school… maybe in Sweden!

So that’s the nutshell version…. of my life… would love to hear about you!

In Gratitude,

Tom Sepe

Three Plants That Give You Better Indoor Air

Who doesn’t want indoor air quality? Ok, well I suppose if you live in the jungle or somewhere in the Kootenays, but even still, and especially during the winter-time with all the doors and windows closed up…. you’ll need just three species… but minimum of 11 plants:

Kamal Meattle used three just three indoor plant species to increase oxygen, filter air, and boost general health at a a New Delhi business park. You can use them, too, in any indoor environment. Meattle’s presentation at the TED 2009 conference details a large-scale success, using thousands of plants for hundreds of workers. In any living or working space, though, the three plants—Areca palm, Mother-in-law’s Tongue, and a “Money Plant”—can be used to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, remove organic compounds, and generally filter and freshen the ambient air. A single person looks to need a minimum of 11 total plants, and certain climates with less sunlight could require a bit of hydroponic growing, but Meattle swears by the health, productivity, and atmosphere benefits.

[via Lifehacker Australia.]

Check out the slideshow from the TED conference 2009 after the break:

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