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Slow & Deep Ecology

October 3, 2010

by Shinsuke Uno

“Common sense” is a relative concept, since a matter of common sense for someone may not be so for someone else.  Such relativism aside, the current state of the world requires us to question the very nature of what we consider “common sense.”  This may be a task readers of “Slow & Deep Ecology” may be left with to handle.

“Slow & Deep Ecology”, published in May this year, is a seventh volume in a series called “Yukkuri (slow) Note Book” from Otuski Shoten.  Each volume of the series presents a dialogue between a cultural anthropologist Shinichi Tsuji and a “guest” in an attempt to remember the connections or bonds lost in the ever-increasing fastness of the current societies.  The past volumes addressed themes on peace, food, technology, community, health, and so on.

Anja Light is the guest of the “Slow & Deep Ecology” and she speaks on Nature.  But the book really is about her life.  Born in Sweden, raised by environmentally aware parents and close to nature in Australia, she grew up to be an internationally active environmentalist, being involved in forest conservation in Sarawak, Malaysia and Intag, Ecuador, for example.  Along the way, she also became a singer-songwriter to express her concerns and love for people and Nature; through her life in Ecuador she became a mother of two children; and, with her friends in Japan, she co-founded an environmental-cultural NGO, the Sloth Club (for which she is currently a co-representative), to promote an alternative lifestyle of “slowness” and “connectedness”.

The book is also about relationships and bonds that she has built with people and places, which in turn formed her life.  Her being in a forest of Sarawak and her encounters with an activist Bruno Manser and the Penan people who lived there were as pivotal in her life as her being in forests in other places like Intag and her encounters with a deep ecologist John Seed and later with Shinichi Tsuji himself.  That is, it is through these relationships and bonds  that she developed her understanding of how life forms on Earth are connected with each other, including human being like herself as a part.

Anja calls herself a deep ecologist and the dialogue with Tsuji revolves around the philosophy of deep ecology.  While the term “deep ecology” may be unfamiliar to many and its content may even be controversial to some, she calls it “simple common sense” for leading a life that respects what makes her life possible, that is, Nature.  Choosing a simple life close to Nature away from goals of fast economic growth or ever-increasing demands and engaging in activities to protect Nature are natural things to do for her to sustain all lives for now and the future generations to come.  And, she has always started it with things that she can do like making changes in her own lifestyle, i.e., simple things anyone can do, instead of accusing someone or something.

To many of us, “living outside of the box” may summarize Anja’s life: living close to nature, growing food for her and her family, building a house herself using recycled materials, living with limited financial means, committing herself to environmental protection even at risk of lawsuits and prison sentences, etc.  No doubt, her life has been wonderfully colorful and may appear as something that deviates from “normal life” or “common sense.”  We all seem  so eager to conform to the idea, but who defined “normal” or “common sense,” in the first place?  If the current problem-laden world is the result of decades of following the common sense for a normal life, continuing on the same way certainly does not appear promising.

Although Anja’s life is only a model, it will merit us all to stop and give our age-old “box” a close inspection for a change.

* Anja Light will be visiting Japan from Oct. 9 to 17 for “Life Speaks Tour”

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