Japan Slohas Tour April/May 2008

´What is enough?´ ´What is happiness?´ ´What does it really mean to live a sustainable life?´

These are some of the questions that emerged during the recent slohas tour. And the questions continued:

´What is Slohas ?´ ´Can anyone have a slohas lifestyle in a city like Tokyo?´ ´When will the old system and way of thinking give way to the new?´, ´When will the world´s richest countries be measured by their level of happiness, not their amount of GDP´, ´Will ´life´ ever be valued within this economic system?´ ´Why are the people who peacefully protest the destruction of life still persecuted´, ´Do we really want to survive?´ ´How?´

I still believe it is as important to keep asking questions than to have ´all the answers´ and that it must be in our actions, not only in words, that we search for the answers.

During the Slohas tour Pacha, Yani and I had the privelege to visit, speak and perform around Japan, as well as to share a fragment of the lives of many people and groups actively responding to these questions in the way they live. A sincere thank-you to everyone helped us throughout Japan during the slohas tour!

I am writing this from Ecuador, still pondering the same questions, in the completely different environment, culture and atmosphere of Ecuador. Here life is more intense, less controlled, easier to lose- and yet this heightened risk is what makes the present more exciting. As Pacha quickly observed ´there is more life here ´. When it comes to evolving and promoting a ´Slohas´ lifestyle here some things are much more simple - others are
complicated by the inundation of media messages and increasing govenment propaganda about what ´development´ means (jobs, industry, bridges, roads, production, mining, money).

´Slohas´ stands for : Slow Lifestyles of Happiness and Sustainability. Its definition is evolving along with our culture. It became the slogan of this tour largely to differentiate our vision from the marketing brand of ´Lohas´
(Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). We know we (in ´rich´countries) need a lifestyle that is more than an exclusive and expensive ´brand´. We want to promote a lifestyle that is available to everyone on this planet in ´rich´or ´ poor´ countries. We claim a lifestyle that is as unique and individual as every human being on this Earth. The simplest definition is
finding a way to live where we can find happiness without destroying life.
It involves communities, both local and global, it is inspired by sharing real information from direct experience. It values instinct and feeling as much as data and scientific fact.

Already more than a month has passed since the last event of the slohas tour – the opening of the new café slow in Kokobunji. This final event was an evening of deep honesty and open hearts, of feeling and of shared understanding of old friends. It was humbling to sit beside Nakamura-san and Keibo, the founders of the Sloth Club along with Carlos Zorrilla from Ecuador, reflecting on the things that bring meaning to life and re-affirming the essnce of the Sloth Club as we approach our ten year anniversary as an organisation.

Our challenge is how to hold on to that deep intention when faced with running an organisation in the ´real world´ that is still dictated by the current economic system and way of thinking. Can we really work productively with corporations whose very existence is defined by profiting from exploitation of the Earth, or people, or both? The clash of different ways of thinking, the new culture we are creating and the old one that has brought us to this state of ecological chaos, is constantly plaguing us. We will not/ can not close ourselves off in a bubble, but will stay open to this growing desire for change wherever it comes from and keep practising, experimenting and creating what it really means to create a ´slohas´ future.

As Pacha, Yani and I travelled through Tokyo, Fuji, Hamamatsu, Shin Otsu, Mt Aso, Fukuoka, Nagano, Yamanashi, Osaka, Kyoto and Okinawa, in two months of concerts, meetings and talks we reconnected with many old friends and made many new ones. Within our presentations, while centred on the theme of slohas, we also talked about Tasmania´s forests, our projects and activities in Ecuador, the G8 summit in Hokkaido, peoples action to protect Article 9 in the Japanese consitution, the long-awaited recognition of Ainu culture by the Japanese government and new definitions of ´community´. We talked about the opportunity that growing international awareness of global warming presents in making positive changes but also of the danger of accepting disasterous options like nuclear energy.

We joined Earth Day events in Tokyo and Hamamatsu and the Earth Caravan in Kyushu – watching the ecological movement that used to be ´on the margins´ enter the mainstream. We met people and groups creating eco-villages and ecologically inspired communities. We briefly joined the Earth Caravan on its mission to inspire young Earth Lovers. We visited many new places and met new groups and people who share our values and mission for a radical shift to a sustainable lifestyle - from all walks of life. We talked and performed in the growing network of ´cafe slows´ Nagano, Osaka, Hamamatsu and Tokyo. We were helped by many wonderful volunteers from the sloth club - the ´nama kuru´ from many different places in Japan.

While we were sometimes tired from moving so often, everyone was so patient with Pacha and Yani (despite their often unsettled behaviour). Among the unforgettable memories for Pacha and Yani was visiting the hotsprings in Nagano, watching monkeys bathe in the hot springs in Nagano, seeing snow in the high mountains of Nagano and joining the cool guys from ´naturelab´ who make and ride snowboards made from Japanese timber.

A highlight for me in Japan this time was to have the chance to campaign for the protection of Tasmania´s remaining wild, old growth forests, with colleagues from other NGOs. Our 3 hour meeting with the main buyers of old growth woodchips from Tasmania, along with representatives from the Tasmanian and Australian government confirmed our realisation that it is a race against time in the battle between paradigms (ways of thinking). To the industry, trees mean cash profits (for a few people), to us the precious remaining untouched, wild forests are priceless.

There was no real resolution from this meeting, except perhaps our
understanding that the corporations will really only change when their profit margin is affected. It is here that consumers in Japan may be our greatest hope - people can demand that they no longer use old growth forests to blow their nose or wipe their backsides. The more people, especially those who work in these companies, experience these forests and understand they are connected to them (in more ways than using paper) - the better chance thelast remaining forests, not only in Tasmania, but all over the world, have a chance to survive...

This tour was so much more about feeling than theories, more about questions than answers, more about what we do and how we actually live that what we say. And through music, that timeless language of the heart and soul, I hope we were able to share a glimpse of inspiration of the future we are trying create.

Memories from this tour continue to sustain us in our continuing journey to explore, practice and share a sustainable life here in Ecuador. Thanks to the generosity of audiences and organisers and the Sloth Club, we have been able to continue our travels and support projects like ´El Milagro´ in Ecuador. We look forward to sharing more questions, feelings and music when we next return to Japan!


















7/17 El Milagro!!

Dear all SLoth friends,

Pacha, Yani and I are in Quito for a night before going back down to the coast to celebrate Yani`s 5th birthday in Bahia. We just washed off days of Intag mud and sweat and horse hair (Pacha spends every spare minute with Shanti - the stallion who follows Pacha around like a big puppy!). The internet service is free at this hotel so I hope to finally get some writing done!

All went well in El Milagro over the past two weeks.
Yesterday Luis and I put up the tin to clad the upstairs section of the house...felt good to get something done. I wish I had taken a phot of us carrying 10 sheets of tin, a double bed, mattress and gas stove on horse back down the vertical paths to El Milagro - but I guess you will just have to imagine it!

I took off the bamboo (that was lining the upstairs section of the house), am burning it to strengthen it and get rid of wood borers, and will then put it back up as an inner lining. Maintaining, repairing and renovating the stone house is a priority so that it lasts longer.

It feels good to sleep in a proper bed in EL Milagro now - though with the glass still not in the window frames, we have lots of fresh air coming through and even some friendly visitors - fireflies, bats and even a hummingbird!

Luis will hopefully help finish off the windows upstairs (with glass) and build a small greenhouse. We need the greenhouse (to put up between the toilet and the stone house for drying coffee and peas, raising more seedlings (coffee and fruit trees to extend the area under agroforestry cultivation), as well as drying clothes when it rains. The greenhouse will also mean more warm dry air passes through the stone house to dry up the lower floor.
Then it is time to replace the grass roof of the round house. Hopefully this will begin before the beginning of August so that the house is useable for all volunteers (from mid August).

Carlos has said he will help get the solar sysem up and running so I can get the laptop in action when we return to El Milagro after Bahia. Slowly it is coming together - though my biggest lesson in returning to Ecuador - like always - is patience...

Now while we are in Quito I will print off the basic promotion for El Milagro volunteers to see if any other people can come and help from early August...see how it goes!

Pacha, Yani and I are all well, though still longing to stay in one place for a while! It really is a detox for us all in El Milagro with no TV, DVDs or other `corrupting` influences from modern society. The kids are starting to appreciate more simple foods again and are complaining less. In the mornings Luis has been coming to milk his cow. Pacha and Yani love helping him and drinking milk directly from the cow`s teat! I am impressed by their energy for walking - no complaints in walking (mostly uphill) for an hour to get the bus to Otavalo. The biggest problem for them (and me) is the muddy parts - I am the one who has to do the washing (by hand) when the clothes are black with mud! There has been more rain than usual in Intag recently
(not good for the coffee plants) that means there`s plenty of mud.
Love to all Sloths - we are waiting for you in Ecuador!

For Life, anja.