No individual, group or object of any kind on the blue-green marble we call Earth has existence independent from ecosystems, says the philosopher Timothy Morton. Neither is there an abstract, separate entity called “Nature” that is separate from the uglier or more synthetic elements of human life. Understanding this is what Morton calls “ecological thought'.
If we don’t feel connected with our soil, oceans, plants, trees and her inhabitants till the smallest micro-level – if we don't feel a part of the system – why would we care? HOW could we care? Why would we make all those decisions to fly less, skip meat or invest in sustainable products? We have to feel connected, and care before we think differently, act differently and protect the things we love. Within a few decades the majority of humans will live in cities, disconnecting in everyday life from environments where other species, plants and trees dominate the area.
In this blog I would like to share the amazing story from artist Olaf Boswijk, DJ and founder Trouw Amsterdam who reconnected in their own way with nature.
Olaf Boswijk is a DJ, traveler and entrepreneur. As music programmer and resident at Club 11, then the the man who set up Trouw and then founded De School, his contributions are woven into global electronic music culture. He has played a distinct role in Amsterdam's position as one of the capitals for electronic music today.
Three years ago he started to travel with his wife and yellow van Balthasar from Canada to Patagonia. What started as an idea for a one year sabbatical, turned into a three year trip and a fundamental change in the way he sees the world and his role in it. Boswijk was inspired by the beautiful landscapes and wild nature of the Americas, but shocked by the devastating effects of climate change and globalisation. Being away from the comfortable urban and Western lifestyle he was used to gave him time to reflect and research into how they could use their knowledge and skills to contribute to a more holistic approach on the relationship between man and nature. By reading books from Alan Watts, Naomi Klein, Arne Naess, Alexander von Humboldt and Doughnut Economics from Kate Raworth during his travels his vision on climate change, our connection with nature and consumerism all tranformed. All of this came together in the idea of starting an artist residency in a remote area in Chile. A place for artists to reconnect with themselves and nature and let nature be inspiration for their work.
ADE: You reconnected with nature during your ongoing travels since three years ago. Can you tell us how this has changed your ways of thinking?
OB: Being in wilderness and vast desolate landscapes, away from urban societies and our online devices, gives me energy, insight, strength and a feeling of being a part of something bigger. It makes you humble, less ego- and career-driven. In many ways it gave me the opportunity to reconnect with myself and nature (which I am also part of) and to fall in love with it again. That falling in love and renewed appreciation for nature, really woke me up in the sense that I feel compelled to use whatever I can to do something positive to influence our relationship with nature. You need to love something before you can protect it.
ADE: A majority of humans will live in cities in the near future. What effect do you think this will have on the human relation with nature?
OB: That's a tough one. It's hard to understand, let alone feel, the connection with nature when you are in a busy day job in a city. But everything we do, eat, produce, etc is somehow connected to nature. We are made mostly of water, we breathe air, we eat food, we use fossil fuels to drive our cars or heat our houses, the list goes on and one. In my view, wether we live in cities or not, human race will have to redefine its relation to the planet – the very source of our existence – in order to sustain life on this planet. If we cannot do that, and continue to put economic growth and technological innovation first, regardless of the consequences for man, animal, plants and planet, we will simply go extinct.
ADE: What would be your solution for people to reconnect with nature?
OB: There are many ways to do this. The most simple one is to breathe and pay attention to your breath. You could call this meditation, but it is the most simple way to connect again with yourself and your surroundings. Other ways are taking a long walk – forests work best – doing outdoor sports, yoga, swimming, bike rides, take a moment to look up at the sky. Nature is everywhere if you look around you and are curious enough to notice it. I also like to think that nurturing friendships, family, the community or networks you are part of is a way to think and actually act more ecological. These networks are also a form of nature and need time and attention to survive, especially in our busy fast-paced online lives.
You still perform as a DJ. Are you using your power of speech as an artist to inspire and activate your audience regarding environmental issues.
Yes, I am trying to, although this is hard. If you look at the world in general, but specifically electronic music, we are so used to travel a lot by plane. We expect DJs to perform in 3 different countries every weekend, which obviously is not a sustainable idea. I have the feeling more artists and promotors are open to discussing this, but it is still a sensitive and also complex topic, because how do you create meaningful change in your footprint when you are a successful artist? by not flying? CO2 compensation is often controversial and it doesn't change the root of the problem.
I believe artists give something positive to the world, they inspire and can bring people together. we need to maintain that, whilst reducing our footprint drastically. One way could be to champion local scenes more, just like we do with food. We want to eat organic, seasonal, local produce right? perhaps we can apply these principles to our music scenes. I think Amsterdam has a stronger scene than ever and could be a frontrunner for this.
Could you tell us more about your plans to start an artist-in-residence scheme in Chile? We are in the process of starting an artist residency, or in our words: a refugio for art and research. it's located in a remote valley in Southern Chile – northern Patagonia – surrounded by a volcanic mountain range, a glacier, waterfalls, native forest and bordering Conguillio National Park. the project is aimed to offer artists, scientists, ecologists, philosophers and other makers and doers a place to find connection or reconnection with nature, time for research and space for artistic development. we facilitate research on and the development of new perspectives on the relationship between man and nature and additionally it seeks to develop an alternative, inclusive and artist-led model for nature conservation.
Do you have any advice, ideas or encouragement to give our readers? I would like to encourage everyone to reconsider their relationship with nature and perhaps re-establish the connection that is naturally there already. This is different and personal for everyone, of course. Like I said earlier, it's about taking the time to notice it around you and within and many of the activities I mentioned earlier can help foster the relationship. Who knows it might change the way you see the world.
I think it's very important to move away from the fatalism and the negative scenarios that we will be doomed as a species anyway. We are facing huge and complex challenges, but a little bit of lightness and good spirit go a long way. But it has to be focused in the right direction. So I would like to encourage everyone to reconsider their relationship with nature and perhaps re-establish the connection that is naturally there already. This is different and personal for everyone ofcourse. Like I said earlier, it's about taking the time to notice it around you and within and many of the activities I mentioned earlier can help foster that relationship. Who knows it might change the way you see the world and inspire you to take action in your own life.