Just someone who believes that a Vertical Farm, in all its beauty and magnificence, can become an icon of change.
Just someone who believes that a Vertical Farm, in all its beauty and magnificence, can become an icon of change.
I’m an applied Bio-engineer from Belgium who has been on a vertical farming quest since 2012. I combine my love for vertical farming with the passion for strategy, rhetoric & (international) collaboration to help transform our society into a healthy ecosystem.
In order to get to this advanced civilisation where Sapiens & the rest of Nature co-exist and thrive, I believe that we must create globally interconnected communities that uphold the ecosystem-values and mindset.
Via Urban and Vertical Farming we can do this by building community owned AMI-systems (AMI = Aquaponics, Mushrooms & insects). These high tech food producing ecosystems mimic nature’s complexity, and use “waste” to create food, community & life.
Or in other words:
I’m just someone who believes that a Vertical Farm, in all its beauty and magnificence, can become an icon of change.
Somewhere in 2012, I started imagining myself on top of futuristic vertical farm skyscraper. All this imagining, initiated a wild and adventurous period in my life. I climbed to high peaks of success, to then fall into deep lows of depression, and back.
It was a good 8 years.
I learned so much!
And now….Now it is time to build on that. What will I build? I can’t tell you yet because I now feel that I want to be less goal-oriented, and more process-oriented.
You can find the things that I am writing and doing via the following links:
So, that was it, beautiful people! This Vertical Farming quest has come to an end. Now the time has come to write some different stories.
With lots of love
ps: I wrote a personal piece on why the urban mushroom farm failed. It turned out to be 7 pages of prose with a deep analyses of ourselves and the company. I thought it might help future urban farmers, yet my co-founder didn’t want me to release it to the public. Still, If you’re interested in the piece, “The glorious mistakes that caused the downfall of Pad en Stoel”. Let me know why and I just might send it to you.
“The flaws that kill our democracy” really impressed me.
Klaas distilled 4 years of passionate research and thorough thinking into 109 pages with only the most important technical and historical information. You will need all of your focus and attention to completely comprehend what he’s saying – but it’s all worth it because this book has the potential to become a milestone in history by fundamentally improving politics and democracy.
For this review – I will discuss four things that I believe are the essence of this book!
Article 42 of the Belgian constitution: So simple yet so difficult!
The flaws that kill our democracy: Exclusivity and centralisation.
An upgraded parliament: How can our democracy work better by being more inclusive and decentralised
An upgraded book: Some ideas for the next versions!
(1) Article 42 of the Belgian Constitution
I’m pretty sure every decent democratic country has this in its constitution in one way or another. It is a simple describing how democracy should be:
Article 42: “The members of both chambers represent the nation and not only their own electors”.
This seems so obvious! Yet if you look at most international democratic politics, it’s hard to imagine that there are a lot of politicians upholding these values. There is an increasing polarisation and the bubble effect is more true than ever. The below graph is a beautiful proof of this. It’s the evolution of the level of agreement in the US congress from 1949 to 2011.
It seems obvious that when people get elected, it is their job to make good decisions for all the people. For this a high level of agreement and connection is required. However, The current evolutions of polarisation show the opposite. Which simply means that there is something undermining our democracy.
Klaas Mensaert – wisely – chose not to attack the integrity of politicians. He went to look for the fundamental driving forces behind this concerning evolution. He shows in a very clear way that the best players of a certain game are the product of the rules of that game. Just like you will never have a healthy democratic government in Monopoly, as long as the rules of monopoly reward having a monopoly. Some of the rules of our current democracies are rewarding behaviours (like polarisation) that directly undermine democracy itself.
(2) The flaws that kill our democracy: Exclusivity and Centralisation
Klaas Mensaert builds a firm case around the flaws in his first two chapters. He does this by referring to other researchers and thinkers. The main ones being Nassim Taleb (author of “Antifragile”) and Moisey Yakovlevich Ostrogorsky (a politician far ahead of his time in 1902). Via all these references, Klaas thoroughly describes what the problems are, and distills them to Exclusivity and Centralisation.
“Centralisation is the process by which the activities of an organisation become concentrated within a particular geographical location group. This moves the important decision-making and planning powers within the center of the organisation.” (Wikipedia of course).
Centralisation is not good or bad. It has its pro’s and con’s. It is just very important to know that – just like a computer – a centralised parliament has a maximum processing capacity. The bigger the organisation or country, the more information and activities there are to process. And the harder it becomes to take everything into account and make the right decisions.
In our increasingly globalised and connected world, there is an enormous amount of information. And democracy has not yet learned how to deal with this. It is lagging behind.
This centralisation-problem is amplified because of the second flaw in our democracy: Politicians waste precious information-processing power on polarisation caused by exclusivity.
What if you’d have to choose one shop every 4 years, and you could only shop at that store for the next 4 years? This would put an enormous amount of pressure on the chooser, and even more it would put an enormous amount of pressure on the shop, because that store has to provide everything.
In politics we can also only vote for one party, and that puts an enormous amount of pressure on the parties. Each party has to have an answer to everything. Each party has to be as good as the whole government itself.
You’d think this is good, but it’s not. You want a government to be amazing, but you don’t need its parts to be good at everything. Just like a rocket engineer doesn’t need to be amazing at business. The most successful rocket companies put their brilliant rocket engineers together with business people, marketeers, sales, software engineers,… and so on.
The basic idea: We need more specialised solutions in order to run a country, not less! With political exclusivity our democracy loses a lot of specialised knowledge, ideas and insights.
And it gets even worse if you combine exclusivity and centralisation.
While there are probably more than a 1000 issues in a country. Elections are being won over only a handful of those issues. This is extremely fragile and can get us into extremely dangerous situations. Like Klaas Mensaert says it in his book: It’s quite troubling that we still have more or less the same political system with which the NAZI’s rose to power.
Luckily, In his last chapter Klaas describes how we can evolve into a more healthy and antifragile democracy.
(3) An upgraded parliament
So how do we build an antifragile political system that is more inclusive and more decentralised? Or simply said: How do we upgrade our parliaments to act as a well oiled team that has a much higher processing power?
Klaas Mensaert describes how this can be done with only two changes: Two types of representatives, two different ways of electing them.
To improve democracy we should have two types of representatives: party-representatives and people’s representatives.
Party-representatives are the ones we already know. They have a specific ideology, a specific goal or a specific speciality. Because we want inclusivity of more specialised knowledge and insights, we want a wide variety of parties that are specialised in a wide variety of subjects. This has a couple of very interesting side effects:
Politics becomes more transparent. Organisations that are now influencing politics behind the scenes via lobbying are now incentivised to publicly join the political debate. Lobbying people’s representatives behind the scenes can also be criminalised.
Ideological and utopian thinking becomes less dominant. Voters can vote for as many parties as they want. In this way you can be for a free market, but also want social and ecological justice. Everyone can vote on what’s important for them.
You might think: “Even more parties? This is going to be mayhem!”. But nothing is further from the truth because parties will not have decision power. The decisions are made by the people’s representatives.
The people’s representatives are not tied to any party and are inherently obliged to listen to all the ideas of the representatives of the elected parties. Their job is to pick the best ideas and to make the best decisions for the good of all (Article 42).
What makes the people’s representatives truly an interesting upgrade for democracy, is the fact that next to voting for them, you can also vote against them.
The “voting against” is something I have seen with Christian Felber’s economy of the common good. It causes decision-making to be much more equal, stable and just. I can therefore only applaud the fact that Klaas incorporates a similar way in his proposal for an upgraded democracy
Next to being more equal and just, “Voting against” has a very important benefit: The connecting politicians get more power, the polarising ones get less.
As examples: Trump would never have gotten elected because there’s too many US citizens “against” him. The same is probably true for Bernie Sanders. In Europe – the extreme right that’s on the rise everywhere, would never get the amount of power they have now. Simply because at least half of the population does not want to be represented by an extreme ideology like this.
This does not mean that these voices should not be present and listened to. Many different ideologies have to be present to compete with each other. It will improve each party and therefore the whole government. Still – the ultimate decisions should be made by the people that link all voters and ideologies as much as possible.
When you get the specialised party representatives and the connecting people’s representatives into one government, that government will become more decentralised and more inclusive. This government has a higher processing power and will be more capable, better connected and, of course, more democratic.
(4) An upgraded book
What good is a book review if you don’t have at least some constructive feedback to help improve it for the next print. Here’s two points I have for improving the book.
Frame the solution by using the solution
One big improvement I immediately saw was the framing of the third chapter. Framing the solution, by using the solution would give an extra layer to the book.
Klaas should frame the third chapter as a political proposal by one party, which then would be criticised and improved with the help of the other parties (more ideas and more insights). In the end he could describe how this proposal has to be voted upon by the people’s representatives.
It would give this book an even higher level of genius, while actually making it easier for us (the readers) to grasp the idea.
A possible way forward
What Klaas also doesn’t mention in his book, is a way forward. What steps could be taken to get to this upgraded democracy?
I shall propose an idea here just because I like to think about this stuff. This idea would definitely work in Belgium (which has more than 10 parties in its federal parliament).
A simple way forward is to start a new party that walks the talk. A new party that specializes like a party, and acts as people’s representatives.
The specialisation is to make the political system more inclusive and decentralised. Andits elected representatives would act as the connecting people’s representatives. This party Listens to all the insights of the current parties and their opinions, deciding which solutions are the most useful for specific problems. Basically – if there’s more than one party that you like, you just vote for this new party.
This could work in many other democratic countries, other countries will need other ways forward.
Klaas Mensaert thoroughly did his research and thinking. He wrote this book in such a way that it could be referred to by many people in many different democratic systems. After reading this book you will understand that exclusivity and centralisation have had their time, and that Inclusivity and decentralisation are the way to go for a healthy democratic country.
Yes, this book has the potential to start a wave that will shift the foundations of our democracies.
Are you interested in politics or are you a fan of democracy, then this book is a MUST READ for you.
Everyone always talks about sustainability, yet why is it taking so damn long to actually get to a societal state that we can call truly sustainable?
The ways to get there are pretty simple, yet require a whole lotta courage, ingenuity, and persistence. Traits that the current powerhouses all over the world seem to have major shortages off. Time to unite into the Fundation Nation and beat those old systems and organisations at their own game.
Change – Let’s embed “change” as a fundamental value in our everyday thinking, in the way we live our lives and in the systems that build up our societies!
Ecosystems Ecosystems Ecosystems – The only thing that is resilient and strong enough to support change are healthy ecosystems. Let’s build stronger social, economic and ecological ecosystems.
The cooperative economy – An amazing way to change the “values” of a global society. It’s faster and better than the current predominant societal systems!
A strategy is only as good as the plan and the people executing it.
In this article you shall find out all about a practical application of the strategy on how humanity can thrive: The fundation nation. Together we will go through its explanation, goals, components, flow and some FAQ. And of course – you are also invited to improve and join the fundation nation.
There’s already an enormous amount of amazing projects that are changing the world. Yet they’re fighting a battle they cannot win on their own. To amplify the impact of these individual initiatives we need to unite and organise on a larger scale. We need to train our collective intelligence to influence the global economy. In this way we can change the current normality to a place where people, planet & profit are truly equal!
The Fundation Nation
Fund – Money is one of the most important drivers in today’s society. We will be “putting our money where our mouth is”.
Foundation – When you build a house, you start with its foundations. Let’s make the fundamental needs of humanity truly sustainable. And like Kate Raworth in Doughnut Economics, let’s use the UN sustainable development goals for that social foundation.
Fun – A reference to the Happonomy. Because “happy is the new rich”.
Nation – This is something we need to do together! To compete with the grand lobbies of unsustainable powerhouses we need to have a high degree of collective intelligence. Let’s take cooperation and togetherness to the next level.
If we know our destination, we can better focus on the path. Anno 2019 the goals are:
Get minimum 20 people and 5 organisations together to start up the cooperative fund, agree on a way forward, write it down and make a constitution. After all, this is a nation. (1 month after departure)
Hone the strategy and make an extremely specific plan with smart goals, projects, processes, roles, responsibilities and all the other things a good organisation/nation has. (6 months AD)
Get €1.000.000 and Invest in 5 to 10 companies (12 months AD)
Reflection-time! Is it working? Is the happiness, the collective intelligence, the ecological impact and the economic impact high enough? Is the collective strong enough? (18 months AD)
The fundation nation has 800 people (spread over 50-200 organisations) and €43.000.000 to invest in those organisations, especially companies. (24 months AD)
Implement a new and sustainable monetary system that can expand beyond the fundation nation and its ecosystem. If this is not a goal, then we’re not serious about solving the global challenges. (3 years AD)
PS: These goals can evolve with the strategy. New knowledge & experience must always be taken into account.
The organisation of our ecosystem
We’ve got a strategy and 6 smart goals. The time has come to talk about the organisation of the Fundation nation ecosystem. It consists of 5 specific components that connect to each other in specific ways.
The companies that make products or offer services that help make this world more sustainable.
The cooperative fund that “democratically” manages the money and guides the different companies.
The think tank that is in charge of ever evolving the strategy of the fundation nation.
The SEPO’s, forSocial & Ecological Profit Organisations. No business models, just plain old making-the-world-better-philanthropy.
The people of the fundation nation. Ultimately always more important than any of the above structures/organisations.
The success of each organisations can be measured with determined sustainability-metrics.
The fundamental Companies
These companies function in the traditional marketplace and are social and ecological sustainability pioneers with energy, food, transport, housing, education,…, Examples:
The social and ecological impact is be measured via specific metrics. Examples:
Renewable energy produced
Amount of people fed, housed
Biodiversity per area
Amount of community events
Preferably these are also cooperatives.
The Fundation Nation has democratic access to the general meetings and to the board. If the company is not a cooperative on its own, 50% of the board is elected by the people in the fundation nation (an idea derived from the companization model)
The companies of course also have a representative in the cooperative Fund
The Cooperative Fund
This is the democratic organ that owns the collective money. The fund decides and votes on how the ecosystem will be empowered. It is also a way for societal issues and challenges to be brought to light.
It funds the socio-ecological companies that take care of the fundamental needs of society.
It is democratically owned by all cooperants and decides:
Where Funds flow
What happens with the Return on Investment (ROI) of all companies combined.
Which SEPO’s to empower
Organises community events for the people of the fundation nation
This is the brains of the collective intelligence of the ecosystem, it causes all components to work as one. It consists of the “intellectuals” and “elders” of the nation. People that think and act like Kate Raworth, Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk and Jane Goodall.
Every x amount of years (preferably x = 2) they create an updated version of the strategy for the ecosystem (long and short term). This could be in the form of a book, video-series, events,…
The Think-Tank supports the Cooperative Fund with research on specific topics
The Think-Tank has a bigger share in votes within the cooperative fund. We hate to say it out of political correctness, but experts generally have a better understanding of the whole ecosystem and what needs to be done.
The brain of the ecosystem looks for needed innovation to strengthen the nation. A percentage of the Return on Investment (ROI) is allocated to the creation of new companies.
SEPO = Social and Ecological Profit Organisations. These organisations have a huge impact that traditional economy completely ignores. What is the ROI of volunteers helping elderly people? What’s the ROI of people planting a forest? What’s the ROI of people organising events or concerts?
Impossible to financially measure, yet infinitely important for a society to function. That’s why the Fundation Nation systematically spends a part of its ROI on philanthropy. It goes towards food, education, healthcare, equality, experiments, events, nature,…
These investments have no financial returns, yet their impact on the fundation nation ecosystem can be measured via the ecological and social metrics, similar to the ones of the companies.
Via the SEPO’s, people who cannot buy into the cooperative are empowered to become shareholders. In that way they can become part of the Fundation Nation and enjoy all its benefits.
The reason the ecosystem exists in the first place. If all goes well, we live in a fundamentally better world that has healthier food, more nature, cleaner energy, better housing, more efficient mobility, open education and whatever we think is important.
Every person is a co-owner and has a voice in the fund and/or in specific companies.
When the collective wins, every individual wins! This happens via the combined ROI, every person gets a part of it.
When the new monetary system is implemented, there is a universal basic income for everyone.
Via a democratic cooperative Fund that is strengthened by a Think-Tank, we will use our collective money to invest in sustainable companies that provide the fundamental needs for us all.
By using the money-language of today, in combination with a high collective intelligence, we can create a strong ecosystem where socio-ecological standards are as high as the financial ones. We will make equity and sustainability the new normal and spread it throughout the world.
The return on investment is used wisely to strengthen the whole ecosystem via innovation and via systematic philanthropy. With a new monetary system we will be able to reverse social injustice and regenerate the ecological damage that has been done.
The Fundation Nation, standing strong in a world of competition and intolerance, will expand and lead us into a world where each and everyone will be able to thrive.
Together, we CAN change the world.
ps: Want to join the efforts to create the fundation nation – call me: firstname.lastname@example.org ps2: know something like this that already exists. Let me know: email@example.com
“Will it work?“
We’ll will only know for sure when we do this!
“It sounds a lot like a society as it is working today“
Completely correct. You can see the cooperative fund as a government and the ROI for SEPO’s as subsidies. The reason that the Fundation Nation exists is to fundamentally change the economy and society where the current powerhouses are failing, lack the courage or are too slow. In an ideal scenario the current societal components will be able to follow or be faster than the Fundation Nation in changing the inequalities in society.
However, we’re taking power into our own hands because we’re pretty sure they won’t be able to change fast enough. Moreover, we’re not willing to bet our lives and the health of this planet on it.
“So if I invest €10.000.000, someone who only invested €1000 can also decide what happens to my money?”
Completely correct. It is the fundamental idea behind equity and equality. The fact that you have €10.000.000 and the other person only €1000 is most probably because you had at least one type of advantage over the other. This could be rich parents, good physical and/or mental health, amazing genes, good education, good looks, good upbringing,… There’s 1000 possibilities why you got more lucky than someone else.
Of course, there will be some rules, agreements and systems to make sure there’s no abuse and people free-riding on your money or hard work. Yet the basic principle remains when it comes to climate justice and ending poverty: We’re all in this together. Let’s empower each other to make everyone help everyone!
“Will there be conflict of interest within the fundation nation”
We’re all human and there’s a selfish part in all of us. One of the goal of the fundation nation is to create a system where the cooperative, empathic and social part of us, is being stimulated.
For sure there will be politics in the fundation nation, and for sure people will want their organisation to be funded or their plan to be executed. Even at the expense of the health of the collective. We will have to deal with this and stand strong in our beliefs and goals.
Let’s embrace it and see it as an invitation to learn, to heal and to become stronger.
“Is there a maximum of people/organisations”
It is hard to say this for sure, yet most probably: yes. When the fundation nation grows too big, a new, connecting organisation will have to be created that organises multiple organisations similar to the fundation nation. This could work hierarchically (which is not necessarily bad if done in the right way with the right people), or possibly with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) which will enable us to reach an even higher level of collective intelligence.
“What happens if the fundation nation fails?”
Whatever the outcome, it will be an amazing experiment that will resonate through the ages. Even if the fundation nation fails we’ll have an enormous amount of knowledge and experience that will have a huge impact on the world.
ps: Want to join the efforts to create the fundation nation – call me: firstname.lastname@example.org ps2: know something like this that already exists. let me know: email@example.com
I was raised by a feminist mother who made me aware of the whole patriarchy-issue since I was very young. This unique upbringing caused me to struggle with my own masculinity for most of my life, but luckily for me, I found the seed of peace when I realised that there was a huge contradiction within the patriarchy, and the fight against it. I learned that women are also causing the Patriarchy.
For this post I invite you to be open-minded and to bear with me while I take you through what I learned about this whole debacle. Let us together find the liberating truth that is hidden within the paradox of the patriarchy. And let us together find a better strategy that will get us to the next level: a society with TRUE equality!
First of all I want to say:
The patriarchy is real! Our society today values masculine traits much more than feminine ones. We think this is normal because we have been conditioned through our culture, our politics, our economy and the rest of our environment. And because this is the current standard, there are many injustices towards women. Luckily for us, I already wrote a post on how to deal with privilege and injustice: How to deal with white male privilege.
A unique point of view
As said before, my unique viewpoint on this subject comes from the fact that I was raised by a feminist mother. And although my mother was and is an amazing woman who taught me great respect for women, I did not learn gender equality. Like with many people fighting for equality, the focus was too much on the oppressor and hence I learned contempt for the oppressor.
So when I grew up, I unwillingly learned to dislike the oppressor. Which means I grew up disliking men. I grew up disliking myself and my own masculinity.
Needless to say this fucked up my love live during my childhood, puberty and my young adolescent life. This was because I was afraid to look women in the eye, I was afraid to touch them, I was afraid to flirt, I was afraid to seduce. Basically I was afraid that my masculinity was going to offend women.
Many men have been struggling with the same issue since the #MeToo-movement. But for me, this idea had been engraved in my subconscious like a die-hard dogma.
Fortunately for me, around the age of 26, I saw the contradiction in the patriarchy and the liberating truth that lies within it. It set me on a long 7-year-quest where I learned to reprogram myself. I learned how to see myself equal to women, I learned to look them in the eye, to touch them, to seduce them, to talk to them without being submissive or oppressive, and moreover, I started to love my masculinity!
This also taught me a lot of empathy because I now realise how our upbringing really affects our way of thinking and acting: How does having a super-macho-father effect you? Or what’s the effect is of a super-submissive mother?….
Thus, because of my unique self-empowerment-quest I finally understand what true gender equality means, and how it can be better for both women & men!
The paradox of the patriarchy
It’s actually very simple to show you the Paradox in the Patriarchy. Pay attention to the subsequent picture for 10 seconds, and observe how it makes you feel.
If all went well you saw a picture of a person’s silhouette surrounded by Good-looking women. These attractive women have a special impact. I like to call this effect “the privilege of the beautiful female”. And this privilege is not caused by culture, it is a product of our psychological evolution. It has been passed on for millions of years and if you’re like most people (not blocked by traumas or dogmas that make you think the opposite) these pictures should have caused the following:
As a biological Man you look up to that person in the middle. Or if you feel strong/worthy enough, you’d probably compete with that person to be in his place.
As a biological women you are extremely interested about the person in the middle of the other women. Your biology is telling you: “If other females of my species are interested, this is probably a good partner”
Now, the time has come for the 2nd part of understanding the paradox in the patriarchy. What if I told you that the person you wanted to be, or the person you wanted to be with… was
but our good friend
and known misogynist:
Okay….I know this is quite a shock for you. You just wanted to be Donald Trump, or you just wanted to be with him…It’s okay…just breathe.
Let’s not fight our biology. Accepting this is part of the solution to get to true equality. In the acceptance lies personal peace and the ability to go to the next question, the cultural question: “Why do these women do this, why do they support a known misogynist?”
Stephanie Hermant, a friend and a die-hard feminist fighting for equality, explained it like this: “those women are empowering themselves”
Henry Gordon-Smith, another Friend from NYC who’s very involved with the topic as he is leading a company with many women, says: “Men throughout history have been forcing women to do this, because of this cultural history these women are also being forced to do this”
I do agree with both explanations
I feel there’s a part of the truth missing. I feel that we are making excuses for these women and making excuses is ALWAYS disempowering. While we want to do the opposite, right?
So let’s look at the part of the truth that is missing. Most of us are already thinking it, yet it is hard to utter. So I’m just going to say it:
These women, right there on the above picture, these women don’t give a shit about gender equality. They only care about themselves and how they can get the best life possible. They’re selfish.
This is the paradox of the Patriarchy: Next to the fact that many power-hungry and unconscious men are enforcing it, there’s an enormous amount of women who are doing the same. Men AND Women alike are reinforcing the current ways of the patriarchy
The seed of truth hidden within: The patriarchy is not a gender issue, not a war between sexes, it is a crisis of personal values.
Choose your values wisely
Each and every day we choose what we say and do, and this reflects our values.
The women in the above picture made a very conscious choice to be there with this powerful misogynist. It reflects that they care a lot about money & material wealth.
Me, I put my effort in ecosystem urban farming and changing the food system so that everyone has more access to healthy food and a healthy life in sync with nature. This, I hope, reflects that I value community and nature.
Each and every day we all have the power to choose what we say and what we do and it reflects our values every time.
We choose what we wear, we choose what we eat and drink, we choose our friends and lovers, we choose our jobs and employers, yes, we even choose our politicians. We also choose to question our conditioning and to break through our dogmas. We choose to change and what our life and the world around us looks like.
And yes I acknowledge: there’s a such thing as privilege and some people have much more choices than others. Next to that, some choices are also extremely hard to make and require a lot of courage
Yet, the truth remains that we ALWAYS have the power to make some choice in one way or another.
At the moment most people in power thrive on the ways of the patriarchy. Still, it is within our abilities to empower the considerable amount of men and women who are living and breathing the ways of equality. We can choose to lift them up to have more influence in shaping our world.
With every CHOICE we vote to support the current status quo of the patriarchy and oppression, or we opt to take little nibbles out of the grand structures of society that cause systematic injustices.
We can choose to remain the same, or we can choose a more equal civilisation.
We are the solution
Because of my feminist mother I had a unique early life with specific personal struggles about gender equality. This caused me to learn about the patriarchy and see the great paradox within: Next to men, there are an extensive amount of women reinforcing the patriarchy. This shows that the problem is not a gender-issue, but a crisis of values.
The solution to true equality is therefore quite simple: We, together, can choose our way out of the patriarchy towards true equality.
We all have the power to choose to make our lives and the lives of others better. If enough of us come together and choose the path of true equality, we have the power to shape a society where this is the norm.
When we choose to have a civilisation like that, there’s literally nothing we cannot do.
Infused with political genes, bio-engineer Zjef Van Acker has helped kickstart several initiatives to transform our society into a healthy ecosystem. He’s an urban mushroom grower, hobbyist philosopher and vertical farming pundit, researching the AMI model. Discover what those letters stand for, and his thoughts on our modern food economy, in this episode.
A vertical farm Pundit? Awesome!
Anyway – just wanted to share this with you. Lsten to the podcast via this link, and definitely check out the other tomorrow.people episodes!
Stay Awesome and Keep on Growing!
ps: Got some feedback that I have a good radio-voice. You think so too?
Recently, student climate activists have been shaking up Europe. They are not the first ones to try and change the “mainstream world”, and I’m pretty sure they will not be the last. But this time is different. I feel that for the first time in history, the group of people that want to reverse climate change have enough support and momentum to make an actual change.
However, when I look at the Climate Activists, politicians and business leaders, I feel there’s no common ground in the grand scheme of things. There’s not really a long term plan or strategy that unites them all. And that’s exactly what we need to take this to the next level: a common strategy.
A strategy for politicians to base themselves on, for entrepreneurs to work towards and for everyone to believe in.
So yeah – seeing all of this I was screaming at my television:
COOOMOONNN, IT’S SO SIMPLE…. DON’T YOU SEEEE?
And…yeah…apparently they don’t yet. So I just started writing a piece that turned into a paper. A paper that’s a start for a common and global strategy, and maybe a book. Who knows what the future will hold. And I hope that this paper will help everyone in the debate to find each other and cooperate.
This paper contains the insights and information I have gathered for over 6 years (since a little bit before the beginning of this blog). The proposed strategy is based on 3 pillars:
The only constant is change – Let’s embed “change” as a fundamental value in our everyday thinking, the way we live our lives and in the systems that build up our societies!
Ecosystems Ecosystems Ecosystems – The only thing that is resilient and strong enough to support change are ecosystems. Let’s build stronger social, economic and ecological ecosystems.
The cooperative economy – An amazing way to change the “values” of a global society, faster and better than the current predominant societal systems!
And now, I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer. Here’s the Brain Child I put together this last month, out of necessity and just for fun! Without further ado:
The gender and racial equality debate has been on my mind for many years. I’ve been attracted to the discussion because this has been an issue for some of my closest relatives, friends and lovers. But maybe even most of all it is because for 98% of my life I’ve never ever felt like a person in a powerful position. Nope, I even subconsciously hated myself for being…a white man (I’m not saying I didn’t have privileges, I’m just saying I didn’t feel them).
So after carefully investigating the whole controversy and exercising some self-love, I feel I have come to a point where I can write this chapter. Some will say it makes sense, some will be offended and say it’s not my place to talk about this. Whatever your opinion is, I’d love to hear it because it is my intent to head in the direction of more equality.
I’ll start this chapter with what I understand from this whole dispute, then I’ll get to what I feel is missing to get to decent equality, and lastly we’ll get to some actual steps on how to peacefully deal with the whole (white male) privilege thing.
The issue as I understand it
It seems that due to historical reasons, male dominance and patriarchy are big contributors to lots of inequality in the world. Most positions of power are taken by (white) men and it’s what we see confirmed all around us: In movies, on the news and in our everyday lives. We all take this in subconsciously and therefore most of us automatically see white men more as political or business leaders, more than we see women or people of color to take the same positions. This is the current “normal”.
Many empowerment-movements are slowly changing this “normal” by spreading lots of awareness. The goal: To have a diverse set of global and local leaders, chosen for their competence as leaders, rather than the subconscious benefits they get because of specific traits like their gender and race.
The inquiry of the empowerment-movements is for white men to notice their benefits and at times, take a step back to let others take positions of power. Hence in time, we will get to a more equal and diverse set of people in power. So that in time, we can subconsciously see everyone as a leader, not only white men. The new “normal”.
The missing part
Now I feel there’s something missing here, the reasoning behind this is 2-fold:
(1) Taking a step back as a person in power requires A LOT of integrity and courage. Which in my opinion is a great quality as a leader…hence…the ones that actually take a step back as a leader are the ones that we need to have in positions of power. A beautiful contradiction that brings me to the second part of my issue in this debate
(2) Most of us choose what we will wear every day. Most of us choose what we eat and the products we buy, we decide which companies/organisations we buy from, and we choose the ones we work for. Most of us choose who our friends and our lovers are, and most of us choose who our local and global leaders are. The point is….we choose a lot, we choose every single moment on how the world around us will look.
What I’m getting at is that it is not only white men who are in power because they have a privilege and they take power just because they can. There are also an enormous amount of not-white-men who support these men to be in power. And even if those people choose to support those men because they have been subconsciously fed with the idea that they are the right men to be in power…only they themselves actually hold the power to break that vicious circle. They hold the power to surround themselves with other men.
SO I would state that to overcome the many inequalities, to get to a more diverse and right set of leaders,…it is not only the white men’s responsibility to change that. I would state that it is the responsibility of everyone who is able to choose the right people to surround themselves with, the right people to support, and the right people to empower.
Two important remarks about this part
(1) What I aim to do is not to get rid of my responsibility and to transfer it to others…NOPE…I’m actually sharing with you all how I seek my own empowerment in the most ethical way. This actually leads me to have more responsibilities, not less.
(2) When I talk about actively making the right choices. I’m not talking about the quick-fix-kind-of-choices. I’m talking about long term recurring choices and habits. Some can take a month to have effect, others years, and the most systemic issues might even take generations to change. But it all starts with the 1 choice you make in the many single moments that make up “your life”.
How to ethically deal with (white male) privilege
Time to get down to business and get some guidelines on how to deal with the whole issue.
First – know yourself and feel the other. I love a good fight, and even when I’m losing a fight I see a win-win because I’m learning. But there are times when I draw lines for myself & for others.
Recently I was in a discussion with a former romantic girlfriend about this whole debate. At one point in the dispute she reacted very heavily to the fact that I questioned the whole white-male-privilege concept (because I had never really liked being a white-male). At that point she bluntly told me: “You have white male privilege so shut up”, and she walked away. This of course enraged me as I was in a very vulnerable moment and I didn’t feel heard. My blood was boiling and the adrenaline was raging through my body, but instead of using it to get into a more messier fight…I just backed of and made a facebook-post about it (which taught me a lot too).
The point is: I knew her and I knew I had to back off. I knew myself and I knew what the anger and adrenaline could destroy if I pointed it specifically at her. Now we were both bloodied and hurt, but we lived, learned and were not traumatised (I hope).
Second – privilege as advantage.
When someone tells you “You have privilege”, don’t get defensive…because, you have nothing to defend. Privilege is not a bad or good thing, it’s just a specific advantage you have…. Be it money, education, your good looks, or the fact that your skin-color or gender is generally associated with leadership… That advantages you havecan be turned into power, and power is simply put: responsibility.
What you do with that responsibility, that is up to you and will define you as a human being.
Do you use the advantage to gain more power and attention, and make others serve you…wellll, in my opinion that makes you a kind of an asshole. I for one would not like to be in your care.
Do you use your power to listen to others, to restore the planet’s ecosystem and/or to empower your fellow human beings to live happy and fulfilling lives,… Then I’d trust you much more to make good decisions for me.
The almighty Lucie Evers broke this even down further into a step by step guide:
Look at power in a different way. Be aware of your influence on power dynamics and your need for control.
Let go of the need for control.
Understand the relationship between self-image, your projection of yourself in the world and the actual ‘position’ you have. Put it in sync.
Understand the privilege you have and deal with it. Don’t deny or get rid of it, just accept it and deal with it in a responsible way.Noblesse Oblige.
Don’t feel responsible for what is not yours in the first place. It’s not because people leave (their) issues on the table, that you have to take them on. Get rid of saviour complex.
The issue is that the world around us is built on a whole lot of suppression of certain groups of people. And it’s not because that this is the world now, that this is how the world should be. Let’s get “normal” out of our subconscious, and make it better.
To do this everyone needs to use the power they have at hand. Everyone who is able needs to put their money where there mouth is and let their actions be congruent with their values of equality.
If you think there’s something completely wrong or if there’s something missing – hit reply.
Lots of people to thank for the many talks & discussions on the subject. Let’s start with my mother and my sister: Magda Van Acker & Jana Van Acker, then for sure Esther Bonebakker (probably the first person to really open my eyes). Then Stephanie Hermant, Lynn Josephy, Charlotte Schelstraete, Jacklyn Bandy, Mia Fernandez Medinacelli, Lucie Evers, Marcus Chin Hien Goh, Zeljko Blace, Kelechi Johnbosco, Ayşegül Sırakaya, Mark Horler, Ryan Ginsburg, Nils Plovie, Niek D’hondt & the many others who jumped in the snake pit with me. Thank you for all the patience and open mindedness.
When I started talking about my love life in Chapter I and II of this series, everyone thought I was joking about the world peace. As a reminder, I’m not joking about the world peace. The reason is simple: If we want to think about world peace, we need to think about interhuman relationships. And the best way to investigate human relationships…is by taking the most difficult relationship between 2 human beings: The Romantic Relationship.
To help achieve world peace with my Vertical Farming quest, I have been experimenting with polyamory. For the past 3 years people have been thinking that I’m crazy, others thought I was awesome, and others thought I was just being amoral.
But that didn’t really matter. The truth is that I had no fucking clue what exactly I was doing…but I did know why I was doing it: I question life, I question love, I question as much as I can bear, all in the name of becoming and being my best self.
So to kickstart this chapter – what did I learn from my polyamorous experiences?
Polyamory seems great. Seeing 3 girls at the same time just sounds awesome, especially if you can boast about it to your buddies. The only thing you don’t boast about so easily, is when you feel shit when those girls are also seeing other guys and in that way, are bringing up your deepest insecurities.
Conversations in my head (not with my buddies) sometimes went like this:
Zjef 1: Am I not enough? Why does she need to see someone else? Zjef 2: Dude, you’re also seeing other girls, I could ask you the same question Zjef 1: I know you’re right… but still…Why does it hurt? Why do I feel like I’m being betrayed? Zjef: 2: Why are you so insecure? Just focus on what you want, don’t let it get into your head. Zjef 1: But it hurts… Zjef 2: Shut it…feelings are guidelines, not truths… Zjef 1: But… Zjef 2: SHUT IT…focus on your breath….breath in….breath out…
Obviously Zjef 2 is suppressing a feeling that needs to be listened to because it’s a fundamental insecurity: the feeling of not being good enough. This core self-doubt has caused many toxic situations in many of my relationships, be it romantic, friendly or professional.
People that have been around me during my past 31 years have witnessed this first hand.
How? Well, I’m glad you asked.
So we’re in this meeting about…let’s say…starting a commonly owned vertical farm that wants to use waste as a resource to grow mushrooms. And you know, we want to build and organise this because our current industrial capitalism just doesn’t seem to be able to deal so well with our pending ecological disasters and social injustices. Of course, you’re still in the current economic climate and everyone still needs to eat, shit and get a roof over their head. And… unfortunately you can’t just jump out of this madness and create utopia in the blink of an eye. Hence, when you’re all about changing the world, and you have a problem with feeling that you yourself are not good enough, you also project that on all other things.
Whatever is being discussed in the meeting…it’s never fucking good enough. And when, as a perfectionist, you break down every idea on the table, others also break down your ideas…and if that makes you feel betrayed because you take it very personal…the whole thing turns sideways, everybody starts disliking each other and even with all the good intentions in the world, the project just doesn’t happen.
You already see where the world peace comes in? Good! But first back to Polyamory.
So fundamentally I was insecure and that turned me into a shitty asshole on many occasions (be it romantic or professional). Yet being an asshole is a lonely endeavor, so you create this other type of personality born out of the same insecurity. That special personality that avoids conflict and makes sure as much people as possible like you. Yes indeed: The Nice guy! So, bipolar as I was, I kept on jumping between being an asshole and a nice guy. And because of that, relationships never really gave me the fulfillment that I needed….because how could they? I didn’t feel good enough for the world, so no girlfriend could be good enough either.
Even if my girlfriend would have been Ariana Grande, I still probably would have thought she was just not satisfying my needs, as I wanted to be treated like a prince (I say “probably” because she has a lot of money and could possibly make that happen. But then again, why would Ariana Grande want to be with a self-absorbed cunt like that?).
In short – Polyamory was for me the fastest way to let out the asshole and the nice guy at the same time. Luckily, as polyamory is no place for insecure little boys, it gave me such a high understanding of myself that, slowly slowly, I called the asshole AND the nice guy both on their bullshit… And in the end, after 3 years of experimenting, feeling and thinking, I finally found peace and the recipe of living a fulfilled and happy life.
So what is it? The recipe of living the fulfilled and happy life? I guess it’s still the same as what I started this chapter with: I have no fucking clue what exactly it is that I’m doing…but I’m sure that I am going to limit as much as possible, my time spent as an insecure asshole or nice guy,
To conclude this chapter: Love…still have no clue what it’s about. I think it’s founded on self-love,…whatever that means.
Polyamory – have no clue if it’s wrong or right… What I do know that it’s a lot of fun as long as you want and can handle the double edged sword.
Peace…well, I think that’s just the level of congruency in everything you do, say and feel (got this one from Gandhi).
World Peace – that would be all 7,653,219,391 people (and counting) being at peace with themselves without fucking each other over to keep it. How to organise this? Well, this might be a good subject for the next chapter?
The truth is that the more I seem to be doing, the less I have the need and the energy to write about it. Meaning that you can safely assume that a LOT is happening in the quest to build the Vertical Farm. Never in these 5 years I’ve been so busy and so successful in doing what I do in all facets of my life: In the field of vertical farming and the areas of love, friendship, health, happiness and spirituality.
Now, I’m not yet where I thought I’d be 3 months after I started my quest (more than 5 years ago), yet for the first time since then I feel fulfilled just by walking the path. A very very interesting new way of life.
So what am I up to these days? A couple of things that all reinforce or will reinforce each other in the future. Below a list in order of energy put in:
Chairman of GroeiNEST: a Ghentian non-profit that is an open platform for setting up projects to make sustainable, local and healthy food as accessible as possible (urban farming an important tool for this of course)
Co-founding the Pad en Stoel cooperative: A Belgian collaboration between different mushroom farms
12 Steps to urban farming: Not making a business out of this project as initially intended. Yet it’s still alive because of its community and because it’s becoming part of the next project
Starting up AMI’s farm lab: an international platform for the exchange of data and knowledge to build high tech Food Production ecosystems (AMI-systems)
This post is to let you know that the Vertical Farming quest has never been as alive as it is today! Lot’s of beautiful things are growing and the future is looking epic!
Muchos Love and let me know if there’s something you want to know more about!
I’m a big fan of Peace on Earth, and I believe that we can truly achieve this seemingly impossible state of utopia. Yet in the quest to help obtain it, I’ve been struggling with a question that I do not seem to find an answer to.
Our world and our history has been full of people doing “exceptional” things. For example Alexander the great and Dzjengis Khan both conquered enormous territories. Another example is Julius Caesar who transformed the Roman republic into the Roman empire. Yet if you look closer into the stories of these many so called “great people”, It seems like they all had a deep hole inside of their soul that forced them to want to be the best. And because they wanted to achieve and prove themselves, their actions often came at a great costs.
Today, there is still lot of wanting to be the best in our society. This drive is creating a lot of innovation and progress, it is driving us forward for sure and bring us lots of comforts, pleasures & luxuries. But at what costs? Today 1 in 4 Belgians suffer Psychological problems, and do I really need to talk about politics and the other obvious stuff: The wars we still wage with ourselves, with our own nature and with our own habitat?
So yes, there is this question I do not seem to find the answer to:
Can we as humanity advance ourselves without the need to be better than someone else? Can we advance ourselves with respect for ourselves, the people around us, our environment and our planet?
The reason why I find myself asking this question is because I too recently discovered the hole in my soul. And like Caesar or Alexander the great, I also had a serious need for myself to be the best
The hole in my soul was initiated by a small trauma when I was 7. For me it was a defining moment. It was a moment that my 7 year old self would remember not in memories, but in feelings for the next 22 years to come. It would be on those feelings that I built my reality.
I’m not ready to tell exactly what happened to me, yet I can tell you that it left me with a serious feeling of abandonment, the feeling of not being worth it to be loved. And out of that feeling came the idea that I needed to prove myself to be loved. The start of me…wanting to be the best all the time.
Always trying to be the best is ludicrous for a at least 3 reasons.
Trying to fill up the hole in your soul is exhausting. It’s like feeding a monster than can never be satisfied.
It’s is destructive. This can be towards others, or towards yourself. For me it was mostly the latter: Carrying around the idea that you have to be the best, only gives you the feeling that you are NEVER the best. It’s like climbing a mountain, never looking back and enjoying the view, never enjoying the steps you are taking. And even if you reach the top, you never enjoy reaching the top, you only look at the next mountain to climb. So you keep on bashing yourself to be better and better and better. You can never enjoy and accept yourself for who you are at that very moment
And thirdly, it completely messes up your idea of what “love” is. If you cannot love yourself for who you are, you cannot let others love you for who you are. And you can also not love people for who they are. This affects all relationships: family, friends, romances,…
The solution for all this is of course very simple: it is self-love. But I’m not here to talk to you about self-love. I’m here because I still have this question.
If I would not have had this trauma when I was young, would I have had the fire to push myself to go beyond my fears and limitations? Would I be on this crazy life’s journey? Would I have traveled the world and walked amongst the pioneers in urban and vertical farming? What would I be doing if not for this small trauma?
Now that I’m much more at peace with myself, and have less of a need to prove myself to others, the dye has already been cast: I am on this path and I’m planning to keep on following it
And because our history and our society today is full of people who want to be the best, we might extrapolate this question to the rest of the world. What would we be without these people? Maybe we would have world-peace, but would we still live in tribes? Or would we have found other ways of discovering what we have discovered, Achieving what we have achieved?
As I believe that our society consist of individuals, I’m really curious towards your answers. If not for wanting to be the best,…
What powers your life?
What is it that makes you want to get up in the morning and create your world?