Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fez Forum - a festival of ideas

While the music has been the main focus, it would be wrong not to give a thumbs-up to the Festival Forums.

The overall theme for this year’s Fez Forum is Giving Soul to Globalisation. Daily this week there have been fora with expert panelists on subjects such as Spiritual Values and the Economy; Wealth and Poverty; Islam and Globalization.

Yesterday’s topic was Spirituality and Ecology. The panel included eminent British scientist Rupert Sheldrake (pictured above), American Jonathon Rose (pictured below), President of a company promoting environmental projects, and French/Algerian philosopher and writer Pierre Rabhi.

Pierre Rabhi (pictured below) is the world’s leading expert on reversing soil desertification shows how ecology can flourish only when spiritual elements are present.

His work uses parables from the African oral tradition to provide a living testimony of what has been lost with the rise of modern technology and he provides a vital account of the strong relationship between soil and soul and how this relationship can be restored

As in the Heart, So in the Earth is his latest book and is a strong indictment of a civilization that, while seeking domination over the earth, mutilates, tortures, and desacralizes it. For Pierre Rabhi ecology is inseparable from spirituality. He shows how the growing desertification of North Africa is a reflection of the “desert” that is claiming the hearts and souls of the inhabitants of the Western world--how dead soil is mirrored in our deadened souls--and how reconciliation with Mother Earth must be accompanied by relearning our ancestors’ reverence for the soil.

For his part, Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world's most innovative biologists, has revolutionised scientific thinking with his vision of a living, developing universe with its own inherent memory. He first worked in developmental biology and is best known for his theory of Morphic Fields and Morphic Resonance. His latest book, "The Sense of Being Stared at" develops his concept of the extended mind.

One of the interesting ideas he proposed was a carbon scheme along frequent flier lines, by measuring household waste. Britain produces 9 cubic metres of waste per person per year, while for Australia the figure is 14 cubic metres per person. In Morocco and other African countries the figure is naturally much lower. “At the moment our whole approach to development is based on helping developing countries to increase their carbon output,” he said. He advocated publishing figures of individual households, rather than simply for countries as is currently done and went on to advocate Fez leading the way in encouraging individual accountability. However, publication of household data may not be as effective in countries with low literacy rates.

The Fez Medina waste disposal system has to be one of the most environmentally friendly methods around. Here rubbish is collected daily by trusty donkeys, who are almost immediately fed the organic waste by the garbage collectors, giving the animals the energy to plod up and down the steep, narrow alleys.

And while all these ideas are being tossed around, the music had moved to Volubulis for a wonderful concert in the old Roman ruins. Sadly, The View from Fez can not be in two places at once. As Maroc Telecom had promised a technician to connect our internet in Riad Zany, we opted to stay home. Sadder to report, he did not show up yet again. Weeks of waiting... for an official Festival Sponsor... not good PR. But maybe tomorrow, inshallah.




yovo68 said...

Samir - Thanks for the great accounts from the Festival! Keep them coming! I wish I could be there ....

Lameen Souag said...

Nice festival! But I think you'll find Sheldrake is more commonly regarded by scientists as a kook than as a scientist, let alone an eminent one. Fun ideas, though...

ByronB said...

The "Springwatch" nature programme on BBC tv has attracted an audience of over 4 million viewers this year, denting the audiences for the regular soap operas. 100,000 people answered questionnaires for the programme last year, so there are some very enthusiastic people in the UK who are really interested in nature and their environment. So although people in the West are now heavily reliant on current carbon producing technology, there is an awareness of the damage being caused, and a growing wish to combat it.