Sunday, November 13, 2016

Water and Weaving

We keep hearing it. Climate change is the most important issue of our time.

We know how war and emmigration wreak havoc on weaving traditions, but it seems that fewer people have considered the destructive effects of climate change.  I was reminded of this once again this morning while I read the newsletter that Threads of Life sends around. Threads of Life is a fair trade business headquartered on Bali that specializes in indigenous textile revival, particularly in Eastern Indonesia.  They wrote, "...in some regions, climate change and landscape-level changes are affecting weavers' abilities to maintain the economic viability of their dye traditions..."

I know what they are talking about. A friend tells me that the weavers on Sumba Island have been suffering from a persistent drought. The women and children have to walk so far everyday to get a bucket of water that they have neither time nor energy left to weave, even though their well being depends on the income from weaving.

And on the nearby island of Savu another friend has described how the people are carving a waterway using the most primitive of implements, arduous, back-breaking and achingly slow under the burning rays of the sun. And if the last of the wells goes dry? What then? Such uncertainty confronts them.

I know that uncertainty, even though it is not my own life hanging in the balance. My Weaving Centre in North Sumatra is also in trouble. No significant rain has fallen for eight months. I must confront the issue of environmental revival in order to work on textile revival. The two go hand in hand. I have encouraged Lasma to plant trees, but if it doesn't rain, she can neither plant nor maintain them. What to do? We have drilled a good well, but underground water needs to be replenished too. Using up reserves is only a short-term answer. No answer at all, in fact.

Lasma tells me that the children are getting sick because the air has not been scrubbed by rain. Most of the wells in the village have gone dry and people have nothing to drink. Our well is deeper and we share our water...but when will our well go dry, too? Worrisome.

Yesterday a young man from the village contacted me because his mother had not been able to pay his university fees for four months. His family depends on the proceeds from farming. They are all desperate. Will he have to give up his education -- and his future? Will they have to move? To where? When will the rains fall again? Will it be enough?

For this reason I have kept my ear to the ground. I have been impressed by technologies that I have stumbled across in which the moisture in the air is collected and transformed into usable water, for example, using temperature differentials that normally take place between day and night (condensation). Most of these technologies are applied for plant growth.

One technology that I have found applies to the production of potable water. It is a SuntoWater
invention. It uses a salt material to absorb moisture from the air, then extracts the water using the heat from the sun, in a low-energy, repetitive cycle. The exciting part is that it is capable of producing between 150 and 375 liters each day. Distilled and drinkable. Always clean. 


Besides the water that it produces, a major advantage of this system is that it cuts out the use of plastic bottles, a major pollutant (and eye-sore) in North Sumatra, and also the CO2 emissions entailed when water has to be trucked in. In the long run, it is also cheaper than purchasing water. Imagine self-sufficiency in water supply, every household producing its own.

The invention offers tremendous scope for the entire world, and especially those beset by crisis. Alas, the price is most palatable for people in California where the machine is produced. One of the major markets targeted is those with swimming pools and those confronted with very high water bills. For them, the machine pays for itself within a few years. But the price is too high for people in North Sumatra whose incomes are ridiculously low (unless they are corrupt). I hope that the company will consider a strategy such as that practised by Wakawaka, the company that produces solar-generators. North Sumatra. )
Every sale in the first world includes a kind of tax that is donated in the form of solar-generators to people in crisis torn areas of the world. (My pulang kampung team are the only ones on their 'impact map' in North Sumatra because my friends, Wiebo Tierlink and Dirk van Uitert, donated waka-wakas to the team. Check out

Another promising invention is the Grobox produced by Groasis Tech, a company which was declared a National Icon for The Netherlands for 2016 because of its potential to do good for the world. This clever little Dutch invention is affordable and has anti-desertification as its goal. It has the capacity to harvest dew and store water. Each facilitates the growth of a sapling or three (any species) and even food plants in combination with the trees. That growth utilizes 90% less water compared to regular farming. The new version of the box (ready for the market next spring) is made of recycled material. It biodegrades as the tree grows and presents no waste problem. The need for boxes is phased out as the trees create moister microclimates. I think I'll bring a couple with me to North Sumatra next time I go.
...

I imagine my dear Lasma living off-grid in our Weaving Centre with electricity generated by the sun, water collected from the moisture in the air, and her dye-plants and organic food thriving despite drought. There is work to do here. And there is hope. Not just for the Centre, but for the whole village.






Water and Weaving

We keep hearing it. Climate change is the most important issue of our time.

We know how war and emmigration wreak havoc on weaving traditions, but it seems that fewer people have considered the destructive effects of climate change.  I was reminded of this once again this morning while I read the newsletter that Threads of Life sends around. Threads of Life is a fair trade business headquartered on Bali that specializes in indigenous textile revival, particularly in Eastern Indonesia.  They wrote, "...in some regions, climate change and landscape-level changes are affecting weavers' abilities to maintain the economic viability of their dye traditions..."

I know what they are talking about. A friend tells me that the weavers on Sumba Island have been suffering from a persistent drought. The women and children have to walk so far everyday to get a bucket of water that they have neither time nor energy left to weave, even though their well being depends on the income from weaving.

And on the nearby island of Savu another friend has described how the people are carving a waterway using the most primitive of implements, arduous, back-breaking and achingly slow under the burning rays of the sun. And if the last of the wells goes dry? What then? Such uncertainty confronts them.

I know that uncertainty, even though it is not my own life hanging in the balance. My Weaving Centre in North Sumatra is also in trouble. No significant rain has fallen for eight months. I must confront the issue of environmental revival in order to work on textile revival. The two go hand in hand. I have encouraged Lasma to plant trees, but if it doesn't rain, she can neither plant nor maintain them. What to do? We have drilled a good well, but underground water needs to be replenished too. Using up reserves is only a short-term answer. No answer at all, in fact.

Lasma tells me that the children are getting sick because the air has not been scrubbed by rain. Most of the wells in the village have gone dry and people have nothing to drink. Our well is deeper and we share our water...but when will our well go dry, too? Worrisome.

Yesterday a young man from the village contacted me because his mother had not been able to pay his university fees for four months. His family depends on the proceeds from farming. They are all desperate. Will he have to give up his education -- and his future? Will they have to move? To where? When will the rains fall again? Will it be enough?

For this reason I have kept my ear to the ground. I have been impressed by technologies that I have stumbled across in which the moisture in the air is collected and transformed into usable water, for example, using temperature differentials that normally take place between day and night (condensation). Most of these technologies are applied for plant growth.

One technology that I have found applies to the production of potable water. It is a SuntoWater invention. It uses a salt material to absorb moisture from the air, then extracts the water using the heat from the sun, in a low-energy, repetitive cycle. The exciting part is that it is capable of producing between 150 and 375 liters each day. Distilled and drinkable. Always clean. 


Besides the water that it produces, a major advantage of this system is that it cuts out the use of plastic bottles, a major pollutant (and eye-sore) in North Sumatra, and also the CO2 emissions entailed when water has to be trucked in. In the long run, it is also cheaper than purchasing water. Imagine self-sufficiency in water supply, every household producing its own.

The invention offers tremendous scope for the entire world, and especially those beset by crisis. Alas, the price is most palatable for people in California where the machine is produced. One of the major markets targeted is those with swimming pools and those confronted with very high water bills. For them, the machine pays for itself within a few years. But the price is too high for people in North Sumatra whose incomes are ridiculously low (unless they are corrupt). I hope that the company will consider a strategy such as that practised by Wakawaka, the company that produces solar-generators. Every sale in the first world includes a kind of tax that is donated in the form of solar-generators to people in crisis torn areas of the world. (My pulang kampung team are the only ones on their 'impact map' in North Sumatra because my friends, Wiebo Tierlink and Dirk van Uitert, donated waka-wakas to the team. Check out North Sumatra. )

Another promising invention that I have found is the Groasis, which was declared a National Icon for The Netherlands for 2016 because of its potential to do good for the world. This clever little Dutch invention is affordable and has anti-desertification as its goal. It has the capacity to harvest dew and store water. Each facilitates the growth of a sapling or three (any species) and even food plants in combination with it. That growth utilizes 90% less water compared to regular farming. The box, made of recycled material, biodegrades as the tree grows and presents no pollution problem. The need for boxes is phased out as the trees create moister microclimates. I think I'll bring a couple with me to North Sumatra next time I go.

...

I imagine my dear Lasma living off-grid in our Weaving Centre with electricity generated by the sun, water collected from the moisture in the air, and her dye-plants and organic food thriving despite drought. There is work to do here. And there is hope. Not just for the Centre, but for the whole village.







Monday, August 01, 2016

A day to gush

Today is a red-letter day. Better said, it is a day to gush. Today our well is being drilled. The first figurative spade is being thrust into the soil. Lasma and I are beginning on the next phase of our common dream to build a Weaving Centre. 

In a blog earlier this year I wrote:

'Saving Lasma Sitanggang' means saving the whole village. It means struggling to
Lasma 1 August 2016 With a water
bottle hanging from her neck.
answer the challenge of how to make a good life despite all the forces that slap down the little farmer in Indonesia. This past year alone, four people in her village committed suicide for reasons related to poverty. Lasma wants to honour her cultural heritage as well as find her way through this world that champions only the value of money. For me, traveling with Lasma Sitanggang means being willing to share the burden on her shoulders, to help construct strategies that fit with her local circumstances, to construct ways that will give everyone a chance to win and climb out of the hole together. What we undertake, the interventions we construct, must meet the criterion of serving the well being of the whole village
.

I alluded to it, but I did not write about our plan directly. I am loath to write about plans until they are a sure thing, until the path is cleared. I don't want to write about pipe dreams and invite all the consequences. Today, however, our well is being drilled. We are taking the first step in building and there are real pipes. It is time to dare to share our dream and our plan. And celebrate.

Lasma and I are trying to build a Weaving Centre. Why a Weaving Centre? Where? When? With whom? All of these questions have been besieging us for the past couple of years and answers have gradually begun to emerge.

Let me start with the 'why'. Lasma and I need to do something that in the process of supporting her would help her make positive change in her village. Our common interest lies in the area of weaving. Lasma's village is a weaving village -- well, an ex-weaving village. The women have stopped weaving because the selling price no longer supports their work. So why make a weaving centre when people have stopped weaving and the market is so weak? Answer: because Lasma and I hope that when and if this world ever wakes up to realize that it is squandering its most valued assets, including craft traditions that have been constructed century upon century by human ingenuity, there may at least be a centre in the Simalungun Batak area of North Sumatra where women have not let their bounteous and beautiful weaving heritage die out. Surely, if we work cleverly and carefully, we can find and construct a market that will allow the tradition to revive. There are no guarantees in life, but this goal seems, to both Lasma and me, worth devoting ourselves to. Not necessarily from an economic point of view (although we need the Centre to at least survive on that front) but from a moral, aesthetic, and cultural point of view. If we are successful, not just the whole village, but all of Simalungun, all of Batak will gain. Why are we building this centre? Because the time is right and it is a good thing to do.

How to build a centre from which the entire village can gain, when the weaving craft is already on the verge of extinction and the women have turned their backs to it? There are two answers to this question; one answer relates to craft and culture and the other to physical environment, but it all boils down to one issue: well-being.

The women in Lasma's village have never found an alternative to weaving. Granted, they earn more from their farming activities and thus they invest their energies in that, but they still miss the supplement and diversity that weaving gave them. Moreover, they have lost that special niche that their culture reserved for weaving women, a place of women's excellence and pride. The women have become mere impoverished labourers. Lasma and I believe -- and on occasion the women in the village have corroborated this -- they will be enlivened by the pride they can once again achieve from an opportunity to be excellent in their craft. The weaving centre will allow them to come together and work together. They also miss a place where they can share ideas and experiment together. ... Oh dear, I seem to have lapsed back into the 'why'. Clearly, the centre must not be just Lasma's Weaving Centre, rather a Centre where all the weavers in the village feel at home and can benefit. We want women to feel pride, empowerment and comfort. And we would like young women, including orphans, to be able to come and stay, work in the garden and at their looms, find pleasure in the day-to-day and earn an income. 

Building a centre that aids the village from the point of view of their physical environment is an issue that plays a greater role in my mind than in Lasma's, although she is really excited by organic farming and herself farms organically. Nevertheless, I don't think she has ever seen a park and experienced land that is maintained purely for pleasure and not directly for profit. I would like to rectify this gap in her experience. I live in The Netherlands where parks are plentiful, and brilliantly conceived and looked after, and I would like someday to show some to her. Together with her I would like to build a green, lush oasis where the fruit and nuts hang for the picking from the trees, where the people can relax in a beautiful environment and eat an organically farmed meal. Green does wonders for the spirit and the health. Even if our weaving centre fails, let us at least have constructed a village park where the children can eat their fill of organic fruit. And where the people can be introduced to a healthy vision for the future. We want to show how textile production belongs to a better future and not just the past.

This is why, in the end, I purchased land in Lasma's village for our weaving centre. It is not on a major tourist route. Really, there is not a whole lot going for this village and some have argued that I have therefore not selected a good location for the centre. I, however, have made a point of locating it in a village that has nothing going for it. Such villages are always left out. I am using the same rationale for investing in this village as I used for giving my luxurious edition of Legacy in Cloth to poor rural weavers: they are the ones who will benefit from it the most. And that is what it is all about. The Centre will be located where the weavers are.


There, this is enough for one blog. There is too much to tell all at once. Suffice it to say that our well is being drilled, down, down through soil and rock to underground streams. It is giving me the opportunity to gush. And I will gush more on this topic in a future blog. On and on.

A day to gush

Today is a red-letter day. Better said, it is a day to gush. Today our well is being drilled. The first figurative spade is being thrust into the soil. Lasma and I are beginning on the next phase of our common dream to build a Weaving Centre. 

In a blog earlier this year I wrote:

'Saving Lasma Sitanggang' means saving the whole village. It means struggling to
Lasma 1 August 2016 With a water
bottle hanging from her neck.
answer the challenge of how to make a good life despite all the forces that slap down the little farmer in Indonesia. This past year alone, four people in her village committed suicide for reasons related to poverty. Lasma wants to honour her cultural heritage as well as find her way through this world that champions only the value of money. For me, traveling with Lasma Sitanggang means being willing to share the burden on her shoulders, to help construct strategies that fit with her local circumstances, to construct ways that will give everyone a chance to win and climb out of the hole together. What we undertake, the interventions we construct, must meet the criterion of serving the well being of the whole village
.

I alluded to it, but I did not write about our plan directly. I am loath to write about plans until they are a sure thing, until the path is cleared. I don't want to write about pipe dreams and invite all the consequences. Today, however, our well is being drilled. We are taking the first step in building and there are real pipes. It is time to dare to share our dream and our plan. And celebrate.

Lasma and I are trying to build a Weaving Centre. Why? How? Where? When? With whom? All of these questions have been besieging us for the past couple of years and answers have gradually begun to emerge.

Let me start with the 'why'. Lasma and I need to do something that in the process of supporting her would help her make positive change in her village. Our common interest lies in the area of weaving. Lasma's village is a weaving village -- well, an ex-weaving village. The women have stopped weaving because the selling price no longer supports their work. So why make a weaving centre when people have stopped weaving and the market is so weak? Answer: because Lasma and I hope that when and if this world ever wakes up to realize that it is squandering its most valued assets, including craft traditions that have been constructed century upon century by human ingenuity, there may at least be a centre in the Simalungun Batak area of North Sumatra where women are continuing their bounteous and beautiful weaving heritage. Surely, if we work cleverly and carefully, we can find and construct a market that will allow it to survive. There are no guarantees in life, but this goal seems, to both Lasma and me, worth devoting ourselves to. Not necessarily from an economic point of view (although we need the Centre to at least survive on that front) but from a moral, aesthetic, and cultural point of view. If we are successful, not just the whole village, but all of Simalungun, all of Batak will gain. Why are we building this centre? Because the time is right and it is a good thing to do.

On to the 'how'. How to build a centre from which the entire village can gain, when the weaving craft is already on the verge of extinction and the women have turned their backs to it? There are two answers to this question; one answer relates to craft and culture and the other to physical environment, but it all boils down to one issue: well-being.

The women in Lasma's village have never found an alternative to weaving. Granted, they earn more from their farming activities and thus they invest in that, but they still miss the supplement and diversity that weaving gave them. Moreover, they have lost that special niche that their culture reserved for weaving women, a place of women's excellence and pride. The women have become mere impoverished labourers. Lasma and I believe -- and on occasion the women in the village have corroborated this -- they will be enlivened by the pride they can once again achieve from an opportunity to be excellent in their craft. The weaving centre will allow them to come together and work together. They also miss a place where they can share ideas and experiment together. ... Oh dear, I seem to have lapsed back into the 'why'. Clearly, the centre must not be just Lasma's Weaving Centre, rather a Centre where all the weavers in the village feel at home and can benefit. We want women to feel pride, empowerment, comfort, able to participate. And we would like young women, including orphans, to be able to come and stay, work in the garden and at their looms, find pleasure in the day-to-day. That is how and what and where we want the centre to be and with whom we want to build it.

Building a centre that aids the village from the point of view of physical environment is an issue that plays a greater role in my mind than in Lasma's, although she is really excited by organic farming and herself farms organically. Nevertheless, I don't think she has ever seen a park and experienced land that is maintained purely for pleasure and not directly for profit. I would like to rectify this gap in her experience. I live in The Netherlands where parks are plentiful, and brilliantly conceived and looked after, and I would like someday to show some to her. Together with her I would like to build a green, lush oasis where the fruit and nuts hang for the picking from the trees, where the people can relax in a beautiful environment and eat an organically farmed meal. Green does wonders for the spirit and the health. Even if our weaving centre fails, let us at least have constructed a village park where the children can eat their fill of organic fruit. And where the people can be introduced to a healthy vision for the future. We want to show how textile production belongs to a better future and not just the past.

This is why, in the end, I purchased land in Lasma's village for our weaving centre. It is not on a major tourist route. Really, there is not a whole lot going for this village and some have argued that I have therefore not selected a good location for the centre. I, however, have made a point of locating it in a village that has nothing going for it. Such villages are always left out. I am using the same rationale for investing in this village as I used for giving my luxurious edition of Legacy in Cloth to poor rural weavers: they are the ones who will benefit from it the most. And that is what it is all about. The Centre will be where the weavers are.


There, this is enough for one blog. There is too much to tell all at once. Suffice it to say that our well is being drilled, down, down through soil and rock to underground streams. It is giving me the opportunity to gush. And I will gush more on this topic in a future blog. On and on.