What do we value the most in life? You might answer: family, friends, healthy food, a good book or maybe a nearby park. You might also value your real estate, paintings, jewelry, or stocks?
Have you possibly missed anything in your life to value? Well, yes, we should also consider “clean air and pristine lakes, rivers and oceans”.
This podcast will continually shine a spotlight on just some of the many facets of our home – our planet – or Mother Earth as I call Her – that deserve to be highly-valued by us.
We will lift the curtain on the often neglected side of what we should truly value in life. My guests will come from different countries – even continents – representing and reflecting the wide diversity of our World. Their stories will come from many areas but all will share their “Conversations with Mother Earth” and their views on one aspect of our lives.
Being One Under the Surface with HE Yaseen Khayyat
Last week, we dived into Oneness within the context of Chinese and Arabic poetry. This week, we are about to experience Oneness because we are going to dive deep - at least virtually - into the depths of rivers and oceans. And I will be taking you to a country that I fell in love with immediately: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
So far, the conversations were with entrepreneurs, professors, bug enthusiasts or bestselling authors. Today, we will zoom in from a viewpoint of a politician.
So why are rivers and oceans such an ideal topic for Conversations with Mother Earth? Well, let’s start with oxygen production and storage of carbon dioxide in what is called a carbon sink. In addition, rivers and oceans regulate our climate and are popular destinations for our recreational activities. Linked with this are the multi-billion-dollar economies of global tourism, fishing, and transportation. But oceans are far more than climate regulators. As a little girl, I can still vividly remember my father encouraging me to dip my hand into the Adriatic Sea so I could connect to the whole world.
Today, my guest HE Yaseen Khayyat who had to make numerous decisions about the environment. In his role as the Minister of Environment for the Kingdom of Jordan he had to walk the tightrope between supporting aquatic tourism and commerce while at the same protecting Jordan’s delicate ecosystems. Yaseen and I worked together in the past, as he is also passionate about the circular economy. His powerful speech “One Dead Sea is Enough” has resonated with me ever since. The list of his contributions to the protection of the environment is extremely long and spans few decades. Today, Yaseen is Director of Environmental Affairs at the Royal Hashemite Court.
We talk about some of the toughest decisions he had to make during his time as the Minister of Environment, what prompted him to make his powerful speech “One Dead Sea is Enough!”, and how he walked the tightrope between the economic progress and ecosystem protection. He also shared what we as citizens can do to support decisions by our governments.
The link to Yaseen’s speech “One Dead Sea Is Enough!” is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mV3A__yZ2Y
So, stay tuned!
A Timeless Verse with Dr. Mengwen Zhu and Professor Hamid Masfour
Our topic today is likely one of the most complex ones on “Conversations with Mother Earth” - at least so far. I refer to poetry.
Let’s start with some history. The word poetry is derived from Greek, poises, but the earliest written poems were composed in Sumerian which was spoken in today’s Iraq. We may remember from school days the Epic of Gilgamesh. Egypt, Greece, Israel, India, the Roman Empire all contributed greatly to the field of poetry. Not to forget the later works of Dante, Shakespeare, or Lord Byron. The list is very long and many poets have influenced our lives. And, as we discussed in our second episode with the bestselling author Yejide Kilanko, some of the oldest verses were not ever even written down.
Hence, I had what Germans call “Die Qual der Wahl” which translates into the “The agony of choice”. Which focus should I choose in this vast and endless sea of verses?
I have decided to focus on Chinese and Arabic poetry for two reasons. They are some of the oldest poetry cultures on our planet. Secondly, some verses are so timeless – like Rumi’s – that we still enjoy them today, 800 years later!
My two guests today are both scholars of Literature. This is where their similarity ends. Dr. Mengwen Zhu is a Junior Fellow within the "Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts" at the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTECH) in Shenzhen, China, while Professor Hamid Masfour is an Associate Professor of English Literature and Cultural Studies at Sultan Moulay Sliman University, Beni-Mellal, in Morocco.
We discuss the connection between poetry and philosophy, what defines poetry and what differentiates it from prosa and why poetry is a necessity. We talk about two societies where poetry thrived and how poetry and Mother Earth are linked. We finish with our favourite poems. I opted for the most famous Chinese poet Li Bai and his poem “Thoughts on a Tranquil Night”.
Before my bed a pool of light –
O can it be frost on the ground?
Looking up, I find the moon bright;
Bowing, in homesickness I am drowned.
From “Tang Poetry in Paintings”, translated by Xu Yuanchong
We invite you to join us and take some time to explore A Timeless Verse.
I Died by Jalal Addin Rumi
I died to the mineral state and became a plant,
I died to the vegetal state and reached animality,
I died to the animal state and became a man,
Then what should I fear? I have never become less from dying.
At the next charge (forward) I will die to human nature,
So that I may lift up (my) head and wings (and soar) among the angels,
And I must (also) jump from the river of (the state of) the angel,
Everything perishes except His Face,
Once again I will become sacrificed from (the state of) the angel,
I will become that which cannot come into the imagination,
Then I will become non-existent; non-existence says to me (in tones) like an organ,
Truly , to Him, our return
THE PAINTED ZITHER by LI Shangyin trans. Mengwen ZHU
The painted zither, for no reason, fifty strings.
Each string, each fret, recalls a blooming year.
Life Underground with Professor Nancy Karanja, University of Nairobi, Kenya
Today, we are talking about a nurturing topic, in the real sense of the word, our Mother Earth’s soil.
For many of us, soil maybe simply dirt under our feet, and the cause of us getting irritated when our hands or shoes get dirty. Yet, that same soil under our feet is where and how our food grows. That dirt is also a home to millions of organisms hidden in a whole ecosystem underneath the soil’s surface.
My guest today is Professor Nancy Karanja from University of Nairobi, Kenya, who has dedicated much of her career researching our soil and its health. The list of her accomplishments is so long that it would fill the whole podcast alone.
I will only say this much: Nancy is not only researching soil but rather life in all its beauty. That dark place where we put our tender seeds to eventually open-up, pierce the surface and become mature plants. Those of you who have gardens, or even just indoor plants, have seen this miracle of life unfolding.
We discuss the diversity that lies hidden from us, yet that has such a lasting influence on our health and well-being. We talk about what fuels life and how minerals, that we need for our bodies, are created. We also address some of the pressing challenges of our time like monoculture, food waste and food insecurity.
It is an important conversation and an even more crucial understanding how we are connected to every single stalk of corn, every single blade of wheat, every single rice plant that was placed into soil as a seed. Those little seeds nourish our bodies now.
Life above and below surface is one.
Stories From Our Mother: With Yejide Kilanko, Bestselling Author
Today, I am taking you to a person from the cradle of humankind - Africa. We will be visiting Nigeria, at least virtually, a country in West Africa known for its oil reserves and being the largest country on the continent. Nigeria is also one of the world's most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations with more than 250 ethnic groups.
However, Nigeria is even richer with another resource. What could that be?
Nigeria is a country rich in storytelling. Electricity maybe a recent phenomenon that brought Nigeria and the world not only light but soon thereafter the radio, TV and the internet. However, storytelling is as old as humanity and Nigeria, as one would expect with its richness in cultural diversity, is blessed with a legacy of storytelling.
My guest today is the bestselling author Yejide Kilanko, born and raised in Nigeria but now living in Ontario, Canada. Yejide’s first novel, published in 2012, “Daughters Who Walk this Path”, transports readers to her native Nigeria, telling a story of a spirited and intelligent young girl Morayo that brings attention to the kind of violence many women in the world suffer in silence. After reading this extraordinary novel I became a big fan of Yejide Kilanko.
Hence, it is an incredible honour for me to welcome one of my favourite authors as my guest today. We will discuss what storytelling means to humanity, how it influenced Yejide’s writing and how Mother Earth lives in our stories. Considering today’s buzz, we will also discuss if words have lost their meaning. We finish with an outlook regarding Yejide’s future work.
Join us today as it is a remarkable story.