Our daughter Zoe asked to watch for our last movie-Friday GIFTED, a drama about a prodigy child directed by Marc Webb. I warmly recommend to watch that film when reading this essay.
This rambling 30 page essay on play as a learning method was written in 2019. It sat on my desktop waiting for more to come. I have read it today and found it is good to go.
Our daughter Zoe asked to watch for our last movie-Friday GIFTED, a drama about a prodigy child directed by Marc Webb. I warmly recommend to watch that film when reading this essay.
Feb. 21, 2021. Since November we have been walking once a month as plastic pirates through this neighborhood, which we call our new home since September, and use tweezers, gloves and garbage bags to collect the rubbish that is carelessly thrown into nature by fellow citizens. Today, we were the forth time on the road as Plastic Pirates around the old Glanzstoff factory. We captured 19 kilograms in just under two hours of raid. Time to take a step back and contemplate.
I had imagined Austria differently. At least I remembered it differently. Clean. Neat. Close to nature. I was abroad for 20 years. Now I'm back in this country with my children and I'm disappointed and worried at the same time. Disappointed about the state of nature in St. Pölten and the surrounding area. Concerned about the apathy with which this condition is met and about the smoldering anger I see in conversations with native residents.
Austria has turned in relative terms and not taking into consideration countries places like UAE or Luxembourg into one of the top 5 global immigration nations after Australia and Sweden, but before Germany or the United States. In cities like STP one third of residents have a migration background. A clash of cultures is underway, which will exacerbate with population growth and climate crisis caused migration for the years to come. The waste we see in nature is a physical manifestation of this brewing tension.
I have been collecting rubbish for 10 years. It all started with a vacation in the Philippines on the island of Boracay, where I had to surf my kiteboard on a beach polluted by tourist sewage. No fun. At first there was just disappointment, but then the decision quickly came to have to contribute something myself. A few years later, the island was completely closed to tourism due to an ecological mega-disaster, but I had made the habit of collecting rubbish for one day of my vacation and thus giving something back to my host country.
For the past three years I've been hunting rubbish once a month, no matter where I am, and I think a lot about the future of work and education. My wife is still irritated, but the children like to be there when we run new routes. In St. Pölten, too, we wanted to get to know a new route on Sunday, because I had believed that three cleanings around the gloss fabric would be sufficient. In addition, shortly after our January mission, the municipal waste service thoroughly disposed of the rubbish along Herzogenburgerstrasse.
Unfortunately not. In fog and light rain we went our usual route and when we reached Traisenpark Süd, a local shopping center, our handcart was fully loaded with rubbish. It is worrying that more than 80% of our prey consists of new contamination, ie it was disposed of in nature between our last mission a month ago and this Sunday.
Dealing with rubbish is perhaps not a pleasant but incredibly formative process. On several levels. Physically, on a Plastic Pirates tour, I bend down at least 200 times and have completed a healthy workout in fresh air. Emotionally speaking, it feels good to free a piece of our planet from surface pollution - after such an activity dinner tastes better and I sink satisfied into the sofa, grateful for a day filled with purpose.
You also think about all kinds of things. What kind of rubbish is out there? Which people throw it away so carelessly? What's going on in their minds? What does the beaver that we finally got to see think when he's living among plastic trash? How can one counteract this human apathy and also aggression? What does it take to create more respect for public goods in a society?
We never get the time to move the old stock from the rest of the forest next to the mill river - my children now call it now just “the dump” - because nature fills with new rubbish in the four weeks between our operations. This new waste is made up of around 60% residual waste, 30% aluminum cans and 10% glass. It is noticeable that the majority of aluminum cans are energy drinks - these consumers cannot really be blamed, because they were too excited to notice the rubbish bins which are installed every 500 meters or so. A smaller part consists of beer cans. These consumers, in turn, usually no longer make it to the trash can because they are already heavily sedated. Mostly they cannot remember and are therefore difficult to be questioned about their motives.
Then there are a substantial number of cigarette packs. I didn't realize that so many people still smoke. With the cigarette butts around the benches, you could definitely fill another two big waste bags. This should be done at some point, because nota bene: one cigarette butt contaminates 40 liters of good drinking water. About a third of the residual waste comes from McDonalds. This company is currently advertising far beyond the boundaries of freedom of expression with “Touching allowed. Your handful of normality. ”Throwing away properly is also allowed and is part of normality.
After years in the automation industry, I am at least aware that our industrial companies produce packaging extremely efficient with robots and automated assembly lines. However, garbage that we throw into nature in a disorderly manner will still have to be collected by human hands in the coming years. There are no suitable machines for this yet. So if we don't want to run the risk of suffocating in our own rubbish, as shown in the Pixar film Wall-E, then we have to take appropriate measures now.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation
These measures can quickly be traced back to the topic of motivation. Why do we behave as we would expect others to do? Why do we even behave in a certain way? Is it our own ideals and standards or is it the standards of others and society that lead us to do things or not to do them?
Modern people are self-sufficient and are no longer interested in what others think of them as long as they have found favor on facebook or instagram. Modern society withdraws more and more from the important questions. One lives plurality in every respect. Sexual behavior. Consumer behavior. Disposable Habits. Just do it.
The result is a disoriented youth, paralyzed teachers, apathetic parents and cultural weakness. What does it actually mean to be from here? To be entitled to dispose one's garbage in nature or to take responsibility for this place and to free nature from garbage? How long does a form of coexistence work that does not establish basic behavioral norms and creates positive incentives to obey to them?
The renowned sinologist Oskar Weggel wrote in 1997 about a future with 12 billion people, cramped spaces and scarce raw materials: in such an environment the glorification of the individual must be as it has become established in modern philosophy - and in the western industrialized countries , appear as a “luxury creation” that is neither appropriate to human history as a whole nor to the prospects of a “post-European” age.
Classical Confucianism was a child of need - and as such gave answers to the question of how distribution struggles can be resolved bloodlessly and how forms of close proximity can be designed as conflict-free as possible. In a sign of diminishing options and increasing constriction, it could once again prove to be a refuge and advisor! Globalization would then unfold the other way around, namely from east to west!
A comparison with the city-state of Singapore, in which about as many people live as in Austria, comes to mind. Since 1968, citizens have been educated there to keep their land clean, not only with gentle instructions, but with hefty fines of at least 300 Singapore dollars. Over 56,000 people are registered as voluntary garbage collectors and support the government in its efforts to make Singapore a model country. Retirees in particular like to meet in groups and roam the area like the raping Huns.
In Singapore, both forms of motivation have worked together to improve the environmental situation. On the one hand, high fines are an extrinsic motivation to dispose of nothing wildly, on the other hand, the groups that like to meet repeatedly to collect rubbish are an opportunity to socialize and do meaningful activity instead of being lonely at Netflix and McDonalds at home.
It is obvious that something must be done. An employee of the municipal gardening company recently told us at the Viehofner See that he and a colleague of us are exclusively occupied with collecting rubbish. Every 5-10 days they go around the lake in winter and daily in summer. The loading area of her emergency vehicle is always full. The garbage has doubled since Corona because people are outside a lot more. How would the throw-away behavior change if surveillance cameras are set up along the Mühlbach or at the parking lots at Viehofner See and littering is punished with fines?
With Plastic Pirates, a format that we developed three years ago in Shanghai, we are trying the path of intrinsic motivation and especially invite children and families to take on “stewardship” for a small part of our planet in a playful way. Our participants are made up in a warlike manner and receive an eye patch with which it is all the more difficult to operate the gripper in such a way that something is actually transported into the common garbage bags.
Green Steps combines best practices from alternative pedagogy and the latest learning psychology to improve the learning outcome and experience of the participants. Children form small pirate crews and fill garbage bags that are weighed on electronic scales. In an opening group, children learn about the different types of rubbish in general and plastic in particular.
We use storytelling and object manipulation as a method to strengthen long-term memory and establish healthy habits. The contents of all garbage bags are sorted together and each child takes an object and tells a story in a reflection circle about how it ended up in nature. Events like Plastic Pirates are organized in neighborhoods with a high percentage of residents with a migrant background. Children learn in a playful way to respect the environment and to have fun as a group.
Interested? Take a look at our event platform and become a pirate! Crew recruiting every third Sunday of the month.
Knut Wimberger, The Future of Work and What We Can Do Now
Oskar Weggel, China im Aufbruch: Konfuzianismus und politische Zukunft
Everybody talks these days about the economic cost of the lockdown. The numbers for small, but relatively wealthy Austria are 2 billion Euro / day. Whatever. Nobody talks about the ecological cost of operating our economies as if there was no climate crisis. I am amazed by how media controls our minds and grateful for almost not following any. One is sucked into this sewer of ignorance too easily.
Ecologist Jean Marc Jancovici explained during the first lockdown in 2020 that it takes such drastic lockdown measures for the next 30 years in order to conform with the Paris Climate Agreement, which aims at keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celcius.
Despite having conducted all the calculations and signed respective treaties, we do everything to keep our economies running. We rather purchase millions of masks, tests and vaccinations from the country where the virus erupted instead of producing regionally and spend at least EUR 12 million every week to test 1.1 million students twice a week, so that they can again sit classes in which they learn zero about how to deal with the situation ahead.
I am in the fifth month of returning to the society where I was born after having lived almost two decades abroad. Yesterday evening I watched for the first time since then local TV over ironing my shirts. A magazine called Thema reported on the implications of lifting the lockdown. Interestingly it interviewed only scientists who expressed great concern over the English and South African virus mutations and warned that removing the hard lockdown measures might cause a boomerang effect. Nobody discusses the etiology of this pandemic. Of course not. Science cannot afford to explain what cannot be measured.
Jancovici describes the problem our societies face in a simple way: "How do we get a job in a context where the economy is contracting, [...] ensuring everyone a form of optimism for the future?" According to him, the stagnation of the energy production already at work makes our model obsolete and should inevitably culminate in an economic recession. Economic recession is therefore considered by him as a fundamental reality we have to learn to deal with.
The "Shift Project" plans therefore to stop all public subsidies to certain industries like aviation. According to Jean-Marc Jancovici, the Air France group, which benefited from an aid plan of 7 billion euros, can no longer maintain its pre-crisis strategy. "There won't be as many planes flying," he concedes, lines are going to close and the number of flights will be reduced. These strategic shifts must occur for him in all sectors: mobility, energy, housing.
If all these industries go into a permanent recession, we need to ask once again, how people will earn their livelihoods. Back in 2016 I conducted research on this question from a different starting point and initiated this blog under the title mingong = migrant worker: what will people do if their jobs are being made obsolete by machines and software? And what should children learn if they will not find job as their parents did?
I then wrote: Increasing automation and computerization, in particular the recent development in AI research and application will lead within the next two decades to a total collapse of our labor markets, in particular the tertiary sector. In 30 years from now, we will live in societies where most menial and skilled work is executed by robots and algorithms and people are either without job or self-employed. The ongoing Chinese robot revolution will play a prominent role in this development, because China will be for the first time in the industrial revolution’s history pitcher instead of catcher. The Chinese industrial robot revolution will catalyze and exponentially accelerate the AI revolution.
I came to the conclusion that a collapse of labor markets can only be resolved by a new redistribution of wealth and the gradual agreement on a new social contract. This new social contract will have a guaranteed basic income as its central pillar. The current widely held concept of an unconditional basic income should be changed to a basic income which is condition to life long learning and community service.
The Economist writes this week that there are clear pandemic winners, namely silicon valley and China Inc. Tech giants are the big COVID-19 winners. I am surprised at the speed with which my predictions manifest themselves. The pandemic acerbates the already by Thomas Piketty and other economists explained unequal wealth distribution and pressures decision makers into either giving up on humanity or moving forward with a conditional basic income, that is a basic income which is subject to a sustainable lifestyle.
Follow up reading:
Daniel Goleman writes: In a system there are no side effects – just effects, anticipated or not. What we see as “side effects” simply reflects our flawed understanding of the system. In a complex system cause and effect may be more distant in time and space than we realize. Much of the time people attribute what happens to them to events close in time and space, when in reality it’s the result of the dynamics of the larger system within which they are embedded. [in Focus - The Driver of Excellence]
Teachers all over and beyond Europe suffer. Here they suffer more than in China, where teachers are used serve as the regime's executive arm. Here they are less experienced with following orders which change by the week. Teachers are miserable slaves in a system which they are ordained to keep in place in order to let adults go to office and purchase things they don't need. But what about the children they are asked to guide towards enlightenment and wisdom?
The cause and effect chain is as simple as this: scientists tell us that we live in the Anthropocene, i.e. the geological age which is defined by man's impact on the planet. It is without doubt how we educate our offspring what defines the next generations impact on the planet. That's not rocket science. Its common sense. However, we go at great length to maintain the status quo. We ask our children to wear masks in school all day. We ask them to bore themselves to death during online classes which are hardly interesting when experienced in the classroom.
What is it that we want to testify to ourselves? That we have seen the collapse coming but were incapable to react in time? That we rather conform to a failing system than have the courage to think about something new? I feel like we go through a new form of holocaust. Then we looked away and pretended that fellow human beings were slaughtered by a - in Erich Fromm words' - mechanistic culture. Now we look away and pretend not to see that our children are being spiritually and emotionally slaughtered in an industrial system which has become obsolete and needs to be abandoned for the sake of humanity's survival and evolution.
I am at my wit's end. In the last weeks i have talked to highly decorated members of the club of rome, the distinguished members of the austrian biodiversity council, we have submitted our idea to transform education to the austrian biodiversity conference, we have talked to sustainability investors, we have submitted two grant applications to the European Commission. nobody is ready to take a substantial leap of faith. nobody even sees what needs to be done despite it being so obvious. scientists have a tunnel vision which is limited by their research subjects. they have lost or never had interdisciplinary thought. business people rather continue to sell "green" products instead of igniting the practice of the wild.
until a few months ago i thought that the Chinese education system is radically different from Europe's. Covid-19 has shown that it is essentially the same. Instead of granting our children and their parents a well deserved winter break, a break which is in deep alignment with the rhythm of nature, a break which allows beast, man and land to rest and regenerate, a break which was an annual rule until the peak of the industrial revolution, instead of granting this break, we busy ourselves through the quietest of all times, force ourselves and our children to get up in the dark of the night and spend the same amount of hours in classes and offices as we do during the long days of summer.
why do not more people react to this insanity and call for a change?
The last quarter has started before Easter 2021. We will gradually offer a new curriculum. One which is outdoors instead of indoors. One which focuses on empathy and ecology instead of STEM subjects. One which teaches collaboration instead of competition. One which teaches love instead of fear. We shall not fear. Something much better is just around the corner.
The Covey Circles of Influence
Anxiety is a call to action so we need to respond by doing something. Stephen Covey’s CIA method can help break a problem down so it is less overwhelming. Covid-19 has put us in an unprecedented situation which causes great worry and anxiety.
Working from the outside in, categorise your worries into those which you can:
Accept – these concerns are outside of your control and influence. Try to let these go and focus on what you can influence and control.
Influence – be realistic about the concerns you can influence. Score your influence on a scale of 1-10 and any concern scoring lower than 5, move to ‘Accept’.
Control – direct your time and energy towards the elements that you can control. This will minimise feelings of overwhelm and frustration