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24Nov

Triggering Empathy with Virtual Reality Storytelling

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

Arousing empathy has almost always been at the core of storytelling. In Virtual Reality (VR), storytellers have found a new tool with which to give viewers an even closer physical sensation of another person’s lived experience. In other words, VR has the possibility of most fully realizing a second person experience of a story: YOU transform into a character in the film, experiencing their visual and auditory sensations in 360 degrees. Director Chris Milk has dubbed virtual reality films “empathy machines” that move and stimulate viewers to social action more than any other media to date. The art world has been exploring this claim in performance pieces and virtual reality films. Meanwhile, scientific researchers are investigating the quantitative and qualitative evidence for and against the empathetic effects of virtual reality. Critics remain skeptical of virtual reality, citing a confusion between immersion and empathy.

Much furor and fuss is being made over virtual reality – but the energy and attitude towards VR is overwhelmingly positive. The most compelling consequence of these studies and experiments is the multi-layered conversation which reveals that VR is no simple subject. Virtual reality is, after all, a part of the complex chain and tradition of storytelling that dates to the beginning of culture and humanity.

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FILM AND PERFORMANCE ART 

Along with director Gabo Arora, Chris Milk and VRSE production company joined the United Nations in making the 2015 VR film Clouds Over Sidra, which tells the story of a young Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan. The film debuted in January 2015 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, making a strong emotional impact upon the audience. Based on the response to the film in Davos and elsewhere (at a fundraiser in Kuwait, the film raised 3.8 billion USD, nearly double the amount anticipated), Milk believes that VR films can change the world, connecting human beings and altering their perceptions of one another. In a March 2015 TED talk, Milk explains, “So, it’s a machine, but through this machine we become more compassionate, become more empathetic, and we become more connected, and ultimately we become more human.”

In The Machine to Be Another, an experiment run by the art collective BeAnotherLab, VR is the foundation of a live performance piece in which participants virtually exchange bodies with the performer, who mimics their movements.  The purpose of the experiment is to better understand the Self by embodying the narrative of the Other. The collective collaborates with neurologists and neuroscientists. They aim to measure empathy in their future projects.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Psychologists are also examining how effective VR is at generating empathy in viewers. The Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford Lab investigates how test subjects change their behavior after experiencing specific scenarios in virtual reality environments. Lab Manager Shawnee Baughman explains in a February 18, 2016 interview how they have found that virtual reality has the potential to positively influence test subjects’ behavior after experiencing staged scenarios in a VR environment.

In one scenario, participants became Superman and save a child lost in large city. The point of the experiment is not that the participants save the child in the VR scenario, however, but how they were more proactive and helpful to other people in their real lives in the period immediately following the video. The same principle follows with another scenario in which one test group chops down a tree in VR with a haptic device that mimics a saw, and another group chops the tree but without the haptic device. The group that uses the haptic device to “chop” the tree used 20% less paper immediately following the event in a staged, real-life water spill.

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VR is not only positive in the context of its impact on human relations, but also between humanity and the earth. Jeremy Bailensen, Associate Professor of Communication at Stanford University, shares this positive outlook: “With concepts like climate change or deforestation or even pollution, we can use virtual reality to make the relationship between human behavior and the impact on the environment less abstract and more concrete.” By immersing viewers in environments in danger of destruction or industrialization, perhaps the viewer will better appreciate the need to preserve the environment and our resources. Another example we might consider is an audience experiencing the world in VR from the perspective of an animal in the endangered environment – the hope is that by sharing an intimate perspective with the animal in nature, that the viewer will develop a greater capacity to empathize with the natural world.

NUANCED SKEPTICISM

The nuances of virtual reality come to the fore in myriad questions that surround it. In his New York Times article “Want to Know What Virtual Reality Might Become? Look to the Past,” Steven Johnson suggests, rather than Milk’s all-encompassing view of virtual reality films as “empathy machines,” that virtual reality offers the possibility of different kinds of empathy: “perceptual empathy” or “sensory immersion.” It is true that empathy is aroused by our recognition of facial muscle movements, as Johnson points out, so that if we as the viewer cannot see the face of the protagonist whom we are inhabiting, then we lose this traditional key to empathizing with this person’s experience. However, we gain a sensory and immersive experience of the character whose point-of-view we inhabit. Not seeing the person’s face might make a viewer more open as their preconceived notions based on the character’s appearance will not be provoked. Even the omission of the inhabited character’s face can be played with via the use of a mirror that could “reveal” the physical identity of the character after the viewer has been immersed in their story. Additionally, we do not lose the ability to see the faces of the other people featured in the film.

Other critics, such as adjunct professor Sam Gregory of Harvard University, do not believe that virtual reality necessarily equates to empathy. Jennifer Alsever quotes Gregory: “It’s confusing immersion for empathy.” Viewers might become distanced from the subject of the VR film if it’s too violent, and virtual reality’s potential for motivating social action might instead corrode into “poverty tourism.” Meanwhile, Adi Robertson wonders in her article “The UN wants to see how far VR empathy will go” whether VR’s apparently superior effectiveness in motivating social action results not necessarily from VR’s inherent qualities, but its novelty.

Meanwhile, in her article “The Limits of Virtual Reality: Debugging the Empathy Machine,” Ainsley Sutherland points out, “This is the central critique of VR as a successful medium for ‘increasing’ empathy: that it cannot reproduce internal states, only the physical conditions that might influence that.” In response to Sutherland’s criticism, I wonder if she makes an inaccurate division between internal and external states, devaluing the impact of physical conditions on the emotions. If we can experience the physical conditions of living in a refugee camp, would the very conditions not move us, knowing that the young Syrian protagonist is living what is but a simulation for us the viewers? Additionally, the physical conditions elicited by VR can make the story lines and relationships between people within a film more intimate because we physically have the impression of being beside them, and are thus psychologically more able to identify and empathize with them. Physical and emotional conditions are more intimately connected than we might realize.

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COMPLEX POSITIVE POTENTIAL

Despite dimming the potential of virtual reality to increase empathy, such criticisms shed insight on VR’s complexity and further substantiates its potential to effect change. That VR entails a consideration of multi-layered technical, scientific, aesthetic, and theoretical perspectives evidences the vastness of VR filmmaking’s uncharted territory. Can theatre, literature, or cinema more effectively stimulate empathy in an audience for a subject’s internal state than virtual reality? To isolate virtual reality from the tradition of storytelling is simply false. VR is a continuation of the tradition of storytelling, but in a new medium. And as virtual reality filmmakers develop new tools and refine their skills, virtual reality might well evoke the same complexity of inner states as poetry. At DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY and VR EXPLORERS, we embrace the newest innovations and are eager to explore the possibilities of virtual reality and its potential to effect positive change in the world. We look forward to evoking empathy in our viewers for the issues and stories that we tell in our films.

03Nov

Breaking Out of the Comfort Zone

“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way… you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”

  Aristotle

People are their actions, and a story is only worth telling if it is about people who act outside of their normal behavior. Entrepreneur and innovator Edwin ter Velde of Zero Waste Center is a person whose story is well worth documenting. His story is an ever-evolving effort to breach the boundary between comfort and discomfort: he is a man of focusededwintervelde action, an innovator who believes that social innovation reigns highest in the hierarchy of innovation.

“I have studied together with my old friend and cofounder of the Zero Waste Center Cees Hebing human behavior (to start with our own behaviour) and the way you can change it, and I understand that your behavior is not how you are, but how you behave. So, why is it that in companies or in people’s everyday social behavior, we are not playing with our behavior? We think that’s how we are. No, it’s an instrument you can use,” believes ter Velde.

As human beings, we can experiment with our actions to change for the better. However, most people would rather not admit that their routine behaviors are just that: routine. The opposite of innovation. Stories that no one wants to read or watch.

Ter Velde wants to rouse people from their stagnancy to experiment with actions that force them outside of their comfort zones and to transform themselves. The problem, of course, is that most people are not as comfortable as ter Velde is with questioning the routines that make up the foundation of their everyday lives.

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We’re sitting in a spacious nook in the Zero Waste Center production facility in Amsterdam-Noord, coffee in hand as 3D printers whir silently along one wall, and we chat facing the several meters high mock-up of the Solar Voyager. Ter Velde has found a way to inspire people to change their behaviors towards plastic waste, but elegantly framed in the concept of Zero Waste and in the story of the Solar Voyager Expedition.

“Talking about behavior is not a nice thing. Because people think, why are you talking about my behavior? It is uncomfortable. And I learned that if you put it in a concept that’s not directly related to yourself, but at the end it is, then it’s more comfortable ultimaker_3dprintersto talk about it and to teach people,” explains ter Velde. “And this is the reason I founded Zero Waste because throwing things away is a behavior, not respecting materials and thinking it doesn’t bother you, is also behavior. If you’re talking about the zero waste concept, then we think it is all related to waste, but after a couple steps you understand that the concept is all related to you as a person.”

EXPERIMENT IN ACTION

The Solar Voyager is a solar powered vehicle partially made of recycled plastic. For one year now, ter Velde has been collaborating with renowned adventurer Wilco van Rooijen on the Solar Voyager Expedition. He is busy all day every day working on the project.

Edwin ter Velde is a sailor, but he is not a professional explorer. Nevertheless, come December 2017 he will embark with van Rooijen on an expedition to the geographical South Pole aboard the Solar Voyager.  Their mission: to show the world that it is possible to journey to the center of Antarctica based on the concept of Zero Emission and Zero Waste.

The construction and expedition of the Solar Voyager is an experiment in behavior. Ter Velde not only wants to challenge himself to go outside his comfort zone, but he also wants to inspire people to change their behavior towards plastic waste. By creating a story and a community around the Solar Voyager Expedition and the zero waste concept, ter Velde hopes to encourage people to change their behavior by taking action to change their daily lives.

“We are showing that it’s all a matter of doing. Just do it! Stop talking about the world and sustainability and things like that. Act. Act. Directly, and that’s it,” emphasizes ter Velde.

The completed Solar Voyager will testify to ter Velde’s message of individual action and social innovation. If the Solar Voyager can make the journey to the South Pole, the most extreme climate on earth, then the expedition will set an example, challenging even the most average person to make radical changes in their daily life – to eschew comfort for the sake of preserving our environment and resources. To act, and by acting, to transform not only the world for the better, but themselves.

NOT WASTE, BUT PRECIOUS MATERIAL

The Solar Voyager will be made partially out of discarded water bottles, leftover packaging, disposable forks and spoons – what many of us regard as plastic waste. But not ter Velde, who doesn’t see plastic as waste, but as precious material that demands our respect and innovation.

“Why is it waste? Has one molecule in the material changed because you call it waste? I don’t believe that. It is still plastic, so it’s still material. In nature, everything is important. So, materials are also important. So, respect it. Take it up from the street, and let’s make the freshest thing you can imagine. Now for instance, the Solar Voyager, there’s a high added value. So, we learn – children, but also organizations, everyone – that it’s all in your mind. It’s all in your mind. We think it is waste, no it isn’t. It is material. And you can do such nice and precious things with those materials.”

At this stage, ter Velde is busy calibrating the 3D printers that will print the plastic material into pieces that will make up the body of the Solar Voyager. He hovers over his laptop, monitoring the printers. It’s easy to be swept away by the project there in front of the Solar Voyager mockup and listening to ter Velde. When he fits several plastic samples together and holds them up against the mock-up, you become infected with his fervor. And then there is still the most important aspect of the expedition to discuss: Antarctica itself.

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INNOVATION SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE

Journeying through Antarctica will not be luxurious – it is the driest continent on earth, with low temperatures and wind speeds of 350 km/h. But for ter Velde, the physical challenge of the journey is just as important as the technical challenges: if there is no discomfort, there is no change. Living sustainably and without waste will not be comfortable.

“If you want to change, you must change your standard behavior. And that’s a difficult thing for people. We like to have a comfortable situation. But if it is comfortable, you are acting as you always have. So, if it is uncomfortable, you know that things are changing. That you are moving forward, or back. It’s just a matter of testing and seeing what it will bring. It should be uncomfortable to innovate, to make a real innovation,” believes ter Velde.

When asked why Antarctica should be the site of the Solar Voyager’s route, ter Velde replies: “It is the most extreme. It is the most unknown continent.” For if there was a continent that would host a journey meant to assimilate the goals of zero waste and radical behavioral change, it would be Antarctica.

EVERY PIECE HAS A STORY

edwinterveldeTer Velde’s strength is not only in his motivation or his ability to realize ideas, but in his storytelling. When he describes the communities of schoolchildren, or stadsjutters (or urban miners in English), and their efforts to gather discarded plastic material, he lights up. His excitement at having motivated a community of people to act, to effect change is more fervent than any other aspect of the Expedition.

He explains to me how every individual piece of the Solar Voyager will have a numbered certificate that will document the people who helped collect the plastic for that piece. “Every piece has its own story,” says ter Velde. “So, this car is very precious because the energy in all those pieces is being shown to the world.”

The story of the Solar Voyager, he tells me, isn’t about him. “I do not want to have a notation in the Guinness book of records. It’s not about me. It’s about the fact that we can create things, and we should do it all together,” says ter Velde.

Despite what he might say, ter Velde is one of the main actors in this real-life story. His drive and his energy to act drives the story of the Solar Voyager. He inspires each of us to act outside of  our comfort zones– to do. For it is only by doing that the we can transform, innovate, and grow. DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY believes in stories like ter Velde’s, helping him to share his story so we might accomplish our own goal to inspire people to create, to innovate, and to challenge themselves – to cross the boundary between possible and impossible.

 

Have a look yourself and be inspired by the Solar Voyager test drive.

 

 

 

 

09Jun

“Buy a phone, change the world”

I also realized how much waste is produced with all these mobile phones. As they are one of the world’s most widely used devices, their disposal contributes to tons of e-waste each year. The consequences on the environment and populations are devastating. Most of the time, our e-waste ends up in developing countries. All the minerals present in the phone spoil soils, water, air… with consequences on populations’ environment and health. As a result more minerals ,need be extracted to build new products; which means more mines and more environmental damage and exploitation of workers… an infinite circle.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 15.47.24

In my research for a new phone…again… I discovered the Fairphone. This innovative young brand created by a Dutch company, in Amsterdam; is the first creator of an ethical phone. Fairphone already sold more than 100,000 smartphones in Europe, with that they started a new hope that their innovations can be a start for fair electronic shopping.

But what is an ethical phone like? It’s nothing more than an ordinary smartphone working on an Android system; you can call, send text, emails, take photograph, download apps… However, what differentiates this phone from others is its social responsibility, transparency, durability, recycling values at the core of the company’s work.

To reduce the impact of waste to a maximum, Fairphone has a circular view on the production of the phone. That means in the stage of design, it think of how to reuse and recycle parts of other mobile phones. As all minerals can be extracted and reused, this way they use the older phones as materials for the new ones.

In addition they raise awareness and participate in programs to reduce e-waste. And of course they are working towards the goal of using recycled materials for their future products.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 14.21.15

Environmental and social costs of smartphones production are huge; from mining to manufacturing, transportation and wastes; all this process includes pollution and social issues (workers safety, rights…). Fairphone is pushing the limits by proving that it can be done differently and more responsibly; I hope it can give the example for others brands. Thanks to Fairphone’s transparency you know what every cents you spend are for… For example, for each Fairphone produced; 5$ are invested in a Worker Welfare Fund to enhance safety and good development of workers. You know also that they try to extract minerals (gold, tantalum, tungsten…) in conflict-free areas and are involved with NGO to tackle these problems. Indeed, most of minerals present in your phone are from Congo, an area touched by armed conflicts…Armed groups revenue are basically from minerals.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 15.49.34
On top of that, the Fairphone is modular; changing a part of your phone is like playing with lego. If a part of your phone is broken you can easily order a new piece and replace it. Fairphone plans also to upgrade its elements, for example, if one day they commercialize a better camera or battery you just have to order this part and don’t have to buy a new phone for better performances. It is created with the intention of durability and not only selling you a product. This is an innovative idea.

Good news is that other brands are already following Fairphone´s example. Google is developing its modular phone: Ara, built to last. As Legos, you can build your own personal phone. This phone is still in development but it can be promising if these kinds of innovations became the new normal in electronic market.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 16.02.01

But then, what justify the price of a smart phones? Nice design? Cool brand? A big screen?.. There is no other company that is paying for the environmental damage that they cause. The last version of the Fairphone can compete easily with smartphone of this price range in term of performances. So the only justification that I see is that those other brands are just looking for more profit by so-called innovations in performances, design but nothing concerning the production process. Can we accept that?

Fairphone’s goal is not only to commercialize a new phone.“Start a movement” and “Join the community” are its motto. So what movement are we talking about? Which community?

A part of the population is aware of all these sustainable issues and cannot just accept it. This community believes of our power as simple consumer. The way we consume can also be a way to express ourselves by supporting positive initiatives and boycotting others. And obviously, it has power, if more and more people behave in this way, brands won’t have other choice to change their behaviors and strategies.

Being part of this “community” for me is a way to show I disapprove the behavior of ordinary brands… I want to be part of the people who don’t follow new trends because it’s cool but care about the way they are made and is willing to make things change…

Even though it is not the cheapest, I decided to join the movement and buy one. I believe in the positive changes that responsible purchase can have. Supporting this initiative meant 3 months with no phone. As a start-up who chose to not commercialize its phones in a normal circuit. They produce their phone according to orders and only through internet. Victim of it success, there was a 3 month-delay when I ordered it… But thanks to Fairphone, during these 3 months I realized how much we were connected to our phones but also how easy and liberating it was to live without being connected all the time…

Finally, when you decide to buy your Fairphone don’t forget to recycle your last phone, you can even earn money from it!

17Mar

Comfortably ignorant

Since a few months I have passed my 40’s. I become more and more aware that a lot has changed in those years that I have enjoyed on this planet. More than I could imagine….It brings the question to mind what in the coming 40 years, more will change. What are the game changers and what will be solutions to the big problems that the last decades this so called time of prosperity have brought.

To show you how times have changed and at the same time unravelled the mist of so-called prosperity I take you to my childhood. In my street where I grew up, in Amsterdam in the nineties there was a bakery, a milkman with fresh cheese. A tobacco shop, a grocery store with great fruit and vegetables, and a store that we called ‘’Jantje van alles’’. All these shops had everything that a normal household needed. And these products were packaged for you in paper bags.

With the coming of the supermarkets, these shops disappeared and the immersive introduction of plastic became a reality. And without exaggerating plastic waste became one of the most critical environmental issues in the world. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is described as a 7th continent  and is a product of our way of living. It is made out of plastic and has direct impact on our ecosystem, livelihood and food chain.

Plastic is still an easy and cheap material to produce for industries and with the coming of 3D printers’, plastic has a bright new future. Knowing that only 10% of plastic is recycled, it’s time to raise the alarm and change our way of production and consumption.

A few years ago I was not so much aware of the impact of these changes. The realisation of fact that all you buy is packaged in plastic. Makes you aware of your role as consumer. With the effect that I can’t do any shopping without having guilty feelings.

Luckily more and more people has the same guilty feelings and are trying to have a more responsible behaviour and reduce considerably their wastes. This is just about new habits to adopt and more reflection when you are doing your groceries or throwing your garbage away.Groenteman

It started with bringing your own bag to the store, and re-used the ones you had. Separate the plastic waste, from the rest of the garbage. But that is not enough. A new mentality is needed, to avoid plastic packaging. By using paper bags and bringing your own sacks again. And even then you can’t avoid paradoxical situations: “should I choose the organic cucumber in plastic packaging” or “the non-organic one without packaging”. When you want to have a responsible behaviour, this kind of decisions matters: you have to choose between supporting this “plastic mania” or eating these pesticides poisoning our lands.

Some still see a positive side to plastics as an opportunity for sustainable development. It is actually a cheap material that we can reuse and reuse again through recycling. Some entrepreneur and communities are inspired to change from a linear to a circular relationship with plastic. This is always motivating to see people thinking out of the box and looking for alternatives solutions for the good of our planet.

An inspiring story is that of Wilco and Edwin from Clean 2 Antarctica, they are convinced we can have a zero waste community. And to prove that they will go on expedition to the South Pole in a vehicle entirely built from recycled plastics and powered by solar energy. This is a way to demonstrate that “Zero Waste” and “Zero emissions” are possible… Imagine the relief of clean air and clean oceans! It is not only their opinion but also that of the younger generation. That is why children in this project to collect plastic waste and shape them through 3D printing in a message to the world. This project is a message of hope showing the promises of plastic recycling and clean technology to live in a cleaner planet. It is just one of many great projects only here in the Netherlands. Possibilities are infinite with recycling and reusing. Each time that you are closing your garbage you can make sure that nothing belong to the recycle bin and ask yourself in which way you could reuse these wastes. You will awake your creative spirit and reduce your environmental impact. Give to your wastes a happy ending, a second life, much more brighter than ending in one bird’s stomach.everything1-1200x686

 

And although older generations and mine will have to a make a major change in their behaviour, the hopeful finding is that when I can’t separate my garbage I feel awkward. As doing something really wrong. That is in my point of view the confirmation that humans a custom animals. And with a little effort we can change the beautiful world around us.

More info on great plastic projects in the Netherlands:

WASTED Laboratory: a neighborhood Laboratory for Plastic Waste Upcycling in Amsterdam Noord

PLASTIC: Promises of a Home-made Future; explores the relation between plastic and the 3D printing market

Precious Plastic: built machines able to build new objects thanks to recycled plastic

 

 

18Feb

The future of power

Today, we celebrate “Battery Day”. Why celebrating batteries? Actually, when you think about it, it makes sense. Take this day to imagine your life with no batteries for a second…You are feeling low, aren’t you? Indeed, it would mean no cars, phones, laptops, cameras, remote controls and the list goes on and on. Plugging in our devices to recharge is now part of most people daily routine. So, we might take it for granted but batteries are everywhere, they are now irreplaceable in our present and future. We can use this day to appreciate all that battery allows us to do and to think of recycling all those dead batteries that you leave in this old drawer.

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As we know that fossil fuel’s era comes to its end, a whole new bright future is building up. A world where we hope that coal burning stoves and nuclear plants will soon be nothing more than a memory. A world where those smokestacks on our roofs, will not embody our emissions anymore; but just an architectural souvenir of these time. We can already perceive this change, through latest batteries’ evolutions. Tesla’s innovations such as power up cars and houses (Powerwall battery) reduce our direct emissions to zero by cutting exhaust pipes and equipped our roofs with solar panels. Clean fuels are on their way to build the future of our electric network! And this shift stands on the ability to store energy; in short, on batteries!

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Besides, as adventurous movie producers, the battery question is omnipresent especially in some conditions where plugging in batteries as we do home is not an option. Imagine how crucial this question can be, while recording some footage in the middle of Himalaya. All our equipment (lights, cameras…) requires batteries. That’s why we have to think of the best way to manActiveonage it, as keeping our impact to the environment at a minimum. We own solar panel chargers for example so that there is no need to carry a bunch of batteries. In this energetic transition era, in which energy storage is at its core; more and more solutions appear to us; such as Activeon Solar X, this new solar-powered action camera taking 70% of its charge from the sun in just 30 minutes.

By the way, you should take a look at our whole new Kickstarter campaign on www.climbeverestvr.com  that will take you to the summit of Mount Everest through a virtual reality experience. This experience will immerge you into this expedition; experiencing beautiful landscapes, extreme weather conditions…You have the opportunity to share this experience with real adventurers and all you have to do is to recharge the battery of your smartphone or virtual reality gear and sit comfortably!P1010611

 

04Feb

The early risers

The feeling when you get up early to go for a run, do some yoga or meditation let’s you feel like you rise above the world. You just dragged yourself out of your comfy bed to commit to something. And when you accomplish what you targeted yourself to do. Oh boy, this feeling leads to a fantastic motivation for the rest of the day. (Especially when it is combined with an epic sunrise)Sweden

Famous athletes and successful people also cherish their early morning routines. They create their own ritual that motivates and inspires them. Tony Robbins has an “hour of power”, which includes motivational sayings and visualization. Steve Jobs always asked himself if he would be happy with his planned day if it was his last day on earth. Motivational speaker Eric Thomas wakes up every morning at 3AM.

He says: “Sleep is the new broke. If u only have 24 hours in a day, your success is depend upon how you spend the 24.”

It’s nothing new that the early risers have big advantages, to the sleepy colleagues. It is easier to focus when the world outside is to tired to interrupt you; there is no chaos and noise. Your creativity is highest after waking; the preferential cortex is most active. All your ideas are cleaner as the mind hasn’t yet been troubled with daily issues. So it’s simple to connect to the flow of creativity.Sunrise africa

When you rise with the sun it gives you more balance in the body. When you think of it, its logical. You basically copy the body’s natural rhythm, which leads to peace and a balanced life.
There is something magical about the hours before dawn. Waking up early, gives you time for yourself or to catch up on things you are behind on, it makes you calmer for the rest of the day. You have a head start on the rest of the world.

I believe that “willing” is the key. It will be hard to wake up in the beginning. You always have that feeling you did not sleep enough. But once you train yourself in it, just by five minutes at the time, everybody can do this. Little steps, lead to bigger steps in the future. If you want to become an early riser you will be overflowing with joy. You may inspire others, so create your suitable ritual that inspire and motivate you.
What would you do with the extra hours each day?

21Jan

Finding positivism through change of perspective

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Now and then, there comes a time when the walls begin to close in. All the beautiful surroundings feel more like a barricade. Even with the most positive mood, it feels like a splash of cold water in your face again. When this trapped feeling somehow snuck in, its time to change perspective and hit that reset button.

When I pushed that button, I was ready to get inspired again. I tried to look around with a positive eye. For example; I saw my shoes next to the front door. Normally I would walk right passed them. But now, they were standing there, inviting me out. I looked at them as a motivation to move. I always like taking slow walks, the kind that make you notice things; like that clouds are never the same. So I went out and get that heart rate up and breath deeper than I can remember. I experience pure harmony with the fresh air on my skin. I could feel my spirit automatically loading with positively. After that simple walk outside, I have returned to myself, ready to take on another week. This change in the way I look at things will lead to more positivism in the daily life. Just find your place where the air is easy to breath.

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Most people start new year as an opportunity to make a promise to themselves. But new years resolutions will be swallowed by the dark and depressing days of January. Well, we have already survived Blue Monday – we can fight some more. Focus on finding positivism and change perspective. The sun will break trough the clouds again. Even when it feels like you standing at the bottom of a valley and the only way is up the mountain. One foot after another, the climb is worth it. Just think of the incredible view on the top.

What do you need to think more positively?

07Jan

Welcome 2016

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If I look back and reflect on 2015, it has been a year filled with peaceful mountain peaks and beautiful views. Collecting memories and feelings of the sun on my face and the wind in my back. Wonderful days of quiet sunrises and unique sunsets… But this year has also seen unreliable storms, and experiences that left a feeling of uncertainty and disbelief. Happenings, that left me without a view and no sunshine in sight. On those days, I have to find my inner power and keep believing in the bigger positive picture.

One specific individual reminds me of that inner power, Public Protector; Thulisile Madonsela. When she walks into a room and begins speaking, people sit up and listen. Her mission is to establish a trust in South Africa’s young and fragile democracy. She is a big inspirational example and we believe she can inspire many people. Last two years we have made big steps in getting access to her and capturing her amazing story. Also, this year we will keep going, keep believing in realizing a captivating story, in telling her unique part of history in a fight against corruption and perseverance. A fight not for someone’s own well being, but that of the society.

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2015 also had experiences that made me happy and hopeful for a better future, like the climate talks in Paris. For years people have demonstrated to make our voice heard, our concerns, of how we manage this planet. In Paris we didn’t win the war, but you can say we won a battle. There seems a momentum and governments seem to take serious steps to move away from oil, gas and coal. Meanwhile, energy from clean, renewable sources will grow. We know the agreement isn’t perfect – and it’s not, but over the past year, we saw a truly unprecedented show of support for a strong agreement. Friends like you who cared so much about the future to take action during the climate march. So take a moment to reflect on what you helped accomplish. It’s not every day you can say you were a part of history in the making. Be proud of that. Be very, very proud.

A mayor step is the fact that an organization, like Urgenda, and some international affiliates have won a court case against the Dutch government. And now the government need to take serious action to avoid the impact of climate change. Again an example we could not think a few years ago.
At the same time entrepreneurs and many designers in the Netherlands are taking up the challenge and renew our economy into a circular one. The ambition is to become a worldwide circular hotspot. Currently, there is happening so much in the development that makes us very proud. With the Netherlands as circular hotspot, we are going to inspire and motivate the world.

birds or ghosts

The amazing thing about reflecting is there are no rules. A new year is the symbolic starting point for new possibilities and the way to achieve these; is by doing, by making a change every day. Making a positive change NOW, sets the tone for the beautiful adventures in the year ahead. Erase all negativity and bring happiness and lessons we’ve picked up along the way. The good and the bad and learn from our experience. After we have learned we are able to grow, to give love, to acknowledge and to be thankful.

We are going to set sail on creative and unique adventures, and share this in as much as possible ways with you!

Wishing you all an enlightening, happy and healthy new year!

24Dec

Nature my friend, in good and bad times

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Two weeks ago I went with my friends from the Dutch Climbing Association for a bivouac weekend in the Ardennes in Belgium. Houfallize was the place to be and so we decided to meet up in a local pub from where we walked together to our first resting place in the forest. Weather was mild but wet, just like last year. It must have been an eight degrees Celsius and nights around freezing temperatures.
We had to walk for an hour or so before we could all chose our own space to spend the night. As I had only a bivy sac with me I was searching for the tree with the biggest crown to give me shelter during the night and protect me against rain. This meant I had to sleep a bit upwards as the ground wasn’t flat at all.

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Every hour I woke up and turned a bit to find the best spot and felt asleep again. In the morning you always have the ritual of starting the stove to boil water for breakfast and whilst it is doing so you will pack your stuff so after breakfast you can start your day. As we had to do a 35km trip on Saturday with a 15kg backpack this means with an average of 3km per hour that you have to move for at least 12hours without breaks. That is a pretty long day. Most of it is off road and in this season the rivers mostly are over the banks and paths so you have to find your way on a map with coordinates and a compass.
During the day you are full of excitement as there are so many obstacles to overcome and so many times you think; why I am doing this? You know that the night will be cold and wet with less sleep than is good for you after such a long day walk!

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When I arrived back home Sunday evening everything was crossing my mind again and a few things came up. There is a mental and a physical element in bringing yourself out of your comfort zone. From the applicants there is always a percentage canceling their trip for many good reasons. Mostly it is not the real reason why people giving up on themselves. It is hard, it is not comfortable and warm at most of the time but just by setting that one step before the next is the start of a new adventure. Any adventure big or small, in cities or in nature.

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The physical element is mostly direct linked to the mental state. When we are young we learn to cycle and then when it rains and is cold we still need to cycle because our parents say so. When you are getting older and deciding for yourself suddenly life becomes easier as you are making the calls. Many of us, trying to walk the easy less steep route through life. The route that is not giving you that extra when you succeed but lets you be average. Most of us don’t see the parental strength anymore that we sometimes just need, to do and believe in the outcome and feeling a little of pain. We lost our inner strengths and trust that we can survive on our own with that extra glory moments that come along with it. No matter what choice you make in life, what walk you walk as long as you do it hand in hand with nature you will be surprised about the outcome!

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10Dec

Art and Activism

we are nature

Brandalism Project
Just before the start of the COP21, 600 anti-advertisement posters have been placed in public outdoor spaces through the streets of Paris. Over 80 artists, from 19 different countries were involved. Joe Elan from Brandalism: “By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France an GD-Suez-Engine can promote themselves as part of the solution – when actually they are part of the problem.” It all started in 2008 when two friends started to reclaim billboards in London. They were tired of the visual pollution that stems from large public advertisements.
The Brandalism artwork illustrates the connection among advertising, marketing, consumerism, fossil-fuel dependency and climate change.

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Where the Tides Ebb and Flow

Land art project “Where the Tides Ebb and Flow” is all about raising awareness for global sea level rise. The artwork is located at Montsouris Park in Paris. The artist Edro Mazorati placed 30 sculptures of blue men in water that appear slowly rise up and then sink down again. The artwork was first introduced in 2008 at an Art Festival in the Netherlands. Since 2008 it has been moved to raise awareness all over the world.

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Empty shoes
A sea of footwear, from high heels and flip flops to sportive sneakers and outdoor boots standing at the Place de la Republic in Paris. With the state of emergency making it impossible to demonstrate, the protesters used the empty shoes as a personification. More than 20.000 shoes were placed. This made a strong impact on the worldwide audience (picked up by many broadcasters), maybe even more than if there had been protesters.

parisshoes.jpg__800x600_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale Our feet are what roots us to the planet earth, so the shoe is an beautiful metonym for sustainable consciousness

Artist brings icebergs to Paris
Olafur Eliasson brought 12 large blocks, from the Nuuk fjord in Greenland to the middle of Paris. By displacing the ice, the obvious result is that it melts. The huge blocks are a visual reminder of the change climate happening now, at this instant… and that we are creating irregularities on earth. The artist said: “The ice we are going to put in Paris is a tenth of what melts in a second in the Greenland summer.

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1 Heart 1 Tree
This artwork is transforming the Eiffel tower into virtual forests with light. People all over the world, will have the opportunity to give life to a virtual tree. After downloading the smart phone app, you can participate in this collective project. You place a finger on the sensor to record the rhythm of your heartbeat; which grows a unique tree on the Eiffel tower. For each virtual tree, a real tree will be planted in one of the 7 reforestation programs over the world.

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These are just a few of the inspiring and creative art projects, presented in Paris.
Want to see more art projects, join them or make one here

Art activism is just one of the many ways to let people look at the cause with new eyes. But it’s also important to taking up real space and real time, attaching the cause to real faces and real voices who care enough about the cause to go out there in a public protest.

Art may often used as a medium to express extreme impulse into simplistic flares, but I believe it intended to have a small part in a beneficial purpose. Considering, those ghostly shoes and billboards are not an individual wave. They have a collective spirit and that unity; the small suggestion, hidden within each, that is what can work towards collective goals. Protests are not persuasive themselves but they invite persuasion, they invite change.

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