Introduction: our strongest weapon are dreams
Dreaming is stronger than mere thinking; someone inspired by a dream can move mountains.
These are real people, whose lives and ideas, if adopted widely enough, could change our world.. For them environmental awareness isn't limited to using wind power, solar panels, composers or fighting the Evil Monsanto. These courageous men and women have visions of a radically different world, and their love of life has led them to unusual means of expression, affecting their own lives and loves dramatically.
Their dreaming is concrete and often disastrous to their relationships with the outside world. It often seems extravagant or eccentric. But what seems crazy or exaggerated today may very well save our species tomorrow.
Here is a representative cast of characters, whose lives and ideas could be looked at in a series of broadcasts:
Cast of characters.
Gisbert Lippelt, the "Cave Man," is a German former ship's officer who fell in love with Aeolian Islands, located near Sicily, some 30 years ago.
He took an immediate decision-quit his job (second mate of a luxurious cruise ship), gave away all his property to local peasants as a gesture of liberation, and began a trip backwards into history, you might say back to the future.
He chose as his "professors" the oldest peasants on the island and has determinedly studied their folk craft and ways of life.
For a dwelling he has built a marvelous cave in the most beautiful part of the island, he lives by collecting rain water (there is no groundwater) and wood and herbs. Candle light and live fire keep him company, beautifully view with numerous volcanoes substitute him theatre and art galleries.
He eats only what grows wild around him. Thus he has resolved the question of money and bills: the first isn't needed because the second never arrive. He's become an expert in the archeology and history of the islands, knows hidden caves with ancient instruments left from the old times, and secret reservoirs of water.
He knows forgotten paths which lead into the depth of a long-lost past, further back than the Empire of the Caesars.
The Aeolian islands, in the meantime, have been "discovered" by executives from Rome and Milan, whose villas dot (or rather mar) the landscape. The standard of living has become high and most local peasants have forgotten their roots. They live by tourism.
Paradoxically, German Gisbert is the only knowledge keeper of the rich, ancient peasant civilization of the place, where people once lived in harmony with nature.
Ironically, almost everything he has copied from that civilization (and it's laws had worked for centuries), is today illegal. He is tolerated and "pardoned" by local officials only because he has been turned into a "character" by European television, which focuses on his eccentricity, forgetting to ask deeper questions.
Antonio Patronize, fantastic "stage manager," was a truck driver who participated actively in anarchist movements of the '70s in Milan.
In the '90s he quit his job, left his wife, and moved to Rome, where he occupied all by himself an enormous former ex-slaughter house situated in the middle of Rome.
He used this astonishing building as a theater set for his dreams. First, with incredible energy, he began to collect thrown-away objects from the entire city, ending up with a bizarre collection of toys, antique lamps and instruments, bird's cages, and paintings.
It all looked like a mixture of Blade Runner and Bergman's Fanny and Alexander set. Antonio "populated" his surreal space with "actors."
First to appear were 12 dogs, which arrived from Yugoslavia and lived as a pack, moving among the busy city traffic as if it was a forest.
Very intelligent and marked by an anarchist attitude towards life and love, they have inseminated just about every lady-dog in the neighboring gypsy camp, to the great displeasure of the owners. They move in the traffic as if it was a forest , untied, and follow Antonio's sidecar wherever he goes.
Antonio then sought human company, choosing an odd band of artists and semi-criminals as his cohorts. He dreamt of creating a cultural center dedicated to ancient ways of living and creating, and to some degree succeeded.
But recently he has been evicted. For two weeks, bizarre objects went flying out of the windows of the ex-slaughter house. Now it is shut while two political groups are contesting ownership.
In a strange way, Antonio had addressed the problem of recycling: he tried to give a second life not only to objects, which would have been wasted had he not inserted them into the wild environment he created, but also to his street people/actors.
Many observers considered his place a precious shopping/art gallery, where he would sell a unique stock of presents, furniture and art work. Patronize was driven by passion and completely ignored paperwork and bureaucrats.
Now that they have evicted him, will their approach save us from poisoning our planet and drowning it in garbage?
Philippe Lolli, would-be founder of a "new breed" is an architect who for the past seven years has worked as an unusual kind of herdsman.
Having observed animals with great love and attention, he considers himself an expert on breeding not only of animals, but people as well. He believes that the main cause of our ecological crisis is not pollution, but the useless, weak and spoilt new generation that is doing the polluting.
He thinks of the current generation as being physically "junky" and the same opinion he has of the culture which breeds it. He is sure that soon it will die off.
Philippe believes that the answer to the current ecological problem is to create a new race of people and to grow them in nature.
He is convinced that his mission in life is …to give birth to such a race!!!
Philippe bought a mountain, where he hopes to live and breed this new generation of strong, ecologically wise men. He has already contributed to the cause, having fathered seven sons, but that seems too little for him.
Currently Italian version of Moses is searching far and wide for women who would like to give birth to this new breed, to live together in harmony with each other and with nature on his mountain.
So far, no one has volunteered for his fantastic project. But the mountain is still there, and Philippe's theories on human breeding, though perhaps half-baked, bring up some valid points about the failure of human fertility. Sperm counts are in fact falling around the world, while our society seems to be losing its desire to procreate.
Efim Burjak, hoarder of vegetables, is a 70-year-old Russian Jew who lives in a small house on the corner of the luxurious Explanade in Toronto, Canada.
He is a passionate food "recycle," who collects thrown-away fruit and vegetables from supermarkets, dehydrates them, and sells his produce to local restaurants.
For many years he had a huge space where he dried his produce, but now he is ageing and his business is not going so well. He had to give it up. Despite his decline, he continues with great enthusiasm to collect and dry food, even in his apartment. As a result, Efim's dwelling looks odd: a bourgeois home full of luxurious furniture and art work now serves as a storage place for half-rotten vegetables to be recycled. He lives exclusively on food saved from extinction, and supplies many of his friends from the same source. He still manages to sell some of it to restaurants (luckily the clients do not see the process).
Efim's idea is as old as Poverty itself: not to throw away anything that can be re-utilized.
Today's concept of healthy eating is not contested or discussed by nutritionists. But it may be that some of the old, more moderate ways were best. Efim's methods could be useful as well to the increasing number of people in our society who cannot make ends meet, and must patronize our Food Banks to survive.
Myself, an artist in garbage. I've always been fascinated by art that borders on magic.
Recycling old, discarded materials has been an exciting challenge for me. A "garbage artist" can give a second life to seemingly useless objects, like old magazines, leaves, plastic bags, old clothing, etc.
Working in collage, I created a wall-sized mural called Pandemonium, "the largest miniature in the world," which despite its complicated appearance is very close structurally to a child's drawing-a ship sailing towards land.
I took this mural for a trip across Europe, exhibiting it from St. Petersburg in Russia, to Milan and Rome, and wherever it went I used it as a prop to teach better, more ecologically benign ways of living everyday life.
From this, a series of ecological fairy tales, which I've collected in an illustrated book called The Laughing Revolution, were born. I have footage of the courses I gave to children in Europe, showing their spontaneous reactions to these ideas, ideas which took the form of communal dreaming upon the subject.
Giuseppe Loda, owner of the school of chess, had a brilliant idea to open his school not only in the country where this game has never enjoyed particular popularity, but also in the most challenging contest one could imagine: he proposes pastime where one uses time and does not consume it in the middle of the most savage consumer society, in the midst of spiritual desert of the middle class area of Rome where there is nothing but bars, little shops selling jewels and countless pizzerias.
If some bored gentlemen comes in, very quickly he runs out-Giuseppe does not accept people who are not serious enough-he wants true students and followers.
Incredibly enough, he has found throughout the years some 17-20 students who regularly frequent his school, learning how to use the time and not to consume it.
There are many other examples of "ecological dreaming" Taken together, they could help shake viewers out of the staid, conventional "environmentalism" that only scratches the surface, and whose tepid efforts are failing us now, in our time of greatest danger and greatest need.