Lesson from the Geese: Dreaming of collaborative protection of our waters, 2015

Lesson from the Geese: Dreaming of collaborative protection of our waters, 2015, reflects on empathy in its diverse forms. Every fall thousands of geese fly from Iceland to the south to escape the cold winter. Geese have discovered that they can reach their destination more quickly and with less energy expended when they fly together in a V-shape formation, but with rotating leadership. The goose flying in the front of the formation has to expend the most energy because it is the first to break up the flow of air that provides the additional lift for all of the geese that follow behind. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates. By the same measure a team of humans is functioning well when all members of the team actively contribute with their expertise, experience and different perspectives. Consequently, in good teams, everyone has the opportunity to contribute and flourish.

This work is influenced by how we humans can learn from nature. It is also inspired by the writings of the late Páll Skúlason (2005; 2009; 2014) on the aesthetic experiences of being in the wild, learning to appreciate it. When reading his writings about how people acquire deeper empathy toward nature if they have learnt to experience it, I thought of the natural environment of the hills and mountains above the farm where I was raised. Nature there is rather simple with no extreme natural elements, but very peaceful with many small waterfalls flowing into the river Grímsá. Higher up in the hills are water ponds on a flat moorland. It took me many years to appreciate the beauty of the slow flowing waters with its fascinating pairs of swans, since it had always been very hard to pass through this area during the time we herded our sheep.

Recently, when hiking around the area and knowing that only 3% of all water on the planet is fresh I discovered how much I appreciate it. It is not only because I know all life on land is ultimately dependent on fresh water, but also because this settled beauty helps me to find connection and gives me energy. In this land, as in all others, the freshwater begins its journey in the hills and the mountains. It flows from humble streams (figure 4.4) from all sides of the mountain hills down to two mighty rivers. In the rivers the water continues it travels all the way to the sea. The journey to the sea is not always smooth or uninterrupted. Perhaps too often it has been changed through human action.

Every second masses of water spill down Icelandic waterfalls. In the highlands, there are areas that are colonised by geese and form one of the most productive habitats on the planet. Thousands of geese flock to some of these areas to rest and refuel on their long migrating journeys. This is the end of the rivers’ journey as collectively they wear down mountains and carry them to the sea, and throughout their journey this freshwater has delivered life to planet earth.

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