Friday, 3 January 2014

Awakening the Dreamer

Yesterday I was blessed to be able to run an "Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream" symposium at Bellbunya for our volunteers and guests. A couple of nights before that I had woken up in the middle of the night buzzing with the inspiration of a new idea - to run these workshops as a free offering for our volunteers and guests (and locals): a perfect synergy with our values. Six months before that I had participated in my first symposium and came away inspired and re-energised, with a renewed commitment to making a difference in our world. And three years before that I had stumbled across the symposium's vision via a group we hosted at Bellbunya. I was struck by the power and balance of that vision: "Bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet."

The Changing the Dream Symposium, is a not-for-profit initiative designed as a response to the urgent call of the Amazon Achuar people to "change the dream" of the modern world. Here at Bellbunya, we see so many people (including ourselves) who are disturbed by the "dream" of our modern world and who are seeking something different. At Bellbunya, we are learning/experimenting/growing in living an alternative dream of holistically sustaining living.

The symposium is designed to help people connect with their own deep concern for our world and its people whilst empowering them to make a difference in their own unique way. It is a beautiful opportunity for those who stay with us to deepen their experience at Bellbunya and grow in their commitment to building a better world.

And so, I have committed myself to run this 4 hour workshop as a free opportunity to add to the contribution that Bellbunya is making to building a better world. Whenever we have six or more volunteers, guests, neighbours or interested people from anywhere who want it, I will gladly run a symposium. If you want to come along to one, just let me know.

Have a look at the video below for a brief intro to the symposium

If you are not near Bellbunya, you can find a symposium near you at

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The Clean 15 vs. The Dirty Dozen

Want to know what non-organic produce uses the least pesticide and what uses the most? Let's see.

The Clean Fifteen :)
- Top Produce with the Least Pesticide    

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapples
5. Mango
6. Sweet Pea
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi Fruits
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruits
14. Sweet Potato
15. Sweet Onion
The Dirty Dozen :-(
- Produce with the highest Pesticide Residue

1. Celery
2. Peach
3. Strawberry
4. Apple
5. Blueberry
6. Nectarine
7. Capsicum
8. Spinach, Kale, Collard Green
9. Cherry
10. Potato
11. Grape
12. Lettuce

*The Dirty Dozen* are reported to contain 47-67 Pesticides per serving!

Other items with high pesticide residue include fatty meats, milk, chocolate, wine and coffee.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership

The popular and beautiful poem by Mother Theresa is a reworking of the original by Kent Keith, called the “Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership”:
1: People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2: If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3: If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4: The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5: Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
6: The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7: People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8: What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9: People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10: Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

And here’s the later version by Mother Theresa…
Do Good Anyway
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Going Green in Sri Lanka

Chris, one of Bellbunya Sustainable Community's founders has been in Sri Lanka for the AGM of the Global Ecovillage Network Oceania and Asia and he has just visited Eco Community Sri Lanka...

The speedometer on the bus read 0km/h which didn’t seem too inaccurate as I alternated between roasting my rear end on the gearbox and standing. I was on my way to Eco Community Sri Lanka (ECSL), about 6 hours from the nation’s capital, Colombo.

Chaminda, one of the founders had responded enthusiastically to my request to visit and exchange our ecovillage insights and lessons.

Eco Community Sri Lanka sits on 52 acres in the dry zone of central north Sri Lanka. When I visited there were about 12 community members onsite and 2 international volunteers. The community has been in place for only 1.5yrs and, from my research, appears to be the first ecovillage in the country that has been entirely created by its members, rather than being initiated by a program of an NGO. (However, if anyone knows of any other independently created ecovillages, please let me know).

The community was started by a group of friends, studying Chi Gong together under their teacher Aruna. Thilena contributed his savings from 5 years of factory work in Korea and Eco Community Sri Lanka was born.

Aruna describes their vision as "mutual completion" which is about working together to achieve shared goals. He believes that each person has a special "Universal Task" and that in finding and following this "task" we will be building a better world for all. Following this philosophy, Chaminda left his well-paid job as an NGO aid and development worker to volunteer fulltime at ECSL to make a "real difference".

A down side of the large amount of international development aid that Sri Lanka receives is a culture of financial dependence that sometimes develops in NGOs. In contrast, ECSL is entirely self funding. Community members have contributed their own resources and they have a number of farm-based businesses, with more in development. ECSL has 450 loman brown chickens, 1400 indigenous chickens (most are not yet at the point of laying eggs), 38 turkeys, 48 cows, 37 goats. They sell on average 3600 chicken eggs per week and 350 litres of milk. They have two plantations of 800 organic papaya trees, 60 cashew trees, hundreds of pumpkins and eggplants and, when the rains come, will plant rice.

At this stage, much of the development is experimental, an ongoing learning and evolution process. For example, change will soon be made on the chicken front. The loman brown chickens are susceptible to disease and need to be kept in their barn. At the end of the dry season, feed for the chickens is costing more than their eggs are worth. However, the local chickens are disease resistant and can free range to feed themselves and their eggs (although less frequent) fetch double the price of the loman browns’.

Right now, everyone is hoping for rain. The paddy fields are bare. Other farmers have burnt their fields (they don't do this at ECSL) and are waiting to plant. The monsoon is now a few weeks late, which makes things very difficult. And it's not just for the farmers. Each night now up to 50 wild elephants come seeking food. Farmers try to scare them away from their homes and crops with fire crackers, yelling, bonfires and lights. It's dangerous and tiring but, at this time of year, it's a struggle for survival. These conflicts are common in Sri Lanka, as wild land for elephants to free range diminishes.

At ECSL, they are wondering how to balance the needs of people and nature. Stephanie, an Irish permaculture teacher from Auroville in India is developing a permaculture plan for the kitchen garden. A permaculture plan for the whole site would be great - trees, mulch and compost are particularly important.

Buildings are efficient - compact and made of local materials, with traditional mud walls and palm frond roofs. The community is off the grid, with a number of small solar panels providing for LED lights and a water pump.

One of the intentions of ECSL is to experiment and share useful technologies and lessons that they learn for the benefit of local subsistence farmers. For example, the community here has developed a natural pesticide, made from a number of local plants, that they have distributed to the neighboring farmers to try. They are also developing their organic papaya orchards to demonstrate to local farmers that they can be grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. As they develop their herds of cows and goats, they intend to develop a cow and goat bank system, including training and support, to assist local farmers.

The need for agrochemical-free farming was highlighted to me by the alarming level of kidney failure in Sri Lanka. Current research by the World Health Organisation shows a growing problem around the world - that began to emerge amongst poor rural farmers in the 1990s. It appears that ground water tainted with cadmium and arsenic from chemical fertilisers and pesticides are a key factor. Chaminda and the crew are trying to work out how best to assist the farmers in their area.

On the social level, sometimes ECSL volunteers teach English at the local school. They have also established and run the WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) network in Sri Lanka.

As a small and new community, ECSL has achieved a surprising amount already. They are warm and welcoming and provide volunteers with a great opportunity to be a part of the life of a small rural community. They are open to new community members and volunteers (particularly if you have skills in website development or alternative technologies). For more information, go to

Article by Chris Gibbings. Chris is co-founder of the Bellbunya Sustainable Community ( on the Sunshine Coast in Australia and Vice President of the Global Ecovillage Network Oceania and Asia (

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Food and Sustainability

I thought I would post some of the (at times shocking) facts that I learnt in Nepal from my amazing Canadian friend and nutrition teacher Wendy Akune. I will conclude with a post on how you can minimize your impact and monitor the affect your own nutrition on your moods, health and general well-being. Enjoy.
- In 1961 produce began to be shipped which signaled the end of predominantly local produce.

- In the US the average kilogram of produce travels more than 2400km from farm to plate.

-In the UK food travels 50% farther than 20 years ago.

- In Norway food travels 100% further than 10 years ago.

- On the average supermarket shelves there are roughly 30,000 products. Half of these are produced by 10 multi-national companies.140 people form the boards of directors of these ten companies.
That means 140 people controlling half the food in a large supermarket!!!

- 6 companies now control 98% of the world’s seed sales.

-Through consolidation-i.e mergers, takeovers and alliances, multi-national farms are now controlling the food system from gene to supermarket shelf.This Includes:
-Grain Collection
-Grain processing
-Livestock production
-Livestock slaughtering; and
-Processed Food

Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Yesterday at Bellbunya a selection of guests, visitors and community members harvested our Cassava plants.

A perennial woody shrub, Cassava is a great source of low cost carbohydrate in tropical climates.

To plant (or re-plant), all you need is a small section (around 7-30 cm) of the woody shrub buried either horizontally or vertically and about 8 months of patience!

As cassava is actually grown for the tubular roots, harvesting requires pulling out the entire shrub, at which stage the cassava is re-planted in a different area. The soil from which they are pulled is now perfect for growing above ground crops such as broad beans.

To prepare the cassava for eating, we cut the roots into smallish section and with a sharp knife removed both the dirty outer layer along with the thin woody layer just below it. If the Cassava shows any signs of black or brown amongst the white of the root, make sure to throw it away, as this actually cyanide! Cassava only has a shelf life of a few days so it needs be cooked almost immediately. We par-boiled and then roasted ours, but there are many other ways it can be used. has suggestions on how to use Cassava:

Dried roots can be milled into flour. Maize may be addedduring the milling process to add protein to the flour. The flour can be use for baking breads. Typically, cassava flour may be used as partial substitute for wheat flour in making bread. Bread made wholly from cassava has been marketed in the U.S.A. to meet the needs of people with allergies to wheat flour.

Fresh roots can be sliced thinly and deep fried to make a product similar to potato chips. They can be cut into larger spear-like pieces and processed into a product similar to french fires.

Roots can be peeled, grated and washed with water to extract the starch which can be used to make breads, crackers, pasta and pearls of tapioca.

Unpeeled roots can be grated and dried for use as animal feed. The leaves can add protein to animal feed.

Industrial uses where cassava is used in the processing procedures or manufacture of products include paper-making, textiles, adhesives, high fructo

se syrup and alcohol.

Our cassava was (surprisingly) delicious and tasted somewhat like roasted chestnuts.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Preservation key to wildlife future

Eumundi Green, 5 July 2012, page 19

Bellbunya is a rural 40 acre property in Belli Park on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, which lies between the West Cooroy State Forest and Mapleton Forest Reserve. The property has been regenerated during the last 20 years to create wildlife corridors and sanctuaries for animals moving between these major habitats. It has an underground river, springs, a large billabong and the headwaters of a significant Belli Creek tributary. The property contains a huge selection of native fauna and flora, including platypus, sugar gliders, echidnas, possums, bandicoots, native fish species and a diverse range of frogs and birds.

To aid in the process of this regeneration, Bellbunya has recently started a programme to bring foreign students to the property to assist with the work. Currently a group of Americans have come over to our shores on the ISV scheme (International Student Volunteers) and combined with the Mary River Catchment Care group and the local Shire Council they are in the process of clearing weeds and planting native species to encourage biodiversity along Belli Creek and the riparian zones. But this is no ordinary process for the methods are entirely organic. No easy task clearing areas of invasive species without the use of sprays but the current team of students under the ISV scheme and despite the rain have been busy clearing vast areas and learning all about the ecosystems. They were privileged to witness a swimming platypus whilst they were working just last week.

Bellbunya hope to continue planting 12,000 trees. Many of them koala trees to help with their recovery numbers on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and welcome people keen to help. They run various project times and if you’d like to assist with this wonderful enterprise to boost our wildlife numbers contact the team at Bellbunya on 5447 0181 or email:

They also welcome visits from locals interested in seeing their venture unfold.