A short visit to a parallel universe!
*I have to apologize right at the beginning to all our friends, who are by now used to our relatively shortish blogs, this one simply couldn’t have been compacted into a standard length.
The Living University of Blue Economy by Ferdinando Iannone
I thought a lot about this blog, and how to actually start a blog entry about The Living University of Blue Economy, the most amazing time of my life; the most important; the most fulfilling; the most inspiring? I am not even entirely sure how to define it, as I know I could add at least a dozen of “the mosts” here!
It was the first time in my life that I felt like I belong to a group!
I was so excited to even be invited in the first place! And then afterwards that I was able to come, that we got sponsored by our amazing incubator INiTS; for which we are very grateful for! Pearls of joy started to thread a glorious necklace from that moment onward! My trip to El Hierro and the Living University of the Blue Economy started with a first snow in Vienna! And ohh was I happy to leave! Changing flights on Gran Canaria to El Hierro, I met my first BlueEconomy friend, a charismatic young Colombian, Felipe Macia! And the adventure started as he became my roommate! Landing on El Hierro and being welcomed by the big man himself 🙂 Gunter Pauli! Instantly we were welcomed into his family, and that is something I believe not many people are able to do. Later only did I get to know the rest of the welcoming committee Laurenz, his son, a marvellous dancer; Charles, a father of 10, a man who still believes in Europe, a man to look up to, and a CEO of ZERI; and the incredible Javier, a man whose kind heart and energy I am certain led to the transformation of the Island and who was our host there!
Nearly half of that little plane were people coming to the Living University of the Blue Economy. Clifton and beautiful Nasha from Antilles and Stafford, aka Captain Sustaino from UK were just some of them.
That first night Gunter welcomed us in the Parador Hotel, located in a National park on the east side of El Hierro, which later became our living classroom! The first photo in this blog is a one taken from our classroom and without any Photoshoping! Nature simply seemed to be welcoming us to this place with all sorts of natural phenomena!
Next days were filled with learning, in a most amazing and basic way, from interacting with each other! Javier, being a superb host, made sure that nearly each day we had an organised visit to one of the important hubs of the island.
And so was our first field trip was a visit to The Wind-Hydro-Pumped Station of El Hierro, the Gorona del Viento. This is a brilliant concept of storing the excess electricity production, with no need for any battery storage. Five wind mills produce electricity to supply the islanders with 100% renewable power; however when the production exceeds demand, water pumps are switched on and water is pumped from a lower artificial lake into an upper bigger storage artificial lake. In the opposite case, when the wind is not so strong the water is released from the upper tank into a lower one, through few hydro power turbines, which in return supply the island with yet again 100% renewable electricity. The simplicity of the concept is what makes it so ingenious.
They have thought about every little detail of the concept; no one was digging holes to make these two new lakes, they used the natural dents and volcanic geology of the island to make them. And as the volcanic rocks are to say thirsty by nature they only isolated them with a special foil like material, complimented whit sensors so that in case of a seepage they wouldn’t have to check the whole area but that they would exactly know where the hole has appeared and which part of foil should be replaced. Below is a sweet photo of the Mendez family, Gunter and Isabella at the location.
During our visit to the island, was the super moon! We were just so lucky, or it was careful planning, that our hotel was located on the east side of the island with no civilization nearby! I do not need to tell you that the rising of the super moon across the Atlantic was followed by cheers of pure joy and awe! Those nights under the full moon were truly magical! And friendships as well as ideas formed under it are somehow stronger and more influential, more powerful and deeper than ordinary ones. I believe that once two souls have been touched under the super full moon, there is a link, a bond, that no distance can brake 🙂 Dear Arieta, Amaury and Hans thank you for making that first night under the full moon so memorable for me!
The “magic” was so powerful that we even experienced a rainbow surrounding the super full moon! I mean everything was so in sink, as if nature wanted to amaze us! If it weren’t for it all being natural phenomena I would of thought it was all an inside joke!
In the next couple of days we visited the abundant organic bananas farm, which has way higher yields than conventional grown bananas! And they tasted amazing by the way! Oh and banana flowers! OMG they are just a marvel! I love flowers, the more unique and weirder the better, but this! OHH! All my life I have been enjoying the wonders of feasting on bananas, and like any vegan they are my staple food, but I have never thought about their flower! Never! Now that I think of it I don’t even understand how come I never thought of it, as I am usually interested in flowers, but anyway I guess bananas are just something so connected to the supermarket in our brains that I never thought about where and how they come about 😀 And they come about gloriously! This is by far the most beautiful flower I have ever seen in my life! By far!
Maybe more impressive than island wonders and bananas flowers, was the group of people Gunter, Charles and Javier chose to invite to this first University! It was so interesting the first day when we all started introducing ourselves, who we are, what we do, what are our passions and desires! That was the moment, for I believe, when we realised, ok this is the reason why I am here! You couldn’t imagine a more diverse and fascinating group! Everyone is creating something unique and beautiful, and each helping our planet in a way, starting from seas and oceans to desert greening! Inspiring Douglas and charming Ad, who are working together on afforesting the world’s oceans and producing clean algae energy, Laurenz Pauli who is following their footsteps to Alice and her sustainable sea-cucumber farm, just an amazing bunch! Then we have Cynthia who is a professor in future-oriented cities and water planning; making sure our pee and poo is not wasted! An array of brilliant and inspiring professors on system thinking and system design like Prof. Luigi Bistagnino, Prof. Tibor Kiss, Prof. Ioan Fazey, as well as always encouraging, brilliant and the youngest member of the Club of Rome Dr. Charlie Hargroves! I am sorry if I forgot to mention someone of the brilliant academia team that was present at the university, like Dr. Vanessa Tamms, Dr. Martin Blake, Prof. Ana Romero, PhD Mohamed Afy-Shararah, and PhD student Chiara Battistoni. Not that there were any groups but in a sense the next interest group would be focused on trees and Agroforestry. From a tropical agroforestry farm of Amaury Praud, Felipes conservational farmers in Columbia, sweet Raquel from Paraguay, Winstons permaculture, Elisabeth, Isabela and Christine’s project of city canopy renewal to Elizabeth Kucinich’s efforts to promote regenerative agriculture, Christiana’s MERAKI group and their nature factory tightly connected to agroforestry, to Sarah who wants to green the desert lands of Algeria to us Afforest4Future and our unique methodology for super dry desert afforestation! And then there were the gems of forests the mushrooms! With Mark and Siemen from Rotherham, Desire, Gautier, Ina and everyone else from this interesting part :))
Of course nothing would have been as interesting nor as inspiring nor constructive, have we not had the brilliant group of personal, business and life coaches present there on the island with us! I have to start with the lady that inspired me the most with her regal, wise, charming and stunningly beautiful appearance, Franciska Moors! Some people just have radiance surrounding them, and she is definitely one of them! Glowing in all her Nordic queen beauty! The first time I saw her I knew I had to get to know her better. So wise and smart, she read me like an open book, I was fascinated! I am still trying to apply all the advice she had given me in our short time together, so that I can write her a report on my progress! Just amazing! And then my Mexican hermano Luis, sometime even more cheerful than Charlie :))) and Javier Silva so understanding and kind, and because of them and Inigo, Felipe and Carlos I can’t wait to learn Spanish! There is just so much lost in translation! Guy Cozijns a friendly, warm hearted business consultant who can even put these together, but for him they are so true! Two pretty ladies from Germany, each with an incredible speaking powers Tina and Yuliya, Tina thank you so much for sharing the photos first and with German like order and precision 🙂 I loved it! And it made my day when I saw all the folders 🙂
And then there was Cleopatra, she is not a personal coach as far as I understood, but she sure knew how to give some great advice! I know at least one person who was absolutely blown away by her wisdom 🙂 apart from me and Douglas.
I really don’t want to forget to mention someone as I believe that we all contributed to creating this amazing Living University 2016 El Hierro. Like Alices mom, who I deeply enjoyed meeting and having nice chats about Macedonia. Hope you come and visit me soon in our ancestors land ;)Arieta from Swiss born in Kosovo, a student searching for her path in this world, my peace building friend who touched my heart! And Fahed our IT master mind, without whose help we probably wouldn’t have gone so far 🙂 together with Ina the fastest learner I know, she basically just picked up website developing in a few hours! An overall group of brilliance!
Gracita my first experience with talking to a professional politician, OMG! I would just love if all our leaders were as kind, as inspiring, and thoughtful as she is! Not to mention pretty and funny! She gave me some great advice regarding my future project in Egypt, and I have to say it takes a special kind of person to be able to look through just anyone’s eyes, and she is this one. People of St. Martin you better vote for her or it’s your loss! Keneddy was great fun, and oh his love for his island is just something special! He never stopped just dropping comparisons about the beauties of his Anguilla, and now I have no choice but to come, visit those beautiful white beaches and plant some trees 🙂
Not to forget an inspiring French crew starting from Vincent, Albin, Pacsal and Ambroise, who brought us the most delicious algae spread among other great things we learned from them 🙂 Patrick a very brave guy in my opinion, who came from Belgium on his own, even though he didn’t speak English! Like bravo! That is what I call courage :)But Oscar outshines them all, who traveled all the way from Peru, talking and acting like a young lad while being over 80 years old! Just amazing! Inspiration to us all!
The Italian part of the group sweet Michelle, who now enjoys living in Tenerife and Luca and Andrea from Terna.
Nothing we did would have been captured have it not been for our exceptional camera crew starting from stunning, free-spirited, young Ineke, smiley Ferdinando,the only one who uploaded the photos so far :))); wise, funny and thoughtful Erney, and gentile, nearly invisible sometimes, sweet Hans! I can’t wait for all of your photos and movies! I am positive you guys did a great job! From those little bits and pieces you keep on spoon feedings us with, we can see its stunning work! I loved the photos Ferdinando made of fellow camera holders especially the ones from the visit to an allergen free El Hierro winery. Great tasting wine for all us allergic to milk or eggs! Highly recommended! :)))
Pete a Canadian who lives in Denmark taught us all to love mind maps and taking notes in a completely different way! Can’t wait to learn more from you! One thing I wholeheartedly took home together with Ioan’s horizons timeline was mind mapping! Great stuff!
I don’t actually want to finish this blog as I know that there is so much more to be said and remembered like the incredible party Gavin and Elisabeth hosted for us in their beach villa! Or the few great occasions Gavin showed off his booming opera like voice, or the fact that now every guy I will ever look at will have to compete with Charlies crew of a few dozen guys who serenaded me with a song from Dirty dancing! It was so nice that I lost the name of the song from the shock :))) Or the fact that we the girls sang my favorite song, “We are the champions” Scorpions! 🙂
My next blog will be sort of a continues blog based on my experience at El Hierro 🙂 So I will leave you at see you all soon, somewhere nice and tropical Las Gaviotas, or El Hierro, or perhaps our desert greening new location! :))) To be disclosed soon 🙂
Until then I wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope you all stay well, and keep on saving the planet, this is the only one we got next year too!
Big hug from a fellow Planeteer and Afforest4Future team!
Its a living blog post like our university so please add beautiful people whom I am so sorry I forgot to mention, add events, add stuff and correct me in the comments below 🙂