26th June 2010
Location: Worthy Farm, Pilton, UK. (Glastonbury Festival)
Henrik: So er, just quickly introduce yourselves will you.
Leo: I am Leo from Seize the Day. (Woo hoo!)
Richard: I am Richard from Seize the day.
Henrik: How many more of you are there in the band?
Leo: In the band, they base between four, six and eight, really. Depending on how big the gig is.
Henrik: OK And we’re in an absolutely amazing Oak Tree.
Henrik: And you were, uh, once saying how you played a tree.
Richard: I once played in a tree in Brixton on a cliff. It was a lovely May Blossom tree and it had one of those holes in it, about climbed half way up it and it was just proud enough of the trunk. I thought: I’ll give it a blow coz I’m a didgeridoo player and I couldn’t believe it when the whole tree vibrated and it was really clear. It sounded amazing. I played it and played it. I went back a year after and the top of the tree had been taken with the hole in it. I could still see the rest of the hole, where it would have snapped. I I must admit I had a little tear in my eye because that tree… I think that should have been preserved for posterity. To play a tree like that… If I could of, if I could have made that tree famous, I might have been able to preserve it. But trees, you think they are always going to be there.
Henrik: Yeah, exactly. It’s a funny thing actually seeing, like trees dying, I feel kind of like er… there is something kind of solid about a tree and when they seem to just die… what happened, was it killed or was it cut?
Richard: It was just cut by the council, I think. It was overhanging the path. Somebody put a chain saw through it when they could have just lopped that branch off. But that branch happened to be something quite special.
Henrik: Right, yeah. Yeah, I thought like there should be an um, a sacredness. Like you’ve got to have a damn good reason to cut trees down.
Richard: Yeah, I have quite an emotional position with trees. If you are open to nature and you can feel the, uh, beauty of nature, really a lot, then I think that you’ll understand that. If you can’t, some people see them as just plants and things that are in the way. I’m afraid I can’t make a tree that small in my perception. It’s much bigger than that
Henrik: So, um, Leo, you seem to be on a bit of a mission in a way. Do you see it like that?
Leo: I’m on a mission, yeah. That’s all there is . It’s the only thing that gives my life any meaning to be honest. I have been on a mission for a very long time. My idea about how to perform the mission changes but the mission itself is clear. As I have got older, I have realised that it might not be a mission that is completed in my life but that’s it’s a mission for human beings, but um, You know, I’ve got to thinking about this at this festival, I’ve been meditating on, thinking about how we are like monkeys and um, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I’ve been thinking: Well, it’s not that we have descended from monkeys or come from monkeys, we are monkeys and I find this a really useful thing, it’s opening up some useful thinking for me because it’s acknowledging what I am, which is a primate which is governed by a lot of things that have been given to me by evolution because they worked. A lot of skills, a lot of facility and also, a lot of instinctual behaviour or a tendency to behave in certain ways which seems to be just the nature of human beings. And we’ve kind of randomly developed our skills. Mastered. You know – we are on top of the ecology, the ecology is no longer on top of us. So, we have broken through as a species. The way I see it, that’s life. We’re all part of life. Life has evolved in the universe. The universe itself has life inherent within it. It’s come out, it’s found a better and better form to become aware in so that the universe can become aware of itself. The trees and things like that were the first things to have nurtured all that and created that. Monkeys, apes have come down from the trees and learned to walk upright, and that has changed things and then the hands have evolved and everything, and now we are in a position where we’re like that guy up a tree, like in the old comedies, he’s sawing the tree, but he’s sitting on the branch, and we’re in that position. As well as that, I’ve just always had a very gut feelings that, I think, all people, all children, have quite naturally. Which is where you see injustice and pain, that is being inflicted on people for no reason except, you know, idiocy – greed or whatever. It is terrible and it has to end. Those two things have come together now on the planet. We have reached a kind of optimum level in terms of our development and we can’t… There is nowhere to go and we will destroy our ecosystem or we will take another step in our evolution. But what that means is now, all evolution in the past has been dictated by the conditions, do you know what I mean. It’s like, if you make an adaptation, then you survive.
Leo: Now here we are but we’ve adapted so well that there is nothing that can beat us in terms of… You know, if there is a problem we overcome it: Ah, we can get more fish out of the sea, we’ll develop things to drag the nets along the bottom, we will scrape out every living thing or find a way to pulp it and turn it into food. We’re really good at this shit. The problem is of course that that’s reached the point where
Henrik: It’s finite.
Leo: … it’s finite. So, how do we now consciously adapt ourselves to living within the reality that we have got and that’s what, that’s what I’m communicating about. It’s what I am excited about actually, because it happens to be the very way that we want to go actually
Henrik: Why do you think… What has personally lead you, you guys to be personally kind of conscious like this? And secondly what has lead you to want to say something about it? Coz there are a lot of people who are kind of aware of these things but they’re not really outspoken about it? What do you think makes somebody like you guys…?
Richard: I think a lot of people feel that they are powerless. They don’t have any power or say in what direction that things could go. So yeah, I think people feel powerless to do anything about what they perceive as a huge ecological disaster, even though we are all buying into it. We know, we need to get ourselves off oil, all of us off oil, and it’s plain, we all have to use it. We’ve got to get ourselves off it, the people who are drilling it and looking for it have to acknowledge that that has to change and very fast. The first question was about…?
Leo: I, you, why did you get into it?
Richard: Because the places that I loved as a child, I saw them getting built on and developed without any thought, like in ten years, I lived in Exmouth which is a very small fishing villages, and within ten years all the green space had been taken up, all of the lovely little places that I played in, Oak trees trees like this that we are sitting in now, were taken away for really low crap looking houses. Really fast, no thought. I saw it happen again and again. I got upset about it, I got really angry about it. It was the first time in my life that I did something about it was when they were going to take, a road was going to be built in a place called Saint Mary’s, the A30. They were gonna cut down a tree almost as old as this one, for a dual carriageway which would mean that I could get to Exeter five minutes faster. It was a private initiative. There were lots of different routes they could have taken which would have avoided the destruction of two different forests and they chose this one, and I decided to take action.
Henrik: But they got away with it?
Richard: Eventually, but not without a two year fight that we won. For nine days the plan had been cancelled until a private firm stepped in and said we’ll build it. It was destruction You could use the word “rape” because that’s what it is. The destruction on that level of the countryside for globalisation essentially, for products and services which we could be and should be making and manufacturing locally, it’s just insane. So I had to do something about it so I got into my tree, rather than out of it, and I put myself in front of the diggers because it was that important to stand up for it. The tree symbolises all of nature, all of ecology, like Leo said. It is our root so I had to go back to the root and I lived in a tree for two months
Henrik: How was that?
Richard: That was brilliant actually. Excellent. You feel very cared for in the tree. My respect goes to the original climbers who got there first and put the rope bridges up and the tree houses. They stayed there during the winter when it was freezing up a tree, because they cared so much and it makes you… If you don’t care the, you know, your heart is hardened and you need to get, you need to open it somehow, and ah, to see my countryside destroyed before me opened my heart to nature so now I am a defender of trees (Laughter)
Leo: Yeah, what Rich said, I’m very similar in a way. I was rural, I was raised in the country side, you know. And even, I mean the estate I was raised, the council bit, I was in on the edge of the village had already taken one bit, coz where I lived was called the Mead. Well the interesting thing about those places. Whatever they are called is what was there before it was built. And now that disturbs me. The elms… well there are no elms. Badger’s Home, well it’s not there anymore is it?
Richard: I have lived… In different places while I was growing up, seeing stuff and particlarly a big road being built near Ilchester when I was a kid, when I was younger, I mean you can’t really explain why you, why you become one thing or another. It’s a load of different inputs, I’ve had loads, I mean my mum and dad were very liberal and they educated me well about social issues. My dad was a trade union activist so I got that input. At my brothers were the original hippies, I got all that positive input. In the end, I think that the key thing that makes some people able to stick their heads up and give a lead to other people, coz that’s all I do, it’s not like. Everyone… everyone can join the struggle to save our species. I think everyone can be part of that and wants to be actually. The key thing is whether you were lucky enough in the way that you grew up to keep your hope and your sense of connection with nature. If you feel connected with nature, in a kind of deeper sense just because you have never questioned that, and if you have hope and optimism, then you can kind of find the energy to try and say to other people let’s do something. The key thing for me is about creating hope. The hope isn’t an empty hope. The hope has to be kept demonstrable. You have to show people where it is real and realistic that you can do it. Our job is to celebrate all the victories people have. To celebrate and inspire people’s sense of their own power. My job now, I feel, very much, is to explain and to demonstrate to people very logically and rationally that they are precisely the people who need to do something. You know, often people think it is the job of Greenpeace. It is the job of those really worthy activists. I mean, a lot of my mates used to come up to me… I got involved with direct action through Twyford Down, through the road protests and, again, particularly through defending trees. My mates have always said: Good on you, Thanks for doing what you do and all that. I said: Yeah but if you don’t come, we can’t do it. But more and more, it’s like no, it’s about everyone taking on a piece where you are in your life. What do you need to do to change the situation?
I don’t think it is about environmental campaigning anymore. I think it is a much bigger broader issue about these conscious, clever primates, how we get to see the system that we have said up is not good. It is not gonna work and we have to change it. We are subject to this kind of… Unfortunately for us we live in a kind of imaginary world. You know our imaginary world, this thing called money and the markets dominates out lives and we can’t find a way to beat it. We have to get clever enough to say that economy is second to the ecology. At the moment, the economy rules. The economy is our invention. The economy is numbers on a computer screen. We are not in control of it so, for me now, the key issue is, we have to get control of the economy take it away from the rich and greedy humans who are in control of it. They are unable to see what is happening.
Richard: The insanity of that is clearly demonstrated. ( A side conversation with others) Sorry, I lost my point there. What were we talking about?
Henrik: The economy… the economy should be ruled by the ecology instead of the ecology ruled by the economy.
Richard: Yeah. OK, this huge debt that we are supposed to be paying back, this trillion dollars, this nearly a trillion dollars by England. Real people have to work real hours in real places to earn less money than they did before to pay back a debt for somebody that doesn’t actually exist. How do we press the reset button? Because real people are sweating and dying to pay something back that doesn’t actually exists. It is fucking ridiculous. That money was created from nothing. It’s a fantasy, not secured even by gold. If they got that link with gold, uh, that is the real thing. You have had money on money and the interest which was a sin in all major religions, interest, those factors together created such an artificial bubble. That’s right: it has become our captain. The economy has to be underneath the ecology. It is absolutely fundamental to the next wave of our evolution. When we get that and that is fully integrated into all decisions on all levels, and it might be hard and a bit of a pain in the arse for those get rich quick people who want to ignore things like that, we’re not sitting on people’s aspiration but if your aspirations are out of kilter with the ecology, then they are not valued aspirations, I’m afraid, because they will affect all of us eventually, you know, I can be in a house and make a lot of noise and you can accept that, but if my noise is keeping you awake and you can’t sleep and it is affecting your life, you’ve got to tell me to shut up. So that is what we are telling these people are making too much noise in our ecology. They need to know. They need to go underneath the ecology. I just wanted to say that.
Henrik: Thanks. Definitely yeah, I’ve been thinking about that. This financial crisis, we’ve still got all the same people, they’re all still here, the same skills exist before and after this crisis and the things, the products didn’t disappear over night,
Henrik: So with this financial crisis, what changed, what really changed?
Richard: Exactly. Oh these tough economic times, well I tell you what. I’ve been living on £60 a week for the last three years, you know. Every day is a tough economic time for me in some respects, you know. If I’ve got billions of pounds, if I’ve got millions of pounds, you know maybe fair enough if I’ve got it and I’m a good compassionate person. Ah, it is just so out of balance, it’s so ridiculous.
Henrik: I meant to ask you… but what you’re saying is brilliant… But your hope that you talk about. I mean is this hope related to some kind of faith kind of thing, and I’m not talking about a religious faith necessarily, or does this hope come from an observation of progress?
Leo: What I think, basically, what I said, I’ve kept my natural predisposition to optimism through good fortune. I think it’s a natural predisposition because, naturally, in evolution, hope will be selected for. Any young creature, you take any young creature and it is full of boundless optimism. You get a lamb in a field and bite his leg off, tomorrow, he is going to be hopping around as if it’s the happiest lamb in the world. It just comes back and goes for it.
Henrik: Have you tried that?
Leo: Because life doesn’t have any choice. Life comes back and goes for it and goes for it and goes for it. That is the essence of life, that it is resisting entropy. It is the very affirmation of “We are going to carry on and give it back.” That is life. It is the nature of the universe. So, given that. Now I understand it philosophically, it’s like well, the universe started, I accept the current story. I realise that all things are stories and relative and ultimately we don’t understand and never will, it will always be you understanding but right now, we have a really good story but we haven’t caught up with it. And the the story which has the position to take us through the next few thousand years if we grasp it, is there was a big bang in the void and then the gases condensed. The stars were formed and out of the stars came planets and then, in one precise place in a very unique circumstance, life evolved on this planet, maybe others, I don’t know, but, right here, right now, this incredible, sublime thing that then carried on with proteins and everything else and here we are. I am looking out on the universe. I am looking out at this world and I am appreciating what it is.
Henrik: I appreciate all that.
Leo: I am the universe. I am the universe. Of course I am. If I am not the universe, then what the fuck is? Or this whole thing is a farce. If we are just living in thin space and say, you know: Oh shit! It’s all so crap… For fuck sake; the stars were formed by the power that formed this global order which is sustaining. The temperature, the digestion – everything you are going on now. You are it. You are an incredible achievement that has taken billions of years and I am meant to believe that this is going to fizzle out? I don’t think it is likely. I think it is much more likely that we raise… I think that’s the game of the year. You know that’s the game of the universe. It’s like, ‘come on’. I think it’s just incredible, because…
Henrik: It’s a challenge you mean?
Leo: Yeah. The universe for me… For me, it’s consciously playing your part in becoming concious of what I am and then deciding with other people to do something is an incredible thing and it gives me complete optimism because _________. Do we humans just give up at this point? I mean it’s really bizarre because billions of years of evolution can lead us the point where what? Where we just go to B&Q on a sunday. I mean is that it? You know, we get old and we can’t do anything and then we die. That is ridiculous. That is ridiculous. I’m not saying it won’t be like that. We might be. You know, this one might be over. It maybe. But that doesn’t matter . I mean, the universe… I don’t know what’s going on. It’s a mystery. I don’t even know who is real. For all I know, it’s a big dream and we are all going to wake up. I don’t know what this is. But, according to what I understand about it, I have great optimism, because my optimism is based… it’s the optimism that put this bloody tree here. It is the endless expansion of the beauty of life and the key thing that I’ve realised recently that has really taken off… I guess that I have known it all my life is that I think actually love…love is at the heart of all this and that human beings want to love. We are loving. All of nature, every creature I have ever met responds to love. Every creature. In my experience even insects respond to love if you are aware of that. Love, which is care from one centre of life to another, you know, that is the power that brings us together. It is what we all want. It is the way we all care for each other. We treat it as some abstract thing because our society is so fragmented. We make love this really weird kind of thing that we all hanker after that you can’t expect in you daily life. It’s bullshit. Love is part of everyday life. The more ancient societies people knew it was that connection. It is about your sense of self not being limited to you. It’s about you not being isolated and having to look out for yourself. It is about the fact that you have people around you that you have relationships with; who you care about you. In primitive life, that is absolutely given because you are in an extended family. The community, your identity is part of a bigger whole. You don’t see yourself as separate from that. That true process of evolution, that I am not knocking it, because we’ve evolved a lot of understanding and skills and amazing experiences like being at this festival which never would have happened in the old days. All that, you recording this now, you know, is amazing. But the price is that we are becoming separated, isolated little units and whenever we reconnect and feel that felling of being reconnected, we go “Oh wow that’s amazing it’s love” That’s what we all want. Love for each other, love for our planet is a very natural feeling. It is a very rational loving natural thing. It is what holds the universe together. I think, gravity and that… Why is it, that all atoms want to be stuck together? Why is it that everything wants to be attracted to everything else? Why am I attracted to you and you attracted to me? It’s love. We can call it love, we call it something else, you know. I think it is crucial. I think we actually need to start acknowledging it in our politics. I actually do think that. Put it in the centre because everybody wants love. It’s all so rational.
H: How would you, how would you do that?
Richard: I’d say: Do you love your children? Yeah. If you live your children, do you want them shat on? No. Do you think other children should be shat on? No. All right, that’s love.
Henrik: I mean, do you think there might be a U.N. resolution in the declaration of human rights. Is that an expression of that love?
R: Oh, perfect, yeah. Really brilliant thing. We’re not living up to it because the system can’t live up to it at the moment. The system is designed to exploit one group of people by another. Until that changes, we won’t actually realise those dreams. But that vision, I love that declaration because it covers, pretty much everything that I want to say. There was recent stuff done in Columbia, or where was it recognising the rights of the ecosystem. We need that. All of these ideas are great.
Henrik: What was that?
Leo: They recognise the rights of the ecosystem.
H: Where was that, you say?
R: It’s Latin America.
H: It’s a government thing? I saw a website, or a movement with this idea. But I didn’t know…
Leo: It wasn’t Columbia… Well the U.N. Hasn’t dome it yet. But all that’s in the abstract if it is not tied to actual social change. We can have all the words in the world but we are still chopping it all down. We are still killing it at a rate that we can’t manage to sustain. You know, we had Rio in 1992 or whenever it was. Meanwhile we still out to destroy the planet. A lot of people trying to cash in on the environmental movement, that’s all that’s happened. We’ve got to get wise to that. People don’t seem to realise that capitalism has to be stopped, has to be ended actually.
Henrik: What… I think we need to wrap this up. What is the first step?
Richard: The first step is for the people with money to encourage as much real local manufacturing of the essential goods and services that we need. So I mean food and clothing. We can start making those. Growing our own food and making those things here and we can make a decision to force our government to take us away from oil in our cars. Let’s get an hydrogen economy going. Let’s use the renewable technology that we know are out there. That requires people with money to graciously lay it down. To graciously think less about their triple bottom line and it’s going to take, going to take C.E.O.s in corporations to do that. I don’t think they want to do, I don’t think they know what the issues are enough. What you should do – Everyone should have a big pot of magic mushrooms in the city and go out and spend some time in a tree and then they will come up with it. Obviously, that is ridiculous, I know. ‘The right honourable member from Buzby’s soldiers – ‘Wow man’! Er no, anyway… I think it’s got to be re-localisation. The first stage is re-localisation. Giving the communities and active role in their own community. When we were in India trying to head off the threat from G.M. crops, we met a very wise person called Ibi Sajish and he said: The health of any society is reflected directly in their connection to the food supply. In India that’s perfect sense because everyone has got very fair distribution of land. So we need to redistribute the land away from big land owners who use it to grow monocrops and then we will realise that we can produce ten times, twenty times more food out of the same land if it is farmed in a small scale sustainable way, and also if we can get city farms to come back… Water purification… You know, let’s use the ecological technologies that we have got in the towns and cities. Let’s use the rooftops. Let’s use the unemployed. Let’s use the immigrants that are here. Let’s work together and create a society together which is a sustainable one, you know… The ideas are out there. They books have been written. People know what to do. Someone needs to write a blueprint for how we get onto it maybe.
Leo: I’ll give it a go in a summary. We need to educate, it’s old thing. Agitate and organise and then we need practically, we need to get public control of the banking system; public ownership of the banking system. And we need to get public, democratic control of all the major utilities; all the energy production, all the water and so on. It cannot be in the hands of any private interest. It belongs to all people and, at this point now, it has to be administered in the interest of the whole. You cannot expect someone whose bottom line is profit to do that. How ever well intentioned they are, it should now become the responsibility of all of us. That’s why I am trying to agitate to get organised for. Whether we can manage it or not, I don’t know but that’s what I think we need to do.
Henrik: What a really good summary.
Richard: And, by the way, throughout this interview, I ought to say, there are three people down there who have each planted a tree in the hedgerow as a real cause for hope. As you were talking, three people walked up with three trees in pots and they have been planting and they are just watering them in now. There we go. So, you might want to go and speak to them as well.
The people planting the trees below were doing so for a memorial service. Was fitting and an honour to have ‘been a part of it’.
There were so many trees I wanted to climb… so… I thought I’d do a few this day…
My first foray into climbing with ropes. Found out I need to get stronger. Didn’t quite make it – so near but yet so far etc … Burning arms … I had to admit defeat. Wish I’d got a picture from up there. Stupid really. Turns out people who were covert tree planting were doing so in memory of someone they clearly loved. I was honoured to have been up the oak while they did this ceremony. Something so important to them. An uninvited guest at a funeral in a way – and I appreciate it.
This wall was part of Greenpeaces efforts to remind the Glasto punters about what’s going on.