Lessons from trees

Wangari Maathai was working on women’s empowerment and preparing for a UN conference about women and the issues they faced globally at the time. Listening to rural women talk about the problems they wanted to solve, she heard them talk about water, food, energy, and a means to earning an income themselves.

As a child, Maathai remembered her mother teaching her not to chop down the fig trees, as these were sacred in their traditional worldview – something that imperialism and missionary work hadn’t quite fully unrooted (yet).

Fastforward several decades, and Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work founding the Greenbelt Movement responsible for planting millions of trees across Africa and beyond. She realised that trees could solve the root issue (no pun intended) behind many of the problems women expressed around livelihoods and quality of life, as well as helping ensure security and reduce likelihoods of human conflict over limited resources, by increasing those resources.

She also learned that those sacred fig trees that were ripped from the ground after living there for hundreds of years had actually been holding the ground together with their deep and widespread root systems. She deduced that if ripping them from the ground led to increases in landslides and flooding, planting them back and protecting them might reverse the trend. And she was right. There was wisdom in the traditional beliefs, regardless of whether we explain this as god or ecology.

So why do I share this? Aside from inspiring us all to plant and protect trees as quickly as we might try to save a more apparently sentient being, this story holds a key lesson: an elegant root solution can be more powerful and practical than numerous patches. Continue reading “Lessons from trees”

Whole living

I was rereading a perennial favourite book (Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott) and the following quote jumped out at me:

Of course this could not last, and disappointment was inevitable, because young eyes look for a Paradise and weep when they find a workaday world which seems full of care and trouble till one learns to gladden and glorify it with high thoughts and holy living.

This resonates (despite a slight bristle at the religious word “holy”, preferring to think of its etymological roots of “whole” or “health”) because I live very much in a workaday world full of care and trouble. And yet, I do think it is possible to “gladden and glorify” it. That is a large part of what Happy Parent UK is about – defining the ‘high thoughts and holy living’ that make life happier.

In the book, our heroine finds her high thoughts and holy living in wise words, charitable works, ongoing self betterment, and the love and friendship of those dear to her. And in fact, this is very much the same recipe I find in my life — Continue reading “Whole living”

Recipe: Spinach and strawberry salad

This is a quick, easy, nutritious and delicious salad I’ve lived on this summer. The recipe below is for a smaller side salad, but you can easily scale up. I regularly make a double portion and have it as a main. And as you can read below, it’s actually super healthy for you.

Nourishing health benefits

Flax seed oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, low in saturated fat, and has been shown in laboratory studies to reduce risk of certain cancers (1).

Spinach is rich in iron and a good source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin B2 (2).

Strawberries are a good source of potassium as well as vitamins C and K, folic acid, fibre and manganese (3) and have been shown in numerous studies to contain significant levels of protective phytochemicals and micronutrients (4).

Cottage cheese is a complete protein and rich in vitamins B2 and B12 (5).

Studies have shown balsamic vinegar can stabilise cholesterol, blood glucose levels and blood pressure, and is low in calories (6).

So basically, EVERYTHING IN THIS SALAD IS BENEFICIAL – and yet it tastes delicious, and is quick and easy to throw together. Continue reading “Recipe: Spinach and strawberry salad”