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The Transcontextual of Ebb and Flow, Mirroring Our Connection to the World

If you have been near the ocean and have watched the water crawl in and come back to bite you, to tease you, to wash you, to cleanse you, has it also simultaneously overflown you with a sense of wonder of how all is arranged? If you go into it, ebb and flow becomes trans-contextual. It is mirroring our connection to the world. As within, so without. May we be muddying the water well enough - because it's from such nutritious streams that life grows. Whole waters are like whole forests. "They are in motion, ranging across continents, in response to climate change and human action, and according to their own needs and desires, their own senses and intelligence" writes James Bridle in his book Ways of Being.

He questions: What does plant migration actually look like? In part, is it a steady local effort; creeping roots and floating seeds establishing the next generation in favourable areas along a population's leading edge, leaving a dwindling trail of less successful plantations in the rear?

I'm asking a similar question with regards to water. Like anything produced by nature, it represents a conflict and relation with our capacity to see the bigger picture. A cloud embodies and enacts all the conflicts of understanding we encounter in our attempts to understand the more-than-human world.

Ebb and flow can represent water in the shadow of conflict. A flooding of exhales. A possibility for creative friction. An invitation to relate with the movement in the undercurrent. Water is political and increasingly a casualty and weapon of conflict. For the book Ebb and Flow: Water In The Shadow Of Conflict In The Middle East and North Africa, eighteen key informants from different countries and backgrounds, including researchers, experts, professors, and technical engineers, were interviewed as part of a study to shed light on some of the dynamics of water, migration, and conflict in the region. In a world and growing water scarcity under climate change, countries increasingly contend with policy issues at the nexus of water, conflict, and forced displacement.

I have gained access to insight and learning on this – and more, through my engagements with younger people who live in refugee settlements. A youth-centric philanthropy project which I launched in 2020 in Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda, Africa. An offering that is foregrounding the power of empowering spaces for refugee youth, making place for queries that explores health and development in a mutual learning environment.
  • What does living in an unfolding troubling time look like for future generations in refugee camps?

  • How the conditions of transformation come together on the fringes of the culture?

With more than 1.4 million refugees, Uganda is the largest refugee host country in Africa, and the fourth largest refugee host country in the world. People have grown accustomed to conserving water and using less of it. Water shortages are a constant risk, and with COVID-19, people have had to buy additional water from tankers at great cost for their family.

I'm touched when hearing our local partner, Paulinho Josaphat, founder of the UNIDOS Social Center located in the Nakivale Refugee Camp in Uganda speak about their ways if thinking. I reminds me that one voice represents millions across the Middle East and North and East Africa who are forcibly displaced and facing insecurity. Water is an essential part of Life. To face this protracted forced displacement crisis, Uganda has adopted one of the most progressive refugee policies in the world that allows refugees to move freely and gain access to public services and gives them the right to work. Nonetheless, the sheer number of refugees puts exceptional constraints on the country’s capacity to deliver effective water services to refugee populations and host communities. In the upper West Nile region, where about 60 percent of the refugees are hosted, the lack of inclusive access to clean water and sanitation, and of water for livelihoods, negatively affects human capital development and climate resilience for both refugees and host communities.

The water situation is colliding with the re-arrangements of power in the world. It is also colliding with climate change. Organizations such as Orbital Marine Power turn the tide to provide sustainable clean energy by harnessing the natural ebb and flow of water. Just one O2 turbine can provide power for over 1,700 homes. For Orbital and tidal energy, they see this as just the beginning. The necessity of clean drinking water is one element of many to support the life of people living in refugee camps.

In my attempt to create a local water solution, I opened a conversation with Geraldo Vallen who is a specialist in the field of clean drinking water, and founder of Join The Pipe. His work and efforts over the last 15 years has been about providing tap water and clean water resources to people globally. He was inspired by the project and offered us bottles, tap stations and pomps, for free, to help support our fellow humans in Uganda. When working towards this coordination and realizing what it required I began sensing the complexity even more.

  • It requires a shift from humanitarian support toward a development approach for water security that is decentralized.

  • It requires the corporation of local NGO's who are willing and able to distribute and re-organize power differently.

  • It requires a deeper awareness around global inequality.

  • It requires political change, and a personal one.

I do not pretend to understand all the nuances in its amorphous mattering - and in daring to put my thoughts to language. I am certain there are already crucial (and painful) exclusions and omissions at work. Opening the narrowness of conversations that are only leading towards solutions of one problem, I'm proposing the work to listen more deeply, and get more close to the real stories. Insights and contributions of the conversations and movements in which we are living are masquerading the generosity of possibilities and in ourselves. Following the flow of water, which is always downwards, we can also begin to feel deeper with nature, and our own.

Jean Hall, author of the book Breathe calls the outgoing breath Apana; a downward – flowing energy, which is responsible for rooting, grounding, and elimination. Consider a glass of water that is being emptied. The water flows out from the top of the glass first and then drains through to the bottom with the water line descending. As I exhale I image a downward flow receding from the chest through the belly, the belly of the earth. All traditions recognize an eternal ebb and flow that is ultimately connected with the breath. Have we really understood this well? This might not be the case. What we need then is something traversal...a different kind of intelligence.


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