On my way to Puerto Madryn (an Argentinian city – big word, small town – on the coast of Patagonia), I stopped in Buenos Aires for 48 hours. What a city. Some 15 million people who live in arguably one of the most beautiful, diverse, and noisy, cities in our world. What a feast of humanity.
Wandering the streets in downtown BA is a treat you should put on your bucket list if you haven’t done it yet.
Lost in the euphoria of dawdling over many hours, I happened across this tree.
It is a fig, clearly, a ‘gomero’ tree (Ficus elastics). It was planted (apparently) in 1791 by the Recoletos brothers. Today, they are long gone. This massive tree, however, spans 7 metres in diameter with branches that reach out beyond to a length of 28 metres.
It stopped me in my tracks. The air was cooler beneath its green canopy, cleaner somehow, more breathable. I stood stunned as minutes ticked by, feeling calmer, as the noise of the city receded. Then I found myself crying, apologising, appealing, promising a river of thoughts to the tree.
All alone, its mighty self reminds me intensely of a world we have let go of, a world where this enormous tree might have been part of a forest, part of a resting place for many. Today, it stands alone – mightily alone – in the centre of a man-made maze. No escape, no sharing of mitochondria within a healthy ecosystem. Just alone, being.
I shook myself. Silly, I thought. I’m romanticising the tree. It’s just a tree.
I ran to catch up with the women I was walking with. We went down a side street, back to humming with the traffic, smells, foods, and sounds of this city.
Suddenly I was accosted by the overwhelming smell of fresh strawberries. I breathed it in deeply, casting around for the source and saw, on the other side of the street a tiny greengrocer full of fresh food, and outside, a massive box of fresh, large, juicy strawberries. I picked one up without thinking and took a bite. It was delicious. There was no processing to the taste, it was as Mother Nature and Summer dictated and it was incomparably nourishing. I bought a punnet to take back to the hotel.
As I walked on the two moments merged in my head and I thought this: what have we created in our world, we humans? Do we stop to think about what really brings us joy? Do we have enough of this in our lives? Do people even have the choice to sit beneath a green canopy or eat food that has not been engineered within an inch of its life?
Then I thought about the challenge ahead, of taking 200 women with a STEMM background, to Antarctica to bear witness to the changes that are now happening to the frozen continent at speed. I know in my bones that it is time to really grapple with a different way of leading, to challenge the acquisition of wealth at the expense of our shared futures and to ensure we women are visible en masse.
We can deal with any challenge we face, with a clear sense of our ability to succeed. All we have to do is be honest, with ourselves and others, leading towards a sustainable future, for all people, creatures and ecosystems.
It is what leaders in all domains should think about. I promise it’s an ‘AND’, not an ‘EITHER/OR’.
With love, Faby