Saturday, 18 April 2009


The Wisdom of Geese

When geese fly as each bird flaps its wings it creates an uplift for the bird following. By flying in a V formation the whole flock has 71% greater flying range than if the bird flew alone.

Many of us recognise that there is a lot we can do by ourselves, there is a lot we can do with a partner or colleague, but there is considerably more power working with others. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a Goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back in formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.
If we have as much sense as a Goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed where we want to go and be willing to accept their help, as well as give ours to others who are looking for support.When the lead Goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another Goose flies up to the point position.

It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing the leadership. People and geese are inter-dependent on each other's skills and capabilities and unique arrangements of power and resources; no one person is right to lead in all circumstances and at all times. Leaders need to learn to let go at times, and others must feel comfortable in stepping forward, no false modesty, no greed for power and position for its own sake.

When a Goose becomes wounded or ill or is shot down, two Geese move out of formation and follow it down to help to protect it. They stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies, then they launch out together with another formation or they catch up with their flock.

If we have as much sense as Geese, we, too, will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.The Geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.We need to make sure that our honking from behind is encouragement and not something else..

In groups where there is great encouragement against great odds, the production is much greater because of the power of encouragement. The word encouraged means to stand by one's heart, to stand by one's core, to encourage someone else's core, to encourage someone else's heart.


Bev Doherty lives on the outskirts of Carndonagh with her husband Mike and son Ronan. Their married daughter lives in England. They have a ¾ of an acre smallholding surrounding them with organic fruit, herbs, vegetables and chickens. They have a polythene tunnel and greenhouse that increases their growing period and have invested in solar panels. Bev runs different workshops and also teaches the piano and recorder. She is a member of Transition Inishowen Initiative, part of the worldwide Transition Towns Movement that is empowering people to explore the challenges of climate change, peak oil and the economic crisis and how to come together as communities to live more on harmony with the earth.

What music are you listening to at the moment?
It’s a CD called Show me the Path made by my Dutch friends Wim Wali and Arienne Van der Zwan - a wonderful mix of sacred chants from the world's spiritual traditions.

What book are you reading?
I am re-reading the Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins. It has an excellent account on the various crises that humanity is facing and how we can build up resilience by coming together as communities to produce locally grown food, energy and public transport.

What was your favourite childhood game?
Stilts, they were a real challenge and the top and whip. You don’t see either of these much now.

Have you been to the cinema recently, what did you see and was it any good?
I went to see The Age of Stupid. I was at the world premiere recently. I was gobsmacked at the images the film has that showed the outcome of climate change if we carry on with the “Business as Usual” attitude. The film stars Pete Postlethwaite who plays a future archivist who looks back from 2055 at old footage to understand why humankind failed to address climate change, and asks "Why didn't we save ourselves while we had the chance?"

What would you never throw away?
Anything that could be recycled or re-used. We recycle Christmas and birthday wrapping paper and never have to buy any.

Favourite TV programme?
I watched an excellent programme on the BBC Natural World series called A Farm for the Future recently. Wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking looked into how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future. She discovers that nature holds the key. I also enjoyed the series Around the World in 80 Faiths.

What job did you want to do when you were a child?
I always wanted to be a teacher.

Where was your best holiday and what made it special?
My 11 month trip around the world. I was travelling from September 06 to August 07 and it was the adventure of a lifetime. I was in the US, Australia, New Zealand, India and Europe. I worked on organic farms and with communities.I also stayed with friends and family and taught peace dances in ashrams in India. I met really inspirational people and saw many natural wonders. I discovered that the world is basically a friendly place.

What famous people would you invite around for dinner and why?
Rob Hopkins, the author of The Transition Town Handbook, he is so inspiring. I would also have Satish Kumar, the editor of Resurgence Magazine around. He walked around the world for peace in the 1970’s and is a very spiritual person and great storyteller.

What do you do for a special treat?
Grind some organic and fairtrade Colombian coffee beans, and make an amazing cafe latte with hot frothy milk and cream. It would be accompanied by a couple of squares of Seeds of Change dark chocolate.

Favourite animal?
A milking goat with a nice big udder. We used to keep them but then our home- schooled children went to school, got sophisticated and demanded cow’s milk.

Biggest thrill?
Going to Dublin with other members of the Inishowen Environmental Group in 1986. We went to collect £3000 for our 3rd prize in the National Washday Competition for our Inishowen Clean Up Campaign. At the time nearly every school, community group and individual in Inishowen cleared Inishowen of litter in a single weekend. Anneka Rice turned up on the GAA pitch in Carndonagh with three helicopters as part of our reward, which in hindsight probably wasn’t the most environmentally friendly thing to do, but you couldn't move in Carn for people!

Biggest Challenge?
Living in the present moment.

What was the best present you ever got?
The gift of my two children.

What charities do you support?
Concern, Irish Seed Savers, Voice, FOE, Practical Action, Garden Organic, Soil Association and local causes too.

Favourite meal?

Spanking fresh mackerel with vegetables from the garden - new charlotte potatoes, roasted squash, and green beans. For dessert a large bowl of fresh picked berries with a dollop of Rachel’s Greek yoghurt, washed down with freshly pressed apple juice…..

The world’s most irritating invention?
GM crops. Far from feeding the world biotech companies are leading farmers to bankruptcy and suicide.I saw it for myself in India - 20,000 deaths a year.

Favourite past-times?

Growing food and teaching the Dances of Universal Peace.

Which period in history would you most like to have lived through?
1650 – 1750 All that wonderful Baroque music and I could have met Bach and Handel and asked Telemann to write easier recorder music!

What do you have for breakfast?
An apple to start with, then a huge bowl of porridge with dried fruits and seeds mixed in, milled flaxseed on top, a dusting of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Prunes on the side. I 'll have a hot water or weak green tea to drink.

Do you have a favourite cartoon character?
When I was young I loved Rupert Bear. I now have a favourite cartoonist. He goes by the name of Polyp and comments on the state of the world. It’s razor sharp.

What was your first paid job?
Working behind the delicatessen counter in David Greggs, a small supermarket in Wokingham in the UK in the 60’s.

Best/worst household task?
The best is baking bread, the worst is trying to get to the bottom of the mountains of clutter in the house.

What is the best/worst piece of advice you have been given?
The best was being advised to take up meditation. The worst was to plant hawthorn hedges in between our veggie beds. They get very prickly and the thorns can easily go straight through your gloves if they are lying on the ground after being pruned.

Personal philosophy?

Believe in the goodness of people and live lightly on the earth.

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