Passion creates, addiction consumes.

– Gabor Maté

Featured artist: Valentin Galmand

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 256!

Sep 19 2023 | Link to this issue

I mentioned in last week’s issue that I really enjoyed the four-piece Netflix documentary Live to 100. Dan Buettner captures in film his decades-long investigation into so-called Blue Zones, areas around the world in which people have a much longer than average life expectancy.

The centenarians in these Blue Zones share a rather simple but active life, largely free of high-tech gadgetry, eating mostly vegetarian, local wholefood diets. They draw contentment from a deeply connected life centred around family, community and place. What’s striking is that there is a kind of harmony between their way of life and their unique local ecosystems.

While watching I couldn’t help but think that this is how we’re supposed to live.

In a strange coincidence, a few days later, Erin Remblance made the same case from the opposite end with her piece ‘We are not supposed to live like this’. She argues that our modern culture, one enthralled by technology and consumption, encourages unhealthy behaviour and disconnection – from one another but also from the rest of the natural world.

“We are not supposed to live like this, and it shows. We can see it in the deterioration of mental and physical health of people in so-called ‘wealthy’ nations, in the exploitation of people in the Global South, and we can see it in the planetary-wide ecological crisis we face.”

I was reminded of Charles Eisenstein’s essay I shared in DD247 in which he draws parallels between the decline felt within us and that occurring around us:

“The inner desolation mirrors the outer. … That inner sickness, that soul sickness, reflects the outer sickness of ecosystems. Could there ultimately be any doubt that the global climate reflects the social climate, the political climate, the economic climate, and the psychic climate?”

The documentary puts this interconnectedness on inspiring display: you see a 100-year-old guy on a horse herding cattle and a 100-year-old woman cheerfully dancing while balancing a bottle of saké on her head. They are not actively trying to live long, happy lives; they just do – sustained by a symbiotic relationship with their community and their local environment.

And therein lies a simple but powerful mutualism that Erin Remblance sums up like so:

“What if, in trying to heal ourselves, we also begin to heal the planet? Because, in a wonderful turn of events, it would seem that what is good for us, is good for the planet too.”Kai


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Apps & Sites

Standard Notes →

Security-first note-taking

Standard Notes is a powerful note-taking tool with an emphasis on privacy and security, powered by a full range of apps – mobile, desktop and web. The company behind Standard Notes is not VC-funded, has open-sourced its code and gets audited by leading security researchers. I also like how they openly state their principles and longevity commitment. Friends of DD enjoy a 20% discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Clockify →

Time tracking for teams

If you run a team that bills clients based on time, Clockify offers a feature-rich interface for tracking and scheduling billable hours and compiling time sheets that easily convert into invoices.

Swipewipe →

Clean up your camera roll

What a brilliantly simple idea: Swipewipe makes cleaning up your camera roll fun through a Tinder-style keep or delete swipe movement. The app keeps track of the months you have ‘cleaned’ and shows you how much space you freed up.

Timezones →

Time zone converter

A simple little web app: add all the cities that are relevant to you and then move the slider to find the time overlap that works for everyone.


Worthy Five: Sari Azout

Five recommendations by entrepreneur and newsletterer Sari Azout

A video worth watching:

Everyone who works in technology should watch this talk by Geoff Lewis. It’s a great reminder that the goal is not an efficient life, the goal is a good life. The goal is not scale, the goal is resonance.

A question worth asking:

‘What if I could only subtract to solve problems?’ It’s surprising how often the answer is removing, not adding.

A concept worth understanding:

One of my most deeply held beliefs is that everything is temporary, so I love the idea of an ‘elastic mood’, which writer Haley Nahman describes as a mood that is so overwhelming you mistake the intensity of it for the longevity of it.

A word worth knowing:

I love the meaning of the word Seijaku: a state of energised calm, free from the stress of everyday life, but focused and capable of action. It allows room for having extremely high standards while still approaching things lightly. Just because you worry more, doesn’t mean you care more. You can have a sense of tranquility and purpose in the midst of daily chaos.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

‘Do the work.’ That’s all the productivity advice you need. We tend to direct your attention to a million optimisation hacks – from time tracking apps and prioritisation frameworks to quantified self sensors and the latest AI-powered tools. We latch onto anything to avoid doing the work, because doing the work is hard. But there are no shortcuts. Doing the work is supposed to feel hard.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Sari Azout in one click.)


Books & Accessories

Data Action →

Using data for public good

An urgently relevant book on how we can use data as a tool for empowerment rather than oppression. “Data inevitably represents the ideologies of those who control its use; data analytics and algorithms too often exclude women, the poor, and ethnic groups. In Data Action, Sarah Williams provides a guide for working with data in more ethical and responsible ways.”

Building Tomorrow →

A framework for a better economic system

Described as ‘a treasure-trove of ideas for practical world-changers’, this new book brings together six organisational strategies, each of them based on positive, real-world examples that can fundamentally redesign a key element of our economic system. “We desperately need a new economic system to help us avert the environmental crisis. This book describes the new system we need, and it shows us how to build it.”


Overheard on Twitter

I don’t do escape rooms. If I wanted to feel trapped and confused for an hour, I’d ask my husband to explain how Bitcoin works.



Food for Thought

We are not supposed to live like this →


Writer Erin Remblance points to our culture of individualism and comsumption – enabled by technology – as the root cause of not just the decline in our physical and mental health, but our appreciation for the natural world. “Research shows that, on average, ‘North Americans spend over 93 percent of their waking hours indoors or in cars (and the other 7 percent is spent travelling between buildings and cars)’. Not only will we be happier if we spend more time in nature, but we will find ourselves more connected to our planet. We cannot truly respect and appreciate nature for all that she provides us unless we spend time in her.”

What happens to all the stuff we return? →


With online shopping slowly growing into the default for the retail industry, returned items are increasingly problematic – but also an opportunity: the so-called ‘reverse logistics’ industry helps to find a new home for some (high value) return items. “Returns to online retailers now average close to twenty per cent, and returns of apparel are often double that. ... So one and a half per cent of US GDP – which would be bigger than the GDP of many countries around the world – is just the stuff that people got for Christmas and said, ‘Nah, do they have blue?’ The annual retail value of returned goods in the US is said to be approaching a trillion dollars.”

Searching for utopia in our warming world →


I’ve always been curious about ecovillages. (Remember our a mini-interview in DD228?) This piece examines the growing trend of ecovillages, what they are (and are not) and how they attract an increasingly broader slice of society looking for connection to nature. “‘There is a tendency to immediately dismiss ecological communities as being cults,’ said Frédéric Rognon, a professor of religion at the University of Strasbourg. ‘Sure, some people who are interested in these villages may have sectarian characteristics but that isn’t the norm. The real issue is that environmentalism still seems radical to many people.’”


Aesthetically Pleasing

British architecture practice Invisible Studio has created a yoga studio with rammed-earth walls and a roof clad in copper shingles. The highlight, though, is the giant skylight located at the apex of the sculptural roof, with a pared-back interior clad almost entirely with beech slats.

French artist Xavier Casalta creates artworks with a stippling technique, using black ink, millions of tiny dots and thousands of hours. Absolutely stunning. And no surprise that his store is completely sold out of prints. (via)

I really admire the way Canadian artist Holly Stapleton creates warmth and atmosphere in her oil paintings, using colour and light. Her art explores themes of selfhood, relationships and nostalgia. (via)

Meet Piggle Puff – a chunky, friendly display font. “The shapes are generous and each glyph take as much space as possible, before we lose legibility. Like a balloon right before the explosion point.”


Notable Numbers


Over 100,000 people attended the Dutch Formula 1 Grand Prix in Zandvoort last month. Formula 1 estimated on social media that 97 percent of attendees used sustainable transportation (mostly bikes and public transport) to get to the track.


The most recent US presidential election set a new record as the most expensive election cycle in history. Political spending for the 2020 election came to an eye-watering $14.4bn, or $16bn if adjusted for inflation.


Last month, the global youth climate movement Fridays for Future celebrated its fifth anniversary. New research has found that 30% of Swiss people changed their daily habits as a result of the schoolchildren strike started by Greta Thunberg.



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