Life Onboard
Kai Sawyer: Alternative Lifestyles, Mar 22, 2017
Kai Sawyer describes the destructive impact of capitalism on our world.
"Please give a round of applause for the earth", Kai Sawyer urged his audience of Peace Boat participants, with only a hint of tongue-in-cheek in his voice. "It provides us with the oxygen we need to breathe, and the soil and food we need to livefor free." The "cult of capitalism", Sawyer contends, has led us believe that we constantly need more to make us happy, and that consequently we must work harder to consume morea process which isolates us from our community and impedes our happiness. Yet humanity has not always lived in this way, and indeed, does not have to continue as such: Sawyer's mission is to prove that there are alternatives.

During one of his lectures, Kai Sawyer asked Peace Boat participants to discuss what kind of person they would like to become.
Born in Tokyo and raised in both Japan and Hawaii, Sawyer is a non-violence activist and director of Tokyo Urban Permaculture. Following the 9.11 terrorist attacks and subsequent US invasions, he became involved in Students Against War and the sustainability movement at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). Shortly after graduating, he moved to the jungle in Costa Rica to deepen his understanding of sustainability issuesan experience which gave him a valuable insight into the possibility of living with less dependency on money and consumerism.

Inspired by the idea of the gift economy', Peace Boat participants organized a gift flea market' onboard.
In his first lecture and workshop onboard, Sawyer introduced participants to the concept of the 'gift economy'; the idea that "the more you give, the richer you become"a kind of antidote to the modern capitalist mentality. Participants created mini gift economies in groups, by creating a list of skills or resources they were willing to offer for free, and a list of things they would like to receive, such as 'web design skills', 'language lessons', or even just 'encouragement'. Sawyer explained that there are communities practicing this kind of sharing on a wider scale, and pointed participants to useful resources to get involved (e.g. http://www.free-economy.org/, http://www.karmakitchen.org/ and "http://www.kindspring.org/smilecards/). The main goal of the gift economy is to shift from a society of consumption to one of contributionwherein individuals are happier, more fulfilled and connected to one another.

Peace Boat participants find calm and peace through meditation, despite their busy surroundings.
Another major pillar of Sawyer's activism is his promotion of permaculturea framework for an ecologically sound lifestyle which enables both human and environmental flourishing. In his second lecture, he presented Peace Boat participants with numerous examples of permaculture experiments, such as Bullock's Permaculture Homestead in North America, where Sawyer lived and practiced permaculture, and the City Repair Project, which aims to bring about inclusive and sustainable communities through the creative reclamation of public space. It was the 2011 disasters in Fukushima which brought Sawyer back to Japan, where he still resides, with the goal of planting some seeds of hope in the aftermath of the radioactive meltdown.

Peace Boat participants engage in empathetic communication during one of Kai Sawyer's workshops on non-violent communication.
Sawyer also offers donation-based workshops in non-violent communication and mindfulness, which participants had the opportunity to try onboard. Through these sessions Sawyer hopes to enable people to communicate on a deeper, more meaningful level, while fostering empathy and transcending judgment. "Practicing empathetic communication has helped me to better understand the needs of others, and build a better connection with those around me. Moving forward I will try to practice this in all my interactions with others," commented Kobayashi Motoko, a Peace Boat participant. Sawyer's philosophy is inspired by the Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, and can be encapsulated in his words: "If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change."