Author: Patrick Worms
When Patrick gets tired of working at his Waterloo, Belgium home, he either picks up a spade or goes to the airport. There's always a crisis somewhere that needs handling or an insight to be got, whether it's how to keep mildew off his tomatoes or Russian troops out of Tbilisi. Cambridge taught him how to keep up, the European Commission how to run from bureaucracies, and the former Soviet Union how to operate in alternate universes.

It was late. The two of us were cradling our drinks on the verandah of Shane Bartlett’s camp. We were rehashing the day’s events and discussing potential projects, but mostly discussing the principles under which Shane and Allan Savory, the prophet, visionary and former owner of the surrounding lands, are managing this farm near Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe. (More…)

In the Dogon country of Mali, something astonishing is happening. In a dozen villages northeast of Koro, facing the hot Sahara desert, food is in plentiful supply, despite the drought affecting the region. Dogon farmers reaped a bumper crop a year ago, ensuring their villages would have enough food to carry them through the dry season. (More…)

Rats, crocodiles and Wile E. Coyote have been much on my mind lately.

I’m going to Kenya tomorrow. The guidebook warns against swimming in inland waters, infested as they are with crocs and bilharzia. But that’s not what brings these thoughts to mind. While on the subject, my daughter’s too young to appreciate Chuck Jones. And rodents have left my larder alone for a few years now. (More…)

We live in the Age of Restraint. Oh, it may not seem that way. Humans still reproduce at bacterial, rather than primate, rates. And as this weird new kind of “bacterium” grows, unlike any bacterial species, each member consumes more: humans are getting richer all the time (and I don’t just mean the 1%.) (More…)

When driving across a European border, some of the most charming sights are the cobwebbed customs facilities, abandoned since 1995. You can drive from the Arctic Circle to within sight of Morocco without ever having to slow down for a passport check. To many, this is what “Europe” means: a single continent, whole and free, whose members trust each other enough to get rid of their borders. (More…)

Imagine a state about the size of Maryland. Give it slightly more people than Michigan. Divide it into three federal regions. Spice it up with three official languages (make sure these don’t coincide with the regions’ borders). Ensure it is run by variable coalitions of 10 political parties operating through 7 parliaments. Chop it into 10 provinces and, for good measure, 589 local councils. Mix well and let stew for a few decades. What do you get? Welcome to Belgium. (More…)

An obscure little place squeezed between bigger powers, Belgium has always been… well, different. For example, it is the first working anarchist state. It has not had a government since June 2010, when the previous one was dissolved following parliamentary elections, which the ruling right-of-centre coalition lost and Flemish nationalists and Walloon socialists won. This would be like Ralph Nader having to form a government with Pat Buchanan and Michele Bachmann. Talks have predictably gotten nowhere. (More…)

I’m having a peaceful evening in my hotel in Dubai. The Al Manzil, built in a pleasant faux-Arab style, is close to the kilometer-high (give or take) Burj Khalifa, and right across the road from the entrance to the very new Old Town (it opened three years ago,) a lovely contraption of high-end Arabic architecture, fountains, shops, five star hotels and restaurants. (More…)

Arriving in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a refreshing jolt for the senses. The boorish border guards typical of former Soviet republics suspiciously leafing through your passport (to find a visa it took you weeks to obtain) are replaced by courteous people providing a visa and hassle-free service at the city’s small airport. Driving into town provides another. Along the highway, a wavy ribbon of light-blue glass floats off a flat expanse of manicured grass, brilliantly lit against the dark, moonless night. That, I discovered, is the new Interior Ministry headquarters. (More…)

Steve Reich on my iPod, a glass of Aerosvit Airlines Merlot, and a window seat are all I need. As the Kiev-to-Dubai flight leaves the rolling plains of the Ukraine behind, crossing the Sea of Azov, hugging the northern shores of the Black Sea, headed towards the Caucasus, I’m overwhelmed. The view is breathtaking. (More…)

Odessa, once the Soviet Union’s largest commercial port, was the funkiest place in the Nazi empire. It is said that the occupying Romanian officers would never consider going out without their make-up on, the better to attract the favors of the city’s belles. That reputation lives on, to this day. (More…)