Bobsy is well-known in Hong Kong’s environmental scene as a food guru and best-known for his Save the Human! campaign which educates people to stay away from meat and dairy to reduce humans’ footprint on the environment. His latest eco-venture is Mana! Slow Fast Food, a sustainable eatery that revolutionizes the idea of unhealthy fast food. He shares with Pascale Seiler, Ecozine’s Wellness Expert Blogger, about his inspirations and goals with Mana! and the need to change people’s eating habits to save our planet.
Pascale: How did you come up with the name Mana! and what does Mana! mean to you?
Bobsy: I don’t know if you’re aware but Mana! in Hawaiian means ‘Divine Power’ and in Japanese it means ‘Truth.’ Not forgetting that in the Maori culture to have great Mana! means to have great authority, honour and respect. Mana! originally used means ‘Sacred food, or food from heaven.’ In the Polynesian culture I discovered it to mean life force; in the Philipino culture it means ‘inheritance.’ For us the meaning Mana! is related to food and to our bread. Mana! means ‘bread of life,’-that’s at the heart of what we do. It represents all that is sacred in life. I have to say though Mana! has turned out to be a magical word. It’s a word that has really taken on a life of its own.
Pascale: So Bobsy, this feeling of Mana! in the Maori culture of people wanting to honour their relationship to food, what are the qualities that you’re wanting to shift in children and adults with the way they approach their food?
Bobsy: Imagine, if children and people were honouring their relationship to food, honouring the way they consume their food, honouring the way they take care of their body and you had achieved that through Mana! What would that mean to you?
For the last four years or so, I have been raising awareness on food and the effect it has had on this planet. ‘Save the Human!’ was a campaign I started in 2008 and as the name implies I wanted to ‘Save the Human!’. Why? Because Food is the no one cause of pollution globally. I wanted to bring awareness to our consumption of food and to the conversation that ‘we’ human beings are the cause of misery and consumption.
If I can bring awareness to what and how we consume and have people become conscious of where it goes after we eat, I will have indeed achieved a lot. Most humans are aware of the need to recycle and the effect commercial and industrial waste has on our ecosystems. The thing is, no one realizes that the number one cause of pollution is food. We are in fact eating up our planet. With Mana! it’s a real golden opportunity to highlight all of this.
Pascale: What is the vision you have for the Food Revolution you are creating with Mana! and why is it so significant to you?
Bobsy: Mana! is a small part of the vision. The vision is called Babylon! There is in fact a Babylon! sign engraved on the floor of the backyard entrance. It says ‘It’s good to be here.’ We have it there as we’re dropping hints of what’s yet to come. The definition of Babylon! is the gathering of the tribe, an inspired community.
The vision is of a funky space where the tribe can gather, socialize and live. Mana! is just the food the big vision is Babylon!
The Food Revolution is much more than the food, separate r – from revolution and you get evolution. An evolution of the human species is needed! The tribe you may ask who are they? These are the people who have ‘awoke’. They come from all walks of life, from every background and racial denomination. The tribe prevails globally as we speak it is a global tribe that has awoken. Sociologists have studied this movement and they have documented it to be the largest movement on the planet.
This movement is for the first time without a leader, without a political ideology, it’s non-local but in fact global. Sociologists have come up with a name for this tribe called ‘The Cultural Creatives’. What’s so interesting for the sociologists is that the more they researched on these Cultural Creatives the more they found a trend. The trend was that the Cultural Creatives seemed to have an innate awareness and intuitiveness with the issues of this Earth. Instead of it making the Cultural Creatives more depressed and sad like the sociologists would have predicted what the research demonstrated and revealed was quite the opposite.
The Cultural Creatives were in fact more optimistic with what they thought they could do for this planet. It seemed that the more awareness and more knowledge they gained, the more they believed that change was possible.
Cultural Creatives are business leaders and entrepreneurs who reached that point where they said, ‘enough is enough it’s time we changed this’. This is a rapid and growing tribe, people are awakening every moment. What’s interesting for a Cultural Creative is they are typically able to pinpoint one of their fellow Creatives they tend to recognize the qualities and traits of their own Creative in the eyes of another. The phrase ‘it takes one to know one’ definitely rings true here.
I am changing the system within; let’s call this a quiet and peaceful revolution! The Revolution is an inner transformation instead of the negative connotation I’m altering it to the positive. There are currently over approximately 250 million Cultural Creatives on the planet right now and growing every minute.
Pascale: Where did the messages of honouring and restoring the Earth come from? There must have been a moment in time growing up where you made a decision about the role you were going to play?
Bobsy: Yes it was 1989. I had undergone a shift in consciousness. There I was penniless in Bangkok. I remember I was staying in a room I couldn’t afford. Don’t forget that’s when the Cold war had ended and the Berlin wall had come down. Nuclear dismemberment collapsed and for the first time in a long time humanity took a big deep sigh of relief.
Wars had stopped. The Berlin wall had collapsed and when that happened, this gave people, myself included, such tremendous hope for humanity. There was the dawn of the environmental movement, apartheid in South Africa had ended and the love rave culture was born in the UK.
This was a period of tremendous change. I can’t say it was one incident but it was all of these things culminating that I decided to shift at that time. I chose to align with the solution not the problem.
I was in my early twenties 24. The change was subtle but I became aware of the changes then I aligned 100 percent. I remember the first thing I did after I aligned with the change, I made 20 t-shirts and I printed a quote raising awareness of the beauty of nature. These were humble beginnings. I printed it and sold the T-shirts and set off on my journey as an ecopreneur.
Then I went on to make eco friendly clothing in Siam Square in Bangkok. I embraced eco fashion. The 90’s meant a lot to me. I created a collection of t-shirts with 1990 rave culture splashed everywhere. This marked the spirit of transformation and change that was to come.
Pascale: Clearly food is a catalyst for the change you want to make. What are your goals for the change you want to make in the next five or ten years’ time? What does that picture look like?
Bobsy: Building Babylon is number one on the list; we want to roll out a number of Mana! shops all over Hong Kong using our flats (bread) to create a new revival of pizza bases flat bases. Babylon! would be the hub.
With fast slow food we are reinterpreting and reengineering fast food from unhealthy and cheap to healthy, wholesome and eco conscious. At Mana! most our packaging is biodegradable. Flats are our specialty and at the centre of what we do.
There would be a Mana! in Babylon! I envision a handmade brick oven similar to that of Mana’s current oven but the difference would be this oven would act as a feature and would have lots of space around it. Having it as our centrepiece truly acknowledges it as the heart and hearth of all our food.
I had this idea of the flats for the last 15 years but it was never fully honoured and acknowledged. This has been a long train slow coming. I have found that people have little confidence in something so pioneering in this city. I ask myself ‘Why is it we have to wait so long to create something so beautiful?’
Pascale: I see you as an Earth Warrior. How do you think this best describes you?
Bobsy: I love it! I have a strong affinity with the Native American Culture Red Indians. Whenever I watched Native Americans die on the television my heart would cry out for them. I can see a Babylon! in every Asian major city a Babylon! in Taiwan, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore. I believe we could do with a Babylon! right now.
Pascale: What’s your calling and purpose for the Earth through Mana!?
Bobsy: It’s really to inspire change to show that we can run a conscious business successfully. Our business is founded on the three P’s-People, Planet and Profit. It’s important to focus on all three values.
Pascale: How do you believe others can help the Earth?
Bobsy: Change your diet, it’s all about diet change not climate change. The only way to change the Earth is to change ourselves and if you ask me the most immediate thing you could do is to become vegetarian. Becoming vegetarian would be the most impact full effective first step you can take. Adopt a vegetarian diet. It’s the most effective. If you are a vegetarian already your next step would be become a vegan. I’d also say become a conscious consumer you’re consuming the planet.
Pascale: You have been known to educate and share with children for example the importance of what they are eating. Why is this so important to you?
Bobsy: Ever since I have gone through the change I aligned myself with the healing of the Earth. I expressed this initially through my design work in the 90s and it went on from there. To me the healing of the Earth and the human spirit are one and the same.
One cannot be achieved without the other. Whether it’s planting trees, campaigning for the harbour, cleaning up the beaches, publishing positive news it’s one and the same to me. It’s the same mission. Everything is connected to everything else. The way I see it, it’s always been about inspiring the change. It’s my vocation and my calling.
Pascale: How do you see your role as a food educator? And what diseases do you personally want to prevent through healthy eating. Any you feel personally strongly about and why?
Bobsy: I want to eradicate the poisoning of our bodies and our minds on this planet. This is what processed animal protein does to us. The rest will take care of itself. We are what we think and what we feel but fundamentally we are what we eat.
Pascale: Through the Save the Human! Campaign you raised awareness on the mass consumption of meat and dairy, what are your further aims and intentions around this launching Mana! restaurant? What would you like to further see happen in Hong Kong and how can one positively contribute to your vision?
Bobsy: When I learnt about the real cost of a hamburger, I became vegetarian over night. I then gave up on fish ten years after that. This was all due to finding out that the highest contributing factor to the world’s pollution was in fact coming from the human consumption of meat and dairy.
I would like our governments to put this at the top of their agenda, make this issue a top priority. Wake up to what’s going on. The fact of the matter is we here in Hong Kong waste more food than anywhere else in the world. The vision for Babylon! is eminent and quite frankly there is no more time to waste!
For more information about Mana! visit: www.mana.hk or alternatively you can find them on Facebook: manafastslowfood