February 12, 2016

Careers For A Post-Industrial World

When cars are no longer running we will need more horses and farriers.

I am currently what we call retired, although it doesn't always feel like that leisure time picture painted by investment advertisements. I prefer to think that I am still working hard and productively contributing as a caregiver here at home.

If I were just starting out, or had young children planning for the future, I would be considering preparing for a post-industrial, post-oil world. Regardless, I am still preparing for simpler times.

Never mind high tech - the future is going to be all about low tech ways that worked in the past, and still work now. Good bye computer engineer, hello dip pen/ink maker.

I tried to think of a few other jobs that forward thinkers might consider:

  • ice seller
  • stable hand
  • carpenter
  • baker
  • blacksmith
  • cook
  • farmer
  • crafter
  • artist 
  • musician (unplugged)
  • teacher
  • soap maker
  • chimney sweep
  • child care worker
  • couturier
  • farrier
  • herbalist/healer

It has only been about 300 years that our society has been structured in the way it is now. Not only is consumerism a very recent invention, so is capitalism and seemingly unlimited, cheap energy. Not so long ago we got along just fine without plastic crap, instant travel and communication, and just about everything else we think we would die without.

And we will again.

Some may think that such a change will be awful, but it will have its benefits and charms. Just ask the chimney sweep.

"Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be."

You might not live long enough to find out what the post-industrial world looks like, but your kids or grand kids might. On the other hand, it might come sooner than anyone expects.

What would you do for a career in a post-industrial world? 

February 10, 2016

Breakfast Surreal

Cold breakfast cereals were one of the first "convenience foods" on the market. They also represent one of the most highly profitable sectors in the processed food industry. But is eating such cereals any better for you than eating the cardboard box in which they come?

One study in the 1960s fed cereal to one group of mice, and the shredded box to another group. The cereal-fed mice did not do as well as those dining on the boxboard.

The only way that the wave of cold cereals of questionable nutritional value could take over the first meal of the day was through an intense advertising campaign that has been bombarding us since the 1930s.

And sugar. Lots of sugar. And salt. And fat. All the not-so-secret ingredients of the processed food industry.

Over the past few years, thankfully, breakfast has been the meal that has morphed the most. Health-minded diners are looking at the first meal of the day differently. Cold breakfast cereal sales are down.

Processed food pushers are panicking, and scrambling to make their sugar-laden ingredients more palatable to shoppers that can no longer stand to wandering down surreal cereal aisles in grocery stores that consist of a whole wall of awful choices.

GMO ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup, high amounts of salt, saturated fat, and artificial additives are often lurking in cereal bowls. The extruding process that makes cold cereals uses heat and pressure that destroy most of the nutrients of the ingredients.

Nutrients need to be artificially introduced later in these industrial products in order to give them any value at all, besides increasing corporate profits. A few pennies worth of corn or wheat gets turned into a product that costs several dollars. Our health is certainly not profiting.

What we can profit from is making breakfast less bizarre and get back to real food. A first meal of the day that makes sense consists of whole foods that are nutrient dense. Choices include eggs, smoothies, juice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal or "porridge" and dairy foods, depending on what kind of diet you are on.

Cold cereals are crap. Even if they are organic. But if that is all you have in the cupboard right now, you could always throw the cereal in the compost and eat the box.

February 8, 2016

Not All R's Are Created Equal

A creative example of repurposing a common item that might otherwise go to the landfill.

In the R's scheme we have been emphasizing the wrong approaches. Recycle is not always the best way to go, and can end up being a well-meaning and wasteful activity. Often it is used as an excuse to continue high consumption ways, but recycling will never make up for over-consumption.

When school children are taught the "3 R's" they are taught an consumption-friendly list - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there are other R's that are more effective, but not usually taught.

I have tried to put a few of the other R's in order starting with the most effective.

  1. Rethink - one of the most important R's which asks us to consider all aspects of our lives and identify where we can be more earth friendly. 
  2. Refuse - my favourite of all of them. Everything gets better if we refuse the myths of consumerism and "the good life", and quit buying things we don't need.
  3. Reduce - use less of the things that you buy.
  4. Reuse - using things over and over and over. 
  5. Repair - fix the things you buy so they can be used longer. Don't buy things that can't be repaired, or are designed to break down prematurely.
  6. Repurpose - finding new ways to use old things, like a toilet seat door on the chicken coop.
  7. Recycle - aluminum, steel, plastic and glass, are the most efficient to recycle. 

When it comes to the R's, not all are created equal. For example, it is more effective to refuse to buy bottled water than it is to buy it and recycle the plastic containers. We use a reusable stainless steel water bottle filled with tap water.

It is too bad that recycle is the most commonly known environmental R word. It is time to move on to the other, more effective R's, and perhaps think up a few more. I propose Reality, as in "is expecting infinite consumption on a finite planet consistent with Reality?" 
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