April 30, 2012

May Day Monday



It is known as May Day, but in 2001 Italian collectives changed it to a more appropriate 'MAYDAY', as in the international call of distress. It makes sense for it sure does feel like we are under attack from all quarters these days.

Our governments, the economy, and the environment are all slow motion emergencies, and if we don't act to staunch the blood, we deserve the consequences.

On Tuesday, May 1, 2012 we have an opportunity to join together in an action that may be the only thing that can jar our governments out of their delusional course of action. A general strike shows who really has the power.

Stop attacks on workers. Stop the deterioration of our rights and freedoms.
Stop police brutality. Stop poverty.
Money for jobs, education, and the environment... not war.
End privatization. End corporate rule.... 

RETURN POWER TO THE PEOPLE


April 29, 2012

Simplicity vs Complexity


Life can often seem complicated. But it isn't life that is complicated, it is how we conduct our lives that builds the maze. Most of our problems we create ourselves.

The good news is that we can destroy these same problems simply by deciding to do so, and conducting our lives with the elegance and rationality of simplicity.

For example, if you rode your bicycle to the gym, you wouldn't have anything to do once you got there. You could go relax in a park, then ride home.

"A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think." — Eleanor Roosevelt

April 27, 2012

Living Without A Microwave

A microwave is not the only way to be energy efficient -
hot soup below, leftovers warming above
In an interesting turn of events, our faithful 22 year old microwave oven broke days after I wrote about it in a Make It Last post. Linda and I took it to the local appliance recycling depot, then talked about (shudder) going shopping for a new one.

"We didn't always have a microwave", Linda pointed out. We wondered if we needed one now. It is true that microwave ovens are a more energy efficient method of cooking, but then so is a crock pot, and we still have one of those.

"But what will I do without a microwave?", I thought in a moment of semi-hysterical kitchen nightmare panic. It passed quickly and I got down to some more rational thinking. Was it time to banish 'Mike" from my kitchen?

What microwaves are really for is speed and convenience. A microwave takes 15 minutes to do the same job as an hour of cooking in an electric oven. But at this point in our lives, we are more into a slower pace, and don't want to sacrifice quality for convenience. I enjoy cooking, and there is no need for me to rush.

I gathered my courage and suggested to my sous chef that we try living without this 'essential' appliance and see how things go. It was my Chef Ramsay moment, and Linda was fully supportive of our move toward slow cookery.

We didn't really cook in our microwave anyway. Reheating/thawing - yes. Cooking - no. But it is taking a while to adjust from the instant, on-demand heating of the old magnetron exciting the molecules in our food. It feels like camping, and for me that is a good thing.

I have to think differently now, and adopt a more purposeful approach to heating food. My local electricity utility estimated that, "using a microwave instead of your oven four times a week could save you more than $20 per year on your electricity bill."

What about the energy required to mine minerals, process the raw materials, manufacture the different components, assemble the product, ship it to me from overseas manufacturers, then dispose of it at the end of its life?

For a hundred dollar microwave it would take five years just to break even on the energy savings. For us it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Shopping trip averted - balance restored. We are living without a microwave. What's next - living without a fridge?

April 25, 2012

Opting Out Of The Machine

If we are not free, the machine will not work
There are many references to society being like a machine, but I have never heard one stated as well as Mario Savio did in 1964.

Savio was a leader in the 1964/65 Free Speech Movement that began on the University of California, Berkeley campus. The movement was fighting against repressive rules on campus that banned political activities and severely restricted students' rights to free speech and assembly.

In a now famous speech on the steps of Sproule Hall December 2, 1964, Savio said,
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious - makes you so sick at heart - that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part.
And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.
And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
I consider simple living to be an alternative to being a cog in a machine intent on destroying everything in its path in the pursuit of profit.

I make sacrifices willingly, and joyfully, to put my body in the apparatus of the consumer machine. This is part of my contribution toward stopping the machine, stopping the destruction, and stopping the greed.

I am creating a new machine. One that respects the environment, and people. One that takes care of everyone. One that produces peace, love, and happiness.

That is where I am putting my cog.

April 23, 2012

"I Want" Monday

Orange Happiness by Aidez, DeviantArt


"I want happiness", a man told Buddha.

Buddha said to the man:

"First remove 'I' - that is ego.

Next remove 'want' - that is desire.

See, now you are left with only 'happiness'."

April 22, 2012

EaRth Day 2012 - The Four R's



I thought about Earth Day pretty much the same as I usually do until I put 2012 after it. Now it sounds special - ominous even.

Today is an important time to remember the R's of resource use, sometimes inflated to 5 or more, but commonly limited to a very useful 3. Listed according to effectiveness they are (from most - least effective) - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

To the essential three I would add a 4th that is the most effective of all - REFUSE.

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I was teaching grade 4 when a parent told me her daughter started sobbing one evening at home when she saw a tin can in the garbage. "But mom", the daughter cried, "that can be recycled."

I don't want any students getting that upset over the state of our planet, but it would be more effective to cry when the family gets a third car, a second home, or when they fly frequently. Refusing and reducing are the most effective of the R's.

The curriculum was recycling/reuse-centered because they are more active. You can't see, touch, or manipulate resources you never use. Recyle/reuse are also more business-friendly because you don't have to cut consumption in order to participate in them.

Despite obvious environmental breakdown, it is still considered radical to propose that people cut consumption and buy less, do less, or live less resource-intensive lives. It doesn't matter that both they and the planet would be happier. We are trained to consume, and that is after all, what is best for the all-important economy.

But we can be more gentle on the earth, and break free of dead-end consumerism and waste by following the 4 R's:


Refuse:

    * to believe that infinite economic growth is possible or desirable.
    * to be programmed by advertising.
    * excessive packaging.
    * luxury and extravagance.
    * things that are toxic or can not be recycled.
    * instant gratification.
    * to buy things you don't need.

Reduce:

    * the amount of energy you use.
    * your reliance on brown corporations only concerned about the bottom line.
    * factory farmed foods in your diet.
    * the amount of waste you produce.
    * your desires, and therefore your ecological footprint.
    * time spent indoors in front of the TV and computer.

Reuse:

    * clothes - treat them gently so they can be used over and over (Dolly Parton does not wear any clothes more than once... why do I know that?)
    * leftovers - they are food, too.
    * whatever resources you can (collecting belly button lint for pillow stuffing is going too far).

Recycle:
    * whatever can not be reused.
    * at recycling facilities that are provided in most population centers.
    * but understand you get more bang for your eco-buck with the previous 3 R's.
    * includes composting.


Every day is Earth Day.

    April 20, 2012

    Liebster Love

    Ahem - tap, tap. Is this thing on?

    On April 8th NBA was awarded a Liebster Blog Award. It is an award bloggers give to blogs they think are worthy of merit. It is a way to promote blogs you like, and help create links through the blogging community.

    With over 70 million blogs out there, it is also a good way to introduce more of the 2.5 billion Internet users to worthy smaller blogs.

    Now, I am not sure if NBA is of superior quality, or even particularly good. However, whether it is an award, or a comment left in response to a post, it is really great to get feedback from readers. Positive feedback is especially nice.

    Other guidelines for the Liebster are:

    1. Link back to the nominator.

    NBA was given the Liebster Award by the family bloggers at Clamco. Their fine blog is diverse and creative - treasures and little bits of beauty can be found there.

    2. Nominate other small blogs.

    There are so many deserving blogs, including all those I follow (some of which are on the NBA Blog Roll on the sidebar), but today I give the nod, and some Liebster Love, to the following:

        * Peak Energy: An Australian blog that features posts about peak oil, global warming, and sustainable energy solutions. Tons of excellent information here.

        * Ditch Your Fridge: This is a green blog that starts with a radical idea: living without a fridge. It shows that not only is it possible, but in many ways is better.

        * Dreams You Dare To Dream: Another green blog, but one with geographical significance - it is in my locality. It is about living minimally and lightly upon the earth. Could you get by with only 100 things? That is the dream.

    I enjoy creating NBA along with Linda (editor, proof-reader, and simple living co-participant), and it is gratifying for us to know that someone, anyone, is enjoying it.

    With the help of readers, and fellow bloggers like those at Clamco, we are moving toward our goal of hosting 350,000,000 people at our little blog.

    Our simple mission is to share what we have learned about breaking free from endless working and consuming. Along the way we hope to help make a better, more rational and enjoyable world.

    We are humbled by this award, your comments, and the time you take to read our thoughts and ideas on our Not Buying Anything Blog. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    April 18, 2012

    Community Gardening

     My community garden - Community food is good food

    This year our gardening extends past the patio container garden as we add 16 square feet of life-giving soil in a raised-bed plot at our local community garden. I stopped by today to see our allotment for the first time. I liked what I saw.


    Box C is our accessible bit of soil

    I was expecting bare soil, but because this is not a new garden it already has abundant growth in it. Strawberries, green onions and kale - just add water, and eat.


    Gardens feed the stomach and the soul

    I have loved gardens since roaming my grandparent's fecund prairie garden as a little guy. A garden is a excellent place to relax and recharge - they can provide all the nourishment we need.


    A nice place to sit and watch things grow

    I am excited about being part of our community garden, because it is not just about the food. It is about being outside, meeting other gardeners, and joining together to take actions that improve our community's resilience.

    Happy spring, and happy gardening.

    April 16, 2012

    Food Security Monday

    Conventionally grown faux foods contain
    less nutrients than real ones grown organically

    What Is Food Security?

    The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines food security as:

    "a condition in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

    Conventional industrial foods are bred and grown in conditions that increase profits, but decrease nutritional value. You may pay less for food produced on energy-intensive, fossil fuel based industrial farms, but you are also getting less. Less nutrients, but more harmful chemical residues.

    From a food security perspective, industrial farms do not meet the goals of safe and nutritious food that meets our dietary needs for an active and healthy life. We have to approach what we eat with food security in mind.

    We grow some of our own food. When buying food, we try to buy local and organic as much as we can. Considering the extra nutrients in organic food, the price doesn't seem as high compared to less expensive, less nutritious conventional foods.

    You can do something today to increase your food security - join a community garden, plan a backyard garden plot, plant some containers with veggies, buy organic apples and potatoes from local producers, join a farm box program for local, fresh produce, join a food buying coop, grow some herbs indoors in a window, start some seeds... Get involved - it's fun.

    April 13, 2012

    Bicycles Are Best

    "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle
    I no longer despair for the future of the human race."

    -H.G. Wells

    I have read that the humble bicycle is the most efficient use of energy in the known universe. I'm not sure about that, but a bicycle IS the most efficient mode of transportation on Earth.

    WorldWatch Institute published figures on cycling which compared energy (calories) used per passenger-mile (ppm) with other forms of transportation. It showed that a bicycle required only 35 calories ppm, whereas a car gobbled a whopping 1,860 calories.
    There is a bike for everyone

    A bus took 920 calories ppm, while walking took 3 times as many calories as biking the same distance.

    A bicycle is an amazing feat of engineering - it is darn near a perfect design. 195 years after its invention it is still the most efficient form of transportation that we have managed to come up with.

    Bicycles - the most efficient, the most fun, the most civilized.
    "Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart."   - Iris Murdoch

    April 12, 2012

    Appreciating What We Have

    Ego vs. Eco

    Ego and hubris vs. Eco and humility

    Ego and pride have lead to a dangerous level of hubris in the world which is endangering the irreplaceable ecosystem upon which we all depend. If we fail to recognize our true place in this world - as only one species among millions of others - we will perish due to a lack of humility.

    "Man" has been demoted, removed from a perch he never deserved in the first place.

    Humans are not the only species to possess language. We are not the only creatures that play. We do have the largest brain-body-mass ratio, but dolphins are a very close second. Although we are smart, most of our best ideas come from mimicking things in nature.

    What humans have that no other life form does, as far as we know, is ego. The ego is especially powerful in western cultures. Competition, success, achievements and potential are things we are programmed for since birth. We’re taught to achieve more endlessly, and it has burned us out, as well as our environment.

    Not all cultures are like this, and ours wasn't either before money and commerce came to dominate our lives. Since then we have gone from an 'eco' focus to an all out indulgence of 'ego'.

    We have left behind cooperation and public, and have embraced competition and private. We thought we could step out of our responsibilities and relationships with no negative consequences, but we can't.

    Ram Dass thought that, "Indians live like they are their souls (eco), and Americans live like they are their egos." So how do we overcome ego so we can shift back to an eco-focused life? The following tips are adapted from Dr. Wayne Dyer. The full article can be read here.

    7 Steps For Overcoming Ego
    1. Stop being offended. The behavior of others isn’t a reason to be immobilized. That which offends you only weakens you. If you’re looking for occasions to be offended, you’ll find them at every turn. This is your ego at work convincing you that the world shouldn't be the way it is.
    2. Let go of your need to win. Ego loves to divide us up into winners and losers, but there are no losers in a world where we all share the same energy source.
    3. Let go of your need to be right. Ego is the source of a lot of conflict and dissension because it pushes you in the direction of making other people wrong. Stop yourself in the middle of an argument and ask, "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy?"
    4. Let go of your need to be superior. True nobility isn’t about being better than someone else. It’s about being better than you used to be. Stay focused on your growth, with a constant awareness that no one on this planet is any better than anyone else. We all emanate from the same creative life force.
    5. Let go of your need to have more. The mantra of ego is more - it’s never satisfied. No matter how much you achieve or acquire, your ego will insist that it isn’t enough. When you stop needing more, more of what you desire seems to arrive in your life. Since you’re detached from the need for it, you find it easier to pass it along to others, because you realize how little you need in order to be satisfied and at peace.
    6. Let go of identifying yourself on the basis of your achievements. This may be a difficult concept if you think you are your achievements.  It’s when you attach yourself to those achievements and believe that you alone are doing all of those things that you leave behind peace and gratitude.
    7. Let go of your reputation. Your reputation is not located in you. It resides in the minds of others. Therefore, you have no control over it at all. If you speak to 30 people, you will have 30 reputations. If you’re overly concerned with how you’re going to be perceived by everyone, then you’ve disconnected yourself from your own plan, and allowed the opinions of others to guide you. This is your ego at work.
    Eco must win over ego if we are to survive and flourish, but it will be an epic battle for each and every one of us. It is a battle worth fighting. Victory means freedom for us, and good health for the planet.

    Then we can let go of our victory and get on with life.

    April 9, 2012

    Renewal Monday

    Breath of Gaia, Josephine Wall
    Breath of Gaia

    Gaia, the Greek Goddess, is Mother Earth, the bringer of life and beauty. Where Gaia breathes, she brings new life to a sleeping earth. Renewal springs forth along Gaia's every path.

    April 7, 2012

    Ultra-Tiny Homes For $200... And Under

    Tiny, tiny home - $200, Sunshine - Free
    Carpenter Derek Diedricksen's tremendously tiny homes may not be practical for most people when it comes to daily living, but they do an excellent job of illustrating what may be done with discarded materials, a bit of imagination, and some elbow grease.

    Diedricksens's projects all take advantage of discarded construction materials, and were built for next to no cost. The wooden structures are creative and pleasing to the eye. Their diminutive stature could lead one to think they are art installations rather than places to dwell.

    24 sq.ft. of stylin' shelter - mortgage not required
    The largest of the dwellings is 24 square feet and the smallest a claustrophobic, Japanese-style 4 sq. ft., which is more of a 'sleeper' than a home.

    What I like about Diedricksens's buildings is how he uses reclaimed scrap materials in their construction. Where others see waste, he sees possibilities. I like the size, too - they are small enough that they could fit into a regular home's garage, with room to spare. They are spartan and cozy.

    Derek, and other small home proponents, see affordable shelter for all - tiny dwellings for a tiny planet.

    In this case perhaps not a home, but there are lots of possibilities for a writer's or artist's cabin, or hard-sided portable camping shelter.

    See more uber-tiny shelters here.

    April 6, 2012

    Average Income And Happiness

    Average Income and Happiness in The US, 1957-2002
    “In recent years, psychologists studying measures of life satisfaction have largely confirmed the old adage that money can’t buy happiness—at least not for people who are already affluent.” - WorldWatch Institute

    2011 was a record year for billionaires. The total number of listees on the Billionaires List was a new record at 1,210, and their combined wealth of $4.5 trillion was a record as well. But did this massive accumulation of wealth help contribute to making last year a record year for happiness?

    The World Health Organization doesn't think so, and reports that depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide.

    What I see is that wealth is going up, and well-being is going down. That is also what the WorldWatch Institute is reporting.
    "Societies focused on well-being involve more interaction with family, friends, and neighbors, a more direct experience of nature, and more attention to finding fulfillment and creative expression than in accumulating goods.
    They emphasize lifestyles that avoid abusing your own health, other people, or the natural world. In short, they yield a deeper sense of satisfaction with life than many people report experiencing today.

    What provides for a satisfying life? In recent years, psychologists studying measures of life satisfaction have largely confirmed the old adage that money can’t buy happiness—at least not for people who are already affluent.

    The disconnection between money and happiness in wealthy countries is perhaps most clearly illustrated when growth in income in industrial countries is plotted against levels of happiness.
    In the United States, for example, the average person’s income more than doubled between 1957 and 2002, yet the share of people reporting themselves to be “very happy” over that period remained static."
    If incomes doubled since 1957, why didn't happiness? Because happiness, beyond a minimal level of wealth, does not improve with each additional dollar earned over and above the level of 'enough'. Rather, each additional dollar earned suffers from diminishing returns - less bang per buck.

    While business magazines raucously ring in the arrival of each newly-minted billionaire, they fail to recognize the insidious grief caused by the unbelievable inequality.

    Our increasing wealth has had little effect on happiness and well-being. It is time to start demanding changes to the way we run our countries and economies so that the well-being of all becomes our focus, rather than how many billionaires a country has, or how much its GDP has grown.

    April 4, 2012

    Cooperation In Nature: Fire Ant Rafts

    A living raft of fire ants - cooperation in action
    Everything we need to know about how to live with each other successfully can be learned through observing nature. One lesson that consistently reappears is the importance of cooperation. Contrary to popular belief, life is not a competitive game.  

    Take the example of the South American fire ant. They are a formidable foe, in part because of their ability to cooperate. A group of scientists braved numerous fiery stings to discover ways ant cooperation helps increase their survival even in the harshest conditions.

    The welt-covered investigators found that in order to protect themselves in times of periodic flooding, fire ants have evolved a water-proof emergency plan. When the water comes up, the ants grasp each other with their mandibles to form structures such as bridges and rafts.

    The structure the ants form as they cling to each other is strong and flexible. The ant lattice is similar to gor-tex fibre, a material that holds together so strongly that it can last 100 years exposed to the outdoors.

    Fire ant rafts are amazingly robust and can survive for weeks floating in water. If anything pushes the ant raft into the water they remain buoyant, and bounce back to the surface, unharmed.

    And what of single ants that don't make it to a raft? Their survival rate is poor, and most will drown.

    Like fire ants, humans are also social creatures. And when the waters begin to rise, our survival rate also increases dramatically when we cooperate with each other.

    We depend on each other, and have a natural instinct to help one another. Through the cooperative nature of life, we are all inextricably linked.

    So let's raft-up and hold on to each other tight. These are challenging times, but together we can ride them out.

    Cooperation is cool.


    Note: 2012 is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives
    "Through their distinctive focus on values, cooperatives have proven themselves a resilient and viable business model that can prosper even during difficult times. This success has helped prevent many families and communities from sliding into poverty."
    - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

    April 2, 2012

    Self-Repair Manifesto

    Join The Repair Revolution

    The Self-Repair Manifesto

    Repair Is Better Than Recycling.

    Making our things last longer is both more efficient and more cost-effective than mining them for raw materials.

    Repair Saves The Planet.

    Earth has limited resources and we can't run a linear manufacturing process forever. The best way to be efficient is to reuse what we already have!

    Repair Saves You Money.

    Fixing things is often free, and usually cheaper than replacing them. Doing the repair yourself saves serious dough.

    Repair Teaches Engineering.

    The best way to find out how something works is to take it apart!

    If You Can't Fix It, You Don't Own It.

    Repair connects people and devices, creating bonds that transcend consumption. Self-repair is sustainable.

    Self-Repair:
    • connects you with your things, 
    • empowers and emboldens individuals, 
    • transforms consumers in to contributors, 
    • inspires pride in ownership, 
    • injects soul and makes things unique, 
    • is independence, 
    • requires creativity, 
    • is green, 
    • is joyful, 
    • is necessary for understanding our things, 
    • saves money and resources.

    E-waste is a global problem. The best way to keep valuable resources and toxic materials out of landfills is to keep our stuff working longer. Self repair not only saves you money, it helps protect the environment.

    April 1, 2012

    Holding On, Letting Go


    Things To Keep
    1. Freedom
    2. Cooperation
    3. Music
    4. Nature
    5. Reason
    Things To Release
    1. Greed
    2. The status quo
    3. Inequality
    4. Ego
    5. Hate
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