September 30, 2012

Hope



I love author/activist Rebecca Solnit's recent take on the power of hope.

"To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart. 
There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve? And who do you want to be? And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style. 
That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like." 

Living simply gives me hope. Without the need to rush, and freed from materialistic concerns, I can concentrate on building the life I want. These are my small, ongoing victories.

I take these successes and use them to broaden my scope and consider what my ideal world would look like.

What I envision in these moments is a world of generosity, kindness, and beauty. I envision peace, tranquility, and a lively, enthusiastic global community. While I am planning my ideal world I also like to throw in freedom for all, and the fulfillment of everyone's basic needs. I have no doubt it can be done.

Let's celebrate our small, ongoing victories, then work together on creating the hope and high spirits that will be required to achieve the great triumphs that are changing our world.

September 28, 2012

My Wabi-sabi Life



My wood coffee table is old, and it shows. It is very basic, and wears the chips, splinters, and stains of use and time. But rather than becoming something in my life that needs to be replaced with a newer and 'better' version, I feel it has gained in beauty as the years have passed. It is totally Wabi-sabi.

The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi is based on Buddhist principles, including the acceptance of impermanence and imperfection. Wabi means "rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness", and can be applied to natural and human-made objects. Sabi means "beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs".

Other characteristics of Wabi-sabi include irregularity, modesty, and economy. It emphasizes the unique quirks of natural and human made objects over mass-production and conformity. It acknowledges the "wisdom in natural simplicity".


"Wabi is to be satisfied with a little hut, a room of two or three tatami mats, like the log cabin of Thoreau," D.T. Suzuki wrote, "and with a dish of vegetables picked in the neighboring fields, and perhaps to be listening to the pattering of a gentle spring rainfall."


There is little room for Wabi-sabi in the West. You can not have "flawed beauty" if you are promptly replacing things before they begin to show their life experience.

Aging possessions are replaced before they can gain any experience or develop any character. Cars are regularly upgraded, and kitchens and bathrooms go through cycles of renovations in order to keep up with the latest styles.

Heritage buildings are torn down in the name of progress, and replaced with glass buildings that aren't nearly as interesting as the things reflected in them. And our elders, that literally have stories written in lines on their beautiful faces, are isolated out of sight.

There is no Wabi-sabi, only a ceaseless upgrading on our way to a sterile modernity cloaked in perpetual newness.


But think about what sweater is your favourite. Probably not the newest one you own. No, chances are you will choose your old, worn and dependable sweater.

You know the one - it has a tear where you got snagged on the barbed wire fence while hiking, and a burn on the sleeve from sitting by the campfire in the summer of 2005. Yes, it is your Wabi-sabi sweater. It fits you perfectly, and has a lived in feel.

It also reminds you of your own advancing age as well as your beautiful, hard-earned scars and blemishes that make you unique. This may elicit a sense of melancholy, but it is a sweet melancholy that brings you into the moment, and puts things in perspective.


We could use more Wabi-sabi in consumer-oriented countries. In embracing a youth oriented, perpetual newness and obsession with perfection, we hide the very beauty found in 'battle scars' earned over time. We are lulled into thinking that if only we have the right house, the right granite and stainless, and the right accessories, we will live in perfection forever.

My Wabi-sabi coffee table is rustically simple and fresh, just like my Wabi-sabi life. Embracing the beauty found in aging, imperfect objects has liberated me from the endless (and expensive) pursuit of 'new and improved'.

It has helped me make the transition to a simpler life, and removed the weight of material concerns.



autumn twilight
the wreath on the door
lifts in the wind

- Nick Virgilio

September 26, 2012

Get Cooking: Tips For Beating Rising Food Prices

The cost of food is going up and increases are likely to continue

While we do strive to not buy anything, we currently have to buy our food. Since 2008 that has been getting a lot more expensive. This trend is not likely to reverse soon, if ever.

At the same time that a lot of stuff you don't need gets less expensive, everything you need (really need, as in survival) is getting disturbingly more expensive. Big screen TVs? Less expensive. Gas, electricity, rent, and food? More expensive.

That people are concerned about food is evidenced here on our blog. A post on reducing food waste is one of the all time top posts on NBA, showing that many are doing everything they can to stretch the food budget in inflationary times.

With the US drought forecasted to inflate prices another 5% next year, I thought it was time to share more of the tips that Linda and I use to keep our food costs down.

Background

The average family of four spends about $237 dollars per week, or about $12,300 dollars per year, on food consumed at home. The same family spends $5200 dollars more on food consumed outside of home. A 5% increase means an added $875 dollars per year on food for our fictional family.


Money Saving Tips

With some simple solutions and planning, one can mitigate impending food price increases. These are some of the tips we use to stretch our food dollar, and maintain a whole food diet.

  1. Limit, or eliminate eating out. I know how tempting it is to take what seems like the fast or easy route to filling the tummy, but fight that impulse. Meals eaten out cost 6 to 10 times more than a similar meal cooked at home.
  2. Skip pre-packaged frozen meals. Convenience foods sacrifice taste and quality for ease of use. Plus they cost up to 4 times as much as home cooked meals.
  3. Do your own washing and cutting. Pre-cut/pre-washed, or grated foods will cost you twice as much.
  4. Learn to cook your favourite foods. When we quit eating out that didn't mean leaving behind all our favourite restaurant meals - we just learned to cook them at home. It has been fun, and satisfying.
  5. Buy generic for certain items. Some products such as flour, sugar, cereals, salt, and milk are indistinguishable from their pricier brand name counterparts.
  6. Plan your grocery shopping trips to avoid impulse buying. We always shop with a detailed list from which we do not deviate. This alone can save up to $20/month for the average shopper prone to impulsive edible purchases.
  7. Don't waste the food you have bought. This seems obvious, but a large amount of food is wasted in the average home. If you haven't already, see our post on reducing food waste.
  8. Eat less meat. Some products, like meat, will probably rise in price more than 5%. Explore non-meat alternatives like beans/grains, tofu, nuts and seeds. They are less expensive, and better for you.
  9. Bake your own bread products. Buying two loaves of hearty, healthy bread can cost as much as a 10 kg (20 lbs) bag of flour. You can make a lot of bread with that much flour.
  10. Take advantage of sales. Closely watch flyers for weekly specials, and stock up when the price is right. When we find peanut butter on sale, for example, we purchase several jars at a time to add to our well-stocked pantry.
By following these money saving tips it may be possible to make up that forecasted 5% rise in food prices, and then some. It is not that difficult, and besides saving money, these tips will help you to eat more healthfully, and have more fun in the kitchen.

What is your favourite money saving tip when it comes to the purchasing and preparation of yummy, nutritious food?

September 24, 2012

Yogurt Making Monday

Crock pot yogurt making is easy and tasty
photo: Eating From The Ground Up
Yogurt is easy to make. The earliest yogurts were most likely spontaneously fermented by wild bacteria in goat skin bags. Do not try this at home. On the other hand, it doesn't get much more simple than that.

I love yogurt. Not expensive, over packaged designer yogurt, and not flavoured, sugar-laden yogurt. I can also do without Aspartame, food colouring, artificial flavour, and thickening agents like gelatin (made from a variety of animal products, like skin, horns, hoof and bones).

I am content with the most ordinary of natural, plain yogurts. Yum.

Yogurt is good for you. It has been scientifically proven. Making your own yogurt is good for you, too. It is as fresh as it gets, is less expensive, and can be made without plastic packaging. And it is easy.

Basic Crock Pot Yogurt Recipe
1. Heat milk in crock pot to 185F. This kills the bacteria you don't want, and prepares the milk proteins. Using an accurate thermometer is good to insure accuracy.  
2. Keep at 183-188F for 3 minutes. This step helps achieve a more pleasant consistency in the finished product.
3. Remove crock pot lid and let milk cool to 115F. This is the perfect temperature for the starter to work - any hotter is too hot, and may kill the beneficial bacteria that you want. No bacteria growth, no yogurt.
4. Stir in 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt (starter) for each liter (quart) of milk. Stir to dissolve.
5. Transfer the ceramic part of crock pot to the oven. Leave in oven with the electric light on for 6-9 hours. 
6. Take crock pot ceramic bowl from oven and place in refrigerator. Leave undisturbed for two hours to let the yogurt set up. If it is cool outside, crock pot can be left outside for a couple of hours.

So far we are total beginners. We have made several batches, and while each has been slightly different, they have all tasted great. Our yogurt has not yet achieved the consistency we are looking for, namely nice and thick. So far our tasty end results have varied from primordial ooze-like to almost thick enough to scoop with a tortilla chip.

Thus begins our quest to make the ideal home made yogurt, and get off the store bought stuff forever. Less plastic, less expensive, more fun.

Our yogurt making has revived the use of our slow cooker, which had been getting closer to give-away status in our never ending push to streamline our kitchen space. We have been taking it out and using it for every step from heating the milk to letting it set up in the fridge. One container from start to finish. When done, I transfer the yogurt from the crock pot to glass jars.

If you eat a lot of yogurt, making your own is worth a try. People have been doing it for thousands of years.

Thankfully, today goat skin bags are optional.

For a more detailed recipe for making crock pot yogurt, see this excellent post from Eating From The Ground Up.

September 22, 2012

Anti-Shopping Affirmation



The way we think and talk forms the very substance of our lives. If we are thinking and talking about what we want all the time we will be ruled by our unchecked desires. We will never be satisfied. Big business takes advantage of our inability to control our desires.

A simple change in thinking can give us suit of armour against the swords of the capitalist hoards. As we think logically about what we really need in life, we can realize that it is very little. When we see the little man behind the curtain pulling our strings, the illusion starts to evaporate, and we understand - We don't need 90% of their stuff.

When our basic needs are being met, we can repeat to ourselves:

"I have everything I really need and want in life."

Need AND want? Yes, because what you want is what you need. And what you need is next to nothing compared to what you are being told you need.

Feel the urge to shop? Try repeating the anti-shopping affirmation in order to dissolve the irrational drive to obey the 'keep shopping' crowd, and be content with what you have.

When we change our thinking from 'I want' to 'I am grateful for what I have', we come to a calm point in our lives where we feel content and impervious to the relentless push toward MORE.

September 21, 2012

World Peace Day

"You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom."
 - Malcolm X 

Today is World Peace Day. I celebrate it because finding peace has always been one of my primary goals in life. This includes my quest for a simple life, which has been mostly about creating a peaceful lifestyle devoid of unnecessary stuff and stress. Reducing the physical and mental clutter that is so abundant in the modern world has been an important part of my personal search for peace.

Usually when we think of peace we think mostly of the absence of war. But to be in a state of peace requires the absence of a lot of less obvious things.

Peace also requires the absence of exploitation of people and the environment. It requires the absence of greed, envy, hate, and judgement. And it requires the absence of a garage stuffed to the rafters. These are all things that lead to personal strife and eventually, war. Well, maybe not the messy garage...

Whenever I am looking for help in clearing out my cluttered psychic garage, I inevitably run across the amazing woman known as Peace Pilgrim. Born in Egg Harbour City, NJ, she devoted the last 28 years of her life to a personal pilgrimage for peace.

Peace Pilgrim vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." Between 1953 and 1981 she walked 40,000 km (25,000 miles) while spreading her simple message and waiting for peace to come to the world.


"This is the way of peace," she told all who would listen, "Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."

I share some of Peace Pilgrim's thoughts on achieving personal peace  because I believe that world peace must start with our inner peace. When we are at peace with ourselves, the world becomes a more peaceful place for everyone. Peace starts at home.

Peace Pilgrim's Steps Toward Inner Peace
Adapted from: http://www.peacepilgrim.org/


1. Assume the right attitude toward life.

Face life squarely and get down below the froth on its surface to discover its verities and realities. Solve the problems that life sets before you, and you will find that solving them contributes to your inner growth. 

2. Live good beliefs.

No life can be in harmony unless belief and practice are in harmony.

3. Find your place in Life.

You have a part in the scheme of things. What that part is you can know only from within yourself. You can seek it in receptive silence. You can begin to live in accordance with it by doing all the good things you are motivated toward, and giving these things priority in your life over all the superficial things that customarily occupy human lives.

4. Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.

Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. Many lives are cluttered not only with unnecessary possessions but also with meaningless activities. Cluttered lives are out-of-harmony lives and require simplification.

5. Purify your body.

Are you free from all bad habits? In your diet do you stress the vital foods - the fruits, whole grains, vegetables and nuts? Do you get to bed early and get enough sleep? Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and contact with nature? If you can answer "Yes" to all of these questions, you have gone a long way toward purifying the body.

6. Purify your thoughts.

It is not enough to do right things and say right things. You must also think right things. Positive thoughts can be powerful influences for good. Negative thoughts can make you physically ill. Be sure there is no unpeaceful situation between yourself and any other human being, for only when you have ceased to harbor unkind thoughts can you attain inner harmony.

7. Purify your desires.

Since you are here to get yourself into harmony with the laws that govern human conduct and with your part in the scheme of things, your desires should be focused in this direction.

8. Purify your motives.

Obviously your motive should never be greed or self-seeking, or the wish for self-glorification, you shouldn't even have the selfish motive of attaining inner peace for yourself. To be of service to your fellow humans must be your motive before your life can come into harmony.

9. Relinquish your self-will.

You must subordinate the lower self by refraining from doing the not-good things you are motivated toward, not suppressing them but transforming them so that the higher self can take over your life.

10. Relinquish the feeling of separateness.

All of us, all over the world, are cells in the body of humanity. You are not separate from your fellow humans, and you cannot find harmony for yourself alone. You can only find harmony when you realize the oneness of all and work for the good of all.

11. Relinquish your attachments.

Only when you have relinquished all attachments can you be really free. Material things are here for use, and anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you. You can only live in harmony with your fellow humans if you have no feeling that you possess them, and therefore do not try to run their lives.

12. Relinquish your negative feelings.

Work on relinquishing negative feelings. If you live in the present moment, which is really the only moment you have to live, you will be less apt to worry. If you realize that those who do mean things are psychologically ill, your feelings of anger will turn to feelings of pity. If you recognize that all of your inner hurts are caused by your own wrong actions or your own wrong reactions or your own wrong inaction, then you will stop hurting yourself.


Living simply can help us achieve personal and global peace. When we have one, we will get the other.

May peace be with you and yours on this day, and always.

September 19, 2012

#notbuyingit: Occupying The Media & Advertising



After yesterday's resurgence of Occupy Wall Street, I am all revved up for citizen-initiated activities aimed at fighting back against the chaos unleashed by unfettered consumer capitalism.

That is why the #notbuyingit campaign started by missrepresentation.org interested me - it is an example of coordination of consumer spending, or not spending, in order to instigate change. Affect profits - get action.
"Thousands of people worldwide are participating in #notbuyingit! If you see a product or ad that misrepresents or degrades women, use Twitter to post a description or upload a picture of the offensive item. Use the hashtag #notbuyingit so that we can all follow along!" from: #notbuyingit
The website links to a Pintrest page showing examples of misrepresentations in media and advertising that are being called out by citizen watchdogs. The awareness campaign encourages people to stop buying anything made by these, or any other, corporations or businesses profiting from making the world a messed up mass of sexism and misogyny.

When groups of people coordinate and take aim at specific targets, the business community pays attention. Lost profits have a way of doing that.

A boycott is an effective way to raise awareness, and get the attention of the powerful. The #notbuyingit campaign is one such way to become informed, take a stand and make a difference. 

Let's call out the perps that slag and/or exploit women in the name of making a buck. Let's show them that we do not support them by keeping our money in our pockets.

It is time to Occupy The Media and Advertising. It is time, as Adbusters says, to "eradicate the commercial virus infecting our culture... and break up the corporate media monopolies."

Together, we can take action and create the changes we wish to see. 

I'm #notbuyingit. I'm not buying anything. 

September 17, 2012

Revolution Monday

All aboard the Occupy Bus, destination - change and a better world for all
 image: source

"For every crumbling foundation of our society, the cause of the ruin can be traced back to corporate greed. Follow the money -- all roads lead to Wall Street. Wall Street profits off our hardship at the expense of our economy, our environment, and our democracy. What’s good for Wall Street is bad for us.

Welcome to a weekend of education, celebration and liberation as we refuse to be sold out to Wall Street and take action to create a better world.

When we act together, we show others that they are not alone. We give people hope that change is possible. When thousands of people take action, change becomes real.

Welcome to Occupy Wall Street." - from OWS 1st Anniversary Convergence Guide

September 14, 2012

A Year Without Jam

2011-2012: Our year without jam

Giving things up for a trial period of one year challenges us to overcome habitual, lazy thinking. People often automatically figure that they could never live without a whole range of vitally important 'necessities'. Often a 'year without' project can challenge these ideas.

There are a lot of things that inquisitive people have given up for a year in order to test themselves and their notions of what is really required for a happy, content life. There are thousands of such challenges, including going a year without:
  • paying for groceries
  • heat 
  • Disney 
  • alcohol 
  • plastic
  • TV 
  • shopping, and 
  • buying anything new. 
My favourite is Dilbert comic creator Scott Adams and his year without fear project, or "My Year Of Living Dangerously", as he quipped.

What I have never seen, is anyone that has done a year without jam, something we did over the past slightly less sweet 365 days. "Who would want to do that?" you may ask. It would be like going a year without candy (which has been done). But as crazy as it seems, we did it.

We didn't only go without our own homemade blackberry jam, we didn't buy any jam either. No jam at all.

Last year, after picking several kilograms of blackberries, we decided not to make our usual batch of jam. Wanting to skip the dreaded 4 cups of berries to 7 cups of sugar, we chose to freeze the berries instead (freeze on a cookie tray first, then transfer to a ziplock bag). We used them throughout the year, no sugar added.

Our anti-jam status was partly a result of our urge to simplify things (it is a process to make and can jam), part health consciousness and wanting to avoid the 'white death', and part wanting to see what would happen if we tried to live without our perfect preserves.

All my pampered life I have had jam on toast, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and biscuits 'n jam. I would have thought that I would have had withdrawal symptoms when we went jamless. Or at least experienced some irritability or anxiety when we didn't get our purple sugar fix. But no - it was wham-bam-forget-the-jam, and on life went. There was no hardship, no drama. It was almost too easy.

It is easy to get used to luxuries, but it is also true that it is easy living without them. If we never try to give up any of what we believe is essential to our happiness, how can we know if they really are essential? What if we are wrong, and life without them is better?

A "year without" project usually ends up teaching us that we can live without most of the stuff we are working so hard to attain. It also shows us that we can be resilient, rise to the challenge, and be a better person going forward.

Scott Adams, after his year without fear, found that he had sustained a few more minor injuries during his project. However, they were all worth it, he said, because he enjoyed being the kind of person that does not hesitate, and says YES to life's opportunities.

During our year without jam we learned a bit more about what is really necessary in life (very little as it turns out). Also, we learned that we like to be the kind of disciplined people that can say no to pathways that do not lead to healthfulness and happiness in the long run.

Our past year may have been slightly less sweet, but it was so much more satisfying.

Emboldened by our no jam success, we now figure that we could live without a lot of other things, too. Toilet paper? Driving? Negativity? Money?

So much to give up, so much to learn, so little time.

September 12, 2012

Get Cooking: The Joys of A Tidy Kitchen

Welcome to my Tiny Tidy Bakery (note: toaster oven in background now gone)
When I was learning to cook more meals from scratch I was looking for ways to ease the process of getting off convenience foods. I read that the prime reason people didn't cook more was because their kitchen was often a mess. The solution was simple - always keep your kitchen clean, tidy, and ready for cookery magic.

Freshly made baked salsa with tortilla chips


There is nothing that kills the desire to cook more than walking into an untidy kitchen. It is not hard to envision piles of dishes filling a sink, cluttered counter tops, and things out of place. Most kitchens I have been in actually looked like that. But this should be scrupulously avoided, because what you want to do is focus on cooking, not cleaning.

When we see a messy kitchen we yield to the temptation to consume less nutritious, more convenient, more expensive fare. Manufacturers and providers of frozen dinners, take out, order in, prepackaged, and fast foods all benefit from the chronically messy kitchens across the land. It is time for a Tidy Kitchen Movement.

I cook all meals from scratch in my tiny, tidy kitchen. Sometimes it seems like I spend most of every day preparing for, cooking, and cleaning up from meals. Good thing that I love cooking. I love it even more when I start with sparkling clean, orderly surroundings.



Keeping A Tidy Kitchen

  • always have a tidied kitchen by the end of the day so you don't have to wake up to a mess
  • clean as you go throughout the day so things don't add up to a huge, overwhelming cleaning job later - keep a sink of soapy water and wash things as they are used, then dry and put them away
  • have a place for everything so things can be stowed out of the way when not in use
  • change your attitude toward cleaning so you can look at it as a part of cooking which can be enjoyable in its own right. Look at it as an opportunity for quiet time, moving meditation, or karma yoga.
  • keep counter tops clean - a wide expanse of clear counter space wants to be used
  • have everything at your fingertips - you should be able to immediately access everything you need, which is why I like a smaller kitchen
  • involve your family in the cooking... and the cleaning
Veggie stir fry


Do you want to take more control over what you are eating? Do you want to cook more often? Try the joys of a tidy kitchen. It is just as effective regardless of how big or small your kitchen. 



You will find that a constantly clean, orderly workspace invites you to joyfully practice your culinary alchemy. It makes transforming basic, healthy ingredients into delicious elixirs of longevity for the whole family easier, and much more enjoyable.  

September 7, 2012

Live More Simply - Have More Time

 It is important to make the time for stopping to recharge, rethink, and relax

Although the idea of simple living has been around for thousands of years, it remains a pretty tough sell. It must have something to do with all the talk of living with less, cutting back, and disciplining your desires. Yuck. Why would you want to do that?

For a lot of people, having a root canal without pain killer would be preferable.

But wait! There are many attractive reasons why living more lightly pays off personally, socially, and environmentally. Of them all, one benefit stands out as the premier payback for cutting our materialist ways - having more time.

Time is a precious commodity, and in the process of making a living we can let a big chunk of it slip by in a whirlwind of busyness. It takes a lot of hard work to maintain a 'middle class lifestyle' - big house, two new cars, 1.5 kids, soccer practice, Mexican vacations, Hot Yoga, and stainless steel appliances.

Attaining the trappings of 'success' comes at a price. It takes your time, it sucks your blood, and it leaves a shriveled, cancerous carcass of debt where there used to be the potential of life lived freely and exuberantly.

As people near the end of their life, there is nothing they desire more than time. More time, more time. But when your time is up, no amount of money will buy you a minute more.

In the end you can't buy more time, but you can make more for yourself for no charge right now. You just have to choose to take your time back, live more simply, and make it happen. It may not be that simple at first, but that is how it starts.

The more simply you live, the more time you will have for the things that are important to you, whatever they may be. Even, or perhaps especially, doing nothing.

Charles Bukowski, the American poet, knew the importance of having time to do nothing. He advised we all take leisure time seriously because, “Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you're gonna lose everything. Just to do nothing at all, is very, very important. And how many people do this in modern society? Very few. That's why they're all totally mad, frustrated, angry and hateful.”

Living with less may not sound appealing to some, but having a lot and feeling totally messed up sounds worse to me.

We can't change the world until we have changed ourselves, and that takes time. When we live more simply, we have more time.

This is how it has been for thousands of years.

September 5, 2012

#1 Enemy Of Business As Usual: The Truth

People are more likely to fall for a big lie than a small one

Nazi Germany seems to have unwittingly wrote the template for all consumerism propaganda of the past 50 years. The lessons they taught were that 1) The masses are more likely to fall for a big lie than a small one, and 2) Repeat the big lies ad nauseum, and people will eventually believe them.

The lies of consumerism have been appropriately big, and they have been repeated to the point that most of us are brainwashed. But inconvenient truths are starting to leak in around the edges in recent years.

The Big Lies

The following is a selection of Big Lie Propaganda that has been perpetuated by the purveyors of business as usual.

  • unchecked global consumerism is sustainable
  • if some is good, more is better
  • buying our goods and services will make you happy
  • nature has no value other than as assets that we are obligated to turn into a source of profit
  • we should support the continual increase of personal wealth regardless of the consequences
  • humans are greedy by nature, and acquisitiveness is good
  • the person with the most stuff is the most successful
  • everything is fine, keep shopping

But even the best big lies, whether told by the Nazis or by the consumer capitalists, can only be maintained until people start to feel the effects of the fibs. Then the truth starts to niggle at the back of our brains.

So how then, do you keep people from realizing the truth, and thus perpetuate business as usual?

Maintaining lies, the propagandist would advise, is dependent on sticking it to the defenders of truth, and subverting the truth by any means. Germany's propaganda minister during the second world war showed he knew as much when he said, "the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy.”

That is why you won't find the truth about consumerism being taught in schools. You won't find these truths published in the mainstream media. And you won't hear too many people speaking truths that endanger their belief in the comfortable, familiar big lies. And yet, there is that niggling that tells us that something is not quite right.

The truth is dangerous. It is messy, and causes change. It is not profitable.

But the truth is the only thing that will set us free. Let us be honest with ourselves, and each other. When we speak and live the truth, the lies that are leading us to our doom will shrivel up and blow away.

The truth is the greatest enemy of business as usual.

“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”  - Czesław Miłosz

September 3, 2012

Labour Day Monday

Workers of the world unite

Also brought to you by the labour movement:

  • child labour laws
  • 8 hour work days
  • 5 day work week
  • holidays
  • unemployment insurance
  • pensions
  • legislation prohibiting discrimination by employers or unions on the basis of race, national origin, color, religion or gender.
  • minimum wage
  • overtime
  • legislation covering safety in the workplace

Romanian PRISPA Solar House Project

The PRISPA team has already sold their solar house - photo shows where it will be rebuilt after the competition
from: PRISPA on Facebook
I first became aware of the whole Solar Decathlon thing when I started to see pictures of the Romanian PRISPA house online. A group of university students designed and built the house for the country's first ever entry into Solar Decathlon Europe. It didn't take long to realize it was my kind of house.



Others took note too, including an NBA reader who commented on my recent post about this energy self-sufficient house. The reader responded by saying,

"I love the look of the house. Are there more pictures available of the interior? Will the house be in production, and if so will it be sold in North America? I think I just found the perfect vacation off grid home."





I found a few more interior photos (see below), and more can be seen on the PRISPA website. While I couldn't find any information regarding production, the prototype has already been sold to "a nice family". The photo at the top shows a shadow of the house superimposed on the property where the home will be rebuilt after the Solar Decathlon in September this year.

Any family would be fortunate to live in this sensible and sustainable solar home, and perhaps PRISPA will export this prefabricated design for all to enjoy and benefit from.




PRISPA is the first house designed by Romanian students, ever to qualify for Solar Decathlon Europe 2012. The competition’s purpose is to design and build a fully solar home, which can be assembled within the space of 10 days.

Finished interior with multi-functional furnishings






'Prispa' is the Romanian word for 'porch', which is an important part of traditional Romanian homes. This low-tech feature is incorporated in the high-tech PRISPA house, which is design as a "hybrid" house. It facilitates the full use of inside and outside spaces, and uses sliding glass doors, and the porch, to blend the two.









The 2012 Solar Decathlon Europe event will take place in Villa Solar in Spain. The competition site will be open from September 14th to 30th in Casa de Campo, Madrid.

Noroc (good luck) to the Romanian PRISPA team.
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