October 31, 2012

Scary Halloween Spending Turning Us Into Consumer Zombies

"Costumes, candy, decorations, cards, brains..."
Want to be scared today? Really scared? Just look at the cash that is spent in North America on Halloween festivities. The annual scary shopping spree is enough to re-animate the un-dead as well as opportunistic business people. Who knew that dressing up in tights and a cape for a night was so darn profitable?

The National Retail Federation has been doing a Halloween survey for the past nine years. This is because they want your brains, brains! No, just kidding. Keep your brains - they only want your money, and lots of it.

This year is on track to set a record amount for spending on decorations, candy, and costumes for children, adults, and pets. That's right - pet costumes to the tune of $310 million total. Hmmm, maybe the NRF is eating consumer's brains.

2012 spending is predicted to reach ghoulish proportions never seen before, even with the worst economic times in recent history. I can understand the stressed out newly poor wanting to escape into a fantasy world for a while, but with almost $7 billion dollars in total spending? What are they putting in that punch?

Here is how Halloween zombies will be burning their money this season:
  • $26.52 per person on costumes (including $1 billion total on children’s costumes, $1.21 billion on adult costumes, and $310 million on pet costumes)
  • $19.79 per person on decorations
  • $21.05 per person on candy
  • $4.96 per person on greeting cards
Perhaps you are part of the 30% of the population that doesn't partake and escapes the Halloween consumer zombie shopping extravaganza altogether. Consider yourself lucky. 

Don't let the monster mash of merchandising take your brains or your cash.

Don't Let Stuff Tie You Down

Benoit B. Mandelbrot created mathematical shapes that mimic the patterns found in nature
I have always really enjoyed viewing fractals, and knew that they emerged from the brilliant mind of mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot. But I didn't know Mandelbrot's background, or that he was a proponent of living life unattached to the things that seem important during normal life.

I was reading a review of Mandelbrot's memoir, The Fractalist, and learned that when he was young he lived in Warsaw, Poland. The paragraph that followed jumped out at me due to its tragedy as well as its truths.

"The family fled to Paris in 1936, in time to escape Hitler’s advances. Looking back on dear friends who didn’t make it out, he laments their procrastination. Some, he writes, “had been detained by their precious china, or inability to sell their Bösendorfer concert grand piano, or unwillingness to abandon the park view from their windows.” He’d learned a lesson about not being tied down."

I live in both an earthquake zone, and a tsunami zone, and in the event of the overdue Big One, we would have only a few minutes to evacuate. When the ground starts shaking, and a 15 meter wave is on its way, is not a good time to be feeling tied down.

We are cultivating the mind set of individuals that need to get out of situations pronto - "Don't have anything in your life you can't walk away from in a second".

We recently had a 3.4 earthquake close to home, and over the past couple of days there was a 7.7 and a 6.2 shaker  up the coast from us. After the 7.7 we were under a tsunami advisory, meaning "stay away from the beach". That is hard for us to do since we live about 5 meters from the ocean, so we kept a wary eye out for rising water.

Fortunately we didn't have any high water or waves that required us to evacuate, but it set the old spider senses to tingling. We looked around at our stuff and tried to visualize walking, or running, away from it all, perhaps never to see it again. Minus the danger involved, it had some appeal.

Like Mandelbrots hesitant neighbours, taking the time to try and 'take it with us' could cost us our lives. We must be prepared to walk away and leave all the unimportant stuff behind, and realize that it is all unimportant stuff.

There is no stuff worth dying for. Most of the time it isn't even worth working for.

October 29, 2012

Muscle Power Monday

Sustainable camping
A more muscle-powered future beacons. Energy is continually getting more expensive. A good way to reduce energy use and power bills is to put your body to work. Get ready for the return of good old fashioned work.

Work is good for your body, good for your bank account, and good for the environment. It's what I call green-on-green-on-green.

It has psychological benefits, too. As author Madeleine L'Engle pointed out to procrastinators everywhere,

"Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it." 

Physical work, or 'exercise' as it is often referred to, is proven good medicine for mind and body, and is even better when performed for the practical purposes of every day living. I am thinking less treadmill and more turning topsoil.

Less thigh master, and more using your bicycle to pull the trailer to the campground.

Muscle Powered Activities For Fitness, Frugality, And The Earth

  • walking or riding a bike for transportation
  • kneading bread
  • growing a garden
  • doing dishes
  • washing laundry manually
  • hanging laundry on a line
  • using a push mower
  • playing outside with the kids
  • raking leaves (with a rake) for composting
  • turning compost
  • pumping water from the well
  • grinding grain into flour
  • using hand tools
Get work done - be inspired!

October 26, 2012

Corporatsaurus Wrecks vs Nature and Living Well

 I have rights, too.

What is the price that corporations must pay for causing environmental degradation? Zero. Currently there is no price that they must pay.

But what about the rights of nature? How is it that these most important of rights are being violated every day in the course of 'doing business', and no one is held accountable?

We all end up paying for the irresponsible rampaging of Corporatsaurus Wrecks. As this lumbering dinosaur slides ever closer toward extinction, the fear is that everything else will get dragged down with it.

A report commissioned by the United Nations looked at putting a price on the unintended consequences, or externalities, caused by the world's 3000 largest corporations. It found that on average the companies would lose 1/3 of their profits if made to pay for the damage they do to the environment.

While losing one third of profits would be fantastically unpopular with Wall Street, it might be getting off lightly.

Some corporations, especially those that create greenhouse gases, over-use/pollute water, put particulates  in the atmosphere, or create toxic waste, would cease to exist if made to pay for the damage they cause - they would no longer be profitable.

So what is the price those three thousand 'job creating' businesses would have to pay, if held responsible for the mess they cause? The UN report suggests a figure around $2.2 trillion per year, and says that the amount is an underestimate.

Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, enshrines the rights of nature
in the country's constitution, the 1st country to do so
Yes, that was trillions of dollars worth of damage per year in the course of violating Mother Nature for fun and profit.

It is time for capitalism to grow up and take responsibility for its environmental exploitation. If it won't do the right thing, we must force it to do so.

“Either capitalism dies, or nature does. We have to abandon luxury, wasteful merchandise, and not make other people pay for our luxuries,” said Bolivia's president, Evo Morales.

He has helped Bolivia become the first country in the world to enshrine the rights of Mother Nature in the country's constitution.


The recently enshrined rights include:

  • the right to life and to exist; 
  • the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; 
  • the right to pure water and clean air; 
  • the right to balance; 
  • the right not to be polluted; and 
  • the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.


The Laws Of Mother Nature also enshrine the right of nature "to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities".

Either Corporatsaurus Wrecks evolves to be able to survive in a new environmental reality, or it continues blindly bashing its way to extinction.

Either way, as Bolivia has recognized, business as usual is over. Rather than trying to “live better,” Morales says, our goal should be to “live well.”

"Living better” seeks to amass more and more material goods at the expense of others and the environment.

“Living well” means having all of one’s basic needs met, while being in harmony with the natural world.

October 24, 2012

Self-Reliance

Well designed houses can make their residents self-reliant in energy production, 4D Home / Massachusetts


Sometimes the thought of changing the world seems like too much. Just taking care of ourselves is a full time job.

Often what works against both self change and world change are dependence and self-doubt. Both are magnified when we settle into overly comfortable physical and mental landscapes that lull us into settling for the status quo.

Author Pandora Poikilos writes, “We are so accustomed to the comforts of "I cannot", "I do not want to" and "it is too difficult" that we forget to realize when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak.” 

A healthy dose of self-reliance is beneficial because it is empowering to be able to take care of ourselves. It makes us strong.

In recent decades we have increasingly become dependent on corporations to provide almost everything. Instead of taking care of ourselves, like previous generations, we work at jobs that are often mundane or worse, to make money, so we can exchange it for the things we need and want.  

We buy fast, prepared, and restaurant food so we don't have to cook. We buy child care so we don't have to stay home with the kids. We buy music so we don't have to make it ourselves. We buy food from the other side of the planet so we don't have to grow it. We make ourselves weak.

Things like growing/preparing food, and raising children are not things that get in the way of life - they ARE life. What kinds of pleasurable experiences are we foregoing by choosing to work so we can pay other people to be responsible for the parts of our lives for which we no longer have time?

How will we know the joys of gardening and cooking if we are paying Monsanto and McDonalds to do it on our behalf? When will we discover that we can make our own energy if we are dependent on large utility companies and the grid? How can we raise our kids if we don't spend time with them?

It may be that your neighbours will help out in a crunch, but you can never trust that you will be saved by anyone. You will certainly never be saved by a corporation.

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, "nothing can bring you peace but yourself." No government, or corporate entity is going to save us - we are  going to have to do it ourselves, individually, and cooperatively. We can make ourselves strong through healthy self-reliance, then we can change the world.


See more energy self-reliant solar homes here.

October 21, 2012

Less


Less stuff - more meaningful personal interactions

Less greed - more giving

Less hate - more love

Less me - more us

Less job - more family

Less shopping - more walking in nature

Less lies - more truth

October 19, 2012

Unconsumption


- an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective

Global consumption has exploded in recent decades, and passed the point of sustainability long ago. Enlightened individuals know that something must change. Solutions such as simple living go a long way toward restoring rationality because they deliver a higher quality of life while consuming less.


What we need, if we are going to save ourselves, is a mass deconsumption, consumption-light, or unconsumption. But how will this happen if we are addicted to high-consumption lifestyles? We need help, and soon.


Repurposing old books spines into bookmarks, from Unconsumption

The Unconsumption blog is one of the voices amid the madness of marketing and mass consumption that is trying to help people think about consuming differently. They bill themselves as a "source of inspiration for creative reuse and mindful consumption," and their site is full of links to ideas for using resources more efficiently, and creatively.


I like the concept of mindful consumption, because what it means is turning on the thinking cap before engaging in the purchase of the things we think we want and need. It can also help us enjoy the things we already have, and use them more efficiently.

It can also be a lot more fun, not to mention a whole lot less expensive.


Turn an old dresser into a bench by cutting off the legs, and adding cushions
from Unconsumption
The following is from the Unconsumption website:

Consumption is a word used to describe acts of acquisition – generally, the acquisition of things, in exchange for money. 

Unconsumption is a word used to describe everything that happens after an act of acquisition.

Unconsumption:
  • is an invisible badge.
  • means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer. 
  • means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away.
  • means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist, Goodwill, or Salvation Army) to find a new home for the functioning DVD player you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage. 
  • means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition. 
  • means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style. 
  • means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room. 
  • is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.
  • is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective.
  • is free.
Free clothing repair guy in San Fransisco - he has been offering this community service for more than a decade
 from Unconsumption
If you are looking for ideas and inspiration for mindful consumption (or is it mindful unconsumption?), the Unconsumption blog is a great place to go.

See more here.

October 17, 2012

The Quest For Significance




It is hard to feel significant in the face of a limitless universe. Should we even try? Is the quest for significance just an excuse to be ruthlessly ambitious, to "leave our mark"? Is it a misplaced addiction that ultimately leads to ego problems?

Perhaps trying to be significant is like trying to be happy - you end up chasing away the very thing you desire. Maybe we can experience significance when we forget about it, and concentrate instead on living a solid, simple life.

“There are more stars than there are people. Billions, Alan had said, and millions of them might have planets just as good as ours. Ever since I can remember, I’ve felt too big. But now I felt small. Too small. Too small to count. Every star is massive, but there are so many of them. How could anyone care about one star when there were so many spare? And what if stars were small? What if all the stars were just pixels? And earth was less than a pixel? What does that make us? And what does that make me? Not even dust. I felt tiny. For the first time in my life I felt too small.”
- 6 foot tall, 13 yr old Liam, in Frank Cottrell Boyce, Cosmic

October 15, 2012

Mobile Minimal Mansion Monday

A small, cozy living space that can really go places

Summer is officially over, the rainy season has begun, and cooler temperatures are indicating it will soon be time to start heating our home.

Perhaps because of the instinctive urge to move south this time of year, this mobile minimal mansion caught my eye. I love the warmth of the wood interior, not to mention that of the welcoming wood stove.

Who said small space living had to be cramped and uninspiring? Or attached to one place?

I can see myself driving this right on to the perfect small patch of land, and starting a big garden. A summer sanctuary.

Then I would put it on biodiesel, and burn used french fry oil to migrate to warmer temperatures for a few months in the winter.

October 12, 2012

Follow Your Own Path


“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn't matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” 

― Barbara Hall
Writer J.D. Stroube said that no one can exercise their free will until they are adults. The problem, she continued, is that by then the choices that have already been made for us have set us on a course that leaves little room for exercising that free will. Because of this, it can be difficult to follow your own path.

From birth, powerful parental and societal forces move us toward the beaten path. The well-trodden way is pushed as safe, predictable, acceptable, and right. It is a one-path-fits-all arrangement, and if you find that you don't wish to be on it, there is going to be resistance.

When Linda and I chose to veer from the path that had been set for us, we were met with resistance from those around us. People thought we were crazy to trade our full time, well paying jobs for part time work. Then we moved from our 3 bedroom place in a city of over a million, to a town of ten thousand. There we found a tiny home to rent, not purchase.

Many of those we knew only wanted to know what we were going to do for retirement, or how we were going to pay for dental care, or anything else. They were curious to know what we would do with "all the time off."

We quit traveling and holidaying, stopped eating meat, and started doing all our own baking and cooking. We learned to play guitar, and started to sing and perform in our living room music studio. The extra time we had was taken up with art, reading, gardening, and enjoying the company of people who were also living alternative lifestyles.

When friends called they inevitably asked about what we are doing for 'work', which invariably meant 'paid work'.

We haven't had any kind of paid work for about a year now, we would tell them, but we are living so simply that securing employment has not been necessary. We have been able, so far, to live on what we saved before we struck out to find our own way. We have no debt, and don't need any more money at this time. We have enough for now.

Very few people have ever heard anyone say they have enough money and are not actively seeking more. Surely this is a sign of faulty, dangerous thinking. It is common knowledge on the well worn path that everyone wants more money, needs more money.

However, that is the kind of herd thinking that keeps everyone nose to tail, calmly heading for the big house.

If there was more understanding and support for individuals to use their free will, I wonder how many people would turn their backs on the materialist mainstream and strike off to follow their own more sustainable path?




October 10, 2012

Sometimes You Have To Blow It Off

A good place to blow it off and have a nap
When I was teaching I liked to tell my classes that we were all students, and we were all teachers. It was a two way street, and undoubtedly, by the end of the year we would all be a bit smarter.

Kids being kids, many of their lessons had to do with the simple things in life, like having fun.

At the end of my last year, my class went to a local water park for the day to celebrate our hard work together. While their work was mostly done, mine was far from over.

I brought year end tests to mark at pool side, and settled in to work while other lifeguards watched my charges. Occasionally I paused to see the kids laughing, screaming, and having fun, released from the demands and pressures of the school year.

Every once in a while kids would drop by the table I was at and take a break from the water slides.

One of those students was Lyndsay. "Hey, what are you doing Mr. Koep?" she asked with a perplexed look on her face.

"I'm marking the class's year end tests so I can do final report cards," I answered.

"Oh, Mr. Koep," she said, slowly shaking her head. "You should be having fun with us."

"But all this work..." I replied, while indicating the piles of paper covering the table in front of me.

"There is a time for work," Lyndsay noted, "but sometimes you have to blow it off. And now is one of those times."

There it was - wise words spoken by one of my 12 year old tutors taking advantage of a teachable moment. How could I argue? She was right.

I packed up all my work and banished it to the dark depths of my backpack, never to be seen again. Well, not until later that evening anyway.

Sleeping in the grass
I spent the rest of that memorable day celebrating an awesome year with my 30 fellow teachers/students. We may have set new speed records on some of the larger slides, and if not, we certainly set records for the amount of fun and camaraderie that we shared.

Lyndsay's lesson was ten years ago, and I thought of it again today while out for a hike in a local park. While traversing a large open field of tall grass, I took the opportunity to blow it all off for a few moments of spontaneous, blissful stoppage.

I stopped walking. I squatted in the grass. I felt the ground beneath me. I sat down. It felt good, so I laid right out on my back. I looked up at Linda who was sitting next to me, and up further into the depths of the blue cloudless sky.

I fell asleep.

Lyndsay, you were so right. Sometimes you have to blow it off.

October 8, 2012

Cherish Life Monday

Cherish life - we are all in this together


Some Buddhist scholars believe that the Sutta Nipata describes some of the oldest Buddhist practices. It reads like a manual for living gently with ourselves, each other, and the Earth.

The following are Buddha's words on cultivating a heart filled with loving-kindness (metta) towards all beings. Many of the world's challenges can be met by adopting an attitude that cherishes, and shows respect for, all living beings.

Yes, that includes mosquitos.


"Let none deceive another,
or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
her only child,
so with a boundless heart
should one cherish all living beings."

- Sutta Nipata, 1 8

October 5, 2012

Punt The Plastic





“What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It's that simple."
    - Marcus Eriksen, Algalita Marine Research Foundation

The Plastic Age heralded a new era of consumerism and convenience. But it came with a huge price tag in unintended consequences. In the end we may decide that plastic has done more harm than good, and many are calling for a major rethinking of the Plastic Age in an era of a growing global health crisis.

One of the unintended consequences of plastics has to do with our oceans and the things that depend on them. Albatross nesting 2 thousand miles from the nearest continent feed their chicks bits of plastic debris found floating on the ocean. Tens of thousands of chicks a year die of the resulting starving, choking, and toxicity.

Plastic persists in the environment for hundreds of years or longer. Samples of plastic found in the ocean patches contain primarily:
  • low-density polyethylene - #4 plastic (used mostly for plastic bags, plastic wraps, and six pack rings)
  • polystyrene - #6 plastic (used for disposable cutlery, CD cases, packing materials, closed cell foam insulation, and disposable foam drinking cups)
  • polypropylene - #5 plastic (used in textiles like fabric and carpet, ropes, diapers, and food containers)
  • polyethylene terephthalate, or PET - #1 plastic (used in beverage and food containers, packaging trays, carpets, and plastic bottles)  
Much of this material is not recycled or properly disposed of, and a lot of it ends up in waterways, and eventually the ocean.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, is an immense area of mostly plastic garbage that has accumulated in the North Pacific Ocean. It is only one of several similar garbage patches in the world's waters. They contain up to 90% plastic.

The Garbage Patches are not solid islands, but have been described as a kind of "plastic soup" with bits of various sizes held in the column of water below the surface. The debris has also been identified as plastic "confetti".

Eventually the plastic waste enters the food chain and works its way up and back onto our disposable plastic plates in our food. It may be that it is impossible to retrieve the plastic and other garbage from the water it is suspended in.

Algalita, a marine research institute, recommends instead that we work at reducing our plastic use, and preventing plastic from entering our waterways in the first place.

On their website they stress the importance of finding ways to alleviate the problem of plastic accumulation in the world's oceans. Algalita says, "We need to DO NO MORE HARM, and stop the flow of waste into our marine environment.

They suggest some ways to help:

  • Reconsider the use of plastic products, and the way you do things. Can an alternate material, such as paper, glass or aluminum serve the same purpose? (When I make yogurt at home I skip the plastic container that the store bought stuff comes in, and put mine in a reused glass container.)
  • Try not to use single use/disposable products made of plastic, such as cutlery, water bottles and plastic bags. Stainless steel water bottles are a reusable alternative. Carry cutlery from home with you.
  • Reduce the use of plastic, and reuse materials wherever possible. Consuming less will decrease the waste of unnecessary plastics. Become a responsible consumer.
  • Encourage more investigation and research into alternate materials, such as compostable, or biodegradable plastics.  
  • Support closed-loop manufacturing processes that capture waste, and reuse it as a raw material.  
  • Recycle all materials properly. Turn waste into a resource. Some creative products are now being made from recycled plastics. 
"No one solution is the answer, and there are many more ideas yet to come that will generate a whole new set of solutions. We believe human creativity, changes in habits, and technological developments will eventually result in our oceans being clean again."

Plastic has been found in almost 300 different species tested around the world, such as birds, turtles, fish, and whales, including orcas. Nearly 100% of the albatross tested contained plastic bits mistaken for food.

Help the albatross, other marine animals, and your own health, and work toward punting the plastic in your life. Plastic used for short-lived or superficial applications is the easiest to eliminate, and is a good place to start.

October 3, 2012

Living Simply - Nomads

The Bedouin are stateless nomadic desert dwelling herders.
If modern life is all it's cracked up to be, how come there are still millions of people choosing to live nomadic lifestyles? There are up to 80 million nomads in India alone, and tens of millions more in the rest of the world.

Up until 10,000 years ago, all humans were nomads, roaming the wilderness and living off its abundance. Many people around the world are still living a nomadic existence, whether it is the millions of current traditionalists, or more modern versions of life on the road.

When Linda and I met it was a chance encounter of two wandering souls, and we recognized that fact at first glance. Our first 5 dates all involved traveling and camping, and our wanderlust continues unabated to this day.

Whether it is a voyage around the neighbourhood, or a walk around the world, we are perpetually curious about what is up ahead, and around the corner.


30% of Mongolia's 30 million people are nomadic
10 years ago we went nomadic for a full year. We had sublet our coop unit for the year, so had essentially made ourselves homeless. There is something about not knowing where you are going to sleep at night that adds a whole new urgency and excitement to life.

In the course of the next year we logged some 10,000 km (6,000 miles) driving and commando camping in the back of our small pick up as we travelled from the Pacific to the Atlantic in Canada.

We travelled a further 30,000 km (18,000 miles) by plane, bus, horse drawn cart, train, boat, scooter, foot and ferry as we zigzagged our way to the other side of the planet, then back again.

While overseas we each carried a mid-sized backpack, and over the course of 7 months their meagre contents were all we needed. We washed our clothes in sinks, and bathed out of buckets of steamy hot water. We lived on bread, cheese, cheap wine and whatever the locals were eating. Fortifying stuff for people on the move.


Gokarna, India
We usually spent one or two nights in a location, then moved on. It was all pretty organic - when it felt like time to move, we would go, and when it felt good to stay, we would linger.

The longest we stayed in one place (4 weeks) was in India where we temporarily settled in Gokarna, a small temple town on the Arabian Sea.

While nomadic we were as disconnected as we could get, and the lightness and freedom of movement was exhilarating. It was a constant source of satisfaction that we lived as well as we did with the minimal possessions we carried with us.

I remember thinking, "If I can live for months on end with the things I have in my pack, do I really need all that stuff in storage back home?" We came to realizations during our year on the road that would forever change the way we viewed our lives.

We could see that there is a good reason that so many people spurn modern life and voluntarily choose to live traditionally simple lives on the road. It is a light and unfettered existence, and it is more sustainable than sedentary, high-consumption lifestyles.


40% of ethnic Tibetans are nomadic
You can get a taste of the nomadic lifestyle wherever you are by jettisoning the unnecessary baggage and keeping things light.

It is not so much about being on the move as it is knowing that your life is so unburdened that you could be on the move in a moments notice if the mood struck. To me, that feels like freedom.

Nomadic Rules For Living Simply
  • keep possessions to a minimum
  • walking is the best way to get around
  • relationships are important, things are not
  • what your shelter looks like is not as important as whether it is light enough to carry, and keeps you warm and dry
  • self-reliance is more secure than dependence
  • enjoy the view, and go with the flow
  • be creative, use your hands
  • be finely tuned to the cycles of nature
  • be in charge of your food supply
  • use music to bring people together - dance, sing!
  • always offer assistance to fellow travelers

October 1, 2012

Spaceship Earth Monday

Spaceship Earth

The National Space Society (NSS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Their mission is "to promote social, economic, technological, and political change in order to expand civilization beyond Earth, to settle space and to use the resulting resources to build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity." Wow.

While I am all for exploration, I think we should concentrate on getting our stuff together here on spaceship Earth first before we go blasting around the universe looking for new places to exploit and destroy.

Perhaps the findings of the NSS can help us build a hopeful and prosperous future for humanity here at home.

The following suggestions are made on the NSS website in a section called Colonies In Space. If these guidelines were applied on Earth we wouldn't need to look around for somewhere to go when this planet is done.

Colonies In Space, T. A. Heppenheimer 

  • Most if not all of the colonists' wastes will have to be recycled. The space colony will therefore have to be a closed-cycle ecology par excellence. 
  • Steak will be a rarity. Meat poses a problem because of the waste involved in feeding animals a diet which puts them in competition with human beings. Cattle are rather wasteful at converting feed to beef. They need over twice as much feed as rabbits to produce a pound of edible meat. What is worse, cattle feed includes a lot of corn or grain which can be eaten directly by humans. Rabbits, chickens, and goats are the most efficient animals for a given amount of feed. Fish are nearly as productive as the rabbit.
  • Colonists can have plenty of grain and vegetables and they can also have fruit.
  • The problem of waste treatment requires a solution which not only gets rid of the wastes, but which turns them into useful products. The usual processes used in Earthside communities, such as biological degradation or incineration, are unsuitable for the colony. These processes either produce pollution, or are incomplete since they produce a very messy sludge which must be disposed of.
  • Wastes must be purified and converted into useful products without producing pollution. Minerals and fertilizers must be carefully recycled. 
  • There will be no autos in the colony. 
  • Colonists will spend several hours a week in the space farm, then go home to eat the meat or cook potatoes and vegetables which they have grown with their own hands.
  • There is one job which probably will prove too tedious to attract volunteers. This is the hand-pollination of vegetables. For this, the farm should include several hives of docile bees bred without stings or selected as particularly slow to get angry.
In his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, R. Buckminster Fuller reminds us that "we are all astronauts." Indeed, we are the crew on this glorious global spaceship, and like any crew, our job is to work together harmoniously for the greater good.

Earth is our original 'space colony' and we would be wise to adopt policies, behaviours, and attitudes that support and protect the systems on which we all depend. If so, this old, dependable, spaceship should be good for a few billion more trips around the Sun.
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