January 31, 2015

Biophilia And Deep Green Resistance



The Fourth Principle of Deep Green Resistance:

When civilization ends, the living world will rejoice. We must be biophilic* people in order to survive. Those of us who have forgotten how must learn again to live with the land and air and water and creatures around us in communities built on respect and thanksgiving. We welcome this future.


* Biophilia is a term popularized by Harvard University myrmecologist (ant scholar) and conservationist E.O. Wilson to describe the extent to which humans are hard-wired to need connection with nature and other forms of life.

More specifically, Wilson describes it this way: “Biophilia…is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature.” (Wilson, 1993, p.31).

To Wilson biophilia is really a “complex of learning rules” developed over thousands of years of evolution and human-environment interaction.

Evidence of the emotional and psychological benefits of nature is mounting and impressive (research shows its ability to reduce stress, to aid recovery from illness, to enhance cognitive skills and academic performance, to aid in moderating the effects of ADHD, autism and other child illnesses).

Recent research suggests even that we are more generous in the presence of nature; all these values are in addition to the immense economic value of the ecological services provided by natural systems.

From: http://www.deepgreenresistance.org/who-we-are/statement-of-principles

January 30, 2015

GAI - The End Of Involuntary Work



The involuntary work system is just as damaging to our freedom as if we were behind bars.

Everyone knows that in life you have to work. But you shouldn't be forced to work for a bunch of parasites while being under-paid, under-appreciated and over-exploited at every turn.

The ultimate answer to ending the forced labour system is providing every global citizen with a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI). With a basic living income everyone would be able to meet their needs. People would be less susceptible to exploitation and forced labour just to survive.

Such a bold move would improve life for the vast majority of humans. Freed from mind-numbing jobs simply to survive, people would be able to follow their passions.




Some worry about what would happen if people "didn't have to work". Would we know what to do? Of course we would. How about: raise children, grow food, volunteer in the community, make music, build things, teach, learn, read, and take naps for starters?

Some people would choose to continue to work. They would get the GAI in addition to being paid for the work they choose to do. Those that take this option might like to start cooperative businesses where they have a say in decision making, and a share of the profits.

For example, Mondragon, Spain has a 50 year old network of cooperative businesses with 84,000 employees and 25 billion dollars in annual revenues. This region has the lowest unemployment in the country.




With a GAI, some people might choose to shift from full time to part time work, and others may leave paid work altogether in favour of spending their time honouring different priorities.

Imagine the innate creative impulse that we all possess unleashed in such a supportive environment. It would mark a major shift in human development and progress as we made the time to improve ourselves, and the world.

There is more than enough money in the world to make this happen, with lots left over for those who feel the continued need to hoard it. As a matter of fact, a GAI has been shown to save money overall.

Let's end wage slavery, take care of everyone's needs, save money and unleash humanity's creative potential on our many pressing global challenges.

“I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. A host of positive psychological changes inevitably will result from wide-spread economic security.”

- Rev . Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Imagine being born and society telling you 'Welcome, you will be cared for', and then asks you what you want to do with your life, asks, 'what is your calling?' 
Imagine that feeling - that’s a whole different atmosphere “  
– Daniel Straub, Co-founder, Basic Income Initiative


Edit: This is an idea whose time has come. Since writing this post I have seen numerous recent articles about GAI.  Support is coming from both ends of the political spectrum.

The Guardian

"The “unconditional basic income” has a long history in economic thinking, with proponents on both the left and the right. For conservatives it is a way of radically cutting the administrative costs of means-tested benefits, and subsidising low-paid work. For those on the left, who embraced it after the 1960s, it is seen as a way to alleviate inequality."

Basic Income News

"...the Institute released a poll conducted by GBA Strategies amongst likely voters which stated that 59% were supportive of a minimum guaranteed income. The full question read ‘Close loopholes that allow corporations and millionaires to pay less taxes than ordinary Americans, and use the money to expand Social Security to Americans of all ages, so that everyone has a guaranteed minimum income.’"

Firedoglake

"In any case, if the economy becomes more precarious and task-based then the yearning for job security and stability will become an increasingly popular sentiment, opening the door for a ready-made discrete solution – the universal basic income (UBI).

With a UBI the volatility and anxiety of task-based employment would be complimented with the security and peace of mind of knowing that no matter how the dice roll in a given month you and your family won’t go hungry or be sleeping on the streets. With those basic needs guaranteed by social security for all businesses will have no problem finding able, healthy, and content workers nor will the nation’s workforce spend their days (as) terrified by and enslaved to the 1%."


"Charles Lammam, the think tank's associate director of tax and fiscal policy said "there is some appeal" to the idea of a guaranteed annual income."

Hmm, even The Canadian right wing Fraser Institute's Lammam is getting in on it.

However, Mr. Lammam thinks that switching over from our flawed welfare system would be too hard so lets keep on doing what we are doing, even if it isn't working. Because it is easier for the system to do nothing and continue to reap the rewards.

January 28, 2015

Winter's Art

The storm's winter scene sculpted in snow and ice on my kitchen window.

The scenes both out my window, and in my window today were definitely winter themed. Outside the front door window was a snowdrift as high as my waist right up against the house. Opening the door was impossible. Perfect.




Inside we were treated to a piece of art crafted by the storm during a day of 100 km/hr wind gusts and a mixture of snow, ice pellets and freezing rain. I thought the kitchen window looked like the field and trees out back.




Winter does beautiful art.

January 26, 2015

Pantry Essentials



Before moving to the east coast I had never lived in a house with an actual pantry. Out here it is a part of the cooking/country kitchen culture. In the west - not so much.

When it comes to home cooking you have to recognize the power of the pantry. This missing element from all my previous kitchens is now the central focus of my cooking space. It contains everything I need to make all our food from scratch in one easily accessible location.

I prefer a real pantry to lots of hard to reach kitchen cupboards that you can't see into easily and that encourage food to hide from hungry searching fingers. In my last kitchen I reserved a bottom cupboard for our food stores, but it was very awkward to use, and taking inventory meant emptying it onto the kitchen floor.

Now when I throw my pantry doors open in a search for succulent sustenance my food can't run or hide - it's going down. I can easily see what I have, and what I need to get.

So what are the essentials? Lists will vary depending on personal preferences, but a basic one will look something like food education advocate Jamie Oliver's, give or take a few things.

I currently have 39 of the 62 essential items on his list, which works well for me.




62 Pantry Essentials

Whole grain mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sesame oil
White wine vinegar
Bread flour
Whole wheat flour
Baking powder
Dried yeast
Superfine sugar
Brown sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Chow mein noodles
Canned cannellini beans
Canned kidney beans
Canned tuna
Canned coconut milk
Anchovies
Quick-cook couscous
Basmati rice
Brown rice
Oatmeal
Honey
Maple syrup
Almonds/hazelnuts or mixed nuts
Mixed seeds
Chicken, vegetable and beef broth stock cubes
Jarred pesto
Ketchup
Tabasco sauce
Mayonnaise
Dijon mustard
English mustard
Olive oil
Canola oil
Red wine vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
All-purpose flour
Cornstarch
Dried pasta
Canned garbanzo beans
Canned tomatoes
Baking powder
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Plain crackers—unsalted saltines

SPICES
Ground cinnamon
Chile powder
Dried oregano
Ground cumin
Ground coriander
Curry powder
Smoked paprika
Five-spice powder
Sea salt
Black peppercorns
 
FROZEN STUFF
Peas
Sugar snap peas
Green beans
Sweet corn
Fruits
Raw shrimp


What? No pickles. Or peanut butter. Or Bragg. And shrimp is often raised in coastal areas that formerly contained precious mangrove forests. Other than that, it is a pretty reasonable non-exotic list that will allow one to make many basic yummy things.

And with a winter storm currently bearing down on us, our pantry becomes an important part of our emergency program. It is recommended that one has 3 days of food on hand for emergencies. With our pantry we could probably live comfortably for 3 weeks, with or without power.

With my pantry packed with the essentials, I am ready for 6 feet of snow. Or more. Bring it on.

January 23, 2015

When Do We Stop?

Humans - not very intelligent. We just can't seem to stop.
"It’s not a question of can the oceans can take any more. The oceans can’t take any more. They couldn’t take any more fifty years ago. The question is, when are we going to stop?" - Philippe Cousteau

The more I read the news the more I am convinced consumerism has run its course. It is possible that we have pushed industrial civilization as far as it will go as well. Worshiping at the altar of infinite growth has pushed everything and everyone to the limit.

Can we give up excessive consumer-oriented lifestyles on time in order to prevent catastrophe in the near future?

Since resources are finite (until the technocrats begin mining the moon, or asteroids or other planets), using more than the Earth can replace will guarantee the end of excessive consumer lifestyles and the economies that depend on them.

Governments around the world are running out of ideas to keep the ponzi scheme going. Canada actually reduced its key interest rate this week in order to keep people borrowing and in debt. At the same time the EU announced a huge stimulus package to try and avert continued economic trouble there.

Everywhere is economic and environmental mayhem as we scrape the bottom of the barrel. We know what is coming, but can't seem to stop. Eventually there will be nothing governments and bankers can do except facilitate a forced return to leaner, more simple ways of living.

You can see this trend already in headlines proclaiming that young people today may never attain the material success that was squandered by their parents. “I want my kids to have a better life than I had” is not heard much from parents any more because they can see that their family's privileged status is coming to an end.

But young people can have a better life without being financially richer than their parents. Since materialistic lifestyles are getting increasingly more difficult to acquire and maintain, why not aspire to live better with less right now?

Embracing more Earth-friendly lifestyles will help ease the difficult transition that seems all but inevitable now. If we are lucky, we can avert a total civilizational collapse.

We can choose to stop now and live like most other humans on the planet, or be forced to by deteriorating conditions a little farther down the road.

Why wait?

January 21, 2015

Making Baked Samosas

Samosa dough with piles of spiced potato/pea/onion filling waiting for the next stage - sealing.

I've never met a samosa I didn't like. I can't get enough of these spicy global good food ambassadors.

Samosas are a popular (usually vegetarian) appetizer or snack in many areas of the world. These spicy fried or baked pastries are part of the local cuisines of India, Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean, and Africa.

They can also be found in most other parts of the world now. But not, apparently, Nova Scotia. While on the road this summer we lived on store-bought samosas for the first part of our trip. When we hit the Maritimes the tasty snack disappeared from grocery store delis.


Edges are watered, squeezed, then crimped with a fork.


When I asked in my local grocery store the clerk did not know what a samosa was. Which is ok, I guess, because making baked samosas is a pretty straight forward process. And considering a store-bought samosa can cost from $1.50 to $3.00 each, it saves money as well.


And a baked samosa is healthier and less messy than its fried counterpart. They are good hot or cold, and can be frozen for a quick, yummy snack later.



Ready for baking at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.
Veggie Samosa Ingredients

Makes 10-12 pastries

For the dough:

2 cups of flour

3 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt

3 tablespoons of oil

¾ teaspoon of salt

6-8 tablespoons of cold water



For the filling:

4 - 5 medium potatoes, diced and boiled

2 tablespoons of coriander seed

½ of a medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons of oil

½ teaspoon of turmeric

½ teaspoon of curry powder and/or garam masala

¾ teaspoon of salt

1 cup of frozen peas


Previous finished product made in Sooke, BC. Enjoy with sweet chili sauce, chutney
or mint sauce.

Make the samosa dough: 

In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Mix in oil. Add yogurt and lightly mix. Add enough cold water to make a stiff dough.

Knead the dough in the bowl until it is soft and smooth; cover and let rest while you make the filling.

Make the samosa filling: 

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add coriander seeds and brown for 30 seconds, then add the onion and sauté, until soft. Add the turmeric, curry powder and salt and cook for another minute. Add the potato and cook the whole mixture for a few minutes more to incorporate the spices. Add 1 cup of frozen peas at the end; remove from heat and let cool.


Assemble the samosas: 

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough until 1/8” thick. A yogurt tub lid is the right size to stamp out rounds of pastry. Re-roll and re-stamp any scraps until you have 10 rounds of pastry.

Place 2 heaping tablespoons of filling into the middle of each round (don’t worry if it seems too much, as the dough will stretch). Use a fingertip to smooth water on the edges of each pastry before pulling the dough around the filling and pinching closed.

Turn the samosa on its side and, using a fork, seal the edge.

Bake the samosas: 

Preheat your oven to 375°. Put the samosas edge up on a lightly grease cookie sheet and bake for 25 minute until lightly browned. Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes.

Eat the samosas.

These healthy snacks are good anywhere you happen to be in the world. Share if you have any left.

January 19, 2015

Shopping For Self Esteem

"Spend money on stuff and we guarantee you will think at least twice as highly of yourself."

Are people with low self-esteem more materialistic? That is what researchers have found, and they conclude that it is the same for both children and adults. Feeling bad about yourself? Go shopping and acquire as much crap as you can.

Study results show that individuals with low self-esteem desire more consumer goods, and indulge in impulsive and compulsive shopping more often.

While shopping can give a short lived self-esteem boost, it is too often replaced with feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, and even lower self-esteem. It is a vicious cycle that marketers take full advantage of while spending billions to convince us we need even more stuff.

For all the ages a pre-occupation with material goods has been looked down upon as leading us away from our true purpose.

And for a good reason. We can not be healthy while constantly wanting more. We can not be happy while feeling out of control.

There are things that we can use to protect ourselves and the planet against the many forces of materialism and market manipulation.

1. Practice Self-discipline

- do not create excuses for shopping, take control of what and when you buy things
- remember times that you have successfully overcome urges to purchase things you don't need
- give yourself a pat on the back for refusing to be a consumer drone
- learn to enjoy not shopping more than shopping

2. Recognize the Scam

- hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year to find ways to make us buy more
- we are trained to be consumers from an early age by parents, friends and abusive marketers alike
- consumerism may be good for sellers, investors and the economy, but at the same time is detrimental to shoppers, not to mention the planet
- no one likes an unfair contest, or being duped, but these are the modes of operation for people who want you to buy things you don't need

3. Recognize the challenge

- advertisers, marketers, and sellers of superfluous crap are not your friends and are not concerned about making you a healthier, happier human
- salespeople are out to get your money: think twice, or more, about giving it to them
- any one that tells you to buy things you don't want or think are necessary are not doing you any favours

Consumerism and shopping are self-esteem dead ends. They are stories with bad endings, but they can be changed.

What really feels good is having the discipline to say no.

“Self respect is the fruit of discipline: the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.”  
- Abraham Heschel

January 15, 2015

Minimalist Window Coverings

Minimalist window covering made from inside window screen, fabric, and safety pins.

We had an opportunity to practice not buying anything minimalism when thinking about window coverings for our new home. We wanted something that was simple, and preferably didn't require the buying of anything.

Windows, even the new double paned variety, don't offer much in the way of insulation. When it is cold uncovered windows can suck heat out of a room making it uncomfortable and more expensive to heat.

We researched conventional coverings to fit our windows and found the selections not that sensible and very expensive. All required the added complication of having to drill holes in things.

As the temperatures started to drop this winter we thought we would see what we could do with what we had on hand to cover our windows and hopefully lower the heating bill a bit.


Window covering installed.

First we looked at the resources we had available. Our windows have easily-removed inside screens and I pondered how they might be used as a frame.

We also had several pieces of fabric that we brought from British Columbia when we moved this past summer. Chunks of fabric, like giant bandannas, have 1001 uses so are a useful resource that didn't take up much room in our van.

I wondered if we could use this fabric and the screens to create a minimalist window covering. I used a few safety pins to pin fabric wrapped around the screens. They fit snuggly into their spot without any alterations.




While the overall insulation factor is minimal, it is better, and feels more comfortable. I am already working on ways to use other resources on hand to make improvements, such as a window solar furnace made from egg cartons.

But the thing I like the best is that I didn't have to buy anything.

January 12, 2015

5 Ways Books Are Better Than Computers

"So many books. So little time." - Frank Zappa

I love books and believe they will be with us forever, regardless of any technological advances past, present, or future.

In many ways I find books better than computers.


  1. Books are lessons in single-task focusing and enjoyment. Computers are multi-tasking nightmares.
  2. Books can be used freely without expensive electricity.
  3. Books don't have distracting advertising.
  4. Books are made of paper and retain the spirit of the trees of which they are made.
  5. Books are historical documents with a link to thousands of years of the written word. 

This year I will use the computer less, and read books more.

What books are you reading this week?


Note: All of the above books are from the public library except for the Bukowski which was a gift from a dear friend.

January 11, 2015

Live More Simple Live More Free



"He will always be a slave who does not know how to live upon a little." 

- Horace

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.” 

- Ivan Illich

January 10, 2015

January Magic



January

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

- John Updike




It was - 16 Celsius, - 26 with the wind chill. The snow lay somewhat deep, powdery and in disorderly drifts. More snow was coming down. After 9 years of wimpy winters on the west coast I was thrilled to finally get out on a classic Canadian cold and snowy winter day.

And what better way to celebrate a perfect January day than to go on a ritual snowshoe trek in semi blizzard conditions?




I went out my back door and boogied through the field that slopes down to the forest. The wind soon convinced me to pull my hood up and draw it tight. With sounds muffled by the snow, everything was wooly and fuzzy like an isolation tank as big as my back yard.




The wind spoke to me. As did the snow, the grass, and the trees. Especially the trees. I felt a strong pull towards certain trees, and the forest invited me to enter and explore. "Magic is all around", everything was saying.




After a while my legs were tired, my nose was dripping, and my left thumb felt like it was in the primary stage of frostbite. I was loving it - the challenge of survival, not to mention finding joy in winter.

More. I wanted more and couldn't stop. I followed roads and trails through the forest, all the while seeing my new surroundings for the first time. The landscape welcomed me, and I immersed myself in it deeply.

I felt perfectly safe in the shelter of snow-covered conifers. I could have stayed out for hours except my thumb began to hurt from the cold. Time to go in, warm up, and listen to some music. Or play some. Or both.

Outside. Inside. Everywhere there is magic. But inside is the magic of a wood fire and glorious, glorious heat.

It is January. Feel the magic, and stay warm. The heat of the sun returns... slowly, but surely.

January 7, 2015

5 Guidelines For Right Livelihoods

Right livelihoods are sustainable livelihoods.

Buddhism has the concept of right livelihood in which the practitioner lives in a harmonious way while doing the least amount of harm to self, others, and all of life. However, we should not in any way see this as limited to Buddhists.

Why wouldn't we all ensure that the work we do is not harmful?

Right livelihood is a simple ancient concept - at one time it would have been self-evident and considered common sense. All it says is that everyone should practice honesty in their work, and respect other people and the natural world.

It means being responsible for the consequences of our actions and taking only a fair share of the earth's resources. That sounds reasonable to me, but in practice is a challenge given our current exploitation-based economies.

Some would say that all occupations are harmful, but some are less harmful than others. It is to those that we should be gravitating when choosing how to earn a living.


5 Guidelines for Right Livelihoods

1. Do the least amount of harm possible - practice love and compassion in every aspect of work and life.
2. Use only your fair share of resources.
3. Develop a personal definition of enough - share what you can.
4. Create no waste - see everything as resources to be used. If a byproduct can't be used, don't produce it.
5. Abide by the limitations and cycles of nature.


You can check out the Right Livelihood Awards here. Billed as the "alternative Nobel prize" the award "honours and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today".

The award provides ample evidence that there are good people doing good things, even though they may not get much press coverage.

This year's recipients are:

Edward Snowden (USA)
Joint Honorary Award with Alan Rusbridger

“... for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights.”

Alan Rusbridger (UK)
Joint Honorary Award with Edward Snowden

“… for building a global media organisation dedicated to responsible journalism in the public interest, undaunted by the challenges of exposing corporate and government malpractices.”

Asma Jahangir (Pakistan)

“…for defending, protecting and promoting human rights in Pakistan and more widely, often in very difficult and complex situations and at great personal risk.”

Basil Fernando / AHRC (Hong Kong SAR, China)

“… for his tireless and outstanding work to support and document the implementation of human rights in Asia.”

Bill McKibben / 350.org (USA)

“…for mobilising growing popular support in the USA and around the world for strong action to counter the threat of global climate change.”

You don't need to be a big name to practice right livelihood and help change the world. There is so much to do, and opportunities abound in everyone's lives.

We would be wise to remember that the only sustainable livelihoods are right livelihoods.

January 5, 2015

Simple Predictions For 2015

You don't have to be a psychic to know where consumerism is headed.


The following is my list of predictions for 2015, although it may seem like simple truths that anyone paying attention could make.

NBA's Simple Predictions For 2015

It will be more important for humanity to live simply than ever before. 

This has been the case since the start of fossil fuels and industrialization, and becomes more true with each passing year. People have been predicting the demise of the consumer scam since it started.

Although the group of individuals that understand you can't sustain infinite growth while exploiting finite systems is growing, the number of those that translate that knowledge to meaningful behaviour change remains small.

This will change (maybe this year), either by choice or by deteriorating economic and environmental circumstances.

More people will catch on to the failures of consumerism both personally and globally, and quit supporting the structures of exploitation. Demand destruction will ensure they don't go back.

Black Friday 2014 spending results show where the trend is going. The conjurers of the consumer illusion were sadly disappointed when spending fell 11% on the most important shopping day of the year.

Not only were shoppers spending less, there were also 5% fewer people shopping.

Demand destruction is the process by which those who can no longer afford goods or services, or those who no longer want them, stop buying them permanently.

It will be individuals, families, and communities doing the brunt of the work towards living sustainably with less. 

Since governments are largely in the pockets of big business interests, they will never tell their people to live more simply - it is not good for profits. However, learning to live more gently on this planet is the only thing that will lead to a sustainable future.








January 2, 2015

New Year Affirmation

Happy new year to the readers of NBA. May you experience the joys of simplicity in 2015.

Affirmation:

Each day, and each year, I am awakening to a greater understanding of the joys of simplicity.


Each morning we wake up is a new opportunity to begin a simple life anew. Refreshed from a solid night’s rest, and with a renewed perspective from the experiences of the previous day, we look forward to the unfolding of a new day's lessons on living with less.

When we first wake up is a good time to say the affirmation above. Repeat as necessary.

The beginning of a new year represents an opportunity for awakening to a whole new level of ecological awareness and responsibility, armed with the wisdom gained from the previous year’s growth. Upwards and onwards.

Day by day, and year by year, we are proceeding on a journey of awakening into a greater, more joyful simplicity.

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