November 20, 2017

Human Responsibilities

Just because something is legal doesn't make it moral. And not everything illegal is immoral.

The crusade to convince humanity to embrace responsibilities and obligations is thousands of years old. It hasn't taken yet, but perhaps we are closer to universal acceptance than ever before.

We hear a lot about human rights these days, as we should. They are critical to sharing this world in harmony and with peace for all. What you don't hear much about, are human responsibilities. But freedoms and rights in the absence of responsibilities and obligations is a dangerous state of affairs.

We have many lists of critical human responsibilities, for every major religion has one of its own. They are all very similar.

“I truly believe there is a common ethic running through all the world’s major religions. The basic values, the ethical standards, needed for a peaceful society, are shared.” 
- Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia (1975-1983)

Mahatma Gandhi crafted his own non-religious list, his Seven Social Sins.

There are also the Seven Deadly Sins, and Seven Principal Virtues that may be more familiar to many than Gandhi's list.

We have a responsibility and obligation to adopt acceptable standards of behaviour.

More recently, The InterAction Council, a group of former heads of states, brainstormed a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities to go along with the UN adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have summarized the document below.

"The InterAction Council has been working to draft a set of human ethical standards since 1987. But its work builds on the wisdom of religious leaders and sages down the ages who have warned that freedom without acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are balanced, then freedom is enhanced and a better world can be created."

Each of us has the responsibility and obligation to:

- Treat all people in a humane way.

- Strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.

- Promote good and avoid evil in all things.

- Accept a responsibility to each other, to families and communities, races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity.

- To put into practice the motto: "Do unto others, as you would want them to do to you."

- Act in peaceful, non-violent ways, and respect all life.

- Protect the air, water and soil of Earth for the sake of present and future life.

- Solve disputes between states, groups or individuals without violence.

- Promote sustainable development globally in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.

- Ensure that economic and political power is not handled as an instrument of domination, but used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of all humanity.

- Codes of ethics should reflect the priority of general standards such as those of truthfulness and fairness.

All together we have a "Handbook For Living Together On Earth". We know what to do, and have known for a long, long time. What are we waiting for?

We may be approaching a time when we finally adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, and use it to be better people, and therefore form a better world. I see a golden opportunity, and hope that each of us chooses to seize it.

Let us build on our advancements over the decades, centuries, and millennia. We have the potential to create a wonderful balance between the rights we enjoy and the responsibilities and obligations we have to each other, and the planet.

Is there any other endeavour more worth doing?

November 18, 2017

Ring The Bells That Still Can Ring

Things appear grim these days, globally speaking. But that should not overshadow all the good that can be enjoyed in the time we have remaining, however long that may be. Lots is broken, but lots is still working.

Yesterday Linda and I were viewing Leonard Cohen performing his song "Anthem". As we listened, I thought of how gracefully Cohen aged, and how his experience allowed him to view the world in a more Zen-like manner. He wasn't fighting life (or death), but going with the flow.

When he said,

“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.”,

he reminded us not to fall into despair. Just because we can't do everything, doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. We can't wait for perfect solutions before we act.

Cursing the darkness is not the answer. When we choose Earth-friendly lifestyles we are lighting candles, and every photon helps.We can do what we can do, and use what works.

Simple living is a set of bells that still can ring, loud and clear. Their peal cuts through the void. No change, no peal.

November 16, 2017

How Many Scientists Does It Take?

How many scientists does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to screw it in, and another 14,999 to convince us it is actually screwed in.

Like a scientist, the way I can tell if my light bulb is screwed in properly is to look at the results. When I flick the switch, does it  light up? If yes, screwed in. If no, not screwed in.

Speaking of screwed, look at capitalism. Or consumerism. Or the patriarchy. Or war. Democracy, extractive resource industries... the list goes on and on. Look at the results.

Do we like the world we have created? Are things functioning smoothly? How is the health of the atmosphere? The oceans? Is there an absence of poverty, homelessness, and war?

Are global citizens happy and mentally robust? Is there income equity and equality? Is racism increasing, or decreasing? Are we getting smarter? Are we evolving into the best we can be?

Do we respect life? All life? Is it precious, and if so, is that reflected in our behaviour? Do we live in healthy, loving and compassionate communities?

It only takes one person to see that things are not going as well as they could. The results of business as usual are grim to say the least. So scientists are again warning us of the consequences of keeping on doing what we have been doing. Is anybody listening?

If so, are they changing their behaviour in order to move from being the problem to being the solution?

Essentially, the 15,000 scientist said (again):

Dear Human Family,  
Our current ways of doing things have been hurtling us toward the brink for decades. There have been warnings for hundreds of years. In 1992 we issued our own warning. 
Since then humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting worse. 
Now, in addition to deforestation, pollution, habitat loss, overpopulation and overconsumption, climate mayhem threatens our very existence. 
If we don't act soon there'll be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery. Our planet may develop conditions that are not conducive to life, including humanity.
Time is running out. 
We are still here, and we are still warning you of the dangers of your ways, and the dangerous denial you are immersed in. Join us. Help us. Help yourselves.

15,000 Concerned Scientists 
P.S. Please heed our waring this time, and adopt new, more Earth friendly ways of living.  For example, use less fossil fuel transportation, enjoy a plant based diet, adopt 100% organic methods of agriculture, protect our last remaining wild places, consume less, have fewer children, and help build a more equitable, stable, and sustainable planet. Also, please end the infinite economic growth model - it's killing everything.
Or die. 
Thank you for listening. This time. Please don't make us do this again. 

November 13, 2017

Ecotopia Revisited

In Ernest Callenbach's semi-utopian 1975 novel Ecotopia, advertising is strictly regulated. Ads can only give factual information about products. No psychological warfare arm twisting victims into buying things they don't need in the name of profit in this sustainable society.

I could love this book for that alone, but it has so much more to offer. It serves up a working model of what-could-be, an alternative to our current race to extinction. It has answers for the person looking at what consumer capitalism has done to our planet, and asks "what can I do?"

In 1981 he wrote a prequel called Ecotopia Emerging, in which he describes how society began to be changed from one in which "Toxic contamination of air, water, and food has become intolerable. Nuclear meltdowns threaten. Military spending burdens the economy. Politicians squabble over outdated agendas while the country declines."

Hmm, sounds familiar. Ecotopia Emerging is on my reading list, but it feels like I am living it every day. This is our reality. Will we evolve to a sustainable, cooperative society in time?

Callenbach returned his component parts to the Earth in 2012, but his legacy carries on in millions of readers and admirers. Many people are already living Ecotopia lifestyles, and it is only a matter of time before everyone else will be forced by necessity to adopt one-planet living.

A document was found on the computer of Callenbach after his death. In it he addresses his audience to open the essay.

"To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support -- a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging."

Hey! He's talking to us.

Toward the end of the piece he writes,

"Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand.

That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them."

Again, sounds eerily familiar. But as he points out, when things break down, new possibilities emerge, and we should therefore seize the day and make sure that all economies move toward sustainability as soon as possible.

"Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth."

We can all help manifest a better world through our behaviours, habits, and expectations. Ecotopians are building an alternative to the madness - a sustainable society in which all living things benefit mutually.

"So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times. 
How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? 
Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?"

 Read the rest of Ernest Callenbach's last essay at "Common Dreams".

November 10, 2017

Writing Re-Use, Not Refuse

What do you do with a couple of pencil nubs too short to hold, and the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss?

When I taught elementary school I discovered that some students (usually boys) are obsessed with using pencils until you can't see them any more.

They would wrap their little fingers around tiny nubs of heavily used pencils, and scratch out their school work. Of course, that work took several times longer than if they had a more extended version of a pencil, and the writing they produced was often illegible.

However, I admired how committed they were to using the pencil, the whole pencil. They loved the challenge.

I decided to challenge myself to see if I could improve on their methods.

You create a functioning pencil.

It so happened that I was also hanging on to the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss. I enjoy finding uses for things that most people don't think twice about before throwing them in the garbage. It must be the little person in me.

I trimmed the ends of the pencil nubs so that they fit in either end of the plastic tube. Voila! A functional pencil utilizing materials rescued from a trip to the landfill. My design also encourages precision - no eraser. Pure business at both ends.

It works! Easy to hold, and uses the pencil nubs till there is nubbin left.

So much of what gets classified as refuse can be re-used, repurposed, and through that, respected. Just think like a kid - "You can't throw that out!" - and take it from there.

November 8, 2017

Roughing It In The Woods

Last stop and resting place for this school bus conversion that I found while out for a bike ride in the woods.
It had a wood stove, gas range, counter tops, kitchen sink, two bunk beds, and tables to seat eight.
Landscaping provided by Mother Nature.

One reason I enjoy a stripped down lifestyle is because it is more like roughing it. I like roughing it, and always have. Tenting, living out of a van, cabin or shelter all bring one closer to living harmoniously in, and with, Nature.

There are lessons to be learned here, not all of them comfortable or easy.

Life is not suppose to be perpetually easy and luxurious. Nor is it in our DNA to live in chronic speediness and complexity. Civilization and its marketing branch, consumer culture, makes us soft, dependent, and unprepared to deal with change.

It makes us depressed and dumbed down.

Our bellies, our morals and our minds, all suffer from a morbid slackness, barely held together by thick leather belts of excuses and justifications. Lulled by the easy life, we come to lack intellectual curiosity.

We have been stupefied by stuff. Stifled by silliness. Stultified by the system.

Living simply in a consumer culture is a form of "roughing it". Like other forms of closer-to-nature living, it helps us appreciate what we have, is more physical and healthful, and fosters skills of independence and resilience.

In his book, A Walk In The Woods, author Bill Byrson talks about hiking and camping in a way that describes my experiences roughing it rather well.

"Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really. 
You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it."

I have always enjoyed the feeling I get while hiking, camping, and living on the road. Liked it so much, that it became the model for the rest of my life. I want to feel tranquil and content when I go out into the woods. But I also want to feel that way at home.

I want to feel that sweetness all the time. It is quite wonderful.

November 6, 2017

Consumerism And Violence

As we mourn the victims of another horrendous incident, this time in Texas, we look possible explanations for such violence. While there are several possible reasons for our violence-plagued modern times, one  potential source of sickness usually overlooked is capitalist consumerism.

  • Consumerism . . . promotes structural violence.
  • Structural violence was present in many forms . . . [including] increasing consumerism.
  • Consumerism . . . causes a remarkable increase of structural and interpersonal violence.
  • Consumerism [is one of the] important factors in the creation of violence and oppression.
  • There are other forms of subtle violence that we need to recognize and address including the violence of consumerism.
  • Consumerism is . . . directly responsible for violence, the root causes of which are greed, hatred and delusion. [Being] unaware of this structural violence [means we] are responsible for violent conflicts everywhere.
  • Consumerism . . . contributes significantly to violence among individuals, groups and nations.
  • As long as consumerism is worshipped in the world, there will always be war and violence.
  • Consumerism is the root cause of violence in America.
  • It is universally recognized that . . . consumption problems cause countless violence.

The quotes above come from peace and social justice literature. I found them in a paper by Dr. Sue McGregor called Consumerism as a Source of Structural Violence. I was pleased to see that she works in a university right here in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

In the coming days you will hear many reasons why mass shootings are becoming commonplace, and life is becoming more violent. Cue the usual talking heads blaming just about everything. Mental illness. Too many guns. Not enough guns. Progressives.

As usual there will be a lot of finger pointing and things to blame, except the fact that our very way of life is a root cause of much oppression and violence. Or the fact that our consumer society, as it exists, would cease to be if we eliminated the systemic oppression and violence against people and the planet that are required to keep it going. 

We also probably won't hear much about the connection of mass shootings to white male privilege and domestic violence. Chances are, also, that no one in mainstream circles will suggest that some of the solutions to eliminating global oppression and violence are eliminating consumerism, inequality and state sponsored killing (war). 

None of those things are good for profits of Evil Corp. Inc. (or Evil Government Inc.), but let us not forget our own complicity as consumers, as enablers of the violence perpetuated on our behalf. We can't pretend we aren't players in the misery.

So, sorry Texas, Las Vegas, sweat shop workers, homeless, working poor, women and people of colour... we should know by now, what it is that we do, and that it connects us all to the misery occurring in our global community.

It is time to stop supporting the violence. Living simple, cooperative, and compassionate lives can help a great deal.

November 3, 2017

Not Buying Anything - Still Legal

"This isn't about your stealing anything. It's about your not buying anything."

The system makes it very difficult to not buy anything, but it is still legal. They can't actually force us to be consumers.

Capitalist interests have pretty much wrapped it all up - you have to pay for everything. Some cities have even made it illegal to sleep outdoors, meaning you are going to have to pay someone to get off the street. What if you can't afford what they are asking?

Pay to sleep. Pay to eat. Pay to drink water. Pay to move. Pay to stand here. Pay to park there. They are always making it easier to buy and pay for things. Pay up, be imprisoned, or die. Pay more while you make less. Sick and tired, you try to break free.

Harvesting rainwater is illegal. Governments use satellite imagery to find, and tax, your backyard garden. Building codes make it impossible to build your own tiny home. When you are down to living in your car, you find it is illegal to sleep in your parked vehicle in many locations.

However, resistance is not futile. People in hyper-consumer systems have lived successfully without money all together. It is a full time job to resist so actively. The payoff is not being complicit in the sickness that is making our planet terminally ill.

Consumerism, and the ecocide that it is causing, is what should be illegal. It is clearly immoral to try to kill Mother Nature, and this heinous violent crime has billions of victims. Perhaps this crowded planet should have new laws concerning taking more than ones fair share of Earth's gifts.

Imagine if security staff thanked you for not buying anything on your way out of the store.

October 31, 2017

Snapping Turtle Nest

Ever since seeing my first Snapping Turtle in July two years ago, I have wanted to see a Snapping Turtle nest. This year, while on an October hike in the woods, I got my wish.

At first I was not sure what I was seeing. My eye was drawn by white bits on the trail. Upon closer inspection, they turned out to be creamy white ping-pong sized shell remains, exactly as described in my online research of these large turtles.

Sure enough, close by was the nest, the hatchling hole. It was in a well-drained, south facing site, perfect for incubating 25-30 turtle eggs.

Next October, or perhaps in the spring if a nest overwinters, I hope to see the event as it is occurring. What a sight to see a new generation starting out, the individuals of which could live 40 years in these woods.

Go little turtles, Go!

October 29, 2017

An Experiment In Local Living

We moved from the city to this location, then stayed for 9 years. Right here on the Pacific Ocean beach.

Travel is fun. I have done a fair amount of it myself. Before I quit, the knowledge that carbon-based travel is harmful to people and other living things, started to erode at the fun I was having. It felt selfish for me to get my jollies at the expense of everything else.

It was time for an experiment in local living. Few things will rehabilitate your carbon footprint as much as adopting a local lifestyle.

In 2005 Linda and I decided that instead of living in the city, and leaving for more beautiful natural surroundings every chance we got, that we would move somewhere beautiful and tranquil enough that we wouldn't want to leave.

We found our spot on the west coast of Canada, on Vancouver Island. While there, I met a neighbour who said how much she was enjoying staying home. She hadn't left the neighbourhood for several years, not even into the closest town of 10,000 that was a only a few kilometres away. I was kind of blown away.

From a travel-obsessed North American perspective, her lesson in locality seemed outrageous. But I respected her for having such simple needs, as well as an obvious ability to be satisfied with little. I Then I thought, "Isn't that the global human experience, outside of over-consuming rich nations?"

I can't confirm this, but I imagine the majority of humans on Earth rarely go more than a few kilometres from home in their lifetime. And if they do go away, travel is probably in the form of walking, biking, bus, or train. Or donkey, or camel, not an internal combustion toxin factory.

More than likely their travel is also done for more important reasons than, "I was bored".

Some people will say that travel is in our DNA, as justification for their jet-setting, globe-trotting wanderlust. Indeed, that may be the case.

It was "discovered in 1999 by scientists at UC Irvine, DRD4-7R may be responsible for influencing people to do a number of behaviors. People expressing this allele of the Dopamine Receptor D4 gene seem to get a hit of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with reward, when they try new experiences."

However, even if this was reflective of reality, researchers say that only 20% of humans possess gene DRD4-7R, the "Itchy Feet Gene", if you will. Are the rest of us homebodies?

Is there a gene shared by 80% of us that gives a hit of dopamine when we are comfortable in familiar surroundings? When we are satisfied with the magical discoveries that can occur even in small spaces? When we are satisfied with less.

We enjoy traveling, and if we could catch a train close to home, we would roll right on now and then. What we didn't expect, is that we enjoy not traveling about as much. Living a local lifestyle is unfortunately under-rated in place where corporations have taken over.

How can you get people to buy goods and services if they can't be pried out of their comfy refuges from the madness? It is profitable to convince you that all the good stuff is "out there" somewhere. In some mythical, crystal, consumer heaven where you can buy happiness through perpetual motion and money spending.

My experiment has taught me that if I do have the wanderlust gene, I can satisfy it by hiking in the back yard woodlot for an hour or two. Besides, using my computer I can travel to almost anywhere, including space.

Conclusion: I don't see many downsides to living a local lifestyle. And I see many benefits, personally and environmentally.

Try it - staying home is the new traveling.

October 24, 2017

Searching For Clarity

This image summarizes this blog nicely.

What is this blog about? Sometimes I don't even know.  Is this a simple living blog? Nature blog? Minimalist blog? Anti-capitalist, or pro-do-your-own-thing blog? How does one tell?

I could look at my label cloud for some ideas, or read and do an analysis of all 1350 post that I have written since 2008. There is another way, and it is quite fun. I am talking about looking at the search words people use.

On the Internet, people are always searching for something.

Using this method, I can see how this blog might differ from the 300 million other blogs out there. This gives me some idea of the focus here, at least from the perspective of search engine algorithms.

Looking at the search words that lead here never fails to surprise me. I am pleased to be associated with the concepts and ideas given in this snapshot of Not Buying Anything.

The following are examples of the most popular searches that landed people at this blog instead of the 299,999,999 other ones on offer these days.

Search Terms That Brought Readers To Not Buying Anything:

  • Are you open to the miraculous?
  • Alternatives to working.
  • Peace.
  • Contentedness.
  • How is advertising based on illusion?
  • A simplified life: tactical tools for intentional living.
  • Ascetic lifestyle.
  • Austere living.
  • Do with less so they'll have enough.
  • Extreme frugal living.
  • Hoarders.
  • Homemade refried beans.
  • Consumerism is killing the earth.

When I look at these searches, it gives me an idea of what I am doing over time on my blog, just in case I feel like I am floundering, or have lost focus.

I think I am on the right track, according to my intended purpose, which has been laid out in our Vision Statement, as well as our Simple Living Manifesto.

One thing I can say for sure - we here at Not Buying Anything are definitely open to the miraculous. We have to be, because it is going to take something akin to a miracle for humanity to get through the coming decades successfully.

It is satisfying to see that "peace" is one of the most popular search terms. I also like "homemade refried beans", as if they are the secret ingredient to making the world a better place.

Are you open to the miraculous? How about to refried beans? World peace? You can find it all right here, whatever here is.

October 20, 2017

Open Your Eyes To Simplicity

"There is nothing you need to achieve.
Just open your eyes."

 - Siddhartha Gautama

We look, but we don't see. We hear, but don't listen. We eat, but don't taste. Touch, but don't feel. We survive, but don't live. Everyone is too busy striving.

Striving to achieve, but achieve what?

A more sincere existence? A better world? Peace? No.

Not in a capitalist consumer culture in which we are trained to strive for other, less honourable manufactured, profitable and ultimately soul destroying desires.

  • Material Success
  • Physical Perfection
  • Power
  • Money
  • Prestige

And of course, More, More, More.

No level of achievement is ever enough, because there is ALWAYS more to buy, consume, and hoard. The thing about the School of Consumerism is that you never graduate. You are never done. You always need to achieve more.

It sounds more like a prison.

We already have everything we need. If you can't be happy with a simple life, you won't be happy with the more complicated consumeristic alternatives either. Quit striving to achieve the things you are told to want, and you break free to live in a more natural, satisfying way.

Open your eyes to the joys of simplicity.

October 19, 2017

Apple Harvest

“Give me spots on my apples.
But leave me the birds and the bees.

- Joni Mitchell

One of the joys of the fall season is harvesting apples. There is nothing quite as invigorating as being out in the crisp, fresh air on a sunny fall day picking organic apples. Free organic apples.

A year ago I discovered an apple tree on the land surrounding my home in rural Nova Scotia. I have been looking forward to this moment since the end of my first harvest. On that harvest I picked a few months worth of apples, an amount that I equalled again this year.

While the two apples pictured above represented the most perfect specimens of the whole lot, most had blemishes of the type you never see in stores. 

The reason store bought apples are so perfect is because they are one of the most sprayed foods in the produce section. Nature is messy, and it takes a lot of poison to clean things up. Those toxic chemicals are not good for people or other living things, like pollinators, so I prefer cleaner, more interesting apples of the organic variety. 

The tree where I gather my apples is an ecosystem to itself. These are not for the exclusive use of human beings, so the fruit is enjoyed by many species. From deer to worms to fungal diseases to birds, many living things live and dine here.

This is no for-profit industrial chemical wasteland. This wild tree is free to feed all that come to it in search of sustenance. Come winter, this apple harvest will be sustaining me.

It doesn't get any fresher than this.

October 16, 2017

Sharing The Wealth

“I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter,
but is, on the contrary, a living Presence....all things
work together for the good of each and all; that the
foundation principle of the world, or all the worlds,
is what we call love, and that the happiness of each
and all is in the long run absolutely certain.” 

- Richard Maurice Bucke

One of my favourite things about growing a garden is the absolute abundance that flows from mid-summer to well into the fall. To garden is to know true wealth.

If you garden, you find there is more than enough for your own needs. You find that nature loves life, and that Mother Earth loves it when we share her gifts. If things go well, you will have to share just to keep up and not let food go to waste.

Even if you are eating as fast as you can, plus canning, freezing, and drying, you will still have opportunities to share with others. I can't think of a better gift than vegetables freshly harvested from the soil.

Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, so I picked a few veggies from our raised bed garden (with gratitude on my mind), washed them up, then arranged them in a basket. I walked over to our neighbours, had a chat, and dropped off the gift.

A few days later Linda and I spoke with our neighbour, and she mentioned the veggies. She said that they looked so good that she used them for the centrepiece for her table during her family's feast that night.gar

She particularly liked the results of my adventures in garlic braiding, saying that they were "too beautiful to eat". I loved that she loved the fruits of my labour.

Sharing is natural. And it feels good. That is what I wanted to share with my simple living friends today, wherever on this wonderful planet you happen to be gardening. Or thinking about gardening. Or sharing.

October 10, 2017

Choosing Simplicity For Wellness

Getting off the merry-go-round has allowed me to spend more time enjoying the healthful benefits of nature. 

One big reason that I retired to a more simple life seventeen years ago at age 40 is because I wasn't sure I could maintain my mental health while plugged into a 'regular life' in a western consumer culture.

I was not afraid to let go. I was ready.

John Lennon had already taught me, in the song Watching The Wheels (Gimme Some Truth), that it was okay to want to get off the merry-go-round. Like him, "I just had to let it go". For fast acting relief, try simple living. I found out later that he also enjoyed the homey task of baking bread.

Overall wellness increases when we reduce our focus on the acquisition of money, possessions and status. Stress levels drop and there is more time to rest, be physically active, eat healthful foods, and spend time with friends and family.

Creating a simple life for you and your family is more of a gift than a sacrifice, even if it is often more work. The majority of people who choose to live this way report improved mental and physical health. What is that worth? Is there anything else worthy of our effort?

Imagine what happens when your life consists of doing only the things you love to do. Or does living simply allow one the time to love all aspects of life more fully, regardless of what is going on? Either way, it is good for you.

Live simply to break free, or save money, or to live more sustainably - those are all awesome outcomes of this lifestyle. But definitely do it for your overall wellness, mental and otherwise.

October 2, 2017

Simple Living, High Thinking, Non-Violence

Gandhi's home. He was influenced by the writings of Henry David Thoreau,
and the two men lived in similar simple surroundings, undistracted by unnecessary stuff.

Today, the 148th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth is being celebrated around the world. It should be - he was an amazing man, as close to a true hero as one can get.

Gandhi emphasized simple living, high thinking, and non-violent resistance, all things that we desperately need in today's world if we are to slow our slide into dark decades of dystopia.

Call it utopian if you want, I don't think of that as an insult, but Gandhi's philosophy on non-violence went far beyond simply the absence of violence. He also advocated radical democracy and self-rule, and extended participation to all segments of society.

Inequality and hierarchical structures (political and religious), are institutionalized violence. Authority over others always ends badly. Just ask the Catalonians, or any of us that suffer the violence of the state in its capitalist corporate economic prison.

I celebrate Gandhi's birth today - he was a model human of the most gentle kind. He lived what he proposed, and had solutions. Right now, we badly need solutions, and soon.

Simple living, rational thinking, and non-violent resistance are tried and true, proven solutions, and I thank this amazing man for bravely bringing them forward. The sooner they are adopted, the better off we will be in the end.

We can break the bars that hem us in to narrow lives of drudgery and perpetual shopping. We can all be heroes. To this, I think, Gandhi would agree.

September 30, 2017

Advertising: Legalized Lying

"You can't fool all the people all the time. But you can try. It's called advertising." 


“Advertising - A judicious mixture of flattery and threats.”  

Stephen Leacock 

“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”  

Edwin H. Land

"Advertising is legalized lying."   

 H.G. Wells 

September 28, 2017

Simple Living, Or Poverty?

Consumerism is about making ones self appear “successful” in other people’s eyes. The more stuff you have, the better the reputation. That is what happens when a culture worships material wealth over everything else.

This can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction if one is not able to attain all the trappings required to meet the requirements for this narrow view of what a successful life should look like. Dissatisfaction is a form of pain, of mental illness.

This leads to not only to environmental degradation, but also to much human suffering. We work ourselves to death attempting to attain a certain standing in a sick system that cherishes all the wrong things. We worry about what others will think of us if we don't measure up.

What will people think if I don't have a new car, big house, high paying job, trophy vacations, the right clothes? The list goes on and on and on. The consumerism contest is a Sisyphean pursuit.

In a life of simplicity one can give up on all of that in order to focus on more important things, like finding out the reality of what we are, and why we are here. Instead of looking outward all the time, we have time to look inward in order to answer the important questions that have always challenged  non-distracted humans.

Are there, or have there ever been, any rich sages or mystics? Diogenes claimed he was happy living in his barrel, with his cloak, stick and bread bag.

“The Cynics emphasized that true happiness is not found in external advantages such as material luxury, political power, or good health. True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things.”
 - Jostein Gaardner

One reason I think that simplicity is not as popular as it should be, is because it may be hard for others to tell the difference between poverty and simplicity. Indeed, some call their simple lifestyle "voluntary poverty", not because they feel poor, but because that is what it looks like compared to more luxurious "normal" lifestyles.

What if others think I am poor? Most people would rather die than experience that outcome. But who would argue that it isn't better to be content than continuously striving for an unattainable, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive way of life?

September 25, 2017


If your peace can be broken, 
it is not 
the unshakeable peace 
you long for.

September 22, 2017

World Carfree Day

Yes, we live in a car dominated system. Yes, you may need a car as things are currently set up. But that doesn't mean we can't envision different, better ways of getting around that are less car focused. That is the idea behind World Carfree Day.

The following is from World Carfree Network:

Every year on or around 22 September, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don't have to accept our car-dominated society. 
But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to "normal" life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars. 
Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year. 
As the climate heats up, World Carfree Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.

Cars may be necessary in our car-oriented culture. If they are, they are a necessary evil. They are loud, stinky, expensive, and a huge hassle to maintain. If one had a car, but reduced the number of voluntary, or "pleasure" drives, huge gains in a cleaner environment would result. The car owner would also save money, and possibly live longer.

Car travel is one of the most dangerous things that the average person does in any given day.

Annual Global Road Crash Statistics 
- Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year (90% of deaths are in low-medium income countries), on average 3,287 deaths a day. 
- An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. 
- More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44. 
- Road traffic crashes rank as the 9th leading cause of death and account for 2.2% of all deaths globally.

Happy World Carfree Day. Let this be the beginning of our liberation from the tyranny of the personal automobile. Contrary to advertising hype, they are NOT "freedom machines".

Note: Happy Fall Equinox (northern hemisphere)/Spring Equinox (southern hemisphere). While the season shifts we are enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures in Nova Scotia. My acorn squash, beans, and peas started growing again, so it looks like the garden is not over yet.

September 20, 2017

What Will We Choose?

Door #1 - Pandemonium. Door #2 - Paradise.

In a hyper-consumer environment, any time we buy something we calculate how much money it will cost us. "How much will this cost me?" The only limits to purchase are dollars. If the consumer has money in the bank, or access to credit (increasingly the choice many make), the transaction takes place.

But wait. We fail to ask the most important question.

Where is the attempt to calculate the costs of the purchase to the greater environment? We should be asking,

"What is the ultimate cost to people and the planet for buying this service or item?"

I am convinced that most people do care about this, and will change their behaviour in compassionate ways when confronted with the facts (yes, I do believe those still exist).

Many Cassandras have been warning us of the final reckoning for the planet since industrialization and capitalist consumerism took over. They all come up with the same message - Earth can not afford these ways, and unless we change the way we do things, ecological collapse is the likely outcome. 

This was the conclusion of The Limits To Growth by Donella H. Meadows, in 1972. Unfortunately, it has been largely discredited since its publication, by pro-growth pressures, and we largely missed an opportunity to act.

Certain opportunist optimists would like us to believe that we are smart enough to transcend all limits to growth. But can we, really? Look at the results so far. From what I can see, not so good.

We have a simple and basic choice to make, as outlined in Limits To Growth so many years ago. Think of it as Red Pill/Blue Pill.

Or Door #1/Door #2.

Door #1 - If the trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime in the near future. 

Door #2 - Arrest growth trends and establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium would be designed by the people, for the people. In such a system, the basic human rights and material needs of the whole human family are satisfied in environmentally sensitive ways.

What happened since this 1972 red flag? The infinite growth system became an unstoppable juggernaut. The planet lost, as did the majority of its people. However, Mother Nature does seem to be fighting back, and "" are "Pissed Off".

We need a new paradigm in order to slow, then reverse our current slow-motion collapse, and I don't think governments are the answer. Their track record is increasingly sketchy, too, just like their corporate friends.

I'll take what's behind Door #2, please. Let's at least try it. If it fails, then we can go back to greed, poverty, a lack of genuine freedom, and an increasingly hostile environment.

What are the true costs of our consumer habits? Each purchase we make is an opportunity to choose  between pandemonium, or paradise.

September 15, 2017

Nature Is My True Business

Like Henry David Thoreau turning his “face more exclusively to the woods”, I am better known amongst the trees around my home than among the folk of our nearest town.

To me, the woods are a locale of self-salvation. Here, surrounded by Nature, I find respite from the brutality of the human world. The woods are full of beauty and interest and mystery, and draw me in to the comforting embrace of friendly boughs and limbs.

Within the mystery of the woods, I am never afraid. I am where I belong, and I can feel it in every cell of my body.

Here, I am carrying out my true business - living without the silly self-imposed separations inherent in the human world. Buckminster Fuller called it “categoryitis”, and it is the great separator that prevents collective action toward our common challenges.

Fuller warned that our illogical obsession with questions like “What is your race”, or ”nationality”, or “religion”, or anything else that artificially separates us, will be our doom. “By the twenty-first century,” he said, “it either will have become evident to humanity that these questions are absurd and anti-evolutionary, or humans will no longer be living on Earth.”

No such separations exist in nature. Naturalist Hal Borland described perfectly when he said, “You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion, or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

I love the simplicity of that state of being. In Nature, things just ARE. Why can't we be that way?

One day we will join together as One with, and in support of, Nature. When that happens, we will see Earth for what it was meant to be - our collective peaceful paradise.

September 11, 2017

Garlic Harvest

It's the last two weeks of summer, but the signs of fall are everywhere.

Our grassy field is turning brown, temperatures are cooling, and the hummingbirds are almost all gone. It can only mean one thing - harvest time. 

Freshly harvested garlic. We cured it outside and in the garage for two weeks.

One of the joys of this year's harvest has been our first ever crop of garlic. Our experiment was a success. The challenge now? Could I learn to braid it?

Hey, this isn't what the nice lady's braid looked like.

Linda and I watched a video posted by a woman that had been working on a garlic farm for decades and had probably done hundreds of braids in her day. She had prepared the scapes (stems) beforehand by soaking them in water to make them more pliable, and put together a beautiful braid in no time. It was hard work, even for her.

My messy twist of cured garlic.

Having watched one video once, I gathered together our cured garlic to try my hand at a new skill. It was fun to work with, but I did not soak the scapes first and it was amazing how tough they were to manipulate. But I persevered bravely, and attempted to organize the uncooperative stems into something both functional and beautiful.

I got functional, although garlic plants are inherently beautiful, so you can't really go wrong, even if they aren't perfectly put together.

Our first homegrown garlic, ready for eating.

After I was done I downgraded my description from "braid" to "weave".  Then maybe to "twisted"? Or "mangled"? But I did end up with a structure that had a handle on top, and all the garlic together so it can be hung.

Just a few more weeks and we will be planting next year's garlic plot. It will be the first using our own cloves. It will be another opportunity to perfect my braiding technique.

September 9, 2017

Emergency Solidarity

I have been watching footage from hurricane Harvey, starting in real time when the storm made land fall. In spite of the horror of the storm and ensuing fallout for the people of Houston, I saw more good news stories than I have in a long time. Emergency solidarity was everywhere.

I didn't have time to recover from my "bystander PTSD" from Harvey before Irma cranked up to a Category 5 storm. Now we are seeing emergency solidarity arising in Florida, and the Caribbean, and who knows where next. Such beauty in the face of overwhelming struggle and hardship.

Rebecca Solnit calls them "disaster communities" in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. They are groups of people that spontaneously come together in mutual aid and support in hard times.

“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”  

- Rebecca Solnit

Emergencies wipe away all the artificial ways that we get separated from each other - there is no time for silliness like that. We are forced to face the simple facts of survival, and the outcome is cooperation and solidarity. Our true nature is revealed, and it looks much different than our selfishness-based economic system.

Emergencies blow away all considerations of race, gender, wealth, orientation, class, and religious or political affiliation, and we realize that we are all members of the same community. We are all part of the human community. 

Because we have been trained to think in self-serving, competitive ways in order to fulfill our role as cogs in the consumer machine, we are amazed at the outpouring of help from total strangers. All of a sudden people become much less materialistic. Who cares about stuff when you are thrilled just to be alive and feeling connected to something bigger than yourself?

Profit as a driving concept simply does not exist when we come together in a common cause, like a disaster. Quite the opposite - abundance rules the day. Just look at the tons of donations, the money that is donated, and the volunteerism that follows adversity. I didn't see any rescuers charging people to be rescued. Why not?

It seems that capitalism does have limits, and it dares not enter into disaster communities. If it did, it would seem exactly as it is - crass, self-serving, and opposite to our natural desire to work together with our neighbours for the betterment of our communities. For free.

What if every day life was as altruistic and cooperative as what occurs every time we are met with extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances? What if we were satisfied with the magic of being alive, and saw our stuff for what it really it - piles of distracting crap?

The way we come together in isolated emergencies the world over, is the way humanity needs to come together on a grand scale to ensure our collective survival on this planet. That is the big emergency that should unify us all.

When I see the resilience, love and hard work of helpers after disasters, I feel I am seeing the true nature of humanity. We can do this thing. We can make everything better. Together. It is our default setting.

September 6, 2017

Getting Off Mechanical Time

Grandma had a Cronos clock on her mantelpiece - tick-tick, tick-tick... Time passed more slowly there.

The clock is one of the oldest human inventions. It is also one of my least favourite.

I have always dreaded the tiny tick of gears and whirring mechanisms, as well as the glow of digital time lords. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandmother's neat and orderly living room. The only sound was the tick-tick of the clock on the mantelpiece. Wanting to be playing outside, a second passed in that living room much slower than a second running around out in the cool air of the yard.

For as long as I remember I have been trying to rip the hands off the time tyrant's mechanized time-bots. I am not built to live according to mechanically measured minutes. I am not a machine - I am an animal. I would rather rely on the internal biological clock, and the cues that nature constantly gives us.

"The mechanical clock dates from the 14th Century... The machine that mechanized time did more than regulate the activities of the day: it synchronized human reactions, not with the rising and setting sun but with the indicated movements of the clock's hands: so it brought exact measurement and temporal control into every activity, by setting an independent standard whereby the whole day could be laid out and subdivided. 
"The measurement of space and time became an integral part of the system of control that Western civilization spread over the planet.
- Lewis Mumford

Culturally, there are many, many different ways that humans experience time. Most are very different from our artificial and imposed time structure. My own belief is that things will happen when they need to happen. You can't organize a modern, capitalist organization with this particular view of time? Oh well.

Nature operates off the clock, the movement of celestial bodies probably being the closest thing to a mechanized, dependable schedule. Otherwise, things happen when they happen, without measured time. And it all seems to turn out fine.

What a joy to sleep when tired, and eat when hungry. We have dropped the usual designations for meals, because what do you really call it when you eat breakfast at 4:30 pm?

Now we just call them all "meals", or if we need to distinguish one from the other, "meal one", "meal two", and (if necessary), "meal three".

I like not knowing what day of the week it is (that's right, I have a problem with calendars, too). Sometimes it gets so good that I lose track of the month, while being lost in just being. Amazingly, things continue to happen in a somewhat orderly, if unpredictable, manner.

"If victory over nature has been achieved in this age, then the nature over which modern humans reign is a very different nature from that in which humans lived before the science revolution. Indeed, the trick that humans turned and that enabled the rise of modern science was nothing less than the transformation of nature and of their perception of reality. 
The paramount change that took place in the mental life of people, beginning during roughly the 14th Century, was in our perception of time and consequently of space."

- Joseph Weizenbaum

It is good to discover the joys of living an unmeasured life free from the endless sweep of Cronos' influence. Off the clock, time is no longer a destructive, all-devouring force. Rather than moving through fragmented time segments, like an endless staircase that only goes in one direction (toward death), one moves as if through a river.

Life flows effortlessly from one moment to the next. And the next...

To get off mechanical time is to free yourself to fully experience yourself as an integral part of the natural world. Beat the clock. Be free. Whenever possible.

September 3, 2017

The 0.14%

Never mind the 1% - we are the 0.14%. But unlike them, anyone can join us.

How many people know our planet is in peril? Of those, how many use that knowledge to change the way they live? Surely there must be many of us. No?

Dave Cohen at the Decline of the Empire website writes:

"There are roughly 7.2 billion humans on Earth, and, roughly speaking, about 10 million of them are painfully aware that Homo sapiens is destroying the biosphere, slowly on human time scales, but in no time at all on the geological time scale. (10 million is a very generous estimate.) 
Some of those exceptional people, a goodly portion of whom are working scientists, are actively opposing the ongoing destruction, though many are not. Rounding up, those 10 million souls represent approximately 0.14% of the entire human population. 
The other 99.86% are either actively destroying the biosphere, or indifferent to that lamentable trend (i.e., they are merely current or would-be "consumers" who are thus acquiescing in and contributing to the trend indirectly)."

What? 10 million on the entire globe? Wow. I hope he is widely underestimating. How can we fix something if we are not aware that this is a problem of our own making?

Are you part of the 0.14%? Have you changed your personal consumption habits according to your knowledge?

August 31, 2017

The Land Is Our Church

“The Creator gave to us all the living things so that we would know how to act. The natural world is our Bible; by watching the chipmunk and the meadowlark and even the tiniest flower we learn the lessons that the Creator has put before us. Everything is sacred. This very land is our church.”

- Chief Fools Crow of the Oglala Lakota

August 30, 2017

Motor Vehicles - Ecocidal Agents of Destruction

Road kill. We say it without really thinking about it. Trillions of deaths annually are seen as unavoidable collateral damage, simply so we can go places faster and more conveniently.

I have been around cars for my entire life. During that time I have often thought about all the wildlife killed by cars every year.  The windshield alone is a speeding zone of death, evidenced by the ample bug stuff splattered everywhere after a road trip. What a way to go.

Like most North Americans, I have a motor vehicle (a wheelchair accessible van). Unlike most, for the past few years it has been driven an average of about 1600 km (1000 miles). When I drive to the grocers, which is about the only time I drive lately, I am usually not driving fast enough to kill any bugs.

Going slow means there is lots of time to stop or manoeuvre around anything on the road, although ants are impossible to see from the driver's seat. Now I mostly kill things with the noxious fumes emanating from my tailpipe. That doesn't make me feel any better.

The forecast is for more cars in the future. Lots more. Perhaps up to a billion more, and enough new roads for all of them, that would circle the Earth 600 times. These vehicular ecocidal agents of destruction will have serious repercussions for wildlife globally.

“A recent paper by Canadian scientists suggests the upsurge in traffic could itself be responsible for the fall in insect numbers. After extrapolating data from a mile of highway in Ontario, researcher from Laurentian University calculated that hundreds of billions of pollinating insects were probably being killed by vehicles each year in North America.” - Source 

What would our transportation look like if we had reverence, compassion and care for all the other life that shares the planet with us? We can move toward this by staying closer to home, avoiding unnecessary trips, and when traveling, choosing less deadly forms of getting about, like cycling, walking, bus and train.

You can read more about the "highway holocaust" here. It might make you feel like leaving your car in the garage or driveway more often. We can help to radically reduce road kill.

August 27, 2017

Nature Abides

Trains ran on this abandoned line, from the 1800s until the 1990s. It linked the cities of Halifax and Yarmouth.

Nature has cycles. Things are born, live, and die, including civilized things such as train travel, which has been dieing a slow death in North America for decades. Through it all, nature abides.

Natural systems are the constant thread stitching together billions of years of Earth's development. It will probably continue for billions more, with us, or without us.

I am reminded of nature's cycles, and humans' path, every time I go for a bike ride on my local Rails to Trails route. For over 100 years, trains serviced the province of Nova Scotia, including a line to the southwest part of the province. It is this line that passes close to my home.

Since the 1990s the trains have been gone, and now it is a multi-use trail. The route passes through a rural area of farms, orchards and wood lots. It would be great if there were still trains here, although it is a great place for a long bike ride away from cars.

It is also great if you are interested in graphic examples of how nature endures our provocations, then carries on as if we were never around. All around are old farmsteads, abandoned, and being reclaimed by field and forest. They are both beautiful and melancholic at the same time.

Along this route one finds evidence that the area is in the later stages of development. Like me, the place is feeling its age.

The best economic conditions in the province were probably about the time it was a major wooden ship building centre. Steel hulled ships may have been good news for our forests, but they didn't do much for the economy here. The second smallest (and most beautiful) province in Canada has been coping ever since.

While other places today are facing similar conditions, Nova Scotia was over the hump long ago, which should make the people here well prepared for a future that will generally be less wealthy than the more lucrative past when resources were more plentiful and easily accessed.

The wooden ships are gone, the trains are gone, and many people are gone, too. One of the things this province is known for are its migrants going west to other provinces in search of work. In the past 5 years the county I live in has lost 4% of it population.

As you might surmise, the folks around here are indeed rugged and resourceful, by necessity. It is not hard to see the people here thriving in conditions more similar to the province's roots than more recent modern times.

I don't mind, coming from the west of Canada in areas that were growing at a frenzied rate. Such growth is a double edged sword. While it may be good for maintaining a certain standard of living, it is not so good for ones mental health if you are sensitive to the destruction that goes along with rapid growth.

I like life at a much slower, gentler pace, and Nova Scotia is all of that. Here, as I pass by the weathered wood siding, and rusty pump handles, I am reminded that civilizations have come to be, flourished, and are eventually swallowed by the deep sands. Or soil, or jungle, forest, or water. Gone, and that's ok.

We are not exceptional. We are not above the laws of Nature, no matter how much we deny them, or try to cheat our way out with technological saves. "And so it goes", as Kurt Vonnegut said.

Through it all, Nature abides. I find that uncomfortably comforting.

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