April 23, 2017

There Is No Planet B




We should quit looking for planets to move to, and fix the one we've got.

Quit something. Start something. DO Something! Anything. Please. There is no Planet B.

Make every day Earth Day. Your children will thank you.




April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day 2017




From: The Earth Day Network

Earth Day 2017’s Campaign is Environmental & Climate Literacy 
Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection. 
Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs 
This Earth Day, gather with your community for an Environmental & Climate Literacy Teach-In or another project focused on education. 

This is also a day to show your support for science-based decision making. Marches are planned globally.

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.
-  www.marchforscience.com 



Happy Earth Day to all Not Buying Anything readers. We are grateful for your support for this blog, and for all things green.

Go Green, and spread the word. Our survival depends on it.

 “We need intense activism along with structural analysis and the building of alternative, sustainable lifestyles. We need wisdom, reverence and creativity that we pull up from the depths of our uncertainty. Author Joanna Macy calls it ‘the Great Turning.’ It’s a shift in consciousness that aligns social healing, economic fairness and an end to war with environmental sustainability. And the time to make it happen is running out. We can’t afford to lose another decade, or another twenty minutes.”
-  Robert Koehler


April 19, 2017

The Gods Want Us To Live Simply



Symbols from the 12 World religious movements:

Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism
Christianity, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Islam
Jainism, Judaism, Contemporary Paganism (pentacle), Shinto
Sikhism, Taoism



The gods must be crazy. They want us to live simply. I wonder if they know something Consumers don't?

Pick a god, any god. It doesn't matter which. Chances are that simplicity is part of their gig. Any historical spiritual teacher has taught us through their own example that a simple, modest life is the way to go.

No religion I know of asks devotees to work until they drop from a heart attack just so they can accumulate stuff, entertainments, and luxurious experiences.  Any that did would not have devotees for very long.

Nor would it have a functional planet on which to worship.

No, the gods want us to live a sustainable lifestyle for without people, gods go extinct.

Pick a god, any god. Of those invented so far, all are in unanimous agreement when it comes to advice on simple living - it is the only way to go.

Why aren't more followers heeding that message?

One does not need to go far to find examples from the world's major religions that support living simply.

Christianity

"I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to.

We know how unsustainable is the behavior of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.


Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances."

- Pope Francis


Islam

"We have become wrapped up in the fast-paced society of today, which is really unnecessary. Can we not live a happy life without overpriced clothing and basically a surplus of everything? Can we not live a happy life without making sure we go out every weekend, just because it’s the weekend and we have to go out because everyone does? Can we not be simple and just take the time to realize that we are the ones creating our own problems?"

- from Islamic Insights


Shinto

"Live a simple and harmonious life with nature and people"

- basic teaching of Shinto


Hinduism

Asceticism in Hinduism — restraint in consumption and simplicity in living — represents a pathway
toward moksha (liberation), which treats the earth with respect.

 “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”

- Tain tyakten bhunjitha


Jainism

Aparigraha (non-acquisition): Keep your requirements and possessions to the minimal.

Jains follow a disciplined lifestyle meant to minimize harm. They eat a pure vegetarian diet, use  minimal resources, do not waste water, electricity, food etc, and give away surplus items they possess.



Whether one is religious or not, living simply is the only way to go on planet Earth. Everything we see and know backs up this claim, perhaps more now than ever before.

The way to peace, joy, and harmonious living is through simplicity.







April 13, 2017

Morbid Inequality

Morbid Inequality: 6 men now pathologically hoarding as much cash as owned by half the planet's population.

Consuming as little as possible gives me immense personal benefits, such as being free from what appears to be a ubiquitous lust for more. I am content with very little, and want for nothing. But there are other benefits, such as not supporting a system that encourages this lust.

There are people (more specifically, male people), that have become immensely wealthy promoting infinite economic growth and infinite want fulfillment. I'm not buying anything from them. I am not into making millionaires, or helping build billionaires.

And I am certainly not interested in transforming them into trillionaires, a extreme wealth milestone that we are predicted to pass in the near future. Maybe I am strange, but this scenario seems completely irrational to me. Why is this seen as a good thing, rather than a money-hoarding mental illness?


"Two generations ahead, future extrapolation of current wealth growth rates yields almost a billion millionaires, equivalent to 20% of the total adult population. If this scenario unfolds, then billionaires will be commonplace, and there is likely to be a few trillionaires too -- eleven according to our best estimate." 
- Credit Suisse's 2013 Global Wealth Report


It was recently reported that now 6 men own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the planet's population (about 3.6 billion people). I'm not buying into any part of a system that encourages, enables and celebrates such morbid inequality.

The capitalists say not to worry because "we are all getting richer". But if someone making a dollar a day is "lucky" enough to see their wage increase by 100%, they are still only making 2 dollars a day, buying them a slightly better form of poverty. Not good enough.

Who will be the world's first trillionaire? Who cares? I would be happy if there was never such a grotesque entity to ever stalk the Earth. In a just world, there wouldn't be any such thing. I am not buying their crap, and I am not buying their ideology that allows such insanity to exist on a planet imperilled by the infinite lust for more.

Not Buying Anything does not support Morbid Inequality. Luckily there are more of us than them. There is a way out of this.




April 10, 2017

Spring Firsts

Having a fire in winter is nice, but not needing one in spring/summer is even better.


Spring awakens. Life returns. This is a time of firsts, and we have had a few over the past couple of weeks.

First morning we didn't have to heat our home. We usually start the wood stove as part of our beginning of day routine. On winter mornings our home is usually between 12 and 15 degrees C (53 - 57 degrees F) when we get up, so a bit of heat is nice. It is a nice change this time of year when we make the shift from burning tree energy to enjoying the sun's energy.





First bike ride. I was looking at my photos and noticed that my last bike ride was December 21th. On that ride, I sat in a clearing in the forest and watched an early sun set on the shortest day of the year. Now instead of having to be home by 4:30, I can start a ride at 4:30, and stay out till 8:30.


First flowers of Spring.

First snowdrops. Neighbours down the road toward the ocean from us have a beautiful perennial garden along the road. On my bike ride I stopped to admire the little white bells leading the way into a new, warmer season. A sight for sore eyes after months of cold.


Soon robins will be nesting. For the enterprising robin, this will be the first of two broods.

First robins. Mobs of robins, everywhere. Lawns and fields covered in foraging, red-breasted modern day dinos. I was happy to not be a worm or bug. And its not only robins returning.

A flock of geese has been hanging out in our neighbourhood fields, honking and hailing me as I ride by. I give them the nod. All is as it should be, and their presence reassures me.

Turkey vultures, eagles, gulls and more are joining the birds that stay year round, like pileated woodpeckers, blue jays, crows and ravens. Is it time to put out the hummingbird feeder, or am I jumping the gun on that one? How exciting.

Soon our forest and field will be host to a chorus of winged wonders.

Let the concert begin. We, and the birds, lived through another winter. It is a rising note from here to summer solstice. Enjoy your spring firsts... or fall lasts, depending on where you are on this amazing planet of ours.




April 7, 2017

R's For A New World




Has the invention of consumer capitalism made the world a better place? What do we have to show for it?

Walls, war, and warming. Business as usual will only get us more of these.

It is time to try something different, but the profit-based competitive system will not give up easily. That makes it even more imperative for us serfs to get up, stand up, and keep up the fight.



R's For A New World


Rethink.

Refuse.

Resist.

Rebel.

Revolution.

I hope for a simple living revolution that sees maximalism replaced by minimalism. And hate replaced with love. Dominion replaced with stewardship. Shackles replaced with wings. Poisons replaced with Nature's perfection.

No walls. No wars. No warming.





April 4, 2017

Downsizing: What Do You Keep?

I love to cook, so decided to keep core kitchen items like large bowls and cast iron frying pans.


Downsizing? Just as difficult as it is to decide what to get rid of, are the decisions of what to keep.

It seems that about 98% of the things we buy and hold on to in consumer societies are unnecessary, weigh us down, and destroys the planet at the same time. Knowing that, it may still be hard to let go of familiar things.

But it is worth it. Simplifying and having less leaves more room for what is truly important, so all the difficult decisions are worth making.

The more you own, the more you spend to purchase, maintain, and store things. Stuff needs to be cleaned, sharpened, lubricated, dusted, and kept free of rust and decay as it all succumbs to the laws of entropy. Plus you have to look at everything all the time. Even worse, you  have to wonder why you bought any of it in the first place.

When you have less you have more money, more space, and more time to create the life that you passionately want.

Things We Decided To Keep (for now)

- cast iron frying pan
- universal pot lid
- stainless steel bowls
- blankets, pillows
- outdoor clothing/gear
- art supplies
- basic clothing and fabric
- tools
- small sewing kit
- seeds
- computer
- yoga mats
- rugs/carpets
- guitars and sheet music
- books/journals

But what about things like photographs and love letters? Nope, we let them go, and freed ourselves in the process.

I don't want things, I want happiness and contentment, and over the years I have found that those increase as the anchor of physical possessions becomes less of a drag on my life.

My ultimate goal is to have all my possessions down to what will fit in a small backpack, or shoebox by the time I die. 99% of what we buy and own in consumer societies consists of distractions that keep us from the truly important.

What is kept while downsizing will differ from person to person, reflecting what is most important to each of us. No expert, no book, no method can tell you what to keep. That hard work is up to each of us, and us alone.

It wasn't important to keep photographs... for me. It might be for you, though. Only you can decide.

But the goal should always be to keep as little as possible. The way to do it is: be honest with yourself, be fearless, then let go. Enjoy what you keep, including the memories.




March 31, 2017

Peace And Quiet

Peace and quiet can be found here. 

When I moved to a rural area of Nova Scotia two things struck me immediately. One was how dark it was at night. Like a panther traversing a coal dust storm, the dark here slinks and oozes into every crack, crevasse and corner.

The night sky, unmarred by city lights, made up for any discomfort I felt. A brilliant universe blinking above, the likes of which city dwellers may never see.

The other thing that I noticed out here away from civilization was the almost complete lack of noise. After living in cities for most of my life I was used to constant sirens and traffic noise. We should never underestimate how constant low level sounds can affect our stress levels.

Studies have found that unwanted sound can cause stress and raise blood pressure, heart rates and levels of stress hormones. Cities hum and clang constantly, usually below our threshold of conscious awareness. A rumbling train locomotive can be heard for many kilometres in all directions.

Night is better, but city noise never stops.

Living out in the country means there is often a lack of noise, and at first, like the dark, I found it off-putting. Probably because we are social creatures and we take some comfort in being in aural proximity with others. Otherwise you have to wonder if you are the only person left on Earth.

After a while I became more comfortable with living under a cone of silence, and have even come to enjoy it a great deal. I can think better clear of auditory intrusions. I revel in the silence, broken only by natural, soothing sounds, like the wind, or bird calls, or a brook during a spring freshet.

Then the silence is broken by a jet flying overhead, one source of noise pollution that is hard to avoid, regardless of where you are on the globe. The noise from large passenger jets can travel up to 160km (100 miles). There is no altitude they can fly at which they are not audible, and the sound of any given flyby can be heard for up to eight minutes. Definitely an unwanted intrusion.

Sound ecologists remind us that while zero decibels is difficult to come by, there are still many places one can find that are notable for their natural sounds rather than those of civilization. I live in one such place.

Peace and quiet. Priceless.





March 29, 2017

It's Not You - It's Your Cage



There are times we may not feel good, perhaps lack energy for the daily grind. We may try to find solace in buying things we don't really need. Inevitably, we blame ourselves for our predicament. Unfortunately, so do our keepers.

We aren't ambitious enough, they say. Not trying hard enough, not driven to excel. If you aren't working yourself to death you're doing something wrong. Poor work ethic. They want us to believe it is a moral failing.

Wrong.

What people are feeling is an adverse reaction to the increasingly bland and dirty cage our keepers have built for us. Feeling down and drained right now seems like the proper response to what is happening to us in the consumer enclosure.

We are lab rats in a mad scientist's experiment that we didn't sign up for. Run on the wheel all day, forage for stuff, sleep. Repeat. Escape the cage for a day or a week off, then right back in. Run on the wheel all day, forage for stuff, sleep. Repeat.

Lab rats in similar conditions are driven to drugs to cope, then die an early death. And it's not just lab rats.

Similar results occur when humans are put into cramped, stressful cages. We also turn to drugs, whether cocaine or consumerism or a busy work life. In Japan, working one's self to death is called Karoshi, and victims only get off the wheel and escape the cage after dying of a heart attack or stroke due to stress. Corporate and social pressure props them up till then.

We don't naturally want endless amounts of work and buying stuff - they are understandable and socially sanctioned responses to the effects of coping with a bad cage and a sick experiment. We don't need to increase the number of more ambitious workers willing to shop perpetually, we need a better cage.

That is precisely what living simply provides - a better cage. The door is always open and the environment is rich in nature and community.

A simpler life is a less stressful, more contented life. Rather than concentrating on the few moments when grandiose living gives a temporary shot of feeling good, the simple life focuses on recognizing, and being grateful for, the special little moments of each and every day.

The simple life gives more time to do things that are important, like connecting with other humans in a deeper way than brief commercial exchanges. It is engaging your passions, unhindered by the mad scientists that want you to stay in their sad enclosure. It is about finding meaningful work that gives a sense of purpose and contributes to making the world a better place for all.

Feeling down? Can't help buying things you don't really need or want?

It's not you. It's your cage.




March 27, 2017

Remembering Chuck Berry


Thanks for Rock and Roll, Chuck Berry.




"Chuck Berry died on March 18th at the age of 90. Jim and Greg celebrate the life of Berry by looking at his iconic tracks, as well as his vast influence on future artists. They also talk about his work in later years and what it was like to share a stage with the guitar legend."









March 24, 2017

Happy To Not Buy Anything

My Not Purchasing Process - "I don't need it, and feel better without it."


Spending money can trigger a rush of happy chemicals in the brain yielding a high that has been compared to that after taking cocaine or crystal meth. For most people shopping provides a boost of brain juices and a warm fuzzy feeling results. What about the opposite?

Can not shopping give the same kind of boost of happiness as the joy of unbridled acquisition?

Psychologists and neuromarketing specialists have discovered more about the workings of the brain in the past two decades than the rest of history combined. Much of it has been used against us. New discoveries have aided our health, but have also been used to manipulate our spending habits.

Research has shown that the neurotransmitters such as dopamine are released when people shop. Can not buying anything achieve the same result? Unsurprisingly, I don't think any research has been done in this area, except perhaps my own personal data collection.

What I have found out is hardly new or original. Not buying things you don't need does lead to happy chemicals in the brain. Many visitors to this blog know this little secret.

One reader here commented,

"Its a strange feeling that not spending makes me feel more liberated." Or another shares the realization that, "the deeper I get into this, the less I need anything."

Another reader admits,

"As soon as I quit [needless shopping] I started finding myself focusing on all the wonderful things I already have, and what a blessing it is."  

Erin posted while not shopping for Christmas, and said, 

"I have not set foot in one store in the past few months and it is awesome to sit back and relax...no need to feel pressure or strain over "having" to buy."

These do not sound like unhappy people to me.

Dopamine is released when we approach a goal. That could be as we approach the cash register with a giant wide screen plasma internet-ready television balanced on a shopping cart, or it could be meeting a personal goal of shopping less and enjoying life more.

One of the best ways to restore low endorphin levels is to live a simple life. In a slower world with more time it is easier to meet the conditions required for the natural production of happy brain neurotransmitters.

When we have the time to notice the beauty around us, we don't have to turn to unhealthy methods for eliciting happy chemicals in our brains. Like consumerism.

We can be happy and content not buying anything.








March 22, 2017

Billboard Activism

R. Crumb illustration from "The Monkey Wrench Gang", Edward Abbey


I don't know of anyone that wants more billboards spread across the landscape. If anything, they would like fewer. But what about the ones that are already there?

You could burn them up, or cut them down, as in Edward Abbey's book, "The Monkey Wrench Gang". The group did "routine neighbourhood beautification projects, burning billboards along the highway 66". But I don't recommend it.

The free speech accorded to the advertising industry is fiercely protected to the full extent of the law so they can infect you with mind parasites that cause you to want to buy, buy, buy. Or conform. Or be afraid. Or hate this or that. Skin tags are the latest villain.

Or you could become a billboard artist/activist.

Take Jennifer Bolande, whose temporary artwork transforms a series of consecutive billboards in the desert landscape near Palm Springs, CA with photos of the landscapes they are blocking.

Each photograph is unique to its position along this route and at a certain point as one drives by, perfect alignment with the horizon occurs, revealing the beauty the billboard has blocked. It's a beautification project that reminds us of the damage done by the in-your-face advertising blighting highway sides that the wilderness-loving Edward Abbey disliked so deeply.


"Visible Distance/Second Sight" billboard art by Jennifer Bolande, image by Lance Gerber Studio


Or you could engage in a bit of billboard hacktavism such as during the run-up to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21). Street artists, working with the group Brandalism, altered ads in 600 European billboards, taking aim at global-warming denial and the corporate forces opposing climate action.





"Following on in the guerrilla art traditions of the 20th Century and taking inspiration from Agitprop, Situationist and Street Art movements, the Brandalism project sees artists from around the world collaborate to challenge the authority and legitimacy of commercial images within public space and within our culture. 
All the artwork is unauthorized and unsigned. This is not a project of self-promotion, and none of the artists names… or websites appear on the works: we believe there are already enough private interests taking ownership of our streets."                             
- from Brandalism website







Billboard activism - not as risky as burning or cutting them down, and possibly more impact through positive messages. I'm putting my gas can and chain saw away, and taking my art supplies out.

But I'm not turning in my honorary Monkey Wrench card.











March 20, 2017

Spring Is A Good Time To Celebrate All Life

All of Earth's life forms are from the same Tree of Life.


People around the world are celebrating life this week. Whether you are celebrating Eostre, the Mother Goddess, Easter, Passover, or Spring Equinox, it is all about rejoicing in the exuberance of life.

Life is something that has been woefully cheapened these days. Human beings are disturbingly expendable, and many thousands are sacrificed every week at the altar to the military-industrial complex and the lust for power, money and glory. 

How we treat non-human life is regrettably worse. We are nasty to each other, and we are deadly to the life forms that are either tasty, or that get in the way of our plans and ambitions. Billions and billions of Earth's creatures are slaughtered every year to feed humans. Many more die as a result of basic human greed.

How can one celebrate life and do it justice, while engaging in its destruction at the same time? Those fluffy yellow balls of chicks are cute, but many more like them are going to be debeaked, warehoused, then killed after short lives stuffed in cages while we steal their eggs.

Unless they are males in which case they are "quickly macerated" shortly after birth. Not exactly an image you want to think about during a celebration of life.

Like us, chickens and cows and pigs and turkeys and fish just want to live and be free. Like us, they are sentient, and that should give us pause. Spring is a good time to consider that reality.

In an article called "After 2,500 Studies, It's Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven", cognitive ethologist Mark Bekoff writes,

"The animals will be grateful and warmly thank us for paying attention to the science of animal sentience. When we listen to our hearts, we are recognizing how much we know about what other animals are feeling and that we owe it to them to protect them however we can."

Whether the animal in question is a human or a dog or cat or fish or cow, let us reflect on how we are treating the life around us, and how we are protecting it. All life is sacred.

Listen to your heart. Celebrate Life.

Happy Spring.



Note: This is an updated and reprinted post.



March 19, 2017

8.7 Million Reasons To Live Simply




Something people rarely take into account is the fact that we share this planet with an estimated 8.7 million other life forms (trillions of individuals). There are many, many species that are as yet unknown to us. Undoubtedly, our unchecked consumption habits will cause many of those to go extinct before we even discover that they used to be our neighbours.

Adopting a minimalist, simple lifestyle is a great way to honour ALL species, and allow them the best chances for survival on this gloriously diverse planet.


"We have only begun to uncover the tremendous variety of life around us. Smaller life forms are not well known anywhere. Some unknown species are living in our own backyards - literally."  
- Alastair Simpson 


When we talk about biological diversity we recognize three distinct types:

1. Genetic Diversity

2. Species Diversity

3. Ecosystem Diversity


All three of these forms of diversity are imperilled by our inability to overcome our selfish refusal to recognize other life, and accord it the same rights as our lives have. Because, after all, does not all life in all its myriad forms have a right to exist?

Part of transforming our greed-based system will be the recognition that we share this planet with millions of other species that deserve to live just as much as we do. When that happens, a peaceful and sustainable coexistence will begin that will change the way we do everything.

Need a reason to live more simply? To approach life with a minimalist's attitude? To live and let live? I have got 8.7 million reasons. And it is easy to come up with more, with little effort.


“Biodiversity is much more than beauty and wonder, important though that is. It also underpins ecosystem services that -- although not counted in conventional GDP -- humanity is dependent upon."
- Lord May


Do it for the planetary genetic material that keeps things running smoothly as we constantly adapt to change. Do it for all other species, our friendly, hard working neighbours. Do it for the amazing variety of ecosystems. Do it for your own survival. Do it for peace and cooperation and mutual benefit.

But just do it.

Still not enough reasons? Keep on reading NBA, and the comments that add so much to what we are doing here. Or consider adding a comment of your own. Maybe you have reason number 8,700,001 for living simply. We would love to hear it.


March 15, 2017

Don't Organize - Simplify!

And  more importantly, less to think about.


Help - I'm buried in a stuffalanche! My stuff is consuming me. What to do?

There are shelf-loads of books available to help get all your stuff organized.  You can buy closet organizers, storage locker organizers, shoe organizers, make-up organizers, garage organizers, and on and on the list goes. So many that one could use an organizer organizer.

There are even experts, consultants, coaches, and therapists devoted entirely to helping people organize all their stuff. Hmm...

Let me take a crack at it. On a purely non-profit basis of course.

My system is called, "Don't Organize - Simplify!". It's a non-organizing organizing system, and it has two straightforward, easy-to-follow steps.


1) The easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it. Let it go. As much as you can. Then, let go of more. Keep going until you start to feel free, fresh, and unburdened. That is a sign you are getting there! Go ahead, organize what is left. It should be easy.

2) Do not allow new stuff to take over your life ever again. Treat unnecessary stuff like the toxic waste that it is. Simplicity is the armour that protects you from mindlessness of consumer crap. Soon enough, you will lose interest in extra stuff altogether.
Contact me if you are tempted to buy something you don't need. I will talk you out of it. Congratulations, and continued success.


If you choose to organize, you will need to do it over again in a short while. And again. And again. And again. You get the picture. Your stuff takes over your life. You live for your stuff. And to get more stuff.

Stop! No more stuff.

Getting rid of the unnecessary allows one to decide what is truly necessary. It is the same whether we are talking about material clutter, or mental clutter.

Don't organize it - get rid of it. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Go ahead. I know you want to.

Ahh, feels good, doesn't it?






March 13, 2017

Reducing Waste Feels Great, Naturally



The wastes excreted by consumer societies are nothing short of a crime against nature. According to Mother Nature's Laws, waste is illegal, and the fines we are currently paying are measured in environmental destruction and a loss of the natural services upon which we rely.

Our processes are linear, unlike the cycles found all around us in the natural world. Industrial processing races straight from the extraction of raw materials directly to the ecosphere via the shortest possible path.

It doesn't have to be that way, although it is the most profitable in the short, short, short term.

In nature nothing is wasted. What is left over from one process is taken up by another, and so on through the cycle. From Producers to Consumers to Decomposers, eventually all that is left are the constituent components of life - which are then taken up by organisms, closing the loop.

And so it goes.


One person, giving all their time to a no-waste lifestyle, 
makes news. 
Many people, giving a little time,  
makes for world-changing events. 
- paraphrasing Peace Pilgrim


I discovered recently, a small scale clothing company that is emulating natural 'material' cycles. In the production of the clothing, the company uses waste as a valuable resource. All the fabric that the company uses is sourced from brokers that deal in the waste that comes plopping out of industrial clothing manufacturers.

For the large clothing company it is more profitable to toss the scrap material than it is to deal with it in a more eco-friendly manner. Industry experts estimate that anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of material used to produce clothing ends up wasted. Tons and tons of it end up in landfills.

The no-waste clothing company:

- makes all clothing from larger pieces of waste cloth.
- what is left over from that is cut into rectangles, sewn together, and used to make more clothes.
- what is left over from that (small bits of cloth and thread) is used to make paper, which is made into cards and sold.

When all is done there is nothing left over. Nothing. Everything has been used up.

This innovative clothing business is closing the loop in the use of materials. I find it impressive, logical, and hopeful. To me, this feels great, just as it does when I creatively work toward the goal of living a no-waste lifestyle.

It can be done. Nature has been doing it for billions of years.

First consumerism and it's unnatural excrements must go, then we can "close the loop" on our resource use. Everyone will feel better because it's the natural way... and nature knows best.


March 10, 2017

Nature Invites Us: "Be My Friend"



Nature has an open invitation for us all to become her friend. When you accept, you have returned into a long-standing relationship. The kind that is good for you. Now you will do anything to protect her from all harm.

Be a Friend of Nature. A Lover of Nature. A Defender of Nature. She will thank you in so many life-enhancing ways.


"On the day I am blue, I go again to the wood where the tree is swaying, arms touching you like a friend, and the sound of the wind so alone like I am; whispers here, whispers there, come and just be my friend."
 - Mi’kmaq poet, Rita Joe’s (1932-2007) last poem



March 8, 2017

A Day Without Women - General Strike

Image selected by Linda.


"The protest on Wednesday stems from the efforts of the organizers of last month’s Women March on Washington. The group called for a national walkout a month ago to coincide with International Women’s Day. 
On their website, the organizers wrote that the protest is aimed at “recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system—while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity.” 
The organizers are encouraging women to refrain from both paid and unpaid labor and to avoid shopping—unless it’s at a woman-owned establishment. They’re encouraging those who can’t participate in the strike, and men hoping to show support, to wear the color red in solidarity. 
They also suggest that men start a conversation about equal pay at work and pitch in with housework at the office and at home. The organizers have also encouraged employers to close or give female staff the day off." - The Atlantic



March 6, 2017

Improving Energy Efficiency With Door and Window Coverings

This unicorn is guarding our front door... from drafts and cold.

The home Linda and I live in is only 4 years old. Even so, it is not without room for improvement when it comes to energy conservation.

The average home loses up to 25% of its heat through windows and doors, so there is room for improvement there. While one can buy insulated window coverings and door curtains, I like to try to do as much as I can with things I already own rather than buy new stuff.

I have fashioned a door curtain for our front door, from an old blanket (yes, the same blanket I used in our DIY thermal cooker), and curtain pins. It works so well that on cold nights with the right wind, condensation on the door will freeze.


My simple bedroom window covering provides insulation in winter, shade in summer.

My window coverings are pieces of cloth, that we already had, attached to the inside window screens. I add clear garbage bags in winter to eliminate condensation and drafts (yes, brand new windows can have drafts, I am discovering). They are easy to put up and take down, and make our home feel more comfortable.

There is always something that can be done to make our homes more energy efficient. Even new ones. And it is surprising how much can be done while not buying anything.



March 4, 2017

10 Best Medicines

Healing sunshine is returning to my kitchen - Spring is coming.





Sunshine

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.”


- Luther Burbank


Air


"For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth."

- Sanskrit Proverb


Exercise 


"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it."

- Plato


Water 

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”


- Margaret Atwood


Food 

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”


- Hippocrates


Sleep 

“Sleep is the best meditation.” 

- Dalai Lama


Laughter  

“Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.”


- George Gordon Byron


Nature

“The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.”

- Voltaire


Meditation

“The more one meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be their world and the world at large.”

- Confucius


Love

"Love is a medicine for the sickness of the world; a prescription often given, too rarely taken."


 - Karl Menninger



Bonus Medicine - Music

"Philosophers of all ages have dwelt upon the importance of music as both an outlet for the spirit and emotions and as discipline for the mind. It is generally recognized that music gives access to regions in the subconscious that can be reached in no other way."

 ~Sophie Lewis Hutchinson Drinker (1888–1967), Music and Women, 1948



"Let a person be stimulated by poetry, established in character by the rules of propriety, and perfected by music."

- Confucius





March 1, 2017

What Does This Stuff Mean To Me?

Carrying the overweight backpack of useless consumer crap is an unnecessary burden.


Starting out in life I didn't think much about minimalism until I started going on multi-day backpacking trips into the mountains. My longest hike was 72km over 12 days. During excursions like that the pain of too much stuff can not be ignored.

To play jokes on each other my backpacking friends would put rocks at the bottom of someones pack. I didn't think it much funny. Guess what? That is exactly what consumer lifestyles are doing. Putting rocks in the bottom of people's packs. Useless weight. It is also not funny. Especially because one has to pay for those rocks.

Wilderness backpacking trips taught me about reducing the weight of possessions to the bare minimum, and helped me set a long term goal - reduce the amount of stuff I was "carrying" through life to only what I truly needed to get by and thrive. And no more.

Since then it has taken several years and two major moves to winnow the useful and necessary things that add to life from the rocks that just make everything hurt. It was far more difficult than a multi-day self-supported backpacking adventure, and perhaps even more rewarding.

Being free in the wilderness is liberating, but freeing yourself from the excessive trappings of a consumer lifestyle is even more so. It makes me want to call out, "Emancipate yourselves from consumer slavery. None but ourselves can free our lives (and wallets)."

To succeed it was first necessary to take a hard look at everything in my lifestyle pack and ask, "What does all this stuff mean to me?" It requires one to look at every single thing. Serious backpackers have been known to cut the tags off shirts and underwear to save weight. While the savings may be minimal when taken in isolation, you don't need those tags, and it all adds up.

Then consider deeply the significance of that thing. Do you love it? Cherish it? Would you die without it? Or might your life be improved by removing it permanently from your life? Have you used it lately? Does it make your life better and more beautiful right now?

As if that isn't hard enough, then you must deal with what you come up with after all that honest brain work. Argh! More questions.

Keep? Sell? Give away? Garbage? Ceremonial consumer crap funeral pyre in the backyard marking the death of wasteful lifestyles? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Yes, like a difficult, risk-filled backpacking adventure into the wilderness, downsizing is one challenging activity. Even if you don't have a lot of stuff. But both are well worth doing if you are a freedom junky like me.

You may not be able to escape civilization forever at the moment, but you can escape from the burden of the heavy baggage of expensive and excessive materialist lifestyles. Only keep the things that matter to you. Be ruthless about what you keep, and from then on, be ruthless about what you allow back  into your home.

And do regular checks for the rocks at the bottom of your pack.






February 27, 2017

Irradiated Food: Would You Like Cancer With That?

If you see this symbol on food packaging, or on the shelf by the food (or if the food is glowing),... don't buy it. 


Don't think you have had enough radiation exposure already in your lifetime? Don't think that medical exposure through X rays and other diagnostic procedures have given you enough? How about Chernobyl or Fukushima fallout? Or the global effects of thousands of nuclear bomb tests? Or natural radon gas in your basement?

Still not enough? You want more? Someone must be asking for more, because that is what we are getting. Now the industrial food industry is giving you a dose, and wants to give you more. Yes, right in the foods you eat every day.

Would you like a bit of cancer with those irradiated fries?

Over the weekend I was reading that my government has just approved ground beef for the irradiation process, and Health Canada would like Big Meat to consider other products for the same treatment. I don't eat meat, so didn't feel affected.

However, my false sense of security evaporated quickly with a bit more research.

I found out that irradiation is already used in Canada to treat foods like potatoes, onions, wheat, flour, spices and some seasonings. In this nuclear attack on our food, industrial food processors bomb their products with radiation in order to kill bacteria and parasites, and extend shelf life.

Dr. Samuel Epstein, chair of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, is quoted as saying, "Every man, woman and child who takes a bite of irradiated food increases their chance of getting cancer. It is no exaggeration to say that our government has turned people into guinea pigs."

But it will increase profits, so it is approved. Pure insanity and greed running rampant. It is as insidious as nuclear fallout. What we really need is to end industrial food processing, or at least clean up this notoriously dirty and unsustainable method of food production so that blasting our food with radiation does not even need to be considered.
Eat me! I'm radioactive.

By this time, everyone who should know does know, unless they are in deep denial, that there is no safe level of radiation. Period. Radiation kills.

It may kill slowly, and you may not be able to conclusively link it back to a particular radiation exposure (that is the beauty of it for the whole nuclear industry), but it is a killer, and this has been known for many decades.

It is hard not to feel like there is some one, or some thing, consciously trying to kill me. And you. But we can fight back.

Organic products can not be irradiated. Food you grow yourself, or is grown sustainably by people you know, is also a good bet. It will contain radiation from many of the sources listed above, but at least it won't have more added to it just before you and your family consume it.

In Canada irradiated products are supposed to show the benign looking symbol that appears to be similar to something good and green, like recycling. Don't be fooled. Such products should have to sport the truth, which would be something more like the international symbol indicating radiation danger.

With proper food growing, processing and handling, irradiation is not required. At all. Ever. No thank you - I do not want an increased risk of cancer with my meal.

The truth about irradiated foods. Danger!


1. Irradiation damages the quality of food.


2. Irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the food.


3. Irradiation using radioactive materials is an environmental hazard which exposes workers and consumers unnecessarily.


4. Irradiation is a quick fix with long-term consequences.


5. Irradiation doesn't solve the problem, it just covers it up.







February 24, 2017

More Thermal Cookery

The old stove on left features a "thermodome" that lowered over the cooking pot after the heat was turned off.


OK, after our recent experiment, I admit I am obsessed with thermal cookery. Or to be more exact, I have always been obsessed with energy efficiency.

The efficiency of a modern electric cook stove has a thermal efficiency of about 15%, meaning that 85% of the energy is wasted. This is partly because converting fossil fuels to electricity produces an energy efficiency of 20-45%, depending on the power plant.

There is much room for improvement, since this is about the same efficiency of an open fire, a truly ancient technology.

One way we can improve on the efficiency of the cooking process is by using thermal retention which prevents heat loss to the point that food continues cooking without additional energy.

Using thermal retention to cook foods can save up to 80% of the energy required for normal cooking, depending on the thermal cooker and heat source used, and on how long it takes to get the hot pot into the cooker.

An electric stove, when used with a thermal cooker, doubles its efficiency to about 26%, which still is not that good, but much better than the electric stove alone.

This old stove shows a "thermowell", a built-in thermal cooker. With the pot shown, one could cook three different foods in one pot. 

Around the early 1900s, kitchen stoves were designed with heat retention features, and were called "fireless cookers". Some old stoves had insulated bells that lowered over cooking pots to retain heat (marketed as "thermodomes"). Others had thermal cookers or insulated "wells" built right into the cooktop that pots could be lowered into for thermal cooking.

One such stove boasts of a "New and Improved Thermowell" that does one hour of cooking with only 10 minutes of energy use. Another was sold as the stove "that cooks with the gas turned off".


A 1950s era electric stove that still featured a built-in thermal cooker.

As power became more abundant, such efficiencies were lost. The good news is that we can re-introduce this energy saving technology quite easily in our modern kitchens with materials we may already possess.

Sample Cooking Times In A Thermal Cooker

White rice: 5 min on heat, 1-2 hours in cooker
Brown rice: 10-15 min heat, 2 hours in cooker
Potatoes: 5-10 min heat, 1-2 hours in cooker
Creamed soups: 2 min heat, 1 hour in cooker
Dried beans (soaked): 10-15 min, 3-4 hours in cooker


It is hard to imagine a more cost-effective technique to lower energy use than a homemade, DIY thermal cooker. See our post about trying out our first DIY thermal cooker HERE.

February 22, 2017

DIY Thermal Cooker

Camping cooler? No. DIY Thermal Cooker in action.


When it is easy to use a seemingly endless supply of energy, we tend to use more than we need. When using energy efficiently is more difficult or time consuming, the tendency is to use it more thoughtfully and frugally. That is what thermal cookery is all about.

Also known as "retained heat" cooking, this ageless method has been around since humans discovered that insulating a pot of hot food with banana leaves, or buried in the ground, is a great way to use energy more efficiently.

A thermal cooker is essentially a slow cooker without a power cord. Of course one can buy all manner of fancy thermal cookers, but this method hasn't been used for thousands of years because it is complicated or expensive.

The thermal cooker is a perfect DIY experiment in simple living, and one that Linda and I investigated this week in the NBA Simple Cooking Research Laboratory, or, our "kitchen". Armed with white lab coats and oversized magnifying glasses, we started with sorting/rinsing 3 cups of pinto beans, destined to become one of our staples, refried beans.


Bringing dried pinto beans to a boil and 10 minute simmer on the electric cooker.

On the stove top we brought the water-covered beans to a boil, then simmered covered on medium heat for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes we took the bean pot off the stove and immediately put it into our DIY Thermal Cooker, a camping cooler stuffed with a large blanket. You can also use straw, sawdust (shouldn't that be "treedust"?), balled up newspaper, old pillows, an old sleeping bag, or any other insulating materials.











The blanket was stuffed firmly around the pot, lid closed, then left to continue cooking overnight. The next morning the still warm beans were done and ready for flavouring and mashing to make refried beans.

The vessel used for the cooker can be about anything as well. It can be built in a cardboard box, laundry basket, hole in the ground, or a heat retention bag sewn specifically for this purpose.


Example of heat retention bag for thermal cooking.


Why waste energy when there is an easy way to use it more efficiently? Perhaps because that more efficient method may not be as convenient. Unfortunately, convenience always entails unintended consequences, like excessive waste. But the worst of it is that convenience-at-all-costs leads to a less beautiful, self-sufficient, mindful life.

Rather than convenience, I like to think about what the most efficient and life-affirming way of doing things might be, even if that means something I do is "harder" or more difficult. Imagine life if we never did things that are hard to do. Just because something is harder, doesn't mean it isn't beneficial.

Conducting experiments in living more simply, and trying out new things, is not inconvenient, it is challenging, rewarding and a great deal of fun. The DIY thermal cooker was a good example of that principle. We are adopting this energy efficient method of cookery in our kitchen. I mean, laboratory.

See more on thermal cookers HERE.
"Cooking, ultimately, is about heat, how heat enters the food and what happens to the food when it enters." 
- Cooking For Engineers




February 19, 2017

Playing In The Snowy Woods



Regular readers of this blog will know that I usually post about 3 times a week. This past week was different. Why? Because of three words: Big. Snow. Storm.




Despite winds that whipped up 3 metre (10 ft) drifts, the power never went off. Nor was my internet connection severed. No, it was the great outdoors calling to me that kept me away. Over the years I have learned to respond when I hear nature call, and nothing beckons me outdoors more excitedly than a Big Snow Storm.




So after a dump of 60cm (2 ft) of lovely white stuff I set aside my "work" and let my inner child go out to play. I played till my lungs were scrubbed clean with fresh air, my cheeks rosy, and my legs sore. There really is nothing more fun, or beneficial to your health, than a day playing in the snow.

Even better is several days playing in the snow. While out, my face hurt from smiling constantly.




The forecast is for temperatures above freezing so the big melt is coming, confirming that taking advantage of the white playground in my back yard while it existed was the right thing to do. Now I wait for hiking and biking weather. And write.




“I used to love those days when it was so cold everyone else would be tucked away inside trying to stay warm. I would be the only one out walking, so I could look across the fields and see miles of snow without a single footprint in it. It would be completely silent - no cars, no birds singing, no doors slamming. Just silence and snow.” 
- Damien Echols







February 14, 2017

Finding Sanctuary In The Simple Life

Simplicity provides sanctuary from the buffeting winds of modern consumer life. In this place one will enjoy great inner peace.


I was crossing the field behind my house on snowshoes yesterday, headed for the shelter of the forest below. I was fighting my way through a white out while being buffeted by wind gusts reaching 100 km/hr. It was scary and strangely exhilarating, like life in general these days.

After almost being knocked over, I made it to the edge of the trees. More than other days, it really felt like going "into" the woods. In the open deciduous trees at the forest fringe, it was still quite windy, although I didn't feel like I would be blown away any more.

That part of the forest is like a vestibule, or covered porch. The real shelter is just a bit farther in where the spruce forest begins. The spruce forest grows close in, the trees not minding rubbing snow covered shoulders with each other.

It is here that one can find total reprieve from the wind, regardless of speed or direction. Although I could hear the freight train wind around me, where I was in the trees was complete calm and tranquility.

While the snow was blowing horizontally at face-stinging speeds in the field, just a bit farther on I stood in a pocket of peace surrounded by snow covered spruce. Here, unbelievably, the snow was gently falling straight down.

Afterwords, while warming up by the fire back at home, I thought of how a simple life is like that pocket of calm in the spruce trees. Living a slower life with fewer things with which to concern yourself, provides sanctuary from the wild storm of complication raging all around.

It was only because I knew that the forest would provide me with sanctuary as soon as I got to it, that I was fearless in striking out across the wind-blasted expanse of the open field. So it is with the sanctuary provided by simplicity.

I can engage in the world without fear of being blown away by it, because I am always able to return to the calm, tranquil existence that simplicity provides. And who couldn't use more peace, calm and tranquility in scary times?

For fast acting relief from the storm, simplify your life. A spruce forest is also good.








February 10, 2017

Bamboozled

We've been bamboozled.

We've been bamboozled into giving power over to an out of control system. It's a game, and most of us have lost.

Scientist Carl Sagan knew that when we give our power away, we almost never get it back. Lending our support to the consumer scam is a good example. Now it is a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut, and it continues to suck the power from both people and the Earth.

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this", warned Sagan: "If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. Them bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken."

Living to shop, rather than shopping to live, has usurped our power. We should want it back, but we have been taken and don't even notice that it is gone. And has been for a very long time.

One way we can regain our power, tear it away from those that lie for fun and profit, is to speak the truth about the way things are, for Sagan also said, "If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth."

When we quit rejecting the truth about our profligate lifestyles and the repercussions they have for the whole globe, the whole thing starts to crumble. We see through the lies and we destroy that which holds power over our better judgment.

We realize it doesn't have to be this way.


The Truth About The Consumer Bamboozlement


1. We have been trained since birth to want things we do not need, and wouldn't ever want if it weren't for the high pressure tactics used against us.

2. We would be happier with less work, less stuff, and more freedom to live the simple lives we really desire.

3. It is not about you being happy, or content. The system is not for your benefit. It is foisted upon us so that major players can take your power. And your money. And your life, cradle to grave.

4. It is not the only way to do things, and it has not always been this way. At the most, only the past 300 years have been focused on getting you to give away your money and your life so a small group can carry out a global coup and enslave everyone.

5. Of those years, only about the past 60 have been about having extreme consumption as The Goal in life.

6. Most people on the planet do not partake in shopping for pleasure, but big business will not be satisfied until everyone is participating. The planet will collapse far before that ever happens.

7. It feels great to not buy anything, and quit being bamboozled and exploited by the taking advantage of our baser emotions and desires.







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