December 31, 2010

My help is in the mountain
Where I take myself to heal
The earthly wounds
That people give to me.
I find a rock with sun on it
And a stream where the water runs gentle
And the trees which one by one give me company.
So must I stay for a long time
Until I have grown from the rock
And the stream is running through me
And I cannot tell myself from one tall tree.
Then I know that nothing touches me
Nor makes me run away.
My help is in the mountain
That I take away with me.

- Nancy Wood

Happy Sustainable New Year from Not Buying Anything. May you experience the comfort, freedom, and joy of living more simply in 2011. Let's be good to ourselves, each other, and the planet throughout the new year.

Resolution Round Up

Mother Time, by Rima Staines

John Selden said, "Never tell your resolution beforehand, or it’s twice as onerous a duty." I thought about that for a while in 2010 since I publicly declared my resolutions here. However, like most people I forgot about my resolutions after a while, and that I posted them. This lowered the onerosity factor considerably. What could be onerous, is looking back at my resolutions.

A year older and a year wiser, I look back on my 2010 list with new eyes. The first thing I notice is that there are 10 resolutions. What was I thinking? Of the Americans that still bother to make resolutions, only about 8% set four or more. Optimistic? Very. Realistic? Perhaps not.

My giant list of resolutions did provide a framework for change though, and some of them were actually met. But in the name of simplicity, this year I am cutting back to one.

In addition to adopting only one resolution for 2011, I am also going to practice being less uptight and goal oriented. I will achieve this by not targeting a specific and possibly unrealistic goal, such as "I will exercise 90 minutes a day, 7 days a week", and by replacing it with a more achievable and enjoyable broad theme.

Setting resolutions should inspire us and bring joy and success. They should lead us to happiness rather than seeing us reluctantly conforming to the misguided and unrealistic expectations others may have for us. Resolutions should give us wings and inspire us to be more.

So here I go, ditching the expectations, bitterness, and potential defeat of traditional New Years resolutions, and replacing my 10 specific goals for 2010 with one broad theme for 2011.

My one, simple resolution for the new year is: To live more freely with exuberant enthusiasm.

Happily meeting this resolution will lead me to live more simply, to enjoy every moment, and to take care of myself and others. This is what I want for the coming year. I feel lighter already.

    December 28, 2010

    No Mischief Monday

    "Earth to Humanity: I can manage your need, but not your greed."

    Make 2011 the Year of Living More Simply and Sustainably.

    December 25, 2010

    Dawn on the first day of winter, Sooke, B.C
     "It's time to start living the life 
you've imagined." 
- Henry James

    Seasons Greetings From NBA
    We hope you are all well, and in the company of the people you love. Enjoy these precious moments. Slow down, let them soak in. This is a special time of year for all of nature. The birth of a new year is an exciting time of potential and promise. May your year be great, and your life what you've always imagined.

    December 22, 2010

    Yule: Celebrating Nature And Longer Days

    One beef I have with traditional Christmas is the lack of emphasis on nature. The closest connection we have left is the annual tree slaughter. But it wasn't always this way.

    This time of year used to be more about celebrating our connection to, and dependence on, nature.

    Pagan celebrations of winter solstice are among the oldest celebrations around, and rightfully so. Imagine living in pre-historic times and watching the sun diminish a little bit more each day after June 21. And with the sun goes the heat. Then, as now, there is nothing more important than the sun. It is the energy that drives life as we know it. And for months that energy has been draining away.

    By today, Yule, daylight is down to a few hours of weak light hardly worth the eight minute journey from the sun. Sure the sun came back last year, but will it come back again? What if it didn't? It is hard to get stuff done when you feel like crawling into bed at 4:30 in the afternoon, and staying there till 9:30 the next morning.
    "Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half.   Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day.  Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb.  Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider."

    -   Yule Lore  
    I invite you to join me in wassailing the return of the sun, and the gifts that nature freely gives. Two thousand years ago the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna said, "Things derive their being and nature by mutual interdependence and are nothing in themselves". We are nothing without nature, and we are nothing without each other.

    I love Yule - let's celebrate.

    December 20, 2010

    No Mischief Monday

    Give the gift of love - it's free

    Not Buying Anything For Christmas

    Merry Buy Nothing Christmas
    In keeping with our move toward sustainability, Not Buying Anything is having a Buy Nothing Christmas. The following ideas are offered as support toward helping you celebrate a non-consumer oriented Alternative Christmas. I hope it helps you spend less (or no) money, and enjoy the holidays (and each other) more.

    1. Avoid shopping between Halloween and the end of January.
    2. Does Consumer Christmas insult your soul? Dismiss it, and make your own low impact, sustainable tradition to celebrate the season.
    3. Be brave and do not give in to the sense of obligation that is fueled by people trying to separate you from your money.
    4. Have a potluck with friends, or a cookie exchange, or both.
    5. Get together around a blazing hearth to enjoy each others company and talk, sing, share, and laugh.
    6. Make all the gifts you will give - be creative and share your special talents.
    7. One year my sister gave me a binder full of song lyrics and chords for guitar. I loved her selection of music and how it was all artfully put together. This could also be done as a cookbook, or photo album, or...
    8. Spend time instead of money. Sure people like neat things, but they probably like you more - spend some time with them doing something you enjoy.
    9. If you want to buy gifts, purchase practical things that the recipient would buy anyway - toothpaste, food, fair trade coffee, tea, or chocolate. How about items to increase self-reliance and emergency preparedness? Such gifts are really needed, and will be appreciated.
    10. Consider that this season is all about helping each other, and often that can be done for free.
    Have less. Live more. Help each other.

    December 18, 2010

    Make It Last: Toilet Paper (Or How To Wipe With One Square Or Less)

    Could you live without toilet paper? 

    Sheryl Crow, singer and environmentalist, once famously said that we should only use one square of toilet paper each time we went to the bathroom. 

    The media thought she was joking, but I don't think so. It is possible to do your business with one square. Or less.

    Standing in front of the items, formerly known as trees, in the disposable paper product aisle of my grocery store, I spotted the 100% post-consumer variety of toilet tissue (98% of tissue is made from virgin trees). A pack of 24 rolls was $14.00 with tax. It made me pause.

    I realized that I am part of a tiny portion of humans that use toilet paper, and it seemed like an outrageous expenditure both personally and environmentally. Millions of trees are cut annually to make fibre for a cleaning method that few use. But the few use a LOT - the bum tissue market is a multi-billion dollar per year enterprise. I decided it was time to change my routine and initiate Sheryl Crow's One Square Limit immediately.

    I am adopting the ways of over a billion people on the planet, and have been using water and my left hand. I visited India several years ago for a few months so feel somewhat comfortable with this method. Still, after a lifetime of being exposed to the all pervasive advertisements for the softest toilet paper in the known universe, it is hard to overcome the programming. For the time being I will allow myself one square to dry off afterward.

    Taking living with less to extremes, I calculated how long I could stretch my current tp stash. The package has 24 rolls, and each roll has 280 squares. In all there are 6720 squares. That means the pack should last for about 15 years. My patient partner in simple living will need some too, so including her allotment let's say we have about 5 years worth. We're good to 2015.

    After that I am quitting toilet paper altogether. The period of weaning should make it a gentle transition to joining the majority of the human race that has never seen ultra-plush, four-ply, pillowy soft tissue. Or scratchy single ply for that matter. One small wipe for a man, one giant swipe for sustainability. Thanks, Sheryl.

    December 15, 2010

    Plastic Bags, Sea Turtles, and Going Zero Waste

    It's hard to believe that prior to the 1980s there were no plastic bags hanging from tree limbs or blowing artfully in gentle breezes. A scant 3 decades later and the planet is smothering under a tidal wave of the shopper's best friend - filmy, sturdy, and convenient plastic bags.

    Between 500 billion and a trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year. It seems like 50% of this problem plastic ends up flapping in trees. Another 48% probably ends up in the plastic slick in the middle of the North Pacific.

    When these bags are eaten by sea turtles who mistake them for jelly fish, it endangers their lives. Most bags break down into tiny, toxic specks that eventually make it into the food chain. Hey, aren't we at the top of the food chain?

    I figure that about 1% of plastic bags are reused and landfilled, and 1% are recycled (it costs more to recycle plastic bags than make new ones). Many grocery stores, though, have quit offering plastic bags altogether in a move in the right direction. It isn't a question of "paper or plastic" any more, because both are unnecessary. Using reusable bags is the way to go.

    But in true human fashion, my most pressing conundrum is not dying sea turtles or plastic merchants propagating oil wars. I have been successful in getting off plastic bags. So staunch has been my refusal of the silky sacks that my giant bag of bags has dwindled to nothing.

    And there is the conundrum. What will I use to take the trash out? I think the plastic in the food chain is affecting my thinking already because I can't remember how we did things in the Pre-plastic Era.

    Using newspaper to create a liner for the garbage can is one way I thought I might replace plastic. The newspaper would be more biodegradable and keep the can clean. But what I decided would be best is to go zero waste. Recycle everything I can and collect food waste for composting.

    I am changing my plastic habits and reducing the amount of waste I produce. Very little is coming into my home so it shouldn't be that hard to make sure nothing leaves it destined for the landfill. That should keep the sea turtles happy, and ultimately, what makes sea turtles happy will make us happy.

    December 12, 2010

    WikiLeaks: Not Buying Secrecy and Lies

    A just and fair world depends largely on the free flow of information. It used to be that the media provided the people with such information through investigative journalism. Now that the MSM is in the pockets of corporations and frequently defers to government power, it is increasingly hard for people to become fully informed. We can not build a better world based on lies and secrecy.

    We have a right to know what governments are doing with our tax dollars in the name of serving the people. The expert below is from an article I read on Alternet which summed up the WikiLeaks 'controversy' for me:
    "One of the only journalists with a relatively large following who has handled the WikiLeaks revelations in a way that is consistent with the tenets of professional journalism has been Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!. She has delved into the substance of the documents free of the psychobabble and voyeuristic obsession with Assange. The rest of the herd, with some exceptions, have been either wasting precious airtime or column inches trashing Assange or discussing how best the government can shield itself from future whistle-blowers.
    The fact is Julian Assange possesses no security clearance and doesn't work for the United States government. He could not have "leaked" anything even if he wanted to. The documents in question are not private. They are official correspondence by federal employees and therefore are public property (and will be treated as such when they become a normal part of the national archives). Missed in the blather about WikiLeaks is that whoever inside the government might have leaked the documents probably did so out of a sense of civic engagement or even duty. Besides, if the motives of U.S. foreign policy are as pure as our leaders claim they are, then what's the big deal if these documents see the light of day?"  - Joseph Palermo

    Let the antiseptic sunlight of truth shine and burn away the lies, hypocrisy, and corruption. Then we can move toward a more just and fair world that works for all.

    December 9, 2010

    Simple Living And Climate Change

    As another international conference on climate change faces being diluted to the point of uselessness by big money interests, many are wondering if meaningful action will ever come. Will Cancun go down in history as Can'tcun?

    Author/educator Bill McKibben has been in Mexico the past few days, and says that people power is what is needed. He sees the current process as being successfully hijacked by big oil and complicit governments. Again.
    "It’s on who has the power. And at the moment, that power rests in the hands of the fossil fuel industry and their allies in governments around the world. And until we build some independent outside movement power to push back, then we’re never going to get—we’re going to get scraps from the table, at the very best."  
    Meanwhile witnesses representing the billions that are most affected by climate change protest outside watched by soldiers in Hummers. The people are not invited to the table. Against these barriers to change, what can a person do?

    Simple living is an effective, and doable, solution we can adopt to address climate change. We can decrease our carbon footprint, and increase our enjoyment of living at the same time. We can take back our power, create a more just planet, and address the climate crisis.

     Living simply reduces our reliance on the fossilized forces advocating profit over human and planetary welfare. Taking personal responsibility for climate change will give us the power to push back as we become more self-reliant and sustainable.

    Individual actions and choices are what will turn things around if our governments are indeed unable to fulfill their responsibility to their citizens. How can we expect Cancun to do anything if we are unable to change our own way of life?

    The more simply and sustainably we live, the smaller our carbon footprint will be. Growing our own food, reducing energy-intensive travel, living in smaller more efficient spaces, and working less are all examples of ways simple living addresses climate change. A slower, deeper life requires less energy, saves us money, and reduces stress.

    We should not be surprised, or daunted, by the failure of the establishment to make change. But we will be remiss if we fail to seize this historic opportunity for the people to come together and address this issue in a way we have never seen before. Living small-footprint, increasingly sustainable lives will be part of this response.

    December 6, 2010

    No Mischief Monday

    Billboard Liberation

    Credit: Chum Frink

    Full Body Scanners And Intimate Pat Downs Getting You Down?

    How to avoid airport full body scanners and intimate pat downs:

    1. Take the bus.
    2. Walk - everywhere is within walking distance if you have enough time.
    3. Ride a bike to your destination.
    4. Sail (watch out for pirates).
    5. Take a week and cross the ocean on a ship.
    6. Have a travel vacation with a team of horses and covered wagon.
    7. Have to travel for work? Change jobs.
    8. Travel in style - take the train.
    9. Stay home.

    December 4, 2010

    Christmas Is A Mandarin Orange

    The winter holiday season is full of memories for me, but not because of presents. I actually can't remember any Christmas presents I have ever received. This isn't because of my two concussions either. In hindsight, presents just did not amount to much compared to everything else the season involved.

    The anticipation of Mandarin oranges, for example. Now that you can get them year round the easy to peel orange has lost some of its specialness, but I still only buy them in December.

    When the cold, short days of winter descend upon the land, the smell of peeling a Mandarin orange wakes me up like a citrus smelling salt. And like the smelling salt, the Mandarin orange can arouse consciousness. And this time of year we could all use a bit of consciousness arousal.

    Although I do not remember the actual presents, I keenly remember the anticipation of presents. Presents are at their best arranged haphazardly under a heavily tinselated tree, and admired at night with lights a-glow. Magic!

    The neatly wrapped boxes allow the mind to wander and imagine what wonderful things they might contain. Delay of gratification is hard, but can be delicious if nurtured properly. Indeed, it is the best part of presents.

    Once the glittery gift wrap comes off, though, gratification proves to be wispy and dissipates quickly. Then it's back to the mixed nuts, and playing with empty gift boxes.

    And eating Mandarin oranges.

    December 3, 2010

    Too Much Information

    We have reached the end of another broadcast day...

    I remember a simpler time with fewer distractions.

    It was a wonderful moment in my life when there was no internet, and TV stations ended the broadcast day at midnight. 

    The madness actually stopped, replaced with a test pattern, and a sine wave tone.

    Today we are constantly bombarded with information, images, and sounds. All day, every day. 

    If TV stations still stopped broadcasting at midnight today people would do what they should be doing - sleep.

    It has been a while since futurists have been predicting a 24 hour world where nothing ever closes. Why would we want that? 

    Just in case you feel like shopping between 3:00 and 5:30 AM and don't want to be inconvenienced by shuttered, dark stores?

    Go to bed, and let the shop keepers sleep, too. 

    We don't need a 24 hour world. What we really need is a 12 hour world. The other 12 hours we can forget about doing and concentrate on being.

    There are holdouts in some places where stores are still closed on Sundays, the people preferring to keep at least one day a week free of the preoccupation of endless commerce. 

    North Americans see see an average of 3000 ads per day, and make hundreds of decisions per hour. 

    We can use some of those decisions to limit the amount of information we take in. 

    Too much information in our lives has negative consequences for our mental well being. 

    We can choose to end the broadcast day. 

    We can make it stop.

    November 29, 2010

    No Mischief Monday

    “Be content with what you have;
    rejoice in the way things are.
    When you realize there is nothing lacking,
    the whole world belongs to you”
    ~ Lao Tzu

    Do With Less - So They'll Have Enough

    The state of wealth distribution globally has been worsening in recent decades. Twenty percent of the world's population consumes eighty percent of the resources.

    In 1976 in the United States the richest 1% of families owned 20% of the wealth. By 2007 they had increased their already ample portion of the pie to 35%.

    That makes the WW II poster above a message for the times. Just replace the image with the slum soldier below who fights a grim battle for survival every day in his Mumbai home.

    It is a sad commentary on the state of the world that we can ration in order to enhance our military's effectiveness, but will not live with less in peace time in order to save the lives of our brothers and sisters that lack the necessities of life.

    Those of us in the privileged top consuming nations could do with less so the 80% of the population that gets by on only 20% of the resources would have enough. Controlling desires and rationing our consumption of resources will lead us to our fair share.

    Then there can be enough for all.

    November 25, 2010

    Neil Young: The Restless Consumer

    Neil Young - "The Restless Consumer"

    Neil Young has been one of my musical favorites for a long time. He is a poet and a rebel, and I really enjoy his work which often highlights the plight of the common people and an embattled planet. He tirelessly speaks out against the war machine, the hypocrisy, and the lies. He is so right when he says, "We don't need no more lies."

    In 2003 Young released Greendale which chronicles the life of a character named Sun Green. She isn't just an environmental and political activist - she discovers that she comes from a proud tradition of women that have chosen unconventional lifestyles in response to 'progress' founded on exploitation of people and the earth.

    I saw Young backed by Crazy Horse perform this theatrical production/rock concert. The powerful performance was unlike any live show I had seen before, and its message was spot on.

    Young only seems to be getting better, and since then has released the album Living With War. This guy is definitely not slowing down or going soft in his elder years. My favorite song from the 2006 album is:

    The Restless Consumer
    The people have heard the news
    The people have spoken
    You may not like what they said
    But they weren't jokin'

    Way out on the desert sands
    Lies a desperate lover
    They call her the "Queen of Oil"
    So much to discover

    Don't need no ad machine
    Telling me what I need
    Don't need no Madison Avenue War
    Don't need no more boxes I can see

    Covered in flags but I can't see them on TV

    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies

    The restless consumer flies
    Around the world each day
    With such an appetite for taste and grace

    People from around the world
    Need someone to listen
    We're starving and dying from our disease
    We need your medicine
    How do you pay for war
    And leave us dyin' ?
    When you could do so much more
    You're not even tryin'

    Don't need no TV ad
    Tellin' me how sick I am
    Don't want to know how many people are like me
    Don't need no dizziness
    Don't need no nausea
    Don't need no side effects like diarrhea or sexual death

    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies

    The restless consumer lies
    Asleep in her hotel
    With such an appetite
    For anything that sells

    A hundred voices from a hundred lands
    Need someone to listen
    People are dying here and there
    They don't see the world the way you do
    There's no mission accomplished here
    Just death to thousands

    A hundred voices from a hundred lands
    Cry out in unison

    Don't need no terror squad
    Don't want no damned Jihad
    Blowin' themselves away in my hood
    But we don't talk to them
    So we don't learn from them
    Hate don't negotiate with Good

    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies
    Don't need no more lies

    The restless consumer flies
    Around the world each day
    With such an appetite for efficiency
    And pace...

    November 23, 2010

    Extreme Frugal Living: Cutting Your Own Hair

    Warning: cutting your own hair can have unintended consequences
    Sometimes children, the little mini-rebels that they are, will cut their own hair. Why? Because there is something strangely fun and liberating about it. I know. I have been cutting (or should I say 'hacking') my own hair for about a year now.

    Over the past few years my partner, Linda, has been cutting my hair. I have always been happy with the results. This is not surprising because we did a fair amount of research before we delved into home haircutting. We consulted on-line resources, but found books from the library to be the best source of hair help for beginners.

    But who hasn't looked in the mirror at some point or another and felt the urge to pick up those shiny, sharp scissors and just start cutting? I have been giving in to this urge lately. I try to remember what the books taught, but essentially I am enjoying the freedom to simply hack at will. Damn the latest coiffure craze - let fate decide the outcome.

    I realize that self-styling one's hair is an option few will choose. Most will say that for what it costs you might as well have it done right by a professional. But there are reasons beyond money to increase your self-reliance.

    For one, the kids are right - it IS fun to cut your own locks. It is fun to take charge of your own life and feel the surge of satisfaction at being able to take care of business. How can I control my life if I can't even control my hair?

    Then there is the challenge of learning a new skill. What you learn about your own hair can be applied to the hair of other willing victims. You could cut your partner's hair. Or you could trade haircuts for food.

    And finally, there is the thrill of victory when you fluke out and give yourself a good cut. For free! Conversely, you can experience the pain of defeat like the little guy in the picture above. But it is possible to leave an expensive hair salon with the pain of defeat. It has happened to me, and probably everyone else that has ever paid for hair care.

    Ultimately, though, it is just fun to pick up the scissors and slice off a chunk here and there. I have gotten better over the months, and when I am not so successful, either Linda does damage control, or I wear a hat. Or cut the whole mess down to bristles, which is also fun and liberating.

    Whatever the case, it is true frugal living at its most dangerous and thrilling. Do try this at home... carefully.

    November 21, 2010

    Resistance Through Not Buying Anything

    Gated communities are becoming more popular around the world
     Living a small footprint, more sustainable life can be a form of resistance, as well as a preparation for an uncertain future. It is a resistance to the profligate waste and greed surrounding us in the brutally competitive world of economic winners and losers. At the same time, learning to live with less prepares us for what will certainly be a more thrifty future.

    Life is changing faster and more dramatically than ever before. Peak oil, global financial collapse, climate change, the still growing gap between rich and poor, and the destruction of the middle class are all pressing and urgent challenges. It is making previous challenges and changes like the Cold War, or puberty, look pretty mild in comparison.

    Chris Hedges, in an April, 2009 article called "Resist or Become Serfs" paints this grim picture:
    "America is devolving into a third-world nation. And if we do not immediately halt our elite’s rapacious looting of the public treasury we will be left with trillions in debts, which can never be repaid, and widespread human misery which we will be helpless to ameliorate. Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty. This is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. The stimulus and bailout plans are not about saving us. They are about saving them. We can resist, which means street protests, disruptions of the system and demonstrations, or become serfs." 
    Hedges is writing about the U.S., but the infection is global. These global challenges require a global response. Simplifying our lives (in industrialized countries) and reducing our consumption will be inevitable. Even if we could afford to continue our 5-earth lifestyles, the earth can't.

    This is our chance to shift to a better, less resource-intensive way of life. We will be happier in the end, but there are powerful forces working against us. The Good Life illusion, formulated when greed was supposedly good, has mesmerized us for decades. But forcing ourselves to act solely in our own best interest in the name of profit, has only brought misery and destruction. Resisting the lies is difficult, but resist we must.

    Not buying anything is my form of resistance. If we are to do the least amount of harm while here on this funny little planet, then we can not participate in the harmful activities of our misguided system. And it has proven to be harmful.

    Although living simply is an age-old tried and true form of resistance, I am also open to protesting in the streets. It is our responsibility as citizens to disrupt rotten systems, and demonstrate for positive change.

    Together we will foster a humane response to human and environmental suffering, which is cooperation and solidarity.

    Not competition, self interest, and gated communities.

    November 18, 2010

    Extend Buy Nothing Day To The Other 364 Days

    Some have called Buy Nothing Day an 'insult to those too poor to be classified as consumers', and 'ineffective' in changing our destructive system. But a day that promotes consuming less and producing less waste is alright by me. Stopping shopping so that we can start living is something I support.

    But if all we do is buy nothing on that one day, and fail to change our purchasing behaviour the other 364 days, then the activity IS ineffective. As a tool to increase awareness, BND helps us to do something we might not otherwise do - stop, and question our shopping habits.

    We shop for entertainment, or for status, or to feel good. We shop to feed an addiction, or because we are doing what we are told. We may even shop because we are afraid of what will happen to life as we know it if we stop shopping. It is healthy to know what the reasons and motives are for our own patterns of consumption.

    Once we begin to figure out why we are consuming so much, we can begin to question why we are working so much. We can ask why we are too busy to raise our kids, or maintain our health, or keep up with friends and family. We can try to figure out why we are always either making money, or spending money. Then we can stop the madness.

    Enjoy buying nothing on November 26/27, or any other day of the year, and vow to increase your resistance against capitalist exploitation in the future.

    Buy Nothing Day Activities:
    1. Go for a walk in nature.
    2. Make a plan for increasing self-sufficiency.
    3. Figure how much money you might have spent in a day - use it to pay down debt.
    4. Have a Free Garage Sale - enjoy giving stuff away.
    5. Cook your favourite meal - share it with someone.
    6. Commit to a Buy Nothing Christmas.
    7. Do some online research on the negative effects of unchecked capitalism.
    8. Write letters to elected officials demanding action on regulation and sustainability.
    9. Spend time with your family -  play cards, or a board game, or sing, draw, play.
    10. Make it a 'Do Nothing Day', and relax.

    November 15, 2010

    No Mischief Monday

    What worries some people about consumption is that the affluent, technologically advanced West seems more and more focused not on consuming to live but living to consume. The problem with consumption, and the consumer capitalism that has pushed it to feverish historical extremes, is that it has become so all-consuming.
    -Rodney Clapp

    November 14, 2010

    There's No Garbage, Only Resources

    Some hoarders report seeing material objects, no matter how lowly, in a different way than most people. An 'adjusted' person can toss an empty paper coffee cup aside without a thought, while the hoarder would agonize over this same simple act. The hoarder knows the cup is still useful, so can't throw it away. I fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

    Where I fall, though, is more toward the hoarders way of seeing things. I cringe when people throw away perfectly good items. Where most people see garbage, waste, and refuse, I see gifts, wonder, and resources. I am an excellent candidate for hoarderism.

    In truth, though, I could never be a hoarder because I ruthlessly limit what enters my home. Last week a neighbour stopped by to say she was moving out soon. She invited me over to see if there was any furniture or household items that she could give me. Free.

    "No", I said almost immediately, "there is nothing that I need, but thank you very much for the offer."

    Not only am I not buying anything, but you can't even GIVE me anything any more. I don't want it, I don't need it. I am achieving a steady state where I am satisfied with my quality of life, and my quantity of stuff. Steady as she goes.

    But stuff still manages to get into my house, mostly as packaging in my groceries. Plastic mesh bags for example. My inner hoarder will not let me throw them away - they are resources. I enjoy challenging myself to see what kind of creative uses I can come up with for such items.

    I found several uses for the mesh bags:
    • suet feeders for the birds
    • bottle washer made from a short, straight stick with the plastic mesh on one end
    • hangers to get onions, bananas, and tomatoes off my small counter tops - I hang them from under my upper cupboards
    • folded into dish and/or vegetable scrubbers
    • soap holder to reduce soap slime in the dish
    • you can pull them over your head and face without suffocating
    • and, you can use a mesh bag to hold all your mesh bags

    Now if I could just figure out what to do with all that belly button lint.

      November 11, 2010

      Make It Fun

      Note: If you stop the video at 1:43 you will not need to see the corporate sponsor

      Natural limits require us to live more simply, to reduce our ecological footprint. However, learning to live in harmony with the earth and our fellow humans through simple living does not need to be punishing. It does not diminish us as individuals. Instead, it unleashes our potential to really live. To live well, and most importantly, to have fun.

      Play, enjoy, be free. We have to make it fun or it isn't sustainable.

      Thanks to Michael S. for sending me this video.

      November 8, 2010

      No Mischief Monday

      "The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people."  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

      November 7, 2010


      One of the biggest differences in my life since adopting a slower, lower footprint lifestyle has been the amount of time I have. Some might say too much time. But I have never heard anyone say they wished they had less time to do the things they enjoy.

      I like to have large chunks of undisturbed time that my life can expand into. Of course planning is required in order to meet our goals, but I also like to wander, meander, and dawdle, and let life take its course. Maybe I am easily amused, but I do like to release the illusion that I am in control and let life take over.

      What I have found is that when I let go of all expectations and judgment, and go with the flow of the minutia of daily life, things begin to change. The only way I can describe the overall feeling is that of being child-like. Spontaneity, joy, creativity, the giggles, and a boundless appreciation for little things. My sense of time begins to distort like a Salvador Dali melting clock, and I am less aware of my physical surroundings.

      One recent example was the other day while cooking. I was sorting dried chick peas in a meditative trance using the philosophy of "when you eat a banana, REALLY eat the banana". I was really sorting those beans and allowing myself to be absorbed in the task.

      Before I knew it, I had created a two dimensional sculpture without really trying. I used garbanzo beans for the shape of a tree, and dried kidney bean pods for the ground.

      I share the results below:

      Spontaneous art, or supper?

      When our lives are rushed, and planned for every minute, we miss out on the surprises and gifts that always surround us, waiting to be noticed. The universe is full of people, moments, and processes that can instill delight in our experience of life.

      A recent advertising campaign reminds drivers that "when you slow down you see more".

      It is the same for all of life. Slow down - live more.

      November 3, 2010

      Simple Living Lessons Out Of The Backpack

      Red Eagle Lake: 13 km multi-day hike into the mountains of
      Glacier National Park, Montana
      A large part of my youth was spent exploring the wilderness while carrying a backpack. Most trips were conducted on weekends, and a few were a week long, or longer. When you have to carry everything you need to survive in the back country for days on end, you learn how to cut out the unnecessary and superfluous.

      Just about everything I know about low impact, simple living I learned while backpacking:
      • if it is not useful, don't pack it along with you
      • you can live indefinitely with a minimum of possessions
      • nothing makes food taste better than being hungry
      • Nature is free, and there is nothing better or more important
      • friends can help you out of a jam, or save your life, but they will not carry your pack very far - you are ultimately responsible for your own load
      • things that you want, but don't need weigh you down, slow you down, and are rarely worth carrying great distances
      • the best load is a light load
      • bears DO shit in the woods, and have a great view while doing so
      • a thin tent feels like a palace in the middle of a raging storm
      • if you have to carry your garbage on your back you reduce the amount of garbage you produce
      • clean, safe water is priceless
      • it takes very little to create wonderful lifelong memories
      • bears can run faster than race horses, and cougars are even faster - you can't run, or hide, so practice prevention by making  noise, and be creative (climb a tree, get tall, confront your problems face on and hit the predator with a stick...)
      • do no harm, leave no trace of your passing through
      • at the end of a long hike, driving in a motor vehicle feels like the experience it actually is: a completely dreamy global privilege, regardless of the distance traveled
      • once home after days in the wilderness everything feels luxurious - your bed feels bigger and softer, food is prepared easier, and hot water is simply magic

      Feeling deprived? Thinking of acquiring more STUFF? Go backpack camping in the wilderness for a few days. When you get home your hovel will feel like a castle, and you will wonder what all that stuff not in your backpack is for.

      November 1, 2010

      No Mischief Monday

      "See, now's the time of the meal when you start getting the McStomach ache. You start getting the McTummy. You get the McGurgles in there. You get the McBrick, then you get the McStomach ache. Right now I've got some McGas that's rockin'. My arms... I feel like I've got some McSweats goin'. My arms got the McTwitches going in here from all the sugar that's going in my body right now. I'm feeling a little McCrazy." - Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me

      October 31, 2010

      Beware Of Scary Cheap Halloween Candy

      Beware of the cheap Halloween Candy (especially Nestle products)

      Now that Halloween is almost over one has to be prepared for all the scary half price candy in the stores. It may be hard to resist all those big boxes of individually wrapped chocolate bars, for example. 50% off Nestle Favorites gives you 54 Coffee Crisp, Smarties, KitKat, and Aero bars for less than a ten spot. And no hassle of dressing up and going trick or treating.

      It seems to be an irresistible bargain. "What harm can it do?" you ask yourself as you clutch the box of bite size bars against your growling stomach. 

      A great deal of harm, as it turns out. Concerns with Nestle Corporation's business practices have lead to the company being one of the most boycotted, along with Nike, Coca Cola, and McDonald's.

      Concerns with Nestle include:

          * aggressive marketing of baby milks and foods undermining breastfeeding;
          * According to the WHO, 1.5 million infants die every year because they are not breastfed;
          * trade union busting and failing to act on related court decisions;
          * failure to act on child labour and slavery in its cocoa supply chain;
          * exploitation of farmers, particularly in the dairy and coffee sectors;
          * environmental degradation, particularly of water resources;  (

      Not wanting to add to the global misery by padding the profits of Nestle Corp., and others like it, caused my household to adopt a new rule governing the acquisition and consumption of sweets (coffee as well - we only buy Fair Trade). 

      The NBA Rule Of Sweet Treats is simple and straightforward:
      • If you want a sweet treat you have to make it yourself
       Most homes already contain many of the ingredients required to make a host of dessert delights. More or less all you need are a few basics including:
      1. Sugar, honey, or other form of sweetener
      2. Shortening such as butter, margarine, or vegetable oils
      3. flour
      4. nuts and dried fruit
      5. chocolate chips or chunks
      Sticking to our rule has enabled us to largely side step unethical, environmentally damaging companies that exploit workers, use child labour, don't compensate farmers fairly, use unhealthy ingredients in their products, and/or cause ecological harm.

      It may not be as easy as grabbing a bit of candy in the check out lane at the grocery or convenience store, but making all your sweets is an excellent way to moderate their intake, and make sure that what you are eating is maximally good for you.

      This Halloween instead of succumbing to a box of Big Business Bad Boy Bars, I made two dozen cinnamon rolls. There is nothing that Nestle makes that is as good as fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon rolls straight out of my oven. Or peanut brittle. Or custom made chocolates. Or cookies, cakes, pies, and crumbles.

      And if all that is not enough, making desserts and snacks yourself will also save you money. Plus it can be immensely rewarding to learn how to make your favorite treats. 

      Beware the lure of seemingly cheap and easy corporate candy. It can be more scary than you think. Try the NBA Rule Of Sweet Treats and make your favourite sweets yourself, just like grandma did. Save money, lose weight, enjoy more, and send a message to nefarious corporate entities that you will not be supporting their damaging actions any more.

      October 27, 2010

      Let's Look At Our Own Radicalization

       Image from: RadicalGraphics

      Omar Khadr is in the news again and it made me think of radicalization in a broader sense. I decided that if The West weren't so radicalized itself, individuals like Khadr (if he is indeed guilty) wouldn't be so driven to take action against us. Consider our own radical tendencies, for they are numerous.

      We are Radical Capitalists and Consumers, and we are waging a Jihad against Nature. Our maintenance of an extreme system of global inequality perpetuates the conditions that force desperate individuals to take action against our brand of materialistic militancy.

      Wikipedia has a bit of information on radicalization, and it made me think of how the term affects our own notions of freedom, capitalism, and consumerism:
      Radicalization is the process in which an individual changes from passiveness or activism to become more revolutionary, militant, or extreme. Radicalization is often associated with youth, adversity, alienation,  social exclusion, poverty, or the perception of injustice to self or others.
      This definition sounds like a description of the conditions and effects of the last 60 or 70 years of Radical Capitalism on individuals in our society. The 'youth market' is worth many billions of dollars per year. As a culture we increasingly face adversity, alienation, social exclusion, poverty, and the feeling that something is not quite fair in our free market utopia.
      The U.S. Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 defines "Violent Radicalization" as the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.
       Again, this sounds like Western radicalized culture - we are promoting our extremest belief system for the purpose of facilitating our ideology of Radical Consumerism - "cheap, plastic crap for everyone".

      Our environmental jihad has effects on the dispossessed in other countries, and they are forced to formulate a counter movement to balance things out simply so they can survive. Some day we may need to call on the Act of 2007 to save us from ourselves in our campaign to do violence to life everywhere.
      The U.S. National Counter-terrorism Center states that there are no visible outward signs of radicalization. Changes in appearance during different stages of radicalization often are the same changes seen in individuals  who are not being radicalized, making it difficult to identify visible markers.
      Look out - Radical Capitalists and Consumers look just like you and me! How do we identify those who wage war on the environment and the poor? Number of credit cards? MBA degree? Amount of off-site storage space? They could be driving hybrids to blend in with non-Jihadists.

      According to the New York City Police Department, radicalization has a number of stages. Most Westerners have been through them all:
      • Pre-radicalization: ordinary life prior to radicalization (like England before Enclosure and Industrialization, or North America at the beginning of the 1900s)
      • Self-identification: individual comes to identify with the radical movement (I am a: capitalist, consumer, rugged individual, member of the middle class, perpetrator of progress...)
      • Indoctrination: they intensify and focus their beliefs (the lobbying, advertising, and media industries are richly funded organs of mass indoctrination that focus us on one belief - "You can buy anything you want... NOW")
      • Jihadization: start to take actions based on their beliefs (GOING SHOPPING regardless of inequality or environmental destruction, looking for a new planet, strong sense of entitlement leads to taking more than our fair share, profit above all, pump CO2 into the deep biosphere)
      If we abandoned our Radical Capitalism and Consumerism, stopped our Jihad against Nature, and took only our fair share, perhaps the counter-radicals that are trying to keep the balance wouldn't feel that they need to hate and kill us.

      The good news is that a recent study found that de-radicalization programs "can make a difference". There may be hope yet. For us, our brothers and sisters around the world, and the natural order.

      Radical Capitalism and Consumerism are ideologies, after all. Not just simple facts. We can be successfully deprogrammed.

      October 25, 2010

      No Mischief Monday

      "It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit."  ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

      October 21, 2010

      Stay Home - Save The World

      The original staycation

      Activist Gary Snyder once gave the shortest answer ever when asked what people should do to save the environment: "Stay home." This solution fits with NBA's philosophy - stay close to home, consume no more than our fair share, and learn to survive and flourish in the local ecosystem.

      Snyder's brand of environmental activism is based on "reinhabitation" and "wild mind".

      Reinhabitation deals with committing to life in a specific place, and growing to understand oneself as a part of a community with local plant and animal life. Wild mind for Snyder means "elegantly self-disciplined and self-regulating." Nature takes care of itself, and so should we be taking care of ourselves. So far we haven't been.

      Citizens of rich countries will have to become self-disciplined and self-regulated so that the rest of the world does not need to suffer the results of our high consumption habits. If we only took our fair share of the world's resources many of the problems experienced by less affluent nations would disappear.

      If we limited our use of oil, for example, things would automatically improve in a nation like Nigeria, a place that has been greatly affected by Shell Oil drilling.

      One part is easy. Stay close to home, just like we used to before, and will again some day, even if a small group does manage to escape to start over and plunder another planet somewhere. The harder part will be learning to control ourselves.