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.