January 30, 2012

Reusing Resources

The eco-baby in this green cradle could go through life using
only furniture made from a free, green resource - cardboard

Living more gently on the earth does not need to be a drag. Learning to use our resources more efficiently provides an infinite number of creative and fun possibilities.

This furniture set was made
from used poster tubes, source

The things people have done with reused materials to make functional and funky items is a case in point.

Waste cardboard is an often-free resource that has been used for a wide variety of purposes, from baby furniture to green funerals, and all points in between.

Architect Frank Gehry designed 'green' furniture in the 60s
that was functional, beautiful, and compostable

I have left instructions for how I would like my affairs conducted after I die. I want all my cardboard furniture to be composted. Then I wish to be placed in a cardboard coffin, and buried at the base of a big tree in the wilderness... to be composted.

Recycled cardboard coffins - dust to dust, source

January 27, 2012

Putting Our Eco-Footprint On A Diet

Unless we reduce consumption, we are going to need more planets.

January is a time of new beginnings, and hope. It is when many people launch change in their lives, like going on a diet.

As North American's obesity rates have mushroomed, so has the per capita ecological footprint. At 10 acres per person, our demands on the bio-capacity of the Earth are 50% greater than the average European's. Right now is a good time to put this excessive footprint on a diet.

Most diets require that one eats less, and eats foods strategically in order to maximize nutrition. Similarly, the way to drop resource-use weight is to consume less, and more efficiently.

But what are the best ways to trim the consumption gut?

The Eco-footprint Diet

  1. Don't drive when there is an alternative – use public transport, cycle or walk
    Over a quarter of all car journeys made are less than a few kilometers. Walking, cycling or taking public transport helps reduce congestion and emissions. On average we can reduce our total ecological footprint by as much as 20% if we don't own a car. If you must drive, use a smaller vehicle with a smaller, more efficient engine.
  2. Grow vegetables or buy locally grown organic, eat less meat, and reduce food waste
    Our diet accounts for about 1/4 of a person's footprint. Growing a garden, and using food more efficiently, could reduce our footprint by 11%. Growing as much as we can of our fruit and vegetables reduces energy and waste in transport, refrigeration and packaging.  Buying locally-grown, seasonal food reduces food kilometers and uses less packaging. Organic and other forms of low-input farming consume up to 40% less energy. The ecological footprint of vegetarians who eat a moderate amount of milk and eggs is about 40% lower than those who consume a low-meat diet.
  3. Don't fly. Take the train when possible, vacation locally.
    Aviation has the fastest growing carbon emissions of any industry sector. A single passenger’s share of a return flight from Toronto, Canada to London, England has nearly four times greater impact on the climate than the average person in India has in an entire year.
  4. Instead of buying new things, make what you've got last, buy second-hand, or borrow
    On average 10% of our footprint is made up of the consumables we buy. Our houses are often cluttered with items we only use or wear a few times. The average drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime. Rather than buying something, consider whether you could borrow instead. Start a tool co-op and/or a free store with neighbours.
  5.  Make your home energy efficient and support green energy initiatives  There are many measures you can take around the home. For example, turning appliances off instead of switching them to standby, improving your home's insulation, and adjusting your thermostat. A four degree adjustment could save the average home 5% of their total ecological footprint. Other footprint-reducing measures include using window coverings to keep heat in (or out), not heating or cooling rooms you are not using, and keeping doors shut to keep heat (or cool) where you want it. Contact your energy provider to see if they have green alternatives such as wind or solar power-generated electricity.

  6. Reuse, Repurpose, Refuse, Recycle
    We throw away over a ton of material every year. Much of it can be reused or repurposed in creative ways. Refuse overpackaged products when shopping. Donate unwanted items to charity shops. Use your local recycling collection.
A larger eco-footprint does not necessarily mean a better quality of life, just as weighing 400 pounds doesn't mean you are better off than you would be at 150 pounds. Like losing body weight, trimming the eco-footprint feels great.
    Note: With determination one should be able to reduce their footprint by 50% or more, without a reduction in quality of life. All side-effects of the eco-diet are beneficial once past the initial withdrawal symptoms. After a while you will experience a general sense of well being, freedom, and balance.                            

    Adapted from: source

      January 25, 2012

      Simplicity Is Freedom

      Live simply - get free

      Living simply is liberating in so many ways. Stepping off the consumer treadmill lets us use our time and energy to build a world more to our liking. A world where we use less, and live more. Where time is more important than money.

      Time is a limited commodity, and no amount of money will buy us more. We can choose to take more though, and simplicity is the means to get it.

      My simple life gives me more time to live, to do what I want, to help others. It gives me freedom.

      Simplicity can provide innumerable moments of liberation such as:
      • staying up till you feel like going to bed.
      • staying in bed till you feel like getting up.
      • ignoring fashion.
      • not having a mortgage, or any other debt.
      • having the time to spend with your friends and family.
      • being able to work enjoyable, meaningful jobs even if they pay less.
      • cutting your own hair.
      • realizing you have what you need.
      • fulfilling your own mandate, and honouring your priorities.
      • leisurely cooking whole food meals.
      • having few possessions.
      • living in a small space.
      • being in nature.
      • spending less than you make.
      • not feeling bound by conventional ways of thinking, and doing things.
      • feeling like you can change the world.
      Live simply, be free, change the world.

        January 24, 2012

        Backyard Farming

        Urban mini-farms are becoming more popular in backyards.
        How much yard would you need if you wanted to live off the land and provide a family of four with food? With backyard gardens making a comeback, people are wondering about food self-sufficiency and what can be realistically grown in the average back yard.

        The image above lays things out in an interesting and thought-provoking way that helps illustrate some of the demands we place on the productive capacity of the Earth as we eat our way through life.

        The authors estimate that a family of four could become food self-sufficient on about 2 acres of land, depending on things like soil fertility, and whether your diet is vegetarian or not.

        Even if you can't become entirely food self-sufficient yet, a backyard garden is always a good thing regardless of the size.

        January 23, 2012

        Money Isn't Everything Monday

        And you can't eat the stuff...

        Since the 1950s, more money has been spent on marketing and advertising than on public education. This is our 'real' education, and it is barely dented, if it is not outright supported, by 12 years of government mandated grade school.

        It is turning out that everything we have been taught to pursue is wrong. The competition for the most prestigious jobs and highest pay, and the measurement of self-worth in material possessions has lead us to embrace hyper-consumption. It continues as the world around us falls apart.

        We are still in the Great Recession which is changing everything. The middle class is shrinking at the same time as the rich get richer. Insane wealth at the top, and austerity for everyone else. The trickle down has stopped, and reversed.

        We have to reverse our own course. We have been lead astray by trivial attractions and meaningless pursuits that only benefit the few, and at the expense of the environment.

        Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent by the corporate world to brainwash us into believing that everything is all right, that the dream is alive. That our pursuit of money and stuff is right. They lie.

        We are onto their game now. We are learning that money isn't everything, and in that lies our freedom.

        January 22, 2012

        Global Per-Capita Ecological Footprint Facts

        Each human's fair share of global resources is about 4.7 acres per person.
        Canadians currently use almost 24 acres each.
        I found the information for today's post on a website full of reasons why we should be adopting low consumption, sustainable lifestyles planet-wide and immediately.

        World Centric's mission is "to reduce economic injustice and environmental degradation through education, community networks, and sustainable enterprises".

        The state of the world that the facts represent can be a bit of a bummer to consider - we are depleting most every resource required by the ever-expanding consumer machine.

        Looking at it from a more optimistic angle, the state of things is such that each of our individual efforts toward real sustainability are much more powerful and important.

        There is hope, and in reducing our consumption and living more gently on the Earth, we will allow it to recover and replenish so we can live in harmony with it in perpetuity. These efforts support the advancement of human rights, environmental protection, and the shift toward sustainable ways of living.

        Global Eco-Footprint Facts

        • The planet's biological productive capacity (biocapacity) is approximately 1.9 hectares (4.7 acres) per person. Globally, we use up to 2.2 hectares per person. Thus, we are living beyond the planet's biocapacity to sustain us by 15%, a deficit of 0.3 hectares (1 acre) per person. This deficit is apparent, as natural ecosystems around us fail one by one - forests, ocean fisheries, coral reefs, rivers, soil, water, global warming etc.

        •  The planet's biocapacity is dependent on the global population and rate of consumption. High consumption lifestyles deplete the planet's carrying capacity. Estimates indicate that, if global population trends continue, the ecological footprint available to each person would be reduced to 1.5 hectares per person, by 2050. 

        • If consumption rates as high as the western countries are adopted by the majority of humanity, we would need 4 to 5 more Earths.

        • If everyone on the planet was to live like the average American, we would need 5 planets to sustain everyone. At a footprint of 10 hectares per person, our planet's biocapacity would only be able support about 1.2 billion people - far less than the 7 billion we currently have. 

        • On the other end of the spectrum, if everyone lived like those residing in Bangladesh, where the average footprint is only 0.5 hectares, then the earth could support roughly 22 billion people.

        For more information, and to see where your country ranks in Per Capita Eco-Footprint, see the World Centric website.

        January 20, 2012

        Money Myths vs Money Facts

        Money myths are our culture's most cherished, most damaging lies

        Myth #1: Everyone can get mounds of money if they work hard enough.

        Fact:  Does anyone actually believe this any more? The global economic system is balanced in favour of a small minority, and always has been. This minority gets away with a lot of bullshit by making us think we can join them if we just stick to it and keep on working harder (insert sound of cracking whip here).

        Myth #2: Money will make you happy.

        Fact: Nothing of importance can be bought with money. It can't buy a problem-free life - it often creates more problems than it solves. Do we really think that the billions of people on our planet that don't have money aren't happy? Or 'can't' be happy until they are wealthy? Everything I have experienced while meeting people all over the world tells me this is not the case.

        Myth #3: Rich people are greedy.

        Fact: Not all rich people are greedy. I imagine, much like the rest of the population, most of them are quite nice. Misguided, off-course, hypnotized, chained to the perpetual wheel of want - maybe. But not greedy.

        Myth #4: If some money is good, more is better.

        Fact: Past an ideal, modest level of financial well-being, acquiring more money suffers from diminishing returns. Going from poverty to enough money to sustain your needs yields a huge payoff. Going from that to more than enough will yield less bang per dollar as you continue to spend.

        In drug terms it is called tolerance, or reduced responsiveness. The richer one gets, the more one spends. Finally, like a seasoned addict, you need to blow more and more cash to get the same effect. Eventually you need to buy yachts and 30,000 square foot houses just to feel normal.

        Myth #5: All you need is love.

        Fact: Hold on, how did that get in there? This one is not a myth. This one is a fact.

        It is true. All you need is love. It is free to feel, free to give, free to receive, free to enjoy. No money, no money myths needed.

        January 18, 2012

        Dental Care On A Budget

        One of my upper third molars has an old cap that fell off recently

        In the 70's movie Marathon Man, Dustin Hoffman plays a character that is tortured by having his teeth drilled without the benefit of anesthetic. Although you might suspect it would, seeing the movie long ago did not give me a dental phobia. But it sure did make me squirm as it highlighted the importance of good dental hygiene, and skilled, non-sadistic dentists.

        I thought of Hoffman's character again a few days ago when I pulled an old cap off an upper third molar while flossing. In my hand it looked big and ugly - 30 years of doing major chewing duty had taken its toll. I put it in a small container and brushed my teeth.

        The newly exposed nub was sensitive, and even lightly brushing it caused an uncomfortable shock to run through my jaw and face. An evil captor with rudimentary dentistry skills would have loved to take advantage of it with a poky, sharp metal instrument.

        I got the shivers, pushed all thoughts of dental-based torture out of my head, and considered how quickly I might be able to see my dentist. I looked forward to relief, but not to the potential large bill.

        The problem with keeping teeth happy is the cost - it is not consistent with a low-budget lifestyle. But there are definitely things that you can do to lower the costs for you and your family.

        NBA's Tips For Low-Budget Dental Care

        1. The most important way to save money on dental care is to have excellent oral hygiene and general health. Make your dental plan caring for your teeth (brushing 1-3 times/day, floss once/day every day, don't forget to tend to your gums, brush after sweet foods, eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest).
        2. Find a dentist that is committed to keeping your teeth in your head as long as possible. Just because you 'could' have work done, does not mean you 'should' have it done. A good dentist will work with you to prioritize what must be done, and what would be nice to be done when the money is available. Functional fixes come before the purely cosmetic.
        3. Start an account (or designate a jar) earmarked for your family's dental care. Try to build up enough to cover basic care (check up/cleaning 1-2 times per year), plus a bit more for unexpected care that may be required.
        4. Most schools of dentistry offer discounted, or free services for the general public. They may also offer clinics at various locations run by volunteer dentists. If you have a school in your area, try giving them a call - they are often looking for people, including children.
        5. Number 1 is worth repeating - brush, floss, and take care of yourself. Preventing problems is the most cost-effective way to go... and the least painful.
        My dentist was able to get me in the next day. The thought of a $500 - $1000 dollar bill did not thrill me, but neither did being tortured by the tender, unprotected nub of a molar. I grabbed my old, battered cap, and hoped for the best.

        I can now report that my dental story had a happy ending. My dentist, knowing me to be a practical, thrifty patient, told me that we could replace the cap, but that it would not be necessary at the moment. He grabbed whatever super glue is used that keeps major capped molars in place for decades at a time, and slapped my old cap back in place.

        It only involved a few seconds of torture.

        A modest sixty bucks later I walked out sporting a full set of happy choppers. I like my dentist, but I will continue to do whatever I can to stay away from his office for as long as possible. When I do need to go back, the whole affair will be made less unpleasant by the fact that I have budgeted for it.

        One last tip - If you are ever held captive by a sadist armed with a crude set of tools, Dentistry 101 knowledge, and only a little bottle of clove oil for pain relief, remember that there is no right answer when he repeatedly asks, "Is it safe?".

          January 16, 2012

          Whoa - Stop! Monday

          Between 1/3 and 1/2 of Earth's surface has been transformed by humans

          Pave The Earth Syndrome
          "Human alteration of Earth is substantial and growing. Between one-third and one-half of the land surface has been transformed by human action; the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere has increased by nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; more atmospheric nitrogen is fixed by humanity than by all natural terrestrial sources combined; more than half of all accessible surface fresh water is put to use by humanity; and about one-quarter of the bird species on Earth have been driven to extinction. By these and other standards, it is clear that we live on a human-dominated planet." - Source

          Replace our present competitive, centralized, materialistic, perpetual growth system with one that is:
          • cooperative
          • decentralized
          • community-based
          • sustainable, and
          • works with nature, rather than dominates it.
          In order to achieve these goals, a small segment of the global population will will need to consume less. Other groups, in order to secure their basic needs, will need to consume more.

          If each of us consumes more closely to what amounts to our "fair share", the world will be a more equitable place.

          We can 'whoa - stop!', the human transformation of the Earth into a smoking, desolate, wasteland by the bulldozers of greed and ego.

          I am standing in their way. Will you join me?

          January 14, 2012

          Existence Is Joyful

          "Look at the trees, look at the birds, look at the clouds, look at the stars... and if you have eyes you will be able to see that the whole of existence is joyful. 
          Everything is simply happy.  Trees are happy for no reason; they are not going to become prime ministers or presidents and they are not going to become rich and they will never have any bank balance. 
          Look at the flowers - for no reason.  It is simply unbelievable how happy flowers are."  
          - Osho

          January 13, 2012

          Is Squeaky Clean Too Clean?

          Queen Elizabeth I of England boasted that she bathed once a month, "whether I need it or not". It wasn't so long ago that the majority of us bathed about as much. That was before our modern cleanliness myth - "if clean is good, squeaky clean is better" - was developed to create the multi-billion dollar cleanliness industry.

          If cleanliness was once next to godliness, it is now found between social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Katherine Ashenburg, author of "The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History", thinks our hyper-hygiene has become "hedonistic, anxious and oversanitized", and I agree.

          Of course, life expectancies rose sharply in the 1930's and 40's thanks in large part to the improvement of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene, but we have since fallen overboard into the great Soapy Sea. There are a growing number of people that believe that this obsession with clean is actually making us sick.

          Essentially, the philosophy of those advocating for a less clean world says that the more we try to protect ourselves from the environment, the weaker we become. They feel that our immune systems need to be challenged in order to develop and maintain function. Within limits then, being less clean could improve your health.

          I used to shower every day, but it doesn't fit with my lifestyle now. These days I find I have better things to do with my time than attack my body daily with a range of smelly chemicals. Consider that people rarely used soap to wash their bodies until the late 19th century. Olive oil-based soaps that were gentle enough for skin were too expensive for the majority of people.

          Smelling like chemicals is expensive to this day, and it is an expense I jettisoned from my budget a long time ago. I haven't used deodorant or anti-perspirant for years, and I do not miss these aluminium-laced concoctions designed to mask who you really are.

          What's wrong with humans smelling like humans rather than soap, sandalwood, or Musk Deer scent? Within reason of course - I do not want to be as odoriferous as a medieval Christian desert hermit displaying his holiness by not washing. Reports are that these dedicated desert dwellers could set off one's 'Smell-o-meter' from a mile away.

          Even Napoleon ("I'm coming home, don't shower") might have been taken aback at such a dedicated funk. However, depending on how your body works, warding off unpleasant odours does not require one to take on a cleanliness obsession like an acquaintance of mine that showers several times per day.

          Also, frequent showers do not agree with my desire to conserve resources. Luffa-ing under a constant stream of steamy hot water takes a lot of energy, and this energy use has negative consequences on the environment. Plus, all the hot water and smelly products cost a lot of cash.

          I want to save money and be clean enough that I am not detectable from a kilometer away. I find that after a few days it is time for a scrub down, but I see nothing wrong with being a 'free range human' and getting down and dirty every once in a while. If nothing else, it makes the occasional hot shower seem like a dreamy spa treatment rather than just another chore in a busy day.

          My cleanliness product bag contains a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo. That's it, and I use them about once a week whether I need it or not. Once-a-month Elizabeth, former Queen of England, might wonder why I shower so frequently.

          Where do you stand on the cleanliness - compulsion continuum?

          January 11, 2012

          The Weight Of Things

          As people accumulate wealth they tend to acquire more and more things. We have been conditioned to believe that this unprecedented accumulation is good for us, but it does not take long before we begin to feel weighed down by our things.

          It takes a lot of space to store this avalanche of heaviness that flows into our lives. The stuff doesn't just take up space in the mind, it has to be physically stored somewhere. This probably has something to do with the average house size doubling since the 1950s.

          Why would we need such large homes? To hold the mountains of things, of course. And once the basement, garage, garden shed, attic, and closets are stuffed full, we increasingly rent places to put the seemingly uncontrollable overflow.

          The self-storage industry - which, not surprisingly, is mostly a North American phenomenon - blights almost 2.5 billion square feet of the planet with a lot of unloved, unneeded stuff. Providing this service brings the industry $20 billion in revenue per year.

          I wonder if this huge amount of money, being spent to store stuff not important enough to be kept at home, could be better spent?

          The Global Fund, which provides AIDS treatment to 2.5 million poor people worldwide, calculated in 2010 that it needed about $6.6 billion dollars per year for its programs. It only received $3.6 billion/year in funding due to the global economic downturn. The difference means people will die.

          But we remain blissfully unaware of the harsh realities just outside our borders as we continue to collect more and more stuff in bigger and bigger houses and storage facilities.

          How we live with all our extraneous stuff, and simultaneously fail to appreciate global realities and the finite nature of our planet's energy resources and raw materials, is not even the worst part. The most insidious thing about high consumption lifestyles is how they can smother us under the weight of things.

          It may appear that everything is fine, but something has gone wrong. Consumers are suffocating, and the lack of oxygen is affecting our thinking. I can feel it myself, even though over the past decade I have downsized dramatically. Despite this, I still have things I don't really need.

          This year I am getting out from under the rest of my accumulation, which by now is more of a mole hill than a mountain. But still, it is time to implement some rules for the new year.

          Rules for my Anti-stuff Campaign:
          Rule 1: If it hasn't been used in over a year, get rid of it.
          Rule 2: If it is not adding to my life, get rid of it.
          Rule 3: Implement Rules 1 and 2 ruthlessly, while throwing all emotional attachments to the wind.
          Here is to a lighter, unfettered 2012 where there is space to breathe, time to think, and freedom to act.

          January 9, 2012

          Making Choices Monday

          We are free to make the right choice.

          January 8, 2012

          Opting Out Increasingly Difficult/Illegal

          Opt out now - while it's still legal!

          During a time when the authorities say "go shopping", then praise you as 'patriotic' when you do, what happens if you don't comply? What happens if you wish to opt out of the whole materialistic rat race, and live a minimal, simple, self-reliant life?

          Increasingly what happens are laws that prevent you from choosing that potentially desirable opt out route.

          For example, there are many places with laws that prevent you from collecting rainwater. Or growing anything but useless energy-intensive, chemical-dependent grass within sight of your neighbours. Or laws that prevent you from sleeping in a car or RV on city streets, or from building a tiny house, or remaining off the grid.

          Anti-opting out legislation is being passed by centralized governments at all levels in order to protect their turf and cement our dependence on a crumbling, complex system that they and their corporate friends profit from.

          If we are 'allowed' to opt out of this system, and assert our independence through increased simplicity and self-reliance, we are less subject to their control. Worse for them, we cease to become their profit-providers.

          That is why citizens growing gardens could become potential targets. A Geographical Information System has been used to put information on every garden in England in a data base. Rumours of a backyard garden tax are not limited to England - parts of the US are also looking at home gardens as being potential sources of much-needed revenue.

          A side benefit for the government's corporate buddies is that the garden tax would also discourage people from eating non-corporate food.

          Farmers have already been targeted, with devastating effects on both humans and biodiversity. In order to increase dependency and corporate profits, legislation has been passed to make seed saving, a tradition thousands of years old, illegal.

          In India, simple farmers are forced into the complex world of patented, corporate seed stock, energy-intensive industrial agriculture, debt, bankruptcy, and eventual suicide.

          Legislation and nuisance bylaws everywhere are being used to keep the 99% dependent on centralized governments and corporations that offer no solutions, only increased resistance to our choosing to opt out of their system.

          There is some urgency in developing a sustainable system to replace the one that is currently designed to make the 1% wealth at the expense of the people and the environment.

          Opt out now, while you still can. Choose to live simply and sustainably, and free. Choose to increase local resilience, grow your own food, and save your own seeds. Choose to be one of the architects of a new system, the people's system.

          While it is still somewhat legal.

          January 6, 2012

          Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

           50 Translations: "I'm scared."

          Oh, the excuses I have heard. My teaching career started when 'the dog ate my homework' was still the most-used excuse going. By the time I retired from teaching dogs everywhere had been liberated from blame and slept comfortably. The most used excuse for late work had progressed to 'my printer/computer/disk ate my homework'.

          By now I am sure the grade school excuse has progressed again and is something like 'I dropped my FlashStick in the toilet/sink/puddle'. It is not just the informal research gleaned as a teacher of young children, but my observations of people in general that made me aware that one thing humans do really, really well is make excuses.

          There are all kinds of excuses being used to justify why 20% of the planet's inhabitants pig out on 80% of its resources. My favorite is "we work hard - we deserve it". If that were true, African grandmothers raising their AIDS-orphaned grand kids would be among the highest paid people in the world.

          I heard nothing but excuses during, and since, the climate change talks in Durban, South Africa. Embarrassingly, my own country was among the most vocal examples of using excuses to avoid and delay urgently needed changes.

          It does not matter if it is uncompleted grade six homework, or inaction on global inequality, making excuses only makes things worse. This is a lesson we should have solidly in place by the time we are about 10 years old. No one feels good inside when they resort to excuses - it only increases and extends the pain.

          The pain suffered by humanity and the environment has gone on long enough. It's 2012 - NO MORE EXCUSES. It is time to shine the antiseptic spotlights of honesty, integrity, and responsibility upon our problems, both personal and global. Only this will treat the infection of denial.

          When our denial ends, and we face our problems head on, we take action. When we finally do, it feels good, and we wonder why we hesitated with our excuses in the first place.

          January 4, 2012

          Toward Right Livelihood

          Hours before my 96 year old grandfather passed away years ago, he addressed me as I stood at his bedside. His voice was fading, but he gripped my hands strongly as he looked into my eyes.

          The dad of my dad knew he had only a few precious moments left, and the usual joking twinkle was gone from his eyes. He looked at me and said, "Do something with your life to make the world a better place." I didn't know it at the time, but he was talking about right livelihood.

          The concept of right livelihood is usually associated with Buddhism. Basically it means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that it should be gained through moral and peaceful means.

          Examples of 'wrong' livelihood are highlighted to help guide those on the path. Accordingly, work one would want to avoid would be:
          • manufacturing or dealing in weapons
          • dealing in living beings - the slave trade and prostitution are more extreme examples, but this could include any exploitation of other living beings.
          • meat production - Buddhists are vegetarian
          • producing or dealing in drugs or poisons - or industrial pollutants
          Also out are widely accepted business practices such as scheming, lying, exaggerating, persuading, hinting, belittling, and pursuing gain with gain.

          The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honour and support people working toward making the world a better place, and has become known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize'. David Suzuki, Canadian environmental activist, shared the award in 2009 for his many decades of selfless work.

          The award is recognized as an important source of support for individuals and groups implementing social and environmental transformation.

          The recipients of the 2011 awards highlight and celebrate the good work taking place globally:

          Huang Ming (China)

          “… for his outstanding success in the development and mass-deployment of cutting-edge technologies for harnessing solar energy, thereby showing how dynamic emerging economies can contribute to resolving the global crisis of anthropogenic climate change.“

          Jacqueline Moudeina (Chad)

          “… for her tireless efforts at great personal risk to win justice for the victims of the former dictatorship in Chad and to increase awareness and observance of human rights in Africa.”

          GRAIN (International)

          “… for their worldwide work to protect the livelihoods and rights of farming communities and to expose the massive purchases of farmland in developing countries by foreign financial interests.”

          Ina May Gaskin (USA)

          “… for her whole-life’s work teaching and advocating safe, woman-centred childbirth methods that best promote the physical and mental health of mother and child.“

          My grandfather's words have resonated with me, and guided me, since the night he imparted them. They helped me decide that it is not true that any job is better than no job. What good is having a job if it contributes to the destruction of people or the planet?

          I strive to do no harm while I earn my living and conduct my affairs - it has become my prime directive. I want to make the world a better place.

          January 2, 2012

          Cooperation Monday

          "Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds." - Alexander Graham Bell
          It is true that some aspects of the natural order are competitive in nature. Just as true is the fact that in many other important ways, life is supported by a foundation of cooperation.

          Cooperation in nature is widespread. Social insects such as ants, bees, and termites are well known for working together toward the common goal of building and maintaining their communities. But many other creatures also practice cooperation, or altruism.

          For example, vampire bats regularly regurgitate blood and donate it to other bats of their group who have failed to feed that night, ensuring they do not starve. In numerous bird species, a breeding pair receives help in raising its young from ‘helper’ birds, who protect the nest from predators and help to feed the fledglings.

          On tropical coral reefs, various species of small fish act as ‘cleaners’ for large fish, removing parasites from their mouth and gills. Both partners benefit — the large fish get parasites removed, and the cleaners get fed. If the large fish is threatened by a predator while the cleaner is in its mouth, it will pause to let the cleaner escape before it flees from the threat.

          Humans in their natural state, I believe, are also cooperative. Or at least would be (more often) if we were not trained to indulge our darker side - our selfish, competitive nature.

          Competition keeps us divided, individual, and weak. The system likes this because it is more profitable for them. Competition is encouraged from an early age as we are trained to play the game to see who gets the best paying jobs, biggest houses, most exotic vacations, granite counter tops, stainless appliances, nicest car... the list never ends.

          The 1% gets wealthy by getting us to compete with each other. It is better for business if we each want a car, rather than several families sharing one. Or if we each want a lawnmower, or BBQ, or car washer, or hand tools.

          What if we refused to play the competition game? Has anyone even heard what the Jones' have been up to lately? I think after they went bankrupt they moved to a commune.

          The reality is that our societies are already commune-like. In every day life sharing is the norm, but it isn't "profitable" in the strictly economic sense, so you won't hear too much about it in the business-owned media. In my own community, volunteering is a huge component in how things get done here.

          If we stopped doing all the small cooperative acts that we do every day, everything would cease to function, and things would grind to a halt. It's not governments that guard us against chaos - it is our tendency toward cooperation that keeps things smoothly functioning.

          Humans naturally will act cooperatively because they know that doing so increases well-being for everyone, and everything. What if we recognized this, and were raised to act cooperatively instead of competitively?

          Imagine the amount of money and life energy that would be freed up if we abolished the endless materialistic competition that no one can win, and devoted ourselves instead to providing a decent standard of living for 100% of the human family (which is a totally achievable goal).

          Imagine the state of the world if we acted with an ethos of cooperation with the environment, rather than one of competitive domination and conquest.

          Today let's recognize the foundation of cooperation that all life is built upon, and work toward strengthening and expanding it as the main driving force in our communities.

          No regurgitation of blood required.