March 30, 2013

Slow Down And Buy Less

Making rash purchasing decisions can lead the hare over
a financial cliff.

Are you a tortoise or a hare when it comes to buying things?

I have never understood the rush for bunnies buying things. Why all this frenzied, panicked, and often unnecessary purchasing that frequently leads to feelings of guilt and regret afterwards?

Better to slow down to the speed of the tortoise and think carefully about what we are buying, and why we are buying it. With a cautious approach, time can be on your side when it comes to buying anything.

People with something to sell you will also try to use time, or the artificially imposed lack of it, to their advantage. Why?

Research shows that we are willing to spend more money when we are overpowered by emotions. Any of the following appeals will be familiar to anyone who has ever seen an advertisement:
  • "Only one left."
  • "[Product] is going fast."
  • "Hurry."
  • "Limited time offer."
  • "Time is running out."
Whoa, there! I refuse to be hurried while making any purchasing decision. It is impossible to think clearly when you are flooded with fear, anxiety or panic.

Slow Down - Ask These Questions Before Buying

Any time I identify something I think I need, I wait. During this opportunity to think more clearly I ask a few key questions:
  1. Do I really need this? No, really. Most prospective purchases stop at this first stage.
  2. If I need it, do I need it right now? Perhaps waiting will be advantageous.
  3. Can I borrow, rent, or trade rather than purchase? You need the hole, not the drill.
  4. Does it make sense to buy used? You pay more for new and often it does not matter.
  5. Have I found the best deal? Often you can find things for free!  Check out Craigslist, Kijiji, etc.
  6. Can I afford it? If I don't have cash, I do not buy until I do. Credit is a killer.
  7. Can the planet afford it? Every one of our purchases has unintentional consequences that have effects on the environment and on the people around us.
If you think that I have managed to take all the fun out of buying anything, you are right. But that is a good thing in my opinion. Buying stuff should be based on a rational definition of need rather than on its entertainment value, or a sense of panic.

It may take the tortoise a long while to do the research required to make an informed, non-emotional purchase, but in the end, the slow moving, thoughtful purchaser will not be plunging over any fiscal cliffs.
Don't be fooled by the pulse-elevating slogans that are designed to create panicked and unnecessary purchases.

Slow down, think more, and buy less. At the same time you will save money, reduce clutter, and shrink your eco-footprint. And you will be as chill as the long-lived, low-stress tortoise.

March 29, 2013

It Is Possible To Change Everything

Are humans devolving? In many important ways we seem to be going backwards in time to the bad old days.

It's not like we haven't had help from the ancients to guide us safely along our collective path. The Mayans taught us lessons hundreds of years ago that many of us have yet to learn:
"We are responsible for the condition of the Earth. We are the ones who are responsible and we can change that. If we wake up, it is possible to change the energy. It is possible to change everything."

When in the chrysalis, the caterpillar's body completely liquefies into an unrecognizable blob before emerging a few days later as a butterfly. Does the caterpillar believe it is possible to change everything?

American writer Richard Bach said, "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”

We are all destined to evolve into butterflies. And when we change, everything else will change.

March 28, 2013


Practices for Grateful Living 

  • Begin and end the day with giving thanks
  • Tell at least 3 people you interact with during the day what you appreciate about them
  • Send a card, note, or leave a voicemail of gratitude
  • Send an e-card or e-mail of gratitude to someone
  • Write a poem about being grateful
  • Declare a fast from complaints for period of time
  • Create a piece of art that reflects gratitude
  • Journal daily about how you experienced gratitude
  • Find quotes about gratefulness and repeat one during the day
  • Play songs that inspire gratitude during day

"Give thanks for a little and you will find a lot." 
- Hausa proverb, Nigeria

Illegal Solar Laundry Drying Apparatus

"If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry."
- Helen Caldicott

Since when was using a clothes line to dry your clothes considered a radical move? Since you had to engage in civil disobedience and contravene local bylaws in order to enjoy your free laundry drying apparatus.

Such anti-clothes line laws are coming up against the fact that you just can't beat the cost and simplicity of using abundant sunshine and fresh air to gently coax the moisture out of our clothes.

Clothes get beaten in the harsh artificial heat of a machine, and age prematurely. Line dried clothes will last longer, and smell divinely fresh without chemical additives. Plus, the UV rays of the sun are antiseptic, and will burn all the micro-yuckies left after washing, right out of your clothes and bedding.

Line dried clothes both feel and smell better, and hanging the laundry can be an enjoyable, meditative activity. Comparing sunshine dried clothes to those dried in a machine is like comparing a lovingly prepared home cooked meal with fast food.

An energy-hungry dryer may be faster, but it consumes 6% or more of the energy used in an average household. This is not an insignificant amount as energy prices continue to rise. So what is not to like about the free, elegant efficiency of the lowly clothes line?

"It is unsightly and has a negative effect on property values." What? Apparently my righteous clothes line can lower my neighbours house price by up to a whopping 15%.

Since when does having smart, responsible citizens trying to do the right thing in your neighbourhood detract from "the kerb appeal of the community"? If that sounds lame to you, it is because it is lame.

But people know this, and the desire to save money and lower carbon footprints means that line drying types are fighting back against the insanity.

They are engaging in civil disobedience and refusing to lower the undies, the sheets, and all the other colourful protest flags flying proudly from their backyard lines.

The clothes line may represent a life North Americans left behind in the 1950s, but it is a life to which we seem destined to return.

So go ahead - be a rebel with a cause and engage in the radical use of your free laundry drying apparatus.

Fight the power, and have sweet smelling clothes while you do it.

March 25, 2013

Be Happy Monday

March 20th was the 1st ever U.N. Int. Happiness Day

My friend Michael recently brought to my attention that March 20th was International Day of Happiness. I later discovered that this global day of celebrating feeling good was designated by the UN only this past June.

That makes 2013 the first year for this jolly jubilation.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution #A/RES/66/281, or The Jolly Jubilation Resolution as I now call it, states:

"... the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal."

"Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, 
Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness, and
Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities."


I recommend observing this newly designated day (or any day for that matter) by:
  • laughing to tears, preferably with someone else, and possibly at someone else (appropriately of course).
  • telling jokes and humorous anecdotes.
  • watching comedies.
  • and doing whatever else makes you feel good.
One could also take this opportunity to meditate on general practices that are proven to lead to a happy life.

Proven Practices To Be Happy
  • Think good thoughts. We create our reality with out thoughts, therefore should be very careful about how we are thinking about ourselves and others.
  • Don't hold grudges - practice forgiveness. The Buddha reminded us that,  "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." 
  • Expect less, and cultivate gratefulness for what you have. Just being alive provides us with a rich experience that we should not take for granted. If our basic needs are being met, we already have more than billions of people on our planet.
  • Don't compare yourself to others. Each of us is a special, unique part of the whole.
  • Give and share your time. It feels good to help others, and to share our special gifts in the name of supporting and contributing to the larger community.
  • Don't worry. Trust that everything happens for a reason, and is unfolding as it should.
  • Dream big. Practice regular brainstorming with no limits. Think of the best case scenario for you right now. This is the first step toward manifesting your needs and desires.
  • Live simply. Cicero said, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Happy day to you, and remember to mark March 20th, 2014 on your computer calendar - the second global 'be happy' day.

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again
 and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

Save An Ancient Forest - Cut Your Consumption

I captured this photo on a recent hike in a protected forest near my home on Vancouver Island

Scientist figure that if all the trees died, people would die. You can't overestimate the value and importance of our global ancient forests, and yet we afford these magical places no respect at all.

80% of global ancient forests have already been destroyed. It is time we protected the rest. Everywhere. Now.

While working toward legislation to halt the logging of remaining old growth locally and globally, let us also consider how our individual consumption patterns affect forest depletion.

Through consumer demand we cause original forests to be levelled on our behalf. Whether we buy Brazilian beef raised on former primal tropical rain forest lands, or planks of thousand year old ancient cedars from the Pacific temperate rainforest for our back yard decks, we are connected to the continued carnage.

Clear cut industrial logging ruthlessly disrespects and destroys ecosystems that take hundreds of years to develop. In doing so, it also destroys the forest's capacity to provide important 'services' that we, and other living things, can not live without.

Things like clean, breathable air, and pure potable water.

Forest Facts
I adapted the following forest facts from the Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots Canada Forest Campaign website found here.
"Deforestation and forest degradation are serious issues that are negatively impacting life on earth."
  • Forests worldwide cover 33 million square kilometres – over a quarter of the Earth’s land surface. The three most forest-rich countries are Russia, Brazil, and Canada.
  • Net forest loss (the amount of forest we lose after considering new trees that grow) is estimated to be 20,000 hectares a day, or 7.3 million hectares per year. Tropical forests could disappear within a hundred years.
  • Seventy-six countries have lost all of their original forest cover, and 11 more have less than 5%. Globally, approximately 80% of ancient forests have already been destroyed.
  • There are several major causes of deforestation worldwide, which include logging, industrialization and urbanization, conversion of forests for agriculture and livestock production, and extractive industries (e.g. mining, oil and gas).
  • In Canada, per capita consumption of paper almost doubled from 1983-2003. In 2003, the average Canadian used 91.4 kg of paper per year.
  • Few countries have laws or measures to ensure that illegally harvested timber is not imported.
  • Consumption of wood is expected to continue rising over the next 20 years (as it has in the past), especially with the focus on renewable energy making fuel wood more appealing.
  • The average land required to produce beef is more than double the land required to produce pork and triple the amount for chicken.
  • Oil production has a significant impact on forests, especially in Canada where oil sands production has destroyed hundreds of square kilometres of boreal forest. Rain forests in the Amazon have been found to recover especially slowly in areas used for small-scale gold mining.
  • Deforestation has a huge impact on climate change and vice versa. 
  • Old-growth forests provide ecosystem services that may be far more important to society than their use as a source of raw materials. Services include breathable air, pure water, carbon storage, regeneration of nutrients, maintenance of soils, pest control by insectivorous bats and insects, micro- and macro-climate control, and the maintenance of genetic diversity.

Ban The Logging Of Old Growth Forests

Save an ancient forest. Contact your elected officials and tell them if countries like New Zealand, Thailand, Sir Lanka, Philippines and Finland have banned old growth logging, your country can, too.

Cut Your Consumption of Old Growth Forests

Save an ancient forest. Live a simple life and cut your consumption.
  • Cut paper use - go digital and ask, "Do I really need to print this out?" We gave our printer away, and now in the rare event of needing a print out, go to the library and conduct our business at 25 cents per copy. You will save money.
  • Treat things made of wood respectfully - they still retain the essential spirit of the tree they came from. Items respected will last longer and replacement will be delayed.
  • Refuse, repurpose, reduce, recycle
  • Ask questions about the source of lumber products, and do not buy anything sourced from old growth forests (unless harvested in a small scale, community-based, sustainable logging industry)
  • Do not use single use paper products
  • Do not patronize fast food outlets with over-packaged, take-out food
  • Say no to excessive packaging by leaving it at the customer service desk when you buy stuff... if you buy stuff. Tell them why you are doing it, and make your purchase conditional on them receiving the unwanted, forest-depleting wrappings.
  • Arrange to be taken off junk mail lists
  • Say no to paper (and plastic) bags at the grocery store, and bring your own reusables.
  • When building, before buying new check places that reuse materials, such as Habitat for Humanity Int'l ReStore resale outlets.

March 22, 2013

26 Years of Making Beautiful Music Together

Buffalo roaming grassy foothills outside of Waterton National Park, Alberta

This week Linda and I celebrated our 20th year of officially hanging out with each other after 6 years of non-state-sanctioned cohabitation. We knew we could harmonize, and decided to make it official, sign the contract, and vow to make beautiful music together till death do us part.

On March 20, 1993 Linda and I, along with a small group of friends and family, gathered on an expanse of windswept prairie grass dotted with the first purple crocuses of spring.

Before us roamed a herd of shaggy buffalo, grazing in front of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The dark beasts, which symbolize prayer and abundance, are seen as a blessing to local First Nations. We too, felt blessed by their presence.

Buffalo symbolizes prayer
and abundance

Strong winds threatened to sweep us out onto the flat expanse of the prairies behind us, but our small group of supporters huddled together to keep us anchored.

They would be our choir, our back up singers whose voices enhance our own. We would need them - in 1995 Linda was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, news that would alter our lives forever.

We were ready for it as we started together with a strong foundation and clear mission in life.

On that windy day twenty years ago, Linda and I exchanged vows that we adapted from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet that reflected our shared love of nature, music, and living a simple, purposeful life.

Our vows were based on excerpts from "On Friendship":
"And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

And from "On Love":

"Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips."

And finally, from "On Marriage":

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

March 20, 2013

Working Class, Simple Living Hero

John Lennon - working class, simple living hero
Not only did the Beatles music provide a major portion of the sound track of my life, but John Lennon also helped to provide a track through life that I thought I might like to follow. It was a track that led to a simpler, slower way of being away from the noise and commotion of the merry-go-round of life.

While financially wealthy and able to purchase or do anything, Lennon remained grounded in the things that really matter in life. He stressed the importance not of fame or riches or even his own musical genius, but of more basic things such as love, peace, cooperation, and doing it your own way.

He was a rebel, more than likely from birth. When Lennon was very young he was already experiencing clashes with dominant modes of thinking that did not make sense to him. He said,
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
I can relate to his way of thinking. All my life I have felt that the "what do you want to be" line of questioning was lame, limited, and somewhat perplexing. What I really wanted to be when I was young was myself.

And when I grew up? Well, I wanted to be me, but a taller, smarter, more free me. Doesn't everyone want that? Everything else is just the details.

Super star - stay at home dad

John was great at his main focus, as well as working out the details. He and Yoko knew the value of a stress-relieving, multi-day lie in - he knew how to go slow. Lennon also learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of baking his own bread. In spite of his massive musical accomplishments, the first loaf made with his own hands he pulled from his oven in amazement.

"I took a Polaroid photo of my first loaf", he said of his baking success. "I was overjoyed, you know. I was that excited by it. I couldn’t believe it, it was like an album coming out of the oven. It looked great, you know, and it tasted good—that was pretty damned good." I was inspired not only by his music and activism, but also by his ability to turn off and tune out.

The song, Watching The Wheels, describes the 5 year period of Lennon's life in which he pulled back from the busyness of work to 'let it go' in favour of a quieter, more simple life that focused on family. And baking bread.

Music wasn't the only thing Lennon baked up

Watching The Wheels

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game.

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,

Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...

I'm just sitting here doing time.

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.

John Lennon has influenced which track I chose to follow in my life. There came a time in my own experience that I had to get off the merry-go-round, and indeed, some people looked at me as if I had lost my mind for quitting teaching and adopting a voluntary, low income/low footprint, simple life.

John Lennon and other working class, simple living heroes like him, have given me the strength to do it my own way, to be a rebel, and to let it all go in favour of a life that makes more sense to me.

Thanks, John... and Ringo, George, and Paul. Now, time to bake some bread and be happy that I am no longer playing the game. 

March 18, 2013

Musical Monday

It may look like a coffin, but a console stereo was my first introduction
 to the joys of recorded music
Another thing I would die without? Music. For me, and I suspect a lot of other people, living without music would be like living without breathing. The two are associated - singing is all about the breathe. Playing a flute, an instrument that has been around for 30,000 years, is also about breathe.

I remember segments of my life according to the music I was listening to at the time. 

When I was 10 my mom listened to a small stack of vinyl albums that were lovingly stored in our console stereo, a huge piece of furniture that has thankfully been miniaturized out of existence. She would carefully lower the needle on to her favourite records, then dance up a storm and sing along.

My siblings and I would join her.

Although the coffin stereo is long gone, I do remember some of the albums, including Rubber Soul by the Beatles, and Strange Days by the Doors. I like them to this day.

Art by

In more recent times, my musical enjoyment has been enhanced by learning to play an instrument. During the time I was listening to mom's albums, I also started guitar lessons. But I quit, and the musician in me had to endure a 30 year period of unsatisfied musical urges.

Then, 10 years ago when Linda and I made the transition to our current simple lifestyle, picking up the guitar was one of the first things we did. Now spontaneous jam sessions break out in a moments notice spreading harmonious vibrations far and wide.

Like nature, I think that exposure to music is crucial for maximum life enjoyment and optimal health. 

I may not die without music, but I shudder to think of a life bereft of the joys it brings.

March 15, 2013

Feeling Free Through Peak Experiences

The exceptional 1656 painting, Las Meninas, by Diego Velazquez has been known
to induce peak experiences, or ecstatic moments, in some viewers

Have you ever had a moment so gloriously excellent that you lost track of time? A moment that felt so right that you felt connected to everything? When everything clicks, makes sense, and is as it should be?

If we pay attention, these moments of blissful freedom can be repeatedly enjoyed.

What is a Peak Experience?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow called these events 'peak experiences', or times that we have feelings of intense happiness, expansiveness, wonder and awe. Such moments come on suddenly and are often preceded by deep meditation or concentration, feelings of love, great art or music, or the beauty of nature.

I think children live in a state of perpetual peak experience as they see the world through less tainted lenses. But soon such feelings are channeled exclusively for religious purposes, or dismissed altogether as 'daydreaming' or worse. We 'grow up' and forget about our ecstatic connection to life.

But we can get it back. We can put ourselves in situations where peak experiences, or the 'state of flow' as researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it, are likely to occur. We can learn to induce moments of maximum freedom, and then use these brief episodes to change how we live the rest of the time.

The writer Colin Wilson recognized the learning potential of these moments saying, "The peak experience induces the recognition that your own powers are far greater than you imagined them."

What a wonderful thing to discover - that we are more powerful than we realize! So how do we do this thing?

Inducing Peak Experiences and Feelings of Freedom

What triggers a peak experience varies from person to person, but whatever it is, it has to be deeply meaningful to the individual. Many chess players report entering a state of flow, and just about any engaging, enjoyable activity can do the same if you get into it enough and really lose yourself.

Others feel this psychic boost, this brain bomb, while in art galleries and museums. This was powerfully displayed for me in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, while Linda and I were searching out the 1656 painting by Diego Valazquez called Las Meninas. We spotted the crowd gathered in front of it before we saw the wall-sized painting itself.

To our astonishment, many of the Valazquez appreciators where weeping while gathered in front of this monumental work. A great many others were completely transfixed, unaware of anything or anyone around them. Some had to sit on the cool marble floor as they dropped, weak kneed from seeing the artist's work. The ecstatic reaction of viewers was just as interesting as the painting itself.

Soon we ourselves were drawn in to the magic of this massive, absorbing work of art that dominated the room in which it was hung. Las Meninas, paintings by Goya, and other great works of Western art ensured our own moments of magic before returning to the streets, changed for life by our encounters.

Now Madrid and Las Meninas are far away, but there are other more accessible methods for inducing that feeling of calm, centered, purposefulness. I came up with a list of activities that prompt in me the feeling that life is a wonderful, intense gift not to be wasted on petty concerns.

When I am doing these things, I make myself open and receptive to all the universe chooses to reveal to me, and everything is good.

Activities For Peak Experiences and Feeling Free
  1. Playing guitar while Linda sings.
  2. Baking bread.
  3. Riding my bike.
  4. Doing anything in nature.
  5. Cooking.
  6. Concentrating on learning a new skill (like slide guitar or cooking a new dish).
  7. Celebrating with other people.
  8. Talking to children.
  9. Dancing.
  10. Listening to music.
  11. Painting.
There are many other things that work, because as I have found over the years, the more I am aware of this tapping into the great creative source, the easier it is to access.

How About You?

What induces peak experience for you? What gives you the feeling of being free?

March 13, 2013

All Good Things Are Wild And Free

That the best, most valuable things in life are free is something that we have known as long as there has been money and markets. Henry David Thoreau showed that he knew this when he said, "All good things are wild and free." We know this, but ignore or distort its importance.

Fashionista, Coco Channel didn't get it, or was engaging in some interesting distortion when she claimed that while the best things in life were free, the second best were very expensive. She got the first part right, but was obviously wrong about the second bit.

Actually, the second best things in life are those that are next to free, or almost free, or virtually free. The farther you go down the line of need, value, or actual usefulness, the less free things become.

Ultimately, the most worthless things tend to be the most expensive. Like $97,000 dollar car wax, or a $725,000 dollar champagne cooler, or a $300,000 dollar iPhone case. How about a little black dress for $5.6 million dollars?

Such silly items are more flab than fab, and they highlight the lengths people will go to try to purchase exclusive luxury items that they think will make them as happy as the more valuable free things that we can all possess.

The love of friends and family, a sense of community, laughter, nature, air, the feeling of meeting a personal goal, the satisfaction of doing someone a favour, walking, and sleep are a few highly valuable free things that come to mind.

All that other second rate crap, though, will cost you dearly.

March 11, 2013

Getting Free Monday

Only we can free ourselves.
We are told how free we are so often that many people believe this is actually the case. However, the freedoms so touted by the system are limited for the great majority. The reality is "conform or be cast out", or rather, "consume or be cast out". I always felt something was wrong with that.

Global travel only confirmed this feeling as I visited country after country where the people weren't constantly rushing around preoccupied by working and shopping. I saw people living more simply in communities that were more socially cohesive and laid back than anything I had experienced at home.

When I first saw Turkish men relaxing over tea in outdoor cafes, I would check my watch. If it was between 9 and 5, my programmed work-a-day brain caused me to wonder why the men weren't 'at work'.

It took me a while to overcome my brainwashing that stated that all humans between 16 and 65 will be 'economically productive' at least eight to twelve hours a day Monday to Friday. But I was learning.

I was in the process of being de-programmed. Later, in the timeless old city district of Istanbul, I lost my watch. I never replaced it.

Artist Sue Austin designed her underwater freedom machine, redefining notions of
what it means to be 'disabled', 'handicapped', or 'confined'

With my sense of time and purpose irreversibly altered by travel, I longed to break free of the constraints of my culture's distorted goals and expectations.

It is all an illusion anyway, and I was ready for a new illusion. It was time to downsize, and realign the priorities.

Now I like to do things like ride my bicycle, bundled against the cold, without any means of conducting commerce. I will ride 3 kilometers to our raised bed plot in the community garden where I can forage for fresh (and free) winter greens.

With rich, black soil under my fingernails, I bundle up leaves of dark green kale into my back pack. I feel a kinship with the crows and ravens calling from the nearby trees.

Sue Austin getting free flying underwater

If there is only one game in town to choose from, and not very good one at that, we are not free.

A bird is free. An artist performing a flying underwater ballet in a special wheelchair is free. A fish is free.

Inspired by nature, freedom fighters like Sue Austin, and simple living people around the world, we can get free ourselves.

March 8, 2013

The Traveler's Dilemma

I have yet to see significant changes in the amount N. Americans travel

What do you do when you want to see friends, but they live 1500 km away? It is a simple living dilemma. Stay and we don't get to see valued co-conspirators, go and increase our carbon footprint.

The Offer

Recently our beautiful, generous mates in the next province over invited us to come and see them. Problem is, we live 1500 km away from each other.

How generous are they? They offered to pay for our air fare, our room and board for as long as we want to stay, and a car for our own personal use while we are there.

The Dilemma

In seven years we have only left Vancouver Island once, for my brothers wedding. Even then, the event was only two ferry sails from home. Other than that trip, we have kept to within about a 50 km radius of our home since moving here.

Our no-travel living is quite a change from our previous life of near-constant car travel. We enjoyed a life of adventure and discovery out on the open road during our leisure time, and daily commuting was a part of having full time jobs in the city.

But then we asked ourselves what our lives might look like in a post-oil world. We asked, "Where do we want to be when we make the change to a low-carbon lifestyle, and can't travel as easily any more?

Our answer was the west coast of Canada, a place we have long loved for its natural, semi-wild setting.  We moved, and stopped traveling. We didn't really plan it that way, it just kind of happened as we were  slowly entranced by our locality, and felt less of a need to be somewhere else.

Then there is the expense, and the amount of carbon produced while using fossil fuel dependent modes of transportation.

One of the big problems facing humanity right now is climate change caused by the intense use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution.

A great deal of those emissions were produced in the transportation sector.
"The combustion of fossil fuels. such as gasoline and diesel to transport people and goods is the second largest source of CO2 emissions, accounting for about 31% of total U.S. CO2 emissions and 26% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. This category includes transportation sources such as highway vehicles, air travel, marine transportation, and rail." - source
The Solutions?

As carbon is part of the problem, reducing carbon-intensive activity is part of the solution. So does this mean we can't travel to see friends any more? Visiting friends and family is the number one reason most people give for the purpose of their travel.

We would really like to see people, but they are all far away, and we can't easily walk, bike, or ride horses to traverse the distances between us, as much fun as that might be.

But the current offer on the table is so very generous and enticing.

We have the time, and they have the money. But can the planet handle our recreational, non-critical travel?

Do we miss our friends, or increase our carbon footprint? Should we stay, or should we go?

It's The Traveler's Dilemma. 

March 6, 2013

Hugo Chavez Spoke Out For People And The Planet

I have a lot in common with Chavez - we both think Barbie sucks

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has died of cancer at the age of 58, or so the official reports say. I figure the radical capitalists did him in, considering how honestly and truthfully Chavez spoke of their exploitative, and failing, economic model.

I will miss Chavez as a world leader with his emphasis on regular people, and his lack of bullshit when it came to pointing out who and what was the source of global misery.

Hugo Chavez: Quotes on Capitalism and Consumerism

“[The planet] is being destroyed under our own noses by the capitalist model, the destructive engine of development, ... every day there is more hunger, more misery thanks to the neo-liberal, capitalist model.”

“Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation. If you really want to look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ — who I think was the first socialist — only socialism can really create a genuine society.”

"Capitalist countries promote the need for cigarettes, drugs and alcohol so they can sell them. They produce video games showing cities being bombed so that they can sell weapons more easily."

"Dolls like Barbie have nothing to do with our culture."

"We have to re-invent socialism. It can’t be the kind of socialism that we saw in the Soviet Union, but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are built on cooperation, not competition."

"Health can’t be privatized because it is a fundamental human right, nor can education, water, electricity and other public services. They can’t be surrendered to private capital that denies the people from their rights."

RIP Hugo. You were, unfortunately, one of a kind - a world leader brave enough to think differently, get out of the box, and confront greed and hypocrisy.

March 4, 2013

Silly With Seuss Monday

Laugh and put things back in whack
"What would be wrong with a goldfish the size of a house?" my dad would ask me when I was a little guy. "You couldn't buy a fish bowl big enough to put it in," I would respond, and we would both laugh. Such were the silly, life-changing interactions we would have while reading Dr. Seuss classics such as A Fish Out Of Water.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born March 2, 1904. Whatever was out of whack before he came into the world, went back into whack with his arrival. His books stressed thinking and imagining without limits, for the greater good.

Perhaps people aren't reading enough Seuss lately because such skills are lacking among decision makers forming today's tragic tale. Things seem to have gone out of whack again, and our children's future is in peril.

Geisel did not have any children of his own, saying "you have 'em, and I'll entertain 'em". But it was never only about entertainment - I learned a lot snuggled into the crook of my dad's arm reading and re-reading books like Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Are You My Mother, and The Lorax.

Mostly I learned: 1) to be myself, 2) to fight for what is right, and 3) to not take life (or myself) too seriously.

Even in today's technologically 'advanced' world, I would challenge any electronic medium to deliver anything even close to the experience and potential of sharing a good book with someone you love.

Especially a nonsensical, brain-enhancing story that makes you laugh while you learn. So simple. So in whack.

Wake up your brain cells and those of your kids. Read. Imagine. Get silly. Laugh. Care.

Re-write the story - make things better together.

March 1, 2013

To What Are We Paying Attention?

Don't Be A Prisoner To Advertising Lies
For several decades, if not centuries, we have been paying attention to the wrong things. Why? Advertising has hijacked our minds.

The word 'advertising' comes from the Latin 'ad vertere', which means 'turn the mind toward'. Advertising has become so all pervasive that it has succeeded in turning our minds away from what is true, beautiful, and eternal. It implores us from every nook and cranny of life to pay attention to false promises.

Advertisers desperately want you to care about their message, product, or service. They want you to care about what other people think. In the advertisers cruel, profit-oriented world, love is a conditional commodity to be dispensed only to those with the right stuff.

They are lying in order to exploit our most deep seated fear - the fear of not being loved.

We are social creatures, and love is a requirement of life. To love and be loved is the basic human condition, not something that can be purchased. Advertisers don't want you to know this; you don't need any of their stuff to be loved.

Most people don't care about what you own, or where you holiday, or how many little green pieces of paper you have stashed away, although countless messages tell us differently every day. Most people will care about you regardless, because that is what humans do.

We can refocus our attention and turn our minds toward more rewarding pursuits, like the betterment of the human condition across the planet. That is what humans do for each other when they aren't distracted.

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the influence of advertising.

Living: Lifestyle Changes
  • Kill your TV
  • Get off the computer
  • Burn all glossy magazines
  • Get into nature and escape advertising altogether
  • Relax, meditate
Learning: Media Literacy
  • Learn about media literacy and the methods of exploitation employed by advertisers
  • Share what you learn with your kids so they are more media savvy, and can think critically about the purpose of media messages
  • Learn about creating an environment free from excessive corporate graffiti.
  • Call out corporations with questionable marketing campaigns
  • Help to influence legislation - support anti-advertising organizations, and sign petitions calling for increased governmental regulation of the advertising/marketing industry (The American Psychological Association has called for regulation of advertising geared towards children. The American Medical Association has questioned the motives of big pharma in the push to market drugs directly to patients, a multi-billion dollar undertaking larger than budgets for researching and developing new drugs)
Loving: Letting Go
  • let go of fears that are magnified by advertising - we have everything we need to be loved the moment we are born.
  • give in to human nature and love unconditionally - practice forgiveness
The best thing you can do is take back control of your mind, and not care a stitch about the false promises of uncaring advertisers. They are not worth your attention, or your money.