April 30, 2013

Homemade Refried Beans

6 X 500ml jars of refried beans about to go in freezer

As the drawbacks of industrial meat production become clear, many people are eating meatless meals more often. Mexican food is a natural for straight forward vegetarian dishes. Refried beans are one of my favorites, and can form the basis of many dishes including burritos, quesadillas, and enchiladas.

Best of all, refried beans are amazingly easy to make. But it took us a while to discover that fact.

When we first started eating vegetarian meals more often we bought all our beans canned as it is a convenient way to start when changing your eating habits. However, after a while we decided it was a pretty expensive way to go considering bulk dry beans are so cheap.

We gave up buying 398ml cans of refried beans ($2.50 - $3.50 each) and started buying bulk dry pinto beans (30 cents/100 gm). 

Now I make 4 cups (1 kg x 30cents/100 gm = $3.00) of dry beans at a time, and get about 2 - 3 liters of refried beans. I put them in 500ml jars, then put the jars in the freezer.

For the price of one can of the store bought variety, I can make up to 3 litres (about 7 cans) of homemade refried beans. Plus I can make them exactly the way I like them, and I have control over the salt content.

I also like not consuming all the tin can packaging. I really just want the beans and not the cans, even though they would get recycled. My canning jars are reusable.

Homemade Refried Bean Recipe


4 cups dry pinto beans, picked over and rinsed

4 tablespoons olive oil

Seasonings to taste: cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt

optional: a few squirts of Bragg Seasoning, a couple of chopped chipotle peppers


  1. Place the beans in a large saucepan, and cover with an inch of water. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil. (Beans can be soaked over night first to cut cooking time - change water before cooking.)
  2. Turn down to simmer and cook till the beans are tender and the skins split when you blow on them (approx. 1.5 - 2 hours). Add water as required.
  3. Stir in seasonings during last 1/2 hour of cooking. 
  4. Once the beans have cooked drain them of the liquid. Many people throw this out, but I keep it - there's nutrients in there! It also makes an excellent vegetarian gravy. I freeze bean cooking liquid in canning jars too.
  5. Return some of the liquid to beans and mash with a potato masher; use additional liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency. Add olive oil.
  6. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom of saucepan. 
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  8. Beans can be frozen in canning jars for easy use later. They will only keep for a few days in the fridge.
Enjoy your homemade meatless meals while you save money AND cut down on the consumption of resources. 

April 29, 2013

Reading And Literacy Monday

My current library books
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Jorge Luis Borges

I am a voracious reader. So much so that I have been known to read cereal boxes or shampoo containers just to get a fix. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, though, which is a shame - reading is a major conduit to learning, joy, and freedom.

In 2008 a poll revealed that more than 25% of Americans had not read a single book in the previous year. Since then things have improved a bit.

The Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found in 2012 that 83% of Americans between 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and 60% visited their local library. 

Among those 30 and over, 81% reported reading for pleasure. 

The Nation's Report Card on Reading found that more fourth graders reported reading for fun in 2011 than they had in 2009, and the number stood at an all time high of 46%. OK, that is better, but what are the other 54% doing?

Literacy Facts
  • About 14% of Americans can't read. 
  • 63% of prison inmates can't read. 
  • 774 million people worldwide are illiterate
  • Two-thirds of the world's illiterate are women 
From:  ProLiteracy

Turn off the TV, enjoy a good book

Reading and Leisure Time

Reading for pleasure may be up, but little screens still dominate our down time. The 2011 American Time Use Survey uncovered this trend.

Unsurprisingly, watching TV was the number one leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day), accounting for about half of total leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over.

And then there are those lucky seniors. On an average day, adults age 75 and over spent 7.4 hours engaged in leisure and sports activities - more than any other age group. On the other hand, 25 to 44-year olds spent 4.2 hours engaged in leisure and sports activities - less than other age groups.

Time spent reading for personal interest and playing games or using a computer for leisure varied greatly by age. 

Individuals age 75 and over averaged 58 minutes of reading per weekend day (the most for any group) and 21 minutes playing games or using a computer for leisure. 

Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 7 minutes per weekend day while spending 1.2 hours playing games or using a computer for leisure.

What is your family reading?

April 27, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Flying With Hummingbirds

Photo credit: Glenn Male

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."

- Rachel Carson

April 26, 2013

More Sustainable Living - It's Not Easy Being Green

"It's not easy being green."
"Said it, you did."

I recently changed the NBA blog description. I thought it important to add the word 'More' in front of "Sustainable Living" lest someone think that I believe that the way I live (as spartan as it may be) is actually "sustainable". It's not. Or is it?

What I have found over the years is that Kermit the frog was right - it's not easy being green. Sustainability often seems like an illusive goal that is always just a bit out of reach of modern living folks.

But what is sustainability exactly, and do we have to become hunter-gatherers, or live in caves to attain this ultimate green goal?

There are many definitions of sustainability currently in use. One of the most commonly used definitions is from the 1987 U.N. Brundtland Commission Report:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The Earth Charter is more specific and envisions:
 “a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.”
Sustainability can be applied to ecosystems, nations, as well as the full range of our own individual activities. We can assess the sustainability of our countries and lifestyles, using a tool such as an Ecological Footprint calculator.

Whatever it is, it is clear that by any definition many countries, including my own, are a long way from realizing anything close to sustainable living. But we can work toward becoming more sustainable in our decisions.

Using a footprint calculator at the Global Footprint Network, I determined that I have an eco-footprint of about 3.9 global hectares. That sounds great compared to the average Canadian with a footprint of about 6 hectares, but it is still over the level of sustainability which is considered to be about 2 hectares.

I think they overestimated my footprint.

Over at footprint.org, at the end of the questions I was told, "Congratulations, you are living an ecologically conscientious lifestyle. If everyone lived like you do, we would need only 0.74 Earths."

The second calculator is more detailed than the one at GFN, and must use different methods because they say, "There are only 15.71 global hectares available per person on a renewable basis." My footprint was 11.66 hectares.

So am I living sustainably? It seems to depend on the footprint calculator one uses. Try them and see what you come up with. Either way, we can always get greener.

I Can Get Greener

There are a few ways I can reduce my footprint further:
  1. Ditch my vehicle and take public transportation.
  2. Live in a more energy efficient home.
  3. Eat more local foods, preferably grown in my own garden.
  4. Install a solar energy power system (even a small one would make a difference).
Living greener certainly will help reduce the all pervasive cognitive dissonance we experience over our current high consumption lifestyles. We know in our hearts that using more than our fair share, and more than the planet can replace, is not right.

It's not easy being green, but it is not impossible either. We may be required to make radical shifts to the way we live, but chances are our new sustainable lifestyle will be more enjoyable than the old one we need to leave behind.

April 25, 2013

Simple Gifts

My mom phoned me to tell me that she had a song running through her head that she thought would be nice to share on my blog. From past experience I know that it is a good idea to listen to motherly wisdom, so I checked the song lyrics out.

Of course, mom was right, and here is the beautiful song she shared with me by singing a long distance rendition of the original verse. It turns out that other verses exist and they are also good.

"Simple Gifts" was written by Elder Joseph while at a Shaker community in Alfred, Maine. These are the lyrics to his one-verse song:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

Two additional, later non-Shaker verses exist for the song, as follows:

'Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
'Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we'll all live together and we'll all learn to say,

'Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
'Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of "me",
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we'll all live together with a love that is real.[9]

Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all
Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls
And with it we will truly believe
Tis better to give than it is to receive

And an additional alternative:

The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof,
Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above.
Salvation is here where we laugh, where we cry,
Where we seek and love, where we live and die.
When true liberty is found,
By fear and by hate we will no more be bound.
In love and in light we will find our new birth
And in peace and freedom, redeem the Earth.

Another alternate verse:

'tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be fair
'tis a gift to wake and breathe the morning air
and each day we walk on the path that we choose
'tis a gift we pray we never shall lose

- source

Thanks, mom.

April 24, 2013

Grow A Row For A Healthier Community

Plant a row, grow a row, donate a row - build healthy communities

Grow a Row is a program for gardener volunteers to plant an extra row of food in their garden which is distributed to food lunch programs, community kitchens, food banks at harvest time. It is an awesome way to build community and help provide neighbours in need with healthful, local food.

The Grow a Row program was started in 1986 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Since its inception, over 1.4 million pounds of food has been donated to food banks there.

This worthy program, which capitalizes on gardeners innate desire to generously share the fruits of their labour, has grown to include over 85 communities across the country.

The Victoria, BC chapter is the closest to me. It has been in operation for two years, and is set to expand to the greater region this year.

Victoria Grow a Row is working toward the following goals:

1. Cultivate a Caring Community: join together gardeners, those who wish they could garden, neighbourhoods and businesses in support of the Grow a Row project.

2. Share the Veggie Wealth: excess food from backyard gardens, balcony boxes and community gardens to be delivered to those who could really use some home-grown food.

3. Unite Existing Initiatives: work with our community partners to create awareness of what is already being done and continuing to be done to further the first two goals.

4. Food Sustainability: through community support and awareness balance health, environmental and social concerns to promote access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all.

Victoria collected over 700 lbs of food from contributing gardeners in 2012 that was distributed in the community via several collection areas.

Sooke's Sun River community garden deserves a shout out as well.  Last year volunteers in my community garden planted, cared for, harvested, and donated 2000 lbs of yummy, fresh food. It was the single largest contributor in the Greater Victoria area.

So wherever you are, plant a row, Grow a Row, and give your community the gift of healthful local food raised with loving care and attention.

If you don't have a vegetable garden, consider taking out some of that lawn and growing something edible.

If there is no program in your area, be an innovator and start one. The links at the bottom provide additional information to help out.

What Foods Are Needed?

  • root vegetables, like carrots, turnips and parsnips
  • broccoli, cabbage
  • peas, beans, tomatoes
  • radishes, sweet peppers, summer squash
  • apples and pears
  • lettuce and herbs

Happy gardening!

Canada's National Grow a Row website: http://www.growarow.org/indexENG.htm

USA National site: http://www.americasgrowarow.org/about/

April 22, 2013

Earth Day Monday

Happy 43rd Earth Day.

Let's celebrate our Mother, our life support system, and the only habitable planet that we know of that isn't inconveniently very far away. It is our only chance for survival, unless a sterile moon base is your idea of a good time.

While working toward changing this planet for the better, we would be wise to heed the words of indigenous people, some of whom continue to live sustainable lifestyles.

Who better to judge the state of our environment than the people that have been caring for it for thousands of years? Are they saying everything is fine? Hardly.

But they do have some excellent ideas for creating better, more sustainable ways of living on and with Mother Earth.

The following is from the World's People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Nature that took place in Bolivia this time of year back in 2010.

"Today, our Mother Earth is wounded and the future of humanity is in danger."

"We confront the terminal crisis of a civilizing model that is patriarchal and based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature that accelerated since the industrial revolution. 
The capitalist system has imposed on us a logic of competition, progress and limitless growth. This regime of production and consumption seeks profit without limits, separating human beings from nature and imposing a logic of domination upon nature, transforming everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of peoples, and life itself. 
Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are. 
Capitalism requires a powerful military industry for its processes of accumulation and imposition of control over territories and natural resources, suppressing the resistance of the peoples. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet. 
Humanity confronts a great dilemma: to continue on the path of capitalism, depredation, and death, or to choose the path of harmony with nature and respect for life. 
It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings. 
We propose to the peoples of the world the recovery, revalorization, and strengthening of the knowledge, wisdom, and ancestral practices of Indigenous Peoples, which are affirmed in the thought and practices of “Living Well,” recognizing Mother Earth as a living being with which we have an indivisible, interdependent, complementary and spiritual relationship.  
To face climate change, we must recognize Mother Earth as the source of life and forge a new system based on the principles of:
  • harmony and balance among all and with all things; 
  • complementarity, solidarity, and equality; 
  • collective well-being and the satisfaction of the basic necessities of all; 
  • people in harmony with nature; 
  • recognition of human beings for what they are, not what they own; 
  • elimination of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism; 
  • peace among the peoples and with Mother Earth;
The model we support is not a model of limitless and destructive development. All countries need to produce the goods and services necessary to satisfy the fundamental needs of their populations, but by no means can they continue to follow the path of development that has led the richest countries to have an ecological footprint five times bigger than what the planet is able to support.  
Currently, the regenerative capacity of the planet has been already exceeded by more than 30 percent. If this pace of over-exploitation of our Mother Earth continues, we will need two planets by the year 2030. In an interdependent system in which human beings are only one component, it is not possible to recognize rights only to the human part without provoking an imbalance in the system as a whole. 
To guarantee human rights and to restore harmony with nature, it is necessary to effectively recognize and apply the rights of Mother Earth." - source

We can ensure that the Rights of Mother Earth are respected every day in a perpetual celebration and practice of the principles of sustainability and harmony.

April 21, 2013

What Do We All Have In Common?

Boreal forest in northern Alberta, Canada is sustainable indefinitely if cared for properly

"The Earth is what we all have in common." 
- Wendell Berry

Canadian tar sands where Boreal forest used to be - not sustainable
 Garth Lenz photo

We should take better care of it.

April 19, 2013

Spring Forest Bath

Linda soaking up health-promoting volatile antimicrobial organic compounds
The forest is my favourite place to be. It makes me feel good.

In Japan, doctors regularly prescribe a visit to the forest for stressed out office workers. The benefits of this treatment have been documented in scientific studies. My own experience backs them up.

While amongst the beauty of the trees it is all about the smell-o-vision experience. It is considered a form of natural aromatherapy.

An assortment of novel odours lets you know that you are in a fragrant, special place. Scientists say what we are breathing in is phytoncides, volatile antimicrobial organic compounds released by trees and other plants.

Phytoncides in wood's essential oils help to prevent rot and attack by insects and animals. Their positive effect on human health is said to last for several days after exposure.

For stress management and relaxation, we recommend visiting a forest near you.

April 17, 2013

Denialists Say, "Don't Worry - Everything Is Fine"

Just because you deny something, doesn't mean it isn't happening
The Canadian government recently withdrew from the United Nations Convention to Combat Drought and Desertification (UNCCD), the only country in the world to do so. My homeland, and its international reputation, is being destroyed by a denialist political organization.

Does that sound too alarmist? I don't think so.

Denialists choose to ignore evidence as a way to avoid uncomfortable truths. Science and first-person accounts are dismissed in favour of beliefs that allow the pillage and plunder of the ecosphere to continue. All for the benefit of the few, and to the detriment of the many.

Speaking of denialists, in a recent comment here, reader TJ Smith called my blog out as environmental alarmism. I am sure Steven Harper and his Anti-Environment Minister Peter Kent feel the same way when they drop by Not Buying Anything.

Here is TJ Smith's comment:
"Great for everyone who has a small home. More power to ya. I get tired of subliminal messages that America and it's hard earned wealth is wicked and we should all be emulating third world nations, as if they purposely choose a shack or lean-to for habitation.  
In a country where we produce more goods worldwide, are the most productive, the most generous, the most intelligent, the most pro-active in technology and research, has the best health-care (until Obama kicks in), you think we'd be free to build a home any size we want without facing ridicule from liberal socialist.  
The population only fills 3% of the earth, so overpopulation is really not the issue. If Texas had the same population percentage as England based on land size, there would over 100 million people in the Lone Star State. Last I heard England isn't running out of room.  
If people want a big home, that's their freedom in America. It is the American dream. My home size is actually under the national average for home size, but I'm certainly not going to berate or shame rich folks for doing so with some passive aggressive call to "save the earth". Trees are a renewable resource. We aren't going to run out.  
But guess what all you tree huggers, plastic is filling up the dump grounds and now Grocery stores are calling for paper bags! How ironic is that? The ones who thought they had the "new world" solution ended up screwing up what was the most efficient way to conserve. 
The earth is self sustaining and will support twice the population it now serves. In the next 20 years you will see this proven."
I guess me and thousands of other concerned citizens could be wrong about the direction our planet is going, and perhaps the Earth can support billions of high-consumption individuals driving big cars and living in big houses.

Given the evidence however, I don't think that I am being alarmist in warning that 3-planet lifestyles are not sustainable, and that a move toward smaller footprint living is required to turn things around.

April 16, 2013

Telling The Happy Truth

Better yet is telling the truth and making someone smile.

And the truth is, in my experience, that we need very little to be happy and content.

That should make everyone smile, except maybe those that are trying to sell us stuff we don't need and that only makes us cry in the end.

Simple living means happy, smiley people. And that's no lie.

April 15, 2013

Eco-Footprint Monday

In 2008 the average Global Ecological Footprint was 2.7 hectares - the sustainable average
is 2.0 hectares per person.
Bangladesh has an average eco-footprint of about 0.7 hectares, and yet they ranked 11th on the Happy Planet Index. 

Canada, with a much larger GDP and footprint, ranked as the 65th happiest nation.

Calculating an eco-footprint is a useful measure of environmental sustainability, or ongoing ecological health. The average shoe size of a Canadian for instance, is a large clown shoe made of plastic compared to that of Bangladesh which is a tiny bamboo sandal.

The Ecological footprint is the amount of environment needed to produce the goods and services necessary to support a particular lifestyle.

The size of a person's footprint depends on many factors. Some of these we have direct control over, including the choices we make on the products we purchase, what we eat and how we travel. Others are beyond our immediate control.

Government and business have a large effect on the size of everyone's eco-footprint. They have a responsibility to reduce the impact of their operations, just as we can make different choices to reduce our own impact.

If all of humanity lived like an average Indonesian, only two-thirds of the planet's biocapacity would be used; if everyone lived like an average Argentinean, humanity would demand more than half an additional planet; and if everyone lived like an average Canadian, a total of 3.5 Earths would be required to regenerate humanity's annual demand on nature.

Divided equally among all humans, each of us would get roughly 2 global hectares of bio-capacity to sustain us. At this level the environment would be able to replace as much as we take, and sustainability would be achieved.

In 2008 the global average ecological footprint was 2.7 hectares per person. The average for Canadians is just over 6 hectares.

The WWF reports:
"...that Canadians are using approximately 3.5 times their share of the Earth’s annual productivity, part of a global trend of increasing demand for resources by a growing population. 
This trend is putting tremendous pressures on our planet’s biodiversity and is threatening our future security, health and well-being. The correlated decline in biodiversity threatens not only the balance of our ecosystems, but economic opportunities."
Reducing our Ecological Footprint, individually and nationally, can lead to happier people, and a happier planet.

Walk softly and leave a small footprint

April 13, 2013

Do Nothing - Spring Still Comes, Grass Still Grows

It is a basic fact of life that stuff must get done. We also occasionally need to have a sense of accomplishment - it can feel good to get stuff done. But what stuff, and how often?

We are often told that life is hard, but not told that at times it should be, and can be, easy. Getting by does not need to be a constant struggle.

As the Zen saying advises, 'sit quietly, do nothing, and still Spring comes and the grass grows by itself'.

So rest, take a break, do nothing. Heck, go as far as to be idle, slack, and daydreamy for a while. Then, when it is time to do something you will be able to give 100% of yourself.

April 12, 2013

Quotes On My Fridge

I prefer taking the road less traveled, even if it is a bit bumpier.

Choosing the road less traveled can be a lonely and scary undertaking. But being adventurous, and taking that path, can make all the difference. So it is with the route that leads to a simple life.

I have several quotes on my fridge as daily reminders of the difficulties, and pay-offs of the overgrown path that more people are choosing to take.
"Where people of today dwell, I do not dwell. What people of today do, I do not do.  
If you clearly understand what this really means, you must be able to enter a pit of fire with your whole body." 
- Huang-Long
Doing anything counter to popular culture is bound to be resisted by those in the well-worn fast lane. While you may not be burned at the stake, you may be treated like there is something wrong with you for not taking the path of least resistance that everyone else is on. 

But there are rewards for having the courage to strike off into uncertain territory. That is why another quote on my fridge helps give me the strength to continue on a path that while not popular, leads me to the places I want to go.

"Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth." 
- Katherine Mansfield

When choosing the simple living path, you may first have to pass through a pit of fire as there is great resistance to doing things differently and eschewing the trappings of consumer culture.

Don't worry though - your fellow travellers, while few, are strong and committed. We will help douse you with the cool waters of companionship and support.

Together we will face the truth, and act for ourselves. Our happiness and on-going survival depends on it.

April 10, 2013

Cars vs Bicycles

I read once that a bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation in the known universe. I am sure it is not far from the truth. I have always thought that bicycles were magic machines.

Riding a bicycle can be up to 5 times more efficient than walking, and can produce the equivalent of about 950 miles per gallon. Number crunchers carefully calculate such things with wonderful equations such as:

P = gmVg(K1+s) + K2VaVg


E = 1/2mv2 + 1/4mv2 = 3/4mv2

Oooo, it's science. Here is some more:

One hundred calories can power a cyclist for three miles,
but would only power a car 280 feet (85 meters)

I have always been impressed with sensible cycling peoples in India, China, and many European countries. As a kid I saw photographs of large Indian and Chinese cities teeming with bicycles, while private vehicles were as rare as persistent killing smog events.

In recent years China has been making the shift from being a 'bicycle kingdom' to one dominated by cars. How sad it is to see former cycling nations make the shift from a sustainable source of transportation to one completely unsustainable.

Member of Environment's Angels bicycle gang
I started out on unsustainable transportation quite early. I bought my first car before I was old enough to drive it legally. The day I got my driver's licence I ceased to walk or cycle if I could drive instead.

That was a big mistake because I came to miss the freedom, enjoyment, and simplicity of walking and biking. But I was destined to return to my beloved cycling eventually.

Part of the problem has been that the auto industry has us sucked right in to the whole car mystique. We feel like we can't live without them, that we are somehow incomplete without hauling our two tons of glass, metal, and rubber around with us everywhere we go.

However, increasingly aware recent generations are not as enthusiastic about car ownership, and the sales of cars is projected to fall in some markets in the future.

Bicycle cargo carrier from Denmark hauls up to 100kg of freight 

I am also increasingly unenthusiastic about driving. While we still own a vehicle, we only drive it about 3000 km a year, well below the average of 20,000 km.

I find driving less enjoyable than I used to, and instead of being a 'freedom machine' it is beginning to feel more like an anchor.
For shorter trips (below about 20 kms return), I usually ride my bicycle. It keeps me fit, saves money, and is more sustainable. And it is fun.

Based on the principles of energy efficiency and sustainability, there is no contest. 

No car can deliver 950 miles per gallon. Nor will you burn much fat while driving.

The bicycle wins.

April 8, 2013

Culture Jamming Billboard Bandits

Billboard liberation in action

The lies and excesses of advertising have been known for a long time.  Today, a small group of activists are fighting back in a direct and highly visible manner. Advertising's toxicity is  being revealed by culture jammers such as guerrilla artists, monkey wrenchers, and billboard liberators.

Mark Dery, who writes about the visual landscape and 'unpopular culture', describes the group of whacktivists that are hitting back:
"Billboard bandits, pirate TV and radio broadcasters, media hoaxers, and other vernacular media wrenchers who intrude on the intruders, investing ads, newscasts, and other media artifacts with subversive meanings are all culture-jammers."   

Move along, or not. Either way, nothing to buy here.
An increasing number of people are refusing to be lulled by advertising into perpetual discontent and the work/spend cycle that can lead to debt and destroyed lives. They are finding ways of filtering the noise and bother from their lives.

As Jack Napier, of the Billboard Liberation Front says, "Your brain is the ultimate editing device. Use it. The corporations, the government, the religions, your Mom, none of them can occupy and control your mind unless you invite them in…"

Monkey wrenchers put the environment (and people) before profits

We can all engage in a little culture jamming wherever we are. We can spread the word by being happiness hackers, people unafraid of deploying a healthy dose of subversive silliness in order to awaken the slumbering consumer class.

The Barbie Liberation Front (BLO) is a group of culture jammers that gained notoriety by changing the voice boxes of talking Barbie and GI Joe dolls. After performing 'surgery' on the dolls, the BLO returned them to store shelves in what they call reverse shoplifting, or shopgiving.

Teen Talk Barbies were programmed to say things like, "Vengeance is mine!" instead of "math class is tough".  The hacked GI Joe dolls proclaimed, "The beach is the place for summer", and "Let's go shopping". The BLO said they wanted to reveal the Stone-Age thinking behind the cultural stereotypes that the dolls represent.

Rocket scientist Barbie had no problem with numbers, but
getting pay equity was another thing...
The ultimate culture jam is being a guerrilla fighter for enough, for limits to desires, for radical contentment. It is monkey wrenching consumerism by refusing to participate in this environment-and-soul-destroying system. It is making that system obsolete by developing better, and more fun, ways of doing things.

Happy culture jamming! Be creative. Spread the message. Change the world.

April 5, 2013

The Advertisers Are Laughing

Advertising changes people, and it changes cultures. It might be more accurate to say that it destroys traditional cultures while it homogenizes us into a singular mass of non-descript consumers.

Advertising is everywhere. It plays to the ego's eyes and ears and creates a new narrative in our minds. Over time it becomes difficult to tell the difference between our original, real desires and goals, and the ones put there by the marketing industry. First Nations in the Canadian north provide a case in point.

Inuit elders realized the destructive power of southern-based TV and advertising when transmissions became available for the first time beginning in the late 60s. Some communities, such as Igloolik, initially voted to refuse television fearing irreversible damage to their lifestyle.

Television and advertising did fill the air waves of the north, and the people felt the effects almost immediately. TV is not solely to blame for the social transformation of Inuit life, but it has played a large role.

TV advertising, and the promotion of the lifestyles of the industrial south, had effects on Inuit language, culture, and day-to-day life in traditional settlements. Today's Inuit youth are no longer socialized within a value system that emphasizes the importance of mutual cooperation and sharing.

Many Inuit, some have noticed, have become more materialistic, and therefore desire highly paid jobs in the industrial world rather than engage in traditional forms of subsistence.

Graburn (1982) has gone so far as to suggest that television is a form of cultural genocide.

And the advertisers, the world re-arrangers, laugh.

April 3, 2013

GMO's: One More Reason Not To Eat Crap

Be informed - avoid GMO's.

It used to be that processed foods were foods that had been treated badly to improve their convenience factor. As if that weren't enough, now we can add Frankenfoods to the list of mistreatments wreaked upon things formerly known as real food.

The corporations that participate in this nutritional monster mash don't want you to know where they are hiding their food gremlins. In recent years they have been actively fighting any move toward GMO labelling.

If their products are as safe as they say they are, what is the problem? Monsanto wouldn't need to be legally absolved of future responsibility for health problems if the company weren't already aware such issues existed.

And if they truly don't know the consequences of what they are unleashing, they should take their products off the shelves until they do.

Thankfully the lovers of real food, the defenders of nature, and clear thinking skeptical types, are fighting back. The Frankenfood zombie must be slain, they say, before everything is irreversibly tainted.

50 countries, including Denmark, Norway, France, Germany and Italy have banned or restricted GMO's. Unfortunately, Canada and the US are GMO boosters and don't even require labelling. Again, what are they trying to hide?

Genetically engineered freaky foods are surreptitiously slipped into everything from Arrowroot Teething Biscuits to Zesta Saltines crackers, and everything in-between.

And just because you aren't a teething baby or you don't like crackers doesn't mean you are safe. Up to 80% of processed foods contain some GMO ingredients.

Find out more products that have GMO ingredients in the package, but not on the label, by following this link:

Foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Although it is an incredibly long list, it can only be considered partial since new Frankenfoods are developed every year. Yuck!

How can we avoid ingesting scary cancer causing foods that are more comfortable in the laboratory than in the kitchen, or our stomachs? The following tips will help you steer clear, although remaining vigilant is recommended.

How To Avoid Frankenfoods

  1. Grow your own food as much as you can. Choose heirloom varieties.
  2. Eat an organic, whole food diet.
  3. Eat vegetarian - avoid the newly developed Frankenfish (AquaBounty GMO salmon), as well as meat reared on GMO feed.
  4. Don't eat prepared, processed or snack foods. Watch for those that contain soy, corn, or canola oil, all of which are commonly genetically modified.
  5. Make your own food. When you make it yourself, you know for sure what is in it.

April 1, 2013

Be Silly Monday

Left brain - serious. Right brain - silly.
Our brains consist of two halves, each with its own special capabilities.

The right brain is the imaginative, spontaneous, creative, silly side of. The left brain is the serious, linear, time-restricted, follow-the-instructions, analytic side of the brain.

We live in a left brain dominated world. This tends to get stuff done, albeit in a linear, on the clock, terribly predictable way. Often our creative brain half gets set aside for more 'serious' business.

That is why we have cultural notions about "all work and no play..." even if we do mostly ignore them.  

Einstein recognized the difference between left brain knowledge, and right brain imagination. “Logic," he said, "will get you from A to Z", whereas, "imagination will get you everywhere.”

Every once in a while we should indulge in right brain activities in order to balance things out and have some fun.

I like to exercise my right brain, take it on a walk through Silly Land, and let my creativity loose. I  daydream, giggle, hum a tune, and engage in extreme silliness until tears of happiness roll down my cheeks.

Ralph Waldo Emerson must have been a kindred spirit that also liked to indulge his right brain. Why?

Because he said,

"Be silly. Be honest. Be kind." 

I assume, since Emerson was a philosopher and writer, that he listed the three qualities after carefully considering the importance of each. I like that he decided to put 'be silly' first.

Definitely be honest. And kind. But more importantly, remember to be silly.

Both hemispheres of the brain are important, but our system
often values left brain functions over right