December 31, 2013

May 2014 Be A Wiser Year

"Our present behaviour not only diminishes the planet but it also diminishes us. As our tiny measure of time ticks off another year, we need to weigh our small gains and accomplishments against our great failings and losses. 

Maybe 2014 will be a wiser year."

December 30, 2013

Resolve To Do Less Monday

A New Year's resolution is a promise that you make to yourself, to do more of something good or less of  something bad, on the first day of the year (and often, for not much longer). One reason many fail to implement resolutions long term is because life is already so busy.

What a way to start a new year - by adding more to a busy schedule. So this year, resolve to do less.

Instead of adding things, resolve to take things off your lists. So much of what we do are furtive attempts to distract, or are attempts to live up to external, questionable expectations of society.

Stopping such things will enhance your new year instead of burdening it. Resolve to do less and end up living more.

December 27, 2013

To Live Is To Love

Me and the lovely Linda on a hike to a local beach.

"To live is to love. Everything else is just details."

- Paulo Coelho

I could declutter almost 100% of my stuff from my life. Everything, that is, except Linda. She's a keeper.

Linda is the best friend I have ever had. Since our fortunate meeting 27 years ago I have been enjoying her company and her love.

If you are lucky enough to have even one truly loving relationship in your life you have something precious. You have something that can not be found in any store or catalogue. Something  that can not be bought with any amount of money.

I suspect that the more love one has in one's life, the less inclined they would be to focus on material acquisitions. When I am with Linda it feels like I could live on nothing more than her company, her wit, and her love.

My wish is for everyone to experience an abundance of love in the new year. To get you started, Linda and I are sharing our love with all of you right now, for to live is to love, and to love is to live.

We love you. Yes, you.

December 24, 2013

Happy Ho! Ho! Ho!

This isn't your grandmother's Christmas - our traditions are changing in small ways all the time. Nothing is written in stone. They are more like etchings in ice.

People are altering their winter celebrations so they do less harm and honour their intended purpose, which is usually bringing us together as one human family.

Happy Green Christmas. LOL, LOL, LOL.

December 23, 2013

Putting The Planet First Monday

Good things happen when we put the planet at the centre of everything.
"We can pay the ecological debt by changing economic models, and by giving up luxury consumption, setting aside selfishness and individualism, and thinking about the people and the planet."

- Evo Morales
There is a new show in town that is re-establishing ancient, planet-based living. Fantastic things are happening as awareness grows and we leave old, outdated ways behind us.

The old hierarchy of what-is-important-in-life was all backwards. It put the least important thing at the centre, and the most important out in the periphery. This faulty world view enriched a small elite while creating great harm for the planet and all life on it.

Old Hierarchy
  1. Finance 
  2. Economy
  3. Society
  4. Planet
A new world view that turns the old hierarchy on its head has gained momentum as the drawbacks of the old order become clear. The new vision restores the planet to its rightful place at the centre of all that is important. 

With Mother Earth at the centre of everything, she is healed, and so are we.

New Hierarchy
  1. Planet
  2. Society
  3. Economy
  4. Finance
Welcome to the new order that puts the planet first and is restoring harmony and balance. This is the new show in town, and there is no audience - we are all actors.

Let's work together to give this play we call Life a happy ending.

Nature Is My Religion

Nature is my religion. The Earth is my temple.

December 20, 2013

Simplify The Holidays

“I was thinking recently about what I remember most about my grand-parents, and I realized that I don’t remember a single gift they gave me as a child. Instead, I remember the time that I spent with them.”      
— Erin Peters

Would you like your holiday season to be more about meaning and less about stuff? If so, you are in good company. A national survey showed that more than 75% of Americans wish the holiday season were less materialistic.

90% of the survey respondents reported feeling that family and helping others was more important than giving and receiving gifts. But what happens when our values are up against advertising and our own distorted expectations?

Of course the National Retail Federation is paying close attention to such things. They are like a Santa that charges lots of money for the gifts in the sack. The NRF do extensive research to keep a close eye on our holiday spending habits. Are consumers being spending-naughty? Or spending-nice?

I am sure they have been happy with the answers they are finding in their big, red data bag gleaned from Santa-like surveillance. They know when you are spending, and they know when you stop.

The Retail Federation's busy elves report that last year, holiday spending increased 3.5% to $579.5 billion. 2011’s grand total of $560.2 billion was a 5.1% increase over 2010. On average, annual holiday spending has increased 3.3% for the last 10 years.

I can remember a lot of great holiday celebrations, but can't remember many presents. Most people would agree that the best things about the holidays are spending time with friends and family, sharing good food, laughter and stories, and not what kind of loot you get.

We can opt out of the frenzy of shopping and gift-giving if it feels oppressive, and create better, more meaningful and simplified holiday alternatives.

December 19, 2013

Give A Child The Gift Of Nature

No child should have to suffer Nature Deficit Disorder - you can make a difference.

Is there a little person in your life that you would love to do something for? The best gift I can imagine would be to spend time with them in nature.

Kids need to "get their sillies out" as I said to my students in elementary school.

Recess provides much-needed space and time for students to blow off steam and behave like kids for a while. I know from experience that a few days of canceled recess in a cold winter can mean a potential breakdown of stressed psyches all the way around - students and teachers.

I became an amateur meteorologist during my years as a teacher due to this phenomena, because when the thermometer says minus 25 C during the day, the kids don't go out to play.

In natural settings, like during recess, children can not only get their sillies out, but they can also relax and be themselves naturally while immersed in a non-restricted environment.

Fight Nature Deficit Disorder - take a kid for a nature experience. It is the best gift ever (for the child, and for you).

December 18, 2013

Please, No Presents

Dear Santa (or NSA or whoever you are),

Assuming that we aren't on the "naughty" side of your little spy ledger, please do not bring any presents to our house. We have everything we need, and there is nothing more that we want that you can provide.


Two Simple Living People

Two decades ago when Linda and I announced that we were no longer participating in consumer Christmas gift giving, the people around us went through a few interesting and definable stages.

Stage One: Confusion 

Most people were initially thrown into a state of confusion. Who doesn't like giving and receiving stuff you don't really need?

Stage Two: Anger

Many people were offended that we were opting out of this manufactured consumer holiday and the sacred shopping rituals that go with it - like panic shopping late at night on December 24th, or figuring the amount of debt incurred as the first activity of the New Year. Perhaps they were angry because they never realized that you could opt out.

Stage 3: Curiosity

After a while people started asking questions about what motivated us to quit Christmas gifting. It was an opportunity to share our philosophy of a less materially-focused lifestyle.

Stage 4: Acceptance

Eventually those within our circles, including the person who first said, "Well how can I do anything for you if I can't buy you gifts?", came to accept our decision to go gift-less.

Stage 5: Relief

Some were even relieved that they could scratch us off their list, thus making their lives a little easier at a busy time of year. A few have even adopted some form of our Please, No Presents Policy in their own start-of-winter celebrations.

December 17, 2013

Use Only What You Need

What is the first thing you think when you see this billboard?

It is easy to fall prey to the "bigger is better" way of thinking. I found a pocket of it in my own thinking when I looked at the image above.

What was the first thing you thought about after looking at the billboard? Mine was that they should have used the whole billboard for their message. Then I thought about the message.

Although the sign refers to water usage, the idea conveyed can be applied to anything. Even here they used just the amount of billboard space for what they needed.

Would bigger have been more effective? No.

Think small and use only what you need.

December 16, 2013

Sub-Size Me Monday

Super-sized vs. Sub-sized - smaller is usually always better for the planet.

sub·size adjective \ˈsəb+¦-\

Definition of SUBSIZE

:  using less than a usual, standard, or normal size

Our lifestyles have become super-sized. Everything from burgers and fries to cars, houses, and vacations have been made larger under the consumer magnifying glass. Now that same glass is burning us like ants on the sidewalk.

We have come to love huge because we have been told our whole lives that "bigger is better".

The marketers that told us that, lied - smaller is usually always better. Better for the planet, and better for us as well. 

Super-sizing kills.
Just ask Morgan Spurlock who found out the hard way after eating super-sized fast food meals repeatedly, then documenting the pig-out on film.

The era of "Super-size Me" is over. It is time for the sequel "Sub-size Me". 

We need to sub-size our lifestyles and start using less of just about everything.

Sub-sizing things is less taxing on the environment. Super-sizing uses more resources and energy, and creates more waste during manufacture, use, and disposal.

Sub-sizing your life is almost always better for the planet and for you - it costs less for purchase and use, requires less maintenance, and is a more energy efficient and healthy way to live.

Super-sized Facts

- From 1970 to 2004 the average house size in North America increased more than 50% from 1,500 to 2,350 square feet. At the same time the number of people per household dropped 17%.
- 1 in 5 U.S. homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.
- A wide-screen TV can use more electricity than your fridge.
- If every American lost one pound it would save 39 million gallons of fuel per year.
- During Morgan Spurlock's 30 day fast food experiment for the documentary "Super-size Me" he gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation in his liver.

December 13, 2013

Voluntary Simplicity - What Is It?

Voluntary simplicity is an ancient idea that has never gone away. Today it is a growing social trend that continues to gain steam. But what is it?

There are as many definitions as there are people choosing to live the simple life. A common thread runs through them all, however, and can be described by a common principle - 'All things being equal, everything in nature tends toward simplicity.'

In medieval times, Thomas Aquinas wrote:
"If a thing can be done adequately by means of one, it is superfluous to do it by means of several; for we observe that nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices."
Researchers found 12 dimensions in discussions from 1977 to 2001 that refer to voluntary simplicity. They can help us move toward a more complete understanding of what is involved.

12 Dimensions of Voluntary Simplicity
  1. The Good Life
  2. Life Purpose
  3. Personal Growth
  4. Chosen Life
  5. Self Determination
  6. Relationships
  7. Material Simplicity
  8. Minimal Consumption
  9. Role of Work
  10. Plain Living
  11. Ecological Awareness
  12. Human Scale
Some recent definitions randomly selected from the Internet help to identify other features common to voluntary simplicity.

Defining Voluntary Simplicity

  • A lifestyle that minimizes consumption and the pursuit of wealth and material goods.
  • A life that is less costly, so one can work less and have more time and freedom.
  • Living the way you want to live without having to compromise who you are or who you want to be.
  • A lifestyle that is less pressured due to a focus away from accumulation of goods and more toward non-material aspects of life.
  • A way of life in which one consumes responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life and promote social justice.
  • Dumping what doesn't make you happy in order to have some time for what does.

Since humans are part of nature, we have an (often hidden) urge to conduct our lives with simplicity and efficiency in mind.

Simple is Nature's way, and it is what we crave as Nature's children.

How do you define the natural expression of simplicity in your life?

December 11, 2013

You Say You Want A Revolution?

"You say you have a solution? We would love to see the plan."

You say you want a revolution?

Lots of people say they want to change the world, but what is the plan? I have a few solutions on which I am working.

1. Do something to make the world a better place.

2. Seek the truth and pursue it relentlessly.

3. Free your mind from consumer bondage.

4. Live simply, love unconditionally.

5. Help others do the same.

That is my plan for the revolution. 

Interested? We are here to help.

December 9, 2013

Mandela Was A Self-Actualized, Dancing Wu Wei Master

Nelson Mandela was a rare human being that left giant shoes to fill.
It would have been nice if poverty had died before Nelson Mandela did, but at least he nailed the issue before he left. The fight is up to us now, to follow his footsteps and commit to becoming fully functional human beings, and powerful agents of change.

Nelson Mandela was a rarity. Like other highly evolved humans such as Gandhi and Mother Theresa, some say Mandela achieved the pinnacle of human achievement. It has nothing to do with possessions or money.

Using humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow's term from the 1940s, Mandela was "self-actualized".

Qualities of The Self-Actualized

  • Secure at all lower level needs
  • Compassionate 
  • Creative
  • Controls impulses
  • Comfortable in solitude 
  • Socially harmonious
  • Naturally powerful
  • Beyond needing the approval of others
  • Highly aware of own thoughts and the world beyond
  • Find meaning and purpose in life regardless of the situation

Maslow himself theorized that only 2% of the population would ever attain self-actualization. However, engaging in the pursuit of self-actualization, even if not fully achieved, still makes us better, more effective human beings.

In the same vein, Mandela could be considered what I call a Dancing Wu Wei Master. He had the mental and physical movements of a wise, old Taoist teacher. His actions were spontaneously, effortlessly, and naturally of benefit to all he contacted.

Wu Wei is the Taoist principle of the action of non-action. It is going with the flow rather than following a premeditated course.

Qualities of The Wu Wei Masters

  • Act without a sense of self
  • Give without any conditions
  • See without a preference
  • Respond perfectly to situations which arise
  • Actions are in alignment with the cycles of the natural world
  • Has realized one's place in the web of life
  • Thoughts, words and actions do no harm, and are spontaneously virtuous

From everything I have heard, Nelson Mandela was a model human being. He practiced forgiveness and compassion, and through that changed the world. He left giant shoes to fill, but we can boldly step into them, honour his life, and work toward our own self-actualization and induction into the group of Dancing Wu Wei Masters.

Along the way we will transform ourselves and the world around us. Nelson would be pleased.

December 6, 2013

Wealth Means Waste

Municipal solid waste (MSW) production, kg per person per day, World Bank 2012.

Wealth is synonymous with waste. If you want to know how much waste a country produces, all you really need to know is how wealthy it is. In an emerging global phenomena, increasing wealth means increasing consumption and increasing waste production.

The affluent produce a lot of effluent. They produce a lot of solid waste, too.

Solid Waste Wisdom
  • Developed countries produce more waste per capita because they have higher levels of consumption. 
  • These countries consume more than 60% of the world industrial raw materials, but only comprise 22% of the world's population. 
  • Per capita waste generation in developed countries increased by 14% since 1990, and 35% since 1980.
  • USA, the wealthiest nation, unsurprisingly tops the list for the production of rubbish, with 4.5 pounds (2.04 kg) of MSW per person per day, fifty five percent of which is contributed as residential garbage. 
  • Urban residents produce twice as much waste as their rural counterparts.

"Income level and urbanization are highly correlated and as disposable incomes and living standards increase, consumption of goods and services correspondingly increases, as does the amount of waste generated."

Our flagrant waste goes against the basic laws of ecology. It is no surprise that humans are the only species on earth that produce toxic waste products that can not be used.

Basic Laws of Ecology
  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nothing comes from nothing.
  4. Nature knows best (therefore mimic nature)
Barry Commoner, who wrote the four laws of ecology, warned that any major human-induced change in a natural system would likely be detrimental to that system, and ultimately to humans. He thought that following nature would lead us in the right direction.

In nature there is no final waste - the waste produced in one ecological process is recycled in another.  Any "waste" product from one thing is rebranded as a "resource" when it is used by something else.

To mimic nature we have to "close the loop" and develop cyclical manufacturing processes. This involves the redesign of resource life cycles so that 100% of materials in products can be recovered and reused. The process adopted is one similar to the way that waste products (resources) are reused in nature.

Another obvious and important way to approach zero waste is to reduce consumption. It does not matter how much money we have in the bank - we still can not afford to consume and waste like we have been.

"Waste is worse than loss. The time is coming when every person who lays claim to ability will keep the question of waste before him constantly. The scope of thrift is limitless." 
- Thomas A. Edison

December 4, 2013

The Evolution of Marketing: Fear Sells

"Fear of aging, fear of lonliness, fear of poverty, fear of failure.
Fear is the most basic emotion we have. Fear is primal. Fear sells."
- Max Brooks

Nothing can motivate people to buy crap like an appeal to fear. Marketing preys on our basic human fears, like fear of social isolation, while constantly creating new ones, like fear of non-white teeth or "skin tags".

When we sense fear the brain transmits signals to our nervous system causing our breathing to quicken, and heart race to increase. We become sweaty and go on autopilot, running on instinct. Hardly the best conditions in which to make decisions about spending money.

People with things to sell, hire other people with ideas to sell, who write ads that instill fear in the viewer, whether actual or fabricated. Then they offer you their product or service which (for a fee) promises to dispel that fear.

Most of the time they just want you to be afraid of not having what they have to sell.

The Evolution Of Marketing

Stage 1. Sell a product. For example, a hammer.
Stage 2. Don't sell a product, sell an entire experience. Remember the smell of wood in your grandfather's shop as you pounded nails into boards with his trusty hammer? Our Grandfather Line of hammers are a gateway to a world of possibility.
Stage 3. Don't sell an entire experience, sell fear. When civilization collapses you are going to need our hammer to build things.
Stage 4. When using fear, pile it on. Never mind building everything you need after the global transportation infrastructure totally breaks down, what about the zombie apocalypse? Our hammer neatly dispatches zombies. Better buy several.

We are currently in marketing Stage 4, and mainstream media everywhere are piling on the fear. Not so good for stress levels and bank balances, but great for business.

Fear works best as a way to get people to spend money when the fear is specific and widely recognized. Some common fears that marketers use against us are:

Fear of Loss - encompasses other fears, such as loss of life, youth, health, love, social standing, approval, and so forth.

Fear of Failure - closely related to fear of criticism and fear of rejection.

Fear can be a potent tool. We are more motivated to avoid pain and discomfort than we are to obtain pleasure.

But fear is only an effective way to get us to spend until we stop buying it. That is not to say there aren't legitimate things to fear.

Our biggest fear should be of corporate entities that are active in spreading their poisons in order to profit handsomely from the exploitation of the environment, the work force, and citizens everywhere.

Our fight against them should be fear-less.

December 2, 2013

Just Enough Is More Monday

Less isn't more. Just enough is more. More than just enough is less.

The not-so-secret secret to simple living is recognizing the optimal quantity of anything you need to realize your goals. It is finding the sweet spot of just enough.

As some point less leaves you longing. Your life's potential is not realized if you lack.

And if you always desire more, you will never know the life-affirming freedom of contentment. When you find your point of just enough, more is merely an expensive distraction from what is really important.

The best things in life aren’t things. A healthy person with very little is better off than one with great material wealth and a terminal disease. A person with a small income and few things can enjoy friendship, love, and the beauty of nature just as much as anyone.

Perhaps more so, since those seeking simplicity are less burdened.

What matters is the purpose that possessions play in our lives. Do we look to our things to provide us with meaning and security, or are we looking at them merely as tools that can help us fulfill our purpose?

Neither lack nor luxury will get us to where we need to be.

Just enough will.