February 28, 2014

Shopping Addiction Mini Doc

Do you have a shopping addiction?

What is the opposite of not buying anything? Oniomania, or compulsive shopping - buying everything. Most of us are compelled to spend money, but for some people this urge gets to the point of causing harm to themselves and the people they love.

Shopping addictions negatively impact the lives of people wherever credit and consumerism have taken hold. It is a global problem, and it is spreading.

We received a comment recently from a group that is eliciting the support of NBA readers concerning shopping addictions.

Tegan Tallullah wrote in response to our post on oniomania:

"Hi everyone. This is a really interesting post, and has obviously struck a chord with many readers. I'm  making a mini documentary about shopping addiction to raise awareness about it, and am looking for anyone that has this condition and is willing to do an interview.

Me and the crew members are media studies students at Brighton, UK. We're willing to travel to London or anywhere in Sussex, or alternatively we could do a skype interview if you live elsewhere, or in another country.

We feel that shopping addiction (oniomania) is misunderstood and often trivialised within pop culture and the media, when actually it is a very serious condition with the potential to ruin lives. We want to raise awareness about the condition.

Whatever stage you're at (struggling, mid-recovery etc) we would love to hear from you. If you're interested or would like more information, please get in touch by sending an email to

shoppingaddictiondoc@gmail.com .

If you're willing to be interviewed but would like your identity to be concealed, that is absolutely fine.

Thank you for your time."

You won't hear much about oniomania from marketers and advertisers - they are the ones pushing the heroin-strength shopping drugs. Their sole purpose is to get all of us addicted, and they spend billions of dollars a year to help us build our habit.

So I say congratulations to these students for tackling this issue to see what they can learn. Their mini documentary sounds like something I would like to see.

Can you help them out?

February 26, 2014

Enjoy Life While You Can

Baking in my new hemp apron, made by my sister-in-law. Toque is my improvised hair net,
plus it is cold out and we keep our thermostat set low. I'm enjoying myself - really.
I read an article today on controversial scientist James Lovelock of Gaia fame. He has interesting things to say about the state of the world, although I think he might be a bit cranky. I would like to have him as a guest to discuss things over a coffee and a cinnamon bun.

Lovelock considers green lifestyles to be "ostentatious grand gestures", supports nuclear power, and thinks humanity is pretty much done for. He is injecting a bit of debate into discussions of what we want our future to look like. If we have a future at all.

The 94 year old predicts that in 20 years the effects of climate change are going to make us wish we had started to tackle the green house gas problem back in the 60s. According to this scientist (and many others) we are headed for catastrophic changes regardless of what we do going forward.

Lovelock's advise? "Enjoy life while you can."

This morning I interpreted that as: "Make cinnamon buns".

Droolalicious cinnamon rolls rising.
There are very few things as enjoyable for me as spending a cold winter day huddled around the hearth baking. It is a form of magic that changes the separate dry ingredients into a warm living mound of yeasty smelling fermenting food.

More accurately, it is magic aided by 5 minutes of vigorous kneading by hand.

This time around my bread dough was made with whole ingredients I had available. A combo of rye, unbleached, and whole wheat flour. Added in was crushed flax, wheat germ and bran. Also a bit of molasses, sea salt, and about a cup of left over Cream of Wheat porridge from breakfast.

I used the same dough for everything, and ended up with three loaves of fresh bread and nine sticky cinnamon buns.

Cinnamon buns with raisins and walnuts ready for eating.
James Lovelock and I differ on a number of environmental issues, but we both agree that any kind of 'green consumption', or 'ethical consumption' is a scam doomed to failure. We also agree that enjoying life while you can is very important.

While the scientist may not enjoy my simple, eco-conscious lifestyle, I am quite sure he would enjoy my baking.

What if Lovelock is right and we do only have 20 'normal' years left before the planet kicks our butts all the way to an 80% reduction in global population? How will you enjoy life while you can? 

February 24, 2014

Allergic To The Man Monday

I came into this world with an allergy to The Man. My mom says I was born happy and content - I did not cry at the moment of my birth. When the doctor dangled me upside down in front of him I slapped him before he could slap me.

Eventually it was time to leave the freedom of home life and enter kindergarten. I had a major reaction to the regimented schedule and authority figure, although in this case the man was a woman. I lasted less than a week before I started a sit-in on the front step of my house, refusing to go back.

Having a highly sympathetic mother, I successfully escaped what was supposed to be my introduction into The System. It turns out I was allergic to that, too.

I endured grades one through twelve, but not without being a quiet rebel. Graduating was one of the best days of my life… until I discovered that The Man's deleterious influence is everywhere. I wanted to change that.

As a teacher I acted as an agent of the state. I had become The Man, even though I thought myself to be a kinder, gentler version. But I was still working in a system designed to churn out compliant workers and consumers.

My allergy symptoms sprang up again, causing me to side more with my students than the superintendent and school board. I had to escape again.

After 10 years I gave up my tenured position to reduce my allergy symptoms, because freedom really is the best treatment for the negative effects of The Man or The System.

10 Proven Antihistamines To Treat An Allergy To The Man

  1. Grow a vegetable garden.
  2. Buy only what you need.
  3. Vote.
  4. Think for yourself and maintain your integrity.
  5. Stay home.
  6. Express your creativity.
  7. Talk to your neighbours.
  8. Go off grid.
  9. Be a contrarian.
  10. Watch out for the underdog.

February 21, 2014

Fleeing Fukushima Fallout

Fukushima fallout by air and sea is on the west coast of N. America now.
After ten glorious years Linda and I are leaving the Pacific Ocean behind. In a few weeks we will be nuclear refugees courtesy of the March 11, 2011 triple melt downs at the Fukushima/Diachi NPP.

Having already been touched by the airborne particles spewing from the stricken plant for the past 1078 days, we don't feel like sticking around to see what the ocean-borne plume will bring with it. Unfortunately, we have limited data to help make an informed decision whether to stay or go.

In the complete absence of information from any level of government, and an all out news blackout since the disaster, we feel we must ere on the side of caution. If no one can tell us it is safe, then it is best to put some distance between ourselves and the ongoing disaster.

Most credible research shows that there is no safe limit of radiation. There is no acceptable amount that humans can be exposed to. The only safe level is zero. None.

Luckily Canada is a large country in which it is possible for us to get 6185 kilometres away while never leaving the comfort of home. I like the idea of being that much farther away from a problem that has no end in sight, and promises serious consequences globally for centuries to come.

Nuclear contamination in the Pacific Ocean after Fukushima disaster - highest concentrations 
will be off west coast of N. America, according to modelling.
Lead researcher Erik Behrens of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, summarized the Pacific ocean radioactive plume situation this way:
“Based on the assumptions we made and the lack in knowledge about the real total released amount of radioactive materials, I am not able to assess whether the concentrations on the West Coast of the U.S. will be harmful or not. 
It can not be excluded that even small radioactive doses can have a harmful effect.”
 Maybe we can return to the west coast in 10,000 years after things have settled down a bit.

February 19, 2014

I Knew I Was On The Right Track When I Desired...

It has taken me many years to craft my personal form of simple living, and things will continue to evolve as conditions change and new knowledge becomes available. As the process unfolds it has been good to periodically check how things are progressing.

Assessments can be done by considering how my desires, wants and needs have changed over time.

Looking at my lifestyle, I knew I was on the right track when I desired:

  • more community and less consumption
  • more garden and less grocery store
  • more time and less money
  • more substance and less fluff
  • more compassion and less offence
  • more whole food and less factory food
  • more nature and less technology
  • more quality and less quantity
  • more creativity and less pre-moulded pop culture
  • more freedom and less stuff

Now how can we get the world on the right track before it is too late?

February 17, 2014

Solar Furnace Monday

You can make a solar furnace at home with basic materials including empty aluminum cans.

The winter of the Polar Vortex is sending chills through the bones of those dependent on fossil fuels for home and hot water heating. Just as the cold descends, the price of fossil fuel heating sources has skyrocketed.

Newspapers have reported on natural gas price increases of 110 per cent between September and January in some areas of Nova Scotia. This is a bargain compared to those across the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick where gas prices quadrupled for some customers.

Natural gas is one of the most common types of energy used for home heating in Canada. Almost half (47%) of Canadian households use natural gas as their main heating fuel. 37% use electricity and a further 9% use oil, 6% wood or wood pellets and 1% propane.

All fossil fuel energy sources have been increasing in price. It has been a good winter to have a wood stove or solar furnace, or to live in a multi-family building or energy efficient tiny home.

The price of renewable energy sources on the other hand, has been steadily dropping in recent years. As the price of old fashioned fossil fuel choices increases, so does the interest in competitively priced alternative heat sources, and DIYs are taking things into their own hands.

Side view of solar furnace installed on exterior of south-facing house wall.

A man in the Maritimes grabbed headlines this year with his $300.00 homemade solar furnace. "The air comes in at 5 C, and comes out at 38 C," inventor Randy Buchanan said of his money saving device.

"I think it's something that everyone should have affixed right to [their] house. I think it should be part of your design," said Buchanan. "It would be very easy to do."

A tiny proportion of households currently use alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, and ground source heat pumps. In 2007, about 111,600 households, or less than 1% of all Canadian households, used one or more of these renewable energy sources.

With free, inexhaustible and clean energy like solar, my guess is that will be changing soon.

February 14, 2014

Love Is Great, But Valentine's Day Is A Consumer Trap

Happy Anti-Valentine's Day.

Today you can enjoy not rushing out to buy flowers, or chocolates, or flimsy underwear. Don't worry about expensive dinners out, or elaborate but meaningless gifts. Leave the cards on the shelf, and the money in your wallet.

Nothing says I love you better than being decent, kind, and caring to everyone you meet 365 days a year.

Compassion can be practiced by anyone, rich or poor. It's free and universally effective.

Have a happy Anti-Valentine's Day.

We love you… every day.

February 12, 2014

Take A Screen Diet And Read A Good Book

#1: Turn off TV, computer, iPad, cell phone, tablet, DVD player, laptop, and notebook.

I got up before the sun this morning with a challenge clearly in mind - to write a top-notch, inspiring and insightful post before the sun came up. Trying to stick to my schedule of having new posts up as early as possible every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I fired up the laptop and secured a hot drink.

For me there is no writing on/off switch. Usually I find that an initial brief survey of my resources gets me to the point that I am ready for writing.

First of all, Linda, the Official Muse, Co-Contributor, and Head Editor around here, must be consulted.

If further inspiration is required after that, I review newspapers, other simple living blogs, and my own portfolio of information and writing in order to trigger an impulse to begin.

This morning I started by visiting the Frugal In Tasmania blog to read a short post about going on a month long TV diet. I don't have a television, but do watch programming on the computer. Thinking that I sometimes watch too much, I was inspired to go on a bit of a screen diet myself, and started immediately.

I set the computer aside, and picked up a library book I have been ignoring for too long. The sun came up, the tide came in, the tide went out, and I read and read and read. Lounging on the couch with the book on my lap, a soporific sunbeam fell on me and my reading session was punctuated by a short nap.

After a gloriously long day of leisurely reading, the sun went down. It may have been a brief screen diet, but it definitely had a positive impact on my desire to spend time away from the digital world. It felt good to disengage for a while.

Thanks to the Tasmanian Minimalist (who also loves reading a good book), for the brief reminder that escaping the screens is good for you. It may even help me to write better posts here.

Now, back to my book.

What are you reading? Today I have been enjoying a non-fiction book called Teenage: The Creation Of Youth Culture, by Jon Savage. Fascinating reading about the origins of adolescence and taming the "troubled teens".

February 10, 2014

Money: What Does It Mean?

The Giving Tree, Daniel W. Zettwoch

If there is no such thing as a free lunch, then how come the robins on my lawn aren't being charged cold hard cash for the worms they are pulling from the lawn? Because nature does give freely to all. Humans take this generosity and charge others for access. In most cases if you don't have money you will die.

We have all been forced into a situation where money tends to be our main concern. How else can one live when the establishment has figured out how to charge us for absolutely everything except for breathing?

Considering the almighty importance of money, we spend precious little time actually thinking about what it means. Mostly we are busy thinking about how little we have, and how to get more.

But there are vitally important money matters that need to be pondered. This applies to each of us individually, as well as to our global family that is 100% related and interconnected whether we like to admit it or not.

Money Matters

1. How did you get it? Did it involve the depletion of the Earth's gifts? Did it involve injustice, cheating, stealing, trickery, manipulation, or oppression of others?

2. What have you had to sacrifice to get it? Are there more valuable things that you are missing while making money, like family, health, friendships? Expression of creativity? Freedom?

3. What are you doing with it? Are you hoarding it? (The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion.) Are you using your money to exploit others? Do you waste it on needless luxuries?

4. What is it doing to you? Is your integrity intact and conscience clear? Does your relationship with money reflect your core values? Are you more content? Happier?

At a time when only 85 people in the world own as much money as the poorest 3 billion, it is high time to do some serious thinking about money, what it means, how we make it, and how we are using it.

February 7, 2014

Live Somewhere Beautiful

We can see many birds and boats from our home. This yacht left the harbour one morning last year
as the gulls slept on the sandbar. Note: yacht is not mine.

Almost a decade ago when Linda and I were planning on drastically reducing our ecological footprint, we realized that if we weren't going to be travelling, we better like were we were at. We wanted to live somewhere beautiful enough that we wouldn't want to leave.

After some brainstorming we decided that beautiful place would be on the Pacific ocean. While that is what we were asking the universe to bring us, we weren't fully expecting to have a waterfront home materialize.

But the universe works in mysterious ways, and we got what we wanted in a small apartment with large windows looking out on the ocean about 5 meters away. The apartment is small, more the size of a cozy cabin on the beach than a house in the city.

High tide in the front yard.

Size is not the only similarity to a cottage - our home, like most cottages, is situated in beautiful natural surroundings. It is a lot like a bird blind with a view of a large harbour that hosts not only bald eagles, mallards, oyster catchers, geese and other birds, but also river otters, harbour porpoises, seals, and salmon.

There is always wildlife of some sort to look at and enjoy. Just this morning we had geese and ducks eating the green grass between us and the water. It was so cold out that the birds were sitting down to eat so their frozen feet were covered and warm.

Cougars, and wolves also live here, and once we watched as a black bear ambled between us and the sea wall. And all from the comfort of our couch. Living here feels a lot like being at a cabin or cottage, or even like camping. Because of this, it has been easy to stay put - we love being here among the natural beauty and quiet.

Living in this location has helped us reduce the amount of travel we do, but I think it has helped reduce our overall spending as well. Because we enjoy the quiet life at home, we are not motivated to go out often. Going out, like travelling, means spending money, so staying put with the rest of the wildlife here is alright with us.

I am not sure if we would feel the same if we lived in the big city in a small apartment with only one window looking out at a brick wall 10 feet away (I actually looked at a place exactly like this many years ago - I passed on it).

If you can, live somewhere beautiful. It is good for the pocketbook as well as the soul.

The end of another beautiful day on the beach.

February 5, 2014

Nature's Economy

Photo: An Orange Jelly Fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus) I found on a recent hike.

Human history is a record of how our species has grown distant from notions of ourselves as part of nature. I realized how far when someone I was talking to said, "I'm just not into nature", as if not realizing that everything we need comes from there.

To me that is like saying that you aren't into breathing, or observing the forces of gravity.

I would die without nature. You would too. Nature is our primary economy, and one on which our lives depend.

I have also had someone proclaim to me, "I'm not into trees."

Without trees, civilization as we know it would not exist, and without the natural world, no life would exist. We fail to acknowledge these realities when we choose lifestyles that run counter to natural limits.

Nature is everything. Air, water, food, beauty, and our true economy.

Scientist Carl Linnaeus was already warning nature naysayers back in the 1700s. “Nature’s economy," he pointed out, "shall be the base for our own, for it is immutable, but ours is secondary. An economist without knowledge of nature is therefore like a physicist without knowledge of mathematics.”

Without Nature's economy there will be no human-made economy. In order to protect both we need to bring our lifestyles in line with the needs of the natural world, of which we are a part.

February 3, 2014

Protecting The Environment - Protecting Ourselves

“There’s still time to come to terms with our predicament and change direction.
Human destiny is not set in stone.”

Out of control corporations aided by bought-and-paid-for governments are destroying the environment and murdering life as we know it on our planet. At what point can we claim self-defence? We have to protect ourselves.

Protecting the biosphere on which we depend is self-defence. Without a healthy environment the Earth will eventually become hostile to human life.

So when will we join together as a human family to take charge of things and create the sustainable planet that we know is necessary if life is to continue here?

If we fail to protect the environment, then how will we protect ourselves? Will we have to abandon the planet as Stephen Hawking pessimistically thinks? I wonder because we sure are living like we have another planet to go to in the near future once this one is finished.

Are we doomed? Is the earth spent?

“There’s still time to come to terms with our predicament and change direction. Human destiny is not set in stone,” futurist Richard Slaughter writes. He believes that what humanity needs to undertake is an immediate full-scale global downshift of consumption and growth.

“The only way forward that makes sense is to seek clarity on what we are facing and mobilize on a society-wide and global scale to deal with it. Anything less will consign our children to a diminished and unlivable world," he says.

We must begin to practice some serious self-defence now, together, everywhere. Protecting the environment is protecting ourselves.