September 29, 2014

Will Simple Living Collapse the Economy?

One argument used for not living simply is that if people buy less the economy will collapse. Shopping is seen as doing your patriotic duty. What a scam. I say that it looks like the economy is collapsing anyway, regardless of what we do. 

Deregulated capitalism along with the concept of endless growth on a finite planet has taken us as far as we can go - the planet is tapped out. Consuming as usual will only accelerate our demise.

"We tend to regard our greed, anger and delusion as our friends. Then again, we live in a society where everybody takes it for granted that people are going to be greedy, angry and deluded; and the society is arranged to take advantage of that. 
How many times have people complained to me 'Well, if you live content with very little, the economy is going to collapse'. 
Well, if the economy is based on anger, greed and delusion, maybe it should collapse. It is causing people to do unskillful things, to think and act in unskillful ways. 
So the things you "have to do" to get ahead, if they are done out of greed anger or delusion, you are better off not doing them. Because they have long-term consequences down the line." 
- Ajahn Geoffrey
People who are paying attention, and who love this planet, are cutting consumption for the greater good of those living today, and for those to come in future generations. As individuals it is time to tackle our greed, anger and delusions and build a better system based on compassion for all life.

Humanity has such a capacity for love and caring for each other. The only economies that will survive will be the ones based on this capacity. 

September 27, 2014


Sunrise from our home on the hill spills hope all over the place.

At our last home on the west coast I witnessed about 3000 sunsets. Many of them were stunning and spectacular. But sunsets have a bit of a negative reputation. Sunsets signify endings and are slightly melancholy in nature, as in “one's sunset years”.

Sunrises are another thing all together. Sunrises symbolize beginnings, newness and the limitless potential each day brings. There is nothing more promising than a sunrise as you see hope itself rising on the horizon.

Here on the east coast we are perfectly situated to see sunrises. Since we have no window coverings, the morning sun comes in uninhibited to rouse us from our sleep. It beckons and gently cajoles us out of bed to greet the new day.

When we started NBA back in 2008 it looked to me like the beginning of the sunset years of environmental and soul destroying capitalist consumerism's reign. We decided then to go with a sunset image for the banner for our blog. Today we are more optimistic.

The end of consumerism is the beginning of better ways of living. The new sustainable age that we are now building together is based on hope and love. Like a sunrise.

We hope that our banner conveys a sense of hope and optimism as we learn, or relearn, more gentle ways of living together on our fragile planet.

September 26, 2014

The Meaty Mondays Pledge

"We endorse eating us only one day a week... or less. Thank you."

I was thinking about Meatless Monday's the other day. It is a day that one pledges to forgo meat in order to improve the health of individuals and the planet. Not mentioned is how not eating meat improves the lives of the food animals as well.

 But as far as human and planetary health goes, Meatless Monday Global says:

"Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet."

Of course they are right, and I think it is an excellent campaign. It was even endorsed by the recent People's Climate March.

But what if we reversed it and made Meatless Mondays into Meaty Mondays, or Meatfull Mondays? Someone making this pledge would only eat meat on Mondays, and enjoy vegetarian meals the rest of the week.

If skipping meat one day a week is good for you and the planet, imagine what eating meatless for six days a week would do. Good health would break out all over the place, and devastated ecosystems would start to heal.

Cows would moo contentedly in fields until a ripe old age.

I wonder how many people would make the Meaty Monday pledge in order to improve personal health as well as the health of ecosystems and food animals?

Some Meaty Facts
"When you reduce your meat intake, you minimize water usage because the production of beef requires 1,850 gallons of water, while the production of vegetables requires 39 gallons of water. 
And when you reduce your meat consumption, you reduce your carbon footprint because beef production creates 30 kg of greenhouse gas per kg of food, while carrots, potatoes, and rice require .42, .45, and 1.3 kg respectively." - source

September 24, 2014

Chipotle Baked Beans

There are few dishes that can be made that are as easy, delicious, nutritious, and frugal as baked beans. And with evenings getting cooler, they are the perfect comfort food.

Linda and I recently had a beautiful afternoon cooking together and adapted a recipe we found here to make a nice spicy, tomatoey baked bean.

In order to make them vegetarian we replaced the bacon with extra smokey chipotle peppers, and the chicken broth with veggie broth.


1 chipotle pepper roughly chopped, more to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
6 cups cooked white beans, or 3 (15-ounce) cans white beans rinsed and drained
1 cup veggie stock
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cook onions in oil until translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, sugar, molasses, chipotle pepper, mustard and vinegar until well combined and cook for 1 minute. Add beans, broth, salt and pepper and stir gently to combine.

Cover tightly with a lid or foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove lid, add more broth if needed to moisten beans and continue to bake, uncovered, until top is browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes more.

Nutritional Information:

Beans are good for you and your food budget. High fibre, low on the food chain. Eat with a slice of bread or other grain for full protein benefit.

September 22, 2014

It's A Bird, It's A Plane

A great way to reduce your carbon emissions is to stay home, or close to home. Although air travel only accounts for about 5% of global emissions, it is an amount that is increasing quickly as people fly to far flung places looking for greener grass.

An article in the NY Times highlights the impact flying has on our carbon footprint in an article titled "Your Biggest Carbon Sin May Be Air Travel".

"For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10.

So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create."

We have some difficult choices to make moving forward and many current behaviours will need to change. For one aviator it all came down to choosing between civilization's technology and nature.

Charles Lindbergh, interviewed shortly before his death in 1974 made his choice very clear.

"Lying under an acacia tree with the sound of the dawn around me, I realized more clearly the facts that we should never overlook: that the construction of an airplane, for instance, is simple when compared [with] a bird; that airplanes depend on an advanced civilization, and that where civilization is most advanced, few birds exist.  
I realized that If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes."

Me too.

September 21, 2014

A Good Day To Take A Walk

Today was a good day to take a walk.

It was a beautiful day in Digby, Nova Scotia for having my own one person march to honour both the first day of Fall and the People's Climate March, the largest such gathering in history.

Fall is taking place everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere (happy first day of spring to all of you in the Southern Hemisphere), and the People's Climate March is being celebrated everywhere in both hemispheres.

We have so much to lose for such little gain if we continue on the energy path we are currently on. But The People are speaking, and The People want renewable energy development NOW.

If we aren't going to make this shift for ourselves, then let's do it for our kids. Our whole tribe will benefit.

September 19, 2014

New Library Cards

This is how we felt when our new public library cards arrived in the mail.

The first mail we received in our rural mail box 4km down the road was from our local public library. Inside the sea blue envelope were brand new library cards.

All those wonderful resources are now at our fingertips. If we couldn't make it in to the branch, they would mail books to us.

All at no extra cost. Citizenship has its rights and privileges, including barrier free access to information.

Did You Know?

1.1 BILLION people worldwide go to the public library every year. 

Compare that to a paltry 204 million people attending sporting events. 

September 17, 2014

Wild Geese And The Family Of Things

"Goose" - Illustrated by Ash Troberg

Yesterday I was doing dishes and looked out the window hoping I would see the woodchuck in the field across the road. I did not see the woodchuck (which is one of 14 types of marmot, which are large squirrels), but I did see a family of 7 geese taking a rest and eating grass.

Later in the day I discovered American poet Mary Oliver's poem called Wild Geese. I have never seen her writing before, but was struck by how much this poem resembles the work of Zen poets.

It also reminded me that we are never alone in the world - we are part of everything around us. We are all members of the family of things, and like everything else we have our part to play.

Just like the woodchucks and geese.

Wild Geese - Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

September 15, 2014

Living In Nature

I found a little park only 1km from our front door.

Ever noticed how monasteries are usually located in beautiful places? If your intention is to stick close to home it might as well be somewhere nice. For the past few years that is the idea that has guided where we live, and that idea also led us to where we are now.

A short, wheelchair accessible trail runs along this creek flowing through
the forest behind our new home.

I have been living what I like to think as a simple, semi-monastic lifestyle in scenic surroundings. Not that I am a monk - I prefer 'forest philosopher'. But as a caregiver I do work close to home, so I prefer that it be in as beautiful a place as can be, whether in the city or the country.

There are picnic tables, viewing platforms, and fish in the creek.

For me, nature is where it is at. I was more than pleased then, when I was swarmed by small birds at the trail head of our little park. If I had seeds I am sure they would have come right to my hand. So friendly, so pure.

A curious friend greets me in the forest.

And it is not just my bird neighbours coming to whisper in my ear. Another creature hopped its way into my life last night. After dark I looked out the front door and sitting right there looking in the window was a small amphibian.

I am not sure if it was a frog or a toad, but I am pretty sure I knew what it came to say. The frog is recognised as a healer in North and South American Native customs, as well as Celtic traditions.

"Welcome to the neighbourhood. Be well."

September 12, 2014


Linda is home.

There really is no place like home. Especially if you have been away on an adventure. Or if you have been separated from loved ones. Home is "ahhh".

We like home.

Best of all, home is where your loved ones are. It is where all your favourite simple stuff is. It is where you feel most free and comfortable.

Linda is sitting around our hearth again, and things are good.

September 10, 2014

Cut Own Hair... Again

Before - long hair, in the hospital and happy.

It seems like everything except real estate and gas is more expensive here in Nova Scotia. In order to stick to our budget we are going to have to do everything we were doing in British Columbia, and more. That means doing all our own cooking and baking (a bag of flour costs twice as much here) as well as anything else we can do ourselves. Like haircutting.

Yes, that nice 'before' photo is of me in the Digby hospital a few days ago. Linda is in the bed behind me. I was the patient (my back again), and Linda had to come with me because she could not stay at home alone and there was nowhere else for her to go.

As you can see it had been quite a while since my last home haircut.

After about 5 days I was released, but Linda could not come with me until we got some supports in place to make sure I did not hurt my back again. So, unfortunately, my sweety is still in the hospital while I am at home cleaning up and healing.

After being in the hospital I felt like I needed a major overhaul, so after a much-enjoyed long hot shower I got to work on my hair. This time I wanted to do more than just shave my head like last time.

Linda has always wanted to cut my hair short everywhere but the top, so that is what I tried to do. It took a long time, but eventually I got the results I wanted. I used a comb, electric hair clipper, a pair of sharp scissors, and a bit of tape to get the back trimmed evenly. It was fun, and it was free.

I visited Linda in the hospital after I finished and she approved, so I guess I did alright.

Tomorrow things will be more or less ready for her to come home. A few more items, such as an electric lift for doing transfers, will come later, but I can't wait any longer. I want my best friend here where she belongs.

Maybe she wants me to cut her hair, then we can use the money we save to buy a bag of flour so I can start baking again.

After - short hair, at home and happier. I will be happiest when Linda gets here tomorrow.

September 6, 2014

Who Are Your People?

We love the idyllic scenery around Digby, but we love the people here more.

A year or two ago Linda and I were sitting on a beach in our neighbourhood. A truck pulled up and parked. The driver, an older, energetic man, hopped out and joined us. After talking for a while he asked about Linda's wheelchair.

We told the gentleman that Linda had MS and that I had quit teaching in 2000 and was now taking care of her full time. He was very sympathetic and told us that he had friends with the same condition so he was familiar with the challenges of our situation.

Then he asked, "Who are your people?"

I asked him what he meant. He elaborated saying "who are the ones that you can depend on in a time of need? Who has your back when things get rough?"

Linda and I looked at each other. "Who are our people? Do we have people?"

Our new friend looked at us seriously as we pondered his question. Linda and I are both "so damn independent", as my father complained once, so we shrugged our shoulders and looked back at the man.

Most of our "people" were spread across the country, we explained. We were from away. "Not good enough", was his response. "You need people here."

There will come a time when every single person on our little planet will need the help of others. First of all, we are soft and vulnerable organisms. So much can go wrong that it is a wonder to be celebrated that anyone is healthy for any length of time.

We are also social creatures, introverts and extroverts alike. That is the way the human species rolls. As Tom Jones said, "Everybody needs somebody sometime".

Our new home came complete with 'people', although this fact wasn't advertised in the For Rent ad. Maybe it should have been because it is a major asset.

We are in a unit that is one of several on a rural property of several hundred acres 10 km from the sea, and on the highest point in the county. It is owned by wonderful people with extended family sharing the land. They are among the nicest, most generous and supportive groups of people I have experienced.

I thought of 'having people' and our beach conversation this week as Linda and I found ourselves in a situation in which help was definitely required. It was tough and it was scary.

These recent events have got me to thinking about that man on the beach. He was right. We needed people, we needed them here, and we needed them now.

And boy did they come through. Not just our fine, fine neighbours here on the farm, but also good folks from the town of Digby. Wonderful, inspirational and compassionate people have surrounded us and are carrying us through our current challenge on a Fundy-sized rising tide of love.

Because of all the support we have discovered over the past week we are fine.

Still, I missed my other people - all of you here in the NBA community. After years of regular posting and keeping in touch with you here or on email, I was missing that contact.

You are also my people, and I would like to think Linda and I are yours, because 'having people' is good, but 'being people' is just as important.

The only way we will survive what is sure to be a tumultuous ride over the next hundred years or so, will be to have strong social networks in cohesive, cooperative and compassionate simple living communities focused on resilience.

I would say that here on NBA we have already started on that project.

Thank you. It feels good to be back.