December 29, 2014

NBA Comment Guidelines - Be Nice To Others

I have been pondering guidelines for comments for some time, having seen that many of the blogs I follow have expectations for feedback and discussion. Up until today it hasn't really been necessary as NBA commenters have been unerringly polite.

Most comment guidelines boil down to "be nice to others". It may seem old fashioned given the abuse and obfuscation that web users are all to familiar with these days. Plain politeness has been supplanted by personal attacks, and too often meaningful discussion grinds to a halt.

After a good example of this here on my last post, I decided to write more formal comment guidelines. NBA values comments and all they bring to the discussion of simple living and lifestyle change, and would like them to continue without fear of being flamed.

NBA therefore vows to protect this community from the type of attacks and dark alley tangents that have become all to common in other areas of the Internet. I will be moderating our discussions more vigilantly to protect the people, values and ideas I cherish.

NBA Comment Guidelines 
Discussion and debate for the sake of learning and behaviour change is welcome here. I believe that this can be done via courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the post, whether or not they agree with the views expressed.  
Comments containing profanity, abusive language, or baiting will be deleted.   
Posting comments with a user name attached above, or in the text of the comment, are appreciated. Doing so lets us meet on common ground and get to know each other better.

I agree with Martin Luther King when he said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." However, speaking out improperly can be just as bad.

December 28, 2014

Happiness Is An Art

We wish you many happy moments living in simplicity and beauty.
"Whether this moment is happy or not depends on you. It's you that makes the moment happy. It's not the moment that makes you happy. With mindfulness, concentration and insight, any moment can become a happy moment. Happiness is an art."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

December 24, 2014

Things I Would Rather Do Than Go To The Mall

There are a lot of thing I would rather do than go to the mall, especially at this time of year. Sticking needles in my eyes comes to mind. Thankfully there are much better less painful alternatives. Here are a few off the top of my head.

  1. Sit by a campfire or wood stove.
  2. Have a long winter's nap (Linda and I slept in until 11:00 am this morning).
  3. Cross country ski miles and miles into the wilderness with a backpack and stay in a rustic cabin for a week (haven't done this one for a while, but it sure was fun when we did).
  4. Snuggle with my sweetie.
  5. Visit with friends.
  6. Go for a hike and visit the winter birds.
  7. Sit quietly and do nothing.
  8. Eat comfort food, then have a nap.
  9. Read a good book, or tell stories.
  10. Shovel snow off senior neighbours sidewalks... although I am feeling like a senior lately.

Hope you are all having a wonderfully simple holiday season full of the things you want to do. 

Peace and Love to you and yours.

December 22, 2014

Happy Buy Nothing Xmas

When American Research Group asked 1100 potential holiday shoppers, "What do you think you will spend on gifts this Christmas?", the average amount came to $861 dollars, up 8% over last year's anticipated spending. That figure is down from the peak in 2001 of $1053 dollars.

How did spending a bunch of money on competitive gift giving become associated with our winter celebrations?

If one is celebrating the birth of Christ this time of year, then the presents should be for him. But I don't remember anywhere saying that he requested $861 dollars worth of presents on Christmas. I think all he wanted was for us to be good to each other and the planet. Is that a gift we can handle?

If not celebrating a birthday, perhaps a pagan pre-Christmas winter solstice celebration is more to your liking. There are several from which to choose.

For festivities like Saturnalia or Yule you don't need to go shopping at all. You just need a bonfire and/or a log to burn in the hearth. Family, friends and feasting are good too, as are singing and dancing together.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate - love, forgiveness, peace, and new beginnings are what we need to keep in mind. Not things. Or stuff. Or crap.

Happy Buy Nothing Xmas.

December 21, 2014

Give A Passport To Everything - A Library Card

“Congratulations on the new library, because it isn't just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you -- and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.”
― Isaac Asimov 

If you are giving someone a gift, regardless of age, I can't think of a better one than a library card. The first thing Linda and I did after arriving in our new community of Digby, NS last summer was apply for our library cards. They came in the mail on a hot summer day, but it felt like Christmas.

Even better, our library cards were completely free of charge, as they are in many public libraries. Free card, free borrowing, free, free, free. How can you beat that?

These days anything publicly funded is being targeted by mean-spirited, anti-community, anti-knowledge governments looking to move more funds into private pockets. Public libraries have long been underfunded, but now their very existence is threatened.

In Canada our federal government has been closing government controlled libraries, and has gone so far as to destroy materials and burn books. 100 years of environmental research materials were burned or dumped in landfills.

Public libraries, while chronically underfunded, are safe... for now.

One way we can show our support for our public libraries is to get a card. And use it. A lot.

Right now I am using my library to enjoy several music CDs, a few movies on DVD, and one of the most beautiful books I have ever checked out. The book is the Smithsonian Definitive Visual History of Music. It is huge, filled with photos and information, and is transporting me through thousands of years of musical history.

The timeline for my musical tome is from 60,000 BCE to the current era. I am travelling through time and space (for free), and humming a tune as I go along.

You can too. Get a library card for yourself, or someone you love, and gain access to books, music, computers, movies, and your own civilization and community.

December 19, 2014

Where Do NBA Visitors Live?

In the comments on a recent post, Terri and I had a brief discussion about where NBA visitors live. It is something I think about a lot - where do the almost 300,000 visits to NBA come from?

Since 2008 when this blog was started in the throes of the Great Recession, we have had visits from 204 regions of the planet. You can define "country" in a variety of ways, but official lists vary between 195 and 249.

I figure 204 regions constitutes a UN of simple living advocates. We love to hear from readers everywhere. The sharing of experiences in simplicity helps promote an idea whose time has come. Again.

From consumer nations where simple living is still considered an oddity, to places where simplicity has always been the way, your comments are a valuable archive of wisdom and practice from which we can all learn.

And now, the top 10 countries with highest numbers of visits to NBA are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. Netherlands
  6. India
  7. Philippines
  8. Germany
  9. France
  10. Brazil

While visits from 204 countries is impressive, Linda and I really appreciate readers taking the time to leave comments. These comments are very inspiring and we appreciate the lessons we learn from them. 

Keep 'em coming, and we will continue to respond to them as often as we can. 

Thanks for visiting the NBA blog.

December 18, 2014

The Corporate/Consumer Gift

The corporate/consumer gift keeps on taking.

The corporate/consumer gift is a glittering package that we have laid at the altar of greed. It is a gift that keeps on taking... and taking and taking. And taking.

A recent Oxfam study has shown that the number of billionaires has doubled since this blog began in 2008. The study also found that the planet's richest 85 individuals have as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the population.

If anyone is wondering how much of the Earth's resources corporations wish to access and consume, I have the answer. They want to take it all.

All the planet's primal forests, all the clean water, all the pristine wilderness, all the sweet smelling air, all the fish in the oceans. Everything. Until it is all gone.

Then what?

The corporate/consumer gift that we have created, and perpetuated to near-planetary collapse, is a stylish brick on the accelerator of society, speeding us along to the point of no return. Riding shotgun are pro-corporate, jobs-at-all-costs governments that smooth the way toward the brink by cancelling current environmental laws and preventing new ones from being introduced.

All so the corporate/consumer gift can keep on taking. Most of the stuff we buy is the same - it takes more than it gives.

In order to tame the beast we have created, and take the brick off the gas pedal, we can think about whether we wish to burden ourselves and our loved ones with additional fetters before buying superfluous stuff. Especially around this time of year.

Happy holidays - two more days and the light begins to return.

December 15, 2014

Solving The Problem Of Consumerism Through Non-Participation

Are you a cog in the consumer machine, or are you a wrench thrown into its gears? Do you support its workings, or have you pulled the rug out from under its bulk?

The time has come to decide how we will react in response to overwhelming evidence that the consumerism beast is a tyrant disguised as a horn of plenty. Sure, it gives, but at a great price.

Consumerism kills freedom. It kills creativity. It kills life. Why would anyone support these outcomes?

The good news is that fighting back may be easier than you think. You don't have to become an activist getting arrested on the front lines (not that there is anything wrong with that), or live in a cave. You don't have to take up arms.

You just have to stop supporting the beast, stop serving it, stop feeding it with your time and money. This non-participation can be done through the time-honoured traditions of simple living.

Living simply is a withdrawal of support for global consumerism. It is a non-violent response to a violent way of life.

500 years ago, before the French Revolution, a gifted young man named Étienne de la Boétie, was writing about such things in his essay Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. Although he was writing about States and dictators, his ideas can be applied to other elite-driven, top-down systems as well.

Basically he said that things can change fast if the people's consent is withdrawn. Without the participation of the people dictators can fall, governments can fall, and other ways of doing things can fall too.

Reading this amazing essay I replaced "tyrant" or "the State" with "consumerism" and it still makes sense.

Consumerism then, has "nothing more than the power that you confer upon it to destroy you. Where has it acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can it have so many arms to beat you with, if it does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does it get them if they are not your own? How does it have any power over you except through you? How would it dare assail you if it had no cooperation from you?"

The solution?
"Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.” - Étienne de la Boétie
As simple living catches on with the masses, the tyrant of consumerism and all the death it deals out, will fall under its own weight and shatter for good.

It is up to us - we have the power. We can change everything by not participating in the problem.

December 12, 2014

Winter Is A Good Time To Slow Down

A vase full of sunshiny happiness brightens the dark days.

The hours of daylight are now about as bleak as they are going to get. We are in peak season (in the northern hemisphere) for cold, dark days, and we know that mood, energy levels, and the seasons are connected. It is a great time to be able to slow things down.

While most people's schedules don't change throughout the year, they find that their energy levels wane along with the amount of sunshine and heat. One has just as much to do with less get-up-and-go.

A normal response to cold, dark days is lower energy levels, with about 10% to 25% of the population in northern climates experiencing more serious symptoms including Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

And we have a major holiday celebration at this time of year? Whose idea was that? It doesn't help when one feels more like sleeping in or eating a whole pie rather than going out into the chilly darkness. Being able to choose to do less and move more slowly right now is a nice nature-approved option.

In winter I would like to be a smart, old grizzly bear and hibernate through the dark days. Image how much money one would save on food and the heating bill. Turn down the heat this time of year, snuggle under an extra-warm down comforter, and see you March 20th.

Perhaps not so far fetched when NASA just announced some wonderfully torporific Deep Sleep research so they can slow down astronauts on their way to the planet Mars. Sleeping space travellers use less resources, and it makes the trip through a long winter in space more bearable.

Barring a few days, weeks, or months of sweet slumber, there are things that can be done to 'lighten' the mood in Winter whether you have SAD or not.

  • light therapy
  • using mirrors to reflect sunlight into home or office windows (I want some of these)
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • outdoor activity, especially on sunny days
  • exercise
  • laughter
  • music
The above suggestions are supported by scientific research. Having fresh flowers on display through the winter is not mentioned, but it makes sense. I recently discovered 50% off flowers at the grocery store, so I am giving them a try. So far the results are good.

The research also does not mention the effectiveness of having a reduced schedule to match reduced winter energy levels, but it does work. Winter is a good time to slow down.

Good day, and good night.

December 10, 2014

International Human Rights Day

Since our human rights are being extinguished more and more regardless of where on the planet we live, with each passing year International Human Rights Day takes on more importance.

This day of celebrating what every human being deserves began on December 10, 1948 with the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human Rights Day is a reminder of how undemocratic systems of government and abuse of authority can lead to injustice, oppression and violence - examples are far too numerous and depressing, both past and present.

After decades of paying lip service to human rights, and the occasional step in the right direction, today we are in danger of losing any gains we have made over centuries of struggle against the oppressors.

In Canada it seems like the only rights we have now are to:

1) go shopping and buy shit wherever and whenever we want.

2) vote every four years for one of the two basically identical pro-capitalist gangs masquerading as political parties (Green Party and NDP are acceptable alternatives).

3) work low wage, slave labour jobs for our masters benefit.

4) read and believe all the lies and propaganda geared to make us fearful and compliant, and 

5) shut up.

Speaking out in Canada under our present government is likely to get one on the government's Nixonian Enemies List. You will be surveilled, and perhaps even visited by the authorities - you could be, after all, a terrorist or green guerrilla that stands in the way of corporate profits.

If we don't fight for our rights today (and every day) we will lose them. This is the day to plan collective action to ensure this does not happen. It is time to halt the erosion of our natural human rights and live as equal members on planet Earth safe from unchecked greed and consumerism.

December 8, 2014

Fossil Fuels vs A Renewable Future

The people have spoken, and they want a measured transition off of fossil fuels and on to renewable sources of energy.

A monumental tug-of-war is raging between an elite small group of insanely wealthy fossil fuel pushers and a growing number of regular people that favour more enlightened clean alternatives.

This is one battle that the people will eventually win because our lives depend on severely curtailing the carbon economy. We can see that the tide is turning, regardless of what the MSM tells us (or doesn't tell us). Things are looking up for green energy.

Already there are more jobs in renewable energy in Canada than in the tars sands, the dirtiest oil source in the world.

Investment in renewable energy is up globally. Locally, my tiny town of Digby, Nova Scotia is becoming known as a centre for research and development in wind and tidal energy. Wind farms are popping up like flowers in the spring.

The municipality owns and operates a biodigester that processes biomass (including material from green household waste) to create methane used to generate electricity.

Increased investment in renewable energy is good news for the green economy, the environment, everyone's health, and future generations.

The future is bright... and clean - the transition has begun.

December 5, 2014


"Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?" 
- Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes watching the spread of global consumeritis can be overwhelming. It can feel like there is no respite from onslaughts of bad news. The place I turn to for relief is nature.

When in natural areas I experience what naturalist John Muir wrote of the benefits of his forays into the wild, "worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in."

"We inter-breathe with the rain forests, we drink from the oceans.  They are part of our own body."
- Thich Nhat Hanh

How pleasant then to find an accessible forest bath worthy trail within walking distance of our new home outside of Digby, Nova Scotia.

My experience begins as soon as I open my front door. I turned our Welcome mat upside-down so that when I leave the house I am welcomed back into the great outdoors once again.

"Why thank you. It is good to return to your loving embrace. Take me away." And off I go.

"You didn't come into this world.  You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean.  
You are not a stranger here."
- Alan Watts

I usually take a small camera so I can record things I see along the way to share with Linda when I return home after an hour or so of sweet nature relief.

"i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes" 
- e.e. cummings

This week I felt well enough to hike all the way to a small waterfall at the end of the trail. After a short session of tranquil sitting on a mossy rock and merging with my surroundings, I returned home feeling rejuvenated and ready.

How do I spell relief? N-A-T-U-R-E.

The respite I find in nature is what allows me to find the grit that will be required to save it so that future generations may find solace here as well.

December 3, 2014

Fame? Fortune? No Thanks

Peter Green - simple living guitar hero.

Not everyone wants fame and fortune. Some people know the dangerous pitfalls such a life entails, and choose the simple life instead.

Usually society figures that folks who voluntarily turn away from mass public recognition and truck loads of money are mentally unstable. But those of us that know the simple life understand how such individuals are only protecting themselves.

Take for example musician Peter Green, founder of the original version of the band Fleetwood Mac. He decided early on that outrageous fame and fortune was not for him. He wanted to live the simple life vs. the big star life and all the danger such a life entails.

In 1970, two years after he founded the band, Peter Green began to obsess about money, and told bandmate Mick Fleetwood that he wanted to give it all away. It is said that Green even approached his accountant with a gun and threatened him if he continued to send him cheques for playing music.

Eventually the star guitarist was treated for mental illness, and he left the band. Fleetwood Mac went on to become one of the most successful bands in rock history.

Peter Green went on to do his own thing his way. He continues to play guitar to the delight of audiences around the world.

What a role model - Peter Green is a simple living guitar hero.

December 1, 2014

Cheapskate Monday

"It's cheaper and not as dangerous."

An anonymous reader left a comment on my last post and called all the readers that "chime in" here "CHEAP SKATES". There was also a humorous reference to NBA readers giving fruitcakes and free Christmas cards.

I like fruitcake. And free cards. So I wasn't sure if I should be offended or complimented. But it did get me to thinking.

Are NBA readers:

"CHEAP SKATES"? No. Those would be inexpensive footwear for gliding across ice.

"CHEAPSKATES"?  No. It is rude to yell in person or online, and shouting it just makes the word sound so negative.

"Cheapskates", however is lower key and is a distinct possibility.

The word was coined in 1892 and described someone who was "a mean, grasping person usually stingy with money". Used this way it has an old fashioned Dickensian ring to it, as in someone who is "being a Scrooge" with their cash. It refers to someone who has taken cash-related common sense too far.

In modern times, though, the word has been upgraded to the point that it is no longer an insult in most circles. Many people today, including those living frugal, simple, non-consumer lives consider themselves cheapskates.

There are cheapskate books and cheapskate blogs. There are cheapskate websites full of cheapskate tips. There is even a website where you can get cheap skates if you are trying to save a few bucks before hitting the ice.

It seems that everyone is getting into the world of cheapskates. And/or cheap skates.

Take Leo Babauta, the author of the popular "Zen Habits" blog. He publicly confessed that he was a cheapskate in his post "The Cheapskate Guide: 50 Tips for Frugal Living". The way he describes it, I am a cheapskate too.

I may even be a cheaperskate. Perhaps some who visit here are too.

However, I doubt there are any NBA readers that pee in jars so they don't have to pay for water to flush the toilet. But even if there were, why would anyone take offence to something someone else was doing that doesn't affect them at all?

It is interesting to note that not spending money could make you open to potential insult, while earning, borrowing and spending to the point of getting into a financial crisis is lauded and seen as normal.

It is not hard to see what is going on here. They want us to spend, even if we don't have any money. They want us to borrow and spend. They want us to spend until it hurts. Spend even if you don't need anything.

Spend, spend, spend. Don't stop. Ever.

No thanks. Better to be a cheapskate. We're frugal, and we are changing the definition of what it means to have money common sense.