December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

These are not hopeful times, but it is when it is most dark that we need to light the candle of hope. So I started looking for candles.

There is nothing more hopeful than seeds. Linda and I spent some beautiful moments sorting seeds today. As we did, we talked about what the garden of 2017 will look like. An eagle flew by outside our window, a nice reminder of our connection to the Divine.

Another trip around our life-sustaining star, another garden, rebirth just around the corner. Cycles upon cycles upon cycles, an endless flow. What a joy to prepare packets of potential that will become food for both stomach and soul.

Awakening to our own potential is the greatest joy of all. Like tending a garden, it is hard work. As has been noted by many, "the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off". First awareness. Then transformation.

Maintaining Not Buying Anything has been transformational. It is heartening to discover that people around the world are living smaller, feeling happier, and reducing their environmental footprint. We thank you for being part of the new growth in our own practice of simple living.

Together, in our blog garden, we are planting and nurturing seeds that will grow into new and better ways of living with Mother Nature. We can see that increasing numbers of people are coming to the understanding that life infuses everything. It's a big party, and everyone is invited. BYOS.

Here is to a hopeful 2017 bursting with growth on both a personal and global scale.

December 30, 2016

Things Are Getting Better

The March of Progress?

If I hear one more person say that things are getting better I am going to scream. Or cry. Or both.

When I am bringing people down by expressing my current world view they stop me mid-rant to remind me that, "things are getting better". But are they, really?

Oh yes. The gays have it better. Women have it better. Blacks have it better. The poor have it better. Aboriginal people have never had it as good. And peace is breaking out all over the place, while the environment is improving!

Usually it is a well off consumer class privileged individual sharing the optimism. They might even tell me to "lighten up" or "get over it" or "move on" so that I can join in and enjoy the privileged life that we can all have if we work hard enough.

What I want to do in those times is take them, and find someone who is gay and ask them if they agree that "things are getting better". Maybe a ask a gay person from Orlando, Florida.

I want to ask a woman if she thinks that things are getting better. Is receiving 77% of the wage of a male doing the same work evidence of this improved world?

Maybe they can visit a First Nations reserve here in Canada and see if the people there share this Polyana view of things. We could ask about the lack of clean water, or adequate housing, or the persistent racist attitudes of their settler neighbours.

And how about the perpetual war that the planet has been in for the past decade? Do Syrians think that things are getting better? Libyans? Egyptians? Ukrainians? Iraqis?

I used to be an optimist, too. But come on - our planet has never been in as rough of shape as it is now. We have had 10,000 years of civilization to get things right, and what do we get? Trump and his ilk.

Come on - we should have nailed this thing several thousand years ago.

Are things getting better? Perhaps. But as Neil Young said in Vampire Blues, the "good times are comin', but they're sure comin' slow". We are moving at a snails pace when we aren't actually going backwards.

If things are going to accelerate enough to get us back on track, we are going to have to have a simple living revolution the likes of which we have never seen before. Happy, comfortable consumer/slaves are going to have to get out of the bubble they have been in for a few decades, and start talking to the  rest of the planet that is suffering in order to prop up their unsustainable lifestyles.

Only then can we work to make this a simpler, more sane world where everyone can truly say "things are getting better". And getting better now. Right now.

If not now, then when?

December 28, 2016

That Is Enough

"I exist as I am, that is enough." - Walt Whitman

How about some anti-consumer, pro-freedom affirmations for the new year? How about: "I am enough. I have enough. I do enough."? How liberating would that be?

In order to sell you an endless list of things, advertisers and big business constantly tell us, "You are not enough. You don't have enough. You can never get enough." Enough money. Enough stuff. Enough skinny. Enough fame. Enough fortune. Enough love and admiration.

The bosses tell us constantly, "You don't do enough", the whole "do more with less" thing. But they sure can sell us stuff to make us feel like we have enough... temporarily, because according to them you won't have enough for long. Just until the next shopping binge.

How do we counteract that message that is funded by billions of dollars and centuries old cultural arm twisting all aligned against us more strongly and desperately every year?

It is simple. We need to tell ourselves the truth, and that is, "I am enough, just the way I am. I have just enough, and I do enough."

Make 'enough' your mantra for 2017 and you may just get out from under the oppressive thumb of the merchandisers. While you are at it you will transform yourself, your family and friends, your neighbourhood, place of work, and indeed, the world.

Go even farther to make you and the world a better place by saying, "YOU are enough" to everyone you meet. Love unconditionally.

December 26, 2016

The Pathless Woods

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

- Lord Byron

December 23, 2016

What Gods Do We Worship?

The gods humans across the ages have chosen to worship, have always changed. They are changing again and there is nothing enlightening about any of this new crop of devilish deities.

While the old gods don't get a lot of attention these days, even during religious observances like Christmas, the new gods are constantly celebrated and in your face. Like all good gods, they are omni-present.

Christian monk Thomas Merton warned us about the gods we choose to honour.
Every person becomes the image of the God they adore.
Those whose worship is directed to a dead thing become dead.
Those who love corruption rot.
Those who love a shadow become, themselves, a shadow.
Those who love things that must perish live in dread of their perishing.

The new gods that are adored and that we are using to formulate our image, as I see it, are:

The God of Progress

Cultural anthropologists like John Bodley will tell you all about the dangers of worshipping at the altar of Progress.

"Despite the best intentions of those who have promoted progress, all too often the results have been poverty, longer working hours, and much greater physical exertion, poor health, social disorder, discontent, discrimination, overpopulation, and environmental deterioration—combined with the destruction of the traditional culture."

While Bodley has shown that the benefits of progress are often both illusory and detrimental to tribal peoples when civilization bulldozes their tranquil lives and high standard of living, everything he says applies to the rest of us.

We are all descendants of tribal people, and all the slavering of our attention on the God of Progress has only given us longer, lower quality lives. We are all victims of the worshipping of the God of Progress.

The God of Materialism

It is well established that once we have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing, further material gains do little to improve our well-being. How is it then, that the God of Materialism is even bigger than Jesus or Buddha these days?

In "The High Price of Materialism", author Tim Kasser goes beyond the well known unhappy facts, and looks at how people's materialistic desires effect their well-being.

"Indeed, what stands out across the studies is a simple fact:  people who strongly value the pursuit of wealth and possessions report lower psychological well-being than those who are less concerned with such aims."

Now, what kind of god would knowingly do that to their devotees?

The God of War

Seemingly one of our favourites, the God of War is being worshipped now like never before. Can there be celebrations of other religious events while this brutal lord is being honoured in government temples everywhere?

Journalist John Pilger has been covering wars around the world since visiting Vietnam in 1970. He has pointed out that since 9/11, the US alone has spent $5 trillion dollars on aggressive wars, and shows that the current flight of 12 million refugees from at least four countries is only one consequence.

Imagine what the world could do with $5 trillion dollars if put toward helping rather than murdering.

"The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. 
The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies — socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor — and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food."

This time of year is ripe for contemplation and compassion. It is a good time to take a moment to meditate and consider what gods we are really worshipping and celebrating, and why.

December 21, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice

The Sun is the ultimate source of light and heat on this planet. No Sun. No life on Earth.

No matter where you live on Earth’s globe, or whether you are religious or not, a solstice is your signal to celebrate. One thing I like about solstice is that the corporate/capitalists have not yet appropriated this celebration and turned it into a consumption event. Yet.

After today, the days get longer, and the nights shorter, and who doesn't like that? This is a seasonal shift that humans have been noting and celebrating for a very long time.

I have always had an affinity with this time of year since I was born on winter solstice eve. I came into the darkness, but each day after that got brighter. Was there a connection? Did I do that?

Today we celebrate the return of the light and heat that keeps us alive. It is also a time to think about our own inner light. Is it getting brighter? Or do we need our batteries recharged? If so, now is the time to do it. Hunker down, hibernate, and return with an inner photonic radiance that banishes ignorance and hate to the receding shadows.

Welcome back Sun. Welcome back heat. And welcome back life.

Happy Solstice to everyone that hangs out with us here on our blog.

December 19, 2016

The Problem With Gift Giving

3 rice cookers = suffering x 3.

What kind of stuff do you buy for the person that has everything? Nothing. You buy them nothing. What kinds of stuff do you buy for the hard to buy for person? Same. Nothing. How about the easy to buy for individual? You guessed it. Nothing again.

Tis the season for frenzied shopping and gift giving. But there is a problem with both giving (and receiving) gifts. This should be pondered before beginning the yearly shop-a-thon that we do mostly because we are told to by people that want our money.

Here is the crux of the matter. If you give a gift the recipient doesn't want, they suffer. They would be better off with no gift. No winners here, not even the person that will end up with the thing after it is re-gifted.

Even if you "nail it" and get the perfect gift someone actually wants, they still will suffer. The new thing will demand their attention, require space to store, and possibly require maintenance from time to time. The gift may have other unintended consequences.

Eventually the item might break, or be lost or stolen. In the end, the gift-ee will be separated from the thing they desire. Pain results again. The person would be better off with no gift. No winners here either.

But there is an answer. There is something that can be given with a clear conscience.

What says "I love you" more than giving the gift of yourself? Your time. Instead of spending precious moments shopping for things that will cause pain and suffering, why not use that time to acknowledge the ones you love?

Write a note, letter, email, private message, tweet, or text to tell them you care. Or if geographical considerations allow, spend time together, in the same place at the same time, enjoying each other's company. It's free, it's cherished by most, and if done with compassion, will not cause pain.

Everyone wins when the thing we joyfully give is our loving, attentive selves. No shopping. Free.

December 16, 2016

The Peaceful Warrior

I constantly practice my warrior gaze, but have a way to go.
It should say, "Mess with Mother Nature, and you mess with me".

I think I have more of a forest elf thing going on, but that is alright, too.
The bright colours are so I don't get shot while out in the woods during hunting season.

Peaceful warriors have the patience to wait
until the mire settles and the waters clear.
They remain unmoving until the right time,
so the right action arises by itself.
They do not seek fulfillment, but wait with open arms
to welcome all things.
Ready to use all situations, wasting nothing,
they embody the Light.

Peaceful warriors have three great treasures:
simplicity, patience, and compassion.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
they return to the source of Being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
they live in harmony with the way things are.
Compassionate towards themselves,
they make peace with the world.

Some may call this teaching nonsense;
others may call it lofty and impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And for those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has deep roots.

- Adapted from a poem by Lao-tzu

December 14, 2016

Late Fall Harvesting

Our garden December 14, 2016.

Last harvest.

Last harvest?

December 12, 2016

Eco-Footprint Overshoot

In my lifetime, human consumption of resources has exceeded the productive capacity of our planet.

Everyone has an ecological footprint. We all need to use the earth’s resources to survive. But some of us are wearing ridiculously large, floppy clown shoes while others have existed forever in tiny slippers.

One average Canadian footprint is the same as that of 12 average Ethiopians. How big a footprint is too big? How much is too much? 

Since the 1980s we have been living unsustainably by draining stocks of "natural capital" faster than nature can replenish them. It is a fatal mistake to think we can take more resources than the earth can provide, and do so indefinitely. We have been doing so for about 3 decades now, and the rate of overshoot is getting faster with each passing year.

The size of a person’s eco-footprint depends on many factors. Do you grow your own food? Do you walk or drive to places? Do you use renewable or non-renewable energy sources? Is that a rice and bean dish I see on your plate? What kind of climate do you live in?

These factors, and so many more, make a difference in the amount of resources required to sustain our lifestyle, and therefore the size of our footprint.


Average number of productive acres the Earth provides per person (each human's eco-footprint "fair share"), not leaving anything left over for other living things - 4.5 acres

Average amount per person if we include the needs of other living things - 1 acre 

Average global footprint per person  - 5.6 acres


In an age of ecological overshoot, having a smaller footprint is more desirable, so I have listed countries starting with those with the smallest footprint.

Afghanistan - 0.75 acres

Bangladesh - 1 acre

India - 2 acres

Ethiopia - 2.4 acres

Iraq - 3 acres

China - 4 acres

Mexico - 6 acres

Turkey - 6.7 acres

Russia - 11 acres

New Zealand - 12 acres

France - 12 acres

Germany - 12.5 acres

United Kingdom - 13 acres

Spain - 13.4 acres

Netherlands - 15 acres

Australia - 17 acres

Canada - 22 acres

United States - 24 acres

We need to reduce our lifestyle shoe size in so-called "developed" societies. Ecological overshoot can not go on forever without degrading the environment to the point of mass extinctions. Either we need to reduce our population, or reduce our ecological footprints. Preferably both.

Of the two, reducing our consumption of Earth's resources is probably the more attainable solution. If resource depletion is the problem, reducing our demands on those resources is the answer. I think this can be done while positively affecting one's overall quality of life.

It makes me wonder. Does the size of a person's ecological footprint transmit to happiness and contentment in life? Are humans in North America happier than humans in countries with a smaller average eco-footprint? Or does a larger footprint just mean a larger amount of waste and useless excess?

Live softly, and leave a small footprint. That would be the best holiday gift possible if you are considering getting something for Mother Earth this season, and year round.

December 9, 2016

For The Beauty And The Birds

Sunflower seeds for the birds, like this blue jay.

Charles Lindinberg said, "If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than planes", and I agree. What a sad, sanitized and quiet existence it would be without our feathered neighbours. Things would actually be better without planes, on the other hand.

Birds generally are not doing so good these days. Numbers are declining the world over, which is very troubling. A decline in the number of birds also means a decline in the state of the environment. The birds (and the environment) need our help.

This past summer we were sent 3 precious sunflower seeds from a family member. Not 3 packs of sunflower seeds. 3 seeds. Not 2, not 4. Exactly three little seeds.

We planted them carefully, then nurtured them with staking and watering and worm castings and love. They responded by becoming three fantastically Fibonacci-spiralled beauties. Upon gazing into the yellow eye of the sacred spiral sunflower all bad things disappear, like a misty breath dissipating on a cold winter day. Nothing but beauty is left.

Staring into a sunflower is a good example of the Navajo prayer of Beauty:

Beauty before me.
Beauty behind me.
Beauty above me.
Beauty below me.
Beauty around me.
It is finished in beauty.

As the large flowers developed, and the seeds began to dry, I could see that the birds were testing them out, but finding them not quite ripe enough to pull from the flowers. Shortly after, one flower blew over in a wind storm.

I checked on the flower, now on the ground, the next day. I couldn't believe it - every single seed was gone. Picked 100% clean in only a few hours. Since I did not witness what ate them, I started to speculate. Was it mice? Mink? Birds? If birds, what kind of birds? I had to know.

I cut the stalks of the other two flowers, and hung them on our front porch so that we could observe them from inside our house. It did not take long before they attracted hungry flying feeders - blue jays and starlings, two birds we didn't see close to our house previously. Ah - ha.

They descended upon the flowers in numbers, sharing seeds with several birds landing at a time. And the show was going on just a few feet from our front door window. More beauty.

Over the next few days we watched as the diners cleaned their plates and moved on. In the middle I went out and collected a few juicy seed specimens before they were gone, for next year's garden.

I got more than three.

Growing sunflowers is a great way to introduce some beauty into your surroundings while helping out the birds at the same time.

Other things you can do for birds (and the environment):

  • create safe places for birds to rest and nest in your yard and community
  • use fewer pesticides and chemicals
  • buy organic produce and products
  • let dead trees stand 
  • install bird baths 
  • convert lawns and gardens to native plants 
  • school grounds, parks, vacant lots, and common areas can all be “bird-scaped"
  • talk to others about your favourite birds and how they may be affected by climate change
  • live simply

December 7, 2016

Professor Dumpster

Dr. Dumpster's diminutive dives.

Jeff Wilson, a Texas teacher of biological sciences, is a person dedicated to teaching by example. He didn't just live in a tiny home the size of a dumpster - his home for a year long experiment in sustainability was a dumpster.

Therefore his nickname, Professor Dumpster.

The Dr. of Dumpsterism perfected the craft of thriving in a 33 square foot former waste receptacle on the grounds of his school in Austin. Rather than lament the loss of luxury, Wilson sings the praises of really small footprint living.

Some of the immediate advantages he found were:

  • lower rent
  • lower utility payments
  • owning fewer things
  • less time spent doing chores
  • shorter commute (about 90 seconds on foot)
  • less money spent on unnecessary possessions
  • more community involvement
  • reduced mental noise

Most of all, Professor Wilson said that living lightly gave him a new sense of freedom. And while shacking up in his humble abode involved some sacrifice, he said that he cried when his project ended and he moved out.

You don't need to dwell in a dumpster to feel the goodness of small footprint living. Its benefits can be realized anywhere in any place, one decision at a time.

December 5, 2016

Protectors vs Plunderers

Learning to live more gently on the earth does not happen spontaneously when you are born into a culture of consumerism. In my pursuit of the simple life I have had a lot of guidance.

The core of my gentle approach to living comes from my parents. And while my own culture has some excellent examples of people warning us of our luxuriously wasteful ways, they do not reflect the large society.

For me, then, the next basic source of ideas and practices for a way of life that made more sense to me is from my First Nations hosts.

I was born in Blackfoot territory. After university I moved north to the land of the Cree. After that Linda and I were hosted by the Coast Salish for 10 years. Two years ago we traversed the whole of Turtle Island and now live in the area of the people of the rising sun, the Mi'kmaq.

It is because of their generosity that I have lived my life in their lands. It is because of their stewardship over thousands of years that there was a functioning ecosystem here when my ancestors arrived from Europe looking for refuge. Look at what we have done with it since then.

We are Earth Plunderers. "The economy or the environment?" could only be asked by such a person.

Native peoples everywhere on the planet, on the other hand, are Earth Protectors. They have not forgotten how to live sustainably on the land. North American native groups have been waiting 500 years for their guests to get with the program, and many of us are still having problems with the "Mother Earth comes first" philosophy.

Standing Rock is the most striking example of sharing the native world view with a consistent message that has been the same since settlers arrived on their shores - we and the Earth are one and the same. What you do to the Earth, you do to yourself. Therefore, treat her gently.

The Water Protectors of Standing Rock are decedents of one of the greatest and well known leaders in the area of what is now known as the USA. The wisdom of Sitting Bull, highly respected Lakota Chief and medicine man, could have helped us avoid problems like the Dakota Access Pipeline, if only we had listened.

Sitting Bull led his people during the time of colonization, and summed up the newcomers in a way that is unfortunately just as accurate today.

"Yet, hear me, people, we have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule. 
They claim this mother of ours, the earth, for their own and fence their neighbors away; they deface her with their buildings and their refuse. The nation is like a spring freshet that overruns its banks and destroys all that are in its path."

Sitting Bull died on the Standing Rock Reservation December 15th, 1890. He was shot by police attempting to arrest him on trumped up charges. He, like his decedents over the past 8 months of water protecting, paid a high price for resisting the plans of the Earth Plunderers.

I am in debt to the peoples that have hosted me here throughout my lifetime. Not only because they let me stay, but also because it is through their example that I have learned about living more gently and simply on this great and abundant land.

All settlers on Turtle Island have native people to thank. Today I am grateful to the people of Standing Rock and to so many other native groups around the world, many of whom converged on the reserve in an unprecedented show of solidarity. Thank you for showing us the way to becoming Earth Protectors ourselves.

May what has been happening be the beginning of an ongoing collaborative movement to restore the land, and ourselves, to a more healthy and balanced state. As Sitting Bull said, "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children."

December 2, 2016

All You Need Is...

You can learn to be you, it is true, and it can be done with only two ingredients. Two FREE ingredients.

All you need is nature, all you need is nature,

All you need is nature, nature. Nature is all you need.

All you need is nature. (All together now).

All you need is nature. (Everybody).

All you need is nature, nature. Nature is all you need.

Nature is all you need.

Nature is all you need.

Love is vital, but the Beatles failed to include nature in one of their most famous tunes. Nature is the Universe expressing its love for all life.

Sing it. Feel it. Live it. It's free. It's everywhere. Living without nature, like trying to be yourself without love, is an impossible task.

All we need is biophilia.

November 30, 2016

10,000 Year Plan

"Our long term plan is like our short term plan, only longer."

Humanity should think about developing a plan longer than the next election cycle. We don't need 5 year plans, we need 5,000 year plans. Preferably two of them.

A solid 10,000 year plan would go a long way toward figuring out where we want to go with this petri dish known as Earth. I love the idea of thinking ahead 7 generations, but how about extending that to 500? Supposedly we are the smartest creatures on Earth (and the known Universe according to some), so we should be able to get our big brains together and do this thing.

In order to reduce the chance of repeating the thousands of years of blind bumbling that we have been experiencing so far, we should come up with an overall plan for humans (and everything else) on our shared petri-planet home. Surely, considering the importance of my proposal, we can get some consensus towards a set of common goals and outcomes.

Like survival at first, looking at our increasingly grim short term prospects.

Then we can proceed from there and start planning for things like ridding the environment of human-created radiation produced during our misguided experiment with nuclear energy. That alone is a project that will take thousands of years. We should have one of those already, shouldn't we?

Next in The Big Plan we can look out over the next few hundred years. Where do we see ourselves as a species? What do we want to achieve in this time? I for one would like to see something more substantial than the planet's first trillionare.

A lot can happen in one year, let alone a hundred or a thousand. We should have a plan to help direct where we are going. Many of us can imagine a better world, and if we can imagine it, we can achieve it. We can put it in the plan.

As an ex-teacher I know the importance and the challenges of planning. It will take a different way of thinking to extend our imaginations past the next election, or our own brief existence. But we do care about our kids, don't we? And their kids? And theirs? And so on all the way up the line?

We have already had many thousands of years to get this thing right, and it feels like we aren't quite there yet. Let's get The Big Plan started.

How do you see humanity developing over 10,000 years? The glorious possibilities are endless.

November 28, 2016

Simplify The Holidays - Buy Nothing Xmas

Now that we have successfully simplified Black Friday with BND, it is time to do the same for the upcoming holiday season. The Centre For A New American Dream has something to offer in this regard.

The following is from their website:

"The holidays, meant to be a time of peace, reflection, and celebration, too often exhaust rather than uplift us. If you sometimes feel trapped by the shopping, spending, and frenzied preparations, you aren’t alone. 
Increasingly, Americans are tired of the commercialization of the season and want more of what matters… not just more stuff. This year, you don’t have to rack up credit card debt or get swept up in the season’s commercialism. Instead, consider creating holidays that instill more meaning into the season and encourage more sharing, laughter, creativity, and personal renewal."

There are many good suggestions for simplifying the holiday season. If you want less stress and more joy at this time of year check out .

Happy stressless, crapless and joy-filled holidays celebrating all that is good and free. The return of the sun, Winter Solstice, is almost upon us (in the northern hemisphere).

Love and light to all.

November 25, 2016

Buy Nothing Day: Nature vs Materialism

When was the last time you went a whole day without buying anything? It is harder than you think. But it is possible to go a for a day (or more) without shopping for things we don't really need.

In this day and age, it is very hard for the majority of us to not buy anything at all for a twenty four hour period. Supporters of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ in 65 nations across the globe want people to spend a moment thinking about that today.

A growing global community of simple living advocates think it is high time that we take a step back and look at ourselves, our behaviour, and contemplate the meaning of life in the consumer age. Take  a step back and contemplate what exactly is promoted on days like Black Friday... and the other 364 days of the year.

While there are things like rent, mortgage, food and utilities that most of us must purchase year round, there is still a lot of room to reduce the amount of extra shopping that we conduct. Today we can have some fun thinking about the consequences of all that commerce.

Ted Dave, who came up with the idea for Buy Nothing Day in 1992, states that the day “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day” but “about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”

It is about choosing sides.

On which side will you stand? That of materialism and over consumption, or the side of Nature? It is time to decide. Today we think about the importance of changing to gentler, simpler, and more authentic lower consumption lifestyles, and how all will benefit.

However, resistance, even at this late stage of the game, persists. Some claim this day is meaningless (and Black Friday is meaningful?), as observers simply buy more at other times.

Either way, there’s no doubt that trying to go without buying anything for an entire day is quite a challenge, and will hopefully serve to make everyone think about what life is really about, and what we really need.

November 23, 2016

Back To The Sail Age

The Pamir - Last Commercial Sailing Ship To Round Cape Horn.

Often people that are currently doubling down on business as usual say that us greenies want to take everything "back to the Stone Age". While that is an extreme and unrealistic view, we will be going back to something as the limits to growth usher in a new era of no-waste, no-growth, sustainable steady state economies.

In this pursuit, one area we will be returning to is the use of commercial sailing ships. How far back would that be? Not as far back as the Stone Age. Or the Bronze Age, or Iron Age. It turns out that we would not have to go far back at all. Just to the Sail Age.

The last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn was the Pamir, in 1949. Sailing vessels were plying international waters right up to the 1950s, mostly moving low value cargoes great distances, like wheat from Australia to Europe.

As things turn out, sailing ships like the Pamir, or ships similar to them, are predicted to return into service in the near future. This greenie for one, looks forward to the day that wind replaces fossil fuels on the high seas.

November 21, 2016

Huddle Close Together

"What is the meaning of this city?" 

When the stranger asks,

"What is the meaning of this city?

Do you huddle close together because you love each other?"

What will you answer?

"We all dwell together

To make money from each other?"  or

"This is a community?"

- T. S. Eliot

November 18, 2016

Buy Nothing?

In spite of the name of this blog, I have to ask, is it at all possible to buy nothing? Even for 24 hours, as many will be trying to do one week from today during Buy Nothing Day? Talk about a challenge.

Unless you are living in a totally self-sufficient setting (which is difficult, but possible), one pretty much is a slave to our "you-must-pay-for-everything" existence. They will find a way to monitize one of the last hold outs, the very air we breathe, one day.

I imagine in the near future a "Big Air" CEO will be stating publicly that he didn't think that breathing was a basic human right, and therefore the little people should be charged for consuming this valuable privately-owned resource.

In preparation for Buy Nothing Day, Linda and I were discussing if we could make it through that one 24 hour period without buying anything. It was a little frustrating.

In order to buy absolutely nothing on November 25 (shopping-oriented blogs call this day Black Friday) we could not buy any power from the utility. For us, like many people dependent on the grid, that would mean no electricity. That would also mean no heat, because our pellet stove requires electricity to work.

Then we thought about our vehicle, for which we pay insurance and registration. Each and every day of the year we are buying a few dollars of permission and protection for our van so we can drive it two or three times a month.

I would love to have a pure, unblemished by commerce Buy Nothing Life, but as we found out, that is difficult to achieve in the modern world, even for 24 hours. However, I can't think of a better goal to work toward, and that is what Buy Nothing Day reminds me of each year.

One more week and let's celebrate the non-commercial life, unbound and free, in any way we can. And no, I am not changing the name of this blog to "Not Buying Just About Anything That They Want Me To Buy", even though it may be more accurate.

Wishing you a simple weekend. Remember to breathe deep while it is still free.

November 16, 2016

Ever Think About That?

"What if the spider you just killed in your home had spent its entire life thinking that you were its room-mate? 
Ever think about that? 
No, you only think about yourself."

I read this recently, and laughed. Then I thought, and thought some more. It makes sense. I might think differently if I lived in Australia, but I hope not.

Since reading this I have seen it it in other places, unattributed to any author. To me it has the life-positive, anti-violent vibe of Buddhism, or Jainism. It has caused me to be even more aware of the preciousness of life, and how everything just wants to live.

This level of sensitivity to the needs of others can be applied to all situations.

How about,

"What if that computer you are typing on was made by child labour, or is toxic to workers, or destroys the habitat of wild creatures? 
Ever think about that? 
No, you only think about yourself."


"What if that flight you are taking increases your carbon footprint dramatically and adds to potentially catastrophic climate change? 
Ever think about that? 
No, you only think about yourself." 

What if our habits and desires are killing not only spiders, but the very Earth itself? Ever think about that?

"Rest easy spider

My broom

Does not sweep that far."

- Issa Kobayashi

November 14, 2016

Changing Food Miles To Food Feet

Apples from the back yard, low food miles, great taste, and free.

How far your food travels has serious consequences for your health and the climate. People are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. Better nutrition, less waste and a lower carbon footprint are the result.

At the grocery store I can buy apples from the far reaches of the world. Not only do they have outrageous food miles, but they are also very expensive. I don't want those apples.

I don't want apples from New Zealand (14,978 km/9306 miles)

I don't want apples from South Africa (12,142 km/7,545 miles).

I don't want apples from Chile (8957.64 km/5566.02 miles).

I don't want apples from British Columbia, Canada (4030.46 km/2504.41 miles).

I don't even want apples from the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia (58.72 km/36.49 miles).

No, all things considered, I want apples from my backyard.

Things taste better when you have harvested them with your own two hands.

This summer I found a beautifully laden apple tree a few minutes from my back door (about 500 m/1640 feet). Two days and two nice hikes later and I have a big sack of gleaned apples to store for the winter.

The only way it could be more local than that is if the apple tree was growing in the middle of my kitchen.

Since we started our garden this summer we have not bought kale, carrots, peas, beans, radishes, summer savoury, basil, or cilantro. Now I can add apples to my growing list of foods I have not had to buy from afar. We can get them from a-near instead.

Linda - queen of the apples that came all the way from a tree we can see from our window.

The next planned addition will be to plant some garlic this week so we can harvest our own next summer, and quit buying it from China... which is 10, 638 km/6610 miles away.

Our garlic will be growing 3 meters/15 feet from our front door.

We're changing food miles to food feet, which lowers our carbon footprint and adds nutrients and taste to our diet. It also feels extremely satisfying to break free of our reliance on Big Food, and grow and pick food with our own hands.

November 11, 2016

Love Is The Only Engine Of Survival

"Like a bird on a wire
Like a drunk in the midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free."

Multi-talented artist Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in Montreal, Canada.  As if this week hasn't been emotional enough, Canada's Dylan passed away Monday at the age of 82.

Prolific to the end of his life (his most recent album was released three weeks ago), the singer/songwriter learned to play the guitar as a teenager, and as a young student, also wrote poetry and novels. 

In describing Cohen's work, singer Jennifer Warnes said, "Leonard acknowledges that the whole act of living contains immense amounts of sorrow and hopelessness and despair; and also passion, high hopes, and deep and eternal love." All his life he was true to the creative calling.

"I've seen the future, brother: it is murder."

In 1960, Cohen purchased a home on the Greek island of Hydra, attracted to the simple way of life on this picturesque island in the Mediterranean. With no cars and limited electricity, here he lived a quasi-reclusive lifestyle and focused on his art and his family.

As an artist that had creativity oozing from every pore, Cohen also did visual art – in particular, sketching and drawing which he had been interested in since a boy. Living on Hydra with his young children, Cohen often made drawing an important family activity around the kitchen table. 

If you don't become the ocean, you'll become seasick every day"

Much later the drawing that was his life was tragically torn to shreds by a close friend that helped manage his business affairs. Cohen's savings, retirement account, and the rights to some of his music were all gone. He was left penniless at almost 70 years old, his entire career's earnings missing. 

Rather than be defeated and bitter, Cohen responded to his situation with grace and equanimity. No doubt his 5 years of seclusion at the Mount Baldy Zen Center near Los Angeles helped him through his predicament successfully. 

"Take the only tree that's left and stuff it up the hole in your culture"

Throughout his life Cohen exuded a sense of calm and peace, even after being unable to recover any of the millions missing from his bank accounts. Unafraid of hard work, he picked himself up, dusted himself off, and got back to the business of creating beautiful things for the world.

His chosen name after being ordained as a Zen Buddhist monk means "silence", unusual for a guy whose words will continue to resonate far and loud into the future. Amidst his creative output there remained a rock-like steadfastness.

He triumphed, and before long had fully recovered financially. At the same time the singer was approaching 8 decades and he sensed that the end of his life was near. His lover from his time in Greece, and the mother of his children, died in July of this year, and he thought he might not be far behind.

Cohen's farewell letter to Marianne was read at her funeral, stating that "... our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine." 

Three months later they would be holding hands once again. Good bye Mr. Cohen.

"Love is the only engine of survival."

November 9, 2016

The Dissenters

"The dissenter is every human being at those moments of their life when they resign momentarily from the herd and thinks for themselves.”
- Archibald Macleish

Well, America, this should be interesting. Dissent is healthy in a democracy, so we will have to wait and see what happens. Best of luck.

Just in case you are wondering, your neighbours to the north have lots of room for polite political refugees, although you might want to wait before checking us out online. Our immigration website crashed last night.

You could always ask a Vietnam War conscientious objector that has been living here for the past few decades - it's really quite nice. My sister is married to one of these beautiful people. He wouldn't kill for the state, and we welcomed him with open arms. We will welcome you, too.

Or you could stay home, and help make America great again. Either way, it is going to be an interesting next four years.

November 7, 2016

I Wish I Spent More Time Shopping

No one on their death bed wishes that they had spent more time shopping on the internet, or anywhere else (except maybe the garden center). No one wishes they spent more time at work, so they could get more money, so they could spend more time shopping. When we stop to think about our brief time above ground here on this beautiful planet, shopping for entertainment loses its appeal.

At any stage of life there is precious little time for us to engage in the activities that truly matter to us. Such activities would be those that lead to us becoming better humans, and those pursuits which help to make the world a better place. 

I like to consider as much as I can when deciding whether I need to shop for something right now, at a later date, or at all. Will buying that thing, or doing that thing, make me a better person? Will it make the world a better place?

If not, why bother? Why waste the time, effort and money when there are so many more important things to be done? As King Canute said to his courtiers, "Time and tide wait for no one." Today he might say, "Let all people know how empty and worthless is the power of consumerism, for there is none worthy of the name, but Nature."

While no one about to die wishes they had bought more stuff to cram into that already stuffed garage, here are a few things that they do tend to think about as their life comes to an end.

On their deathbed people tend to:

  1. Wish they spent more time with family and friends.
  2. Wish they spent less time working.
  3. Wish they never started a bucket list.
  4. Wish they spoke more honestly about how they felt.
  5. Wish they chose to be happier and laughed more.
  6. Wish they never sold their soul, and entire lives, to the system.

The clock is ticking. How will we choose to spend what time remains to us?

November 4, 2016

Worshiping In The Woods

“I’ve decided I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty is just too good to pass up.”
- Christopher Mccandless

I pulled a Henry David Thoreau this summer and spent most of my free time in the woods. During my break from writing I stepped into the forest and promptly forgot, for a time, all about the artificial, complicated world outside.

This life-long student of nature entered the wild to confront the essential facts of life. Each time I set out I wondered what I would learn from these woods, because I am enriched every time I visit.

When I approached nature with humility, the wildlife and I see each other. I explore and the crows and ravens keep me company. They remind me to always be aware of both the laws and magic of the natural world.

Spending time in wilderness, sometimes immersed for days at at time, is something I have always done. I continue that tradition here in the beauty of our new home in Nova Scotia.

Over the years the wild has taught me to live "so sturdily and Spartan-like" as to cut out much of the allure, and distraction, of mainstream life. What is left is the marrow, and it continually calls to me to come and worship and learn.

Like Henry, I can never have enough of nature. That, and kindness, is my religion.

"Open yourself to miracles. Use new eyes. Believe in magic. Embrace life’s wonders." 
- Jamie Sams and David Carson

November 2, 2016

Hello Good People Of Earth

Hello good people of Earth, still the nicest planet in the known universe. While my longest break from blogging since 2009 was very relaxing, I really missed writing here. I missed the interactions that we have while sharing thoughts and ideas.

Most of all, I missed sharing our deep desire to live differently upon this planet that we love so much.

Therapist William Glasser writes that humans' deepest desires are: 1) to love and be loved, and 2) to do something one believes is worthwhile.

For Linda and I, maintaining the Not Buying Anything blog fulfills both. Here we express our love for Earth, for nature, and for all of you who visit here. When we read comments together, we feel the love from readers. We like it a lot, and think it is a worthwhile effort.

But an occasional break is nice.

Since our summer sabbatical began there have been oil spills, impassioned pleas to check global climate change, the strangest US election I have ever witnessed, and an over-the-top militarized response to peaceful protesters with legitimate concerns.

But still only crickets from the MSM and most of the general public. Where is the outrage?

20 years ago we had a coffee mug that said, "If you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention."  Two decades have passed, during which time things have continued to deteriorate, and still no outrage.

Linda and I talked recently about updating the slogan for today's situation. We came up with:

"If you aren't outraged you may be a brain-dead zombie."

Except instead of stumbling around saying, "brains!", we say, "More shopping!" "More money!" "More stuff!" "More!"

What does it take to get the attention of consumers across the land blithely pretending that nothing is wrong with the state of the world, and that their actions aren't directly contributing to the whole mess?

Obviously this blog must go on. Thank you for all your encouragement.  It is good to be back.

October 30, 2016

Are You Lost In The World Like Me?

"Are you lost in the world like me?
If the systems have failed?
Are you free?
All the things, all the loss
Can you see?
Are you lost in the world like me?
Like me?"

Moby from "These Systems Are Failing"

Animation - Steve Cutts

See more Steve Cutts here.

July 31, 2016

Every Day Seems Like A Holiday

This is my 1214th post on Not Buying Anything. Since Linda and I started this blog in 2008, we have been honing our simple living skills and sharing our insights with you, our readers, friends and mentors. There has been the odd rant, too. But the times are ripe for rantings, are they not?

The way things have been going since we started blogging, it has often felt like Survivor, with most of the institutions and foundations of our consumer-based, rich-get-richer system being voted off the planet one after another. Soon the simple living contestant will be the only one standing.

The rate of change has continued to increase since we started watching in earnest, and it is often difficult to get your bearings to see where this is all going. It is an important time to have good people around. Like all you NBA people.

The response to our blog has exceeded all our expectations, and it has been a great comfort to discover so many wonderful people that grace us with their presence and the sharing of ideas, knowledge, good humour, and general camaraderie on our blog for all to enjoy. For that we thank you from the bottom of our minimalist hearts.

Here are some of our stats since the beginning in 2008:

  • almost 1.5 million page views
  • hosted 4390 comments
  • published 1214 posts
  • our most viewed post is "Average House Size By Country"... hmmm
  • the country with the most visits is the US, rounding out the top three are the UK and Canada
  • we have had simple living visitors from almost every country in the world, because the yearning for simplicity is universal
  • over the past couple of weeks Russian visitors have been more frequent than any time before, and we welcome them to our growing community 

Plus my keyboarding skills are at an all time high.

As a matter of fact, keeping this blog has been so hopeful, educational, and engaging for us, that we have never taken any kind of break. And boy, are my fingers tired, not to mention my brain.

Now that the heat and humidity have settled in, we thought that now would be a good time to dial things back for a while to focus on our garden, sit quietly with a cold lemonade in hand, and regenerate.

Therefore, while we usually publish every Mon, Wed, and Fri, for the next while we are going off schedule. I may post material from the archives, or post new material irregularly, or maybe go off line entirely for a cyber-holiday... after getting caught up with reader comments (there is always something to be done).

We will see how long we can keep ourselves from ranting on the latest development, or sharing our latest good news, or hearing about yours.

Thank you so much for everything you have done to make the Not Buying Anything blog one of our favourite places on the internet.

Happy summer. Or winter. Regardless of season, happy simple living. May every day seem like a holiday.

July 27, 2016

Riot of Food vs Food Riot

Our garden is not a riot of food yet. More like a small, but promising disturbance. The radishes are really shaking things up.

I have never experienced a food riot, although in the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 my food store looked like there had been a riot prior to my arrival. For the first time since I can remember, shelves were empty of staples. What was there was disheveled and picked over.

It was scary not knowing if things would get worse. Was this it? Was this the moment everything changed? Would the food riots I was reading about in the news come to my own city? Or was it different here?

It kind of was, and wasn't. The store soon returned to normal, although food prices have been steadily increasing since then. Now there may be lots of cauliflower on the shelves, but you may not feel like paying the price the grocer wants for it.

Either way, I would rather experience a riot of food than a food riot. And the way to ensure that is to grow a garden. That is what we are doing this year.

Although our garden got off to a slow start, we are off and running now. When our first planting of beans and peas did not go well, we planted again. The second planting was more successful - our perseverance paid off.

What a joy it is to be tending a garden again. It is a total immersion in nature, in life, in growth.  And most importantly, it is to experience hope for the future. Hope that you can take to the food bank and share with those around you.

July 25, 2016

S'less Please

"S'less please."

The sickly sweet, over-the-top campfire confection known as a S'more is a perfect symbol for overconsumption. Sweet, glorious consumption. Extreme treats for extreme living.

Take a simple base (graham cracker), add some more (chocolate bar), then even more (roasted marshmallow), mash it all together in one dripping destructive mass and consume. Why stop? It feels good. Have some more. Go ahead, and forget about the consequences. YOLO!

But does it really feel good? These things make my teeth hurt just thinking about them. And it isn't just painful dental bills to be concerned about.

"Eating too much sugar raises your risk for gaining weight and the health problems that are associated with being overweight. You are more likely to suffer diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and many other health conditions when you indulge your sweet tooth too often."  - from

I propose an alternative I call a S'less. Like with a S'more, you start with a graham cracker.

The next simple step is: eat it.

Nothing further needs to be done, because a graham cracker is enough. More than enough, actually, as the cracker alone contains one gram of sugar. So when you enjoy a S'less, you just have one.

If you are used to the S'more lifestyle, that probably sounds boring, or plain. But I have found that the healthier I eat, the less I crave for things, including sugar. In the same way, the more simply I live, the less I crave consumption, the sugar of modern lifestyles.

S'mores are said to have been named after everyone asked for "some more" after eating one. Because we are trained to want more. More S'mores, more everything. "More", as the lie goes, "is always better."

This is a good summer to make a switch from craving S'more to being satisfied with S'less. Around the campfire, and everywhere else. It is the healthier alternative.

July 22, 2016

It's Simple: Do This Or DIe

If this wasn't your view when you woke up this morning, you are doing alright.

Being in the hospital forces one to think about what is really important in life. It is a harsh lesson in the basics, in simplicity. Life stripped to the essentials.

It all really comes down to one question.

When the doctor or nurses come into your room they don't ask you about all the stuff you have at home. They don't ask what kind of car you drive, or how many square feet your home is. They don't ask what you do for a living, or how much money you have.

No, this is what they ask - "Have you had a bowel movement today?"

That is something that really matters. As my friend said while training as a nurse - "If you don't poo and pee, you die." I have thought a lot about that simple statement since the last time I was in the hospital shortly after moving to Nova Scotia, two years ago.

I had injured my back doing a transfer with Linda. We needed two ambulances to get us to the hospital, since there was no one to care for her in my absence. I was in hospital for one week, Linda for two (so I could have one week of respite and heal properly).

During that time we were both asked "The Question" on a regular basis. Why? Because it is one of the most simple and important things any of us do, whether during a crisis in the hospital or in regular life back home.

So Dr. NBA asks you, "Have you had a movement today? Urinated, too?" If so, you are doing alright.  Have a great hind end, and weekend. Life is good.