January 29, 2016

Shopiate of The Masses

Aldous Huxley, writer and psychonaut, wrote a lot about drugs. He also wrote one of my favourite utopian novels, Island, in which characters were constantly reminded by brightly coloured birds to focus on the present, to be "here and now".

Slightly altering one of Huxley's quotes about pharmaceuticals, it can be seen that consumerism is a drug. It is the ultimate shopiate of the masses.

“There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method consumer economic model of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. shopping
And this seems to be the final revolution.”

- Aldous Huxley

There is that distraction thing again. That sounds a lot like the culture I have lived in for a large part of my life. 

Shopping has been the high of choice for a few decades - we are dazed and consumed. It is a harmful drug that takes us away from the beauty and simplicity of the present moment.

Want to kick the consumer habit? Need help? You have come to the right place.

  1. Check out our post "A Consumaholic 12 Step Program".
  2. Visit our blog regularly. We usually post about 3 times a week, most commonly Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  3. Check out our comments section at the end of each post. The commenters on our blog represent a vast network of post-consumer wisdom and support.
  4. Enjoy the present, here and now.

January 28, 2016

Friends of NBA

Wait - come back.

This blog has a side bar item that says "Join Not Buy Anything". It is a google item called Friend Connect (FC), and it enables readers to sign up and receive notification of our new posts in their reader. Lately I have noticed what appeared to be a mass exodus from this service.

It was a mystery. The number of followers was falling rapidly.

I pondered a few possible scenarios. Was it the years long, mind-numbing repetition of my pro-simple living message? Did I use the f word? Had so many people switched to post-consumer lifestyles that NBA was obsolete?

I decided to do some research to see if there was something other than a carefully planned corporate-lead shadow group trying to take NBA down. In doing so, I solved the mystery.

Maybe. This is what I found.

Googlecorp has been doing some tweaking to FC, and now requires readers to have a Googlecorp account. If you signed up through any other provider, you may have noticed that your connection to our blog has disappeared recently without you doing anything.

The removal of these non-google account profiles caused the decrease in our blog followers, and would explain why NBA might not be showing in your reader any more.

I think. It could be a corporate shadow group trying to shut us down. Or maybe 20 some readers all decided at the same time that our gig wasn't for them any more. I guess it is possible. But improbable. It's all about the mathematics.

If you have been unceremoniously dumped from FC against your will, you can sign up again with a google account, or if that is unacceptable, you can sign up for email notifications.

We appreciate your interest and your support, and wanted to share the information about this change just in case it affects you. 

January 27, 2016


One of the things I like most about living a simple life is the reduced number of distractions. Living in a rural haven helps as well. Here all is quiet, except for the wind and the crows in the yard cawing for peanuts. You can hear yourself think.

Nietzsche thought that most of culture was just a distraction from the truth. I wonder if he ever came up with a percentage of culture that runs counter to seeking what is known to be real. Did he think 70% of culture was frenzied one ways and dead ends?

Is 90% of it all just "hey, look over there?" More? How is one to find the needle of truth in such a colossal haystack?

If culture in general is largely a distraction, then consumer culture must easily approach 100% bullshit. 100% moving in the wrong direction, our gaze far from where we should be looking.

In space no one can hear you scream. When we take on shopping and consuming as the goal in life, you can't hear yourself scream. You can't hear your brothers and sisters screaming. Or the trees, water and air.

Freed from the mental shackles of a life of gorging on infinite distractions, one can get down to the nitty gritty. It becomes possible to get to know yourself better, and see yourself and your life more clearly. It is scary business, which makes the popularity of shopping understandable.

In a simple life there is time and space to assess your relationships with everyone and everything around you. You can see where you fit in, and how your presence affects the world.

With a reduced load on your mind, it is possible to take on the truth as it reveals itself to you from day to day and moment to moment. And it is possible to find joy in this pursuit.

I say no to mindless manufactured distractions, and yes to seeking the good and true. A simple life makes it possible. Living in the country helps, but it is hardly a pre-requisite. It can be done anywhere.

January 24, 2016

Peak Stuff

People are getting over their love affair with stuff, and finding happiness.

Are mature consumer economies reaching Peak Stuff? I mean how much crap that you don't need can people buy? Or afford? Like banging your head against the wall, it can't go on forever.

Data shows that in the UK the consumer buying frenzy has been tapering. It is unlikely that it is the only place where 'dematerialization' is occurring. The times are ripe for the post-consumer curious to look at minimalism and simplicity in pursuit of right sizing bloated lifestyles.

Ex-consumers are altering personal consumption from conspicuous displays of wealth to a level based more on need. After a decades long buying spree that has not increased our quality of life, many are feeling better while consuming less.

Businesses are even cluing in to the fact that things are changing. An executive from a large home furnishing store said recently,

"In the West, we've probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak home furnishings."

Yup. Peak stuff, peak this, peak that. We have been pigging out on everything. Are we finally done?

January 22, 2016

Stay Warm - Lower Your Carbon Footprint

Here Linda is modelling the warmest, snuggliest low carbon winter lounge wear. 

I know someone who likes to wear shorts all day while at home. Even in the winter. It is a carbon-intensive process to keep that house summer-like inside at a time when outside temperatures can get to minus 30 degrees C (-22 F) or colder. It is also very expensive.

While room temperature can be anywhere between 21 and 29 C (70 and 84 F), I would find even 21 to be on the too warm side.

That could be because I wear a toque all winter. Two layers on top and warm pants below, with wool socks and slippers comples my winter uniform. While Linda can also brave a sub-room temperature environment, she prefers a slightly warmer temperature than I do.

We have come up with a variety of methods to keep Linda warm inside when the temperature drops to 15 C (59 F), the coldest we have had it inside during the day this winter. That was on the cool side, even for me. We usually keep our home between 18 and 20 degrees C (64 and 69 degrees F) during waking hours.

The only time she had to resort to the full down sleeping bag was the day we let the temperature drop to 15. Linda was a wiggly warm winter worm. While she was right toasty, our down bags are usually on hand in case of emergency, like an extended power outage.

Mostly we use sweaters, layers, fleece, blankets, wool socks, hats, slippers, movement and hot beverages to maintain our comfort level during these cold days. What we don't do is automatically reach for the thermostat or fire up the wood stove. Or wear shorts.

We want to stay warm and lower our carbon footprint at the same time. Saving money isn't as important as saving the world, but it is a nice bonus. Snuggle down my winter-dwelling, low-carbon comrades, and save those shorts for summer. It's coming.

January 20, 2016

These Boots Lasted, But They're Done

Good bye old friends.

In 2010 I did a post about making my old boots last. At that time they had logged 22 years of faithful service. Then I used them for five more years. Now I am going to start making a new pair last. They probably will be my last.

I try to make my possessions last as long as possible.  It is part of my anti-planned obsolescence, anti-upgrade, anti-progress-for-the-sake-of-progress crusade. Or put another way, my pro-make it last plan.

A case in point would be my leather hiking boots. In the 27 years I used them they passed over thousands of kilometres of this beautiful Earth, ranging from mountain tops to endless sandy beaches.

My new boots were a steal of a deal in 2004. But I wasn't done with my old ones yet - they were only 16 years old at the time. Just getting started.

Hello new friends.

However, I knew that I would eventually need new boots, and have been carrying the new ones, waiting for the time me and my old boots could agree on a retirement date. Now, with separating flattened soles and wrecked rands, we agreed the time has come.

Enter the newly treated brand new-ish pair.

If these boots last as long as the old ones, I will be an 80 year old dude snowshoeing through the woods, my "new" boots as weathered as I am. There is a goal to work toward. It starts tomorrow - the snow is great.

Pillowy, powder prevails in the back yard woods.

January 18, 2016

Be Happy For No Reason

"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose." 
- C. S. Lewis

Things You Can Lose

  • money
  • clothing
  • big house
  • mobility
  • job
  • people you love
  • all your stuff

What if you base your happiness on things? Things can be lost, and eventually we will all lose something, or everything.

It is important to be happy just as you are, right now, for no reason. No one can take that away from you, no matter what happens, or what you have or don't have.

What if everything was taken from you. Would you still be happy?

"Be happy for no reason, like a child. If you are happy for a reason, you’re in trouble, because that reason can be taken."   
- Deepak Chopra

January 15, 2016

Over The Top

The consumer economy is on the downside.

People want to believe that the consumer thrill ride is a roller coaster that only goes up. That defies reality, and the laws of physics - throwing something up in the air and expecting it to stay there.

"What goes up, must come down." And in many parts of the world economies based on unchecked consumerism are coming down. This global ride is over the top. It seems like a good time to me to prepare for the ride down the other side.

There are many reasons not to buy a ticket for a ride on the rickety consumer trolley car . Right now one good reason is to save money, use it to pay off debt, and prepare for the possibility of continuing tough times.

Most of what people are shopping for today are wasteful distractions. If I were to buy anything right now it would be something that would help me live more self-sufficiently. My current list includes things like a hand-cranked flour mill.

And since we pretty much gave away everything we owned before moving from coast to coast two years ago, we could use some gardening tools, a large soup pot, and canning equipment.

We are not planning any spending on travel, electronics or shopping for things like clothing. We are getting ready for continued, if not worsening, tough times. If nothing really adverse happens, then at least we will be ready for anything, and some sort of economic change must eventually transpire as we use the planet up.

What goes up, must come down, and it never hurts to be prepared.

This ride does not have to go from AAA to AAAAAAAAAA! If one is ready to take care of the basics, hopefully with the help of a strong family and community, the ride down the other side can be enjoyable - like life was before the wobbly consumer thrill ride laid tracks over the whole planet.

Hold on to your hats. A post consumer world is at the bottom of this slope.

January 13, 2016

Change Your Ways or Die

One of my favourite new musical acts is The Cactus Blossoms. Here they sing an old-timey country tune with a new-timey message. I hope you enjoy listening to "Change Your Ways or Die (The Buffalo Song)" as much as I do.

"When the river rises over her banks,
better make your home in a higher place.

Or if you stay down by the sand,
you will be washed away to another land.

And when the mountains
swim in the sea,
look around 
you won't find me.

In the end what's done is done.
If you hear it come,
you won't have to run.

You've got to change your ways or die.
If you listen now, 
I'll tell you why.

The buffalo was here to stay. 
Until a fool with a gun, 
came and took him away. 

If you go too far you can't come back.
When the river changes, 
so does the map.

You've got to change your ways or die.
If you listen now, 
I'll tell you why..."

January 11, 2016

Best Ways To Reduce Consumption Also Most Controversial

Although they are good things, the planet needs more than changing to efficient light bulbs and
lowering the thermostat in the winter.

According to the UN, "today’s consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating." That sounds dire indeed. But wait, there is more.

"If the trends continue without change — not redistributing from high-income to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs — today’s problems of consumption and human development will worsen."

Can individual action alone reverse the trend of increasing consumption? The answer to that question seems to be "no", although we can have great effect by voluntarily adopting simpler ways of living.

The idea of changing our lifestyles to sustainable levels of consumption is considered unthinkable right across the political spectrum. A most inconvenient situation that presently is best met by taking individual action. There are other important areas that need to be addressed as well.

One is the notion of infinite economic growth. As long as that is a societal goal, consumption will continue to increase regardless of how simply some may choose to live.

Another problem that has been lurking quietly in the shadows for decades, is population growth. As long as our population continues to grow, overall consumption will increase.

Over the weekend I visited a site that dealt specifically with consumption growth, notably, exponential growth. It is a concept that is impacting our world right now, and it must be addressed to avert disaster down the road.

Consumption Growth 101 recommends the following as actions that individuals can take that "will have a real impact":

1. Find and support a charity dedicated to preventing unwanted pregnancies throughout the world.

2. If you are young, decide to have one less child than you would otherwise like. Encourage others concerned about consumption to do the same.

"It's that simple," the site says, "and the impact on consumption reduction will literally be immeasurable."

We have been ignoring population growth partly because it is such a controversial topic. It is not the only one.

We will also need a radical restructuring of the global economy in order to operate without the expectation that growth can be infinite in a finite system. It is unlikely to resemble anything currently in existence, although early free market thinkers predicted it would have to happen eventually.

Unfortunately, none of these problems is going to be addressed any time in the near future. It probably won't happen in time to avert major global hardship. Such hardship, if you look around you, has already begun. And it is getting worse.

If all we can do right now is take individual actions to reduce our own consumption, then by all means we should be doing so. Yet another illustration of how any movement worth the change it asks for, has always formed from the bottom up. It is up to those of us at the bottom. We can be the leaders.

We can be the change. Live the change. Share the change. That is the only immediately doable solution to reducing consumption to a sustainable level starting right now. And since that will not be enough, we can work on attaining the other necessary parts as soon as possible.

January 8, 2016

Are You A Granola?

If you make your own granola you might be a granola.

Labelling other people is probably not very productive. At best it isolates us from each other, and at its worst it demeans and destroys core values. Such labelling is often used to get rid of movements that threaten the status quo.

Hippie was a derogatory label for young people that dared to think differently. The youth of the day represented a radical threat to the system and were actively discouraged from continuing their push for change. Same with the more recent Occupy movement, suppressed in real time by an extreme show of authority that sent a strong message to anyone else thinking of stepping out of line.

Another more recent label that would make me laugh if it wasn't used so disparagingly is "granola". Linda and I have both been called "granolas", which like hippie or occupier, I would begrudgingly accept as a compliment.

Not that I am "a kind of breakfast cereal consisting of rolled oats, brown sugar or honey, dried fruit, and nuts." However, I have eaten a lot of this cereal in my days, and have gone as far as to make my own granola and granola bars, so maybe I do fit the label.

So how do others see people they call granolas? The most highly rated definition on urbandictionary.com follows:

An adjective used to describe people who are
  •  environmentally aware (flower child, tree-hugger)
  • open-minded, left-winged, socially aware and active
  • queer or queer-positive
  • anti-oppressive/discriminatory (racial, sexual, gender, class, age, etc.) 
  • with an organic and natural emphasis on living 
  • will usually refrain from consuming or using anything containing animals and animal by-products (for health and/or environmental reasons)
  • limits consumption of what he or she does consume, as granola people are usually concerned about wasting resources. 

Usually they buy only fair-trade goods and refrain from buying from large corporations, as most exploit the environment as well as their workers, which goes against granola core values.  
The choice of not removing body hair and drug use are not characteristics that define granola people, and people, regardless of granola status, may or may not partake in said activities. This definition is sometimes confused with hippie.

 How can this be bad? I think I am going to embrace the label, and embrace "granola core values". Who knows - I may start the Great Granola Movement of 2016. I wonder if that would be a threat to anyone? If so, I wonder if they would call me a Granolist?

"What do we want?"

 "Homemade granola bars!"

"When do we want them?"


"Oh ya, system change, too... and the end of simplistic labelling."

January 6, 2016

First Forest Foray of 2016

I had my first snowshoe forest foray of 2016 yesterday, just before sunset. Out my back door, through the field and down into the Acadian forest that stretches for many kilometres in every direction. It is easy to feel pleasantly lost here.

If I continue down through the mixed forest for a few minutes I will reach the river at the bottom of the valley. Along the way I pass through a stand of sugar maples - tapped trees taking a nap.

Starting in March these trees, and thousands of others like them throughout the forest, will provide Nova Scotia's earliest agricultural crop of the year - maple syrup. "Sugar-time" is an exciting milestone in the forest's yearly cycle.

But for now, it is a winter wonderland. The snow has arrived. This is one of my favourite times of the year. And the forest is one of my favourite places in nature. Heaven, right here in my back yard.

January 4, 2016

We See This Coming In 2016

You can't see everything coming, but if you are paying attention you can see a lot. Here are a few predictions for 2016 that Linda and I put together.

- private gas powered vehicles will be less desirable
- most people will be thinking more about the price of food and less about the price of the latest iFad.
- smaller houses/condos will be more popular
- community will be more important
- it will be a good time to be mobile and adaptable
- the rich will get richer, and the rest will get stronger and more organized
- climate change will alter how we do everything
- voluntary simple living will continue to gain traction
- tvs will be put on the endangered list, as will produce from California
- backyard (or front yard) gardens will make a big come back

We live in interesting times. It is certain to be a banner year.

Here we go.