September 30, 2017

Advertising: Legalized Lying

"You can't fool all the people all the time. But you can try. It's called advertising." 


“Advertising - A judicious mixture of flattery and threats.”  

Stephen Leacock 

“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good.”  

Edwin H. Land

"Advertising is legalized lying."   

 H.G. Wells 

September 28, 2017

Simple Living, Or Poverty?

Consumerism is about making ones self appear “successful” in other people’s eyes. The more stuff you have, the better the reputation. That is what happens when a culture worships material wealth over everything else.

This can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction if one is not able to attain all the trappings required to meet the requirements for this narrow view of what a successful life should look like. Dissatisfaction is a form of pain, of mental illness.

This leads to not only to environmental degradation, but also to much human suffering. We work ourselves to death attempting to attain a certain standing in a sick system that cherishes all the wrong things. We worry about what others will think of us if we don't measure up.

What will people think if I don't have a new car, big house, high paying job, trophy vacations, the right clothes? The list goes on and on and on. The consumerism contest is a Sisyphean pursuit.

In a life of simplicity one can give up on all of that in order to focus on more important things, like finding out the reality of what we are, and why we are here. Instead of looking outward all the time, we have time to look inward in order to answer the important questions that have always challenged  non-distracted humans.

Are there, or have there ever been, any rich sages or mystics? Diogenes claimed he was happy living in his barrel, with his cloak, stick and bread bag.

“The Cynics emphasized that true happiness is not found in external advantages such as material luxury, political power, or good health. True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things.”
 - Jostein Gaardner

One reason I think that simplicity is not as popular as it should be, is because it may be hard for others to tell the difference between poverty and simplicity. Indeed, some call their simple lifestyle "voluntary poverty", not because they feel poor, but because that is what it looks like compared to more luxurious "normal" lifestyles.

What if others think I am poor? Most people would rather die than experience that outcome. But who would argue that it isn't better to be content than continuously striving for an unattainable, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive way of life?

September 25, 2017


If your peace can be broken, 
it is not 
the unshakeable peace 
you long for.

September 22, 2017

World Carfree Day

Yes, we live in a car dominated system. Yes, you may need a car as things are currently set up. But that doesn't mean we can't envision different, better ways of getting around that are less car focused. That is the idea behind World Carfree Day.

The following is from World Carfree Network:

Every year on or around 22 September, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don't have to accept our car-dominated society. 
But we do not want just one day of celebration and then a return to "normal" life. When people get out of their cars, they should stay out of their cars. It is up to us, it is up to our cities, and our governments to help create permanent change to benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and other people who do not drive cars. 
Let World Carfree Day be a showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year. 
As the climate heats up, World Carfree Day is the perfect time to take the heat off the planet, and put it on city planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport, instead of to the automobile.

Cars may be necessary in our car-oriented culture. If they are, they are a necessary evil. They are loud, stinky, expensive, and a huge hassle to maintain. If one had a car, but reduced the number of voluntary, or "pleasure" drives, huge gains in a cleaner environment would result. The car owner would also save money, and possibly live longer.

Car travel is one of the most dangerous things that the average person does in any given day.

Annual Global Road Crash Statistics 
- Nearly 1.3 million people die in road crashes each year (90% of deaths are in low-medium income countries), on average 3,287 deaths a day. 
- An additional 20-50 million are injured or disabled. 
- More than half of all road traffic deaths occur among young adults ages 15-44. 
- Road traffic crashes rank as the 9th leading cause of death and account for 2.2% of all deaths globally.

Happy World Carfree Day. Let this be the beginning of our liberation from the tyranny of the personal automobile. Contrary to advertising hype, they are NOT "freedom machines".

Note: Happy Fall Equinox (northern hemisphere)/Spring Equinox (southern hemisphere). While the season shifts we are enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures in Nova Scotia. My acorn squash, beans, and peas started growing again, so it looks like the garden is not over yet.

September 20, 2017

What Will We Choose?

Door #1 - Pandemonium. Door #2 - Paradise.

In a hyper-consumer environment, any time we buy something we calculate how much money it will cost us. "How much will this cost me?" The only limits to purchase are dollars. If the consumer has money in the bank, or access to credit (increasingly the choice many make), the transaction takes place.

But wait. We fail to ask the most important question.

Where is the attempt to calculate the costs of the purchase to the greater environment? We should be asking,

"What is the ultimate cost to people and the planet for buying this service or item?"

I am convinced that most people do care about this, and will change their behaviour in compassionate ways when confronted with the facts (yes, I do believe those still exist).

Many Cassandras have been warning us of the final reckoning for the planet since industrialization and capitalist consumerism took over. They all come up with the same message - Earth can not afford these ways, and unless we change the way we do things, ecological collapse is the likely outcome. 

This was the conclusion of The Limits To Growth by Donella H. Meadows, in 1972. Unfortunately, it has been largely discredited since its publication, by pro-growth pressures, and we largely missed an opportunity to act.

Certain opportunist optimists would like us to believe that we are smart enough to transcend all limits to growth. But can we, really? Look at the results so far. From what I can see, not so good.

We have a simple and basic choice to make, as outlined in Limits To Growth so many years ago. Think of it as Red Pill/Blue Pill.

Or Door #1/Door #2.

Door #1 - If the trends in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on the planet will be reached sometime in the near future. 

Door #2 - Arrest growth trends and establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium would be designed by the people, for the people. In such a system, the basic human rights and material needs of the whole human family are satisfied in environmentally sensitive ways.

What happened since this 1972 red flag? The infinite growth system became an unstoppable juggernaut. The planet lost, as did the majority of its people. However, Mother Nature does seem to be fighting back, and "" are "Pissed Off".

We need a new paradigm in order to slow, then reverse our current slow-motion collapse, and I don't think governments are the answer. Their track record is increasingly sketchy, too, just like their corporate friends.

I'll take what's behind Door #2, please. Let's at least try it. If it fails, then we can go back to greed, poverty, a lack of genuine freedom, and an increasingly hostile environment.

What are the true costs of our consumer habits? Each purchase we make is an opportunity to choose  between pandemonium, or paradise.

September 15, 2017

Nature Is My True Business

Like Henry David Thoreau turning his “face more exclusively to the woods”, I am better known amongst the trees around my home than among the folk of our nearest town.

To me, the woods are a locale of self-salvation. Here, surrounded by Nature, I find respite from the brutality of the human world. The woods are full of beauty and interest and mystery, and draw me in to the comforting embrace of friendly boughs and limbs.

Within the mystery of the woods, I am never afraid. I am where I belong, and I can feel it in every cell of my body.

Here, I am carrying out my true business - living without the silly self-imposed separations inherent in the human world. Buckminster Fuller called it “categoryitis”, and it is the great separator that prevents collective action toward our common challenges.

Fuller warned that our illogical obsession with questions like “What is your race”, or ”nationality”, or “religion”, or anything else that artificially separates us, will be our doom. “By the twenty-first century,” he said, “it either will have become evident to humanity that these questions are absurd and anti-evolutionary, or humans will no longer be living on Earth.”

No such separations exist in nature. Naturalist Hal Borland described perfectly when he said, “You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion, or challenge the ideology of a violet.”

I love the simplicity of that state of being. In Nature, things just ARE. Why can't we be that way?

One day we will join together as One with, and in support of, Nature. When that happens, we will see Earth for what it was meant to be - our collective peaceful paradise.

September 11, 2017

Garlic Harvest

It's the last two weeks of summer, but the signs of fall are everywhere.

Our grassy field is turning brown, temperatures are cooling, and the hummingbirds are almost all gone. It can only mean one thing - harvest time. 

Freshly harvested garlic. We cured it outside and in the garage for two weeks.

One of the joys of this year's harvest has been our first ever crop of garlic. Our experiment was a success. The challenge now? Could I learn to braid it?

Hey, this isn't what the nice lady's braid looked like.

Linda and I watched a video posted by a woman that had been working on a garlic farm for decades and had probably done hundreds of braids in her day. She had prepared the scapes (stems) beforehand by soaking them in water to make them more pliable, and put together a beautiful braid in no time. It was hard work, even for her.

My messy twist of cured garlic.

Having watched one video once, I gathered together our cured garlic to try my hand at a new skill. It was fun to work with, but I did not soak the scapes first and it was amazing how tough they were to manipulate. But I persevered bravely, and attempted to organize the uncooperative stems into something both functional and beautiful.

I got functional, although garlic plants are inherently beautiful, so you can't really go wrong, even if they aren't perfectly put together.

Our first homegrown garlic, ready for eating.

After I was done I downgraded my description from "braid" to "weave".  Then maybe to "twisted"? Or "mangled"? But I did end up with a structure that had a handle on top, and all the garlic together so it can be hung.

Just a few more weeks and we will be planting next year's garlic plot. It will be the first using our own cloves. It will be another opportunity to perfect my braiding technique.

September 9, 2017

Emergency Solidarity

I have been watching footage from hurricane Harvey, starting in real time when the storm made land fall. In spite of the horror of the storm and ensuing fallout for the people of Houston, I saw more good news stories than I have in a long time. Emergency solidarity was everywhere.

I didn't have time to recover from my "bystander PTSD" from Harvey before Irma cranked up to a Category 5 storm. Now we are seeing emergency solidarity arising in Florida, and the Caribbean, and who knows where next. Such beauty in the face of overwhelming struggle and hardship.

Rebecca Solnit calls them "disaster communities" in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. They are groups of people that spontaneously come together in mutual aid and support in hard times.

“The map of utopias is cluttered nowadays with experiments by other names, and the very idea is expanding. It needs to open up a little more to contain disaster communities. These remarkable societies suggest that, just as many machines reset themselves to their original settings after a power outage, human beings reset themselves to something altruistic, communitarian, resourceful and imaginative after a disaster, that we revert to something we already know how to do. The possibility of paradise is already within us as a default setting.”  

- Rebecca Solnit

Emergencies wipe away all the artificial ways that we get separated from each other - there is no time for silliness like that. We are forced to face the simple facts of survival, and the outcome is cooperation and solidarity. Our true nature is revealed, and it looks much different than our selfishness-based economic system.

Emergencies blow away all considerations of race, gender, wealth, orientation, class, and religious or political affiliation, and we realize that we are all members of the same community. We are all part of the human community. 

Because we have been trained to think in self-serving, competitive ways in order to fulfill our role as cogs in the consumer machine, we are amazed at the outpouring of help from total strangers. All of a sudden people become much less materialistic. Who cares about stuff when you are thrilled just to be alive and feeling connected to something bigger than yourself?

Profit as a driving concept simply does not exist when we come together in a common cause, like a disaster. Quite the opposite - abundance rules the day. Just look at the tons of donations, the money that is donated, and the volunteerism that follows adversity. I didn't see any rescuers charging people to be rescued. Why not?

It seems that capitalism does have limits, and it dares not enter into disaster communities. If it did, it would seem exactly as it is - crass, self-serving, and opposite to our natural desire to work together with our neighbours for the betterment of our communities. For free.

What if every day life was as altruistic and cooperative as what occurs every time we are met with extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances? What if we were satisfied with the magic of being alive, and saw our stuff for what it really it - piles of distracting crap?

The way we come together in isolated emergencies the world over, is the way humanity needs to come together on a grand scale to ensure our collective survival on this planet. That is the big emergency that should unify us all.

When I see the resilience, love and hard work of helpers after disasters, I feel I am seeing the true nature of humanity. We can do this thing. We can make everything better. Together. It is our default setting.

September 6, 2017

Getting Off Mechanical Time

Grandma had a Cronos clock on her mantelpiece - tick-tick, tick-tick... Time passed more slowly there.

The clock is one of the oldest human inventions. It is also one of my least favourite.

I have always dreaded the tiny tick of gears and whirring mechanisms, as well as the glow of digital time lords. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in my grandmother's neat and orderly living room. The only sound was the tick-tick of the clock on the mantelpiece. Wanting to be playing outside, a second passed in that living room much slower than a second running around out in the cool air of the yard.

For as long as I remember I have been trying to rip the hands off the time tyrant's mechanized time-bots. I am not built to live according to mechanically measured minutes. I am not a machine - I am an animal. I would rather rely on the internal biological clock, and the cues that nature constantly gives us.

"The mechanical clock dates from the 14th Century... The machine that mechanized time did more than regulate the activities of the day: it synchronized human reactions, not with the rising and setting sun but with the indicated movements of the clock's hands: so it brought exact measurement and temporal control into every activity, by setting an independent standard whereby the whole day could be laid out and subdivided. 
"The measurement of space and time became an integral part of the system of control that Western civilization spread over the planet.
- Lewis Mumford

Culturally, there are many, many different ways that humans experience time. Most are very different from our artificial and imposed time structure. My own belief is that things will happen when they need to happen. You can't organize a modern, capitalist organization with this particular view of time? Oh well.

Nature operates off the clock, the movement of celestial bodies probably being the closest thing to a mechanized, dependable schedule. Otherwise, things happen when they happen, without measured time. And it all seems to turn out fine.

What a joy to sleep when tired, and eat when hungry. We have dropped the usual designations for meals, because what do you really call it when you eat breakfast at 4:30 pm?

Now we just call them all "meals", or if we need to distinguish one from the other, "meal one", "meal two", and (if necessary), "meal three".

I like not knowing what day of the week it is (that's right, I have a problem with calendars, too). Sometimes it gets so good that I lose track of the month, while being lost in just being. Amazingly, things continue to happen in a somewhat orderly, if unpredictable, manner.

"If victory over nature has been achieved in this age, then the nature over which modern humans reign is a very different nature from that in which humans lived before the science revolution. Indeed, the trick that humans turned and that enabled the rise of modern science was nothing less than the transformation of nature and of their perception of reality. 
The paramount change that took place in the mental life of people, beginning during roughly the 14th Century, was in our perception of time and consequently of space."

- Joseph Weizenbaum

It is good to discover the joys of living an unmeasured life free from the endless sweep of Cronos' influence. Off the clock, time is no longer a destructive, all-devouring force. Rather than moving through fragmented time segments, like an endless staircase that only goes in one direction (toward death), one moves as if through a river.

Life flows effortlessly from one moment to the next. And the next...

To get off mechanical time is to free yourself to fully experience yourself as an integral part of the natural world. Beat the clock. Be free. Whenever possible.

September 3, 2017

The 0.14%

Never mind the 1% - we are the 0.14%. But unlike them, anyone can join us.

How many people know our planet is in peril? Of those, how many use that knowledge to change the way they live? Surely there must be many of us. No?

Dave Cohen at the Decline of the Empire website writes:

"There are roughly 7.2 billion humans on Earth, and, roughly speaking, about 10 million of them are painfully aware that Homo sapiens is destroying the biosphere, slowly on human time scales, but in no time at all on the geological time scale. (10 million is a very generous estimate.) 
Some of those exceptional people, a goodly portion of whom are working scientists, are actively opposing the ongoing destruction, though many are not. Rounding up, those 10 million souls represent approximately 0.14% of the entire human population. 
The other 99.86% are either actively destroying the biosphere, or indifferent to that lamentable trend (i.e., they are merely current or would-be "consumers" who are thus acquiescing in and contributing to the trend indirectly)."

What? 10 million on the entire globe? Wow. I hope he is widely underestimating. How can we fix something if we are not aware that this is a problem of our own making?

Are you part of the 0.14%? Have you changed your personal consumption habits according to your knowledge?