November 29, 2017

Welcome To NBA And The Post-Consumer Age

This isn't a blog - its an on-line support group for people who have broke free from the clutches of the Cult of Consumerism, and those who have been affected by this cult bent on ecocide for fun and profit.

You will not be shamed, belittled, or put down here for longing for, and living, a post-consumer existence. What you will find is support for your quest to live a simpler life with less stuff, and more living.

"Welcome. Please come in, sit down, state your name, and if you are comfortable, share your post-consumer story/ideas with us. You are in a safe space here."

On this blog can be found a group of post-consumers learning to de-materialize. Call it de-programming, or in this case deconsumerizing. We are supporting each other through the process of unlearning being a passive vessel for corporations to fill with superfluous goods, services and entertainments.

Generally, NBA readers/support group members are activating their own agenda rather than the oppressive and limiting "work-buy-repeat-die" script laid out for us at birth. We are reclaiming our freedom to choose simple lives that are easier on us and the Earth.

Together we are helping create Charles Eisenstein’s “world where our human gifts go toward the benefit of all, and where our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people.”

How did we get to our current state of consumer madness? How did the cult attract so many devotees to its dark halls? A piece I found in the Adbuster web site chronicles our brief trajectory that has brought us to the brink of global collapse:

“We were high on the thrill of early capitalism. We loved the cars, the airplanes, the endless aisles of mega marts teeming with mass-produced goodies. We loved the validation that each new purchase brought. 
And then came the technology: the flat screens, MacBooks, iPhones and XBoxes. Every technological breakthrough made us feel more connected, more human, and more whole. 
But then the economy collapsed and we began to tumble… suddenly we weren’t so sure anymore. The line between necessity and luxury - once blurred beyond distinction - came into sudden, violent focus. 
What pleasure is there in a 50-inch plasma TV if you don’t have a wall to hang it on? What joy does a brand new automobile bring if climate change looms large on the horizon? 
The wisdom of credit, and the attendant practice of living well beyond our means, suddenly hit home. 
And now, as belts tighten and paradigms crumble, we are beginning to hear the first whispers of a post-consumer era… the dawning of a post-materialist age.”

We are certainly hearing the whispers (and yells, shouts, pleads, and rants) of a post-consumer era on this blog over the past (almost) 10 years.  I like to think of NBA as a partial record of the dawning of the post-consumer age that we all know must come soon. Or sooner.

Together we are forging ahead, supporting each other, and creating "the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible".

Join our support group for ex-members of the Cult of Consumerism, or those affected by consumerism. Come on it, there is room for everyone.

Welcome to NBA, and the post-consumer age.

November 27, 2017

Cyber What?

Nice no-traffic riding on rails to trails system by our home.

Cyber what? How about a cyber break? Nature is about the most opposite thing to the online world I can think of, and therefore it can be used as an effective antidote.

I like to give myself a nice dose of pure analog Nature on a regular basis. Today a bicycle ride was my activity of choice.

This ride takes me 5 km from home, downhill on the paved road, all the way to salt water. There I sit in the weakening fall sun and watch a duck on the water. From there I backtrack about 2 km, then turn off on a short section of gravel road that leads to a rails to trails system.

Sun setting over the countryside, way too soon. Pedal a bit faster.

Once on the old rail bed I ride about 5 km through extensive quiet forests back toward home. That leads to 3 km of gravel road that returns me back to the paved road, arriving at my house from the opposite direction that I left 2 hours earlier.

While I was out, I hugged a big, old tree in a cemetery near tide water. It was magnificent. For some people, this does not compute.

It does for me.

How to document a tree hug: 1) pick out tree, 2) set camera for 10 second timer, and 3) run...

I feel the textured, cool bark. The wind whooshes through the bulging biceps of huge limbs. The trunk trembling is not noticeable, unless you give your hug a good, long time. I'm not thinking of any cyber-silliness.

Almost there: 4) begin to spread arms, 5) slow down, don't get hurt...

Keeping my ear to this stately, stable life form, three times my age, I listen to what it has to teach me. It knows about patience, and being rooted in its community for the long haul.

It knows about resilience, cooperation and connectedness.

6) ahhhh, squeeze, 7) pause, 8) feel connected, 9) don't forget camera.

Thank you for being my solid and real inspiration in this space, at this time.

I love your reality, tree.

November 24, 2017

It's Buy Nothing Day - Celebrate By Not Buying Anything

Buy Nothing Day is November 24th in N. America, the 25th everywhere else.

What if they threw a big Buy Everything Day Party (because that is what Black Friday really is) and nobody came? Wouldn't that send a beautiful message?

Linda posed a good question this morning. "How many people buy things they actually need on Black Friday?"

Worse than spending money to buy things you don't need is borrowing money to buy things you don't need. As it turns out, Canadians are the most indebted shoppers on Planet Consumerism.

When N. American wages stopped increasing with rising productivity in the 1970s, consumers didn't scale back their material lifestyles. Tragically, instead of seizing this as an opportunity for Earth-sizing consumption, dedicated shoppers decided instead to borrow money to continue conspicuous consumption.

And in the end what do you get? A big headache/heartache of Buyers' Remorse Syndrome. But we have short memories, and by the time the next BF rolls around we look forward to it as if it is a pleasant opportunity to buy more little plastic castles.

"They say goldfish have no memory
I guess their lives are much like mine
And the little plastic castle
Is a surprise every time
And it's hard to say if they're happy
But they don't seem much to mind."

- Ani Difranco, Little Plastic Castles

November 22, 2017

Gratitude and Thankfulness

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“Thankfulness creates gratitude which generates contentment that causes peace.”
- Todd Stocker

The secret to finding the simple life that appeals you is tapping into the spirit of gratitude and thankfulness. It is this spirit which allows one to appreciate what they have instead of longing for what they might have.

Thankfulness leads to contentment, one thing advertisers and neuro-marketing manipulators do not want you to feel. Ever. They need you to be constantly craving.

They begrudgingly give it up for Thanksgiving, but follow it up with Black Friday, the most surreal shopping event of the year. “Ok, enough of the gratitude, take your desire, lust and acquisitiveness off pause and let's get back to shopping.”

“Sometimes we spend so much time and energy thinking about where we want to go that we don't notice where we happen to be.”
- Dan Gutman

So we have supper with the family, give thanks for our good fortune to be living in the land of everything for everybody all the time, then spend the night camping out on a sidewalk so we can be the first to grab a deal on the lust-have material trinket of the year.

Be thankful you have fists, because you might have to use them to break the store doors down, or beat a competing consumer for the last item on the shelf.

What if, when Thanksgiving ended, you decided not to re-engage your infinite desire for more? What if you decided you had enough, and no amount of more could possibly improve your quality of life?What if you decided that living to work and shop was the problem, and chose instead to be perpetually grateful for the most precious of things in life?

What if you decided to be content with what you already have? More? No thank-you.

“Be thankful for your allotment in an imperfect world.  Though better circumstances can be imagined, far worse are nearer misses than you probably care to realize.”
- Richelle E. Goodrich

I am thankful to be alive, healthy, and experience love in my life. I am grateful to have enough to eat, a warm, dry place to rest my head, and clothes to keep me warm and covered. I am content with a minimal level of material possessions, and appreciate how they actively support the things I love to do with my time.

If you can cultivate a daily, moment to moment appreciation for the gifts the Universe has bestowed up you and your life, you are on your way to creating a simple, intentional life that allows the best possible outcomes for you, the human family, and all life on Earth.

November 20, 2017

Human Responsibilities

Just because something is legal doesn't make it moral. And not everything illegal is immoral.

The crusade to convince humanity to embrace responsibilities and obligations is thousands of years old. It hasn't taken yet, but perhaps we are closer to universal acceptance than ever before.

We hear a lot about human rights these days, as we should. They are critical to sharing this world in harmony and with peace for all. What you don't hear much about, are human responsibilities. But freedoms and rights in the absence of responsibilities and obligations is a dangerous state of affairs.

We have many lists of critical human responsibilities, for every major religion has one of its own. They are all very similar.

“I truly believe there is a common ethic running through all the world’s major religions. The basic values, the ethical standards, needed for a peaceful society, are shared.” 
- Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia (1975-1983)

Mahatma Gandhi crafted his own non-religious list, his Seven Social Sins.

There are also the Seven Deadly Sins, and Seven Principal Virtues that may be more familiar to many than Gandhi's list.

We have a responsibility and obligation to adopt acceptable standards of behaviour.

More recently, The InterAction Council, a group of former heads of states, brainstormed a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities to go along with the UN adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I have summarized the document below.

"The InterAction Council has been working to draft a set of human ethical standards since 1987. But its work builds on the wisdom of religious leaders and sages down the ages who have warned that freedom without acceptance of responsibility can destroy the freedom itself, whereas when rights and responsibilities are balanced, then freedom is enhanced and a better world can be created."

Each of us has the responsibility and obligation to:

- Treat all people in a humane way.

- Strive for the dignity and self-esteem of all others.

- Promote good and avoid evil in all things.

- Accept a responsibility to each other, to families and communities, races, nations, and religions in a spirit of solidarity.

- To put into practice the motto: "Do unto others, as you would want them to do to you."

- Act in peaceful, non-violent ways, and respect all life.

- Protect the air, water and soil of Earth for the sake of present and future life.

- Solve disputes between states, groups or individuals without violence.

- Promote sustainable development globally in order to assure dignity, freedom, security and justice for all people.

- Ensure that economic and political power is not handled as an instrument of domination, but used responsibly in accordance with justice and for the advancement of all humanity.

- Codes of ethics should reflect the priority of general standards such as those of truthfulness and fairness.

All together we have a "Handbook For Living Together On Earth". We know what to do, and have known for a long, long time. What are we waiting for?

We may be approaching a time when we finally adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, and use it to be better people, and therefore form a better world. I see a golden opportunity, and hope that each of us chooses to seize it.

Let us build on our advancements over the decades, centuries, and millennia. We have the potential to create a wonderful balance between the rights we enjoy and the responsibilities and obligations we have to each other, and the planet.

Is there any other endeavour more worth doing?

November 18, 2017

Ring The Bells That Still Can Ring

Things appear grim these days, globally speaking. But that should not overshadow all the good that can be enjoyed in the time we have remaining, however long that may be. Lots is broken, but lots is still working.

Yesterday Linda and I were viewing Leonard Cohen performing his song "Anthem". As we listened, I thought of how gracefully Cohen aged, and how his experience allowed him to view the world in a more Zen-like manner. He wasn't fighting life (or death), but going with the flow.

When he said,

“Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.”,

he reminded us not to fall into despair. Just because we can't do everything, doesn't mean we shouldn't do something. We can't wait for perfect solutions before we act.

Cursing the darkness is not the answer. When we choose Earth-friendly lifestyles we are lighting candles, and every photon helps.We can do what we can do, and use what works.

Simple living is a set of bells that still can ring, loud and clear. Their peal cuts through the void. No change, no peal.

November 16, 2017

How Many Scientists Does It Take?

How many scientists does it take to screw in a light bulb? One to screw it in, and another 14,999 to convince us it is actually screwed in.

Like a scientist, the way I can tell if my light bulb is screwed in properly is to look at the results. When I flick the switch, does it  light up? If yes, screwed in. If no, not screwed in.

Speaking of screwed, look at capitalism. Or consumerism. Or the patriarchy. Or war. Democracy, extractive resource industries... the list goes on and on. Look at the results.

Do we like the world we have created? Are things functioning smoothly? How is the health of the atmosphere? The oceans? Is there an absence of poverty, homelessness, and war?

Are global citizens happy and mentally robust? Is there income equity and equality? Is racism increasing, or decreasing? Are we getting smarter? Are we evolving into the best we can be?

Do we respect life? All life? Is it precious, and if so, is that reflected in our behaviour? Do we live in healthy, loving and compassionate communities?

It only takes one person to see that things are not going as well as they could. The results of business as usual are grim to say the least. So scientists are again warning us of the consequences of keeping on doing what we have been doing. Is anybody listening?

If so, are they changing their behaviour in order to move from being the problem to being the solution?

Essentially, the 15,000 scientist said (again):

Dear Human Family,  
Our current ways of doing things have been hurtling us toward the brink for decades. There have been warnings for hundreds of years. In 1992 we issued our own warning. 
Since then humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting worse. 
Now, in addition to deforestation, pollution, habitat loss, overpopulation and overconsumption, climate mayhem threatens our very existence. 
If we don't act soon there'll be catastrophic biodiversity loss and untold amounts of human misery. Our planet may develop conditions that are not conducive to life, including humanity.
Time is running out. 
We are still here, and we are still warning you of the dangers of your ways, and the dangerous denial you are immersed in. Join us. Help us. Help yourselves.

15,000 Concerned Scientists 
P.S. Please heed our waring this time, and adopt new, more Earth friendly ways of living.  For example, use less fossil fuel transportation, enjoy a plant based diet, adopt 100% organic methods of agriculture, protect our last remaining wild places, consume less, have fewer children, and help build a more equitable, stable, and sustainable planet. Also, please end the infinite economic growth model - it's killing everything.
Or die. 
Thank you for listening. This time. Please don't make us do this again. 

November 13, 2017

Ecotopia Revisited

In Ernest Callenbach's semi-utopian 1975 novel Ecotopia, advertising is strictly regulated. Ads can only give factual information about products. No psychological warfare arm twisting victims into buying things they don't need in the name of profit in this sustainable society.

I could love this book for that alone, but it has so much more to offer. It serves up a working model of what-could-be, an alternative to our current race to extinction. It has answers for the person looking at what consumer capitalism has done to our planet, and asks "what can I do?"

In 1981 he wrote a prequel called Ecotopia Emerging, in which he describes how society began to be changed from one in which "Toxic contamination of air, water, and food has become intolerable. Nuclear meltdowns threaten. Military spending burdens the economy. Politicians squabble over outdated agendas while the country declines."

Hmm, sounds familiar. Ecotopia Emerging is on my reading list, but it feels like I am living it every day. This is our reality. Will we evolve to a sustainable, cooperative society in time?

Callenbach returned his component parts to the Earth in 2012, but his legacy carries on in millions of readers and admirers. Many people are already living Ecotopia lifestyles, and it is only a matter of time before everyone else will be forced by necessity to adopt one-planet living.

A document was found on the computer of Callenbach after his death. In it he addresses his audience to open the essay.

"To all brothers and sisters who hold the dream in their hearts of a future world in which humans and all other beings live in harmony and mutual support -- a world of sustainability, stability, and confidence. A world something like the one I described, so long ago, in Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging."

Hey! He's talking to us.

Toward the end of the piece he writes,

"Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand.

That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them."

Again, sounds eerily familiar. But as he points out, when things break down, new possibilities emerge, and we should therefore seize the day and make sure that all economies move toward sustainability as soon as possible.

"Let us embrace decay, for it is the source of all new life and growth."

We can all help manifest a better world through our behaviours, habits, and expectations. Ecotopians are building an alternative to the madness - a sustainable society in which all living things benefit mutually.

"So it behooves me here to gather together some thoughts and attitudes that may prove useful in the dark times we are facing: a century or more of exceedingly difficult times. 
How will those who survive manage it? What can we teach our friends, our children, our communities? 
Although we may not be capable of changing history, how can we equip ourselves to survive it?"

 Read the rest of Ernest Callenbach's last essay at "Common Dreams".

November 10, 2017

Writing Re-Use, Not Refuse

What do you do with a couple of pencil nubs too short to hold, and the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss?

When I taught elementary school I discovered that some students (usually boys) are obsessed with using pencils until you can't see them any more.

They would wrap their little fingers around tiny nubs of heavily used pencils, and scratch out their school work. Of course, that work took several times longer than if they had a more extended version of a pencil, and the writing they produced was often illegible.

However, I admired how committed they were to using the pencil, the whole pencil. They loved the challenge.

I decided to challenge myself to see if I could improve on their methods.

You create a functioning pencil.

It so happened that I was also hanging on to the plastic centre of a roll of dental floss. I enjoy finding uses for things that most people don't think twice about before throwing them in the garbage. It must be the little person in me.

I trimmed the ends of the pencil nubs so that they fit in either end of the plastic tube. Voila! A functional pencil utilizing materials rescued from a trip to the landfill. My design also encourages precision - no eraser. Pure business at both ends.

It works! Easy to hold, and uses the pencil nubs till there is nubbin left.

So much of what gets classified as refuse can be re-used, repurposed, and through that, respected. Just think like a kid - "You can't throw that out!" - and take it from there.

November 8, 2017

Roughing It In The Woods

Last stop and resting place for this school bus conversion that I found while out for a bike ride in the woods.
It had a wood stove, gas range, counter tops, kitchen sink, two bunk beds, and tables to seat eight.
Landscaping provided by Mother Nature.

One reason I enjoy a stripped down lifestyle is because it is more like roughing it. I like roughing it, and always have. Tenting, living out of a van, cabin or shelter all bring one closer to living harmoniously in, and with, Nature.

There are lessons to be learned here, not all of them comfortable or easy.

Life is not suppose to be perpetually easy and luxurious. Nor is it in our DNA to live in chronic speediness and complexity. Civilization and its marketing branch, consumer culture, makes us soft, dependent, and unprepared to deal with change.

It makes us depressed and dumbed down.

Our bellies, our morals and our minds, all suffer from a morbid slackness, barely held together by thick leather belts of excuses and justifications. Lulled by the easy life, we come to lack intellectual curiosity.

We have been stupefied by stuff. Stifled by silliness. Stultified by the system.

Living simply in a consumer culture is a form of "roughing it". Like other forms of closer-to-nature living, it helps us appreciate what we have, is more physical and healthful, and fosters skills of independence and resilience.

In his book, A Walk In The Woods, author Bill Byrson talks about hiking and camping in a way that describes my experiences roughing it rather well.

"Life takes on a neat simplicity, too. Time ceases to have any meaning. When it is dark, you go to bed, and when it is light again you get up, and everything in between is just in between. It’s quite wonderful, really. 
You have no engagements, commitments, obligations, or duties; no special ambitions and only the smallest, least complicated of wants; you exist in a tranquil tedium, serenely beyond the reach of exasperation, “far removed from the seats of strife,” as the early explorer and botanist William Bartram put it."

I have always enjoyed the feeling I get while hiking, camping, and living on the road. Liked it so much, that it became the model for the rest of my life. I want to feel tranquil and content when I go out into the woods. But I also want to feel that way at home.

I want to feel that sweetness all the time. It is quite wonderful.

November 6, 2017

Consumerism And Violence

As we mourn the victims of another horrendous incident, this time in Texas, we look possible explanations for such violence. While there are several possible reasons for our violence-plagued modern times, one  potential source of sickness usually overlooked is capitalist consumerism.

  • Consumerism . . . promotes structural violence.
  • Structural violence was present in many forms . . . [including] increasing consumerism.
  • Consumerism . . . causes a remarkable increase of structural and interpersonal violence.
  • Consumerism [is one of the] important factors in the creation of violence and oppression.
  • There are other forms of subtle violence that we need to recognize and address including the violence of consumerism.
  • Consumerism is . . . directly responsible for violence, the root causes of which are greed, hatred and delusion. [Being] unaware of this structural violence [means we] are responsible for violent conflicts everywhere.
  • Consumerism . . . contributes significantly to violence among individuals, groups and nations.
  • As long as consumerism is worshipped in the world, there will always be war and violence.
  • Consumerism is the root cause of violence in America.
  • It is universally recognized that . . . consumption problems cause countless violence.

The quotes above come from peace and social justice literature. I found them in a paper by Dr. Sue McGregor called Consumerism as a Source of Structural Violence. I was pleased to see that she works in a university right here in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

In the coming days you will hear many reasons why mass shootings are becoming commonplace, and life is becoming more violent. Cue the usual talking heads blaming just about everything. Mental illness. Too many guns. Not enough guns. Progressives.

As usual there will be a lot of finger pointing and things to blame, except the fact that our very way of life is a root cause of much oppression and violence. Or the fact that our consumer society, as it exists, would cease to be if we eliminated the systemic oppression and violence against people and the planet that are required to keep it going. 

We also probably won't hear much about the connection of mass shootings to white male privilege and domestic violence. Chances are, also, that no one in mainstream circles will suggest that some of the solutions to eliminating global oppression and violence are eliminating consumerism, inequality and state sponsored killing (war). 

None of those things are good for profits of Evil Corp. Inc. (or Evil Government Inc.), but let us not forget our own complicity as consumers, as enablers of the violence perpetuated on our behalf. We can't pretend we aren't players in the misery.

So, sorry Texas, Las Vegas, sweat shop workers, homeless, working poor, women and people of colour... we should know by now, what it is that we do, and that it connects us all to the misery occurring in our global community.

It is time to stop supporting the violence. Living simple, cooperative, and compassionate lives can help a great deal.

November 3, 2017

Not Buying Anything - Still Legal

"This isn't about your stealing anything. It's about your not buying anything."

The system makes it very difficult to not buy anything, but it is still legal. They can't actually force us to be consumers.

Capitalist interests have pretty much wrapped it all up - you have to pay for everything. Some cities have even made it illegal to sleep outdoors, meaning you are going to have to pay someone to get off the street. What if you can't afford what they are asking?

Pay to sleep. Pay to eat. Pay to drink water. Pay to move. Pay to stand here. Pay to park there. They are always making it easier to buy and pay for things. Pay up, be imprisoned, or die. Pay more while you make less. Sick and tired, you try to break free.

Harvesting rainwater is illegal. Governments use satellite imagery to find, and tax, your backyard garden. Building codes make it impossible to build your own tiny home. When you are down to living in your car, you find it is illegal to sleep in your parked vehicle in many locations.

However, resistance is not futile. People in hyper-consumer systems have lived successfully without money all together. It is a full time job to resist so actively. The payoff is not being complicit in the sickness that is making our planet terminally ill.

Consumerism, and the ecocide that it is causing, is what should be illegal. It is clearly immoral to try to kill Mother Nature, and this heinous violent crime has billions of victims. Perhaps this crowded planet should have new laws concerning taking more than ones fair share of Earth's gifts.

Imagine if security staff thanked you for not buying anything on your way out of the store.