October 31, 2018

An All-Too Convenient Truth

Humans are killing the planet, and we seem unable to stop. But hey, nobody's perfect.

A recent report shows that since the 1970s our actions have caused the deaths of 60% of invertebrates. And the news is not good for insects, either. 

Humanity is facing the most extreme challenges in 200,000 years, and no one seems worried enough to take any kind of meaningful and collective evasive action. 

“We have known for many, many years that we are driving the planet to the very brink. This is not a doom and gloom story; it is reality. 

Our day-to-day life, health and livelihoods depend on a healthy planet. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life.” 

- Marco Lambertini, director general of the WWF

The majority reaction is that "nobody's perfect", and that we will just have to ride this thing out and see what happens. Too bad about all the extinctions.

That is the all-too convenient truth, and it overrides all the inconvenient truths confronting us.

We are far from perfect, but approaching perfection is a goal we should continually strive toward. If we did, we could tackle all our challenges with creative, life-enhancing solutions. For a dumb species, we can be pretty smart when we want to, or when faced with imminent death.

We CAN do better, and we will have to. If we fail to act, and soon, before long it will be human populations crashing. 

There is nothing convenient about that.

October 30, 2018

Kill Halloween, Or Maybe Just The Candy

300,000 tons of candy is a lot of tooth decay, obesity and diabetes.

Our household is not mainstream. We don't think mainstream thoughts, or do mainstream things. It won't be surprising, then, when I tell you that we do not do Halloween. No dress up, no candy.

As a matter of fact, I would not be upset if we, as a society, decided to kill Halloween. Is that too scary? Are we horrifying blood-drenched buzz kills? Or party-pooping people promoting the destruction of our culture's "values"? 

I don't think so.

What, exactly, are the values being supported on Halloween? Greed? Gluttony? Deception, as in pretending to be something we are not? How about competitiveness, as in who has the best costume? Or wastefulness, as represented by individually plastic wrapped candy pieces? 

And it is a big pile of candy that goes down this time of year.

The average mainstream American is slated to spend $185.50 on Halloween candy in 2018. Most likely that is $92.75 to buy candy, then another $92.75 to replace it after it is eaten up before the 31st.

Collectively, that is 300,000 tons of candy, and the spending amounts to almost 3 Billion dollars. On candy. Sugar. Just for Halloween.

Maybe killing Halloween outright is a bit much (or maybe not), but we definitely think it is time to say NO to all that candy. Now is the time to also say no to the associated health hazards of heavy sugar consumption such as obesity, tooth decay, and diabetes. 

It may not be mainstream yet, but rethinking all that sugar consumption is probably a good thing to do. Don't be afraid to reject it altogether, or if it happens to invade your life, feel free to throw it out - giving it away just passes the problems on to someone else.

Perhaps we could keep the fun parts of Halloween while promoting some more appropriate values, such as thrift, self-control, and rational thinking. Or is that just a sweet idea that is too fringe for mainstream ghosts and goblins?

October 26, 2018

One With The Woods

"I said nothing, and tried to think nothing.”  
- Ishmael, Moby Dick

Is there anything better than feeling one with everything? In those moments one is free, content, void of desires. Nothing is to be done. The struggle ceases, and what is, is. It is the best feeling ever.

"The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it's really a different kind of life." 
- R. Buckminster Fuller

I feel that way often, but especially when I walk in the woods behind my home. Usually I drop into the valley until I get to the brook at the bottom. It is very peaceful, the only sounds being the wind in the trees and the water running down to the ocean a few kilometres downstream from here.

"Nonresistance, nonjudgement, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living." 
- Eckhart Tolle

There are many old trees here, both hardwoods and softwoods. Several, with massive trunks and soaring canopies, are hundreds of years old. 

"We are far removed from Nature, including our own nature. But we have lived this way for a long time. In fact, acceptance of this reality is an absolutely necessary part of this system we live in." 
 - Jorg Kolberg

Old forests have a special appeal to me as they have a very different feel; it is an ancient organism, with the wisdom and steadiness that comes with age and experience.

“Modern people talk of a battle with nature, forgetting that, if we won the battle, we would find ourselves on the losing side.” 
- E.F. Schumacher
I feel very safe and comfortable here. The drape of civilization sloughs off me, a shedding skin. I am aware of everything, resist nothing, judge nothing, am outside of time.

Stripped to the core, I am one with the woods. 

There is much to be learned here about dissolving the illusion of our separateness, and rediscovering our connection to all of creation. 

When we honour this connection, life unfolds in natural and harmonious ways.

October 25, 2018

Want To Reduce Your Dependence On A Sick System? Grow A Garden

Beet relish on left, pickled beets in rest of rows. 

A vegetable garden can be so prolific that the abundance is overwhelming this time of year. The past few weeks we have been eating, freezing, canning, dehydrating, and storing as fast as we can.

How we go from the abundance of nature to the scarcity that our economic system is based on, takes heaps of harmful thinking, mixed with equal parts of lies and evil manipulations.

A quick trip to the garden yields enough beets, beet greens, and kale for days of wholesome cooking and eating.

In a consumer society, if something is free, it is treated with suspicion. Many would rather pay for things because that feels normal. But money is anything but normal, or natural. Where is it? What is it? And can it hug you back?

Everything in nature is provided for free. Our system, where we know the price of everything and the value of nothing, must monetize everything. 

But how can the store sell limp and listless kale from thousands of kilometres away, when I have more of it growing than I can eat, process, or give away?

Want to reduce dependence on a sick system? Grow a vegetable garden
- the ultimate, and most enjoyable, form of resistance.

Nothing explodes the myth of scarcity more than growing even a small garden. A vegetable garden resists all such fake ideas, and shows us the way, which is abundance freely given. 

Along these lines, in response to my earlier post on garlic self-sufficiency, Karen commented:

"This is excellent. I'm keen to try to grow my own garlic so this post is very inspiring. I love being less reliant on The System. 
I think regardless of whatever "little" steps we take to do this kind of thing equates to so much more collectively. 
Independence and any degree of self sufficiently is love in action for Mother Earth. 
Would love to hear what other NBAers are doing to remove themselves from complete dependence. "

In closing, I have two questions. 

1) What do you do to reduce your dependence on our sick system?


2) Can I give you some kale? 

"If I sowed, planted or dealt in seeds; whatever I did had first in view the destruction of infamous tyrants.”  
- William Cobbett

October 20, 2018

Change Ads To Art

Arrows indicate where ads have been replaced with art on this sample web page.

How is it that the internet has been totally taken over by advertising? Did we ask for this, or did they ask our permission to steal some of our expensive internet bandwidth to pollute our experience with consumer arm-twisting?

Why aren't more public places centres of beauty rather than being overwhelmed by ugly omnipresent propaganda aimed at increasing consumption? 

Let's face it, art is mind expanding, while advertising uses advanced techniques to circumvent our rational thought processes and narrow our uniqueness; mind contracting, if you will.

Observing art gets our creative juices flowing, while advertising shuts them down. 

The internet, and the world, needs far less advertising, and a lot more public displays of art. The people at the Anti Advertising Agency who made the browser plug-in called "Ad-Art" would agree. 

They offer a free download that replaces (most) advertising on websites with curated art images.

This is from their website:
"Ad-Art is a free Firefox add-on which replaces advertising on websites with curated art images. 
Add-Art releases new art shows every two weeks and strives to feature contemporary artists and curators."

I use Safari as my browser, and downloaded a version of Ad-Art that is compatible. I have been testing it out over the past few days, and am generally pleased with the results. You can find downloads for other browsers here.

I do notice some minor slowing while certain pages are loading, but even if one has to wait a few seconds, it is worth it to have annoying ads replaced with beautiful images. 

I have no doubt that fewer advertising intrusions in our lives, and more art, would lead to a reduction in mindless consumption, and an increase in creativity. 

We have a right to an advertising-free experience, and visually pleasing spaces. Ad-Art is one small way we can fight back and regain our visual rights. 

Plus, it is much safer than blowing up/cutting down billboards. Not as fun, but definitely safer.

October 17, 2018

5 More Years - Environmental Protest Songs

What if the only big trees were in the museum, and it cost a dollar and a half just to see them?

Few things encapsulate the times as much as a protest song. Across the decades many songwriters/eco-activists have used their talents to both entertain and warn us of ongoing environmental degradation and collapse.

"A protest song is a song that's so specific that you cannot mistake it for BS", said Phil Ochs. That is why some of my favourite tunes are protest songs, specifically, environmental protest songs. They are like bathroom tissue for the mind, wiping away the cultural programming bullshit.

Environmentalism has been the focus of music since about the 1940s. However, the earliest environmental protest song, called "Woodman Spare That Tree", was published way back in 1837.  

That old familiar tree, 
Whose glory and renown 
Are spread o'er land and sea, 
And wouldst thou hack it down? 

Woodman, forbear thy stroke! 
Cut not its earth, bound ties; 
Oh! spare that ag-ed oak 
Now towering to the skies!

The 1960s, which ushered in the folk music era, was a hotbed of environmental protest songs. In 1966 Pete Seeger created what is considered the first enviro-focused album called "God Bless The Grass". I was a five year old environmentalist at the time.

God bless the grass that grows through the crack. 
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do 
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru 
And God bless the grass

In 1970 Joni Mitchel released one of my favourite environmental protest songs of all time, "Big Yellow Taxi". I was 9, and did not want to have to go to a tree museum when I grew up.

They took all the trees 
And put them in a tree museum 
Then they charged the people 
A dollar and a half just to see 'em

When I was 10, David Bowie wrote an enviro protest song that has become one of my favourites, even if it is terrifically sad. It is a song called "Five More Years". In this prescient poem he describes an Earth doomed to destruction. 

News guy wept and told us  
Earth was really dying 
Cried so much his face was wet 
Then I knew he was not lying 

We've got five years  
stuck on my eyes 
Five years  
What a surprise 
We've got five years 
My brain hurts a lot 
Five years 
That's all we've got

We made it past 1971, but how much longer do we have now? 5000 years? 500? 50? Or perhaps 5 years? If we knew, would we live differently? Would work and status and the acquisition of stuff continue to be major goals? 

Or would we cast all of that aside to concentrate on the well being of all, and the enjoyment of our beautiful planet in the time we had left?

Five years 
I hope we have more. 
Five years 
This is such a bore. 
Five years 
it scares me a lot 
Five years - is that all we've got?

An effective environmental protest song cuts through the BS, and leaves a lasting impression. The songs I have highlighted here have affected a lot of lives, including mine. 

The enviro-protest song format is still going strong (although perhaps not AS strong as previous socially/environmentally conscious times), because the need to prompt people to action still exists, and the problems have only got worse. 

Check out the Cactus Blossoms' tune "Change Your Ways Or Die" on our sidebar, for one example. 

I look forward to a time when the Earth is so cared for by humanity that we no longer need protest songs. Will that happen in my lifetime? Maybe if we collectively demand it, and make it a priority.

Do you have a favourite environmental protest song?

October 16, 2018

The Simple Life Uncovers What Is

Consumerism masks and destroys the beauty of what is natural and good.

Was the grandfather of the sustainability movement, Buckminster Fuller, also a simple living adherent?  It makes sense since a sustainable world requires all of humanity to be living simple, ecologically sensible lifestyles.

What made me think of this was pondering Fuller's statement that "you uncover what is when you get rid of what isn't."

Of course, much of a person's existence in a consumer culture is filled with a whole lot of "isn't". 

- strong arms "consumers" into buying a lot of stuff that isn't necessary

- perpetuates a way that isn't consistent with any natural system

- forces us into a job that isn't making us happy

- fills our homes with stuff that isn't improving our lives

- supports a system that isn't working for the people or planet

How do we ever find out what is? 

A very effective way to find out what is, would be to live more simply, and I think Bucky knew that.

Fuller was a genius, not only because he was wise enough to see that we need to get rid of a whole lot of stuff in order to find what is truly important. Steve Jobs called him the "Leonardo da Vinci of the twentieth century", so we might carefully consider Fuller's amazing body of work.

It is certainly true that when we get rid of the waste and futility of a consumer/worker drone lifestyle, we discard that which isn't, and uncover the beauty of what is. 

And what is, is wonderful. 

October 14, 2018

Peak Colour In The Acadian Forest

Fall colours along my local rails to trails route.

After living in the Acadian forest of Nova Scotia for 4 years I can say that it is every bit as splendid as was the coastal rain forest of Vancouver Island, BC. 

What my new forest lacks in sheer tree size compared to the west coast giants, it easily makes up in diversity and colour.

Historically, peak colour in Nova Scotia occurs some time in October, depending on the weather. This year we are pretty close to peak right now, based on what I see out of my window, as well as on recent bike rides into the wild woods.

What a pallet of colours - everything from green leaves denying the inevitable abscission about to take place, to the more advanced yellow, red, and orange. 

When the wind blows, the air becomes a leafy pointillist canvas for a moment, then is gone. Like a shredded Banksy painting. Or the warm temperatures.

A coolness is descending, and we just gathered around our first cozy wood fire of the season, but it is all beautiful. 

The trees teach us a valuable lesson in letting go of unnecessary things and moving on in the cycle of life. That's beautiful, too.

October 10, 2018

What Can I Do About Climate Change?

Another dire warning about climate change was released this week in a U.N. report. Actually, it is the direst so far of many similar reports. Some of the scientists working on the report were not optimistic that the unprecedented changes that are required will actually happen. 

But that doesn't mean that you can't do something, even if the main benefit is maintaining your integrity and peace of mind. Or maybe everything you do, every choice you make, makes a difference in restoring balance to our wobbly system.

So, what can I do about climate change? What can one person do? The only thing you have direct control over - your own choices.

What each of us can do that will make a difference, is choose to voluntarily live more simply. Consume less. Reduce waste. Choose renewable energy sources. Travel less. Grow a garden. Eat a plant based diet. Get off plastic. There's no shortage of choices that each of us can act on now.

Will you single-handedly keep the global temperature from rising 2 degrees above normal? No. But you will be doing what you can, and you will be able to sleep better at night knowing you are trying to not be part of the problem.

What if it is all a hoax and you choose to make changes to live more simply, and create a more enjoyable, less harmful lifestyle for nothing? 

That would be alright, too, because choosing not to do anything would be the worst choice of all.

“Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is not impossible, but it will require unprecedented transitions in all aspects of society.” 
- Hoesung Lee, IPCC Chair 
Finally, we also need to let our politicians know that we expect them to enact unprecedented policy changes this December, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meets in Poland to negotiate policies. 

Contact your representatives today. Keep on contacting them. Tell them you won't vote for deniers or fossil fuel puppets.

Interesting Facts: 

In the U.S. and Canada alone, the fossil fuel industry rakes in almost $260 billion in profit per year. 

Global fossil fuel subsidies were $5.3 trillion in 2015. 

Eliminating all subsidies would have reduced global carbon emissions in 2013 by 21% and fossil fuel air pollution deaths 55%, while raising revenue of 4%, and social welfare by 2.2%, of global GDP.

October 4, 2018

My Buy Nothing Bird Feeder

When I have a project in mind, one of the first questions I ask myself is "will this require me to buy anything, or can I make do with what I have around me?" That is the challenge that I like to take on. 

So it was when I wanted to set up a bird feeder that could be seen from one of our windows, since we don't have trees or bushes close to our house. 

I calculated what it would cost to get the job done if I bought everything:

- bird feeder hanger pole $45.00
- feeders to hang on pole $50.00
- bag of sunflower seeds $34.00

Total - $129.00
With Tax - $148.35

Then I looked at the resources I had available around me:

- three long sticks (from the woods)
- 2 large twist ties (saved from heads of celery)
- several large sunflowers that we grew this year 

Total cost: Free 

Other benefits: no driving, and no shopping. No packaging to throw away. My feeder is biodegradable, and therefore easily disposed without harm. Even better, I had a pleasant walk in the woods while looking for suitable poles.

To make the feeder, I formed a tripod, securing it with a twist tie. Then I cut a sunflower with a bit of stem attached, and secured it to the tripod with another twist tie. The apparatus was set up by a window so we could watch the birds from our living room. 

When it comes to bird feeders "build it and they will come" usually applies. Sure enough, after a few days we saw our first visitor, a blue jay. 

Jays are fun to watch because unlike most birds, they have crops (expandable pouches in their neck) that they fill with seeds until their cheeks are bulging. Then they take those seeds and cache them for future meals.

Soon more jays came. They quickly stripped the first sunflower of all seeds, and a second went on. The birds did not seem to care that they were getting food from a makeshift frugal feeder.

The Buy Nothing Challenge: before buying anything, first ask yourself if you can get the job done with resources you have at hand. 

Use your imagination. 

Be creative. 

Have fun. 

Keep your money for other things.