December 20, 2018

A Celebration For Everyone

I usually celebrate this special day by getting out into nature, in this case a long snowshoe in the woods.

Winter solstice is one of my favourite events of the year, perhaps because I was born on this day almost 6 decades ago (that was fast). If I had delusions of grandeur, I might have thought that the light returned because I came into the world. 

"Did I do that?" Even if I am not responsible for this wondrous photonic turn of events, it is still a time of year that I cherish.

First of all, solstice is a celebration that is based on observable facts, and I find that comforting in its solidity. One does not "believe" or "not believe" in this well established annual celestial occurrence.

It is a celebration based on science, which can also be just as magical and amazing as any fabrication of the imagination. The rational part of my brain likes that this event is as real as it gets. 

Best of all is the fact that this is a celebration for everyone, and in a world that is increasingly fractured along religious, political, and tribal lines, such an event is of infinite value. 

Today we celebrate something that is 100% inclusive, even if our Southern Hemisphere brothers and sisters are celebrating the longest day of the year while we celebrate the shortest. 

It is solstice everywhere on the planet, and the wonder of nature joins us all together in one great human family on the best home in the known universe. 

Now, the light returns, and I find that pretty amazing, even if I didn't do it. Happy solstice, my human family, wherever you happen to be. This is a celebration for everyone.

Note: In lieu of sending a birthday present, please donate to a charity of your choice. I don't need, or want, anything (although a cure for multiple sclerosis would be nice, and the permanent end of war would be brilliant).

December 14, 2018

Winter Solstice: Time For Being

As the northern hemisphere approaches winter solstice, it is once again time to honour natural rhythms, slow down, rest, and go within. Winter is the segment of the seasonal cycle for introspection, sharing, and spending quiet time simply being.

In western society, consumers are prepared for a life of having rather than being. It is "go, go, go", in defiance of our natural inclinations which are still tied to nature's cycles. 

Psychologist Erich Fromm assumed that humanity’s separation from the natural world has produced feelings of loneliness and isolation, a condition many feel, especially during our consumerized holidays. 

So it is, at this time of year when we should be resting, that we find ourselves busier than ever. 

So what is this "being" that we so desperately need in order to rebalance our society and our selves? Fromm explained it this way:

"By being I refer to the mode of existence in which one neither has anything nor craves to have something, but is joyous, employs one's faculties productively, is oned to the world." 

As we head indoors to escape the cold and snow, conditions are perfect to take time and centre our lives around persons, not things; around being, not having. 

As solstice approaches, our wish for you is that you are able to spend time enjoying the mode of simply being, oned to the world. 

Happy Winter Solstice.

December 12, 2018

You Can't Deny The Laws Of Physics

Another climate conference, another wasted opportunity. No doubt when COP24, taking place in the heart of Polish coal country, is over, it will still lack the commitments required. That is because what we really need is a system change.

Our current system is unsustainable, and we have known it for hundreds of years. It defies not only common sense, but also the laws of physics, to believe that infinite growth can happen in perpetuity in a closed system. Of course it can't, and therefore the denial found in all areas where the worst offenders live.

Today a small group of humans enjoy multi-planet lifestyles, while others are getting on a fraction of that, sometimes with a better quality of life. Our excessive lifestyles can only be supported by ecosystem degradation, the exploitation of the poorest among us, and by stealing resources from future generations. 

Consumer lifestyles not only defy any moral code, they also defy physics - you can't have 4.5 planet lifestyles for long when you only have one planet. 

The richest 10% of us (500 million people) are responsible for half of the climate-harming fossil fuel emissions. Those in the bottom 50% of wealth (about 3.5 billion people) contribute only about 10% of global emissions.

"Climate change and economic inequality are inextricably linked and together pose one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. 
Rich, high emitters should be held accountable for their emissions, no matter where they live.” 
- Tim Gore, Oxfam, head of food and climate policy

We need both local and global solidarity to avoid a climate catastrophe. However, the establishment is fighting hard to prevent such solidarity to form because it threatens profits and powerful individuals. 

Therefore, we can't wait for governments, or corporations, to save us. Individuals, especially those with high footprints, will have to take the lead on making the necessary changes that will make a significant difference right away. 

"If the top 10% of high consumption carbon emitters cut their carbon footprint to the level of the average European citizen, that would be the equivalent of a one-third cut in global emissions, even if the other 90 percent did nothing. 
I mean, a one-third cut in global emissions just from that 10 percent reducing footprints to the level of the average European citizen." 
- Kevin Anderson, professor in climate change leadership 

So who are the most important climate leaders? Unfortunately, not the ones currently nursing their denial in Poland. It is up to us. And while we do this thing together, we will be building the better world we know is possible.

December 10, 2018

The Beet Abides

Fresh out of the fridge, and abiding already.

It is always wise to invest in things that abide, rather than fleeting trinkets and entertainments. But what abides?

I know of a bunch of things that don't abide, and that would be pretty much anything proposed by our throw-away, planned obsolescence, live-for-today, corporate, profit-driven ethos.

Then there are some of the solid things that do abide, including: Nature, the Earth, Hope, and Love.

And my beets. My beets abide.

Couple of weeks later and still going.

In October I pulled the remaining beets from our garden. In the beginning of November I took some out of the fridge to cook. Some of the tops still had small, green leaves hanging in there, despite the days and days of refrigerated winter they had endured.

I chose two and put them in water and set them in the kitchen window. I swear they started growing instantly. 

Since then, we have been watching the beet tops continue to unfold. Even after all they have been through, they have abibdden.

Several weeks later it is cold and snowy outside, and still the beets hang in there.

Will humanity be something that abides? Are we as good as the lowly beet? Will we carry on, despite the injustices we have perpetrated in the name of fulfilling fleeting desires and distractions? 

Or will we wilt and waste away?

We need to be like the beet, and keep on growing, despite being ripped from the soil of normality, enduring a perpetually cooling economy, all the while being cooked in a mess of global warming. 

We have to be the green shoots, the thriving, growing centres of creation where the magic happens.

Not only is it a wise time to invest in things that abide, now it is more important than ever to be something that abides. 

Like The Beet. The Beet abides. 

Be the beet.

December 8, 2018

Insectageddon Calls For Lifestyle Changes

“Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  

Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.”

Source: The Extinction Crisis, Center for Biological Diversity,

Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months.

Even if this were the only problem facing us (it isn't), it would be enough to prompt some serious questions about where civilization is headed, and then consider some serious solutions, like radically changing the way we do everything.

You can't separate the way we live from the challenges we face, like Insectageddon. There are better ways of doing things that respect all life on Earth, and if we are to save ourselves, we will need to adopt them, and soon.

First insecticide, then ecocide, then humanicide. As they go, so go we.

December 5, 2018

Ursula Le Guin

American novelist Ursula Le Guin was my kind of person. It seems to me that she spoke the truth as she saw it. Perhaps that is why her thoughts and ideas aren't more well known.

Le Guin passed away at the beginning of the year, and The New York Times actually noted the solemn event in their obituary pages, possibly due to a Mother Jones story in 2013 that found that only about 21% of the Times' obituaries were for women.

Maybe things are getting better.

Her outlook on things make a lot of sense to me. The two most important things to her were

1. family, and 

2. being creative. 

She once said that she enjoyed housework. I think she probably enjoyed just about everything, and took nothing for granted.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes by this amazing writer:

“A decision worthy of the name is based on observation, factual information, intellectual and ethical judgment. Opinion—that darling of the press, the politician, and the poll—may be based on no information at all.” 

“I’d like a poster showing two old people with stooped backs and arthritic hands and time-worn faces sitting talking, deep, deep in conversation. And the slogan would be “Old Age Is Not for the Young.” 

“It goes right back to the idea of the Power of Positive Thinking, which is so strong in America because it fits in so well with the Power of Commercial Advertising and with the Power of Wishful Thinking, aka the American Dream.” 

“Spare time is the time not spent at your job or at otherwise keeping yourself.” 

“None of this is spare time. I can’t spare it.” 

“It appears that we've given up on the long-range view. That we've decided not to think about consequences—about cause and effect. Maybe that's why I feel that I live in exile. I used to live in a country that had a future.” 

Ursula Le Guin passed on at the beginning of this year, January 22, 2018. She was 88.

December 2, 2018

The Tiny Home of Maud Lewis

The home of Canadian painter Maud Lewis.

Maud and Everett Lewis' house, in rural southwest Nova Scotia, was small. I have seen estimates ranging from 90 to 170 square feet, a tiny, tiny home by any measure. 

To make things more challenging, the home had no running water, no power, and was far from neighbours. They lived in the house (cottage? cabin? hut? shed?) from 1938 to 1970.

Wait, there's more. Maud Lewis was affected by rheumatoid arthritis, and her hands eventually became bent and crippled. 

Mr. Lewis grew a small garden behind the house, dug for clams, and caught fish in tide pools, which he peddled in the area. He also cared for his wife as she was unable to assist with chores. She could barely hold her paint brushes.

Not only did they live without most everything we take for granted today, they lived without many of the things people back then possessed.

And yet, Maud created classic Canadian folk art that was whimsical and full of joy and colour. People that knew her, said she was a happy person, but was most happy while painting.

Three Black Cats - one of my favourite Maud Lewis paintings.

What the Lewis home lacked in size and amenities it made up for in sheer artistic delight. Every surface was covered with splashes of bright paint depicting flowers and animals, birds and trees.

While the artist never ventured any farther afield than her immediate locality, she lived a vital life, produced much beloved art, and contributed to her community in a way that put it on the art lover's map.

All in 90 to 170 square feet.