October 11, 2019

Nature: The Universal Soul Salve




Out in nature is where I feel the best. All is as it should be here.




“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens and nature. 

Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”

- Anne Frank








October 10, 2019

Pity The Poor Billionaires





Pity the poor billionaires. The world is not as enamoured with them as it once was, and the moneyed are upset that they don't know where they stand any more. Are they winners, or wicked? 

Even though we traditionally measure success by how much money you have amassed, and they have more than anyone, a shift has occurred. We are starting to see these funded folks more as a global liability than the blessing that they consider themselves to be.

Show me a billionaire and I will show you someone that got to the top of the heap by way of tax evasion, environmental destruction, corruption, low paid workers, and a host of other questionable and outright criminal behaviours.

One study found that if the 3000 largest corporations had to pay for all the damage they were responsible for, none of them would be profitable. 

The companies in question were responsible for $2.15 trillion dollars in environmental damages in 2008 alone. One year. But wait, there is more.

We also have to include the $4.7 trillion per year in health care and social costs, lost ecosystem services and pollution.

In other words, if companies really did put people and the planet before anything else, there would be no profits. The "profits" can only be made through the exploitation of both the people and the planet.

Then there is corporate malfeasance, which outright steals untold trillions of dollars more from the global economy. All of this only to make a small group of people insanely wealthy. 

Can the world afford billionaires? Are such individuals a net benefit for society? Or are they a danger to themselves and others? 

Money hoarding can be a sign of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, so if we do what some suggest, and eliminate the status of billionaire (not to be confused with eliminating people that are billionaires), we might be doing the billionaires themselves a favour.

There is no use hoarding all that cash if people don't respect what you do, or how you do it. 

We can see that the little men behind the curtain that have been operating the gears and levers of the billionaire assembly line, really only want love, just like the rest of us. They just don't know how to get it.

What a frustrating, yet humbling, moment that must be for them.

All 2229 of them.

No, we don't envy you. We pity you. 

You are wicked, and now you are a bunch of whiners, too. A former coffee company CEO, seeing where the whole thing is headed, is now asking us to call him and his fellow hoarders "people of means" rather than the now increasingly pejorative "billionaires". 

So I say to them, 

"People of means, please seek help before you destroy everything, including yourselves. Maybe, in the end, you will find the love you obviously want, but don't know how to get through normal, healthy means."

There is indeed nothing better than love, is there? Not even billions and billions of dollars.







October 7, 2019

Keep Buying, Everything Will Be Fine

Don't worry. Keep buying, and be happy... sort of.

I keep hearing that "the consumer is doing the heavy lifting" for the economy, that they are "holding up", and "aren't fatigued yet". Isn't this backwards?

I remember a time when the economy worked for the people, existed for the people, functioned for the people. Now, the people work for the economy. Now, nothing is more important than the economy.

So we get the following situations:

The environment is generally collapsing... but the consumer is still buying.

Manufacturing is down... but the consumer is still buying.

There is a "Retail Apocalypse"... but the consumer is still buying.

There is a global political crisis... but the consumer is still buying.

Depression and suicide have reached depressing proportions... but the consumer is still buying.

We are getting fatter and less fit... but the consumer is still buying.

Everything is breaking down, but not to worry - the consumer is still buying.

If I understand this correctly, as long as we keep buying, everything will appear to be fine. The only disaster that could befall the world that would actually matter is if The Consumer stopped buying. 

If The Consumer even dared to slow their acquisitional frenzy, there would be an immediate emergency declared that would require special and intense activity to repair. 

We would need to really DO something in that case. We wouldn't want to put the billionaire lifestyle at risk now, would we?

"I buy, therefore I am", will be the new motto to live by if the economic manipulators get their way. Today's Consumers will be tomorrow's Buybots.

So don't worry about all those pesky and unimportant emergencies scientists and environmental activists keep making up, just keep buying. 

Everything will be fine. Well, the economy will be fine, at least, and what is more important than that?

That is the system as it exists, and I'm not buying it. Our planetary community needs something better, and soon.




October 4, 2019

Stupefied By Nature

I am frequently astounded by the beauty found in my own backyard.


"Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement."

- Charles Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals


I never cease to be surprised, astonished and amazed by the natural beauty I find right in my own backyard. I have moments of being stupefied by what I witness.

At these moments, I am rendered speechless, and am beyond thought and logic. All one can do in this state of being overwhelmed with amazement is feel, absorb, and soak up the moment. 

It is beyond reason. 

I don't ask, "Why is mushroom?", I just let it all go and enjoy being in the Here and Now with the fungi. We are one.

It is not complicated. All one must do is place ones self in Nature, and it will do the rest.

Pay attention, and be stupefied with amazement at the beauty that reveals itself. It is everywhere all the time, but we often fail to recognize it. When we do, it is a life changing experience because once seen, it can't be unseen.

When you recover, think about the fact that we ARE Nature. That connection should help us guide all of our decisions and behaviours, because what we do to Nature, we do to ourselves.




October 1, 2019

The Economy Needs You To Increase Your Consumption... Forever



The economy needs you to increase your consumption. Forever. That is the only way our economy can function, or rather, lurch and fumble from one crisis to another.

Eventually, because the Earth does not have infinite resources to harvest, we will hit Peak Consumption. Perhaps we have hit it already. 

In my own life, my personal peak consumption was years ago, and my consumption graph has been falling ever since. So how is it that I have never been happier? 

A developed economy is dependent on the practice of infinite consumption and infinite growth. No growth means everything breaks down. Even if Gross Domestic Happiness does not grow, the economy must go on.

If the consumer does not increase their purchases year after year after year, the economy is immediately headed for trouble. Consumer confidence is The Thing since a modern economy depends to a large degree on The Consumer.

Think you don't have power? In the USA and Canada up to 70% of the economy is based on what you buy. Want to change things? Start altering your purchasing habits, and the system will notice right now.

Or just do you patriotic duty and keep on buying stuff until we experience total collapse.

Don't have money? Not to worry - the system will lend you some at a 25% interest rate.

Don't need anything? Nonsense. There is always something to desire and buy. The infinite growth consumer model makes sure of that. 








September 28, 2019

One Planet Living







A lot of people want to know what they can do personally to address the many threats to our environment. I do, too. 

A lot is said about how we have mistreated our life support system, but not much in the way of what can be done to reverse the decline. 

Some think that the system that created the problems can be trusted to solve them. But isn't green capitalism an oxymoron? Capitalism only works with infinite growth, and planet destroying infinite growth is not green. 

Anyone calling for system change, though, is seen as a radical on the fringe and summarily denounced.

What is needed now is a broad perspective that allows us to address our entire system, especially population, lifestyle and consumption.

Sooner rather than later, we will have to discuss strategies for One Planet Living.  It is not a radical notion. Rather, it is the only way to live on one planet.

The following is from "Why We Must Talk About Population" by Erik Assadourian.


One-Planet Living 
In Is Sustainability Still Possible?, Jennie Moore and William Rees explored what a one-planet lifestyle would look like (in a world with 7 billion not 9.5 billion) and their analysis shows that if we lived within Earth’s limits, gone would be the days of driving personal vehicles, flying, eating meat, living in large homes, and essentially the entire consumer society that we know today. 
Frankly, that’s fine with me, considering the ecological, social and health costs of modern society—but most will not accept that. And considering that—and that policymakers and economists and even most environmentalists still believe further economic growth is possible and even beneficial—it’s increasingly hard to imagine any scenario other than a horrifying ecological collapse in our future.


System change, not climate change. 

While we are working that, it would be helpful to start living like we only had one planet to depend on. 



That is something we can all do now.





September 27, 2019

Consuming Experiences Is Still Consumption


More than 75% of Millennials surveyed would rather purchase a desirable experience or event rather than a desirable trinket, item, doodad or things.

Before we give them too much credit for getting off the buying crap train, we should consider that consumerism also packages and pushes the purchase of experiences. 

These processed experiences and events also have an environmental impact, just like more tangible things like golf clubs and bar soap. 

When does a bucket list become another high impact shopping list? 

Moving forward we will be living lifestyles that don't centre on consumerism, regardless of what is being sold. Most of the stuff won't matter, and neither will the desirable experiences and events.

Unless, of course, those experiences include a farm stay to learn gardening, learning to mend and fix things, taking a walk in the neighbourhood, or acquiring a new set of skills for lower footprint living.

Having said that, this late boomer is in full support of Millennials altering the way they live and enjoy life. I support the ways they are changing the way we look at everything. Many in this generation are disruptors, and I love a little disruption.

I look forward to hearing from GenZ and their attitudes to stuff and experiences. Wouldn't it be something if 75% of Zeds surveyed would rather buy nothing at all? 

Another survey showed that 83% of GenZ respondents say that saving for the future is important, so maybe conspicuous consumption, and spending like there is no tomorrow as a way of life, is on the way out.

I can only hope that these generations will decide that they won't be the ones to put the final nails in our collective coffin, and denounce consumerism for the failed experiment that it is.

Will they "Be better"? That would be the ultimate, one item bucket list.






September 25, 2019

True Colours




The green pigment in leaves, a substance called chlorophyl, masks underlying colours that we don't normally see. 







In the fall, as chlorophyl diminishes due to shorter days and less heat, we see a leaf's true colours shining through.

We see their true colours, and that's why we love them.









So, like the leaves, we should not be afraid to let ours show. 




 



Our true colours.

True colours are beautiful

Like a rainbow.

- with apologies to Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly and Cyndi Lauper
 

September 23, 2019

What Each Of Us Does Makes A Difference

If what we do as individuals doesn't matter, how does this happen?


A common reason for inaction against a world gone wrong is that individual actions won't make any difference. We demand that governments do something, then go home to continue our high consumption lifestyles. 

"What I do won't make a difference anyway."

But that is untrue. It is an abrogation of responsibility for one's decisions.

The best example I can think of is plastic waste. It is building up, and scientists say that it will enter the fossil record. 

Future archaeologists will learn about the Plasticonian Destruction layer that will be prominently seen in stratigraphic cross sections on digs across the planet. 


"Modern humans thought that the Earth would one day be paved over, but it was quietly smothered in plastic while everyone was looking out for steamrollers."

How did all that plastic build up? One person, one decision at a time. It happened by individual actions repeated many times over entire populations. 

What we do has a great effect on everything. Especially when there are so many of us sharing this planet. 

Every decision matters. What each of us does makes a difference, beneficial or not. No one is exempt. We have to decide what kind of effect we want to have on Earth.

We can not let governments or corporations off the hook because they have their parts to play, but we can also not say that individual actions don't affect anything.

We created this mess one decision at a time, and we can fix it one decision at a time. We have the power.








September 21, 2019

Fall Means Time To Make Basil Walnut Pesto

This year's basil walnut pesto about to go in the freezer.


It's not even Fall officially yet, and I am already mourning the missing solar radiation. What we lack in light and heat though, is easily made up by the bounty of the summer we are now harvesting.

Earlier this week we harvested our basil before first frost came, which it did a couple of days later. And when the basil is in, it is time to make pesto.


Our Basil Walnut Recipe


4 cups (packed) fresh basil

1 cup toasted walnuts

4 large cloves garlic

1 cup olive oil

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


I put all ingredients into our 1970s Osterizer blender, saving the oil for last. I pulsed the blender, and used my wooden spoon to push everything down between pulses.

When nicely mixed, I put it all into ice cube trays to be frozen and used over the next few months. This is a very convenient way to preserve and dispense this yummy fresh food.

Usually we use our pesto on pasta. Recently we were thrilled to discover how to use it on pizza as an alternative to tomato based pizza sauce. 

We make a pesto and kale pizza that is a total taste sensation, that is made with our pesto, our dough, our kale, and mozzarella (we don't make that... yet).

Tomorrow will be pizza day as we now have lots of pesto, and our kale is going gangbusters due to the cooler weather we have been having lately. 

And what gardener doesn't like discovering new ways of using kale? 

Happy harvest to all the gardeners (and eaters) out there. Enjoy your celebration of good food, good friends, and good times.




September 19, 2019

Apples and More

First apple haul of the season.


I love hiking in the forest. I also love apples. Therefore, it is a great day when I can go for a hike, AND pick apples.

My last hike in the woods I checked out some new areas for apple picking. There are apple trees everywhere around here, and it is fun to find new trees. 

I found at least one promising tree, and stopped to fill my pack. That was at the start of my hike, so I spent the next hour and a half carrying my haul up and down and all around.

The extra weight made my hike a more concentrated work out than usual, and I felt it. 

When I got home I weighed my apples. It turned out that I had been carrying 2.7 kilos of fruit on my back, not a huge amount, but enough to make a difference.

I crossed "apples" off my grocery shopping list, along with what we are harvesting from our garden:

- tomatoes (which I brought in today due to a frost warning for tonight), 
- kale, 
- beets, 
- potatoes, 
- basil (also brought in to keep from the frost), and 
- green onions. 

I am enjoying being a producer of food, rather than a consumer of food. It is very satisfying to grow it, pick it, cook it, and eat it. Can't buy that feeling at the big box grocery store with any amount of cash.

Doing it ourselves means no (or low) cost, no packaging, no trucking across the country, no middle person, no corporations, and no chemicals.

All that (or is it "none of that"?), and spending glorious quality time outdoors.

Happy Fall to all Northerners, 

and Happy Spring to those of you in the south. 

Congratulation on just about finishing another voyage around the Sun. May there be many more.








September 17, 2019

Dorian: Our First Hurricane

No damage to our home, but the garden took a hit, especially the pole beans.


Our first hurricane was very exciting... of the dangerous and scary kind. It was also a good learning experience from a preparedness perspective.

Dorian, a post-tropical storm by the time it arrived in Nova Scotia, had the strength of a category 2 hurricane, the first one to hit the province since 2003, and our first since moving here in 2014.

Deadly Dorian came ashore north and east of us on Saturday, Sept. 07 at 6:15 pm with sustained winds up to 165 km/hr. In our area of southwest NS the winds were not as strong, buy they were still screaming in a way I have not witnessed before. 

Our power failed at 2:30 pm Saturday, before landfall, as the winds started to rise, and we were caught off guard.

It was surprising to be losing power so early, and while the winds were still relatively minor. Because of this, I did not get the bathtub filled with water. Unsurprisingly, water turned out to be our limiting factor.

The power stayed off for two more days. That meant "that the pump don't work cause the vandals stole the handle", as Bob Dylan put it. We were fine, but it made me wonder, "what ever happened to the hand pump on wells"? 

If our well had a hand pump in the yard for emergency purposes, we would have been fine. That is something I am adding to the list for our future dream property.

By the time the power failed I had already filled 40L of drinking water, which was adequate. Our ever-helpful neighbours brought over about 50 litres of water that really made a difference comfort wise for sanitary purposes. They have a generator, making pumping water possible for them.

Everyone was looking out for everyone else, and together we got through it. 

We used a single burner backpacking stove to cook on during the outage, and even managed to make pizza in our cast iron fry pan. As the storm raged outside, and the rain slashed against our windows, we dined on hot pizza, which was a good moral booster.

By sunset the shrieking winds were calming down. Dorian left a darkened and eerily quiet landscape behind. 3 days without power and modern conveniences felt more like a week. 

It was a few more days before internet was restored. It is just now feeling like life is returning to normal, whatever that means these days.

We did not beat our record for power outages (5 days on the west coast after a 155 km wind during a winter storm), but Dorian was a good reminder of what life might be like in a lower energy future. Or after the apocalypse.

It was quiet, and the night sky was outstanding. We played guitar and sang instead of listening to music on the computer. Life was good, but decidedly more difficult, and we became keenly grateful for the things that we take for granted when the power is on.

Next time we will be better prepared, and next time might be soon. Hurricane Humberto is on its way. 

Here we go again.


This broken old maple tree is just down the road from us.






September 6, 2019

The Scrap Art Of Sam Hundley




I think that one of the most honourable art forms is that of creations made from found objects. It is also one of the most democratic. Anyone can do it, because the materials can be found anywhere, and are free. 

I like the idea of not having to buy anything for your art... or anything else. 

Scrap art is also the most hopeful art form. So much in modern society ends up tossed out before its time. Found object art recognizes that waste, brings some of it back, and gives it new life.







Imagine being such an object, laying in the dust, only to be rescued because some special quality you possess caught the attention of an artistic eye looking for interesting, unloved objects. 

Joy! 

Saved, perhaps to be useful once again, which is something all objects strive for in their very being. Every thing (and every one) has a special purpose to fulfill. 

The artist feels that certain objects shouldn't be destined for the fossil record and forgotten, but should instead be picked up out of the dust and elevated to the lofty status of "beautiful artwork". 







And if not always beautiful, at least it is interesting and thought-provoking.

Such is the case in the scrap art of Sam Hundley. His creations are whimsical and witty, as well as strangely beautiful. 

These pieces are odd and imperfect, and they remind us that we are, too. 



September 3, 2019

Less Struggle, More Peace




I have many moments of peace at home.

There is no need for me to go anywhere,


except perhaps out to the garden, 


or the backyard woods,


or the couch 


for a nap.




There is so much to do right here in my house,


like contemplate a red, juicy tomato I grew myself 


sitting on the windowsill,


or sitting quietly and 


listening to the wind and rain outside.





At these times I know deep down that


the fewer material distractions I have,


the happier I am.





Less stuff equals 


less needless struggle.


Less needless struggle means


more peace.



August 29, 2019

Enjoying The Moment In The Garden

Purple pole beans are the highlight of this year's garden.

When did you last take the time to enjoy the moment and feel fully alive? 

When was the last time you have been fully aware of the breath going in and out of your body? 

Or were still enough to hear your own heartbeat and know that the blood was still pumping through your veins?

For me, one of those times came yesterday as I was laying in the grass next to my raised bed garden. 

Initially I wanted to get a different photographic perspective on things, but as I lay there, I felt all stress wash away. 

Something came into my awareness. A tiny, hairy beautiful beast.



A beautiful beastie in my garden. I had just finished watering, so that explains the water drops in the caterpillar's hair.



We spent some time together. "Enjoy now", it reminded me, and I did just that. 

Then I picked the purple pole beans and bush beans that will keep us fed over the coming winter. 

There is no such thing as a bad day in the garden. I enjoy every moment I spend there.


August 26, 2019

Save The Earth - Do Nothing

This looks like a nice place to lay down and do nothing for a few minutes.


“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no mean a waste of time.”

- John Lubbock


I am liking this quote right now, as the signs of seasonal change are upon us. 

Precious hours of daylight are getting shorter, the hummingbird feeder is less crowded, the garden wants harvesting, and Southern Hemispherians are talking about spring again. 

I have to lie on the grass and enjoy summer before it is gone.

Back to the quote. 

Rest is good, but what's wrong with idleness? I fully endorse idleness. In any season. Anton Chekhov thought that "there is no happiness that is not idleness".

The world would be better off if everyone were restful, relaxed, still, quiet, sedentary, or idle, more often. Blasé Pascal agreed when he wrote, 


"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."

People in consumer cultures often report wanting to have a break from the drudgery of it all. Work. Shop. Repeat. When do we ever stop?

After several decades of labour saving devices, why do we still have no time to sit quietly in a room alone? Because in the non-stop world of consuming, our insatiable desires must be met 24/7.

What if we were to increase our relaxation/contemplation time by 5%? 10%? 50%? I can guarantee that would be a life changing event, and I speak from both a research perspective as well as personal experience.

Increasing our non-consumptive activities has the power to make us happier and healthier. 

And it would certainly result in less harm to the environment.

Save the Earth - Do nothing more often.









August 23, 2019

Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto




Civilizations are fragile. Knowing that allows us to be ready for their inevitable demise. It is a cycle that has turned many times already in human history. It is now turning again.

Warning us of an impending storm is not pessimism or doomsdayism. It is being prepared.

When the approaching storm rages, I want to have my umbrella ready. That is why I appreciate projects like the Dark Mountain Manifesto. 

"Written by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, [The Dark Mountain Manifesto] marked a first attempt to put into words the ideas and feelings which led to The Dark Mountain Project. 
Think of it as a flag raised so that we can find one another. A point of departure, rather than a party line. An invitation to a larger conversation that continues to take us down unexpected paths."


I

WALKING ON LAVA

"The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilisation."

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


Those who witness extreme social collapse at first hand seldom describe any deep revelation about the truths of human existence. What they do mention, if asked, is their surprise at how easy it is to die.

The pattern of ordinary life, in which so much stays the same from one day to the next, disguises the fragility of its fabric. How many of our activities are made possible by the impression of stability that pattern gives? So long as it repeats, or varies steadily enough, we are able to plan for tomorrow as if all the things we rely on and don’t think about too carefully will still be there. When the pattern is broken, by civil war or natural disaster or the smaller-scale tragedies that tear at its fabric, many of those activities become impossible or meaningless, while simply meeting needs we once took for granted may occupy much of our lives.

What war correspondents and relief workers report is not only the fragility of the fabric, but the speed with which it can unravel. As we write this, no one can say with certainty where the unravelling of the financial and commercial fabric of our economies will end. Meanwhile, beyond the cities, unchecked industrial exploitation frays the material basis of life in many parts of the world, and pulls at the ecological systems which sustain it.

Precarious as this moment may be, however, an awareness of the fragility of what we call civilisation is nothing new.

‘Few men realise,’ wrote Joseph Conrad in 1896, ‘that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.’ 

Conrad’s writings exposed the civilisation exported by European imperialists to be little more than a comforting illusion, not only in the dark, unconquerable heart of Africa, but in the whited sepulchres of their capital cities. The inhabitants of that civilisation believed ‘blindly in the irresistible force of its institutions and its morals, in the power of its police and of its opinion,’ but their confidence could be maintained only by the seeming solidity of the crowd of like-minded believers surrounding them. 

Outside the walls, the wild remained as close to the surface as blood under skin, though the city-dweller was no longer equipped to face it directly.

Bertrand Russell caught this vein in Conrad’s worldview, suggesting that the novelist, 

"thought of civilised and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths."

What both Russell and Conrad were getting at was a simple fact which any historian could confirm: human civilisation is an intensely fragile construction. It is built on little more than belief: belief in the rightness of its values; belief in the strength of its system of law and order; belief in its currency; above all, perhaps, belief in its future. 




You can read the rest of The Dark Mountain Manifesto at this link. It makes for an interesting read, ending with "The Eight Principles of Uncivilization". 


#1. We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. 
All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. 
We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.




You can say this is all very harsh news (although it isn't really news at all if you have been paying attention in recent decades). 

I think otherwise. I think we live in interesting times, and that opportunities abound. 

It is not like what we have now is so great. I say let's let it die. Or better yet, how about we put it out of its misery, and move on sooner, rather than later.

Together, we will learn to live more gently on this good Earth. Together, we will respond to the new reality honestly and simply.

Together, we will go on. 



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