June 30, 2019

Slow and Steady

This green gradient is in the woods near home. I like to slow down here as often as possible. The mosquito swarms make sure I don't stop long enough for the moss to absorb me into the forest.

I have always resisted the continual speedification of life. The finish line comes soon enough. Why rush?

How different the philosophy of Confucius to how we live today. 

"It doesn't matter how slow you go", he said, "as long as you don't stop". 

Infinitely cranking up the speed of life is not conducive to a happy or healthy population, and our dismal statistics bear that out. It is enough to make one want to take a nap, or sit quietly in a mossy clearing in the forest.

We are currently in a suicide epidemic, and it is not just in North America that this is happening. It is a global issue, especially among young people, for which suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death.

Our social problems, including suicide, are multifaceted, and the cause can not be attributed to one thing. However, just like driving a car, the faster one goes down the highway of life, the more likely there is to be the occasional catastrophic outcome.

Slow is the way to go. We need to chill, relax, and take it easy on a regular basis. And because social isolation is another growing problem that contributes to poor health, try going slow with a friend or two.

Just don't stop or you will stagnate, and the moss will begin to grow. Be a rolling stone, but roll at your own chosen speed. For me, that is slow and steady.

June 27, 2019

Real Freedom Is In The Wild

Me enjoying the wild while sea kayaking on Sechelt Inlet, British Columbia (in the 90s).

"Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization." 
- Charles Lindbergh

I wear civilization like a straitjacket. I find it binding in all the wrong places. Thankfully, I have been an accomplished escapist, and I squirm out of it as frequently as possible to get a freedom that is not possible in the tamed world.

The place to get that, is in the wild.

It has always been that way for me - from an early age I have sought to vanish into the wilderness, and feel the energy of real freedom course through me. 

In the wild, nature's laws apply, rather than the arbitrary rules of lesser beings. In spite of the many dangers, I am never afraid in the wild. I can't say the same for the notably uncivilized state of our artificially complex society. I find that world to be very scary.

That is because in the human experience there are many laws for the ruled, and lawlessness for the rulers. This condition has brought us to where we are today.

It is counterproductive to be bound by the intellectual straitjackets of conservative or liberal ideology. My views are directed by nature, and my love is of systems that integrate us into a humble and inclusive more-than-human world.

I like to put some distance between myself and the "civilized world" as often as possible. It has always been that way.

The wildness is where I go to feel untamed, and to roam at will. The wildness is where I go to feel real freedom.

“We need the tonic of wildness... 
At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. 
We can never have enough of nature.” 

― Henry David Thoreau

June 24, 2019

Civilizational Collapse - It Happens

Civilizations collapse. It happens. Over and over and over again. It will continue to happen as regularly as the seasons and other cyclical processes. Knowing this allows us to be prepared for change.

The average lifespan of a civilization is 336 years.

Do we think that our current civilization will be the only one in human history to NOT collapse? Given the evidence, that outcome is nothing more than wishful thinking. 

Many thinkers today are warning that we are creating the conditions for our current civilization circus to go down. They are predicting that the big tent will come down, and the show will leave town just about any time now. 

Take some examples from civilizations past:

Name of Civilization, [Approximately how many years it lasted]
- Ancient Egypt, Old Kingdom [505]
- Ancient Egypt, Middle Kingdom [405]
- Ancient Egypt, New Kingdom [501]
- Norte Chico Civilization [827]
- Harappan Civilization (Indus Valley Civilization) [800]
- Kerma [400]
- Akkadian Empire [187]
- Elam Civilization (Awan Dynasty) [157]
- Minoan Civilization (Protopalatial) [500]
- Xia Dynasty [500]
- Third Dynasty of Ur [46]
- Old Assyrian Empire [241]
- Middle Assyrian Empire [313]
- Neo Assyrian Empire [322]
- Elam Civilization (Eparti Dynasty) [210]
- First Babylonian Dynasty [299]
- Old Hittie Empire [250]
- Minoan Civilization (Neopalatial) [250]
- Shang Dynasty [478]
- Mycenae [400]
- Vedic Civilization [1000]
- Middle Hittite Kingdom [70]
- Elam Civilization (Middle Elamite Period) [342]
- New Hittite Kingdom [220]
- Olmecs [1000]
- Phoenicia [661]
- Zhou Dynasty (Western Period) [351]
- Kingdom of Israel and Judah [298]
- Chavin Culture [700]
- Urartu [225]
- Kushite Kingdom [1150]
- Etruscans [404] 
                                                                                                           - Zhou Dynasty (Eastern Zhou Spring Period) [330]

- Zhou Dynasty (Eastern Zhou Warring States Period) [411]
- Ancient Rome [244]
- Elam Civilization (Neo-Elamite Period) [203]
- Phrygia [43]
- Lydia [144]
- Magadha Empire [364]
- Chaldean Dynasty (Babylon) [87]
- Medean Empire [66]
- Orontid Dynasty [540]
- Scythians [800]
- Mahanjanapadas [200]
- Carthage [667]
- Achaemenid Empire [220]
- Roman Republic [461]
- Nanda Empire [24]
- Ptolemaic Egypt [302]
- Classical Greek [265]
 - Hellenistic [177]
- Maurya Empire [137]
- Seleucid Empire [249]
- First Chera Empire [500]
- Early Chola Empire [500]
- Maghada-Maurya [90]
- Parthian Empire [469]
- Satavahana Dynasty [450]
- Qin Dynasty [14]
- Xiongnu Empire [184]
- Han Dynasty (Western Period) [197]
- Numidia [156]
- Teotihuacans [735]
- Kingdom of Armenia [442]
- Hsiung Nu Han [120]
- Sunga Empire [112]
- Andhra [370]
- Aksumite Empire [1100]
- Kanva Dynasty [45]
- Three Kingdoms of Korea [725]
- Saka [140]
- Roman Empire [525]
- Han Dynasty (Eastern Period) [195]
- Kushan [200]
- Bactria [70]
- Ptolemaic [290]
- Liu-Sung [250]
- Gupta [90]
- Hun [100]
- Byzantine [350]
- Yuen-Yuen [30]
- Toba [130]
- White Hun [100]
- Visigoth [240]
- T'u Chueh Turk [90]
- Avar [220]
- Western Turk [70] 

Moral of the story? Civilizations come, and civilizations go. Also, if we continue on our current path, sooner or later, this one will go down, too. 

The HANDY Report, published in 2014, used the latest methods from NASA to come up with a potential collapse in mere decades or sooner. 

Rather than finger one particular group as being the cause, the authors say that today's civilization is doomed because of "the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society." 

Hmm, that won't be easy to fix, so collapse it is.

Then what? How many of us are prepared and resilient enough to handle an event like the total collapse of everything you know and love? 

The good news is that when civilizations collapse, humanity goes on. When it comes right down to it, we are pretty tough. 

Having said that, a large number of people simply will not make it. Those that do will be the most adaptable and prepared, not necessarily the strongest.

The skills required to survive collapse are the same across the ages. Different collapse, different time period, same survival strategy.

So what are the tried and true methods for carrying on when organized human society grinds to a halt? The good news is that they are all known and doable.

If we called it "The Great Simplification", that would give us some idea of what we might expect. Ask the Amish about that. Or preppers. Or homesteaders currently living off-grid.

Or ask the one billion humans that live without dependable power, or without any electricity at all.

The Great Simplification is coming, because civilizational collapses have happened, and will continue to happen. Today, we are rushing toward another one, although the HANDY Report does optimistically remind us that, "a sustainable steady state is shown to be possible in different types of societies".

Can we buck the trend that spans across the ages, and transform our current society into a sustainable steady state system in time to avoid collapse? I don't know, but I am not banking on it. 

While helping build that sustainable future, I will also be preparing for a life without a complex organized society to support me.

"Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably." - HANDY Report

June 19, 2019

Should My Toxic Garden Hose Be Replaced?

There is no safe limit for lead ingestion - it can be harmful at any concentration. So why is it that garden hoses contain lead? None of the nasty chemicals found in hoses are necessary, and the good news is that the industry and retailers are moving toward cleaner, non-toxic varieties. 

But as usual, it is buyer beware, because our system encourages producers to cut corners and maximize profits, even at the expense of the health of you, your family, and our planetary life support system.

Hoses can also be a dangerous soup of other unwanted ingredients that have been shown, in some situations, to leach into the water passing through them. 

Water sampled from hoses after they were left in the sun for two days contained  levels of BPA, phthalates, and lead, all above standard approved drinking water limits. 

Most cheaper hoses are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which uses lead as a stabilizer. The fittings are often made of brass, which can contain as much as 8% lead. 

Lead has been shown to build up in the body from even low levels of exposure, and causes all kinds of trouble once there.

But wait! There's more. 

Some cheap hoses contain chemicals associated with e-waste, none of which you want on your vegetables, or on your grass where your kids and pets play.

Information I have read on the topic ranges from alarmist - "kill your toxic hose now", to a more complacent attitude of "don't worry about it, there are far more poisonous things to worry about". Hardly reassuring. 

What is a gardener to do? 

The best case scenario would see all hoses containing toxic ingredients being replaced with alternatives that are drink-safe. Natural rubber is recommended, as well as plastic hoses that are rated "drink-safe". 

These hoses have fittings plated in nickel, which is lead-free, meaning cleaner water for your veggies.

For now, I will keep my two cheap hoses which are only 3 years old and still in good shape. However, I will also follow a few rules to minimize the risk of spraying chemicals all over my vegetable garden.

  1. Always wrap up hoses after use, and store inside in a cool, dark place. Or store in an outside location shaded from direct sunlight. 
  2. If the hose has been in the sun for a while, run the water for a minute before watering your garden. 
  3. Never drink from a non-drink water safe hose.  
  4. Take action - let manufacturers and retailers know that you will NOT tolerate dangerous chemicals in your garden hoses. 

None of the toxic chemicals are necessary in any hose, and they only benefit the seller's bottom line. That is why they are in hoses in the first place. I guess they don't care that their consumer goods are poisoning us and the planet. What a system.

Eventually, when my current hose is at the end of its life, I will pay more and buy a new safer hose for my vegetable garden. Polyurethane and other non-vinyl hoses, like rubber, are much less likely to contain chemicals of concern.

Always check the label when buying a new hose. If it does not list the material, it is most likely of the toxic variety.

But what should you do with your old cheap potentially toxic hose, either right away, or when it reaches the end of its life? From what I have found out, they should probably be delivered to a toxic waste disposal site along with your old paint and spent batteries. 

 “We now know vinyl garden hoses may leach toxic phthalates and BPA into water. 
It’s time for retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart to safeguard our children’s health and phase out the use of these poison plastic vinyl hoses.” 
Mike Schade, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

June 17, 2019

My Vegetable Garden Just Got 4 - 6% More Valuable

Our garden is one of the best investments we make each year. This is last year's cash crop. Better than a gold mine, and more fun.

I find it interesting to see that many consumer staples that we don't need are getting cheaper and cheaper, while things that we do need, like food, are getting more expensive all the time.

This year, the price of vegetables is predicted to rise between 4 and 6 percent, and that is after quickly rising fruit and vegetable prices in previous years.

The way I see it, growing a garden gets better and better with each year that passes. This year alone, my garden will be 4 to 6% more valuable than last year. 

Compare that to the 0.5% that I get on my "high interest" bank account. A garden is even a better investment than gold bullion, and a lot less volatile. 

And unlike money, or gold, or stocks and bonds, when you invest in gardening, you can eat the results. Plus what a garden does for you soul can not be counted in dollars. It is an investment in personal wellness.

Happy Summer, and happy gardening. Or, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, happy Winter, and happy gardening.

June 14, 2019

Make It Last: Celery

Having not done a post in the "Make It Last" category for some time (7 years!), I decided now was the right moment to mention a make-it-last kitchen hack I learned recently from one of my simple living mentors. 

I have always been frustrated by how quickly celery goes down in the fridge. Limp is lame. 

Now that celery is insanely expensive, there is even more reason to store it so it stays crispy and fresh for a long time. 

I didn't know I have been doing it wrong until recently when I read a simple suggestion that I immediately tried to great effect. First, I had to get my celery out of plastic.

The (new to me) storage method is simple: after your celery bunch is delivered via armoured car, wrap it in aluminum foil. 

I have had a roll of tinfoil for years, because we don't use it very often, so it was good to have an actual use for it. 

After the celery is used up, I flatten the foil so I can reuse it next time I have saved enough money to get more stalks. 

This method is simple, it keeps the celery crispy, reduces food waste, and will save you money, or at least help you avoid having to eat rubbery stalks.

On a final note, have you noticed how over the years things you don't need like TVs have gotten cheaper, while things you do need, like food, have gotten more expensive?

All the more reason to store your food to make it last, and keep as much as possible out of the garbage.

Up to 1/3 of global food production is lost to waste every year.

June 12, 2019

Beyond Recycling: Toward Zero Waste

There is a reason recycling is the most promoted and well known of the many environmental Rs. It does not affect consumption. Recycling is system friendly.

We can never talk seriously about anything that will reduce consumption. Never. Even if it means saving the planet. That is why they only pay lip service to the other Rs: refuse, reduce, repair, and reuse - these will all reduce consumption.

Rethink is my favourite rebel R that gets little to no fanfare in places where ConsumerThink is the only state sanctioned mindset. 

Billions of dollars are spent every year to make sure we think the right way, and buy the right things. And then you use recycling as a (system friendly) way to help consumers feel like they are doing something meaningful - saving the environment!

Considering the dire straights we find ourselves in, I have to think we are beyond (for the time being) recycling. We have to rethink our whole way of life. 

The current system is set up for a liner waste stream - crap in, crap out. Do more of that every year, or the economy will collapse. We know continuing this will eventually collapse planetary systems, but they don't want us to stop. 

Never mind the planet, what will happen to profits?

Recycling is not enough in a system that requires more resource extraction, production, and consumption than the year before in order to function. 

Along with infinite growth comes infinite waste. Both are choking the life out of our planet, and are currently washing up on the beaches of the collective consciousness.   

Our economies never bothered to make themselves into nature-imitating circular, closed loop systems, and this has been their undoing. The linear waste stream leads to collapse if followed to the end.

At this stage it makes more sense to move some of the more unloved Rs to the forefront of our consumer craniums. A zero waste world is possible.

However, we currently don't have a closed loop in which recycling would be an integral part. Far from it. 

“The smallest loops also create the highest social benefits because they are labour intensive. They use very few material and energy resources, and as they are decentralized, they benefit regional economies by providing local employment.”
- Walter Stahel

In recent years, many of the nations where we used to send our (dirty) recycling materials to be reprocessed far away by low wage labour, are saying "NO" to further imports of the results of our prodigious consumption habits.

In Canada's case, the nations are sending several of the containers of recycling/rubbish back to Canada so we can, perhaps, deal with our own stuff right here where it was generated.

Until we have a zero waste system where no waste is produced, I will continue recycling while concentrating on the other Rs that are most likely to lead to a lower consumption lifestyle, and eventually, a complete system change. 

A closed loop system where recycling is a common sense and seamless part of waste free living, is where we want to get. The other R's are the way to get there.

Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Repair, Reuse. And then Recycle. 

June 7, 2019

The High Price Of Materialism

Regular readers of this blog will agree that basing a life on materialistic values is a losing proposition. The video I am highlighting in this post will be a reminder of sorts for them.

If you are new to the NBA blog and the concept of simple living, or find the whole rat race thing to be tiring and futile, then this video may help nudge you toward adopting a way of living that is healthier for you, your family, your neighbours, and the environment.

The end (of materialistic lifestyles) is near. The time to get started on the alternative, a more resilient and enjoyable simple life, is now. It is a movement that has been thousands of years in the making.


"Psychologist Tim Kasser discusses how America's culture of consumerism undermines our well-being.  
When people buy into the ever-present marketing messages that "the good life" is "the goods life," they not only use up Earth's limited resources, but they are less happy and less inclined toward helping others. 
This animation both lays out the problems of excess materialism and points toward solutions that promise a healthier, more just, and more sustainable life." 
Research cited: click here.

Enjoy, and if it moves you, please share your reaction to the video in the comments section below.

June 5, 2019

Less Stuff, Less Housework

Housework. It seems that no one actually likes it. However, since it is as unavoidable as a nasty Trump tweet, something must be done to make it manageable.

While it is possible to enjoy cleaning house, how many people would rather do housework than other possibly more enjoyable activities? 

I have tried saying to myself, "I get to clean today" instead of "I have to clean today" to make it feel more like a choice, but I would still rather be in the woods, or be playing guitar and singing with Linda.

Having said that, I do believe I have found the secret to housework. 


Have less stuff.

That is my personal solution to the challenges of home maintenance. The way I see it, less stuff means less work overall. Life is more than buying and cleaning and storing and upgrading an endless number of things. 

Less stuff maintenance means more time to spend on more enjoyable things. For me that is just about anything. 

Less stuff, less housework, more life.

June 3, 2019

Making Refrigerator Pickles

Easy to make, and very tasty.

On my last grocery shopping trip I got 15 medium sized cucumbers for 1/2 price. They were in excellent condition, so we decided to try making cucumber pickles for the first time. Now I wonder why we waited so long.

If I had known how easy refrigerator pickles were to make, I never would have bought pickles at the store. Now that I know, I may never buy them again.

I don't like that I haven't been able to buy Canadian pickles for years now. In the grocery store, my choices are pickles from the USA, or India, and I don't particularly like either of those options. Now I can add a new choice - pickles from my very own kitchen.

The thing I love about home cooking is how you can make everything to suit your particular tastes. Mass produced foods are often bland so as to appeal to as wide a consumer base as possible. 

But what if you like BOLD food? What if you like a BOLD, spicy, hot pickle? Make it yourself. 

What I discovered about pickling is that it is an extremely adaptable process. We made refrigerator pickles (good in the fridge for several weeks), but if we grew cukes, and had lots of them, we could also can them using our hot water bath canner, then keep them in our pantry for months. 

We decided not to can this time because we only made two jars, and judging by the way they turned out, they won't last long.

In pickling, the vinegar, sugar and salt do the preserving, and the spices add to the flavour. Spicing is variable and depends on your taste. There is a huge variety of spices that can be used in an infinite number of combinations, only limited by your creativity and your spice collection.

We used mustard seed, black peppercorns, dill, turmeric, crushed red peppers, and whole garlic cloves. We made the pickles in jars one day, and tried them the next. It was hard to believe how easy they were to make, how quickly they set up, and how tasty they were only 24 hours later.

There are many good refrigerator pickle recipes on the net. All you have to do is find one that suits your tastes, or take a standard recipe, like this one, and modify it according to what you have in your pantry.

Why buy bland pickles shipped from the other side of the planet? Our food should be as fresh and tasty as possible. The best way to get that is to buy the ingredients from area farmers, and cook them up in your own kitchen.

Save money, eat better. 

Do you have a favourite pickling recipe?