May 26, 2023

Slow/Fast/Faster Fashion

Chilean desert clothing dump from space - the tragic result of fast fashion.

I am a big proponent of slow fashion. Really slow.

What am I wearing right now? Mostly Spring of 1995.

My slow fashion is so slow it would be better labelled no fashion. 

My small collection is purely functional - just stuff to make sure I stay a comfortable temperature, and not naked.

My slow (glacial) wardrobe changes have happened over years and decades. 

Things come out of my closet when they wear out, or if I haven't worn them for a period of time. It is amazing how long a good piece of clothing can last.

Items may or may not be replaced. If replaced I try to acquire them from second hand shops rather than new.

On the other hand, the latest fast fashion news is a dump in the Atacama desert of Chile where unsold brand new clothing goes to die. 

This tragic eyesore is visible from space.

Most of the clothes are manufactured under questionable circumstances in Bangladesh or China and sent to retail stores around the world. 

When they aren't sold they are shipped to Chile for disposal. 

A savvy shopper desert dump diving for brand new clothing - 100% off.

How is that for fast? Usually fast fashion gets worn a few times before hitting the dump.

They should call it Faster Fashion. 

"Just pay for it and we will arrange to send it straight to the dump so you don't have to take it home, get disappointed, and throw it in your own garbage."

At least 39,000 tons of faster fashion clothes have accumulated in landfills in the Atacama Desert.

I don't do slow fashion to save the earth, necessarily. I am frugal so dislike waste, and I don't mind saving money, either. I also really dislike shopping.

But if saving the planet is a minor side-effect of my slower fashion, that is alright by me.

No fashion?

No problem.

No functioning ecosystems?

Big problem.

The slow part of fast fashion. What a waste of human potential, not to mention resources.

May 24, 2023

We Must Cultivate Our Garden

I am a sucker for a good quote, and this time of year, I am looking for good gardening quotes. I have found that the philosopher Voltaire has one of the best.

It is from his 1759 book Candide, and it is pretty basic as the best quotes often are.

It says simply, "We must cultivate our garden".

This passage is from the book:

Pangloss, who was as inquisitive as he was argumentative, asked the old man what the name of the strangled Mufti was. ‘I don’t know,’ answered the worthy man, ‘and I have never known the name of any Mufti, nor of any Vizier. I have no idea what you’re talking about; my general view is that people who meddle with politics usually meet a miserable end, and indeed they deserve to. I never bother with what is going on in Constantinople; I only worry about sending the fruits of the garden which I cultivate off to be sold there.’


Having said these words, he invited the strangers into his house; his two sons and two daughters presented them with several sorts of sherbet, which they had made themselves, with kaimak enriched with the candied-peel of citrons, with oranges, lemons, pine-apples, pistachio-nuts, and Mocha coffee… – after which the two daughters of the honest Muslim perfumed the strangers’ beards.


‘You must have a vast and magnificent estate,’ said Candide to the turk.


‘I have only twenty acres,’ replied the old man; ‘I and my children cultivate them; and our labour preserves us from three great evils: weariness, vice, and want.’


Candide, on his way home, reflected deeply on what the old man had said.


‘This honest Turk,’ he said to Pangloss and Martin, ‘seems to be in a far better place than kings…. I also know,” said Candide, “that we must cultivate our garden.’

This is what The School Of Life website has to say about Voltaire's quote:

What did Voltaire mean with his gardening advice? That we must keep a good distance between ourselves and the world, because taking too close an interest in politics or public opinion is a fast route to aggravation and danger. 
We should know well enough at this point that humans are troublesome and will never achieve – at a state level – anything like the degree of logic and goodness we would wish for. 
We should never tie our personal moods to the condition of a whole nation or people in general; or we would need to weep continuously. 
We need to live in our own small plots, not the heads of strangers. 
At the same time, because our minds are haunted and prey to anxiety and despair, we need to keep ourselves busy. We need a project. It shouldn’t be too large or dependent on many. The project should send us to sleep every night weary but satisfied. It could be bringing up a child, writing a book, looking after a house, running a small shop or managing a little business. Or, of course, tending to a few acres. 
Note Voltaire’s geographical modesty. We should give up on trying to cultivate the whole of humanity, we should give up on things at a national or international scale. 
Take just a few acres and make those your focus. Take a small orchard and grow lemons and apricots. Take some beds and grow asparagus and carrots. 
Stop worrying yourself with humanity if you ever want peace of mind again. Who cares what’s happening in Constantinople or what’s up with the grand Mufti. Live quietly like the old turk, enjoying the sunshine in the orange bower next to your house. 
This is Voltaire’s stirring, ever relevant form of horticultural quietism. We have been warned – and guided.

As I have been tending my own small patches of soil over the last few days I have been keeping Voltaire's quote and the explanation of its meaning in mind.

It all makes perfect sense to me at this point in time, and gives me great comfort.

May you be tending your own garden, and finding sustenance and contentment growing there.

Plus protection from weariness, vice, and want.

May 19, 2023


So you know FOMO, right? 

If so, you know it means "fear of missing out", and leads to things like envy, bad decision making, purchase anxiety, and spending too much time on social media checking out what everyone else is doing.

Am I missing something by not following the latest trend or buying the latest must-have item? Do those in the know realize something I do not because I am a big dummy?

FOMO is a buyer's nightmare, and a seller's best friend regardless of what stuff or service they have to sell.

Humans are a herd animal, and when everyone else is doing something, like paying over $500,000 dollars for an average house in Canada, or $50,000 dollars for an average car, it makes FOMOs want to do the same thing. 

Regardless of whether that thing makes sense to you or not. 

It is caused by a pervasive anxiety about missing something good when it appears everyone except for you is getting in on the latest thing to make life great again.

FOMO is looking at the Jones' and perceiving that they are having more fun, living better lives, and experiencing better things than you are, and it can be mentally (not to mention financially) exhausting.

But what about GIMO? It was brought to my attention, and perhaps coined, by a reader in a recent comment on this blog post.

This new-to-me acronym stands for "glad I'm missing out", and I love it.

Not getting caught up in FOMO, and thinking for one's self in a logical manner, leads to GIMO.

It does not matter what anyone else is doing or buying or where they are travelling to. 

Find out for yourself what you like doing and what makes you happy. Chances are it is something different than the herd-approved things, and you aren't missing out on anything.

Then you can dismiss the fog of FOMO and develop an attitude that allows you to say, "glad I'm missing out" on all the keeping up with the Jones' silliness.

Give the heave-ho 

to FOMO,

and say hello 

to GIMO.

It's the way to go.

May 18, 2023

Consumers Cut Discretionary To Afford Essential Spending

Discretionary spending = unnecessary

I had been noticing for years that discretionary purchases were getting cheaper. Think TVs and other electronics, or flight tickets.

Essential spending = must have

At the same time, essential purchases were getting more expensive. Think food, energy and housing.

So the crap no one needs was cheap, and the things that keep us alive more and more expensive.

That sucked for people like Linda and I since about the only spending we do is for essentials. 

Now it looks like more people are joining us. 

There has been a large shift in how people are spending their money, with many former discretionary spenders finding themselves struggling to meet their essential spending obligations.

This is what involuntary simplicity looks like, a symptom of the slow motion collapse of industrial civilization that we are witnessing.

What does that do to a system designed to thrive on people buying things they don't need?

"The shift from discretionary to essential spending has a massive impact on an economy which is heavily skewed in favour of discretionary goods and services.  That is, when the cost of essentials increases, then after a lag, the result is deflation and unemployment across the much bigger discretionary sectors of the economy."  - source

Due to resource depletion and the end of cheap, available energy, this set of circumstances is unlikely to reverse in the coming decades.

It is a good time to be adaptable and resilient. If I were a young person today I would be looking at getting into farming.

The simple life is coming. Prepare for it now, and enjoy the ride.

May 15, 2023

Dumb Consumer Item of the Month - Car Subscription Fees

Cars alone could be the dumb consumer item of the month, but today it is add-ons to already expensive vehicles that makes the list - subscription fees.

Want your heated seated seats that you already paid for to function? That will cost you a bit more each month.

Want more power from the drivetrain you already put out dearly for? Pay more per month or you don't get it, even though you technically own your car engine. Or at least you used to.

Navigation system? Pay more per month.

Subscription fees on car features are here, whether driver/owners want them or not. And they don't.

But they aren't called subscriptions, or renting by the carlords, they are "features on demand".

You will own nothing. 

And you will be happy, or else.

Or maybe some enterprising simple car maker will build an old analog vehicle that isn't connected to the cloud and still works.

All it would do is get the motorist from point A to point B economically, and you wouldn't need a credit card to unlock the steering wheel.

That is unlikely to happen with automakers loading up cars with internet connected features then charging monthly fees to unlock them. 

Autolords are counting on raking in billions of dollars in subscription fees moving forward. As if the average price of $50,000 for a car wasn't dumb enough already.

Auto subscription fees will really test how dumb of expensive consumer items shoppers are willing to pay for. 

I'll be thinking about this one. 

As I ride my bike. 

That has no subscription fees and is not in any way connected to the internet.

And cost me $400 dollars and has lasted 14 years.

That's $28.47 per year, or $2.37 per month. 

Way less than a heated seats subscription in an already very expensive car.

May 10, 2023

Ancient Camera Keeps On Snapping Pics

I have had my old digital camera for a long time. Over a decade and it is still snapping new photos. 

Like everything else I own, it is showing its age and sports a rubber band to secure the batteries so they don't come spilling out. 

I have taken thousands of priceless pictures with it, which is not bad for something I got for free. 

I acquired the digital camera using reward points we received at the drug store where Linda used to buy the expensive pharmaceuticals she was on for her MS. 

She is not on them any more because they were of questionable value to her quality of life, and they were costing the health care system a wasteful $35,000 dollars a year. 

But we did get a free camera.

I snapped the picture above when we lived on the west coast. The juniper bush shown was outside our bedroom window and made a perfect place for a robin's nest.

Of the thousands of pictures I have taken with my camera, the nest with three glorious eggs is one of my top 10 favourites.

We could have replace our old, beaten camera with something "better" a long time ago, but we are the buy nothing people, and for us, it is enough. 

How long will this workhorse camera last? Hopefully a long time, although I may have to add another rubber band or two at some later date.


May 7, 2023

It's A Good Time To Shorten Food Supply Chains

Supply chains are breaking. Not so bad if we are talking about TVs, but when we are talking about food, we are in trouble. 

Growing your own food is the best way to shorten your food chain. Garden to table is the shortest chain you can get - one link. Garden. You.

Alternative to providing your own food, supporting local farmers and producers is the way to go. Localism is the new globalism.

Linda and I have been trying to shorten our food supply chains, and get off the local big box store as our sole supplier of food. Since getting a kick in the rear by the mayhem of the past 3 years, we have made some nice advances.

Many organic whole food staples we have been able to source locally by joining a food buying club. Many of their offerings were grown and processed here, which supports food security in the Maritimes.

We also switched to a small, family run fruit and vegetable store that sources as much as it possibly can locally. 

Things that can't be sourced locally are dropping off our grocery list. 

Avocados, for example. We are looking at (gasp) eliminating coffee from our grocery list, and bananas that come from thousands of km away are on the cut list as well. 

Hard decisions will need to be made in the immediate future, the way things are going. Not just because of supply chains, but also due to inflation. Groceries are getting more expensive all the time. 

Recently we have been talking with our neighbours about working together to keep laying hens. 

We don't eat chicken (but would if we had no alternative), but we do eat eggs. Getting them from our yard would shorten that supply chain and you can't beat the price. Plus, we love watching chickens.

We are lucky to have an apple orchard just down the road from us. They also grow strawberries and blueberries. Other neighbours make maple syrup.

Depending on food from far away never seemed like a good idea to me, and soon it may be dangerous for those that depend solely on it if that food stops coming.

They have been talking out food security for a long time. We figure now is a good time to continue to assess ours.

Not everyone can do it, but growing/raising your own food produces the shortest chains possible. 

Shipping food over vast distances is not only wasteful, but the quality of what you get is drastically reduced compared to fresh foods grown locally. 

Like in your yard.

Barring growing/raising food on your own, supporting local producers is the best way to increase food security, and shorten supply chains.

Grow a garden and/or support local and enjoy going back to a more sensible, resilient food future.


May 4, 2023

We Are Nature, Lots Of Nature

The only way we can bring ourselves into harmony with the natural world will be a return to recognizing ourselves as part of it.

We are nature. We didn't beam down here from a spaceship. The Earth is our spaceship.

Each of us is a walking Madagascar of biodiversity, a unique biotic island unto ourselves.

There is more life on you and in you than there is you. 

More than 1 trillion bacteria live on the average human’s skin alone, representing about 1000 different species. 

These organisms are essential to our health, help with vitamin production, boost the immune system, and protect us from pathogens. 

For a long time we have ignored our rightful place and have considered ourselves to be "above" Nature. 

That was the original and most catastrophic wrong turn taken by our species.

This is the separation that must be mended.

We are Nature, and we are not alone. Ever. 

Nor do we want to be. 

Without other creatures that we have evolved with over hundreds of thousands of years, we would die.

Every human body has an entire ecosystem, and the health of that greater system determines the health of the body. 

It is becoming increasingly clear how important our microbiota is to human health. 

Our gut flora is even more numerous than that on our skin. There are between 30 and 400 trillion microorganisms in the human gut. 

That is 3 to 100 times more bacteria in our digestive track than total human cells in our body.

The only time we are alone, possessing only human cells, is before we are born. 

After birth, as soon as we enter the outside world, and over the next few days, other organisms on and in us already outnumber human cells.

Then there is the air we breathe. The air is full of life, full of nature. 

We often think of the air as being just the mixture of gases that keep us alive, but it turns out that air has a biota also.

Nature in - nature out, with every breathe we take.

We are beginning to realize our place in nature once again.

It is the only thing that will help us become more benign in the way we live our lives.

Protecting nature is protecting ourselves.

Native people know this, as tell us that the Earth does not belong to us. We belong to the Earth.

Once we acknowledge that, we will again be in a place where we can live as a functioning part of spaceship Earth.

Here, there are no passengers. We are all crew.

May 2, 2023

An Average Simple Day

Curious busy people might wonder, "What do simple living people do all day?" 

This is how the Zen master Shih-wu (1252-1352) described an average day for him while living in the mountains:

Forty-some years
I’ve lived in the mountains
Ignorant of the world’s rise and fall
Warmed at night
by a stove full of pine needles
Satisfied at noon
by a bowl of wild plants
Sitting on rocks
watching clouds and empty thoughts
Patching my robe
in sunlight practicing silence
Till someone asks
why Bodhidharma came east
And I hang out my wash.

For me an average simple day looks more like that described above than the life lived by most everyone I know.

Like the life Shih-wu describes, a simple day for me is very real, and very present. 

My life with Linda has been simplified about as much as it can be, although we often find ways to simplify even more.

That is because almost the entirety of what we do consists mostly of taking care of the essentials of life.

Like my friend said when she was in nursing school, "if you don't poo and pee you die".

To that I would add that if you don't eat, you die. If you don't drink water, you die. If you don't sleep, you die. 

But these are often ignored in a busy, modern life lived in pursuit of things which are perpetually just out of reach, and that keep people stressing and striving. 

There are many other things that if not done may not outright cause imminent death, but will hasten one's trip to the grave.

Living a low stress life, not just eating food but eating good food, physical activity, communing with nature, sitting in silence, and honouring your purpose in life are all things that add to overall health and happiness. 

So many don't have time for these either, and suffer the consequences.

The practice of simple living has become our number one focus, and creative activity. Our lives have become our art.

Out in the larger world where we are happy to let things rise and fall without us, life is unfortunately based on fantasy, lies, and fakery. 

In our hut on the hill, the simple and essential activities we tend to in an average day feel as real as it gets.