June 26, 2017

Mother Earth Gives Us What We Need

In June and July, Painted Turtles dig nests and lay eggs along roadsides or in cultivated fields, as well as in sand or gravel beaches.

It is true that the Universe will provide you with what you need. Ask and you shall receive. You just have to ask for the right things at the right time, and have Earth-friendly expectations.

Summer time is turtle time. Yesterday I again asked to see my shelled friends, and once again Nature delivered. It is always a thrill for me to share a moment with my wild relations in the local environment. It never fails to give me hope for the future in a time that hope for humanity is ebbing daily.

The hatchlings may dig their way out in September/October of the same year. If the nest surface temperature becomes lower than the nest bottom temperature, overwintering is possible. Adults hibernate at the bottom of ponds.

Call it prayer, or focused intent, but the result is the same. You can't always get what you want, but if you ask with all your heart, you just might find, you get what you need.

Having said that, be careful of what you ask for - it may be provided in ways, or moments, you'd never expect, or with results that are unforeseen. Keep your needs simple, be patient, and you will get what you need.

It is when we take too much that we run into problems. Turtle teaches the wisdom of aligning with the cyclic flow of life, and demonstrates that the fastest way is not necessarily the best, for it takes time for things to develop properly.

Turtle is a powerful symbol of Mother Earth, and reminds us that it does not matter what situation you have created: ask for assistance, and abundance will follow.

June 23, 2017

Consumerism Feeds On Consumers

There is a very interesting flower that I see while on my hikes and rides into the forest around my home. It is a rare carnivorous variety called the round leafed sundew. It is a plant that eats meat.

"The plant feeds on insects, which are attracted to the glistening drops of mucilage, loaded with a sugary substance, covering its leaves. It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which is usually poor in nutrients or is so acidic that nutrient availability is severely decreased.  
The plant uses enzymes to dissolve the insects – which become stuck to the glandular tentacles – and extract ammonia (from proteins) and other nutrients from their bodies. The ammonia replaces the nitrogen that other plants absorb from the soil, and plants that are placed in a high-nitrogen environment rely less upon nitrogen from captured insects."

This amazing plant reminds me of another entity that sucks the life out of things leaving only piles of waste behind: consumerism. So with apologies to the round leafed sundew, I make my comparison.

"The practice of consumerism feeds on consumers, which are attracted to loaded promises and glistening shiny things, heavy with cultural meaning and significance in a high stakes competitive environment. 
It has evolved this carnivorous behaviour in response to its habitat, which requires optimizing profit to the point that the well being of consumers not yet consumed by the system is severely decreased. 
Consumerism uses billions of dollars worth of propaganda, plus intense social pressure, to dissolve its prey's innate drive to be frugal and thrifty in all things. The prey becomes stuck to this system's sucking tentacles at all turns, and funds are withdrawn from their accounts and credit cards to the point of poverty. 
The drive for profits replaces all common sense, ethical considerations, and social/environmental rights, and companies that are placed in a high wealth environment rarely consider them at all.

People! It eats people! And everything else it can fit in its gaping maw. Imagine a tree-sized round leafed sundew enticing you with its sticky sweet tentacles, waiting to dissolve you completely for your cash and ultimately your life and your planet.

Consumerism has a voracious appetite for consumers, and resources, that can not be sated. This carnivore will eat everything you set in front of it until it pops from its own gluttonous behaviour.

Don't feed this un-natural beast. Living simply is the best way to avoid entrapment.

Once again, apologies to the round leafed sundew, which is just doing what comes naturally.

June 20, 2017

Summer Solstice

Sable Island, Nova Scotia wild horses in Summer.

What a light-drenched treat Summer Solstice is at the 45th parallel north of the Earth's equatorial plane, even if we haven't actually seen the Sun for almost a week of rainy, low-cloud weather.

Here, halfway between the equator and the north pole, full darkness is vanquished for a short while before the Sun reverses and begins its slide back toward the equator. Right now a person staying up all night (something Linda and I like to do at least once a year) would, after sunset (9:12 PM), see twilight in the northern sky until the sun rises (5:38 AM) a short while later.

Having four seasons is one of the things I love about living far from the equator. Summer and winter are so dramatically different in terms of amount of light alone, never mind the temperature extremes. Since the whole of our existence is solar powered, this time of year is to be celebrated and enjoyed before the darkness and cold visit again.

Back and forth we go, through the seasons, throughout the years. Such cycles are my centre, my calendar, the yin and yang of my life.

Now if the clouds would just part long enough to get some warming rays on my skin. Thank you for  your services watering my garden, but I can take it from here for a while.

Happy Summer Solstice to our Northern Hemisphere readers (and Winter Solstice to those of you in the southern parts of our amazing planet). It's a fine balance, and a good reminder.

June 18, 2017

What is My Fair Share of the Planet's Resources?

Some of us are taking more than our fair share.

Take the number of people on the planet. Divide that ever-increasing number into the finite number of acres that represents Earth's total resources. We end up with the number of acres per person, which is about 4 acres, and that doesn't leave anything for all the other non-human planetary inhabitants.

"It is only since the industrial revolution that resource use and consumption has skyrocketed. The US was built on foundations of frugality, yet today, North Americans are the world's greatest consumers. 
If the world's people consumed as North Americans, we would need five Earths. The link between consumer habits and global warming, war, species extinction, and social injustice are often lost amidst fast paced advertising and a throw-away consciousness." 
- Jim Merkel

Human population

- 7.4 billion

Acres per person available today

- 4.5 acres/person

If we leave 75% wild for the 25 million other species on Earth

- 1 acre/ person

Average acres/person used by humans 

Global average - 5.8 acres

United States - 24 acres

Canada - 22 acres

United Kingdom - 13 acres

Russia - 11 acres

Afghanistan - 0.75 acres

It is not a big stretch to conclude that ecological overshoot can not go on forever, and  that the sooner we do something about it, the better.

If not everyone can live a modern consumer lifestyle, how do we decide who can and who can't? Can anyone, if it leads to ecological overshoot and collapse?

June 14, 2017

Ecological Intelligence And The High Cost of Low Prices

Want to make buying things more ecologically and socially responsible? The answer, of course, depends who you ask. Big business would say, "No, that might affect our bottom line." I, on the other hand, am all for it, and I am sure many others are as well.

A free exchange of information would empower the consumer and allow a more mindful participation in the process of consuming. It is all about information. Aren't we supposed to be living in the Information Age?

What happened to the information?

Presently the only thing most people base their purchases on is what is about the only thing that can bet known, and that is the price. Most people will vote for the lowest price possible.

And people are voting, often for places like WalMart.

"Supporters contend that the chain's legendary low prices have democratized consumption, allowing low-income households to afford flat-screen televisions and nine-layer lasagna. 
Critics say those low prices have depressed domestic wages and exported manufacturing jobs to foreign countries, hurting Americans more than helping them." Source

What if you want to know more about things like this? Corporations withhold the information we need, creating an unfair playing field. Until legislators and consumers demand it, this information will continue to be withheld to make sure that price remains the sole bit of information we base our purchases on, to the detriment of the environment and workers.

Just buy it, and never mind the health impacts, or the social and environmental consequences. How can one consume freely otherwise?

By withholding information about the ethical performance of producers, underachievers continue to be rewarded, and those that excel in responsibility do not get the recognition and encouragement they deserve.

GoodGuide is one organization that uses extensive data to rate a variety of products on 3 categories including health, environmental and social impacts. The GoodGuide represents a growing group of people that are trying to uncork the information bottleneck so that the data consumers need flows to them.

Because we are unable to be fully mindful of the life-cycle of our purchases, we can inadvertently cause the very damage we are trying to avoid. GoodGuide recognizes this when they note:

"It is important that for many products and product categories there is a significant gap in public disclosure due to the lack of U.S regulation around many products commonly sold on U.S. store shelves. 
This lack of transparency and disclosure make it extremely difficult to perform a comprehensive health, environmental and social issues evaluation of specific products and companies. The most extreme example of this problem is household cleaning products, where there is almost no disclosure of product ingredients."

Daniel Goleman's book Ecological Intelligence shows how information about the hidden impacts of the things we buy can change our shopping habits, and instigate important Earth-friendlier changes.

"Imagine what might happen if the knowledge now sequestered among specialists like industrial ecologists were made available to the rest of us: taught to kids in school, easily accessible on the Web, boiled down into evaluations of the things we buy and do and summarized as we were about to make a purchase."

Lets kick start this so-called Information Age, and actually get information out there that really matters. Let consumers become aware of who and what they are supporting, and the effects of their purchases on people and the planet.

Surely the majority of consumers are willing to do the right thing if only they had the information to make more responsible purchasing decisions. As Earthlings, we should all want to be ecologically intelligent because if we aren't, bad things happen.

It is like having a User's Guide To The Planet.

Until such information is broadly and easily available, I suggest doing the research yourself in places like the GoodGuide. But be forewarned - all that work, and the results of your investigation, will most certainly kill your desire to purchase most of what is on offer in the modern marketplace.

Living simply could become an unintended consequence, albeit a good one.

Interested in increasing your ecological intelligence quotient? See under "Web Resources" on our sidebar for more information. I have recently added more links for the ecologically curious.

June 11, 2017

The Long Commute

The history of Europeans in North America is a history of mobility. From earliest times to the present, Americans have always been on the move. Today this often translates into long commutes to work.

Canada's largest city has the longest commuting times of all cities in North America. At 80 minutes per round trip, Toronto commuters spend 24 minutes a day longer getting to and from work than people in Los Angeles, 12 minutes longer than New Yorkers, and 32 minutes longer than residents of Barcelona, Spain.

As long as those commutes are, a flatboat pilot working on the Mississippi River in the 1800's would scoff at such rapid transit to and from the workplace.

Using long poles, these men would float narrow, flat-bottomed boats filled with grains and other farm produce from farms on tributaries of the Mississippi with the current down to the coast. It was a difficult trip that could take several weeks of traveling through what was still pure wilderness.

But that wasn't the hardest part.

Once the flatboats reached New Orleans they sold their cargo, for further shipment to destinations far and wide. Since the boats were not designed to return upriver against the current, they were broken up and the wood sold off.

Then the pilot and crew of four would... walk home. The flatboaters, after delivering their cargo, would often have to walk thousands of miles through the unbroken primal forest to return home.

When I first read about this ultra-ultra-long commute, I laughed out loud. I considered that most North Americans won't even walk to the corner store these days.

A round trip could take nine months. Now that is a commute. For the extra hearty. And brave.

I don't want to belittle today's extended commutes - they are not efficient or sustainable, or enjoyable in most cases. But imagine your commute involving walking thousands of miles through untracked wilderness.

That is the long commute. And carbon-free as well.

June 7, 2017

June 5, 2017

Our Vision

Not Buying Anything Blog Vision Statement

Our vision is a world where simple, eco-sensitive and joyful lifestyles are the norm.

Big corporations co-opt everything and anything that can turn them a profit. They have even managed to make simple living lifestyles into a commodity, creating a curious conundrum where one buys ones way into the simple life.

So I decided to co-opt something from the corporate world - the concept of a vision statement. But how could this helpful blurb not be useful pretty much anywhere, not just in the pursuit of making money from selling crap?

I am all about wandering, serendipity, and letting life flow unimpeded, and yet, sometimes it is necessary to have an idea of where you are headed. Coupled with focus and discipline, one can go anywhere, achieve anything.

So it is that I share this blogs guiding vision. Along with our recently published manifesto (which is similar to a corporate mission statement, but with a nice anti-establishment ring), our vision statement helps to give our work (and play) focus and intention.

Will we (and by 'we' I mean all of us that are part of this blog, and the simple living community) succeed, and create a simpler, more gentle Earth that provides for everybody, and all of life?

Did Ray Crock think he would sell billions of hamburgers? What if we DID succeed in helping billions of people adopt a joyful alternative to unchecked consumption and the busy lifestyles that are required to support them? What if consumers turned en masse to voluntary simplicity? Before they were forced to by resource depletion and deteriorating environmental conditions?

For one thing, unhealthy behemoth fast food burger chains wouldn't do as well as they do now. Saying sayonara to the corporate model, and hello to global cooperation, is definitely part of our vision.

June 2, 2017

Red Shift

Rhubarb from our garden space. First fruit of the season.

To borrow a term from astronomy, there is a red shift happening in my life right now. I can see it all around me as we shift from winter to spring, and from spring to summer.

Astronomers use the concept of red shift to ascertain how far away an object in space is from Earth, and to tell whether that object is moving toward us, or away from us. Objects moving away from us shift toward the red end of the spectrum, therefore, red shift. It is like a visual Doppler effect.

Red shift/blue shift.

Right now winter is moving rapidly away from us, and thank goodness for that. Even spring is moving away from the land, although that shift is a little slower here than other parts of Canada.

I can see this shift in slowly rising temperatures, and in the life that is returning as the cold and grey of winter recedes into distant memory.

Trees are leafing out, seeds in the garden are germinating, and colour returns to the land. Some of that colour is red, indicating another kind of red shift.

Rhubarb is an early spring plant, and one of the first to emerge in the garden. While everything else is slowly waking up, rhubarb bursts forth out of the ground to herald the shift in seasons. Before long its greenish-red stalks are holding up giant green leaves letting us know that the first fruit of the season is ready to harvest.

Some of our summer neighbours enjoying our feeder.

While that is going on another bit of red is flying into the scene. This year we got our hummingbird feeder out early to attract these beautifully red-throated visitors as soon as possible. And did they come. So far, the record is five hummers at the feeder at the same time.

After months of a cold, grey and white landscape we can see winter red shifting away from us. As that happens colour returns, and red is one of the most beautiful, and tasty. Today I watch hummingbirds from my kitchen window as I bake up a stellar rhubarb raisin custard tart.

I can see summer moving toward us (that would be blue shift), meaning heat and clear, blue skies.

May 31, 2017

Internet Archive - Free Learning

There is a lot of stuff for sale on the internet. Actually, is there anything NOT for sale on the internet? However, there is also a lot available for free. I prefer free, like library free. That is my favourite.

I have written previously about sites that give one free access to books online. Since then I have also found free audio books online, listened to several, and bookmarked more.

Books like:

Analects of Confucious

Once and Future King - T. H. White

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Island - Aldous Huxley

The site I am referring to is Internet Archive, a place unique to me in all my internet wanderings. It is my new favourite place to go instead of reading the news (although you can find news items there).

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library founded in 1996. It's stated mission is "universal access to all knowledge." It offers "permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format." As a life long learner and chronically curious person, I can get behind that.

This treasure trove provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books.

In addition to listening to audiobooks, I have also used this site to do things like research early rock and roll, including listening to a recording of "Rocket 88", a 1951 song some believe was the first recorded number that rocked and rolled in the way that it did.

A search for Henry David Thoreau returns 1,109 items. So many items, so little time.

They also have an archive called the Wayback Machine that stores information so that inconvenient truths can't disappear down the memory hole. Not Buying Anything is even archived there, giving this blog an air of semi-kinda-sort-of-quasi-permanence, as long as there is electricity and an open internet. 

With links to collections from major libraries, the possibilities are endless. And free. 

Fill your mind. It's a giant digital library you can access from the comfort of your own home.

May 29, 2017

For Whom Does Your Government Work?

I don't know if I am right, but it seems to me that a country that has a government that works for the people (like they are suppose to in theory), would have a lower incidence of poverty. One would also think that rich nations would have less poverty.

This is not the case, so I wonder - for whom do these governments really work?

The chart above reveals the priorities of various governments in OECD countries, which are among the most "highly developed". If these countries can't eliminate poverty, in spite of being the richest on the planet, how can any other country get rid of this scourge?

How about less war, and more help for people? We have everything we need to provide every citizen with a dignified, satisfying simple life. Could it be that our governments are the problem and not the solution?

For whom does your government work?

May 27, 2017

The Good Life

This little person, and her friend, know how to live.

“The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children.”  

- Jim Henson

Does it get any better than this? I think not. This is the good life.

Our inner child craves the simple life that we all knew when young and still relatively unblemished by culture. A time when a puddle, a feathery friend and blossoms everywhere made for a moment of perfection.

A time when playing and simply living was our major focus.

A simple life allows time to play and be.

Find a puddle. Jump up and down. Enjoy it with a friend.

This is the good life, that is attainable by all.

“Everything seemed possible, when I looked through the eyes of a child.
And every once in a while; I remember,
I still have the chance to be that wild.” 
- Nikki Rowe

May 25, 2017

Do Nothing

People are always in a rush to do something, anything. But sometimes doing nothing is a viable alternative that should be considered.

If you are bleeding profusely, you probably need medical intervention. However, in my experience, things like aches and pains often go away on their own if one is patient.

Even though we have universal health care in Canada, I try to stay away from doctors as much as possible. The average "medical professional" will want to do something even if doing nothing is the way to go. Sometimes the cure is worse than the issue at hand.

Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) in the US, a statistic that reflects what can happen in any modern medical system with a do-something-at-any-cost mentality. And the cost of these errors in the US? 1 trillion dollars per year.

"It has taken a lot to prove to [the medical community] that many of these deaths are not a natural consequence of the underlying disease. They are purely failures of the system." 
- Ashish Jha, MD, Harvard School of Public Health

I have often found that things I initially thought were problems, given the passage of time, were not anything I needed to do something about. The problem fixes itself without my intervention, or I discover that I was wrong, and no problem existed in the first place.

Either way, nothing needed to be done.

The best is when you do have a problem, then wait patiently, and find that the problem fixes itself. It can happen. Often, vehicle issues fall under this category. Linda and I call this "self-fixing", and it has happened often in the vehicles we have owned. Only once have we ever been stranded at the side of the road. At that point it was time to do something.

I have to wonder if self-fixing has something to do with the power of thoughts, quantum mechanics, and the underlying reality of the Universe. What if we are way more powerful than we think?

Or when one has a broken heart. What is to be done? Nothing. Be patient and let time work its magic.

If you have a gash in your skin and you are bleeding all over the place, you should do something about it, and right away. But we do not always need to spring into action for every perceived "problem".

In the right situations, all we need to do is give ourselves permission to do nothing.

May 22, 2017

Simple Living Manifesto

I am living simply in order to learn some truths about the world and myself. I am living simply to oppose the forces of a brutal and violent exploitation of people and planet. I fight with gentleness and kindness born by keeping my expectations realistic and wholesome.

Living a simple life liberates me from the lies and myths of the dominant consumer culture. In stripping my life to the essentials, I take back my birthright as a free human and can share my discoveries with as little interference as possible.

I will rethink everything I have been taught, and remember what I am doing here on this beautiful planet, at this beautiful moment in time. Simplicity is as close to perfection as we can get.

This is why I will continue to maintain a simple life: to eliminate all manufactured distractions, to live slowly and deliberately, to really live and feel. I will not be a cog in their machine and support a dead end way of life. I will not be part of the shopping dead.

I want my life to be an example to others. I want my message to be one of possibilities, freedom, and connection. I want to blow away the unnecessary and replace it with the essential. I want to live and speak freely.

Our success isn’t measured in money, or possessions, or fame. The success game has always been rigged in order to keep us in line and exhibiting culturally appropriate behaviours that support a corrupted and broken system. I may not have much, but am I enjoying life? Am I challenging myself to take advantage of all events to learn and become a better person? Am I living in the moment? Do I feel at peace and harmony? Do I feel the freedom that all of humanity should be enjoying?

I don’t live simply in order to save the world. That is a tall order for one person. I live this way to plumb the depths of reality minus the filter of cultural programming, and belittling propaganda. That will save me. I might be able to help others save themselves. Then, when we reach a critical mass, our simple lives will affect everything.

I have decided that the best possible life comes from tapping into the universal wisdom, from living fearlessly and with the utmost integrity, without apology or explanation. You do not need stuff to do that.

I believe a simple life is armour against a global assault that tries to force us to feel small and insignificant. We are neither. I share this simple living manifesto to inspire, and remind all people of the freedom and joy that can be had when you choose simplicity as your way of life. It represents the path back to an empowered citizenship, connection, and contentment.

A simple life that is materially sparse, but spiritually rich, opens the door to experience life without limits, as it is meant to be lived. Refusing to participate in the destruction that is the modern, consumer dream allows one to return to participating in the creative side of things, to be an artist again. Through making your life your art, the truth will be revealed, and it will be amazing.

Against all odds, we must fight the forces of progress for profit with voluntary simplicity. The time to act is getting shorter every day. The best time to start living a more simple, enjoyable life is now. This very moment.

Get started, and transform your life. In the process, we will transform the world.

May 20, 2017

Seedy Saturday

Old buckets found in a midden on our property, holding radish seed pods.

This weekend has traditionally been the time to plant a garden in most of Canada. Climate change is altering that a bit, with spring weather often coming one or two weeks earlier than usual. Our garden was planted a week ago, so this weekend we are sitting back and watching it germinate. 

While we wait for that magical moment when sprouts reaching for the sun break out of the soil, we are enjoying watching the green and growing garlic sway and play in the wind. We also have a couple of last years kale plants that we are growing for a second season in order to harvest some seeds this fall. 

Mmmm. Seeds. Magical packages of potential. Food for stomach and soul.

A carton of seeds, anyone? Left to right - marigold, radish, summer savoury, cilantro.

Last fall I collected a bunch of different seeds beyond what we needed to save for this year. I kept them around because they were so beautiful that I didn't want to compost them right away. It doesn't seem right to dispose of seeds. 

Any seeds. Ever. 

Today's seed hoarders are tomorrow's seed stores. Plus seeds are all so unique and beautiful in their own right. And many can be eaten - beans, and peas, and squash seeds (lightly salted, and baked with a bit of olive oil) for example.

Come on seeds, we're cheering for you. 

Note: I shouldn't joke about seed hoarding since it could be a potentially harmful situation, like any other hoarding behaviour. See here for a Seed Hoarders Anonymous thread on a gardening website. 

When I visited there, I noticed there was an advertisement for seeds at the top of the page... probably not a good idea. But there are some amazing stories there if you want to quell the urge to buy a bunch of seeds you don't need or can't afford. Free seeds? Well, that's a different story. 

May 17, 2017

Staying At Home

In a consumer society all the good stuff is "out there". The thing to do is go out and get it, whatever it is. Staying home is not recommended. You can't spend money and access the good stuff if you don't go out.

Fear of missing out is one way they pry us out of our comfy nests. If you don't go out, you will miss out. They want us out and about as much as possible. This is because when one goes out, one must spend money.

"Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?
Freedom, or the power over an entire nation? 
A little while alone in your room
will prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given you" 
- Rumi 

Go to a movie. Go out for food. Go to a concert. Go to a bar. Go for coffee. Go for a vacation. Go to town. Go shopping. Go here, go there. Go, go, go. Buy, buy, buy. Repeat.

Don't go to a park, that is free. If you do, buy something to take with you first.

Instead of going out, we should spend more time staying at home and going in. The answers are not "out there". The answers don't cost anything. Freedom is here at home.

Don't be afraid - you aren't missing anything by not going out, and you may gain everything by spending a little time alone in the comfort of your own home.

May 15, 2017

Why Isn't There A Maximum Income?

22K Gold Toilet Paper - $1.3M a roll

There is a lot of talk about providing workers with a minimum income. You know, an income that a person can actually live on. But why isn't there any talk about a maximum income?

Because it would kill innovation and motivation? Wrong. Curious people with their integrity intact would continue on as if money didn't even exist. Science started with an attitude of inquiry and a desire to improve life. Not patents or profit.

People rarely use large profits for good. Money should be seen as a curse beyond a certain point. Too little is not good. Too much is even worse because invariably it will be used in ways not conducive to planetary health.

“Do the very rich suffer from maladjusted conditions that lead them to accumulate more than they could ever need, or are they just greedy and selfish?”    
- Ontario Coalition Against Poverty leaflet

Look at the evidence. The rich over consume to the point of ridiculosity. Does one really need gold plated anything?  The conspicuous consumption and greed of the money hoarders infects everything, leading to social strife and environmental degradation.

Therefore, why not a maximum income?

It would most definitely enable a minimum income for all workers and their families, and avoid the corrosive effects of income inequality, and the struggles of the working poor.

What would be fair at the top end of the wealth spectrum? 1 million/year? 1 Billion/year? A trillion?
How much would be enough?

Research shows that somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000 is the income sweet spot. Any less and life might be a struggle, any more and the extra fails to increase happiness.

That sounds about right, although from personal experience I know that one can get by on much less and be happy and content.

May 14, 2017

Thanks, Moms

The sun rise this morning from our high point in Digby County, Nova Scotia.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Margaret. And to Linda's mom, Belle.

Happy Mother's Day to your mom, (insert name here).

Happy Mother's Day to you, (insert name here), if you are a mom.

And Happy Mother's Day to OUR mother - Gaia.

May 13, 2017

Distressed Bucket For Distressed Chives

Since moving from the west coast in 2014, I have lived on an old potato farm just above the ocean in Nova Scotia. There is an ancient disposal system that comes with a property like this, a sign of the times and the evolution of waste disposal.

Yes, across the field, down  a slight slope, then just into the forest, and one finds several small middens.

Midden is a Swedish word meaning "an old dump for domestic waste", and that is what I came across while exploring the margin of the woods. For someone that loves sourcing found things for free, the midden is a treasure trove of vintage discoveries.

In these piles I have found mostly glass and rusted metal, but in the top-most layers a new material makes its ugly and permanent appearance - plastic. It is the most uninteresting and unattractive stuff in the piles.

I also found a vehicle licence plate from 1954, and that was toward the top of the pile, so the midden may be older than that. Considering the European presence here since the 1600s, it could be much older.

The items that drew my attention were several galvanized metal buckets in various states of breakdown. Some were squished, others rusted through. But they all looked beautiful to me, and I needed something for some stressed out chives planted in an unattractive broken plastic container, left here by the previous renters.

I'm not much of a decorator, but from what I know, distressed is de rigour "whether your style is primitive, modern, or shabby chic".  Even better if you style is like mine: found and free.

Next midden rescue project? A large group of intact vintage canning jars.

May 12, 2017

Hedonism vs Helping

NBA reader JC asked a good question in a comment in response to my post "Living As If The Planet Really Is Collapsing". If we are in a state of collapse, why do anything? This is an excellent question that is probably being asked a lot right now, all around the globe.

Here is my take.

At this point we can do one of two things.

A. Take 60s rock star Jim Morrison's hedonic advice:

I don't know what's gonna happen, man,  but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shit house goes up in flames.

Four years earlier he wrote The End in which he said:

“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? 
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.  
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn, 
And tied her with fences and,  
dragged her down.”

He could obviously see trouble coming, even back then, and made his choice about how to respond - in a typical rock and roll fashion.

Fast forward to 2017, and it seems that many people are choosing the hedonistic route, deciding to get their kicks, and not concern themselves with the consequences.

But when has that ever worked for us? Morrison was dead by 27.

When you choose Option A you will get the same result as any other hedonic pursuit - instant, but short lived gratification, and a further deepening of the problems to which one is responding.

The other option is:

B. Choose to help. Do something to improve the world in spite of evidence which shows it might already be too late, because what if it is not?

Even if it is, choosing B is a more mindful and joyous way to live. Choosing B is not giving up. B is right living and setting limits, even when no one is forcing you to do so. Self-control and delaying gratification leads to lasting happiness and improved feelings of self worth.

It is possible that eventually the problems will be solved. Maybe unlikely, but possible.

Each of us must decide our own response. I have made my choice. It will be interesting to see what everyone else decides as we circle the drain.

May 10, 2017

The Garden Zone

The soil is prepared, and the seeds are out. This week we enter another dimension, and plant the garden.

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of soil and seeds but of creation itself. A journey into a wondrous land whose broad boundaries are that of Nature. Your next stop, the Garden Zone!

We have a raised bed garden, so when I go into the garden, I really go into the garden. Mentally I step into another dimension. Everything else goes away except my shovel, the soil, worms, and unbounded potential.

And the black flies, which are little teachers of keeping one's focus.

The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the Garden Zone could be your journey.

Let's grow together, and allow abundance to reign.

Thank you to Rod Serling and Mother Nature for making this post possible.

May 8, 2017

Living As If The Planet Really Is Collapsing

What if scientists are right and the planet's systems really are under threat of collapse, or are already in a state of collapse? What if humans were the major cause of that?

Based on an evaluation of more than 1,000 previous studies, a new meta-review by an international group of 18 scientists suggests the Earth is perilously close to a tipping point where resource consumption, ecosystem degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth will trigger massive changes in the biosphere. 
- From: Scientists Tip 2025 for Possible Planetary Collapse

How would one live if this were true?

After writing this blog since 2008, and reading over 5000 comments left by readers (often filled with simple living related ideas and links), it is easy for me to riff off a few ideas. More than likely you have a few of your own. Please do share them in a comment below.

Living As If The Planet Is Collapsing

  • no flights
  • driving only when necessary, using a shared car if possible
  • eat a plant based diet
  • live and buy locally
  • conserve energy/resources at home
  • use a laundry line
  • ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation
  • work at a job that provides right livelihood
  • share things with neighbours
  • demand an end to all funding for war
  • go carbon free
  • promote the adoption of a steady state economy (no growth)
  • have smaller families, encourage childlessness
  • live in small homes, possibly shared with several generations
  • grow a garden, the bigger the better
  • support revoking the corporate charter of any company found to harm the environment
  • eat food grown through organic agriculture
  • foster cooperation over competition
  • discourage the accumulation of wealth and conspicuous consumption
  • consume to satisfy needs, not wants
  • enjoy, and be grateful for, every moment we have on this amazing planet
  • be kind

How would one live if the planet were collapsing, putting our very survival at risk?

More like a monk than a millionaire.

“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive. 
With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.” 
- BBC, in announcing the new series Expedition New Earth in which Hawking explains why he thinks humanity needs to find a "Planet B", pronto

May 3, 2017

Protest Art/Zen MashUp

"Your perspective is not the truth."

This post is a mashup of two simple living related seeds that have been weaving through my life for a few years. I think they are a natural fit, so I sowed them together here for your enjoyment in the rich soils of the garden of your mind.

The first is protest art, this time from The Dark Cellars Project. NBA reader, William, made me aware of TDCP, so a shout out to him for turning my attention in this direction.

I am sharing a few of my favourite pieces, but check out the link below to see many more simplicity-provoking artworks by the artists involved.

The project can be found at the most excellent website The Simplicity Collective, co-directed by Dr. Samuel Alexander, an advocate of degrowth, permaculture, and voluntary simplicity.

"I made a call out for artists and graphic designers to be in touch if they wanted to explore ways to use art and image to unsettle the normality of consumer capitalism and provoke thought about alternative ways to live and be. 
The Dark Cellars are an expanding network of oppositional artists, graphic agitators, renegade marketers, and culture jammers more generally who are using art, design, and image to creatively subvert the structures of meaning which entrench consumer culture and carbon capitalism. 
By exploring a new aesthetics of existence, our defining objective is to open up imaginative and cultural space for new ways to live and be – for ourselves, for others, and for the sake of our fragile planet."

- Dr. Samuel Alexander, The Dark Cellars Project

"What you chase consumes you."

The other part of today's simple living/anti-consumer culture/anti-carbon capitalist mashup are Zen related quotes from the Daily Zen, which can be found on Twitter. I do use Twitter occasionally, and when I do, DZ is a big reason why I check in.

All quotes in this post were sourced at DZ.

"I started Daily Zen in 2008 to share quotes pertaining to my meditation practice and self-directed studies of Eastern philosophy. Twitter had just started and it seemed like a clever outlet for the aphoristic wisdom I found in various spiritual texts.  
The goal of these writings is simply to share my reflections with others.  
Remember— the good life is as simple as paying attention."
- Charlie Ambler, @dailyzen

"When people do not ignore what they should ignore, but ignore what they should not ignore, this is ignorance." 
- Chuang-tzu

"May all beings everywhere be happy and free."

- Mangala Mantra

"We're scared of slowing down because we can't admit to ourselves that many of our activities are silly and unnecessary."

"The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in."

- Rumi

"Compassion requires letting go of our own ego."

"Each moment you have a choice— to be grateful or to want something else. Choose gratitude."

May 1, 2017

International Workers' Day

I got this up a little late, but any day is a good day for a general strike. The neo-feudal plantation bosses need to be reminded of where the real wealth is generated - in the tired, callused hands of the workers.

"You load sixteen tons, what do you get?  
Another day older and deeper in debt." 
- Merle Travis, 16 Tons

“If wars are eliminated and production is organized scientifically, it is probable that four hours’ work a day will suffice to keep everybody in comfort.”  
- Bertrand Russell

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is a slavery.”  
- Maxim Gorky

April 30, 2017

NBA Blog - Now Endorsed By Mom

I try not to be motivated by praise or blame. However, in my quest to improve my blog, my self, and my life, feedback is always welcome and appreciated. It was in that vein that I recently received some valuable feedback from one of my most important teachers - my mom.

Recently I was talking to my 80-something, simple living mom on the phone. She told me that she had been visiting Not Buying Anything lately. That alone had me feeling good.

Then she said, "I feel better every time I visit your blog." Oh! Heaven to my ears. Mission accomplished.

Doesn't every son want to help his mother feel better? I know I do, but I never assumed that feeling better might be caused by reading this blog.

Since the inception of NBA, I have tried my hardest to never descend into negativity and cynicism... for too long. Given the subject matter dealt with here, this often feels like a difficult balance to maintain. How does one put a positive spin on the decline of our planet, and the "civilized" world that is causing its demise?

While I am not paying mom for her endorsement (because that would be an advertisement), I thought that maybe her judgment was clouded by her undying love for her second born (out of 5). Would she not say anything, do anything, to help her sons and daughter feel better?

Then this feedback came through in the comment section:

"Linda and Gregg, 

You are free souls and I feel very good to visit NBA." 

It came with this lovely quote from Charles Bukowski, one of my favourite rebel writers.

"The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them."

Mom (and Saffron), that is exactly what I would like all free souls to feel when they visit this blog. It is because of you and other NBA readers, that Linda and I feel better when visiting our own blog. You have us feeling good, very good, to know that you are with us.

Endorsements (non paid) are important bits of feedback. Your support lets me know I am on the right track, tapping in to a bit of the magic that I find while cultivating my simple approach to life, then sprinkling that around the blogosphere.

Things can seem rather unmagical in the world right now, but it would be a mistake to let ones self slide down the slippery sad slope into depression and despair. The world is far too beautiful, mysterious and miraculous for that. Good always out-weighs the not-so-good.

Together we are changing ourselves and our planet, and together we are helping each other maintain sanity in the process. Let it be a cooperative adventure to be savoured and enjoyed. These are precious moments. Thank you for sharing them with us.

And thank you, mom. We feel good when you feel good.

April 28, 2017

First Garlic

We have been off imported garlic for several years thanks to garlic growers in the family (thanks, mom). Garlic by mail has saved us from the low grade bulbs at the grocer. Who knew that Lethbridge, Alberta was a prime garlic growing region?

Seed Garlic. Photo credit: Campbell Garlic

This fall we decided to grow some of our own. We took several large, firm, purple organic bulbs and planted them on a warm fall day in November. We covered them with mulch, tucking them in for the winter.

More have come up since I took this photo.

Warm spring weather allowed the mulch to come off, and look what was happening underneath.

Our first ever garlic crop is up - let the 2017 gardening season begin.

April 26, 2017

Clearing Mental Clutter

It is easier to be happy when you are not surrounded by the confusion and the clutter of life. ~David Baird

Feeling infobese lately? Overwhelmed by faux facts and truthiness? Bundles of bad news? Mental overload is easily achievable in an information age if one is not careful.

Indeed, the most dangerous clutter is not in your home - it is in your head. Mental clutter, like its material counterpart in your home, creates stress. Stress creates illness. No one likes illness.

So how does one go about clearing mental clutter? There are many ways. Here are a few that have worked for me and Linda.


"Self-reflection is the first step to decluttering because it's not about the stuff."
How about stopping the thoughts altogether? One of the main universal methods for clearing mental clutter is meditation. It can be recommended for anyone, and everyone. A few minutes each day of quite time in which one stops the constant flow of outside input, has multiple benefits.

And it is free. All you need is yourself, although a teacher can be beneficial.

Science is even in on it. Findings show that the release of catecholamines and other stress hormones are reduced and parasympathetic activity is increased while subjects are meditating. Spending time in “thoughtless awareness” enables one to dwell in the present moment rather than focus on the unchangeable past or undetermined future.

The result is the excessive stress producing activity of the mind is neutralised while the meditator remains alert and effectively able to navigate life. Peace and compassion remain when the clutter is removed.

Music, Singing, Dancing

“When music and courtesy are better understood and appreciated, there will be no war.”
- Confucius

When I am listening to music and dancing, or playing guitar and singing, or playing guitar, singing and dancing all at the same time, it is impossible to think about anything else. Let the music move you, and the all cares and worries slip away.

Walk in Nature

"Clutter smothers. Simplicity breathes." ~Terri Guillemets

Being in nature is good for the body and soul. It is my main method for closing all the unnecessary tabs open in my brain. When I return home I feel refreshed and uplifted. My mind is still, and I can more easily focus on what is most important.

Give In To Your Creative Yearnings

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Pablo Picasso

We are all creative, despite what some mean teacher may have told you in grade school. The painting above was done when Linda decided to start exploring creativity through watercolour painting. Making art is a naturally immersive activity that replaces fear and doubt, replacing it with a pure flow experience and sense of accomplishment.

Go ahead, pick up the paint brush, or camera, or knitting needles. Cook, bake, build something. Indulge your creative urges - you can do it. It feels great.

Unclutter Something

"There is something immensely therapeutic about clearing your clutter. The reason is that while you are clearing things on an external level, there is a corresponding change going on internally too.... Being clear of clutter is one of the greatest aids I know to manifesting the life you want, and it is absolutely essential if you truly want to know joy and happiness in your life. "~Karen Kingston

Meditation does not have to be static. One can get into a meditative state of mind through movement. Might as well make that movement meaningful and do something that you have been putting off.

Straighten a drawer, clear out a closet, do the laundry or washing up. When you conduct your activity, do it with all your being. Remember to breathe.

Having strategies to clear mental clutter is more important than those that keep your physical possessions in check. Both can be difficult, at first, but both are worthwhile to do. An uncluttered mind is conducive to an uncluttered home, and vice versa.

Choose things that appeal most to you. The important thing is to slow down and cut out all distractions. This could mean any of the suggestions above, or a long, relaxing bath, disconnecting the phone, TV, and Internet, yelling "Stop!", sitting quietly with a kitty in you lap, or taking in deep, cleansing breaths.

You are on your way to better mental, physical and spiritual health. There is no better way of improving yourself and the world around you.

How do you clear your mental clutter?

April 23, 2017

There Is No Planet B

We should quit looking for planets to move to, and fix the one we've got.

Quit something. Start something. DO Something! Anything. Please. There is no Planet B.

Make every day Earth Day. Your children will thank you.

April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day 2017

From: The Earth Day Network

Earth Day 2017’s Campaign is Environmental & Climate Literacy 
Education is the foundation for progress. We need to build a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. We need to empower everyone with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection. 
Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs 
This Earth Day, gather with your community for an Environmental & Climate Literacy Teach-In or another project focused on education. 

This is also a day to show your support for science-based decision making. Marches are planned globally.

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.
-  www.marchforscience.com 

Happy Earth Day to all Not Buying Anything readers. We are grateful for your support for this blog, and for all things green.

Go Green, and spread the word. Our survival depends on it.

 “We need intense activism along with structural analysis and the building of alternative, sustainable lifestyles. We need wisdom, reverence and creativity that we pull up from the depths of our uncertainty. Author Joanna Macy calls it ‘the Great Turning.’ It’s a shift in consciousness that aligns social healing, economic fairness and an end to war with environmental sustainability. And the time to make it happen is running out. We can’t afford to lose another decade, or another twenty minutes.”
-  Robert Koehler

April 19, 2017

The Gods Want Us To Live Simply

Symbols from the 12 World religious movements:

Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism
Christianity, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Islam
Jainism, Judaism, Contemporary Paganism (pentacle), Shinto
Sikhism, Taoism

The gods must be crazy. They want us to live simply. I wonder if they know something Consumers don't?

Pick a god, any god. It doesn't matter which. Chances are that simplicity is part of their gig. Any historical spiritual teacher has taught us through their own example that a simple, modest life is the way to go.

No religion I know of asks devotees to work until they drop from a heart attack just so they can accumulate stuff, entertainments, and luxurious experiences.  Any that did would not have devotees for very long.

Nor would it have a functional planet on which to worship.

No, the gods want us to live a sustainable lifestyle for without people, gods go extinct.

Pick a god, any god. Of those invented so far, all are in unanimous agreement when it comes to advice on simple living - it is the only way to go.

Why aren't more followers heeding that message?

One does not need to go far to find examples from the world's major religions that support living simply.


"I can say that the most beautiful and natural expressions of joy which I have seen in my life were in poor people who had little to hold on to.

We know how unsustainable is the behavior of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.

Don’t let yourselves get swallowed up by a society of consumption and empty appearances."

- Pope Francis


"We have become wrapped up in the fast-paced society of today, which is really unnecessary. Can we not live a happy life without overpriced clothing and basically a surplus of everything? Can we not live a happy life without making sure we go out every weekend, just because it’s the weekend and we have to go out because everyone does? Can we not be simple and just take the time to realize that we are the ones creating our own problems?"

- from Islamic Insights


"Live a simple and harmonious life with nature and people"

- basic teaching of Shinto


Asceticism in Hinduism — restraint in consumption and simplicity in living — represents a pathway
toward moksha (liberation), which treats the earth with respect.

 “Take what you need for your sustenance without a sense of entitlement or ownership.”

- Tain tyakten bhunjitha


Aparigraha (non-acquisition): Keep your requirements and possessions to the minimal.

Jains follow a disciplined lifestyle meant to minimize harm. They eat a pure vegetarian diet, use  minimal resources, do not waste water, electricity, food etc, and give away surplus items they possess.

Whether one is religious or not, living simply is the only way to go on planet Earth. Everything we see and know backs up this claim, perhaps more now than ever before.

The way to peace, joy, and harmonious living is through simplicity.

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