Thursday, July 31, 2008


While groaning over yet another Things You Can Do To Save The Earth list that included biofuels, compact fluorescents, and recycling (with scant information about living habitats), we decided to start a list of what we think are practical things that really actually do make a difference. It's not about buying the correct greenwashed eco-sealed very expensive products and services, at least not for us. Here tis.

1. Plant trees, or allow them to grow. We've had deforestation for 10,000 years--imagine a planet of forest to suck up the co2 of the future. Plant food, fuel, and fiber (or allow them to grow). Especially plant up (pimp out!) concrete or its bio-alternative, the lawn. Take only for your need and allow the rest to return to whence it came.

2. Don't give anyone a reason to manufacture anything (including food).

3. Restore topsoil by composting everything you can, including paper and cardboard (topsoil tops oil!).

4. Travel under your own power (or that of your draft animals).

5. Share, help people who need it, and appreciate what you have and are given.

6. Inhabit your place attentively.

7. Spend time, not money.

This is by no means a complete list, and we'd appreciate it if any of y'all would like to add to it. I think one of the most important things is to think in terms of systems. How do your actions fit into the big picture? If you buy a lot of useless and cheap plastic crap from China, you are feeding into this system of slavery and ecological destruction. This is a very real ramification of your actions. If you are into spending money instead of time, same thing.

We are, unfortunately, born into this system that doesn't work very well, at least for humanity (Leviathan, as it has been called, seems to work well for...machines & the very rich maybe). It is hard to think of different ways to be and live that make any sense at all (and often these things are not legal, like gray water or backyard chickens, for instance). If it makes you feel better, call it a paradigm shift. We're entering new territory here, which can be frightening, but I also find exhilarating. I can imagine a new way of life that does not reinforce the work-consume-die way of life on a daily basis with each commute and latte. And I'm interested in pursuing it.

And back to systems thinking... This is also the basis for permaculture, the design of sustainable (more than a buzzword!) human habitats. In accountancy terms, we can address our externalities--where they come from & where they are going. This can really open our eyes to the complicity we have in ruining our habitat and our humanity. Also our eyes can open up to closing the open loops of materials input and materials output, putting the freedom and responsibility back into our own hands. What a concept! A return to the local, the small.

I'm not too worried about the earth. It seems that although we are trashing the place, in a few million years this planet can undo our concrete havoc. But humanity, that is a different thing altogether. If we are going to save humanity, it will happen when we save ourselves, when we make up our minds to not live in this dysfunctional culture any longer, and strike out on a new path of our own making. Freedom and responsibility, common sense, community.

I mean, what are the important things in life? It's not our job titles, not our cars, our vacations and ivy league schools, not our fuckin' khakis as Tyler Durden would remind us. It's the human relationships we have, the community binds that enliven us, that are what is important. To me, that is what being human means. To care deeply, about place and people, to carry forth this tradition in the minds and deeds of our children and grandchildren, to inhabit every day and feel the beauty of it.

Honestly, I feel kind of fucked being born into this screwed up world, as much as I did being born in to a dysfunctional family. It's hard getting out of that, adjusting your vision so that you can see what no one talks about. But I DO NOT want to pass this bullshit on to my kid, neither the dysfunctional family life, nor a dysfunctional humanity and ecosystem. I know I can't fix it all. But I have freed my soul, liberated myself, found something else to do that matters. This is a place and a community worth caring about, and I feel blessed. I feel blessed, and I am thankful.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

the welfare state

We're on welfare. We receive a link card for groceries from stores, a medical card for our insurance, and payments to our natural gas and electric company for our fossil fuel use. I am grateful for the assistance we receive, because it takes a lot of worry off my shoulders (while trying to seek independence, believe me, I see the irony).

We will be a week late getting August's food assistance funds, if we're lucky. Our state's end of the paperwork is running "at least" 30 days behind. Even though my paperwork was sent in before the deadline, we have to wait until we can be processed. I am glad we are into diy food. I know a lot of people just scrape by at the end of the month (it's scrounging time here). We still have a lot of beans in the pantry, a half gallon of maple syrup, food ripening in the garden, plus we have no shame in eating weeds. Although my daughter won't eat "real" food, we have enough money to afford a week of food for her from our limited cash.

Medical care is... ridiculous. We get free medical care from the medical card, but hardly anyone accepts the card. Sick as can be? It's a two-week wait for an appointment at the clinic. The ER has to accept you, though. Good thing we're rarely sick.

I called the clinic today to make dentist appointments for us all, but they only take appointments on Fridays. In fact, they don't take phone appointments, but only make appointments in person on Fridays. The receptionist told me they get about 200 phone calls per hour on Fridays, and they're too busy taking appointments for people who are in the office to answer the phone. I guess I will go back to not worrying too much about my professional dental care. I think there may be a need for dentists for low-income people--maybe we can convince Fidel's little brother to send some Cuban dentists to America.

This is just one of those frustrating and annoying things that start me complaining. Yes, I know, I can always just quit applying for welfare and my troubles will be over. Believe me, I'm counting on it, especially as the relying on the state becomes less and less a certainty. Sometimes I think welfare is about the only reason poor people en masse put up with this way of life, living in civilization, with its reinforcing feedback loops of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer. Community, self-reliance, yeah, those sound much nicer than asshole bureaucracy at the brink of collapse.

Monday, July 28, 2008


The US debt is now $9.5 trillion, or $31,500 for every man, woman & child in our country. This was as of April 2008, and I just read that we have another half billion now to add to it. I don't even know what 9 trillion means--all the dandelions in Sangamon County? in Illinois? It's so vast. Definitely not a number for someone whose household earns yearly $3000 per capita. Even 3000 is a huge number--all that wasted paper & the time it took to acquire it.

I wonder what our government would look like if it lived within its means. I imagine there'd be no war, much less military, much less pork, maybe even less money lost through the pentagon's red tape. Maybe we'd build places worth caring about rather than giant concrete boxes (tombs). Maybe they'd encourage us to garden instead of shop, and care about each other rather than watch tv.

I've been reading a great Curtis White book, The Spirit of Disobedience. I love it. It blew my mind, although I don't think I learned of any new concepts or ideas. It was great to see all in one place all the ideas that have been floating around my thinkisphere for daysmonthsyears now, all synthesized in one place with such frankness. Loved it. Felt like I had been to a really good sermon, and felt fired up & righteous. (But not that kind of righteous.)

We also listened to some sermons on YouTube from Brother James Howard Kunstler. That guy cracks me up with his snarky reality tunnel, his views on the car and modern architecture, the suburbs and our governments. I walked the streets of the city today thinking of myself in an outdoor room, and realizing walking when I felt comfortable and when I felt blech. Interesting research and experience. It's a quality of life issue I never much contemplated before.

It's hot in Illinois, but not really. Really it's July & it should be in the 90's every day, with 100 degrees every once in a while, just to make us really appreciate how cool 90 degrees feels. I have woken up wrapped in a blanket every morning this summer, except one. We got more rain last night. According to my cocorahs data collection efforts, it's rained about 33 inches this year, and our normal yearly average is about 37-38 inches. Everything is green and lush, the garden & the weeds. It's been crazy "abnormal" weather ever since I started gardening and paying attention. What gives? Is normal weather a hoax, or have we begun rapid climate destabilization like the scientists and economists are always raving about.

A lot of things are blooming right now, sunflowers (many kinds), rudbeckia, purple coneflowers & pale purple coneflowers, daisies, cilantro, squash, tomatoes (big, plump, and light green), milkweed (with its tremendously sweet almond smell), bee balm, nasturtiums, potatoes (will they ever be done so I can dig them up?), flaming pink hibiscus, dame's rocket, calendula, burdock, wild mustard, bachelor's buttons, day lilies, yarrow, tansy, chicory, woody nightshade, white clover, dianthus, cosmos, catmint, purple clover and a few unknowns. The few plums are turning orange, and I'm chomping at the bit for the tomatoes to turn red and the potatoes vines to die off. The squash still have not succumbed to what always kills them off, and a couple of volunteer spaghetti squash are hanging off the vines which have trellised themselves to the tomato cages. Talk about blessings!

We're (me & K) reading a novel called Victory Garden right now, set in world war 2 in a small town in Kansas. It's an interesting book, full of edumacation, but I enjoy being K's interpreter. No government spin when we're talking about bombing people or victory gardens and rationing. It's refreshing, though, to read of back when we were a tough people who could sacrifice willingly for our fellow human beings to have a little more comfort (for "our boys"). Now we're just encouraged to shop, putting our futures and a war or two on our credit cards. Our kids and grandkids won't mind!

I read on wiki that:
"As of April 2008, the total U.S. federal debt was approximately $9.5 trillion[2], about $31,600 per capita (that is, per U.S. resident). Of this amount, debt held by the public was roughly $5.3 trillion.[3] If, in addition, unfunded Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, etc. promises are added, this figure rises to a total of $59.1 trillion."

It seems that this is getting ridiculous. And when you get a ridiculous amount of debt, so ridiculous that it cannot ever be paid, what happens? It might be time for the Great Contraction, the down slide of the bell graph, the paying of the piper, the don't dish it out if you cain't take it economic reality. It seems as long as we have plastic in our wallets, we don't much care about what we're doing or why, and how it affects everyone and everything else in the world. We live in cities built for machines, and eat food produced by machines and chemicals. Screens educate and occupy the time of us and our children. Phillip K. Dick was a mad genius, and he said that the one thing that separates us from robots is that we have the ability to say no.

I planted my victory garden, and I have achieved victory for my spirit and soul, my family and community. I do not feel constrained or rutted in a depressed state. I feel nothing but hope and excitement for our future. No matter what the statistics of nation and climate, I know that living in a community is what brings me joy, being fully present in my daily life, spending time with people, rather than money with machines, communing with non-pavement. All these things enrich my life, make it worth living, in a place worth caring about.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

delerium and delight

I'm glad I'm not infatuated with Wal-Mart and driving. I'm glad I'm not dependent on a "real" job. I'm glad I don't always need more. I'm glad I'm comfortable with extreme temperatures and muscle fatigue and germs and physical discomfort. I'm glad I can walk, a long way, and climb stairs. I'm glad I have plump green tomatoes in the garden (more glad in a week or two when they're ripe. I am glad I know how to and am eager to eat weeds. I can adapt.

It's crazy reading this screen news, thinking about all the data coming in, floating around, and the so-called rational decisions and outlooks that can be extrapolated from the computer models that fluctuate rapidly, trying to predict even crazier feedback loops. It's hard trying to plan for the future. I mean, do we keep living here paying our mortgage, trying to piece together a li'l homestead in the hood, or should we abandon it, right now?!

I keep thinking that we will need access to land in the future, once we have put in permanent crops on this 1/4 acre., needing access to fruit and nut trees, and probably pasture of some sort. Of course, there are plenty of abandoned lots, and even at $600, are within our means, at least after tax time. What we need most of all are people, people who get it, and can act on it. The city provides some irritation with antiquated zoning laws, although in our blighted part of town, not really. If it wanted to be a giant pain, the city could be.

Which brings me to what I was thinking about, junk. I grew up solidly in white trash. I spent most of my childhood living with my grandparents, or near them, and most often we lived in formerly abandoned housing. My grandparents lived through the Depression, poor as can be, and were poor all their lives. The got electricity five years before I was born (in 1968).

Stuff was hard to come by, so when you came by it, you kept it, even if it wasn't something you could use any time soon. At the height of my grampa's collecting junk, we had nine barely working cars (never money to put gas in them), a little tin can camper, an old trailer workshop, two motorcycles, a truck with a camper shell (the good old days!), and piles and piles and piles of stuff. My grampa lived in a really old house with 5 or 6 bedrooms, and they were filled with junk. It was piled all up around the yard.

All entirely useful junk, to someone, sometime. Much different than this plastic stuff that breaks constantly. There were always spare parts for anyone, always starter cars, prom dresses, and baby clothes for the dozens of cousins and their friends. It was given without payment. Always stuff to trade for other, more immediately useful or highly sought-after stuff. It was treasured, from the thick 78's, to the national geographic books, to the horse blanket safety pins, the treadle sewing machine, the quilting frame, the organ and the piano, the furniture, the clothing. It was an adventure. Most of it eventually got pitched. It's probably still sitting in a landfill, everything that didn't sell at auction.

Which brings me to our neighborhood. We have useful stuff piled up in our yard, all waiting for additional hands, money or time. Our neighbors have stuff, especially if you get a glimpse of their back yards behind their fences or double wide garages that they never park in. I get the feeling that most of this stuff is cast-off, rescued from curbs & dumpsters (ours included). It's all useful, to someone, somehow.

It makes me think of the old days of the city dump, where garbage pickers went through each fresh haul, looking for repairable things, and things to recycle and reuse, like rags, bones, and food waste. (Food waste was boiled up and sold off for grease, fertilizer or hog food.) It may not sound like much, but it was more practical than the patented american method, of adding a bunch of toxins into products that are quickly thrown into landfills to leach into ground water, and take theoretically millions of years to biodegrade.

It seems like thinking things through a little better, challenging our known assumptions and our rational delusions, er, conclusions, might be at hand. It might be time to think of another kind of system we put into place with the actions of each day of our lives, one that does not involve mutually assured destruction (if not for us, then for our descendants). It might be time to look at our inputs and outputs, and be aware of the consequences of our actions.

It's hard being in this global dysfunctional relationship, and not being able to talk about it. It might be time to use our ginormous brains, our vivid imaginations, and our remarkable ability to adapt. It might be time to think about what is really important to us, our friends and families, our ability to enjoy ourselves and our surroundings. Nothing is nicer than laughing with your kid, hanging out with the plants you are about to consume (to literally incorporate!), to watch the clouds chase the sky on a breezy day, to see a woman give birth, to watch bees and bugs. This is everyday life, and it is delightful.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

we declare independence

We declare independence

from the institutions:
from schooling, which has nurtured obedience and eradicated natural human curiosity and adaptation;
from religion, which has declared immoral natural human desires, while perpetuating mass murder and a clearcutting of the kaleidoscope of human cultures;
from law, never justice, a facade behind which the guilty wealthy hide while persecuting the poor and of color;
from corporations that colonize our life's time, consuming the living world as fast as the machines can sterilize and process it into long-abiding toxicity, enslaving us in hard labor of body and soul, inculcating us into this bizarre cult and its inhumane rituals.

What are we, if not humanity? We are a part of something bigger than us. We are connected, rooted to the life that surrounds us, no matter how much we try to blot it out with pavement and plastics.

We declare our independence from this scientifically rational destructive culture, with its mindless insatiable driven consumption. The empty part of us that desires to be filled will never be content with working at the office or cash register, and shopping at Wal-Mart (even a brainwashed eco-friendly one). Life can be transformed into dollars in our consensus reality, but never back again.

We desire our liberty, our ability to grow unimpeded with the rest of humanity. We desire a return to providing for ourselves, shaking off the false security and corresponding overwhelming burden of civilization. We desire a return to the freedom of the whole world. Our "right" to purchase the destruction of humanity is make-believe, in addition to the heinous outcome. Open-ended loops of inputs and outputs result in the unfortunate destruction of humanity ourselves.

What are we thinking?

We seek our lives, our liberty, and our pursuit of contentment with everyday life. We desire a relationship, intense and intimate, from within and without, indescribable with mere words. We desire to feel human once again, a desire to feel it with all of humanity, with all living things. We realize it, and we will make it real.