Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Season for Humility

Tis the season for giving. The intention of giving is good, but today's execution of giving is not. In a world of more, we also expect more. Thus, needing bigger stockings.

Last week, I went to visit and bring soup to my grandmother. Nathan and I sat down to visit with her for a while. She is 92 years old and grew up near St. Cloud in the great depression. Her memory is amazing and it was so humbling to talk to her and share her stories.

We talked about our homestead/transition activities of gardening, storing, poultry and canning. In hearing us talk about these activities that brought out many stories from her and also more questions from us. 

We heard of stories of her father growing potatoes for the family, her killing a gopher with a rock, and pumping water from the well in the winter. They did not have running water any time of year. First silly question, "Grandma, what did you do for baths in the winter? Did you need to boil the water?". She looked confused, so we thought she did not hear us. We repeated and then she said "We didn't bathe in the winter. Sponge baths, maybe". 

On to the second silly question. Her mother would keep the fire going in their wood stove to heat their house in the winter and her brothers would walk along the railroad to pick up coal that fell off the trains to add to their fires. I then asked her if she received any coal in her stockings. She gave me a blank look and said "we didn't have any stockings". Well, that made me feel like a spoiled millennial and also grateful yet . I asked if she received any Christmas presents. She said her father wanted to buy them presents one year when they had extra, but her mother said "no, they will just break them anyway". She did say she remembers receiving oranges one year for Christmas.

These stories reminded me that we really expect too much especially during this season. I saw that sign in a coffee shop and was rather disappointed that we "need" bigger stockings to be filled with more things. 

Stories show the strength of ones that came before us, that we can survive with less, much less. They also humble us and give perspective in our life. Provide encouragement towards the goals of transition. Transition towards less. As I continue to transition towards a simpler life, I find more meaning in my grandmothers stories. More connections to my family, community, fauna and flora.

There is a reason this is a season for giving, family, love, thanksgiving, etc. After the summer provides a bounty of goods, we are to give thanks and share our bounty. It is a season to be grateful for what we have been provided and what we already have. We have not reached this season alone, nor have we provided only for ourselves. A season for thanksgiving, not a season of expectations. 

We should be thankful for stockings. This is a season for thanks, community, and celebration.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Some Sane Reflective Responses to Acts of Terror from Transition-ers.

These ideas are from a larger article by Erik Lindberg Posted on Transition Milwaukee Blog.  Read the entire post here: .

1.        What we really need to do is change the way we live and stop consuming at a rate five times the global average.  Too often this also falls into the “political wish-list category” as we make bland and effectual calls for someone to “get us off of oil.”  But it doesn’t have to be relegated to the wish list.  We can join together and find collective ways to create strong and resilient communities that share, reuse, and live far more simply than we do now.  We can avoid discretionary air travel, live in smaller homes, and buy fare fewer new things.  We can get out our bikes, walk, and grow some vegetables in our yards.  In fact, we can turn our whole yards into vegetable gardens and orchards.  Our high rate of consumption is not caused by someone else.  It is us, and we need to take action and responsibility of our own accord.

2.       We need to apologize as sincerely and vocally as possible for what we have caused.  If we don’t have any good venues for the apology, then it is our job to create them.  If we are truly sorry, we will find a way to have our apologies heard.

3.       We could come together with our neighbors, our charitable groups, our religious communities, and adopt refugee families.  There is no gesture more powerful than inviting people into your home.  We talk to our children about taking responsibility for our actions, and our leaders blow overtime about a culture of responsibility.  Let’s actually live responsibly and add to it a culture of love and caring, by sponsoring families in need.  Let’s bring those looking for a new start in America to our cities and towns and at our expense.  Let’s find housing, help with employment, create a welcoming committee and provide space for people to tell their stories and describe their lives.  If we want to “send a message to those who hate us,” here’s a new one:  Come to our homes, share our food, allow us to wash your feet after your long journey.   They’ve heard the message our leaders, without a blink, have been sending.  Now it’s time for we the people to send an open-hearted, vulnerable, message of love and solidarity.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

7 Things You Should Know About Permaculture

  1. Permaculture is a Design System That Uses Ecosystem Principles to Meet Human Needs.  
  2. Permaculture Regards Humans as Part of the Solution.
  3. Permaculture is a Way to Reframe the World.
  4. Permaculture is a Metric to Define Sustainability. 
  5. Permaculture is a Systems Approach to Design.
  6. Permaculture is a Set of Solutions.
  7. Permaculture is a Bunch of Disciplines Rolled Into One.

See the following blog post for more information.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Degrowth Defined

What follows is an excerpt from the keynote address given by Samuel Alexander at the LOCAL LIVES, GLOBAL MATTERS conference.  The entire talk titled WHAT IS DEGROWTH? ENVISIONING A PROSPEROUS DESCENT is available at the following link:

What would life be like in a degrowth society?

In a degrowth society we would aspire to localise our economies as far and as appropriately as possible. This would assist with reducing carbon-intensive global trade, while also building community and resilience in the face of an uncertain and turbulent future. We must ride our bikes more and fly less.

Through forms of direct or participatory democracy we would organise our economies to ensure that everyone’s basic needs are met, and then redirect our energies away from economic expansion. This would be a relatively low-energy mode of living that ran primarily on renewable energy systems.

As noted earlier, renewable energy cannot sustain an energy-intensive global society of high-end consumers. A degrowth society embraces the necessity of “energy descent”.

We would tend to reduce our working hours in the formal economy in exchange for more home-production and leisure. We would have less income, but more freedom. Thus, in our simplicity, we would be rich.

Wherever possible, we would grow our own organic food, water our gardens from water tanks, and turn our neighbourhoods into edible landscapes as the Cubans have done in Havana. As my friend Adam Grubb so delightfully declares, we should ‘eat the suburbs’, while supplementing urban agriculture with food from local farmers’ markets.

More broadly, we must turn our homes and communities into places of sustainable production, not unsustainable consumption. This involves increasing self-sufficiency and reskilling ourselves and our communities to regain practical knowledge that is on the cusp of being lost.

We would become radical recyclers and do-it-yourself experts. This would partly be driven by the fact that we would simply be living in an era of relative scarcity, with reduced discretionary income.

But human beings find creative projects fulfilling, and the challenge of building the new world within the shell of the old promises to be immensely meaningful, even if it will also entail times of trial. The apparent scarcity of goods can also be greatly reduced by scaling up the sharing economy and the non-monetary economy, which would also enrich our communities.

We do not need to purchase so many new clothes. Let us mend or exchange the clothes we have, buy second-hand, or make our own. In a degrowth society, the fashion and marketing industries would quickly wither away. A new aesthetic of sufficiency would develop, where we creatively re-use and refashion the vast existing stock of clothing and materials, and explore less impactful ways of producing new clothes.

Degrowth sees ugliness in the clothes dryer and elegance in the clothesline. As Leonardo da Vinci once wrote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

One day, we might even live in cob houses that we build ourselves, but over the next few critical decades the fact is that most of us will be living within the poorly designed urban infrastructure that already exists. We are hardly going to knock it all down and start again. Instead, we must ‘retrofit the suburbs’, as David Holmgren argues. This would involve doing everything we can to make our homes more energy-efficient, more productive, and probably more densely inhabited. We need to redesign our communities based on permaculture principles, nourishing the earth that nourishes us.

This is not the eco-future that we are shown in glossy design magazines featuring million-dollar “green homes” that are prohibitively expensive. Degrowth offers a more humble – and I would say more realistic – vision of a sustainable future.

In short, degrowth means living lives of frugality, moderation and material sufficiency – but lives that are rich in their non-materialistic dimensions.