Tag Archive: simple life

Shaun Chamberlain, the Brit with the best darn title for a post-industrial blog on the whole darn internet, Dark Optimism, has an important reminder for anyone who thinks that sitting this one out is an option.

We cannot not change the world, whatever any of us choose to do. And as we change it, it changes us. And as it changes us, we change it. We Are All Activists.

Since there’s clearly no use in avoiding it, we might as well examine the options and get proactive with our activism. So here’s Dimitri Orlov on the roads most often traveled to “change”:

Any reform of a complex system, such as our existing one, involves further investment in social complexity through a wide variety of costly initiatives. And here’s the problem: there is no longer either the money or the energy for such initiatives. The default is to just let it collapse, but such an outlook, perfectly reasonable though it is, is generally not regarded as optimistic enough.

During the sustainability movement of the 1970s, optimistic, reform-minded expositions seemed useful; now they are starting to seem like compulsive anxiety coping behaviors: knock three times on wood, throw a pinch of salt over the left shoulder, mention sustainability and renewables.

So where does this leave us? I agree with Orlov on both counts. None of those approaches, incremental change without systemic change, nihilism or blind faith, seem to be producing any results.

If you do believe that there is something decidedly off about our system, what are you supposed to do about it. Emotional responses like fist pounding, ranting and chanting, are often unavoidable, and equally unproductive.

The Net Positive path offers up “Forced Obsolescence” as a profoundly simple yet effective alternative. The idea is to find ways to just Go Around the flailing behemoth of the terminally ill Industrialized-Globalized model of society. Leave them behind as you transition your own life without “asking permission” by wasting time on policy change.

The major problem with expending your energy working for policy change, is that it requires a fair and functional democracy to have an impact or even happen. Between campaigns that cost a billion dollars, $3.5 billion in lobbying last year alone, problematic electronic voting machines, corporations considered people under the law that use cash as their “free speech”, and a disinterested, anesthetized populous, democracy is becoming a fading memory at all but the most local level in this country.

Therein lies the problem and the solution. We still have our local communities, bastions of resilience in a world run amok. It is here that we can take our stand and walk right past the corporatocracy. It will require an open mind, a willingness to see change as a scenario where things improve rather than one of loss. It will require us to back away from our screens once in a while and actually interact with each other, on the ground, in the flesh, at the town hall or the farmers market. Forced Obsolescence means voluntarily relinquishing our addictions to the unsustainable outputs of our industrialized production model in order to make them disappear.

But we won’t even really see them disappear. We’ll already be facing forward, partnering with each other, walking into the human-scale future of our own design. We’ve done it before!

Take the “vote-with-your-$$” to the next level and vote with your life. And don’t waste too much time worrying about whether your own little choices in your own little life really even matter to the giant problems of the world. Not only are they effective, they are the only thing in the world you can actually control.

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to oppose injustice by signing a petition, screaming your head off at a rally, or otherwise bemoaning the horrible atrocities perpetrated by banks, corporations and governments every day than it is to change something, anything in your own life.

Don’t forget that there is no such thing as a passive, Net Neutral life. Every activity equates to an energy transaction with the world at large. Your very existence has an effect on the world whether you agree or not. So if you’re not helping the situation, you are by definition hurting it. It is the height of hypocrisy to practice arm-chair activism, preach to your friends and whine to your lover if you’re not willing to stop contributing to injustice with your own lifestyle choices. But if you’re not willing to translate your feelings, values, hopes and fears into actions, you need to question whether they really truly matter to you at all.


And did I mention that it’s all free and available to download immediately! The one caveat is the usual, give us your email address and we’ll give you the world. In this case it would appear to be worth it. This is an absolute treasure trove of information on all things self-sufficient and anyone with even a whiff of an interest in creating a homestead capable of providing something more than a yard needs to check this out.

It’s both the overview and the specific. There are one to five page briefs and checklists on a range of subjects from animal husbandry, gardening, and alternative power to blacksmithing, home brewing (complete with a few tempting recipes) and beekeeping. There are immense encyclopedic reference on disciplines like herbal healing and home wine-making. And then there’s the dozens of other reference books.

With these texts alone (and their extensive accompanying diagrams and plans) you could just about have a complete homestead up and running and absolutely off the grid. I haven’t explored too much farther into the site yet, but it looks like there’s also a forum and store. They are based in Australia though, so shipping stateside might be prohibitive.

Do it for security or do it for fun, but get outside and greet the spring armed with one (or ten) of these plans and give yourself the gift of a resilient garden, a productive beehive, a new chicken coop, a hydro-electric power generator, a windmill, a composting toilet, a goat fence, a new shed……….

photo from eartheasy.com

This is an article about how to actually clean your home. For the purposes of clarity, let’s all get on the same page about what a clean house really is, and what it is not.

Coating a surface in a layer of chemicals and calling it clean won’t suffice in a Net Positive home. You may succeed in killing every microbe in sight, both helpful and harmful ones, but you’ll probably also damage yourself in the process. We too are made of organic matter, and it may surprise you to know that the majority of the mass in our bodies is not in fact human cells but the same types of microbes (bacteria, fungi etc) killed by the harmful chemicals in most of the formulas you find at the store. You do the math.
As you innocently clean your home with the best of intentions, you may actually be creating unsafe levels of indoor air pollution, a problem that some estimates indicate is responsible for $6 billion in costs to society ranging from medical bills to sick days. This indoor pollution can compromise your immune system, lead to allergic reactions and over time even birth defects, cancers and a host of other illnesses. And not just in us modern, industrialized, western folks, we’re now finding levels of synthetic chemicals in the breast milk of Inuit women so high that the FDA would categorize it as hazardous waste unfit for human consumption.
Dupont assured us that we could expect “better living through chemistry”, and we jumped at the promise of longer lives, free from the illnesses brought on by pathogens in our environment who were no match for our potent chemical brews. As time has passed, evidence has mounted that these chemical are likely doing more harm than good. It just takes a cursory glance at the paragraphs of bold warning labels and fine print covering the containers to see that something might be amiss.

Even more important that cleanliness in a home environment is safety. We want to believe that our home, if nowhere else, is a place of security where no harm can come to us. In reality, our greatest exposure to toxic chemicals happens in our own homes, from products we ourselves willing purchase and use.

There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 different synthetic chemicals in use across the   e globe. We would probably like to believe that there is someone in a lab somewhere verifying that these substances are at the very least not harmful to humans. According to the Government Accountability Office in 2005 “EPA does not routinely asses existing chemicals, has limited information on their health and environmental risks, and has issued few regulations controlling such chemicals.” The EPA actually does not conduct safety tests, but instead relies on the manufacturers to provide this information. About 15% of chemicals used ever have reports filed on their safety.

Yet, even with the inadequate testing that we currently have, there is still conclusive evidence that many, if not most, of these chemicals lead to serious illness in humans. This is all to say nothing of the effects these chemicals have on the environments outside our homes. We can’t ignore the fact that anything applied to the inside of our homes eventually finds its way out into the water and air that we share with all the other living things on the planet.

So how many of these chemicals might be lurking in your home. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty and peel the layers of this rotting onion, the book “The Hundred Year Lie” by Randall Fitzgerald is your best friend. This treasure trove of information is so meticulously researched and detailed you’ll be an expert yourself when you’ve finished it. Don’t be scared off by this painstakingly comprehensive book, at 257 it’s amazingly readable for something so informative.

Now if it’s solutions you’re looking for, I recently picked up a diminutive little tome called “The Naturally Clean Home” by Karyn Siegel-Maier. It was smiling up at me from the rack at my local market and I couldn’t help but flip through. Do not be fooled by it’s size, this book is loaded with 150 recipes/ formulas and how-to instructions for every kind of cleaning job you can imagine and some you couldn’t.

My favorites so far are the Lemon Blast surface cleaner (great in the kitchen,) the Herbal Disinfectant with borax (keeps the bathroom fresh as a spring breeze), and the Herbal Scouring Formula (actually makes cleaning the tub less awful). There are formulas for everything from automatic dishwasher detergent to laundry detergent and stain solutions for every mess. There are about ten inexpensive and easily accessible ingredients and a handful of helpful essential oils that combine in various ways to make these 150 priceless (but purse friendly) formulas. For less than the cost of some of the store-bought cleaning products out there, the book itself is a bargain too!

No discussion of the safety issues associated with cleaning our homes is complete without mentioning the original bible on the subject, “Home Safe Home” by Debra Lynn Dadd. Originally published in the mid ‘80’s and thoroughly expanded and updated over time, this classic is well worth the shelf space.

As with any recommendations, be sure to follow your instincts and research your options. You are the ultimate guardian of your environment, we are just here to help bring critical information to your attention. Where you go from here is entirely up to you!

Photos courtesy of organicconsumers.org, cathysparkle.com, blissfullycomestic.com 

Simple Pleasures

A pleasure seeker might most often be thought of as a lover of the finer things in life. That is, the ones we have all come to accept as finer; wine, chocolate, single malt scotch, cashmere, sandy beaches lapped by warm seas and exotic travel of any kind really are a few that come to mind. I’m sure no one wants to raise a serious objection to any of those pleasures, but in their pursuit we sometimes forget about the simpler things that can bring as much or more satisfaction.

For example, as I write, my beloved is strumming “Landslide” on a guitar, my pup is sunbathing on boulder in the yard, a lunch of soba noodles is bubbling up on the stove in a beautiful blue non-toxic pot from Le Creuset, the fresh sweet smell of tea tree and geranium is emanating from the bathroom I just freshened and keeping my mind relaxed and sharp, and an ever-growing flock of birds is clearing my yard of the influx of baby spiders spring has brought us.

Basically what I’m saying is that this moment gives me immense pleasure. The life I am co-creator of with my family gives me immense pleasure. The people and creatures I love are the greatest pleasure I know. Well, them and a fine lump of dark chocolate!

Photo by Heidi Hartwig