Thursday, July 9, 2015

Step One to Responding to Climate Change is to Learn What is Really Going On

"We need the deniers to get out of the way. They are risking everyone's future.... The Koch Brothers are criminals.... They should be charged with criminal activity because they're putting the profits of their business ahead of the livelihoods of millions of people, and even life on earth." - Jason Box, in "When the End of Human Civilization is Your Day Job," Esquire

Read the above article. If you're reading my blog, you probably already know that Climate Change, aka Global Warming, is a real thing. You may have posted similar articles on Facebook, and gotten "likes" from other people who also get that it's real, and snarky comments from your two friends who think it's just liberal hogwash. But you know it's not just real, it's here, now, and it's speeding up.

You probably feel a sense of dread and hopelessness, because you also know that there is no way to "go back" to where we were, to a not totally destabilized planet. You just hope that grassroots organizations can do enough to help us deal with the changes underway, providing solutions like floating houses run by solar energy for the billions of people displaced by rising seas. You sense that governments aren't going to do enough.

You know why they aren't? Because they are in too deep in the bullshit of running the world.

I'm reading Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. One thing Loewen returns to repeatedly, an invisible theme of public school history education, is that the mythologies of our nation holds more credence than actual fact, especially if that fact flies in the face of said mythology. One of the United State's sacred mythologies is that our nation is a peace-keeping good guy that steps in like a kind big brother to fix the world's ills. The fact is, however, that "the United States now spends more on its armed forces than all other nations combined and has them stationed in 144 different countries," (222) and while many of these stations are in the name of "peace keeping," much of them are actually in support of the financial growth of multinational corporations like ITT and Monsanto. Some of these multinationals have budgets larger than those of most governments. And if those companies want something from foreign soil, our federal government is more than happy to step in and push things around until they get what they want. Like deposing Prime Minister Mossadegh in Iran in 1953, bringing down the elected government of Guatemala in 1954, rigging the 1957 election in Lebanon, repeated attempts to kill Fidel Castro, and I'm sure many other and more recent (in the book he gives these older examples to make sure textbooks had time to include them) examples of ways the US takes over other countries in the interest of economic gain.

A huge part of this economically-motivated international bullying is, of course, about oil. "In Equatorial Guinea, for example, oil companies pay millions of dollars to the regime's leaders for the privilege of taking the country's oil... [T]hey pay royalties of only about 10 percent for taking Equatorial Guinea's oil -- far less than they would pay in a justly run nation." (225) While oil companies and the federal government are paying "far less than they would," however, they are paying insane amounts of money to extract oil around the world. In the article "The New Abolitionism," Christopher Hayes writes,
Fossil fuel extraction is one of the most capital-intensive industries in the world. While it is immensely, unfathomably profitable, it requires ungodly amounts of money to dig and drill the earth, money to pump and refine and transport the fuel so that it can go from the fossilized plant matter thousands of feet beneath the earth’s surface into your Honda. And that constant need for billions of new dollars in investment capital is the industry’s Achilles’ heel.
 He doesn't mention to cost spent on the armed forces used to occupy the countries we get oil from.

So here is where I suggest we put our efforts in attempts to slow Climate Change (in addition to efforts to mediate its effects on us humans, like the floating houses and local, organic farming): Pull out of other countries. Stop spending money on creating corrupt governments. Stop spending money on digging, drilling, and surveying for oil. Put those billions of dollars into expanding renewable energy, building renewable energy sources in other countries (that actually would be a Good Guy move), and reducing poverty at home and abroad. Not because we want to control other countries but because we humans are in this together and its the right thing to do.

Naive? Simplistic? Probably. But also our only real chance for our grandchildren and children to not go extinct, and it's our imperative as members of a sacred and dynamic earth.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Screen Time and Nature Play: Both Together Will Save the World

You have no doubt read that kids these days spend too much time on screens, and too little time outdoors. Articles and books arguing the evils of screen time quote studies linking screen time to obesity and diabetes as well as depression and lack of vitamin D (which can lead to cancer).

Then there are the equally compelling articles and blogs that posit that playing computer games is actually really good for our children. They learn hand-eye coordination, three-dimensional design, problem solving, and even social skills. They are exposed to math concepts, story arcs, and consequences. 

Which perspective is to be believed? I think it's both. Kids benefit greatly from screen time, and they need to also spend lots of quality time in nature. 

I suspect that the problems of screen time arise not from the computer or TV itself, but from circumstances outside the screen bubble, like poor nutrition and lack of attention from caregivers. I also sense that the debate - too much screen time? too little nature time? too much testing? - about what kids should really be doing with their time has more to do with our adult compulsion to control things than about kids themselves. The fact is, we cannot control the future. Sure, we can give our kids good nutrition, and that will give them a huge leg up in future health. We can make sure they learn to read, speak clearly and assertively, and perform math skills so that they can  follow whatever field they wish. But we don't know what jobs will exist in the future. We don't know what discoveries and experiences they will have that will lead them into a certain field. We also don't know what the changing planet will mean for them, although we have some ideas.

Climate change is here, as evidenced by crazy weather, acidifying seas, and melting ice caps. Because we refuse to turn off the CO2 machine, it's only going to get worse (and in fact, even turning off the machine wouldn't help for 100s of years, as we've already crossed the threshold of CO2 levels in the atmosphere). This is one reason why it is imperative that kids get to know the natural world. "If sustainability depends on transforming the human relationship with nature, the present day gap between kids and nature emerges as one of the greatest and most overlooked crises of our time, threatening people and countless other species. Helping children fall in love with nature deserves to be a top national priority, on par with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preserving species and wild places," writes Scott Sampson in How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature. 

But, consider the skills a child learns while exploring biomes in Minecraft, building houses and fighting zombies. She learns, in short, to craft and defend a world. She learns to keep trying when she is doomed. She learns to ask questions about how to solve problems, and learns how to find answers to those questions. These skills will help our children save our warming planet or learn to adapt to it just as much as a love of nature will. 

So I encourage parents, educators, and policy makers to stop arguing about the evils of screen time and whining about how little time kids get outside, and seek a powerful balance. Take kids outside. Let them use the same skills they so love in video games as they explore, question, and discover. Give them time to fall in love with nature. Then encourage them to do the same on a computer. What they create will go beyond anything we as adults could try to craft or force through their carefully controlled educations.

I believe it will be young people who love nature and are really skilled at well-created video games who will create technologies, policies, and plans that will bring our species into the next phase of human life on Earth, one that responds to the changing planet in a positive way. We can support them in this by bringing them outside and supporting their love of technology. It isn't an either/or situation, it's both-and. Nature and technology, engineering and love. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Going Slow, Going Within: Family Advent that Honors the Earth

Perhaps it's because my own life has been a roller coaster lately, or because it seems like the whole world is on the brink of utter insanity, but I've really dedicated myself to a calm and peaceful December this year. For me that means fewer gifts, local shopping, and doing crafts and baking when and if I want to. In the Christian faith, Advent (the days leading up to Christmas) is about waiting, pregnant, hopeful, but also with a little trepidation. Remembering to breathe. Honoring the light of those waiting with and for us. Lighting candles in the darkness. In the Pagan tradition, this time is about telling stories, watching the light wane further, and awaiting the return of the Light that we know will soon come. May this time of the year be about inner peace, wisdom, and connection with Spirit for you and your family.

Yule Advent Links

Here's a nice list of gift ideas that honor the earth and the artisans who craft them, at In the House of Mama Stacey.

Painted snowflakes and a simpler holiday
season from The Artful Parent (I love this blog).

A gorgeous Yule coloring book for sale from LillianaPress. 

And for more Pagan ideas, Yule 2013 Pooka Pages. To be notified when the 2014 issue is out, see their Home Page or check out Pooka Pages on Facebook.

From a wise woman tradition on the Inner Christmas, some thoughts for meditation and journaling.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Engaged Living: Pulling Yourself Out of the Pity Party Hole

"I can't do it."
"Writing is hard for me."
"I didn't have a vacation after grad school and I'm just so tired."

The first was spoken by my daughter, in reference to a gymnastics skill. The coach got mad at her, which bummed her out, and she didn't understand why the coach was so dismissive.

The second, also spoken by my daughter, to explain why she was in a pool of tears in response to having to write something about dolphins.

The third by an adult who shall remain nameless, but the important piece to know here is that the missed vacation referenced was eleven years ago.

What do all these phrases have in common? They are uttered to explain why someone has shut down or given up. They are also phrases that are impossible to work with. They are explanations for why a person is mired in a hole of pity party.

To my daughter, in regards to the first, I acknowledged that it was too bad that the coach was rude to her, but I got why the coach said what she did. And I pointed out: "I think what you really mean here  is, 'I still need spotting on that skill.'" She nodded.

In regards to the second, after about an hour of struggling and whining and crying and my own feeling like screaming and giving up myself, we determined that what she really meant was "I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the information and I don't know how to break it down or where to start."

And in regards to the third, well, that person needs to pull himself out of that particular pity party and identify what he wants now: "I really need a break, and what would give me a break is...."

Can you feel the difference? In the first example, there is nothing to work with. It's just hard, stupid, sad, whatever. When you figure out what you are really trying to say here, then you have something to work with. Break down the information. Get spotted. Take a vacation. What do you need? What is overwhelming? What is standing in your way?

The problem with this is that we are used to complaining. It feels so good to feel so bad. And it requires energy and intention to identify what needs to change, and then guess what? You have to take steps to change it. That is what it means to live an engaged life - you have to put your life in gear and move forward. It's so much safer to just say, "I'm stuck in neutral, poor me."

Where are you short changing yourself by sitting in neutral in a hole of pity? Notice ways in which you put on the breaks and get stuck, and ask yourself what you really mean. Then you will know how to move forward.

It is overwhelming, scary, and sometimes lonely. But you can do it. So much energy is freed up when you stop stalling and take that first tentative step, which is simply to identify what the problem is in the present moment. Only then can you move forward.

Blessings on your path! You can do it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sitting Dragonfly Vigil

Yesterday I stepped out back to pick a green onion for my breakfast, and discovered a dead dragonfly on the patio. I knelt down to pick him up and he began whirring his wings; he wasn't dead, just dying. I shooed the cat away and brought the beautiful blue and black creature into the house. I gave him a drop of water, which made his wings beat and his legs move. Clearly he couldn't fly anymore. I couldn't think of how to help him, and recalled that dragonflies don't live very long in their adult form. I could, however, make him safe from cats and other predators and give him a place of honor on my kitchen counter, holding the space for him as he passed into Light.

His eyes were like geometric blue opals. They had a depth to them, like a glass gem or a bead of water. My four-year-old remarked that the dragonfly's patterns on his body reminded him of a totem pole. I covered him with a bug-box lid so the cat wouldn't get him but he could breathe, and we left for our trip to the science museum.

When we returned, I thought he had passed, but when I touched him one leg moved. His opalescent eyes had turned a dull black from the top down, with just a crescent of blue at the bottom. I gave him Reiki, hoping it would ease his transition. While he was "just" a bug, he was fierce and beautiful, and I at least wanted to honor his slow death.

When he died, his eyes were completely black. You could literally see the life force leave him through his eyes.

I set him on my altar. Dragonfly is about illusion, and I am writing a book about Zen right now, which is all about the illusions we carry in our heads about life, about each and every thing we encounter. The problem is not that we live in illusion, it is that we think the illusion is "real." Dragonfly teaches us to hold the dichotomy of illusion and what we call reality. He teaches us about the illusion of life and death, and the dichotomy of death being real and final, and not.

I give thanks to the Universe for gifting me this honor of holding vigil while a beautiful Blue Eyed Darner. Aho.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Humiliation and Environmenta Living

Why Green Living is so Hard
I read today on Maria's Farm Kitchen blog that conventional toothpastes contain plastic microbeads for scrubbing that do not biodegrade (of course) and will get washed down the drain and into the water system, eventually finding their way into the ocean. In a quick succession of thoughts, it occurred to me that the biggest stumbling block to our species living in harmony with the earth and creating an environmentally compatible society is not our fear of change. It is not the difficulty of changing our habits. The biggest challenge in humanity's changing course for greener waters is two fold:
  1. We have been sold a seriously long line of crap based on bullshit that we have to realize is bullshit and realize is crap in order to change.
  2. Admitting that we have been duped is humiliating. And for humans, humiliation is worse than death.

The Rat Race

First, regarding the bullshit. Our society believes that life is about achieving prestige, leisure, and stuff. It starts by seeking security, and then the idea of security gets bigger and bigger and harder to achieve. I will really feel secure when I own my home, have savings and investments, and a college savings plan for my kids. No, I will only feel truly secure and can then relax when I own a mansion and a yacht. As you know, it's endless. We do need to feel secure, but we've been sold a line by others trying to feel secure that the only way to do so is to buy their investments, stuff, and lifestyle. Then when I am secure, others will look at me and wish they could live like me - prestige. We can all sit on my gorgeous, expensive deck furniture and feel secure. Leisure. Stuff.

Not that there is anything wrong with college savings, deck furniture, leisure, or security - but these do not equal the most important things in life. And usually, they don't leave us feeling secure or leisurely. We instead feel afraid of losing what we have built. We feel afraid that we are not keeping up with the latest styles, and will lose that prestige. We feel afraid, constantly, that we are no doing or being enough.

Hello Madison Avenue

Second, the line of crap. Marketing and the media tell us constantly from every angle that in order to get those most important achievements (prestige, leisure, and the best stuff), in order to be enough, we have to
a) buy the right stuff and b) look the right way. Toothpaste with whiteners so that our teeth look straight and white. Skinny jeans. Low cal whatever. Diamonds and gold. The prettiest car. The latest gadgets. The nicest smelling detergents, perfumes, lotions, and shampoos. Lipstick and eyeliner. 3000 square feet house with giant television and a private bathroom for every person in the house.

We've been sold these assumptions - that we are not enough, that we need to be wealthy and have the latest coolest stuff, and that buying more things, changing our bodies and our lifestyles and our homes to be better, is the only way to go. That this lifestyle is in fact the only way to feel okay, be okay, be alive. These assumptions get all tied up with goodness, self worth, morality, and education. And many of these practices that are run by these assumptions are really, really bad for the planet.


The garbage, plastic, pollution, toxins and burned fossil fuels that goes into feeding these assumptions are mind boggling. Microbeads to whiten teeth and smooth skin. Fungicides and herbicides and pesticides to give us shiny apples and oranges at any time of year. Toxins in cotton and massive mounts of water (and cheap labor) to bring us the latest t-shirt. Polytetrafluoroethylene, which kills birds and sickens human, for convenient, shiny non-stick pans. And the fossil fuels for each of these and the trillions of other non-crucial items? Stunning to contemplate.

So we don't contemplate these things. It's too depressing, too disempowering, and, frankly, too humiliating to do so.

Desperate to Avoid Humiliation

Studies show that we humans fear humiliation over just about everything else. We do whatever we can to avoid it. Humiliation means potential ostracizing. This fear goes back to our most basic roots of selfhood and humanity. And it is the opposite of prestige, leisure, and the best stuff.

So to admit that we spend all this time and energy chasing after the craziness we have been sold as how-life-should-be is doubly humiliating. We were duped, and when you take away these basic values (prestige, money, stuff), we are left with our basic animalness, and that can also be humiliating. We are left comparing ourselves to poor people in slums in India, and our greed and stupidity s horribly humiliating. So we just don't go there. Life as usual is much more comfortable.

But until we are able to admit these things and change course for what really matters - human rights, compassion for all life, creative expression, the precious Earth - we will not be able to step off the crazy mobile of microbeads and polytetrafluoroethylene. And that right there is the biggest challenge for living an ecologically sound life on our planet.

Have you ever had to apologize to someone in a situation where you really screwed up? It's humiliating. Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, you want to run away. But you know you can't. And then, when you've apologized and the other party has accepted and you make up, you feel so much better. The guilt and fear are gone. And all there is to do is go forward, carrying what you learned. As a society, that's what we need to do. Admit we've been wrong. Learn from our mistakes. Move forward with new understanding.

I do believe this is possible. I think social networking, green living, and our growing sense of global social justice are together pushing many of us towards this realization, acceptance, and changes in living. But it has to happen on a really huge, societal level. I believe anything is possible...

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Simple Life

Sustainable Living

Here's a great resource for spring:

The Simple Life Forum at Daedalus Books

Ideas to Nourish & Sustain
Growing Your Own, Preserving Your Own

"In its broadest sense, the idea of sustainability covers a lot of ground, from growing our own produce in a kitchen garden to finding responsible land and water management practices that we can sustain far into the future. Sustainability and preservation are also at the heart of what we do at Daedalus Books, which was founded to find a second life for remainders—good books that might otherwise be destroyed simply because publishers can't afford to keep them in stock."

Submit your favorite farmers' market via email on their site!

The Way of the Hen: Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens

Daedalus is featuring, among other fabulous books for living simply, my own book, The Way of the Hen. It's only $3.98 right now! Perfect gift for anyone who loves chickens.