Levels of denial

There are different forms of denial that prevent people from recognising the negative effects of our stories in the Western world, such as the myth of ‘Economic Growth’. Some of these are:

  • I don’t think that these effects are really dangerous
  • It just isn’t my business to sort out these problems
  • I don’t want to be seen as a non-conformist
  • This information is a threat to my interests
  • This evidence is just being made up
  • There’s nothing we can do about it so I don’t even want to talk about it

In this way, people manage to avoid facing the problems at all.

Of course, once they do look, it all gets pretty horrific and that’s what frightens them. The second layer of denial, which I sometimes call ‘We’re Doomed Captain Mannering’ (from a UK TV programme called Dad’s Army) draws attention to the disasters increasingly created by Economic Growth. It is an evidence based account, ignored by many, about the collapse of ecological and social systems, climate changes, the effect of the depletion of global and local resources such as those described in Transition’s ‘peak oil’ and the sixth global mass extinction of species.

This is the standpoint of ‘Woe is me’, finger-wagging greenies who seem to want everyone to stop having fun and look after the planet because ‘just look at what we are doing’ – face of horror. This mythology seems to be the one that non-greenies presume is held by people who claim to be ‘green’, (although ‘being green’ these days has seemingly become just another face of consumerism).

Denial barriers to people entering wholeheartedly into actually looking at the problems include:

  • It’s so upsetting I prefer not to think about it
  • As soon as I start to think about the dangers I freeze up and feel panic
  • I feel paralysed
  • There’s no point in trying to do anything since it won’t change a thing or make any difference
  • We’re doomed, give up
  • We can fix it with new technology
  • Blitz consumerism – buy everything now
  • Human beings are a cancer on the earth and deserve to be wiped out anyway
  • Superman or God or aliens or Bill Gates or Richard Branson will save us all at the last minute

Once you can accept that global warming is real, that the earth is badly polluted and in for a period of unpredictable change, you might be lucky enough to find ‘Positive Hope’ rather than ‘Despair’.

This position is held by people who overcome denial and are able to face the coming changes as already underway – as already past ‘the tipping point’. Projects such as ‘Dark Mountain’ are inhabited by such people who are busy finding new myths and stories for a sad culture that is wrecking its own home.

This position of hope may involve creative responses to new and existent problems. It means thinking in new ways. As Einstein said; “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” Also Buckminster Fuller; “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Positive Hope means transformation at a personal level and the use of creative energy to change the poisons of the toxic myth of Economic Growth into the nectar of a life sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. It is deeply challenging and exciting. It means being closely in touch with your values and choosing to live an ethical life filled with meaning. There are more and more people looking for and finding this. It also means resistance. Resisting the dominant hegemony, challenging it at every turn and revealing the truths, extrapolating our our often unquestioned actions and ‘bad stories’ to their resultant conclusions.

We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: that… the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human.
From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.”
– Thomas Berry

I am sometimes racked with fury and sadness at what people are doing to this beautiful planet, without even seeing what it is. I swing between finding beauty and solace in the place and moment and despair for what a culture of ignorant idiots after money are doing to it. But the world turns. Crumbs of hope emerge like the (temporary) outcome of the Dakota oil pipeline or news that more young people watched ‘Planet Earth II’ with David Attenborough than ‘The X-Factor’.

I live in a particularly beautiful place, the least inhabited area of Cornwall UK, where the summer lanes are alive with wildflowers and all sorts of wildlife. When I see people driving their cars through these lanes and just chucking their rubbish out of the windows – I find it hard to believe that I am the same species as these wreckers.

I attempt to live in a relationship with the nature around me, sharing a yield from my garden with nature, living lightly on the earth. The farmer on the dairy farm next to us likes to shoot the rooks out of our trees because they ‘make a noise’! This feeling of being an alien on my own planet perseveres.

My brothers and sisters, the indigenous peoples of this earth such as the Kogi, the Kayapo, Lakota and Sioux Indians, Masai or Aboriginals also live in tune with the earth around them. They have different stories to our own, ones that don’t end with the destruction of our environment. But our actions in the economic growth myth also despoil these peoples – we are taking them over a cliff with us!

James Lovelock explains this sense of linked awareness in his Gaia Hypothesis:
The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.” Wikipedia

The Gaia Hypothesis is at least an entry level into eco-theology in the First World. It attributes complexity and interactiveness to our planet – with the people who inhabit it as part of that system. Lovelock interestingly demonstrates that the Earth has been completely polluted before by its inhabitants. In a primary mass-extinction event, the chlorine-breathing inhabitants of earth – at that time anaerobic bacteria – gave out so much waste-product oxygen into the environment that they smothered themselves and died out. That is, apart from a group of them who converted a murderous intruder, the pollution effect of oxygen, into a powerful friend – air to breathe. This offshoot of anaerobic bacteria went on to become the basis of life we see today on planet earth.

The present mass extinction event, named ‘The Holocene Extinction’, is also mainly due to activity from earth’s inhabitants – in this case, humans and their industrial excrements. A great cycle of life described by David Attenborough as ‘abundance, destruction, rebirth’ is reaching the end of its second phase, sometimes called the Sixth Extinction. It appears that the occasional desolation of the planet by its occupants may be part of an ongoing evolutionary process.

At a personal level, in order to transcend my sadness about what people are doing to my planet, one of the things I have recently taken to telling myself that ‘Everything is as it should be’. Perhaps this too is a form of denial? As long as I make my own personal choices to live on this planet lightly, without uneccessarily destroying life or damaging eco-systems, I cannot accept responsibility for all the dumbed-down idiots out there who choose not to look at the consequences of their actions.

But if all of the species of this earth are unknowingly part of a mass, ‘Gaian’ consciousness, then perhaps our fatal human flaw – denial – is an important element in the evolution of life? Perhaps the fatal flaw at the heart of Holocene people, human nature itself, is there for a reason. Maybe humans are somehow programmed to alter the environment of their own planet?

In that case, the greens are the New Conservatives and ‘Everything is as it should be’.

Posted in eco-philosophy

What is this site about?

As far as I can, I have opted out of a system – ‘the machine’ – a leviathan that trundles us all towards slavery, environmental degradation and social breakdown. I will simply not be a part of it. I do not accept the mainstream propoganda narrative about the place of humans on this earth. The spiritual, financial, corporate and political dimensions of the mainstream narrative we are ‘fed’, (if we choose to accept it) are beyond a joke. Through my experiences, I have had to come to the following conclusions:

  • money is a scam that creates debt and leads to slavery
  • the mass media and academia are deception and propaganda machines that serve the interests of money
  • war and militarisation serve money and are an investment opportunity for bankers and taxpayers
  • paying tax and using banks makes you an investor by default in war, environmental degradation, destruction of indigenous peoples and everything else unsavoury that money serves
  • western medicine serves money rather than health, seeks customers rather than cures
  • scientific endeavor is funded by and works for the forces of fiscal materialism
  • our air, water, food and immunisation processes are full of toxic chemicals
  • democracy has been sold to the interests of industrial capitalism and just remains as shadow power structures
  • the environment is being systematically harvested for profit resulting in untold damage

Just ‘opting out’ of what is happening though, is not enough. If you believe as I do that the machine is in fact un-reformable and its actions are in opposition to the interests of ‘life’, then it has to be opposed. Whoever you vote for, the ‘govenment’ gets in and they serve a system committed to perpetual earth rape.  The system has to be helped towards a tipping point where it is no longer viable and collapses under its own weight.

And this is where you come in:

  • you are starting to realize that our ‘economy’ is shot and you want to think about alternatives
  • you want to find ways to become more self-sufficient, live more cheaply and not have to work so hard
  • you want to develop more wholesome ways of living that do not damage the earth
  • you want to have fun, laugh and feel free under the stars
  • you want to revolt and express your dis-ease at the system without being a terrorist
  • You want ways you can organize and economize your communities and societies so that everyone benefits
  • You think human and animal families deserve fair shares and justice
  • You want a life that connects you to deeper truths of your spiritual nature
  • You seek the values of life such as connection, community, compassion and creativity
  • You find self-worth in love, honour, truth, authenticity and giving back to those around you
  • You are compelled to think and act beyond your own personal bubble

So in order to help you do this – here are my articles, books and other media on these subjects:

  • ways to supplement your diet with free and often delicious food from the wild
  • how to grow and make delicious food even in the smallest of settings
  • using common foodstuffs to promote your health and avoid buying often harmful drugs from the pharmaceutical industries
  • saving energy and even harvesting your own for specific outputs
  • subtle ways to subvert and undermine the system
  • making and mending things you might need rather than buying new
  • recycling waste into useful and life-enhancing objects
  • energy, time, resources and creativity as forms of capital
  • using ‘free’ or cheap or found materials to make useful objects
  • deep-green strands of eco-philosophy
  • clean ways of having fun and enjoying yourself
  • reconnecting with nature
Posted in eco-philosophy

In Support of Anarchy

I was talking with an elderly lady recently and I said “I think there should be more anarchy in this country”.

She replied “That’s a bad thing isn’t it?”

“What do you think it is?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but it’s bad, isn’t it bad?”

So here, for the old lady and uninitiated, is the definition of anarchy with which I am working:

A theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unneccessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary co-operation and free association of individuals and groups.” There, not so bad after all.

When you look at the government we have today do you really feel represented by these people? The whole system of a ‘representative democracy’ has become a joke. It is a system of representation made for a slave mentality, for people who wish to be governed. Far better for people interested in a balanced life of ‘freedom and responsibility’ is the idea of a participatory democracy in which the people can govern themselves.

‘How would that work Simon?’ I hear you say. The referendum is itself an example – 72% of us voted directly on an issue. The outcome proved that the parliamentary system of representation is not working – it is not even remotely in touch with the people.

If you look at online lobbying bodies such as 38degrees.org.uk, causes.com, change.org, or ipetitions.com you can see another system by which people can express their choices to parliament. At present if a petition gets 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament. It doesn’t take a genius to connect ‘referendums and online petitions’ to create a system by which people can govern themselves by direct voting. In fact an interface for this already exists at www.gov.uk . You can be sure that more people will turn up to vote than at the House of Commons.

house of commons turnout

According to the ‘black and white’ brexit referendum result that has shocked the country we are either ‘in or out’ of the European Union. The reality though will be years of negotiation that defines our relationship, clearly not black or white but many shades of grey. Similarly our government is presented as either left or right – we are seriously limiting our options as to what is possible by voting for a government who can only see in black and white.

In an Age of Communication we no longer need to be governed. The voting system and the whole idea of a representative democracy is an anachronism. We no longer need an archaic system by which people tell us what we want to hear, in order to become our chosen representatives, to pursue their own agendas in an inept government system.

Successive governments whether of the left or of the right have already sold our sovereignty to the highest bidder, big business. They are supported in this by the mega-corporation owned media, education systems and other industry biased services. They exist to serve an ‘economy’ that serves to destroy the optimum conditios for life on earth. Our economy is at the cost of our ecology.

The ‘business interest’ domination of our lives is enforced by the police, and increasingly hired security thugs, who are technically here to serve us, the people. Government acts in the interest of big business and the economy, which has become entirely contrary to the interests of sustainable and healthy life on this planet.

The Brexit vote that surprised everybody is little more than a plea to end the interminable intervention of intrusive government in every aspect of our lives, telling us what we can and can’t do, can and can’t eat, where we can and can’t go, what we should and shouldn’t think. It is a call for the end of being ineptly governed.

This ‘United’ Kingdom has long ceased to be united or even a democracy. One definition of democracy is: ‘a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation’. The supreme power in the representative system we have is invested in just two-thirds of the population because one-third – for whatever reasons is entirely disenfranchised and does not vote.

the power of opting outAnd what, when the government itself is the problem? It is so self-referencial that even the intelligent option of ‘proportional representation’ fails to be adopted. What of more radical options like a directly participatory democratic system as described above? Such things will never even be heard of from within a system that seeks to ban anything radical, promoting such ideas as a form of terrorism.

The system we have is more like an oligarchy – ‘a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.’ Our elected representatives are in fact, acting in the interests of money and big-business, not of us – the people who put them there. Whoever you vote for – the government gets in and they work to support ‘economy’ which is contrary to the interests of life itself.

Some people believe the system to be more like a plutocracy – ‘a class or group ruling, or exercising power or influence, by virtue of its wealth’, in which anyone else is a slave serving their interests, otherwise facing arrest or punitive action for non-compliance. Anyone involved in the peaceful protests about fracking will have seen or experienced this for themselves.

I have even heard the system we have defined as a kleptocracy – ‘a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal from us to increase their own wealth; rule by thieves.’

I have seen events in which all of the above are true.

There are better options than the chaos in parliament we presently have, but it is the system of government itself that is preventing them from even seeing the light of day. In this age of communication a representative democracy is no longer neccessary.

Its time to get rid of the lot of them.

Posted in eco-philosophy

Positive Poems

Positive Poems: Below is my Christmas 2016 Gift to a World that Needs It !

publish with simonthescribe

Please feel free to copy this ebook and send it to anyone who you think might enjoy it. To copy, right click on the poems (ctrl. & click for Macs) – then save as…

 

The above ebook is a gif animation. Each page is one frame of fifteen reasonably well-known positive poems. Instead of running at 24 frames a second, this animation has 8 – 12 second pauses between each frame. Made at:

 banner5

Posted in creativity

Mass-media wants you powerless

mass media wants you powerlessDoomsday clock for global market crash strikes one minute to midnight as central banks lose control‘ – Telegraph.

Earth Is Now ‘In The Red’ – We Used Up This Year’s Resources Yesterday‘ – Yahoo News.

Human Beings ‘Could Die Out’ In New Mass Extinction‘ – Yahoo News.

Doomsday clock for global market crash strikes one minute to midnight as central banks lose control.

China currency devaluation signals endgame leaving equity markets free to collapse under the weight of impossible expectations. When the banking crisis crippled global markets seven years ago, central bankers stepped in as lenders of last resort. Profligate private-sector loans were moved on to the public-sector balance sheet and vast money-printing gave the global economy room to heal.

Time (Xetra: 17T.DE – news) is now rapidly running out. From China to Brazil, the central banks have lost control and at the same time the global economy is grinding to a halt. It (Other OTC: ITGL – news) is only a matter of time before stock markets collapse under the weight of their lofty expectations and record valuations…

Telegraph: https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/doomsday-clock-global-market-crash-155532714.html

Earth Is Now ‘In The Red’ – We Used Up This Year’s Resources Yesterday.

Every year, ‘Overshoot Day’ comes earlier and earlier. Human beings have just exhausted the planet’s supply of natural resources – meaning we are ‘in the red’ from now on.
Every year, ‘Overshoot Day’ – the point where we go into ecological ‘debt’, in terms of the amount of carbon we emit, and crops we use up – comes earlier. This year, it arrived yesterday [16.08.15] – six years earlier than it did in 2014, according to an estimate by the Global Footprint Network.

The GFN says that our consumption began to exceed the planet’s capacity by the early 1970s – and as the world’s population expands, it has been getting worse each year.
‘Humanity’s carbon footprint alone more than doubled since the early 1970s, when the world went into ecological overshoot.

Yahoo News: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/earth-is-now–in-the-red—-we-used-up-this-year-s-resources-yesterday-124609373.html#EC9peOb

Human Beings ‘Could Die Out’ In New Mass Extinction.

Many scientists believe the next mass extinction event is already underway. Human beings could be wiped out in the next mass extinction on Earth – and our huge numbers won’t save us, scientists believe. Many believe that we are on the brink of a sixth ‘mass extinction’ event – caused not by an asteroid, but by human beings.

Researchers from the University of Leeds analysed fossils from the Jurassic and Triassic periods to see how species were affected by a mass extinction event.  Around 200 million years ago, around 80% of species were wiped out by an event thought to have been triggered by volcanic eruptions and climate change.

Yahoo News: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/human-beings–could-die-out–in-new-mass-extinction-092541078.html#dvlZ2xC

If you look at the rest of this website – http://www.simonmitchell.co.uk – you will see it is not all doom and gloom at all. Seize the day!

Posted in eco-philosophy

Thoughts about Aluna the Movie

Aluna

Stroking my Sugui – Thoughts around Aluna the Movie

I am fascinated by what is happening on this earth at the moment with indigenous peoples. Possibly they are the only civilised races living on the planet but are being hounded out of their sustainable relationships with the Earth by people with a vested interest in exploiting it for money. This has now been going on for thousands of years, since before invaders crushed their opposition in North America with smallpox infested blankets as gifts.

I read of the Lakota Indians of North America, driven from their ancestral lands so that people can build things there. My favourite indigenous tribe are the Kayapo, who have interested me ever since reading Sting’s book about them over 30 years ago. Like other tribes in the Amazon they are driven from their forests by loggers, their lands raped and ruined by developers in order to build dams to power cities or extract oil. The Masai Tribe, beautiful people living in tune with the harshest of environments, legislated off their ancestral land, the Masai Mara, so that it can be exploited for tourism and Land Rover adverts. The aboriginal people of Australia, alive with incredible stories of nature, driven from sustainable lifestyles in tune with their lands by a culture of greed and consumerism which is divorced from nature.

It seems to me that the way we treat our indigenous peoples on this earth is a metaphor for the way we treat nature itself.

So when the Kogi Indians came down from their High Sierra retreat in the mountains of Colombia to make a movie about how ‘little brother’ is destroying the Earth, I wanted to watch it. This is an excerpt of how the movie is described on the Aluna website:

 “ALUNA is made by and with the KOGI, a genuine lost civilization hidden on an isolated triangular pyramid mountain in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, nearly five miles high, on the Colombian-Caribbean coast. The Kogi say that without thought, nothing could exist. This is a problem, because we are not just plundering the world, we are dumbing it down, destroying both the physical structure and the thought underpinning existence. The Kogi believe that they live in order to care for the world and keep its natural order functioning, but they recognized some years ago that this task was being made impossible by our mining and deforestation. In 1990 they emerged to work with Alan Ereira, making a 90-minute film for BBC1 in which they dramatically warned of our need to change course. Then they withdrew again…”

Ostensibly Aluna is a story of a few members of the tribe collecting 400 km of gold thread from England, and then returning to Colombia to walk across their ruined lands, showing the devastation to the camera whilst also connecting places with the thread in an attempt to demonstrate to ‘little brother’ that all things are connected.

For example, in the foothills of the high Sierra, where the land meets the sea the people who have taken the ancestral lands from the Kogis have built roads, cutting off lagoons from the sea and stopping the natural flow. To these people there is no link between what happens at the top of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the lagoons far below. The Kogi Indians assert that if the land were a human being, what has happened is the equivalent of cutting off its ability to cycle its wastes. As one of them says in a moment of blinding lucidity: “How would you like it if I stuck a cork up your arse.” Ecology scientists agree that the Kogi are right – their ecosytems at the top of the mountains are being seriously damaged.

Of course from my point of view, the Kogi people are right on the button with their accusations that ‘little brother’ is destroying the planet. There are many people out here in the First World who feel the same way they do. Its just that we don’t know how to stop the people responsible.

It is completely unfair to compare a movie like Aluna with the highest grossing eco-movie ever, Avatar, which has an improbably large budget, but there is a world of difference in the approach (see my review of Avatar here). Some people criticise Avatar on the basis that it is ecology reduced to spectacle, drama and conflict and that people don’t even realise that it is a movie about our own planet and culture, hence it is ineffective in changing people’s motivations away from ‘Unobtanium’ – the movie’s metaphor for eco-damaging self-interest and profit.

Aluna has more in common with the movie ‘Age of Stupid’ (see my review of Age of Stupid here). As such it is a movie of ‘finger pointing greenyism’ which is mostly preaching to the converted like myself, and making people feel guilty for something they do not believe that they have much power over – the irreversible damaging of the present ecosystems on earth for the pursuit of money.

In the context of the ‘culture of lies’ inhabited by ‘little brother’, unfortunately the movie Aluna is an innocent whose voice will not be much heeded. The problem is not so much that people do not realise that their actions have damaging consequences to our planet. I think they know this but choose to deny it. They are trapped and driven as hungry ghosts, wanting all sorts of things without which they can never be complete. I think that ‘little brother’ and its society has a fatal flaw. We simply choose not to see things that we don’t want to. We edit reality to suit ourselves. As the horror of what humans are doing to their planet becomes more evident – the denial becomes stronger. We are at the stage now where many people simply ignore all information that does not validate their existing ideology. Stupid indeed.

Hence, I wrote to the Black Line Initiative, central to getting the message of the Kogi people out to the world: “Given that so many people are in denial about what their actions are doing to the earth, what do you think artists, writers, musicians can ‘show them’ so that they can see.” This started a dialogue with the co-ordinator that becomes increasingly interesting and is helping me to find answers to my own questions.

Essentially the ‘work that reconnects’ (source Joanna Macy) is to help people transform denial, despair and grief in the face of the social and ecological challenges of our time. If we can accept that the problem is that people are in denial, rather than ‘not knowing what they’re doing’ then it is the job of eco-story makers, filmmakers, artists, writers, comedians and so on, to help people overcome their denial. There seem to be several stages to this in that we need to change the stories, the mythology that underlies our planet wrecking culture.

The main such myth is called ‘Economic Growth’. It is presently the dominant myth in our culture. It assumes that there is little need to change the way we live. ‘Economic Growth’ is regarded as essential for our prosperity as individuals but in reality serves only a few. The richest eighty people in the world now own as much as half of the world’s population. The central tenet in this myth is that in order to grow as individuals, as a society, even as a race, we have to focus on making money.

However to live this myth we are spending five planets when we only have one, and using the limited resources of our little planet as if it were an infinite income. We are damaging the land, air and oceans and even wiping out the very cultures, like the Kogi, who could help to show us how to live within limits.

There are different forms of denial that stop people recognising the negative effects of the myth of ‘Economic Growth’. Some of these are:

  • I don’t think that these effects are really dangerous
  • It just isn’t my business to sort out these problems
  • I don’t want to be seen as a non-conformist
  • This information is a threat to my interests
  • This evidence is just being made up

In this way, people manage to avoid looking at the problems at all.

Of course, once they do look, it all gets pretty horrific. The second layer of denial, which I sometimes call ‘We’re Doomed Captain Mannering’ (from a UK TV programme called Dad’s Army) draws attention to the disasters increasingly created by Economic Growth. It is an evidence based account, ignored by many, about the collapse of ecological and social systems, climate changes, the effect of the depletion of global and local resources such as ‘peak oil’ and the mass extinction of species.

This is the standpoint of ‘Woe is me’, finger-wagging greenies who seem to want everyone to stop having fun and look after the planet because ‘just look at what we are doing’ – face of horror. This mythology seems to be the one that non-greenies presume is held by people who claim to be ‘green’, (although ‘being green’ often seems to be just another face of consumerism).

Denial barriers to people entering wholeheartedly into actually looking at the problems include:

  • It’s so upsetting I prefer not to think about it
  • As soon as I start to think about the dangers I freeze up and feel panic. I feel paralysed
  • There’s no point in trying to do anything since it won’t change a thing or make any difference
  • Human beings are a cancer on the earth and deserve to be wiped out anyway
  • Superman or God or aliens or Bill Gates or Richard Branson will save us all at the last minute

Once you can accept that the earth is badly polluted and in for a period of unpredictable change, you might be lucky enough to find ‘Positive Hope’ rather than ‘Despair’. This position is held by people who overcome denial and are able to face the coming changes as already underway – as already past ‘the tipping point’. Projects such as ‘Dark Mountain’ are inhabited by such people who are busy finding new myths and stories for a sad culture that is wrecking its own home.

This position of hope may involve creative responses to new and existent problems. It means thinking in new ways. As Einstein said; “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them.” Also Buckminster Fuller; “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Positive Hope means transformation at a personal level and the use of creative energy to change the poisons of the poisonous myth of Economic Growth into the nectar of a life sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. It is deeply challenging and exciting. It means being closely in touch with your values and choosing to live an ethical life filled with meaning. There are more and more people looking for and finding this.

“We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: that… the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human.
From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.”
– Thomas Berry

I am sometimes racked with fury and sadness at what people are doing to this beautiful planet, without even seeing what it is. I swing between finding beauty and solace in the place and moment and despair for a culture of idiots. I live in a particularly beautiful place, the least inhabited area of Cornwall UK, where the lanes are alive with wildflowers and all sorts of wildlife. When I see people driving their cars through these lanes and just chucking their rubbish out of the windows – I find it hard to believe that I am the same species as these wreckers. I attempt to live in a relationship with the nature around me, sharing a yield from my garden with nature, living lightly on the earth. The farmer on the dairy farm next to us likes to shoot the rooks out of our trees because they ‘make a noise’! The indigenous peoples of this earth also live in tune with the earth around them. James Lovelock explains this sense of linked ‘awareness’ in his Gaia Hypothesis:

The Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. Topics of interest include how the biosphere and the evolution of life forms affect the stability of global temperature, ocean salinity, oxygen in the atmosphere and other environmental variables that affect the habitability of Earth.” Wikipedia

The Gaia Hypothesis is at least an entry level into eco-theology in the First World. It attributes complexity and interactiveness to our planet – with the people who inhabit it as part of that system.

Lovelock interestingly demonstrates that the Earth has been completely polluted before by its inhabitants. In a mass-extinction event, the chlorine-breathing inhabitants of earth – at that time anaerobic bacteria – gave out so much waste-product oxygen into the environment that they smothered themselves and died out. That is, apart from a group of them who converted a murderous intruder, the pollution effect of oxygen, into a powerful friend – air to breathe. This offshoot of anaerobic bacteria went on to become the basis of life we see today on planet earth.

The Holocene Extinction, sometimes called the Sixth Extinction, is a name proposed to describe the currently ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holocene epoch (since around 10,000 BCE) mainly due to human activity. Apparently life on Earth occasionally wipes itself out and a small group adapt and evolve to create a new species. It appears that the occasional desolation of the planet by its occupants may be part of an evolutionary process.

In order to transcend my sadness about what people are doing to my planet, one of the things I have recently taken to telling myself that ‘Everything is as it should be’. Maybe this too is a form of denial? As long as I make my own personal choices to live on this planet lightly, without uneccessarily destroying life or damaging eco-systems, I cannot accept responsibility for all the dumbed-down idiots out there who choose not to look at the consequences of their actions.

But if all of the people’s of this earth are part of a mass, ‘Gaian’ consciousness, then perhaps this fatal flaw – denial – is an important element our own evolution as a species. That is, of course, if you believe that humankind has a purpose. Perhaps this fatal flaw and the resulting pollution of our world will create the next phase in evolution – beings with an evolved consciousness, who are able to consciously adapt their DNA to the pollution and changing situations brought about by the desecration of the environment.

Find out more about Aluna the Movie

 

 

 

 

Posted in book / film review

Creative choices

A hundred thousand million haikus

mehatAll of our communication as humans mirrors the creative act. For example every time we speak we engage in a creative act. The communication starts out as a feeling, turns into a thought and forms a concept that hopefully finds expression ‘out there’, with other people.

Even just talking means choosing words from the ranges on offer, and constructing sentences to convey meaning. On this level we all make creative choices every time we speak.

A simple exercise demonstrates this complexity and is a playful introduction to the exercises later in this book. In conversation we design sentences subconsciously, sometimes without thinking them through at all! We have become so skilled at using language that we can often put conversation onto ‘auto-pilot’.

Below is a ‘blank’ format for a haiku, a form of Japanese poetry based on a syllabic form of three phases of 5, 7 and 5 . The key words have been replaced with numbers:

All [1] in the [2]

I [3][4][5] in the [6]

[7] the [8] has [9].

The table below contains ten options for each possible word. They are chosen from words that are more poetic than scientific. Skim down through the nine lists, one at a time and select a word that appeals to you from each. Then write down the format above, with the words you have chosen in place of the numbers. You will construct a Haiku-by-numbers!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
gold night see bright moon trees hush sun gone
dew day paint blue pools woods warm bloom passed
sharp leaves smell dark air moss cold wind flown
soft sea give scent stream peaks red bird grown
glad clouds call pure trees home yell boat curled
peace lake sing green moss woods call crow come
storm field move sweet sound bread cool skin tears
sleep church leap cloud land light zap hair gifts
fast spring taste sharp stars ghost blush eye missed
speed bus love soft river house glad face iced

Example:

All sharp in the night

I leap pure air in the woods

Hush the wind has gifts.

Even with just this simple format and vocabulary of only ninety words there are a hundredthousand million haiku options here in this 17 word construction. Most of the haikus generated by this method will be meaningless, but somewhere lurking in there are probably a couple of good ones, (I haven’t tried them all!)

This is the level of complexity we engage with every day in just constructing language. We allow our subconscious minds to select from the lists of most probable words we know. If we had to consciously think through each choice of word and sentence construction, conversation would become extremely slow. You are incredibly creative. Just by talking a language, by unconsciously selecting the words and forming them into a cohesive sentence, you are using your subconscious mind to create. The larger the vocabulary you hold, the more choices you have and the more potential for transferring complex meanings to the reciever of your message, (should they hold the same meanings for the words).

Whether we are communicating with words, or with music, colours, art or dance – we are still selecting from the ranges of what we know. For another example – take dressing. Today I am choosing from my clothes instead of ‘words’. For the purpose of this example I have listed simple ‘limited to 4’ subsets of ‘clothes’ below:

TIES TROUSERS SHIRTS TOPS
blue tie jeans white smart jumper
red tie smart black blue stripes hoody
striped tie fawn chinos light green T suit jacket
spotty tie suit pale pink coat
SHOES HATS BELTS ACCESSORIES
smart black bowler black scarf
trainers Cuban brown shoulder bag
walking Panama canvas gloves
sandals beanie baler twine sunglasses

There are all sorts of rules and conventions which govern the choices I make getting dressed here. Am I dressing for work or play? Comfort or display? Travel or social? People who see me will make judgements based on the choices I have made. What I wear will influence how I feel, how I act. Yet every day we take such complexity of choice for granted – and this is just a simplified example.

Extract from simonthescribe’s book on creative thinking, called ‘Create’

Posted in creativity

Seedbomb Christmas

Anarchists Garden

When it came to making Christmas presents this year with the resources I had on hand – I found I had the stuff to make and package some rather nice Seed Bombs. Here they are drying out for packaging as I write this blog entry.

seed bombs

I had some old Raku clay which had been sitting around in a bucket, and mixed it half and half with some compost, liberated from the tomato plants that had ended. I also added some wood ash from the woodburner and some sawdust to bulk it up a bit, and also to help the bombs break down once they got wet again in the spring.

Once I was happy with the consistency I divided the pile of mix into four. To each quarter of the mix I added a generous portion of single seed from the garden and just enough water (with food colourant) to make it maleable. Then I set about mashing the mix up to make the clay element ‘plastique’ enough to hand roll the balls. I set them by the fire in the evening and re-rolled each one to make them smoother, marking each ball according to its contents.

It is important to dry the balls quickly without overheating, so as not to roast the seed or leave it damp for so long it germinates. After four evenings by the fire I thought that these seedbombs were dry enough to package for christmas presents. I had a load of old postage tubes left over from an earlier project and cut these in half to take eight bombs in each, two of each seed variety, then dreamed up a nice bit of labelling for the tubes:

seed bomb text

I lined the tubes with some plastic bags from the kitchen that didn’t seem to fit anything, and wedged the bag into the base. Then I dropped 8 seedbombs into each and closed the tops of the bags with a bit of garden wire. I will probably steal some wrapping paper from Sarah as she always buys far too much!

anarchists seedbombs

Posted in make and do

A Philosophy to Live By

David Holmgren’s underlying permaculture / philosophy ‘ code to live by’: summarised by David Macleod most recently in ‘Oil vs Money – Battle for Control of the World’ (2009)

  • reduce, reuse, recycle (in that order)
  • grow a garden and eat what it produces
  • avoid imported resources where possible
  • use labour and skill in preference to materials and technology
  • design, build and purchase for durability and repairability
  • use resources for their greatest potential use (eg electricity for tools and lighting, food scraps for animal feed)
  • use renewable resources wherever possible even if local environmental costs appear higher (eg wood rather than electricity for fuel and timber rather than steel for production)
  • use non-renewable and embodied energies primarily to establish sustainable systems (eg passive solar housing, food gardens, water storage, forests)
  • when using high technology (eg computers) avoid using state of the art equipment
  • avoid debt and long-distance commuting
  • reduce taxation by earning less
  • develop a home-based lifestyle, be domestically responsible
Posted in eco-philosophy

My loom knitting

I just wanted to keep a record of my loom knitting projects here. I took up knitting in December 2013, on discovering looms and proceeded to make some useful, some stupid and some amazing bits of knitting with the various looms I got on ebay. I am hoping to make more of my own clothes and just love real wool as a material.

Princess Leia headphones

Princess Leia headphones

Princess Leia headphones. I made the mistake of calling my beloved partner ‘Jabba the Hutt’ during an argument. In atonement she insisted I should make the above modification to my headphones and wear them in public.

field of dreams

field of dreams

Field of Dreams. A decorative piece for which I knitted a flat panel using a round loom. The flowers are made using a multi-size flower loom.

thick wool socks

thick wool socks

Thick woolly socks. These socks are so warm that I wore them for  whole month (with an inner sock) before I washed them. They are different colours because they are made from left-over wool. They have no built-in heel but the weave lets the sock adapt to your foot shape. When you wash them they return to shape and you can turn them over to double the wear life. Just the warmest socks I have ever had and made from pure wool.

my second pair of socks

my second pair of socks

Really thick woolly socks. I thought I would knit some even thicker socks that the ones above and tried out a ‘2 over 4’ stitch that was quite stiff to reach. The socks took two weeks of evenings to knit and when I came to try them on, the wool was too thick for me to get my feet in. Fortunately my Mum was suffering from cold feet so I could send them to her. Sorry, Mum – I didn’t mean it was fortunate that you have cold feet – just that I obviously must have knitted these socks for you. xx

A scarfat

A scarfat

The totally unique Scarfat. No I didn’t fall asleep when I was knitting a hat. I am a bit forgetful with my headgear and thought that a hat combined with a scarf would mean less to remember when I get my coat on to leave. What – I had a coat? Where’s my coat?

the green hat

the green hat

A simple little green skullcap sort of hat made to go under the hood bit of my Morrocan Djelaba. It fits perfectly.

woolly flower hat

woolly flower hat

A woolly flower hat. A spectacularly useless bit of tat that nobody will ever wear but it gave me an opportunity to try out my flower looms.

drumstick bag

drumstick bag

A DRUMMER JOKE below to go with this awesome fashion accessory of a knitted drumstick bag. A bloke goes into Curry’s and says:” I need a new brain because this one is full. ”

The shop assistant says, ” Well sir, we have three on offer. One belonged to a Nuclear Physicist, one belonged to an organic gardener and the third one belonged to a drummer. ”

“OK” said the man. ” I will take the one that belonged to the drummer because it obviously hasn’t ever been used.”

Posted in make and do

Free Energy from Scrap

free energy

Free energy from scrap

It always amazes me how much free energy is around if you can access it, especially when the predominant ideology seems about scarcity and expense.

Cornwall, where I live, is particularly well-endowed with wind, which many people are rushing to exploit. Wind farms are quite divisive for local people as ‘bribes’ in terms of ‘community benefits’ (which are mostly just peanuts) tend to make people living within the shadow of the particular wind farm angry, and others, not so close, interested in the benefits. But enough of the politics.

I have always wanted to make my own windmills from scrap materials. I love the idea of making something out of nothing, but my science education wasn’t very good. I am more of a ‘creative’. I can do nuts and bolts, but volts and amps still leave me a bit puzzled and my electrical education continues with melting things and setting them on fire. Or not getting any results. But here I have made a mini windmill out of rubbish that generates a small voltage in an average wind.

I have seen examples of people using old electric motors and running them backwards – changing a motor into a generator – and wanted to start making these. From my understanding pretty much all motors will create some kind of voltage, but the ones that are best for small windmills need some seeking out. This is still technically beyond me but there is a great page on it here, that I am still working through.

measure energy

Measure the energy

 One way to check that you are getting power, is to put the motor into a variable speed electric drill and measure the output with a voltmeter. In the first image I have got a tiny reading from a tiny motor, as you might expect. If you know the speed of the drill in rps then you can get some idea of how fast it needs to turn to get energy out. This is why slower motors like those used in treadmills, washing machines or overhead room fans seem to work quite well – many electric motors are made to turn faster than any wind turbine could.

turbine blade

home-made turbine blade

Now I found a small electic motor that seemed to give quite a good reading and sought to connect it up with bits of rubbish that might make it go! It fitted exactly inside an old photographic film strip container and I made a hole for the hub. I had a flat plate of metal and cut out a turbine shape by drilling and cutting with metal shears. My model for this was the turbines seen on western movies that pump-up water from underground. I wanted metal to give it some momentum once it got going. I glued the propellor onto the hub with the aid of a rivet and some epoxy resin and tested it in the wind. It went round.

home-made energy

what a load of rubbish

Back to my personal dump and I found the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner which was the same diameter as my film case. I wrapped the joint in a shimmy of aluminium and taped it up with insulation tape. I cut a piece of plastic from an old babies chair to complete the tail for wind alignment. I then drilled a hole though the nozzle and mounted the thing in between washers on an old bit of bicycle, which I stuck in the top of some leftover copper pipe.

Now to test it in the wind. I took it up to the top of the garden (we are on a hill) to try it out. Although it vibrated a bit in the wind – it showed up to 6 volts in an average wind. I mounted a bit of lead under the tail to balance it, which seemed to ease the shaking.

home made wind turbine

blade cut from metal sheet

OK so its not much energy – but I guess (and it is a guess at this stage) that it might charge a six volt battery which could run a lighting system for a small space using LEDs. It cost nothing to make and it provides free energy. I think I might learn a bit more and make a bigger one!

Posted in make and do

Wild Hazelnut Truffles

Autumn is just that time of year when there is lots of foraging about. This is one of my favourite recipes ever because, although it involves a bit of foraging it is also a completely luxurious and hedonistic treat. This year there are quite a few hazulnuts around if you can get to them before the squirrels.

hazulnut truffles1

Hazelnuts, butter and sugar

I haven’t picked a great deal yet, just just picked up about 20 or so on the way home for this treat. Firstly, crack them open and keep the good ones, discarding any that are discoloured because they have a bitter taste. I crush them up with a rolling pin and then chop them on a board so there is a selection of fine and chunky bits. Then I put them in a frying pan with a bit of butter and sugar and just fry them for a minute to bring out the flavour. The sugar sets inside the truffles and gives a lovely bit of crunchy texture.

Melting chocolate

Melting chocolate

Next I set about melting the chocolate in a home-made bain-marie, basically just a heatproof glass bowl in a saucepan of water. I didn’t choose any particularly special chocolate because the village stores doesn’t have a great choice, but given a choice I would always go for plain in truffles – but that is just to taste. I would love to try this with some 100% Criollo chocolate but this works just fine. Don’t overheat and catch the chocolate just when it has melted – at the same temperature as blood – which just proves how chocolate is made for humans!

whipped cream and hazelnut chocolate

whipped cream and hazelnut chocolate

Then I added the nuts mix into the chocolate and stirred it in, switching off the heat whilst I whipped up some double cream. Then spoon the double cream into the warm chocolate and nut mix, lifting with the spoon so as not to take the air out of the whipped cream. You can go as far as half and half of each but I think this makes the truffles a bit sloppy. I prefer mine with a bit of bite to them so use about one third cream to two thirds chocolate. Then put the mix in the fridge to set for a couple of hours. By all means keep checking it every half an hour so you can try a bit. You can also set this mix as a base for a very interesting dessert.

Wild Hazelnut Truffles

Wild Hazelnut Truffles

When the mix has hardened off, spoon out small amounts and roll them quickly into a ball shape – dropping them into chocolate powder eg drinking chocolate or cocoa. There is a nack to this and it is best to do it with really cold hands! If you want to finish them – put them into little paper cases as shown. They don’t keep for very long but I am sure you will have no problem finding somebody to share them with!

 

Posted in recipes, wildfood & medicine

Revolution or Evolution?

poisoned apple

don’t eat the apple

Not enough people are going to change their ways in time to avert environmental disaster of catastrophic proportions. According to Thomas Berry, “the glory of the human has become the devastation of the earth.” The values of humankind are incompatible with the laws of nature. The cult of material consumerism has a different story to the trees, the birds and the bees – and it doesn’t include them. The next mass extinction has already begun.

Some of us realize this, but not enough to make any real difference. Even if everyone in the UK became carbon neutral overnight it would take China just a couple of months to make up the footprint size. This is regardless of the massive, global, radioactive pollution presently emanating from Fukushima. The impact of this is so horrific that people just don’t want to look at it. Humans carry an innate editing capability that makes it particularly easy to reach denial on subjects they find uncomfortable.

Soap Bubble Sky from Wikimedia Commons

Soap Bubble Sky

To compound the catastrophe, the effects of global warming are being temporarily hidden in the oceans, which seem to be acting as a great sponge, soaking up the heat for a short while. The complexity and interrelated nature of the issues is mostly too much for people who just want to get on with getting to work, earning a living, paying their mortgages, bringing up their children and watching telly.

Consensus seems to be that the ‘tipping point’ has already passed. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has topped 400 parts per million. The 400 ppm threshold has been an important marker in U.N. climate change negotiations, widely recognized as a dangerous level that could drastically worsen human-caused global warming. The Scientific American claims that “sudden, irreversible changes in relatively stable conditions that have allowed civilization to flourish,” are increasingly likely. Human nature shows that most people won’t believe it even after it has happened.

There are plans for technical fixes of giant proportions, such as spraying the sky with a reflective layer to diminish the radiation from the sun to compensate. Conspiracy theorists assert that experiments have already begun, using military and commercial aircraft to spray barium, nano-aluminum-coated fiberglass, radioactive thorium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, desiccated blood, mold spores, yellow fungal mycotoxins, ethylene dibromide, and polymer fibres into the atmosphere. Some even attribute more sinister intentions to this airborne cocktail. Scientists and authorities deny that there is evidence for any of it.

Geo-engineering, cloud-seeding ships, space mirrors or even planting more trees are all possible techno fixes to an escalating problem. (Meanwhile we still continue to cut down 5.2 million hectares of forest globally per year). One solution to the problem seems obvious – use less energy – but this seems less and less compatible with economies based on ‘growth’, as they increasingly fail to meet energy reduction targets or ‘opt out’ of the agreements they have made.

buckminster-fullerPerhaps technical fixes will be helpful. But their effects are completely unpredictable and un-researched. There are new ways of doing things – as Buckminster Fuller said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

For some of our future-seers, it is already too late to make a difference. Former deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth became disillusioned with a fragmented and ineffective green movement and sees: “the failure of humanity to respond to the crises it has created becomes increasingly obvious. Together we are able to say it loud and clear: we are not going to ‘save the planet’. The planet is not ours to save. The planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be, and neither green technology nor ethical shopping is going to prevent a serious crash.”

Many people have joined him and the other founders of the Dark Mountain project, to create more honest stories for a civilization in terminal decline. It seems that humans are chromosomally programmed to self-destruct. Once again, Thomas Berry writes: “the devastation of the earth appears to be our destiny.

This puts a lot of pressure on us poor little humans who, having climbed-up from protozoic slime so quickly – seem to have landed on a snake and have to slide down to start again. But perhaps there are reasons for this. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a prominent Islamic philosopher, identifies: “The ecological crisis is only an externalization of an inner malaise and it cannot be solved without a spiritual rebirth…

He sees a huge flaw at the heart of Western Civilisation – the dualism of heart and mind, physic and spirit, body and soul – brought about through the philosophies stemming from Cartesian dualism. These essentially separate us from nature and have created a basis for the illusions that the conditions of modern life are in any way desirable or durable.

evolutionBut it seems to me that within this pressure barrel there are more and more people ‘evolving’, discovering a higher purpose beyond our mundane material existence on this earth. People are discovering for themselves a whole relationship with themselves, each other, wild nature and environment beyond a subsistence existence. Just now, right now, there is a window of about 10 years or so where those of us lucky enough to have our basic needs fulfilled might be on the ascendant to a completely new way of being.

So ignore revolution and anarchy and trying to mend or bring-down a system that is irretrievably stupid. It was made broken for a purpose – to serve just a few people materially. Connect with your spiritual heart and raise the vibration. Connect with each other and the nature around you and find the way through.

Posted in eco-philosophy

The Evolution of Revolution

evolution of revolutionIn the 1960’s the mantra was ‘Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out’ a counterculture phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in 1967. The post-war baby boomers discovered pot and acid and embraced cultural change through detaching from prevalent conventions and hierarchies in society. They sang happy songs and danced in mud. This sub-culture still exists today in many forms, perhaps Glastonbury Festival is a notable example.

To Leary, “‘Turn on’ meant go within to activate your neural and genetic equipment. Become sensitive to the many and various levels of consciousness and the specific triggers that engage them. Drugs were one way to accomplish this end. ‘Tune in’ meant interact harmoniously with the world around you – externalize, materialize, express your new internal perspectives. Drop out suggested an elective, selective, graceful process of detachment from involuntary or unconscious commitments. ‘Drop Out’ meant self-reliance, a discovery of one’s singularity, a commitment to mobility, choice, and change. Unhappily my explanations of this sequence of personal development were often misinterpreted to mean ‘Get stoned and abandon all constructive activity.’” From ‘Flashbacks’, one of his books.

Leary later wished he’d said, ‘Drop out. Turn on. Drop in’. Well, that’s hippies for you! 🙂 But the emphasis here is on disassociating from the mainstream and seeing reality for yourself. Forgiving the inherent sexism in the words of José Martí: “The first duty of a man is to think for himself”.

mahatma-gandhiGandhi is often attributed with the quote ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. This is a misquote which provides an easy copout for those people who don’t want to deal with the complexities of politics – but still want to feel they might be contributing to the ‘battle for the planet’ by doing something. Gandhi’s actual words were: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…” Once again forgiving the inherent sexism.

Gandhi clearly thought that personal and social transformation go hand in hand. Personal transformation is not enough on its own. Gandhi’s philosophy of social change involved self-denial and strict non-violence. He also thought that one person, alone, can’t change anything.  He believed that unjust authority can only be overturned by people working together in persistent and peaceful opposition.

Laozi was a philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching. His association with the Tào Té Chīng has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of philosophical Taoism. He says:

If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation”.

To me the ‘elimination of the dark and negative in myself’ is less important than its integration into my whole being. Lurking there in the dark is a whole realm of creative genius which can help turn the poison of modern life into nectar.

In the evolution of revolution, self-transformation alone will never be enough to stop Monsanto poisoning our foods with GM and banning heirloom seeds, to prevent the toxic products of Bayer killing bees like there’s no tomorrow, to stop global warming wreaking havok on our planet, to stop Texaco and other ‘energy suppliers’ killing South American Natives with industrial pollutants, to stop the manufacture of gold in India wrecking the health of children, to stop the confiscation of the ancestral lands of the Masai and the hundreds of pages I could write about the ongoing rape of Mother Earth and its people in the ever-continuing deeds of greed called ‘economics’. While we have been busy ego-centrically self-transforming, the powers of greed have stepped in to claim all that there is on the earth as their own to treat as they see fit. This needs opposition not navel gazing.

In the words of a truly modern revolutionary woman, Julia Butterfly Hill: “The question we need to ask ourselves is: ‘What kind of difference do I want to make?’”

There is hardly a lack of choice. We have come a million miles from The Wild One starring Marlon Brando. He is asked: ‘Hey Johnny what are you rebelling against?’ and replies ‘What have you got?’ Rebellion for its own sake – as a fashion statement – is a thing of the past. Now we are literally in a war to save the best of our planet for our descendants.

laurel and hardyMy mum says: “I just don’t want to hear about it.” And in some ways – who can blame her. Millions of people prefer to deny or edit reality than actually look at what is going on around them. In the UK The Daily Mail makes this so easy for people. In the words of Voltaire: “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

In the United States there are 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers. These are all owned by just 3 corporations. In the UK the picture is no better. The dominant myth is continually asserted as ‘Economic Progress at Any Price’.

People are presented with the illusion of choice. In the words of Noam Chomsky: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but allow lively debate within that spectrum.” And this is what we have – lots of choice but no real alternatives.

Obviously I don’t vote as I believe democracy is a pointless spectacle where we choose between two indistinguishable political parties, neither of whom represent the people but the interests of the powerful business elites that run the world”. Russell Brand.

Cognitive dissonance is increasing as people notice the disparity between what they are being told and what they see going on around them. Gone is the quietly protestant stance of Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

To be replaced with Idle No More: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change – I am changing the things I cannot accept”.

Also, attributed to Reverend Charles F. Aked: “…for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” Not forgetting of course, women.

Posted in eco-philosophy

This Product Kills Bees

Free ‘This Product Kills Bees’ Stickers

This Product Kills Bees

Photo by Ron Rock

With the long, cold winter in the UK this year, on top of a summer last year which was pretty hard on wildlife, bees are having a difficult time and populations are dropping severely.

As if the Varroa Mite was not enough on top of this – some pesticides regularly used in the UK contain neonicotinoid, which is also proven to kill bees. Their populations across the UK are getting decimated, yet they are responsible for cross-pollinating at least a third of the plants from which us humans eat the produce. It is estimated, that without bees – human beings would die out within five years or so as their would be no cross pollination of plants.

Added to that, other species on this planet have as much right to exist as we do. It is essential that humans stop destroying other species and cultures through their short sighted greed.

Now in what can only be described as an utterly cynical marketing campaign, ASDA are now selling bee-killing neonicotinoid pest sprays – but promoting their sale by giving away free packets of ‘bee friendly’ garden plant seeds.

This Product Kills Bees

Booklet of 90 ‘This Product Kills Bees’ stickers

This rattled my cage enough to produce these free sticker layouts that you are welcome to download and print onto self-adhesive stickers to ‘correct’ this disinformative marketing ploy in ASDA and other shops and gardening centres that abandon responsibility to the environment in preference to profit.

Simply stick these stickers onto products in shops that kill bees, in order to inform other customers who might not realize that this is what they are doing by purchasing the product.

This Product Kills Bees

There are three ways to obtain these stickers:

Choice 1. Download a free word file and print your own on your home computer,

Choice 2. Make and purchase a book of 90 mini stickers from moo.com (file provided free below)

Choice 3. Order a booklet of 90 stickers direct from me for a £10 Paypal payment (and I will order them from moo and get them sent to you)

This Product Kills Bees

Choice 1: Firstly – download this word file: (right click image on left and ‘save link as’ to your computer on PC, Ctrl.click for Mac)

The stickers needed to print these are Avery Label size 4.57 x 2.12 cm. There are 48 of these to each A4 size page. You can buy packs of these online for about £10 from here: http://www.labelplanet.co.uk/

Choice 2: Alternately, and more cheaply, you can order these stickers in sticker books of 90 stickers from moo.com, for about £6 including postage.

This Product Kills Bees

1. Download this sticker image to your computer (right click image on left & ‘save link as’ to save ‘beesticker.jpg’ to your computer on PC, Ctrl.click for Mac)

2. Go to moo.com and find the sticker department to order a book of 90 mini stickers (22mm square) – using this file.

3. Upload the beesticker.jpg you downloaded above and complete the order

4. Stick them on the products in shops that kill bees.

5. Don’t get caught.

Choice 3. Order a booklet from me for a £10 paypal payment (simonthescribe at yahoo.co.uk) – don’t forget to send me your address

Disclaimer: I cannot of course endorse any illegal activity and in itself, providing you with the bullets for an anti-disinformation campaign, in the form of these stickers, is not illegal. However, placing stickers onto products in shops may well lead to your prosecution if you should get caught and I am making it quite clear here that I cannot be held responsible and that the choice of such action is made by you entirely.

Please note that the link to moo.com is a ‘refer a friend’ links that may allow me to purchase items at a reduced price should anyone click these links.

Posted in make and do

Book Review: Mark Boyle, The Moneyless Manifesto

The Moneyless Manifesto by Mark BoyleOne of my favourite optimistic, life-enhancing quotes is from Arundhati Roy, an Indian authoress and political activist, perhaps best known for winning the 1998 Man Booker Prize for her novel ‘The God of Small Things’ in 1997:

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.
On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

One place I have recently found to hear the future breathing is in Mark Boyle’s fascinating book, ‘The Moneyless Manifesto: Live Well, Live Rich, Live Free’.

I’ve been doing green stuff since the 1980’s and have seen the ‘movement’ (which is so uncoordinated it can hardly be called a movement) go through many changes. It’s been easy to get resentful when, after the scourge of finger wagging greenies putting everyone off by telling us we are ‘all bad’ and ‘humanity is a cancer’, you see a mass corporate jumping on the green bandwagon to steal the agenda and convert it into yet another form of consumerism.

Mark Boyle’s book is utterly refreshing and washes the cloying breakdown of greenyism from my eyes to see things afresh. For quite a while now I have realised that money itself is a big problem that stops so many of us having a wholesome relationship with ourselves and our planet. In this book Mark helps me to verbalise my feelings about money and its effect on ‘self’.

With the edge of the Fiscal Cliff now looming into view for even ‘normal’ people, money is no longer a valid method of valuing self or measuring wealth. So, the question for me, and a core theme of this book is: ‘How, then, does one escape from dependence on money into more useful, productive and meaningful relationships with oneself, earth, the environment and people?’

Enter – with I might say absolutely no preaching or finger wagging and a good degree of humour – The Moneyless Man. A brave experiment and one I never dared, despite starting a local exchange scheme (LETS), an organic gardening co-operative and a Community College where I live.

What is so refreshing here is the approach which isn’t one that limits personal choice but offers us a continuum of action designed to shift us gently into a more considered relationship with our energies in relation to work, reward and a finite planet, wherever we stand idealogically.

At one end for example is the extreme; “walking barefoot is the ultimate in moneyless transport” to the next step of “Driving a hybrid car” if you are a car driver – the choice is yours and Mark discusses the merits of each in a selection of what he calls POP Models (Progression of Principles).

In addition to cohesive theories based on sound observation and experiment there are a wealth of practical ideas and resources in this book. Early adopters, Transitioners and social entrepreneurs especially will find it valuable, but if you want a hand in making an economically viable future in your own community – start here.

The end of time for money is apparent, as it no longer serves us as a medium of exchange – but instead has become an end in itself which makes slaves of us all. Government and the mass media continue to sell us the lie that “more economic growth, and not the efficient use of all of the resources we already have, is the answer to economic austerity”. As this awful system crumbles even more, the further entrenched in money systems you are, the harder it will hit you. Get out now. With ‘The Moneyless Man’ you are not just forewarned but also forearmed and I would classify it ‘an essential read’ for anyone wanting to live in the future.

Get a copy here: http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/get-a-copy/

Review from Simon Mitchell

Posted in book / film review Tagged with: ,

12 food growing spaces

There are many ways to grow food in your own home and garden – even if its tiny. Yes it is way more time consuming than popping down the shops to buy vegetables that have systematically had all their minerals and amino acids removed by mass processing techniques, but it holds its own reward. When you become involved in the life of plants or animals, it opens a window in the universe. Here are a dozen ways to get yourself some growing space:

Sprouting Seeds

Sprouting seeds

 

 

Anyone can grow sprouting seeds such as radish, alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, quinoa, wheat, aduki beans or chick peas. Mixed packs are readily available from health food shops, as are small stacker trays for home growing. They can even be grown in a jar with a draining top.

Sprouted seeds contain a powerhouse of nutrients with high concentrations of essential enzymes, proteins, minerals, trace elements and natural vitamins. They also have an excellent fibrous value that helps to regulate the digestion and is kind to the intestines. Because they grow right up to the moment they are harvested there are very few nutrients lost – more fresh food straight from the kitchen. Sprouted seeds are delicious in sandwiches, salads, stir fries, soups, stews and dips.

My personal favourites are sprouted Fenugreek seeds, a sublime taste!

Bottle Garden

Bottle gardening

Another set-up for an internal windowsill but it can work just as well outside. Make sure the plants get a mix of sun and shade as they are very sensitive.

Cut three-quarters of the way round a two litre recycled plastic bottle about 4 inches up from the base. Make some drainage holes in the bottom and put in a layer of gravel and some seed compost. Works well for planting small lettuce and rocket seeds. You can also use this process to bring on seeds early for planting out, but watch it doesn’t get too wet or too dry inside.

Window Box

Window boxes

If there isn’t a drainage system built into your window box, make sure it has holes and that the leakage isn’t going to damage anything in the building. Put down a layer of pebbles or small stones to aid water dispersal, otherwise your box will be prone to rot and mould. For best results use a 50/50 mix of loam and coir compost without added insecticide. Fill to two-thirds with compost.

Transplant your seedlings or plants to the box and top up with compost, leaving about an inch for watering. Give them plenty of growing room, about three herbs to a two-foot long box. Keep it watered and pest/weather free and you should be cropping within three months. Great for small, early salad greens and kitchen herbs.

Pots

Gardening in pots

Even the smallest garden can accommodate a few pots of herbs. The key is to create the right conditions for each. Do they prefer sun or shade? Do they like it damp or dry, hot or cool? Part of the joy of growing is finding out how to position and nurture each plant.

There are many cheap import pots available from garden centres now and pots can be used indoors as well as outdoors. They are suitable for small patios, balconies and safe rooftop locations although they are likely to need constant watering on a roof. Automated watering systems are pretty easy to make though and solar power is ideal to power the pump as when the sun shines they need watering the most. You can even drip feed using water pressure from a water butt.


Upside Down Gardens

Upside down gardening

Another great use for empty, clear, two-litre bottles is to make upside-down hanging-gardens. Simply cut off the base of the bottle and pierce it 4 times so you can hang it upside-down. Carefully insert a young tomato, pepper or strawberry plant through what was the ‘top’ of the bottle and add compost around the roots, pressing it down firmly enough so that the plant does not fall out. Then hang it up and water through what was the base of the bottle.

You can also use buckets for this technique to get a larger crop, hanging them to suspend large tomato or cucumber crops, eggplants or beans.

Some flowers also respond well to this ‘soil on top’ reversal. It has many advantages in a small space and eliminates the need for bending down to tend or harvest the plants. It makes feeding and watering a lot easier.

Hanging Basket

Hanging baskets

Hanging baskets

Get some moss that is farmed specifically for the purpose from a garden centre. Soak it in water and arrange it around your hanging basket (can be made: another recycling opportunity for metal coat hangers). Fill the basket to about a third with the same seed compost mix mentioned above. Please consider getting your own home composting system if you haven’t already.

Gently but firmly, ease the root bases of your plants through the side-wires and moss into the basket. Tuck the moss back around the stem of the plants to stop water seepage. Nearly fill the basket and place other top plants into the compost. Leave enough space on the top so that the water can disperse. Firm it down and give it a good soaking. If it ever dries out too much, take it down and dunk the whole thing in water for a while. If you are lucky – this home herb store can last as long as three years.

Recommended minimal herb box/basket contents for Northern Hemisphere include: Oregano, Sage, Parsley, Thyme, Mint.

Other useful herbs suitable for baskets and boxes, pots and containers include: Borage, Chamomile, Chives, Coriander, Coriander, Curry plant, Lemon balm, Lemon verbena, Mixed mints, Mixed sages, Mixed thymes, Nasturtium, Pot marigold, Rosemary, Salad burnet, Savoury, Tarragon.

Rooftop Box

Rooftop box

Rooftop box

If you want to go a bit larger than pots, its quite simple to make (cat proof) mini-gardens from single sheets of 8 x 4 foot marine ply. Here’s a sketch:

I inset the base to allow it to dry out underneath and before spring will jigsaw the base to improve aeration and drill holes to allow water seepage. I also made the back a little higher to install mirror tiles and improve the light for plants at the front. Although this will weigh quite heavy when it has about 10 inches of soil in the bottom I am also fixing it with batons to the outside wall to make it wind-proof for safety.

This rooftop box can be covered with polythene or the like to bring-on seedlings, and covered with chicken wire to stop cats using it as a toilet. I used this one to grow a selection of early spring greens.

Rock Beds

Rock beds

 

Rock beds

If, like me, you have a garden that appears to be full of rocks, why not use them to build some raised rock beds?

I built the ones shown in the photo over a few weeks, doing a bit every now and then. I ordered in a ton of topsoil and filled them, after putting rock rubble in the bottom to improve drainage.

Every year I add a bit of humus or leaf mold to get the soil fertility up. They’re great for growing veg. And you don’t have to bend too far.

I also have some larger slabs of granite as you might imagine, living on the edge of Bodmin Moor. I have used these to raise a small wall and create an easily accessible bed.

Wall Beds

Wall beds

If you have a wall that gets the sun you can build a raised bed using cement blocks, bricks or wood.

The one shown here is an L shaped block wall with the addition of a few more blocks one end and a front made from a piece of reinforced concrete from a knocked down garage. Many people like to use old railway sleepers, stacked up for a retaining wall.

Tyre Stacks

Tyre stack

OK so many of you will find this technique of making a raised bed visually undesirable, but it is particularly effective and a great bit of recycling.

Shown here is a photo of potatoes growing in a tyre stack (but to be honest I never really got a good harvest with potatoes this way). But they do work well for squash, courgettes, broad beans, I’ve even grown some whopping marrows in them. The tyre walls absorb the rays of the sun and warm up the soil which helps stimulate the roots of the plant. The inside of the tyres hold water pockets so that the roots can drink from each tyre.

The soil subsides over the season and may need topping up to avoid creating hiding places for slugs and snails under the tyre rims. Watering, feeding, tending the plants and harvesting are all made easier with the elevation. It is also a good way of breaking-in new ground in as it suppresses the weeds in the soil under the tyres.

Stick and Carpet Beds

Stick and carpet bed

 

Stick and carpet bed

This image shows a raised bed made from materials found around the house and garden.

Some hazel sticks from the hedge were hammered into the ground. Then others were used to weave around the sticks. The top was levelled off with some 2×1 batton and old carpet was nailed to the inside to retain the soil, screened by hand from around the garden.

Later I added some metal hoops from fencing wire and some bubble wrap in which my partners canoe was delivered. I’ve got spinach, beetroot, coriander and lettuce in there at the moment.

Allied to the above, I built a retaining wall on a 45 degree slope from a few tanelised garden stakes, added hazel branches, some leftover plywood and black plastic sheeting. I then collapsed the slope into the wall and levelled the garden out. It is accessible from the front ad a raised bed and last year it grew some big pumpkins. This year it has squashes because our deep freeze still has loads of pumpkin soup (a largeish pumpkin makes about 30 portions!)

Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

This has become all the rage in cities, but to an extent people have always grown things up screens at least. Vertical wallgardening has now become an architectural feature in the greening of urban spaces.

‘Le Mur Vegetal’ first coined by Patrick Blanc can be seen all over. Specially designed (and expensive) modules exist to suspend, water and feed plants grown vertically.

Vegetable walls exist on practical as well as aesthetic levels such as that in the photograph of Suzanne Forsling’s Gutter Garden which is one I have yet to try.

Posted in make and do

Make a Bee Hotel from Rubbish

Make a bee hotelInspired by a talk from Brigit Strawbridge I decided to make bee hotels for the garden. We already have a couple of ceramic ones which we were given for Christmas two years ago. I thought I might make some as Christmas gifts as Brigit had suggested in her bee talk. As always, I like to make things out of junk and it is that time of year to increase the opportunities for wild creature habitat in the garden. After all, it’s their garden too.

I found some old plastic cider bottles, a bit of carpet and polystyrene to make up some ‘hotels’. These materials had been sitting around for several years and were unlikely to be leeching anything toxic for the bees, who already have quite enough to deal with, with all of the poisons put into pesticides which they have to encounter in their day-to-day existence.

I chose bottles because I thought they offered better weather protection than the open-ended drainpipe which Brigit had bought to her talk as an example. I cut the bottoms off each and fitted them to the old polystyrene and carpet circles I had cut out, which were nailed to wooden bases for later mounting.

I had a number of dried-out fennel stems from last year and a few lengths of bamboo which seemed to have the right aperture holes for small bees. I bound these together to saw off lengths for insertion into the sawn-off bottles, checking each individually to make sure there were holes, eg the bamboo was not sawn on a joint, blocking off the hole. It surprised me how quickly my entire stash of bamboo and fennel sticks were used up and I only had enough for three bottle bee hotels. I pushed in extra lengths from the top to wedge the sticks in the bottle and then inserted some long panel pins through the bottom of the bottles into the polystyrene to fix them in place. I made some holes along what would become the bottom ‘side’ of the bottles to drain out any water or evaporation that might collect.

I thought I could make some ‘flowers’ to mount on the top of the bottles since our existing bee hotel literature said that bees like something to aim for and somewhere to land before entering. I cut some petal shapes out of small plastic flowerpots and then noticed an old,  textile flower which I stripped down and added to the entrances, jamming the petals down with the lid from each bottle with the centre cut out.

Now to find some places to put these these, kind of quiet and out of the way. I will be checking the hotels regularly to see if they have any guests and should be able to tell because the holes in the hollow sticks will be bunged-up with mud.

I shall make some other varieties of bee hotel later and add results to this post. What better way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon than making temporary homes for bees?

To find out more about bees, soil, permaculture, food, ethics, animal rights, growing food, sustainable living and more take a visit to Brigit Strawbridge’s Blog here:

Bee Strawbridge

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Cooking Fires

camp fire 1I enjoy experimenting with different types of camp and cooking fires. When I make a bonfire in the garden after it has destroyed my garden rubbish that isn’t compostable, I will often use it to cook or host a gathering or small party around the fire.

So I want to use this blog article on bonfires to host a record of different styles of campfire made for different purposes.

1.  Starburst Fire

Starburst FireI have seen this used by South American tribes. It makes feeding the fire extremely organized and easy as you just feed-in the logs from the outside. You can vary the flame and light by using different log types and pushing them in closer to the centre of the fire. It is also very easy to balance a cooking pot of some kind in the middle of the fire although its best to introduce a couple more bits of wood to levitate the pot up and allow for good airflow. From my wood in Cornwall, mature gorse wood on this type of fire gives a really good light and mixed with oak branches emits a good heat too.

2. Swedish Log Fire

Swedish log fireI found this idea on the internet and wanted to try it out. The example I saw used a chainsaw to cut down into a log and then start a cooking fire in the sawn spaces. I don’t use a chainsaw and handsaw all my firewood. It also looked very difficult to start a cooking fire in such a confined space. So I split a log into 4 pieces and snuggled it down onto an existing fire bed, nailing a couple of bits of random wood and a griddle across the top to supply airflow and stop the pieces falling over.

A bit of feeding into the gaps and the fire took hold pretty easily, boiling a kettle of water very quickly, lasting for a considerable time afterwards. This is a neat solution to cooking on a campfire but works best on an established, eg, ‘hot’ fire pit.

3. Rocket Stove

Rocket StoveThis is such a simple structure and if I need hot water outside I will use it to heat up a gallon or so quite quickly just using found bits of wood. We hardly ever use the water heater in our house, preferring to boil and save water in thermoses from the wood stove, so this is a useful addition. It is also a great way to cook organic, short-grain rice as the fire seems to make it taste even nicer. I have published full instructions on how to make a rocket stove here:

Make a Rocket Stove

4. Cooking in ashes

Cooking in AshesI often cook in the garden after having a bonfire. It seems mad to not use the free energy being released. Everybody knows about cooking baked potatoes in a bit of foil but just yesterday I made a surprise discovery. I had planned making baked potatoes outside and scheduled my fire to be hot ashes at about 4pm in the afternoon to allow 2 hours baking time. Now I had a crap potato harvest this year, but there were a few bakable ones – but all of the aluminium foil had gone. Its not really worth doing them without it since they burn. What I did notice in the kitchen was a few dog food tins that I had washed out, ready for recycling. I dropped potatoes into 4 of them, topped them off with some sawdust and poured some water over them to damp the sawdust down. I buried them in the ashes. 2 hours later I had the most delicious baked potatoes. This is a technique I hope to experiment with more.

5. Barbecue cooking

Mackerel fireThis technique uses a barbecue or an old oven shelf or the like over a fire, which burns down to embers providing the heat. It doesn’t need much wood or charcoal and is easily purpose-made depending on the size of meal. The flat shelf allows the use of pans or you can cook many things straight over the fire. One of my favourite uses for this type of fire is cooking fresh Mackerel, the ones in the picture had hardly been out of the sea for an hour by the time I got them cooking over a barbecue on a bed of fresh fennel. They are indescribably delicious cooked like this – much more like river trout because the fennel seems to leech the oily flavours out.

To be continued…

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Make a Kayapo Headress

Kayapo Belo MonteI am right miffed at the way that the exigencies of ‘economy’ continue to treat the indigenous peoples of this planet. The Masai in Africa, a spectacularly beautiful people who are being driven off their ancestral lands to benefit game hunters. The Lakota Indians of North America who are having their sacred heartlands sold off to the highest bidder, most likely for commercial development. But most of all, the Kayapo and other tribes of the Xingu River in the Amazon Basin who are being driven from a sustainable life of freedom, in tune with nature, to one which is a million miles away in terms of anything they might want or desire. A life out of touch with nature.

Again and again, relentlessly, the force of greed, of money, drives civilised, gentle, earth-loving and sustainable societies to destruction. Aborigines to alcoholics, smallpox infested blankets for the redskins, even some of the ‘Cornish’, where I live in Cornwall talk about 1000 years of English genocide.

I hate this about our supposed ‘civilisation’, that it still so clearly destroys innocence and beauty and ‘other ways’ of living on this earth, so often without even noticing them. It makes me ashamed to be part of the system that espouses this.

I am not alone here and the case of the Xingu tribes is what inspired James Cameron to create the most brilliant environmental film ever; Avatar. You can see my review of this film here: avatar movie review.

Years ago in 1989, I bought a book called ‘Jungle Stories: The Fight for the Amazon’, written by Sting and Jean-Pierre Dutilleux about their visit to the Kayapo tribe where they stayed with Chief Raoni. I still have it and in the intervening 23 years since describing the problems so clearly, the situation of the indigenous tribes has got far worse, with clear mass-murder, poisoning, environmental destruction, illegal mining and logging and land clearance for livestock and dam building now being commonplace.

It makes me mad. I mean really angry and twisted inside and I think this is because I feel so powerless to do anything to help them beyond the life choices I already make.

Make a Kayapo headressAnd so it came to me that I should make a Kayapo head dress and wear it to show my sympathy with these tribes, and to, in some small way, promote more awareness of what seems to be a virtual news embargo on the genocide being caused by the economic interests of consumerism and its greed for energy.

It is actually very easy to make one of these, all you need are some good size feathers of whatever type takes your fancy. In this example I have used dyed goose feathers.

For the headband I used an old leather belt that I cut, along the belt, into strips. I made holes most of the way along about three quarters of the way up, with an auger, and pushed feathers through the holes from the ‘outside’ to the ‘inside’, which gives them an outward pointing ‘crown’ effect. On the inside I had previously put some heavy-duty, double-sided sticky tape. Once all the feathers were through I stripped of the top layer of the tape and bedded the feathers onto it, making sure that they were all front-faced, which gives a nice convex curve to the crown of feathers.

Make a Kayapo Head dressAbove the holes where the feathers stick through, the belt bends inwards, helping thrust the feathers slightly outwards rather than straight up. I stuck the other bit of belt on top of the feather stems on the inside of the hat and sealed the bottom join with red insulation tape to match colours.

Make a Kayapo Head dressOK, so goose feathers from China and and old leather belt with carpet tape might not be very indigenous but this achieved something that looks very much like a Kayapo head dress to me. A bit of make up and I feel somewhere between a person sympathising with the Kayapo and a member of the Village People.

The question is, do I dare to turn up to a Parish meeting in Michaelstow, where I am the Parish Clerk wearing my head dress and make up? What effect might wearing such a thing in public ( where I am extremely rarely found ) have on publicising the plight of Chief Raoni and the Kayapo people who have sworn to oppose the dam at Belo Monte ‘to the death’? Will anyone else join me in this ‘Kayapo hat protest’?

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The Solar Powered Tent

Sunrise OffgridI had thought about going to the Sunrise Offgrid festival for three years and this year was the one I finally picked up my bed and walked, using public transport to get from North-Cornwall to North-Somerset. Actually, I was amazed for an ‘off grid’ festival quite how many people chose to go by car, but that is another story.

When you are camping on foot, you basically have to carry everything you are going to need and don’t have the convenience of a vehicle to move and store things for you. I changed my tent and sleeping bag to more compact versions to lighten the load.

Five days is quite a long camp for me, so I needed some kind of electric supply to run my tent light and charge my mp3 player which is essential to me when camping at a family festival full of screaming babies and noisy children, music and activity at any time of the night, with thin, fabric tent-walls. So I decided I needed to make my tent solar powered.

I do have a mobile phone but only used it every couple of days to assure my partner that I was OK and hadn’t been eaten by the natives. It didn’t need recharging as it was nearly always off.

Now I was a total failure at Physics at school, where I might have learnt more about electrical circuits. They wouldn’t even let me take the ‘o’ level, having scored 2% in the mocks for getting my name right. In fact I can even remember my Physics report which was, age 15 ‘a hopeless case I fear’ and age 16 ‘I have nothing further to add’. Taking my right to reply right now I would like to say: ‘shit teacher, made no effort whatsoever to engage creative and imaginative child in his subject’.

Sorry, digression over, these things have to come out. I had in my possession a dozen solar powered garden lights which I stripped down for their components. Solar powered garden lights are one of those things that are cheaper to buy than their components singly. Not only are there solar cells in each but switches, light sensitive switches, battery containers and LED lights. They come with rubbish batteries and it’s one of the wonders of consumerism that it is cheaper to replace these lights than buy decent batteries for them.

Solar powered tentThere are instructions online on how to strip down one of these garden solar lights. Even with my own dodgy physics background I managed to wire up twelve of the solar cells. I wired up three sets of four solar cells in serial and then wired those three sets together in parallel. I mounted these on a piece of plastic taken from an empty gallon tomato feed container, as shown in the image. I made holes through and wired on the inside. The plastic folds up concertina-like for compact transport.

Now I don’t quite get amps yet, but put this circuit onto volt meter to show nearly 10 volts in full sun, dropping to around 6 in cloudy weather.

I had read about blocking diodes online. Apparently you put a resistor in the circuit to stop the batteries discharging to the circuit once the sun goes in, but I haven’t done this yet. I just pull the plug out before dark until I have learnt a bit more about resistors.

I had also read about a voltage regulator being needed on the USB outlet to drop the maximum voltage of 9 volts coming in (from the solar panel) to 5 volts needed to charge my mp3 player. But I decided to do this with a 3 way switch. The solar panel charges the batteries with the switch in the central position. I then unplug the panel and switch one way to charge the USB socket at 4 x 1.2 volt fully charged AA batteries ( 4.8 volts) which seems to do the job alright, even with the mp3 player in use. If I left the panels on in full sun, the high incoming voltage might break the mp3 player.

Switching the other way opens the circuit to the tent light, which also has its own on-off switch. This is made from a cheap cupboard light in which the 3 x AA 1.2 volt batteries had died.

Now I realise that this is a laughably simple circuit for some of you nerdy types out there, but for someone who wasn’t even allowed to take their Physics ‘o’ level, it was quite an achievement. And when I ran my mp3 player dry on the first night camping by falling asleep with it on, I was able to recharge the next day using an AA battery bank charged from a solar panel on my tent, made from recycled materials. And when I fell asleep with the tent light on the following night, I was able to recharge the batteries again during a very overcast and rainy day.

And what better place, you might think, to successfully test my first real, home-made-from-recycled-materials, solar-powered tent gadget than at the Sunrise Offgrid Festival.

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How to make Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion Flower

How to make Dandelion Coffee

Dandelion is such a useful plant. This year I have made a delicious wine from the flowers and eaten the leaves in salads, firstly blanching them under pots. I noticed that there were some extremely large plants in a bed I had not dug and it seemed a shame to waste them.

There has been a particularly horrible advert on the TV recently advocating the spraying of toxic poisons onto dandelions. This plant above all others has so many uses its presence in the garden should be honoured. I still find it so hard to believe that the ‘normal’ view is that free food and medicine like dandelions should be eliminated by spraying poison onto the land.

Dandelion has supreme nutritional value, the early leaves provide a diuretic tonic with compounds that help restore potassium to the system – unlike many pharmaceutical diuretics. Both the roots and leaves are rich in fructose and insulin, bitter principles, phenol acids and sterols. The leaves are rich in potassium salts, coumarins and flavonoids.

It also has great value medicinally in managing your health or that of your loved ones. It has been used in the treatment of acne, bladder infections, eczema, endometriosis, gallstones, hangover, haemorrhoids, high blood pressure, liver disease and warts at least !

How to make Dandelion Coffee: So firstly I dug up the roots and cleaned them off outdoors using a hosepipe and brush. Then indoors for a more meticulous scrub in the kitchen bowl, taking off the hairy bits and pricing out clumps of stuck soil with a knife.

Then I dried them off with a tea towel, and patted them down with a couple of kitchen towels. Next I chopped up the roots and laid them out on a tray, taking them out to the greenhouse to start drying.

Making Dandelion CoffeeThere was a late ‘summer’ season this year so we were having fires in the wood burner even in July, which allowed me to use my ‘underburner drying space’ although slow roasting in an oven is just as good to dry the roots out.

Then they need processing to powder, using a coffee grinder or something similar and then you have the powder left to make dandelion coffee, which has a taste all of its own.

You can brew up a dandelion coffee just like a normal ground coffee, or even mix it with coffee as a substitute, a bit like chicory. I tend to put a couple of heaped teaspoons in a small pan with enough water for a mug and boil it up as a decoction, filtering it into a cup.

The word Dandelion comes from the French ‘dent de lion’, a reference to the shape of its leaves. The old English name for it was ‘piss a bed’. In France they still call it Pissenlit, (literally ‘piss in bed’) due to its strong diuretic effect. Dandelion is without doubt wild food foraging at its most nutritionally and medicinally useful.

Posted in recipes, wildfood & medicine Tagged with: , , , , , ,

“Dare to be naïve” – Buckminster Fuller Talk

This text was presented as a talk at the Sunrise Offgrid Festival August 2012:

Soap Bubble Sky from Wikimedia Commons

Soap Bubble Sky

I offered to give a talk on Buckminster Fuller after Dan, an organiser for the festival, made an invitation on Facebook. Buckminster Fuller has certainly had an influence on my life and I wanted to share some of this with you. I discovered him for myself at art college when I started messing around with geodesic domes.

How many of you have heard of Buckminster Fuller?

Here is a well-known picture of him. One of the first things that occurred to me on seeing his pictures is that I thought he looked a bit like a tortoise. Now I liked tortoises a lot, here’s a picture of one I made out of clay when I was 10 years old.

buckminster-fullerActually sometimes I think I look a bit like a tortoise too, so I was happy to find Buckminster Fuller because I knew I wasn’t the only person in the world who looked a bit like a tortoise.

TortoiseBuckminster Fuller was born on 12th July 1895 and lived for 88 years. Some people claim him to be one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th Century. At art college I even read one of his books called ‘Critical Path’.

Critical Path

It wasn’t an easy read, but nestling there in the middle was a secret that changed my life. It was what Buckminster Fuller called the ‘Law of  Precession’ and it was based on some of his observations, the results of which he lived his life by also. But I’m getting ahead of myself here – we’ll come to ‘Precession’ in a few minutes.

Times were pretty harsh in the early 1900’s and Buckminster Fuller lost a daughter to illness in circumstances that caused him to feel pretty bad about himself. According to history he was so unhappy he was even considering taking his own life. But a voice popped into his head and said: “your life is not yours to take.”

Now this stopped him dead in his tracks and resulted in him asking himself who owned his life, then possibly THE QUESTION: “What then, is the purpose of my life?”

He answered it for himself and resolved from that stage on to design and make things to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty, which he did for the rest of his life.

“I set about fifty-five years ago to seewhat a penniless, unknown human individual with a dependent wife and newborn child might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity…”

At this stage I would like us to look at some of the things he made:

Dymaxion CarDymaxion car:

In 1933 he presented his plans for the three-wheeled Dymaxion Car with rear steering and front-wheel drive powered by a Ford engine. The aerodynamic shape, most closely related to high performance yachts, came partly from Fuller’s co-designer, the shipbuilder Starling Burgess. The rave reviews of the car’s styling, speed and manoeuvrability were tragically undermined when the first of three prototypes was rammed and overturned, killing the driver, outside the entrance to the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair.

I can’t help thinking that the Dymaxion Car looks a little bit like a tortoise.

Dymaxion house:

Dymaxion SilosIn 1940, in anticipation of the bombing of British cities, he was asked by the British War Relief Organization to design an emergency shelter. Fuller worked with a grain silo manufacture, using curved galvanised steel to develop a self-supporting structure in a circular shape. The unit was designed to be set up and taken down easily. Metal for its construction was, however, never made available by the British Government as it was needed for the production of armaments. When the US entered World War II, Fuller’s units were commissioned as emergency accommodation for the air force.

These do look a little bit like tortoise shells though.

Dymaxion HouseThe development of this was called a Dymaxion House. Made from lightweight steel, duraluminium and plastic and suspended from a central mast from which the rooms radiated in a hexagonal plan, the Dymaxion House was conceived not as private property, but rather as temporary, transportable space that could be rented – rather like a telephone issued by a telephone company.

Does anyone think that this looks a bit like a big tortoise shell?

Fuller Projection Map

Dymaxion MapAlso known as the “Dymaxion Map,” this is the only flat map of the entire surface of the Earth which reveals our planet as one island in one ocean, without any visually obvious distortion of the relative shapes and sizes of the land areas, and without splitting any continents. It was developed by R. Buckminster Fuller who “By 1954, after working on the map for several decades,” finally realized a “satisfactory deck plan of the six and one half sextillion tons Spaceship Earth.”

“Our little Spaceship Earth is only eight thousand miles in diameter, which is almost a negligible dimension in the great vastness of space. . .

Spaceship Earth was so extraordinarily well invented and designed that to our knowledge humans have been on board it for two million years not even knowing that they were on board a ship.”

The Dymaxion World Map was his attempt to resolve the problem of how best to represent a spherical world on a flat surface, with true scale, true direction and correct configuration. In orthodox cartography to present one of these attributes accurately others must be distorted but The Dymaxion World Map’s distortions are distributed proportionally within each of its fourteen segments.

This map, unlike the ones we are used to, shows all the countries of the earth joined, as one. This was very much part of Fuller’s philosophy. Fuller also repeatedly makes it very clear that the scarcity paradigm that so many economists espouse is a thing of the past. This way of viewing the world no longer accurately describes the world.

He says that the past 100 years of history show that man has been able to consistently and constantly do more with less. The human ability to invent and use technology has made the world abundant. The problem lies not in man’s ingenuity and inventiveness but in man’s greed. For man constantly makes the world scarce through war and greed. That is why so many people starve and suffer.

In a nutshell he is saying we can innovate ourselves out of scarcity. Although this isn’t the ‘whole picture’ thesedays, his ideas make a lot of sense to me. We only lose our energy in fighting ‘the system out there’ and we will never change it much. And we all know its days are numbered or we wouldn’t be here at this Offgrid Festival. Much better is to spend our time making new systems that work for us and people like us. If they work – other people will adopt them.

 “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Fuller believed in having the courage to stand up for truth rather than simply following the course of least resistance. He calls people to unite and transcend to change the world around us. Since the ability to transform our world is in our hands, we have a tremendous responsibility to shape the world for the benefit of humanity and the good of others.

“Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment. . .  Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe”

He invented a ‘game’ about this very thing.

World Peace GameThe World Game:

Buckminster Fuller was convinced that we could achieve a higher standard of living without anyone profiting at the expense of another so that everybody can enjoy the whole earth.

World Game, sometimes called the World Peace Game, is an educational simulation developed by in 1961 to help create solutions to overpopulation and the uneven distribution of global resources. This alternative to war games uses Fuller’s Dymaxion Map and requires a group of players to cooperatively solve a set of metaphorical scenarios, thus challenging the dominant nation-state perspective with a more wholistic “total world” view. The World Game that Fuller envisioned was to be a place where individuals or teams of people came and competed, or cooperated, to:

“Make the world work, for 100% of humanity, in the shortest possible time, through spontaneous cooperation, without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

In 2001, a for-profit educational company named o.s. Earth, Inc. purchased the principal assets of the World Game Institute and has been offering a Global Simulation Workshop that is a ‘direct descendant of Buckminster Fuller’s famous World Game.’ In 2010, Filmmaker Chris Farina released a documentary on the World Game entitled ‘World Peace…and other 4th-grade achievements’. The film follows the life of 4th-grade teacher John Hunter and his utilization of the game in his classroom. Despite the challenge and the complexity of the game, the 9 and 10-year old students are able to win it and ‘Achieve World Peace’. The documentary was shown at the 2011 South by Southwest Music and Film Festival and has won audience awards at various international film festivals.

Geodesic domes

Early Geodesic DomesHis teaching colleagues and students in the 1950’s helped in the development of his most successful project, the geodesic dome, the first large scale versions of which were built at Black Mountain College.

Hailed at the time as the lightest, strongest and most cost-effective structure, the geodesic dome was designed to cover the maximum possible space without internal supports. The bigger it is, the lighter and stronger it becomes. The first full-size geodesic structure was completed – with a 49 feet diameter – in Montreal in 1950, the following year one was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In 1954 Fuller constructed two domes at the Milan Triennale exhibition made from six pieces of corrugated cardboard pre-cut in the US and folded into a small packing case for transport to Italy. Fuller’s hope was that such domes could one day be manufactured at the rate of 3,000 a day.

  • applying modern technological know-how to shelter construction
  • making shelter more comfortable and efficient
  • making shelter more economically available to a greater number of people

UDomesThe U-dome from World Shelters adapts the modular geometry of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. U-domes have been used for disaster response, portable medical clinics, relief agency centers, temporary housing, storage, and workshops. The patterns can easily incorporate local materials, and they are re-usable.

By 1957 Fuller  had refined the design so that an enormous auditorium-sized geodesic dome was assembled in 22 hours in Honolulu. His plans for a 2 mile wide dome in Manhattan, 1960, never came to fruition but have remained the stuff of science fiction ever since. As you can see it looks like a huge tortoise shell because really, he wanted everyone to be tortoises.

IcosahedronMost domes are based on an icosahedron, which is spherical with 20 faces. This shape exists in nature, for example some viruses are icosahedrol. It is a very strong structural shape. The 20 triangles that make up the shape can be further subdivided into smaller triangles giving eg a two-frequency icosahedron, or three frequency icosahedron. There are many varieties of dome.

Cardboard icosahedronThe icosahedron above is made from thin card, with each face subdivided by triangles, showing different ‘frequencies’ of icosahedron. The home-made growing domes below show a basic icosahedron greenhouse made from hazel rod and polytunnel sheet, and a three-frequency icosahedron made from recycled plastic sheeting. Further information on making these is available at: http://www.makeagreenhouse.co.uk/

link to growdome websiteIcosahedron growdome1Growdome 2

Precession

‘Bucky’ was incredibly creative and before his time in many ways. Ideas and inventions seemed to flow from him in a continuous stream. I would urge you to have a closer look at some of his stuff online.

But back to his ‘Law of Precession’ which, for me at least, is the single greatest influence from his life. From ‘Critical Path’ and I promise it’s the only bit I am going to read:

“I assumed that humanity was designed to perform an important function in the Universe, a function it would discover only after an initially innocent by-trial-and-error-discovered phase of capability development.

During the initial phase humans, always  born naked, helpless and ignorant but with hunger, thirst and curiosity to drive them, have been chromosomically programmed to operate successfully only by means of the general biological inadvertencies of bumbling honey seeking [eg money making].

Therefore what humans called the side effects of their conscious drives in fact produced the main ecological effects of generalized technological regeneration. I therefore assumed that what humanity rated as ‘side effects’ are nature’s main effects. I adopted the precessional ‘side effects’ as my prime objective”.

Note he assumed that humanity has a purpose; we are here for a reason. This in itself is quite radical. We are not really told about this at school. Where, today do you hear people talking about a purpose for the human race? Out there, in the world of celebrity consumer capitalism, which we are all taking a little break from, the main purpose seems to be to wreck the planet by consuming everything and turning it into rubbish to put into big holes. To watch the telly and support the staus quo by not asking questions and turn expensive pre-packaged food, with its nutrition removed, into poo whilst engendering enough cancers to keep the big pharmaceutical industries in profit..

Buckminster Fuller believed that humanity has a purpose. He set out to make things that would help people to evolve, regardless sometimes of money, getting paid, having a job and all that. Most of his work was directed at helping solve problems that prevented people from being more self-sufficient. He committed not just himself but also his family to this course of action and lived, by all accounts, a very successful life in traditional terms as well as his own, at least once he started dressing more smartly and stopped being rude to people.

Let’s just look at some of his observations that led to his Law of Precession idea.

When you drop a stone into a lake – where do you see the effect?

precession examplesBuckminster Fuller liked bees. I don’t actually know if he liked tortoises. He watched them visiting flowers and saw what was happening. The ‘evolutionary’ effect is happening at 90 degrees to the bee’s ‘purpose’ which is driven by nectar (and pollen). In collecting nectar the bee is, quite inadvertently, cross-pollinating the flower.

A similar example here – this Ancient Chinese puzzle. [Here I provided members of the audience with a Chinese Finger Puzzle to demonstrate how the pressure on the fingers is exerted at 90 degrees to the energy provided; at right angles.]

In a similar way the evident purpose of mankind in making war and pursuing material gain in the form of money, actually has a secondary purpose in ‘evolutionary terms’. So metal created to make weapons became used to make ploughs that farm the land to create food. The Internet, designed originally for the purposes of war, has become endless networks of people leading to the democratisation of knowledge, for those people lucky enough to have access.

So for me the western ‘story’ of: get a job, make enough money to get a mortgage, work your whole life through to get a pension, is failing dramatically. Buckminster Fuller offers us a credible replacement to that story and his life stands in tribute to it.

“The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist.

The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living”.

According to Fuller, start working directly for the evolution of people, planet, universe around you and you will find yourself mysteriously ‘looked after’ by those same forces. Almost never in the ways you expect, always seemingly at the last minute.

Natural sciences are still catching up with the significance of his discoveries. In some cases recognition of the importance of Fuller’s scientific research came only after his death. By then he had registered 25 US patents, written 28 books, traveled around the globe 57 times and received 47 honourary doctorates as well as numerous other awards including a 1969 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here’s a picture of Bucky and me on holiday in the Seychelles:

Tortoise loveAs someone who dislikes many of the aspects of capitalism, the sheer faith this guy had was quite stunning. I have always tried to follow this ideal and when I find myself broke, I console and motivate myself by thinking that I may not be serving the processes of evolution quite as well as I could.

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Why I dislike the Olympics

Votes for Women Poster

WSPU Poster by Hilda Dallas 1909

What a great excuse for a celebration. Every team in the Olympics has a women team member, a mere 84 years after the Representation of the People Act of 1928 gave women over the age of 21 the vote in the UK.

Just forget the fact that the military basis of these sports are contrived to exclude women from fair competition with men. There is no gender parity here and only in a very few of the sports are men and women included together. Make no mistake, more women in the Olympics is a step forward, but this is physical competition in a man’s terms.

One wonders, if Olympic sports were something that changed with the times, what could be included that might promote gender parity. Perhaps ones that include strategy, cunning, cooperation like working together at solving problems. It seems such things are not yet acceptable as ‘strategy’ like crashing your bike or trashing a game ‘to win the war’, are deemed cheating.

The Olympics are a tribute to the sponsorship and shameless promotion of corporate power in general. What on earth do Coca Cola, McDonalds and the other 52 partners, supporters, suppliers and providers have to do with the tradition of human excellence in sport?

Coca Cola (am I still allowed to actually write that?) are the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympic movement. They see their role as official soft drinks provider enables them to showcase the range of drinks they offer and sell these at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Their sugar-filled drinks have obviously helped many of the sports people attain their brilliance, along with McDonalds who have fed them all to nutritional peaks of achievement. Is it just me feeling uneasy that these two companies are major ‘partners’ in the Olympics? Is it with some sense of irony that they have become sponsors?

shit pile by Paul McCarthy

Runner up in the 2012 Olympics logo design competetion: ‘shit-pile’ by Paul McCarthy

As for the corporate Olympics logo, the falling down house of kiddies bricks – I have never seen such an ugly looking thing totally devoid of any accessible meaning. How on earth did that get chosen? Was the panel devoid of any aesthetic sensibility? I realize it was designed by a child but honestly, I have had better looking shits.

In addition to its promotion of corporate power as something acceptable and unquestionable, the Olympic Games promote the concept of privilege so central to the class system in the United Kingdom. The Class system is an archaic system based on status and rewards which is well past its ‘best by’ date. The whole method of purchasing and distribution of tickets serves to promote ‘prestige’ and fictions about ‘reward’ so prevalent to driving consumer capitalism.

As for petty nationalism, please do not include me. Although I live in the UK, I am a citizen of the World and dislike the whole ‘us and them’ scenario promoted by these games, because, in the end, there is only us, there is no them. “We beat Brazil,” you claim. Not me mate. I did nothing and it seems to me that your part in it was pretty infinitesimal because you give every appearance of somebody sitting on the sofa making sports noises.

And there’s another thing. Why do we have to be endlessly patronized by sports commentators shouting at us as if they are excited children on a sugar hit? Is it compulsory for them to drink the sugary drinks provided by sponsors so that they can go off into one? The whole hyped-up way of talking over-excitedly when there is clearly very little actually happening is just sensory pollution of the worst kind. Its like trying to appreciate a glass of wine by drinking somebody else’s puke. ‘Look, there’s a load of grown men kicking a sheep’s bladder round a field.’ Nuff said. Effing Shut Up. I have to put my MP3 player just to stay in the environment of this ear-grating nonsense.

The Olympics provide a great distraction from the latest War in Syria, the Great Eurozone Sham, the Global Debt Crisis and our Environment Spiralling into Chaos. Petty Nationalism through Sport is a form of denial and a means to continue to ignore Climate Change, the Genocide of Amazonians and all the other things we don’t want to think about.

The original meaning of the word ‘competition’ means ‘striving together’. Somewhere in the mists of time this has been lost and the Olympics provide a spectacle of nations striving against each other to win – what? A Big, Fat Gold Coin, a symbol of ‘money’, the very problem at the heart of our downfall.

Darwinian fictions about ‘survival of the fittest’ drive the competitions. Where do we have nations ‘striving together’ to achieve something beyond ‘winning’? Where are we shown that ‘co-operation’ is the most desirable trait of a lead species? It would certainly not seem to be in the Olympics.

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Keeping Blackbirds off your Strawberries

strawberries and blackbirdsHow to keep blackbirds off strawberries

Come the start of summer there is no higher reward for the hard-working gardener than plates of fresh strawberries from the garden. [Fun with strawberries here ]However it isn’t always straightforward as, in additions to the slugs and snails, blackbirds will do almost anything and expose themselves to great danger just for a taste of your strawberries.

It is most disappointing to go out into the garden and find your beautiful crop, pre-discovered and beak-hacked to smitherines. Over a few years I have used several techniques to combat the garden competition for strawberries and keep the blackbirds off my strawberries and would like to amuse you by keeping a record of them here.

Technique number one is that old garden favourite, hanging CD’s, bits of feather and netting that move in the breeze. This worked for about a day and exposed the danger of bits of old fruit netting only partially obscuring the strawberries. The blackbird shown got its foot trapped in the netting and I got a good pecking in order to free it.

Next, came ‘the contraption’. An electric drill in a bucket weighted down with rocks. Attached to the drill bit is a plastic flowerpot with slits cut down the side. Every time I went inside, or every now and then when I was in the kitchen, I would flick a switch on the wall and the black flowerpot would spin, raising up from the bucket with a horrible noise and opening its ghastly maw to consume the birds. The birds flew away. I was so effective even I got nightmares about it. But it was completely impractical as you had to stand in the kitchen watching and waiting for them to land.

There really is no substitute for a properly laid fruit net and an investment of less than £10 ensured my fruit reached the kitchen, un-nibbled by birds at least. This net had at least 2 blackbirds jumping up and down on the top in what appeared to be frustration as they failed to reach the strawberries. I felt a slight sense of pride in affirming that my brain was slightly larger than that of a blackbird’s.

The next year I decided that just two weeks worth of strawberries around Wimbledon time wasn’t enough. I didn’t feel that they were reaching their potential size and that putting them in a growdome would extend the growing season. [How to make a growdome here]

In order to use space effectively, I dug up a 12 foot square strawberry bed and constructed a ‘strawberry tower’ with up-cycled containers stacked on top of one another. This worked very well with edible strawberries appearing at the end of May, two weeks earlier even in a very late spring. Of course one of the blackbirds got in the open door of the grow dome and helped itself until I netted off the whole dome, which was easy. I watched from the kitchen window as it discovered the modification and systematically searched for another way in, which it failed to find.

I had dug up 2 strawberry beds and potted all of the others up – some of them were in the growdome but didn’t crop very well in pots even though I fed them on the juice from my worm composter. There were a whole lot in pots outside which pollinated so I moved them into my other growdome and the blackbird soon found its way in to take the first ripe ones. There was even one of the local feral cats waiting in there for it when I went in. The small pots these strawberries were in seemed to dry out quite quickly. I had a cheap ‘asda’ paddling pool which had punctured after a couple of days and set these strawberries in the pool to soak up water and worm juice from underneath. It was an easy job to harvest a bit of bamboo and lay the other net over it, tucking the edges under the pool.

This all sounds rather mean, re-reading it, so I should just add that I didn’t dig up all of the strawberries and there are random patches around the garden which I leave for the blackbirds – after all its their garden too and I enjoy their singing, which is some of nature’s finest music. They are beautiful birds and its good to see them sleek and fit and know that in some small part this comes from the strawberries (and other fruit) that I choose to give them.

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Deep Ecology and Sadness

The other day I met someone who thought that all environmentalists are sad.

They thought that people who want change can never feel ‘complete’ or ‘happy’ because ‘I can’t be happy until …’ – such and such happens – insert your own!

Now generally, as an environmentalist and ‘deep ecologist’, I do view myself as being capable of moments of joy, so I wanted to set about debunking such myths. I use the word ‘myths’ here to mean stories we tell ourselves about the way the world is. There are lots of these.

The first myth is one called ‘Economic Growth’. It is presently the dominant myth and it assumes that there is little need to change the way we live. Economic Growth is regarded as essential for our prosperity as individuals but in reality serves only a few. The central tenet is that in order to grow as individuals, as a society, even as a race, we have to focus on making money.

However to live this myth we are spending five planets when we only have one, and using the limited resources of our little planet as if it were an infinite income.

There are several forms of resistance that stop people recognising the negative effects of the myth of Economic Growth. Some of these are:

  • I don’t think that these effects are really dangerous
  • It just isn’t my business to sort out these problems
  • I don’t want to be seen as a non-conformist
  • This information is a threat to my interests
  • This evidence is just being made up

The second myth which I sometimes call ‘We’re Doomed Captain Mannering’ draws attention to the disasters increasingly created by Economic Growth. It is an evidence based account, ignored by many, about the collapse of ecological and social systems, climate changes, the depletion of global and local resources such as ‘peak oil’ and the mass extinction of species. This is the mythology of ‘Woe is me’, finger-wagging greenies who seem to want everyone to stop having fun and look after the planet. This mythology seems to be the one that non-environmentalists presume is held by people who claim to be ‘green’.

Barriers to people entering wholeheartedly into myth 2 include:

  • It’s so upsetting I prefer not to think about it
  • As soon as I start to think about the dangers I freeze up and feel panic. I feel paralysed
  • There’s no point in trying to do anything since it won’t change a thing or make any difference

The third myth ‘Positive Hope’ is held by people who know that the first is leading us to catastrophe and who refuse to give in or be scared off by the second. To enter this myth you need to be able to accept that myth 2 is upon us, and be able to face this. Hence the sadness.

But this third myth involves creative human responses to new and existent problems. It involves transformation at a personal level and the use of creative energy to change the poisons of economic growth into the nectar of a life sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. It is deeply challenging and exciting and, wait for it, can even be FUN! It means being closely in touch with your values and living an ethical life filled with meaning.

 Certainly there is sadness in accepting the things that the myth of ‘Economic Growth’ is doing to our planet and it’s people. But the sadness associated with these realisations is immensely preferable to the half-life created by the denial or editing of reality to see only what you want. Unhappiness is a basis to creative thought, but it is only one side of the coin. Without unhappiness there would be little reason to change, grow or enjoy the moments of happiness of a whole person.

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Watercolour Salt Wash

watercolour salt washWatercolour salt wash

I want to demonstrate a watercolour technique which combines science, art and nature, repeating themes of these pages at simonmitchell.co.uk. This is the effect of salt on a watercolour wash. This effect creates a stunning texture which can be used in a number of ways including that of a generalised ‘nature’ texture / background.

Firstly you will need to experiment with your watercolour palette to see which of your pigments react the best to salt. Mix up some base (unmixed) paints from your palette and, one at a time, fill a small shape with paint and sprinkle salt on it. Wait for it to dry to see which colours works best.

The other variables in this process are the dryness of the salt and the absorbency of the paper. You can increase the absorbency of the salt by drying it out in a pan previous to the painting. On the whole, crushed (and dried) sea salt seems to work the best for me and I tend to use Bockingford 90gsm paper. I haven’t yet experimented with paper that has a high clay content.

In the example flower painting opposite I used masking fluid to protect the edge line of the flower. There isn’t a lot of time when using washes, to paint around things! As soon as the wash shows signs of drying, sprinkle the salt into the places where you want the effect to occur and leave it to dry. If you have stretched your paper on a frame, you can speed things up a bit by using a hair dryer or placing your painting (safely) in a warm air flow. Place it horizontal, unless you want drips.

Once the background is dry, remove the masking fluid and continue with the painting.

The next example shows UGLY, a steam engine at the Bodmin and Wenford Steam Railway depot. The salt wash background worked particularly well on this, using Hookers Green Light watercolour in a tube. Underneath that is a detail from the painting.

Finally in this selection of examples from my personal painting archive is a small ‘wet in wet’ salt wash which used table salt rather than sea or rock salt, with the details picked out by brush once the wash was properly dry.

I have seen some fine examples of salt washes being used for textures in silk painting also, but have not yet experimented with this.

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Tea Tree and MRSA

Margaret Chan is the Director General of the World Health Organisation. She anticipates ‘the end of modern medicine’ because the WHO has finally admitted that antibiotics had been so over-used that they’re now almost completely useless against ‘super strains’ of bacterial infection.

The result of this, she warns, could be that routine operations become impossible to carry out and minor cuts and grazes become potentially life-threatening. Hospitals and treatment centres are becoming dangerous centres of infection and ‘medical treatment’ the third biggest killer in the Western World, after cancer and heart disease, is set to up its mortality rate even more.

Tea Tree TreesFrom Wikipedia: The indigenous Bundjalung people of eastern Australia first used tea trees as a traditional medicine by inhaling the oils from the crushed leaves to treat coughs and colds. They also sprinkle leaves on wounds, after which a poultice is applied. In addition, tea tree leaves are soaked to make an infusion to treat sore throats or skin ailments. Historically, the leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which is how tea tree oil got its name. The part used medicinally is the oil from the leaves.

Use of the oil itself, as opposed to the unextracted plant material, did not become common practice until researcher Arthur Penfold published the first reports of its antimicrobial activity in a series of papers in the 1920s and 1930s. In evaluating the antimicrobial activity of M. alternifolia, tea tree oil was rated as 11 times more active than phenol.

Tea Tree LeavesThe commercial tea tree oil industry was born after the medicinal properties of the oil were first reported by Penfold in the 1920s. Production ebbed after World War II, as demand for the oil declined, presumably due to the development of effective antibiotics and the waning image of natural products.

More recently in vitro studies in Australia and the UK have found that tea tree oil is effective against MRSA at concentrations as low as 0.25%. To eradiate MRSA on the skin, creams, ointments and body washes with at least 5% tea tree oil have been successfully used in hospital trials.

The Hospital Infection Society report that the combination of a 4% tea tree oil nasal ointment and 5% tea tree oil body wash was compared with a standard 2% mupirocin nasal ointment and triclosan body wash for the eradication of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus carriage (MRSA). The tea tree oil combination appeared to perform better than the standard combination, although the difference was not statistically significant due to the small number of patients.

Tea tree oil contains consituents called terpenoids, which have been found to have antiseptic and antifungal activity. The compound terpinen-4-ol is the most abundant and is thought to be responsible for most of tea tree oil’s antimicrobial activity.

The most promising new function of tea tree oil is to counter methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), also called the hospital super bug. In United States and European hospitals, MRSA grew from under 3% in the 1980s to 40% in the late 1990s. This super bug attacks people who have wounds, such as post-operative infections, and a depressed immune system. MRSA resists conventional antibiotics, except Vancomycin. A Thursday Plantation in vitro study, at East London University, comparing Vancomycin and tea tree oil, shows the latter as a powerful alternative. This study corroborated the University of Western Australia study by Thomas Riley and Christine Carson. Because the spread of MRSA occurs mainly by hands, one London hospital uses tea tree oil soap for staff and patient hygiene.

However there do seem to be some safety concerns linked to the widespread use of tea tree. One study shows that tea tree oil may alter hormone levels. There have been three case reports of topical tea tree oil products causing unexplained breast enlargement in boys. People with hormone-sensitive cancers or pregnant or nursing women should avoid tea tree oil.

Occasionally, people may have allergic reactions to tea tree oil, ranging from mild contact dermatitis to severe blisters and rashes. Undiluted tea tree oil may cause skin irritation, redness, blistering, and itching.

Tea tree oil should not be taken internally, even in small quantities. It can cause impaired immune function, diarrhoea, and potentially fatal central nervous system depression (excessive drowsiness, sleepiness, confusion, coma). The tea tree oil in commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes is generally considered to be acceptable because it is not swallowed.

Sources:

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/TeaTreeOil.htm

http://roberttisserand.com/2011/08/question-answer-tea-tree-oil-hospital-bacteria/

http://healthtools.aarp.org/galecontent/tea-tree-oil

Tea tree oil as an alternative topical decolonization agent for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

M. Caelli*, J. Porteous*, C. F. Carson†, R. Heller* and T.V. Riley†

*Department of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308 and

†Department of Microbiology,The University of Western Australia, Nedlands,WA 6009, Australia

© 2000 The Hospital Infection Society

Journal of Hospital Infection (2000) 46: 236–237

doi:10.1053/jhin.2000.0830, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on

http://burnaid.ryepharmaceuticals.com/tea-tree-oil-research/mrsa-tto-1.pdf

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Tyndall Flowers

There is not much about Tyndall Flowers on the Internet but its one of those things that just caught my attention. Firstly it sounds like somebody’s name: Tyndall Flowers, Private Detective: I can imagine that on a door somewhere. Then there is a place called Tyndall in the USA that has a flower shop, and an air forced base.

John TyndallThe Tyndall in this context is John Tyndall (1820-1893), one of Ireland’s most successful scientists and educators. A draftsman, surveyor, physics professor, mathematician, geologist, atmospheric scientist, public lecturer and mountaineer; his great strength was his ability to communicate science to any audience.

He observed structures in melting ice which were named Tyndall Flowers or Figures. These are small, water-filled cavities, often of basically hexagonal shape, which appear in the interior of ice masses upon which light is falling.

It’s curious to me that the shapes left inside ice when it starts to melt are those of  dendritic flowers. It makes me think of connectivity, of the macrocosm of the universe being hidden in the microcosm. It reminds me that the shape of a molecule is utterly similar to the shape of a solar system.

Tyndall FlowersBefore long I find myself in ‘wonder’ and thinking about the magnificent universe and how insignificant I am.

One of my tutors for my teacher training years ago said that in my written work I had a ‘tendency towards the rhapsodic’. I was never sure then and am still not whether this was a criticism in the context of the assignment ‘A Critical Review of Literature’, but secretly I have always been quite proud of this Wordsworth-like trait.

Dr. Masuro Emoto wrote about ‘The Hidden Messages in Water’ and although he was criticised for non-scientific procedures, writes convincingly about water and consciousness. Being able to see ‘hidden messages in nature’ might be the act of a non-scientific, even delusional mind and heaven knows that poets, artists and musicians often journey to the edge of sanity and beyond to create their masterpieces.

But I am glad that I can find wonder and connectivity in the universe in something so simple as a melting piece of ice. Once you start to look, these hidden messages of connectivity are everywhere. The processes of erosion by water in a valley, echo the ravages of time on a person’s face. The shapes of summer clouds reflect the effect of water on sand, the marks and textures in the palm of your hand are a Google map of distant mountains.

There don’t seem to be many good pictures of Tyndall Flowers available online, just several research documents describing the process of making them and the scientific exploration of the qualities of melting ice.  In my non-scientific way, I just want to see the pictures.

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Ten Canoes: Film Review

Ten Canoes was released in 2007 and is a beautiful film. It reminded me of Avatar but in the real, happening right now.

Ten CanoesThe Aboriginal director, Peter Djigirr tells he made this film because the Balanda (that’s us white folks) keep on coming and destroy without recognising their laws and culture, which have evolved over millennia. He hopes that new generations of Aboriginals will see the movie and remember their culture and that white people will start to recognise that they have no respect for a culture far older than their own.

The producer, Rolf de Heer, shows astounding patience in making this film. Beset with Mosquitos, leeches and crocodiles, diverse cultures and languages, problems with nudity, cava hangovers, feelings of despondency and self doubt, actors walking off – a different universe of understanding – he turns out a movie that is rightfully multi-award winning in both Australia and at the Cannes film festival. Time Out Magazine and the Financial Times give it 5 stars.

The movie is set in Central Arnheim Land and played entirely by an aboriginal cast from a local township. It is spoken in Aboriginal, with subtitles and a spoken narrative in English. The film centres around a canoe journey to find goose eggs in which a mythical story is told concerning ‘right thinking’.

Right from the outset you enter into their world and see how the Aboriginals once lived inside a deep relationship with their land, inhabiting it with dreams, visions, magic and interactions that seem remote from Western Culture.

There is a story within a story, a mythology with sorcery, warring tribes, misunderstandings, mistaken identity and bawdy humour which reminds me of Comedia D’el Arte crossed with a Medieval Morality play. The story involves a warrior with three wives, the youngest of whom is coveted by his younger brother. The movie is a vessel (or ten) in which we enter the waters of traditional Aboriginal life. There is an old saying that having another language is like having another soul – and this movie certainly transported me into the language of the Aboriginal soul, (for a while at least before an estate agent came round to view the property I live in). It gave me a feeling of peace experiencing all that wildness and beauty without the reality of mosquitos, leeches and crocs.

The film is a small miracle in that during the process of its making, the indigenous peoples of the township were put back in touch with bark canoe making, spear making and throwing, being naked outside, although one of them did forget to take off his Band Aids for the take.

Despite the complexities of casting in a social order beyond the comprehension of the producer, of telling a story in the wrong order (a hideous thing for an Aboriginal) this movie is a little gem and it is well worth watching the ‘how it was made’ footage also. Much of the visual footage is derived from the photographic evidence of an anthropologist from the 1930’s.

It’s like a parallel to the Christian Garden of Eden myth, that; ‘we had laws and no clothes, we had bush tucker’, then the white man came. In this case the snake that causes the end to their Eden is Balanda.

As the producer claims, for the actors at least, the process of making this movie brought back their culture from a faraway place, elevating them and helping them to feel stronger after the inexorable crushing of the Balanda holocaust. It is a real treat to be involved in this story which works so well on many levels. Strongly recommended.

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What is tantric sex?

Long gone are the days when a mention of ‘tantric sex’ aroused slightly smutty smiles and mentions of Sting and Trudy keeping it up all night. Tantra is breaking out all over with a proliferation of courses available from ever-growing sources.

Tantra is regarded as a serious spiritual practice, which, unlike most major global religions, integrates rather than denies human sexuality, pleasure and fun. Shakti Tantra was one of the earliest tantra schools in the UK and its teachers have amassed a great wealth of experience regarding the teachings of tantra and tantric sex.

Tantric sex doesn’t necessarily have much to do with acts of penetrative sex – it can be as simple as sharing and enjoying a meal, going for a walk or just enjoying how each other look. One thing that separates tantric sex from ‘ordinary’ sex is the quality of attention that is brought to it. Although I have heard someone describe tantra as ‘The McDonalds of Enlightenment’ don’t be fooled into thinking that a journey into tantric sex is just a superficial thrill. The practice of Tantra is older, and deeper, than most world religions. Even a dip into Osho’s ‘Book of Secrets’ will give you months of ‘food for thought’. Your first tantra course is something to be very excited about.

In tantric sex the practice of interaction between partners (at many levels) is rendered sacred by the reverence and attention given to it. The practices honour the body as a divine temple. Tantric sex honours ‘the other’ as a gateway to God. It is a devotional act, combining sexuality and spirituality. When sexuality is combined with the heart and the whole conscious attention, new worlds come into play and transcendence becomes a possibility for each partner. Even enjoying sexual activity alone can be enhanced by tantric practises. Compared to the repressions promoted by standard religions, practising tantra is like growing wings.

The proliferation of courses has led to a lot of people experiencing and enjoying tantra – even to the extent that there are now Tantra specific dating agencies who can hook you up with another Tantrika. After all, once you have experienced the enhanced connections of Tantric sex and other meditations, mere mortal sex pales into insignificance. As Boy George said: “I’d rather have a cup of tea”.

Take a look around the Shakti Tantra website and find a course that suits your level. Read what people are saying and know that signing up for one of our courses is something you will never regret.

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News Values in mainstream media

‘News values’ make up the criteria that decides the ‘news’ we see in mainstream media. It is very much a part of our Western Democratic way. Our cultural norms have dictated the view of the world we expect and this is reflected in the values of mainstream ‘paper’ news, which revolve mainly around qualities of drama, conflict and scenes of visual impact.

Media theorists such as Galtang and Ruge describe further the values that dictate the ‘newsworthiness’ of our mainstream media news:

  • Frequency: Events that occur suddenly and fit well with the news organization’s schedule are more likely to be reported than those that occur gradually or at inconvenient times of day or night. Long-term trends are not likely to receive much coverage.
  • Negativity: Bad news is more newsworthy than good news.
  • Unexpectedness: If an event is out of the ordinary it will have a greater effect than something that is an everyday occurrence.
  • Unambiguity: Events whose implications are clear make for better copy than those that are open to more than one interpretation, or where any understanding of the implications depends on first understanding the complex background in which the events take place.
  • Personalization: Events that can be portrayed as the actions of individuals will be more attractive than one in which there is no such “human interest.”
  • Meaningfulness: This relates to the sense of identification the audience has with the topic. “Cultural proximity” is a factor here — stories concerned with people who speak the same language, look the same, and share the preoccupations as the audience receive more coverage than those concerned with people who speak different languages, look different and have different preoccupations.
  • Reference to elite nations: Stories concerned with global powers receive more attention than those concerned with less influential nations.
  • Reference to elite persons: Stories concerned with the rich, powerful, famous and infamous get more coverage.
  • Conflict: Opposition of people or forces resulting in a dramatic effect. Stories with conflict are often quite newsworthy.
  • Consonance: Stories that fit with the media’s expectations receive more coverage than those that defy them (and for which they are thus unprepared). Note this appears to conflict with unexpectedness above. However, consonance really refers to the media’s readiness to report an item.
  • Continuity: A story that is already in the news gathers a kind of inertia. This is partly because the media organizations are already in place to report the story, and partly because previous reportage may have made the story more accessible to the public (making it less ambiguous).
  • Composition: Stories must compete with one another for space in the media. For instance, editors may seek to provide a balance of different types of coverage, so that if there is an excess of foreign news for instance, the least important foreign story may have to make way for an item concerned with the domestic news. In this way the prominence given to a story depends not only on its own news values but also on those of competing stories. (Galtung and Ruge, 1965)
  • Competition: Commercial or professional competition between media may lead journalists to endorse the news value given to a story by a rival.
  • Co-optation: A story that is only marginally newsworthy in its own right may be covered if it is related to a major running story.
  • Prefabrication: A story that is marginal in news terms but written and available may be selected ahead of a much more newsworthy story that must be researched and written from the ground up.
  • Predictability: An event is more likely to be covered if it has been pre-scheduled. (Bell, 1991)
  • Time constraints: Traditional news media such as radio, television and daily newspapers have strict deadlines and a short production cycle, which selects for items that can be researched and covered quickly.
  • Logistics: Although eased by the availability of global communications even from remote regions, the ability to deploy and control production and reporting staff, and functionality of technical resources can determine whether a story is covered. (Schlesinger, 1987)

(From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_values )

This means that the news we see is very specifically selected to maintain a ‘status quo’ and we choose to be fed a media stream that most endorses our view of the world. These ‘positions’  were perfectly satirised by Bernard Woolley in a 1987 version of the TV show ‘Yes Prime minister’:

“The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
The Times is read by people who actually do run the country;
The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
The Financial Times is read by people who own the country;
The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country;
And the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it already is.

Sir Humphrey: “Prime Minister, what about the people who read the Sun?”

Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits”.

As postmodernism and new technology collide, our news sources are becoming more fragmented and we are often free to choose not just the ‘values’ we prefer but also the news streams focused in specific interest zones. For example right now my Google News settings bring me news streams showing info. on British Government Solar PV Tarrif and info. on Codex Alimentarius. I am more likely to read a blog than a newspaper and generally pick up news of world import from the Radio. My Facebook Friends all publish positive and visionary articles and links that help me believe I live in the world I want to.

It seems to me that part of the transition process from the ‘industrial growth society’ we have now to a ‘life sustaining civilisation’ depends on us changing our news values. News from the ‘industrial growth society’ tells us stories of gloom, doom and despondency whereas news articles focused onto a ‘life sustaining civilisation’ are frequently more upbeat.

It is very easy for those of us visioning and working for the latter be demotivated by the fallout from the first. Examine how news reaches you and how you might re-source this to empower your journey to Transition.

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Permaculture Andorra

In January this year (2011), I got a bout of sciatica as a result of lifting weights that I shouldn’t have been. It knocked me off my feet for a month and I still had dizzy spells in March from the muscle relaxants I took from the Doctor. As a result I was totally up for an adventure and saw a small ad in the back of my Permaculture Magazine for someone looking for a Permaculture Teacher in, of all places, Andorra.
I had always been curious about this place, nestling in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, so I replied to the email to find out more. A lady there has a bit of mountainscape she would like to turn into a Permaculture Centre and as I found out more – I got more interested. I will be setting up a website about this project and hope to be visiting in September, but for now I want to put this ‘reply’ where I can find it easily.
Here’s some stuff about me.
I have been working as a social entrepreneur in Cornwall for about 20 years or so. Another proud and independent Celtic race [like the Catalan People] who don’t like ‘interference from outsiders’. I have made some headway here – starting a gardening cooperative, running a community centre and creating a ‘community college’ within it, collecting 60 people together to join in a ‘lets’ scheme with its own currency and some other projects. I was also deputy director of a woodland project near Exeter in the 1980’s, telling a story of the creative process through building ‘places’ in the woodland, funded by the arts council and other private companies. I have also worked with PFAF, (Plants for a Future) who hold a massive database of useful plants on their university based site.
These days I work from home, on the edge of Bodmin Moor, building websites and publishing books for people (and myself). I tend my own veg. garden and practice permaculture as a lifestyle choice – running several blogs about this. I am the Parish Clerk for Michaelstow. In truth, after being wiped out with sciatica in January, I could do with an adventure and have always been curious about Andorra.
And here are some thoughts:
As Phillip mentioned, many people seem to be walking around blindfold at the moment. For those of us who recognise that the western world is completely unsustainable it is quite frustrating. Matthew Arnold’s quote from ‘The Great Chartreuse’ rings true to me:
“Wondering between two worlds, one dead
The other powerless to be born.”
This makes a lot of work for us visionaries who want to create a future – for a future that most people don’t even want to look at!
Talking of quotes – this one from Henry Cloud resonates with me also:
“We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change”.
Mind you – I am personally more into fun and joy than pain, but I do recognise that as a culture, we still have to face the consequences of our actions with regard to this planet. Hence the delay in people’s awareness.
So that’s a couple of reasons why I think it presently seems so difficult to start something along the lines of your permaculture project, which, by the way, I think is an extremely generous action by you.
It gets even harder when you are ‘stonewalled’ by a local populace with very entrenched values. From my experiences in Cornwall, innovations such as this need to be expressed locally in their terms and notions and especially ‘benefits’ – to ‘come from them’ almost. The Andorran National Anthem seems to hold some clues, but I don’t know much about this yet. It sounds though that the project is yet some way from this process of localising – it still needs envisioning.
Perhaps one thing we can do at this time is to build ‘safety nets’ for people who do not want to look at what is coming.
Did I mention I am also a qualified adult educator and when I was teaching, was a lecturer and ‘A’ level examiner for ‘Communication Studies’. (I certainly feel like I’m going on like one!)
What I am getting to is what I think I can offer you. As a writer, website designer, communications expert and social entrepreneur I would like to build you a highly interactive, visually interesting, multilingual website to:
  • help create stories / mythologies / buzz about your permaculture project (from multiple contributors)
  • provide a nexus for communication regarding this project, so that people getting involved can readily network
  • create information so that others can ‘see what it is’
As for just going in cold and making it happen – I reckon I would need about a million pounds and two years to get such a thing going, and that’s once I had learned to speak Catalan. I have just £500 to my name, which should get me out there for about ten days if you are in agreement with these initial ideas.
I could also write up the visit to try and publish in Permaculture Magazine, with your approval at every point of course. The other magazine I subscribe to is ‘Resurgence’ and I have been published in this before – it is certainly the sort of thing they should be interested in and this may be a good way to set about getting ‘friends’ for such a project.
Please let me know if this is of interest to you and if it is, I will look into the practicalities of getting and staying there for ten days or so.
Kind Regards
Simon Mitchell
Dipl.H.E.,B.A.Hons.,Cert.Ed.FE
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What is Chakra Meditation?

Art PrintsChakra meditation presupposes that there are energy systems at work in the body not yet recognised by Western philosophies, especially of medicine. Nowhere is the gap between traditional Chinese and Western medicine clearer in terms of basic philosophy, than in acupuncture. The World Health Organisation reported as long ago as 1979 that:

“The sheer weight of evidence demands that acupuncture must be taken seriously as a clinical procedure of considerable value”.

Medical research has, somewhat grudgingly shown meridian systems at work in the body. Studies exist on the anatomic nature of the meridian system, using radioactive isotopes injected into acupoints (Pierre de Vernejoul). A gamma camera showed that the isotope migrated along classical Chinese acupuncture meridian pathways for 30cm in 4 to 6 minutes. Isotopic injections into other ‘random’ parts of the body didn’t show the same results.

The acupuncture meridian system is seen as an interface between the physical body and the energy body. Through this Chinese medicine is more concerned with treating the whole person and their energetic states and less concerned with focus on the obvious problem, how the disease manifests which seems to fixate the practitioners of Western Medicine.

Experiments with MRI machines and acupuncture show something to be going on in the brain during treatment. Doctor Kathy Sykes is presenting us with scientific proof of how acupuncture and therefore other meridian-based interventions might work. In what can only be described as a ‘breakthrough experiment’, she found evidence of an effect of acupuncture on the brain’s limbic system, also known as the mammalian hind brain. Combining on-the-spot acupuncture with an MRI scanner we were able to view the direct effect of acupuncture for ourselves in calming areas of the limbic brain.

As yet though ‘chakras’ and energy medicine are an anomaly to the Western culture of rational positivism. This is a shame because lots of people are having immense fun playing, energising and experimenting with their chakras using techniques of chakra meditation.

There are many factions who don’t quite agree about chakras – whether they should have associated colours or not, whether their sound element should be expressed in vocal mantras or defined by a scientific definition of tone, even to exactly where they are in the body. Chakras seem to have gemstones, aromas, planets, metals, elements, flowers, senses and mantras associated with them, which can all be used to aid visualisations and meditations. Although of course, some people don’t agree with this.

On the whole though, chakras are seen as energy centres, residing in and perhaps ruling over various areas of body and feelings. A Chakra Meditation can therefore take many forms but works around activating energy in the body directly.

To go with this article written especially for Shakti Tantra I have made a free, downloadable, mp3, Chakra meditation using sound, as an example. Some schools of thought insist on specific tones for each chakra but my feelings are that the harmonic relationships are probably more important than some kind of standardised set of rules. The ancient Solfeggio system defines a range of tones, one of  which I have associated with each chakra. Please note you will need to know where your Chakras are to practice this meditation. I have ‘phased’ these sounds to make them sound like they are spinning. Please right-click the download link (windows) and save it where you want on your computer or Mp3 player. If you have a player on your computer, the Chakra Meditation Mp3 should open and play automatically when you click it. It is 5.6 meg. and lasts about 6 minutes.

Download free mp3, Chakra meditation from Shakti Tantra

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The End of Economics?

There is a morbid fascination in watching the collapse of ‘the economy’ going on around us. The old guard cling even more tightly to their fictions of ‘growth at any cost’ and those deeply embedded in the world of money are freely offering themselves for even higher rates of tax to keep the stinking ship afloat.

The mouthpieces of the system – our media – continue to impose the status quo, and tell us that the system we have is the only way to do things and we must soldier on. But it becomes clearer that global financial collapse and the end of economics as a motivating mythology is just around the corner. Our many years in denial will make it all the harder because we are not prepared.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution we have journeyed on a path of stupidity and futility, based on the belief that we can forever use our capital assets, the earth itself, as a form of income.

It is clear too that government, so entrenched in its own anus, will be the last to see this, as their entire reason for existence is built around servicing ‘the economy’, the monstrous lie, the massive elephant in the room that we ignore at our peril.

So if the embodied blindness of our leaders is just about to drop us all in it, what’s to do?

As individuals we will need to secure our access to food, shelter, warmth – the basics of survival – enough of a challenge in itself.

Those of us who see the tsunami on the way are already attempting to rebuild ‘community’ in such a way as to support each other also, many under the guise of ‘Transition’. This is usually without any recognition by the local forces of Government who still exist to service the machine rather than its people.

Oppressive new laws which limit our choices to live, eat and adapt to new situations as we might choose have an unexpected side effect; they encourage mutuality. As governments increasingly seek to impose their will on people and turn them into fodder for a dying system – there is more to be gained in mutuality, working for and with each other – than for ‘the system’.

So if you are working all the hours you have to pay childcare costs, or if you are in energy poverty because it is so expensive to buy fuel, of you can’t afford to buy food – look around for people in the same situation – there are mutual solutions to these problems that take you outside of reliance on a system that is essentially broken beyond repair.

I say good riddance to a system that rapes and pollutes the very earth we stand on, the air we breathe and the water we drink. I say goodbye to the myth that slavery ended hundreds of years ago when in fact the ‘economy’ makes slaves of us all.

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The Future of Herbs and Tinctures

The introduction of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive in April 2011 is set to change the future of herbs and tinctures. It will remove many of the herbal products we have grown used to from shop shelves.

Under the guise of ‘international harmonisation’ this directive is a clear move to deliver traditional herbal medicines into the hands of  the Pharmacuetical Industries, who exist only to deliver maximum profit to their shareholders.

Although normal dried herbs, roots, barks and powders are unaffected by the directive, it appears that almost all tinctures, herbal capsules and tablets will disappear from the health store shelves as stocks are exhausted. That is until they are re-manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies under controlled conditions and FDA approval and most likely will only available on prescription from your doctor who is not educated in herbalism. Many health food stores have pre-ordered stocks of these in large amounts so that they can fulfil customer demand until they run out.

Make your own TincturesIt is surprisingly easy to make your own medicines and I would suggest, a great part of the ‘cure’ for simple (and many complex) ailments to go out and find your herbal medicine at source – or grow it in your garden. Many of the problems at work in our culture are a direct result of human separation from nature – so get with the source and turn this ‘limitation of choice imposed by legislative agencies’ into something positive by re-integrating with nature.

Here is a link to my instructions – in Nettle Soup Ezine – on how to make a Valerian Tincture, which is just great as a muscle relaxant.

If you are opposed to the changes the EU directive is causing you can support the campaign direct at: http://www.anh-europe.org/

You can also write direct to your MP and MEP to let them know you want to retain access to herbal medicines and tinctures from your health food store.

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DIY Greenhouse Growdome

icosahedron greenhouse

Ever since I learned about Buckminster Fuller at art college, I have wanted to experiment with making human-scale geodesics. So, as part of a new project – a book on DIY greenhouses on a budget, I constructed a surprisingly large greenhouse/ growdome using wild hazel wood and a purchase of £30 worth of Polytunnel sheet, (which is about $50 for my USA readers at time of writing). This article outlines the procedure for building the structure – without too much detail of course – because I want you to buy the book when I have finished it!

Regular icosahedronThe first type I wanted to build and the most basic shape was an icosahedron, a 20 faced sphere recognised even by the Ancient Greeks – it is one of the Platonic Solids (Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron, Dodecahedron, Icosahedron).

An icosahedron is a regular polyhedron with 20 identical equilateral triangular faces, 30 edges and 12 vertices. It is a form found in nature, for example some viruses have icosahedral shells.

Hazel layout ready for domeEvery day my springer spaniel, Freya, needs a walk so often when we went I out I would find and cut myself the longest length hazel rods of a useable diameter I could find, (in addition to providing numerous sticks for the dog).

Over the course of a couple of months of winter I built my collection of straight sticks up to the 30 I needed. I trimmed them down to a optimal length of 196cm and laid them out ready to construct the shape.

The icosahedron greenhouse bodyThe size of your growdome is going to vary a bit depending on how you connect the struts to each other. There are several tried and tested methods for this. In an icosahedron each vertex (the singular of vertices) joins five struts – a very complicated joint for joining wood to wood. So for this basic dome construction I used a very simple method of drilling holes and connecting the struts with wire and rope. In order to stop the ends of my hazel from splitting, I lined each hole with a bit of used copper pipe.

the icosahedron dome framework completeI moved the top to the centre of the cylinder and set it up in a tipi shape. I untied each top vertex, re-threading the rope in some instances to allow for ‘settling’ of the wild wood, then attached the top struts. I supported the roof with a large stick for the last two struts. Six more reef knots and the basic structure was complete. I included a central pole to add stability to the structure, slightly lifting the roof tightened the dome up. I took another photo of my ‘greenhouse’ and published it on Facebook where friends and family could take the micky out of me for building a greenhouse with no glass.

The completed icosahedron dome greenhouseThe covering for this dome arrived the next day. I had ordered 3 x 7.3x 1m Sunmaster Tunnel Covers, but it arrived all as one big sheet. I cut oversize equilateral triangle sections and nailed them with small, flat-head, roofing nails onto the framework, folding over the sheeting to produce a stronger edge. This is where the fresh-cut timber came into its own – as it was still sappy it took quite a lot of pounding without splitting at all.Three (oversize) equilateral triangles ( ∆∆ ) fitted the width of sheet and allowed for anomalies created by the wild wood and the foldover onto the struts. I later tidied-up these edges with a staple gun.

Icosahedron greenhouseThis dome is now full of seedlings as I write. I suspect I may have to tie it down when it gets very windy but that should be easy enough. It is not quite as warm as a glasshouse but certainly performs well in passive warmth capture as all the seedlings are sprouting.

My next project is to build one of these with every large triangle subdivided by three (eg nine trianges in each) – a ‘three-frequency, five eighths, alternate icosahedron’ – which is more of a dome shape.

Find out more: DIY greenhouse growing dome

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Living without Money

More people are exploring the potential of living without money as they realise that it is the systems surrounding money itself that may be at the root of many problems in our culture. From the ‘60’s ‘turn on, tune, in drop out’ which had ‘hippies’ living on the dole in tents, to the demonised ‘travellers’ and other alternative cultures, people struggle to cast-off dependence on money.

Attempts at improving local resilience by decreasing dependence on money are becoming more mainstream. Now we have LETS (Local Economic Transfer Systems), Freeconomy and Local Freecycles which help people to exchange goods and services without the use of money. With liftshare.com its even possible to travel. People ‘living without money’ are the subject of articles, blogs, books, even TV programmes. You can go on courses to help you decrease fiscal dependence. Wild foods, woodland crafts, survivalist skills and food gardening at home are all swiftly becoming more popular.

Freegans are people who advocate living off discarded food, The Roadkill Chef Fergus Drennan has even appeared on the BBC with his recipes. Green social and networking sites on the internet are very busy exchanging information about free resources and shortcutting consumerism.

It can’t be that hard to live without money, one might think? After all ‘birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it’ to steal the lyrics of a song. Our planet, solar system, galaxy require no money, but for some reason, the system we have ties us into money which is impossible to live without for any reasonable amount of time in our culture. As soon as you appear to live anywhere you need to pay rent and taxes in money. There is simply no option but to disappear from the system altogether, which I suspect many people are trying to do.

Some people achieve ‘freedom from money’ holidays. One of my favourites is the couple who sold up, bought ocean going kayaks and spent their time living wild on the tiny jungle-covered islands off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia in the South China Sea. They lasted 2 years. And they had lots of money to start with in order to set-up the time away.

Daniel Suelo who has lived in a cave in Utah, USA, for nine years explains his reasons: “When I lived with money, I was always lacking,” he writes (in his blog – maintained at the local library). “Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present.” He certainly has a point. If you want a spiritual existence, dependence on money shifts your awareness away from the ‘now’ where everything exists.  He eats what wild food he can find and recycles what we throw away to live – without comfort – in his tiny cave.

Armed with a solar laptop, panel and a caravan, Mark Boyle gave up cash for a year in the UK, to mixed response. He bartered work for food on an organic farm. Some people loved what he did others pilloried his attempts as middle class hypocrisy. But it was certainly an interesting and I think, valid experiment. The Moneyless Man, his account of a year without money, was published by Oneworld Publications in 2010, and he plans to donate the money it makes to create a Freeconomy Community.

From early May 2010 on BBC2, living without money took to our TV screens. Part-time vicar Peter Owen Jones tried to live a simpler and more meaningful life based on the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. To find deeper meaning and simplicity in his Sussex parishes he lived for eight months without money.

With riots in Athens due to the ‘harsh austerity measures’ only, I suspect, the start of things, it is a good idea to examine your own ‘real’ personal, local and community resources, beyond ‘what you can buy with money’. Experimenting by living without money is a great way to develop personal resourcefulness. Doing this ‘in community’ gives an even stronger basis for local resilience.

One of my favourite ‘quotes’, and I have no idea where it came from, is ‘I have done so much, with so little, for so long, that I am now able to do anything with nothing’. This is a quote about personal resourcefulness and it makes me feel strong. If you want to get something done without depending on money, employ personal resourcefulness along with energy, materials and imagination. Its astounding what can be achieved.

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Strawberry Recipes

Strawberry Recipes

fresh strawberries

I look forwards to that strawberry time of year and want to share some of my favourite strawberry recipes with you here. Now I have good nets to keep the blackbirds off and there are fewer slugs and snails after 2 cold winters, I am already on my third cropping and putting some aside to last through the year.

The fresh fruits are bursting with anti-oxidant vitamin C. In traditional medicine strawberries are a recommended digestive cleanser. They have antibacterial properties and act as a mild tonic for the liver.

perfect strawberries

Now the first thing to do with fresh strawberries is pretty obvious  and you don’t need a recipe for this – just eat them. I choose only the perfect ones – unblemished and un-nibbled by birds or slugs with a constant colouring all over. They are at their tastiest straight from the plant when warmed by a summer sun. The fresh juice is a delicious taste explosion that has most impact on the taste buds when a little warm.

I take the rest indoors and sort through them. Some are a little white and go onto the windowsill to colour up, others need a bit of trimming to take off slug nibbles, mushy bits or seed clumps. Soon I am ready for jam and other strawberry treats and recipes.

chopped strawberries

At this moment Sarah comes in with her friend Tamsin and, to my horror, proceed to eat my strawberries. “No”, I cry, “They’re for jam!” My torment just seems to encourage them and add to their enjoyment. Strawberries are a bit like that. And girls.

I cut the remaining strawberries up with a knife to ‘open’ the flavour for the various things I am making today. This allows the juices to pour out of the strawberries. The

lemon and strawberries

smell is divine and fortunately the girls have gone out now. I add the juice of two lemons into the mix. This increases the flavour and acts as a preservative and bacteriacide while the strawberries are raw. It is also important for the jam making as the pectin reacts with the lemon juice to help gel the jam. I stir the mix carefully, working the lemon juice through.

 

strawberry freezer jam

STRAWBERRY FREEZER JAM

One thing that annoys me about traditional jam recipes for preserving strawberries is that the rolling boil pretty much destroys all of the vitamin C. So you can simply mash up some of this mix, add a little sugar or icing sugar to taste, and freeze this mix as it is. It can be used as a very tasty jam, or in puddings such as cheesecake or strawberry fool – or it can be frozen in lolly makers as is.

strawberries and cream

STRAWBERRY FOOL

Strawberries and cream, a marriage made in heaven. I whipped up some double cream and liquidised some of the strawberries in preparation for the next strawberry treats.

I mixed some of these two together and put some aside in a small bowl – a strawberry fool.

strawberry lollies

STRAWBERRY LOLLIES

As I mentioned above – the raw liquidised mix of strawberries is fine to make freezer lollies, but I like them with a little cream and icing sugar. Fill the lolly moulds to just below the top and put in the sticks. To release the lollies once they are frozen, stand the mould in hot water for a minute or so and wiggle the stick carefully. If you dont have a mould, recycle some small plastic containers eg

strawberry ice cream

yoghurt pots.

STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM

You can also take this cream and strawberry mix (with sugar to taste) and pour it into an old ice-cream container to put in the freezer. Take it out every 20 minutes or so and give it a stir until it freezes. Delicious with fresh strawberries, Mmmm.

strawberry jam

STRAWBERRY JAM

Then, onto the jam recipe. Using a measuring jug, I put the remaining strawberries into a big pan. I had 1.5 litres or 3 pints. I put in the same amount of sugar and start the heat, gently stirring the mix. At this stage I find I have only 1 little sachet of pectin powder and don’t live anywhere near the shops. I put it in and add a small knob of butter because it says so in so many recipes. I have never

strawberry jam on bread

been clear why but believe it stops the ‘foaming’ on the top.

The mix reaches a rolling boil and I let it go for 4 minutes, then switching off the heat and testing for coagulation by dripping a bit of the jam onto a cold plate. Nowhere near.

I add more sugar and try another rolling boil, mourning the loss of vitamin C. A couple of boils, releasing as much water vapour as summer puddingpossible and its there, ready for the prepared jars. 10 jars will hopefully last me all year.

SUMMER PUDDING

Summer pudding deserves a page all to itself and I have already written about this awesome pudding on one of my other blogs right here:

strawberry man

http://simon-mitchell.com/summer_pudding.htm

click to open in a new page.

I have been living in strawberry world for a week or so now. Strawberries every day, fresh from the garden. Jam, lollies, icecream, strawberries on bread, on toast, Cornish cream teas, summer pudding.

When I looked in the mirror this morning I found this is what I looked like. I’m not showing you my tummy but it looks a bit like the summer pudding above for some reason!

Better go and do some digging !

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Make a Rocket Stove

It took me about 30 minutes to make this rocket stove from materials lying around the place. These were:

  • An old chimney pot I had been using to bring on the rhubarb
  • Some chimney liner left over from putting in the wood burning stove
  • 3 breeze blocks
  • a few bricks for the base
  • a bit of sand

The rocket stove is built on gravel so I dug down a bit to get a firm footing for the breeze blocks. I placed these in a upside-down U shape with the opening at the front, just wide enough for the chimney to sit on firmly. I lined the base of the fire pit out with some old bricks and put in sand to fill in the gaps.

I lined the chimney with the liner and cut and folded it at the top, just level with the top of the chimney. The liner extends into the firepit with a square cut out for the fire. Please be very careful cutting chimney liner it has some very sharp edges. You will probably need some metal cutting shears.

All set to go. Build a small fire in the base of the rocket stove and drop wood in from the top, making sure you don’t catch fire to your hair. Let the fire get going a bit and then place your boiling pot on the top, with an air gap to get the flow through. I just used a bent bit of metal rod which the pan sits on, on top of the chimney. Although this sticks to the pan when you take it off, it’s easy enough to put back on with a stick.

I find it takes me 2 fillings of wood to boil a washing up bowl of water and it doesn’t take any longer than the cooker once the fire is going properly. Now the wood burning stove is off a rocket stove is an ideal way to get free hot water for the summer and use up bits of wood that are too small for the wood burning stove.

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My First Roadkill Dinner

As someone who was a vegetarian by choice at the tender age of 10, it seemed unlikely that I would be picking up dead pheasants from the road and eating them. However I am in my 50’s now and not vegetarian. I have always intended to face the hypocrisy of a meat eater who doesn’t have to kill his own meat but I have never yet caught any wild meat.

So when my partner Sarah said, ‘There’s roadkill,  a freshly killed pheasant outside on the road, do you think we should eat it?’ I just had to acquiesce. Sarah, who is as girly-girl as they come but still goes camping and walking in muddy fields with me, had eaten roadkill before, she kind of – put me to shame. So she hung the pheasant by its feet in the shed for a couple of days, (as it happens the wrong way up). There is a cock pheasant around here who visits our garden regularly, with a flock of seven or so females – mates or daughters – I wasn’t sure. This was one of the girls. Six now.

Late Sunday I got round to making a roadkill dinner and I stiffened myself up for the gutting with a couple of glasses of wine. I had gutted fish before but never something with feathers. ‘Insert the knife in its bum’, she stifled a giggle, ‘and cut up to the chest cavity – are you sure you don’t want to take it outside?’

Fully buoyed with Dutch courage, I had laid down a plastic sheet for the wet work and plunged in with the knife, splitting the beast open to reveal oh my God, what’s that smell? Far more horrific than the sight of guts was the smell of going-off pheasant offal. I ran outside with the chopping board and put it on the composter by the barn.

Sarah, still trying not to laugh at my pathetic, lily-livered attempts to eat righteous meat, proffered up a bucket for me to scoop out the guts with my hand. I got most of them and she scooped out a kidney and a gloop of something else before I had to run inside and wash the slime off my hands. I felt tainted by the smell and must confess I let her skin it while I watched her point out the ‘croup that shalt not be broken’ and helped her with snapping the occasional bone.

It wasn’t long before it was in the oven and I consulted Hugh Fearnley’s ‘Cook on the Wild Side’ for roasting times, which I failed to find. I poured another glass of wine and switched on the internet. About 50 minutes later the bird was (over) done and I got into a tiz making bread sauce and cooking the 9 sorts of veg that needed using up.

I didn’t recover from the smell and only ate a bit. By the time I got it together it was just to late to eat roadkill. The taint seemed to be following me around because all the innards were sitting in a bucket in the yard. The next day I put them out in a field for the foxes and made the meal into a stew which was, untrammelled by odour, very tasty. The flesh is like a condensed chicken meat and the ‘stew’ replaced the tenderness I had roasted out.

So this is guilt-free meat? There are no food miles as it walked around our house and was randomly killed outside the door. No slaughtering because it was an accident. No farming since it was a wild beast.  I can hear the pheasant cock out there making its noises in the orchard. I can’t help wondering if it knows that I ate its wife / daughter? I do know though that I don’t feel like rushing out there at the thought of free meat to bring an end to its life. I feel much happier that I purchased a free-range chicken breast from the village stores for my next portion of meat.

But I do feel happy knowing that come the great collapse when all the shops are empty that I will be able to survive on roadkill (as long as petrol lasts out) or wild meat – if, of course I can work out a way to catch it. Sarah won’t let me have a gun. As she reminds me since the unfortunate accident with the thick-skinned butternut squash: ‘I’ve seen what you can do to yourself with a vegetable peeler’.

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A truth about being Green

When you look around, it seems that ‘green’ is just another colour of consumer capitalism. Often it is the more expensive option in a choice to buy goods. Somewhere along the line corporate consumerism has already hi-jacked many of the real intentions beyond being ‘green’. Surely recycle, reduce, repair and re-use are the essence of the green message?

Certainly there are better options in buying ‘Fair Trade’ for example but there are many who now question just how fair any ‘trade’ with third world countries can be in the context of the international banking and ‘free trade’ system we have. In reality to be ‘green’, one should let go of all attachment to money and close one’s bank account. In reality the green option here is local trade and exchange with local produce and without the use of money. Even the most ethical of banks is still part of an earth-destroying system that exploits our capital assets, the raw materials of the earth, as a form of income.

In reality, being green means letting go of your job and refusing to use petrol at all. Almost all employment is also part of the same economic system that exploits people and planet for the profit of a few, and the payment for this employment is money – which is at the heart of our problem in creating a sustainable earth.

In reality, being green means not buying anything at all. It means making, growing, mending or exchanging goods and avoiding the exchange of money which is taxed by governments to further their economic objectives and the objectives of their controllers, with its unavoidable side effects of planetary degradation.

In reality, being green means turning off your gas, your electricity and your water supply because the systems that deliver these to you are also entrenched in the earth destroying systems of consumer capitalism.

Promoting, even suggesting such options in today’s world is not realistic. In a world controlled by fear of terrorism, any kind of extremism or radicalism is seen as dangerous and anti-social, a threat to the system. And when the system itself is the problem? What then?

There aren’t many people who are actually able to be green. Often those whose cultures are naturally sustainable in resource terms, like the Kalahari Bushmen or the Masai, like the indigenous peoples of Australia or North America, are persecuted and forced into unsustainable systems in which they have to earn money to provide for themselves and their families.

Being a ‘green consumer’ is rife with hypocrisies and although, to an extent, it makes for a good conscience it is still little more than a fashion statement, a colour of consumer capitalism.

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Green Hedonism

In reality I view my values as a green person as relatively meaningless in the scheme of things. I know that at a global level for everyone of me, a person who makes careful choices about what they consume and tries to limit ‘consumption’, there are probably 100,000 people who don’t, many of them because they are simply unable to have this wealth of choice. Half the people in the world still don’t even have access to a telephone ! I know that even if every person in the UK became carbon neutral overnight, it would take China just 83 days to make up the difference in global pollution terms.

I see the greenwash of successive governments who say one thing ‘Yes we intend to decrease greenhouse gases’, and then do another ‘and by the way we are building another runway at Heathrow and building more roads to cope with the increase in travellers’. In reality, my choices are pretty meaningless given the hypocrisy of governments and the mass of humanity intent on unwittingly changing the nature of our planet.

In fact, I don’t believe that my choices as a green person make one iota of difference on a global scale, which begs the question, ‘Why do I bother?’

Well, it’s simply a matter of conscience. When Bangladeshis drown en-masse or hurricanes render millions of people homeless in China or the US because of climate changes, I certainly feel remorse, but because I don’t drive, because I limit my use of money to a minimum, because I am stringent with power and water, because I don’t use a kettle or own a fridge or washing machine, because I refuse to earn enough money to pay taxes, I don’t have to feel guilty, or find ways to avoid thinking about it altogether, and this means that I can get on with enjoying my life and enjoy green hedonism. This, to me, is the most important part of being a green person in the 21st century. I prefer to have a conscience than edit my reality using ‘denial’. This choice allows me to be a ‘whole person’.

Actually, I believe that the devastation of the earth is part of our destiny. Given present circumstances its unavoidable. Because of the processes we have set up, such as money and investment, the system trundles like a leviathan towards total global pollution, unable to change because there are too many people with their status, greed and ignorance invested in the easy profits of planetary abuse.

As Henry Cloud wrote: “We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change”. When there is a 60 year delay on the consequences what is going to motivate people to change?

Sure, the good consciences of the few or the brilliance of technological invention may delay things a while, but unless we completely rethink how we live on this earth we will eventually be forced to, if we do survive, by the laws of nature.

Given that, I enjoy my life to the full and this is where the green hedonism comes in. The earth is still a fantastic place to live, with an abundance of beauty and nature. I live in a beautiful place and enjoy my garden. In some ways, I have a better quality of life than any other person I know. It seems contradictory to claim to be green, but also to be a hedonist, but the key for me is in making the hypocrisies of my life conscious, and simply accepting, even enjoying them with a clear conscience.

Within voluntary simplicity there are great riches to enjoy. A simple walk in stunning nature with friends, a meal at home made from the purest of materials, picked from my own garden, a hand-made gift to or from a loved one, a cycle ride in the woods, kayaking on the river, spending a winter day reading by a crackling fire – these cost next to nothing and contribute towards a life of amazing quality.

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12 Ways to Transcend a stressful lifestyle

I want to make some positive suggestions on how to transcend and alleviate the stress of cultural self destruct by enjoying the moment. There are probably infinite ways to transcend a stressful lifestyle but here are some suggestions that I enjoy:

Growing, making, eating food

At the moment Sarah and I are in daily squash rapture. After nature’s excess with the pumpkins last year (4 got composted eventually), we decided to grow an assortment of squashes. From planting the seed, nurturing the little plants, watching them romp across the beds, enjoying the huge yellow flowers and the pleasure they give the bees, staring in rhapsody at the unique fruits they produce to the delight of picking, cooking and eating them, it is an experience without comparison. Eating food, like sex, is one of the very few activities which employ all of the senses and can be completely transcendent. ‘Growing your own’ puts you in touch with nature and its rhythms and seasons, increasing your awareness and contact with nature and the universe and helping you trancend a stressful lifestyle.

Physical work with nature

I find something as simple as sawing wood, mucking out a stable or digging soil to be an intensely pleasurable experience. It is so ‘clean’. You harvest the wood, you get warm. You saw the wood (no chainsaws here), you get warm again. You burn the wood – you get warm again in front of the fire. I have had many moments over the years where, totally absorbed in physical work with nature, lost for a time, transcended, I ‘come too’ and re-discover myself as an independent entity. Just sheer physical enjoyment of your body, your ‘animal’ nature, in sport or play or work can tune you into the universe and help you to transcend a stressful lifestyle.

Craft activity

Working with your hands is also a way to become one with the universe to transcend stress. You can see this in pottery, watercolour painting and a whole host of art and craftwork where the creator has ‘transcended’ and become a vessel directly channelling the energies of the universe into the material through their own unique physiology. It is nothing short of fantastic when this happens to you and for a short moment you become ‘the one’.

Practising a sense of wonder

Last night we came home late and the crisp, autumn air made the stars light up. The Milky Way unfurled like a huge ribbon across the sky and uncountable pinpricks of twinkling light glittered above. Excuse me while I wax rhapsodic but if you consciously realise each one of those pinpricks of light is another sun then that pretty quickly puts things in perspective. You are Nothing. The Universe is Infinite. Simply expand your nothingness into infinity !

Enjoying time with children and animals

Children, dogs, cats and other animals are quite naturally ‘in the moment’. Join in with their world and play their games with them. Pretty soon you will discover a universe of fun filled hours covered in mud and you will have forgotten about your stress for a while, your bunched muscles and hardened attitudes will start to relax and you will transcend your stressful lifestyle – even if just for  a moment.

Sports

Another way to spend fun filled hours covered in mud, many sports can help you to connect with a sense of ‘one-ness’ through sheer physicality. From one-ness achieved through ‘Zen and the Art of Archery’ (mastery of craft, skill, sport) to the natural endorphins released through physical exertion. The more you put in, the more you get out – sports can leave you not only feeling (and looking) fit, but give you a deep connection and a feeling of unity through your body. There are many varieties of sport to choose from, experiment with what you can find and see what suits you.

Dancing

I used to enjoy ‘freelance’ dancing but someone turned me on to Salsa a few years ago and I searched for 2 years for a suitable class (this is Cornwall). Discovering this dance led me to book my only ever long-haul flight and go to Cuba to learn from the natives. I will never forget Raquel and Yodanke who taught me Salsa and Son. Thank you so much. Talk about pure existence in the moment – I love dancing Salsa like nothing else. For me this is my favourite way to transcend stress. Maybe Salsa isn’t your dance but there are so many different forms of dance there is just bound to be one that suits you. Know that sometimes I go slightly ‘Skippy’ (the bush kangaroo) and my left leg wants to dance the hornpipe and my right leg want to do the Scottish Country Sword Dance. Know that I have a tendency towards Whirling Dervish. Know that Sarah is very patient with me. I love to dance.

Making music

I have got this far writing this list and suddenly feel utterly blessed, because I can play the guitar. How many times has making music helped me transcend the everyday mundanity of ‘necessary’ existence. Music is a pure form of energy and creating it can take you into another dimension. Through making (and hearing) music you can transcend ordinary reality and become one with a universe of energy. Like dancing, there are many forms of music and many ways to create it. Percussive music, such as drumming can be deeply transformative, to strings to wind… Go on a search to ‘find your instrument’ and use it as a key to open the universe around you.

Singing, like music, has the power to transform not just yourself but those around you. Those of you lucky enough to have good voices, please sing more often. Those of you who are not so sure maybe sing to yourselves and not go on the X Factor. Or you could get some help or even adopt an instrument. Humming can be pretty good too. Harmonica anyone ?

Tantra

When I first discovered Tantra, my ‘friend’ claimed to be a Tantrika but resolutely refused to tell me what it was about. So I enrolled on a weekend course with Leora Lightwoman (Diamond Light Tantra). It was simply the most amazing experience and completely beyond description. I have been on other courses with other teachers since then. It’s not what you think it is. It defies description. Go find out for yourself.

Loving relationships

Following on from the last, your partner (if you have one to love) is a gateway to the universe. Through union with another it is a short step to union with everything.

Mixing with elemental forces

Filled with awe at the Grand Canyon (earth), amazed at the stars (air), lost in the playful flames or relaxed by the rhythm of ocean waves – the elements in their raw state have a profound effect on a being open to their influence. Find raw elemental places in tune with your being and go to them to surrender yourself.

Meditation

To an extent all of the above are forms of ‘dynamic’ meditation. Many people practice Yoga, Tai chi, Qigong and other more formal forms of mediation and if this suits you it is a great way to open yourself to other ways of being ‘connected’.

The universe is always there, always waiting for you to be in it. The culture in which we exist seems contrived to separate you from being in tune with the universe. You do have a choice.

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