Monday, January 30, 2012

I'm Rich and I'm Poor

"If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people's opinions, you will never be rich.
~ Seneca Quotes from Letters from a Stoic

I am poor. If we’re talking money, I am absolutely, most definitely poor. Way way way below the poverty line. Technically. But I’ve always been good at being poor, and I although it’s bragging, I’m proud to say that I find ways to donate a pretty good sum of dough to good causes every year, through fundraising concerts and selling stuff I make and whatnot. I have a really good life. I’m never hungry. I’m never bored. I never go without. I supposed if I wanted a big-screen TV right now, I’d be going without, but I’ve never wanted a big-screen TV. I actually think that term might be out of date – is it?  Ok ok, I actually go without warm, running water, and that’s a pain in the butt, but we have a big pot and a woodstove and most of the time we are happy with that, until one of us is in a rush and throws a fit. Luckily we have friends in civilization.

Sometimes I feel rich. When friends come over and we feed them woodstove pizza, I feel rich. When our garden is in full bloom, I feel rich. When it’s January and the garden is brown, but we are still eating its bounty, I feel rich. When I make a gift that would cost $200 to buy, I feel rich. Seedy Saturday on Denman Island last weekend made me feel rich. We traded our Pac-Choi and Buckwheat and Dill seeds for many other kinds of seeds, and this fall we will have several new vegetables to eat. When I finish a website that I am building for a friend with a nut and fruit tree nursery, we will have new fruit and nut trees. (Bartering is so cool. Bartering makes me feel rich.)

What up with money? Aside from having to pay property taxes, because our government fines us just for being alive, I think it may be possible to get along just fine without it. For all of us to live rich, prosperous, happy lives, without money – that would be something. I’m hoping to get there at some point.

When the tomatoes I canned sideways on a Coleman camping stove, in old glass-lid-jars, successfully preserved until mid-January, I felt rich. And very lucky. 

Wood Stove Pizza = Wood Fired Pizza.

I believe this was a November Watermelon.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No Coal Mine

Yesterday over 400 people from my community and folks from other west-coast communities gathered together in Buckley Bay (across from Denman Island) to stand up against the proposed (and apparently government supported) Raven Coal Mine, being planned to go in very close to our home.  There are so many devastating effects expected if the coal-mine goes ahead.  I am nervous because it most often seems like our voices are not being heard. Christy Clark, the premier of BC and Stephen Harper are both behind the project and seem unwilling to hear the cries of the people (Harper calls us “radicals”) who live in the area and will be most directly affected.

I am, however, hopeful because my community is not backing down for a moment, and proud of the fervour with which they/we are willing to fight this thing.

Last year there was a public hearing in Union Bay with representatives from Compliance Energy including the CEO, representatives from the provincial and federal government and many people from the community.  It was a very exciting event. The government-hired (frazzled, fuming and belittling) moderator had a very hard time keeping the room under tight control as so many people wanted to have their concerns and comments heard in full, without interruption, and were not willing to back down. The event began at 7 and went until after midnight. 

What was most amazing was the vast array of arguments from people in so many different kinds of expertise, generations, and investments in the land.  We heard the emotional pleadings from owners of Oyster Farms who knew their businesses and livelihoods would be destroyed in the wake of a coal mine.  Biologists stood up with scientific knowledge and advice, elderly citizens stood up and raged against the condescending reps on stage. Retired English professors and back-to-the-land anarchists, young children, worried parents, nature and sport enthusiasts… everyone had something different and important to say.  It was very touching. I don’t know how the Compliance Energy reps didn’t burst into tears and throw in the towel.  The CEO was so emotionless (the only thing close to feeling he showed was annoyance toward the end of the night) that I think it would be easy to label him a sociopath. 

It was great to see many more people out for the rally on Saturday; some great speakers who really knew their stuff and a lot of creative individuals with costumes and signs. 

Bad ass! - Coal Watch - About/Against the Raven Coal Mine

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Garbage Land

A few weeks ago, in the spike of pre-Christmas shopping season I saw a transport truck accident at the side of the highway. The trailer was on its side and spewing from the back doors was a mountain of over-packaged, candy-coloured plastic dollar-store junk. There was something about it that made me shudder – for real, shudder. In the scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal – it won’t make any kind of headlines in the news or attract much concern from any safety or environmental groups. But it got me thinking. And blogging apparently.

Over the last ten years I have moved several times. And in the past two years I have spent a lot of time sorting through boxes of stuff trying to decide what to keep and what to toss as I slowly transfer the good stuff from my original home town, Bracebridge Ontario, to my new permanent (whatever that means) home on Denman Island in BC.  It’s a long and expensive road for my stuff. And I’ve been kicking myself over a lot of it.

When I was a kid I used to love dollar stores. I would march in with my bi-weekly allowance and buy up as many awesome trinkets as I could afford. I loved little boxes and bows and craft objects, small toys, hair accessories… pretty much all of it. I thought is wise to stock up for rainy days, or just in case I couldn’t get the stuff for so cheap later.  My mother begged me not to spend my money on these silly trinkets, but I ignored her. I was certain I would find a use for every little thing.

Now as I sort through boxes and boxes of stuff that I used once and forgot about, stuff that is too crappy for the second hand store, stuff that I spent my parents’ hard earned money on, (earned later by me as I complained my way through a counter full of dishes twice a week) I am so angry with myself for not listening, not caring, not seeing the big picture.

I didn’t think of the sweatshops, the greedy corporations, the enormous amount of waste and toxins produced to create and transport this stuff that was essentially more waste and toxins. I just wanted the toys.

That over-turned tractor trailer was a sad reminder of how disgusted I am with myself and my culture. It was a gleaming epitome of wastefulness. Forget the big expensive stuff – the cell phones and generations of digital devices, the tickle-me-Elmos and lava lamps and hair straightness. Those things make me fret, for sure, but the amount of one-time-use plastic crap, absolute 100% garbage that is shipped over land and sea to be unwrapped, used once and thrown out (or in my case, stored for ten years, panicked over and then thrown out) is… atrocious.

I would say that over the past two years, since moving to the island and living small, I have become what a lot of people would think of as extreme in my opinions about wastefulness. My good friend Krystal and I have had some lengthy ranting-duets about friends and acquaintances who see us as “oh no, you’re one of those…” total fun-killing freaks for caring – a lot – about our world. The fact that most of the population of North America (and there are a hell of a lot of people out there) thinks this way is really, really fucked up. That’s right, I’m not even going to sensor that.

If you’ve read any other blog entries, you know the way I live. It’s pretty much camping. My car is a bicycle. My hubster and I grow food and plant trees, and actually hug trees. We actually do. I admit, I feel like a weirdo doing it, and I’m going to go ahead and say that my husband usually starts the tree hugging on any given day and I join in with some reluctance, but ya. We do it.  And still, the fact that I have flown in an airplane more than five times in my life and usually forget my travel mug at home but buy hot chocolate anyway, and that I bought a pleather jacket last year, means I refuse to call myself an environmentalist. I have already, in my 28 years of life, used enough of the world’s resources that I’m sure my footprint is irreversible. Which makes me think there are actually very, very few environmentalists in the world and most of them are so poor they are almost dead.

I was listening to a radio interview on the CBC a while ago with a few panel members talking about the oil sands. Please forgive me, I won’t remember all of the details accurately, but I’ll try to get a point of some kind across here. There was a Calgary audience, who seemed to be mostly in cahoots with the environmentalist on the panel, but also sympathetic to the oil-sands representative, not so much when she claimed that Canadian oil was ethical oil, but when she stated that, let’s face it, our economy and thus world depends on oil. Without oil we’d all be poor and miserable and probably also dead. Canadian oil is way better than oil from the middle-east, and we need oil, there’s no way around it, so suck it up, the oil sands are good.

Blllaaaarrrrrgggg!!!!! I did not like that lady! We don’t need all of this stuff we have. Period. We don’t need it to be healthy, we don’t need it to be happy and we don’t need it to live. I swear we don’t. I have been living without a lot of it, and I’m pretty damn sure we don’t need it.

We need friends and family. We need skills, people who can make things out of what the earth provides, on a small scale so the earth has time to recover after we take a tree or move some soil. We need community cooperation and support. We need crafters and gardeners and people who know how to make medicine from herbs without processing them in to coloured pills and capsules and mixing them with poisons. We need to barter. We need pride and celebration. We don’t need S.U.V.’s in the city. We don’t need trips to Disney Land. We don’t need cheap plastic junk.

I’m going to stop ranting, because I’m going on a lot of tangents for one blog entry, and probably making someone angry. Please though, continue the conversation through comments. I’m interested in your opinion about all this kind of stuff.

And check out some Canadian artists and crafts people online. There’s a lot of high-quality, beautiful stuff to buy – purchases that really help the ecomony and don’t devastate the environment.

I’m being bossy.