27 February 2009

Fluff therapy

I can't think of anything better to do this morning than the fluffy bird. The fluffy bird is the name we've given to the pose assumed by the person sitting in the comfy chair, facing the window, with their feet on the baseboard heater. Outside, the weather is windy and rainy, but I'm warm and dry and happy to be inside looking out.

Doing the fluffy bird hasn't made the rest of my world line up perfectly. There is still work to do and people to care for, and things that should be easy but won't be. Dust is accumulating as I write, and the onion seeds I wanted to start this week haven't arrived yet.

As difficult as it is to achieve order inside the house, outside it's worse. The news is full of crime, disaster and crisis and the powers that be seem to be pushing the levers in the wrong direction. I'm starting to understand why so many people are so incurious. When you start turning over rocks you just about always find something you don't really want to touch.

But fluffy birds don't worry about the future or housework or what's for supper. And neither will I - for now.

24 February 2009

Watch and discuss

Today's post is a bit of a change from my usual ranting. I'm going to let two very smart guys explain why there can be no recovery from the current economic crisis - and why, if by recovery you mean everything goes back to the way it was, there shouldn't be. There's an evening's worth of material here so get comfortable and please find someone to watch it with you. If you've ever lived paycheck to paycheck and gotten in the situation where you had unexpected expenses and put them on a credit card and didn't really know if you could afford something - that's the position most of us are in with regards to the 3E (economic, environment, and energy) crisis most of humanity is facing. At some point you have to sit down and add everything up to see exactly what the situation is. You might not like the answer, but at least you can make decisions that don't involve winning the lottery or developing technology to get out of the fix you're in.

Both of these talks are accessible and even somewhat entertaining.

First, watch this. This is a 40 minute version of Chris Martenson's Crash Course that was broadcast on PBS a while back. It is definitely an executive summary of the financial situation, but you'll get the gist.

Then, watch Saul Griffith discussing the scale of the environmental and energy problems we're facing.

19 February 2009

Revolutionary tax advice

I had a first crack at our income taxes this morning. In past years, I've mostly been interested in the bottom line. Hopefully we don't owe anything and wouldn't it be nice if there was a bit of a refund. This year I actually looked at the total amount of tax paid to the federal and provincial governments between L and I and I'm happy to report the big banks can rest easy - we've got a good chunk of the bailout covered.

When people complain about taxes, I'm usually the one saying how I'd rather pay higher taxes and live in a civilized country like Canada than pay less tax but have no safety net. I've been changing my tune a bit. Since it's now apparent that our neoliberal government would rather you threw yourself in front of a train than claim unemployment benefits or, heaven forbid - welfare, I'm feeling a little less generous with my money. I liked the idea that my money might contribute to helping someone get back on their feet or environmental protection or decent commercial-free radio. I hate the idea that my money is going to bail out some corporation with the stated intent of restoring the economy.

I've taken the (snarky) advice I used to give to tax moaners: if you want to pay less tax, you could always earn less money. So next year at this time, if I continue to earn at my present rate (precisely zero since I quit my job) my contribution to government corporate welfare schemes will be nothing. My own personal tax revolt.

16 February 2009


We went to see the puppies again today. They're 4 weeks old tomorrow and starting to be lots of fun. We played with them and cuddled them, but we just couldn't pick only one. So we'll have to go back in a couple of weeks.

Music and Life

I've just discovered Alan Watts. The guys from South Park animated a number of his talks and they're great fun. This one sums up quite nicely why I think unschooling is the way to go. By the way, M will be continuing her school experiment until spring break, at which point she'll be making a decision about continuing. I'm pretty sure the pleasure of confinement will be outweighed by the joy of freedom, but the trial isn't over until it's over.

09 February 2009

I'm taking my moral imperatives and going home.

I heard Michael Hlinka on CBC the other day talking about executive compensation and how it should be limited when performance is bad. It was pretty dull stuff until he said something that really got me riled up. He said, “I’m not about to knock anyone for getting as much as they can. That’s something close to a moral imperative in my book."

Greed is a moral imperative?!? Sorry, buddy, not in my parallel universe. Sadly, I suspect Mike is not alone with his morals. Mike and his friends will be sucking every last bit of wealth out of the planet until it's gone and this is why no amount of fiscal stimulus is going to fix their mess.

02 February 2009

Parallel but reasonable

I feel like I live in a parallel universe to the one inhabited by the powers that be. In my universe humans are rapidly making the planet uninhabitable through profligate consumption. In the universe TPTB are in, the main problem is that the economy is sinking and people aren't consuming enough. In my universe, fossil fuels are becoming scarcer and more difficult to extract. In the parallel universe, technological solutions will solve any energy problems that may arise in the future. In my universe, climate change is a threat to most lifeforms on Earth. In the parallel universe, climate change will allow agriculture in marginal areas and open the Arctic to fossil fuel extraction.

How is it that I can exist in what appears to be the same time and place as TPTB and arrive at such different conclusions? I've been accused of exposing myself only to pessimistic sources of information and thus missing out on the optimistic perspective. Unfortunately, I don't know where to find these optimistic news sources. I think TPTB say things that make us think they have some optimistic news somewhere to back up their utterances. When Barack Obama says “we will not apologize for our way of life” he makes it sound like it would be reasonable to continue living the American way of life. But where did he get that idea? When politicians of every stripe go on about economic stimulus, they make it sound like there's some credible information that pouring money into the exploded carcass of the financial world will solve anything. When TPTB argue that the economy is more important than the environment, they insinuate that it is possible to live well on a dying planet. Is it that they're not paying attention or are they lying to us to advance an agenda?

I'm certainly not so naïve as to believe that anyone capable of achieving high rank in government or business is incapable of spinning the truth, but I think it's more than that. Here's why. Most of TPTB have kids. And most of the ones with kids actually love them and want what's best for them, because that's what parents do. They may not give a crap for anyone else's kids but they generally love their own. Wanting what's best for your kids, to most people, means thinking about what kind of life they're going to have when they're grown up. You want them to have good relationships, good work, good health, clean air, clean water and healthy food. Don't you? And if you wanted those things for your kids wouldn't you make decisions that promote a good future? Isn't that what parents do? Don't parents sacrifice so that their children can have good lives? Ok, this argument doesn't make sense unless you add in a huge smear of willful ignorance and apply it to everyone. We all love our kids and we're all pretending things aren't going to be worse for them because of our greed and stupidity. We demand to be lied to so we can trade our clean air, water, topsoil and trees for money and feel like we're doing the right thing.

It turns out I'm not actually alone in my parallel universe. Sharon Astyk has recently published a fabulous book called Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front Or One Woman's Solutions to Finding Abundance for Your Family while Coming to Terms with Peak Oil, Climate Change and Hard Times. This is my new favourite book and I encourage everyone to read it. Sharon is at least as concerned about the future as I am (well, probably way more because she's done more research and she's doing something about it) and instead of just ranting has set about to help people adjust to the new reality in a positive way. She focuses on the domestic economy as the foundation of a reasonable life, especially during hard times. She advocates a return to home as the centre of family life, establishing roots in community, growing and preparing your own food, sharing with family and neighbours, and being prepared to live largely outside the formal economy. And if we all do that, maybe our kids can have reasonable lives too.


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