Overtourism, revisited

It’s that time of year again, when friends start posting their “travel porn.” Yes, even fellow eco-activists can be quite the summer jetsetters. I am learning to just keep my mouth shut and not be a wet blanket on their social-media pages. It doesn’t help shift attitudes, and plus I just don’t want to be like that to my friends.

And yet I feel a deep heavy pain in my heart. It’s disconcerting and disheartening to see people in their 60s and 70s and beyond who express deep concern about climate and ecosystems, and who have traveled extensively in their younger days already, but are still taking annual vacation trips to Europe, cruises, and so on.

One way I handle it is to make posts on this blog and on my Facebook page, to try to educate and persuade people who are open to that. In that spirit, I googled “overtourism” and found a good article that mentions Santorini Island, one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever not seen in person.


(“Santorini To Machu Picchu To Mount Everest — The War Against Over-Tourism Is On”; article in Worldcrunch.com Feb 16, 2024; by Marine Béguin)

“Environmental damage, deteriorating cities, overcrowding, rising prices and an impediment to local people’s way of life are all consequences of international mass tourism.”

This theme of overtourism even shows up in fiction. For example, a series of novels set in Venice, the Commissario Brunetti detective-story series by Donna Leon. (I fell in love with this series in the process of doing armchair tourism, specifically, finding ways to experience Venice without the footprint of travel.)

As Commissario Brunetti of the Venice Police walks around his ancient beautiful city solving crime (and never forgetting to admire the cathedrals and other architecture), he often ruminates on not being able to find real shops because everything’s gone over to tourism. And observes the thousands of tourists getting disgorged from the cruise ships with their noisy wheeled luggage.

From the article linked above: “As one of Europe’s most popular destination for tourists, Venice has seen its population move away and abandon their houses due to rising prices, flash floods and rising water levels but above all the invasion of international tourists, which sometimes amount to twice the cities’ inhabitants.”

The article talks about efforts being made in various over-touristed places to mitigate the impacts:

“In response, many touristic localities are taking this issue head-on by implementing innovative strategies to combat the negative effects of excessive tourism. These initiatives aim to protect the environment, preserve local culture, and ensure the long-term sustainability of these cherished locations.”

We can also teach ourselves to find the remarkable beauty and richness that are everywhere around us, and celebrate the culture and nature of our own local places as deeply as we yearn after the more famous beauties in distant lands.

We can also take the invitation to reflect on our own lives, and consider what it is that we feel we need a vacation from.

As I talk about in my book and blog, Travel in my younger years was very formative and deeply meaningful for me. And I cannot point-blank tell people not to travel; can’t tell people to forgo the deep learning and inner enrichment that happens with travel. But I can plead, for those of us who are older and have gotten to travel in our younger years, to exercise some voluntary self-restraint and maybe take a no-fly pledge.

Of course it can happen that with travel, the same way as with any luscious food, no amount ever feels like enough. Some people might even be unconsciously playing out a planetary grief/trauma response that’s taking the form of extreme compulsive travel consumerism. You know, a sort of last-gasp, last-hurrah, “party like it’s the apocalypse” response.

I have found it very helpful to look within. Emotional healing is a very key component of this behavioral-economics puzzle of trying to convince ourselves to exercise voluntary self-restraint. Separating out the grief, drama, unresolved yearnings, unfixable regrets.

Yes, choosing to limit travel is a sacrifice, but for those of us who are concerned about biospheric collapse and the harm that billions of people worldwide are already experiencing from climate change, we know that a bit of sacrifice is going to be needed. No one said it was going to be easy. But we will rest better knowing that we did our best for current and future generations. And choosing to forgo such luxuries as leisure travel, and tune ever more deeply into our home places, can be fun and liberating. I offer lots of suggestions on my blog and in my book. And on this page too.

I can tell you personally that when I was “caught between a rock and a hard place” of longing to see Venice on one hand, but not wanting to incur that travel footprint on the other hand, I have had a blast being an armchair tourist of Venice and feel very deeply connected.

My choice even sparked a lot of creative thoughts about sea-level rise and flooding in my home region; I started getting visions of how our coastal cities could morph into floating communities. People have lived floating on water since ancient times.

My favorite examples are the Venetians; the marsh Arabs of Iraq; and the indigenous Uros people, who live on floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca. I have never been to any of those places, and feel no need to. It’s enough just to see some pictures and admire the beauty of their highly adapted human-built environment.

PS. Santorini is a gorgeous island; if travel had a zero footprint and caused no negative impact on the host place, I would want to go. Actually no, I still just wouldn’t want to deal with the rigors of such a long trip. Half-asleep, half-awake, gritty-eyed and slogging through airports and just everything. I’d rather just enjoy the pictures.

How to avoid being driven crazy by the things you find most annoying

Although most people think of me as a positive person, and I do in fact try to focus on the positive, the truth is that I get extremely annoyed by certain things. Like annoyed to distraction, like I have a hard time thinking of anything else.

Examples: the sound of leaf blowers and grass-edgers on a rainy day. I mean, the sound of either of those things any time grates on my nerves horribly, not just because of the noxious, loutish racket itself, and the fumes, but also because these landscaping practices have come to represent a huge waste of money and resources. And because they embody our society’s preoccupation with compulsive tidiness in the great outdoors despite the fact that said preoccupation is actually killing off the biosphere.

But somehow it’s especially nerve-grating on a rainy day.

The grass-industrial-complex noise is just one example, but I can really get going about that.

So I can attest to the effectiveness of the following survival tip:

The best way I have found to not completely be driven crazy (and go down the rabbit hole and get distracted from my purpose), is to be too busy doing something fun, cool, and/or mission critical to pay much attention to the gross annoying thing that’s happening. It never quite disappears, but basically the volume gets turned way down.

Or as I once heard it expressed (I think it was from some ancient Chinese philosopher but I’m not sure; if I find the source I will let you know):

To defeat evil, make progress toward the good. In other words, focus on the good thing you’re trying to create, not the bad thing you’re trying to stop. It’s what I call a probiotic as opposed to an antibiotic approach.

If you try this approach, or if you have already used it, let me know how it works for you.

Fat rain

And just like that, the barrels and tubs of rainwater, which I had strategically used up over the past few weeks, are back on their way to be full again. We got a big fat rain in the early hours this morning, after getting some yesterday and a bit the night before.

According to my weather app, we got 1.45 inches of cloud-juice in the past six hours, and 1.9 inches in the past 24 hours.

Here’s a post I made yesterday on my DEEP GREEN Facebook page, with a video:

(video duration 2 min 46 sec)
Rainwater catching setups range from very sophisticated, with connections and sensors and all sorts of things; to stacked containers with hoses and spigots; to the simplest which is just lining up containers under your roof line.

My setup is somewhere in between; among other things I actually invested in used barrels and a set of (new) tubs. I live in a 1000 square-foot house with three of us living here, but I needed for my system to be able to be managed by myself alone because the other two household members have their own fulltime occupations.

The water is used mainly for supplemental irrigation during the dry season, and for cooling off during the hot season. And, in all seasons, for washing (clothes, and body).

I periodically do strategic releases of the water for evaporative cooling, and or management of high stormwater volumes.

Note, I do this by hand, but a person with the skills and inclination and financial means could have a system of hoses and sensors and things.

I will say, there are advantages to doing tasks like hauling water. It can be fairly beneficial to a middle-aged body, as long as one doesn’t try to do too much too fast, and it saves money that I used to spend on the gym in my younger vainer days.

And, I often joke that as I get old-old, one day I will have instant Brady Bunch grandkids, great-grandkids, Zombie Apocalypse lifestyle apprentices, or whatever, and they will be out here helping with the water and we will all be having fun splashing each other. <laugh icon>

Additional recommended resources:

•Brad Landcaster YouTube channel, “Planting the Rain to Grow Abundance” (TED Talk; about 16 minutes) and all of his other videos also.
•My friend/permaculture colleague Chris Searles BioIntegrity YouTube channel, check out his videos about making it rain in Texas through strategic watering of large oak trees & other deciduous trees.

You can check out the video here, on my deep green Facebook page.

#water #rain #stormwater #mitigatingdroughtfloodextremes #microclimate

Acting rich; being rich

When I first started on this journey of low-footprint living, some people used to think I was depriving myself; living in a poverty mindset.

But actually, it struck me today, as I was managing our household rainwater collection tubs, that I’m actually living in a wealth mindset. A person who practices radical water conservation even in a rainy climate will feel more secure, and will be more likely to always have water to share with neighbors.

And if that person lives in a desert, they may only end up having enough water for their own household, but they will still have the skills and expertise of water-thrift to share with other people.

Same with money. If I use only what I need, then I often have surplus to share with others. Which is very important especially nowadays, as the economy gets tighter and less forgiving for more and more people. There are so many people who don’t have a single penny to spare. Those of us who have some leeway, the more money we can free up to share, the better. Back when I had not a penny to spare, I still had a lot of expertise to share with others, regarding how to live abundantly on very little.

And space, too. If I can live happily in a very small space, but I have a whole house, then I always have lots of space to share. I definitely feel very very wealthy.

Living below our means voluntarily is a way to create wealth, not only for ourselves but for our communities and the planet. (Note, I am not talking about people who are living in involuntary poverty; not even getting their basic needs met. Although, I will say, many of the most generous people I’ve met in my life didn’t have a penny or much of anything to spare, and yet they found ways to share. Their attitude taught me a lot.)

Speaking of rain, we got a bit last night and are getting some more this afternoon, after a long crispy dry spell. Here’s a video I just made, talking about my simple rainwater setup.

Mother’s Day Boomer wish

Someone on Facebook posted a Mother’s Day cartoon. It shows one woman saying to another, “For Mother’s Day, my mom would like the activism of her youth to not be for nothing.”

My thoughts:

(This is addressed to my fellow white, “Woodstock / eco Boomer” women):

[TL;DR for my comment on the post below: For us to ask for this for Mother’s Day, even in a cartoon joke, we need to be still doing our activism. We sort of got derailed in the me-first prosperity-flood of the 80s but let’s get back on track now. And, we need to be walking our talk, in terms of aligning our daily choices with the change we want to see in the world.]

*Special note for fellow Boomer white women of the “Earth Day/Woodstock tribe”: We do not get to say this even in jest. acting all entitled, when we should be begging the forgiveness of the younger generations. Also can someone please invent a time machine where we go back and we don’t abandon our activism when the going gets cushy? Yes that’s right, instead of abandoning our activism when the going got rough, we abandoned it when the going got cushy, probably sometime in the 80s with all the fancy fancy shiny shiny.

just kidding, Time machines are really hard to invent (plus, I hear they get really bad gas mileage), so no use crying over spilt milk. But what we can do is straighten up and get back to the commitment of our activism, with a bunch of corrections. For one thing, if our activism isn’t intersectional it’s bullshit.

For another, if we’re really serious, we need to fully divest our money from the war machine, and do some serious decolonization of our minds.

It’s not cool if we sit here on our cushy cushions and talk about what great ideals we had when we were younger, and how we worked so hard and now we’re tired and we’re going to rest, but thank God/dess for the younger generations who are going to fix everything. Oh hell no.

And by the way, we need to stop having snide/dismissive attitudes about Tik Tok, it’s where the actual revolution is happening as far as intersectionality, sharing the truth, mutual aid, and connecting with fellow activists.

I share some practical tips on my blog about how we can get back in the groove. I love you, fellow white eco Boomer women, but we have some deep reflection and self-correction to do!

Because we (as a group) have become too entrenched in the establishment. We’ve turned into the very sort of people who we ourselves were talking about back in the 60s and 70s when we said “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

So let’s fix that. And then we can get on with things. Note, if you are one of my abovementioned “tribe” who are still doing activism, GREAT! Me too. We still need to start doubling-down on our courage, shoring up our integrity, and fixing our blind spots.

PS. Happy Mother’s Day! And let’s give our full heart and hands to practice respect for our mother, mother Earth. And all of her creatures including all humans.

PPS. You can see the above-mentioned cartoon here, where I shared it on my deep green Facebook page.

Accidental kaizen!

A serendipitous thing happened today with my outdoor water setup. I call it accidental kaizen!

My watering can just happened to be underneath the old coffee urn that I use as an outdoor dispenser for water in my outdoor trellis-room as a convenient way to wash my hands outdoors (like when I need to switch from a “dirty” landscaping task to some task that requires cleaner hands).

So, as my hands get washed (or as my toothbrush gets rinsed etc.), the rinsewater trickles down into the watering can, whence it can then be reused to water certain areas of the yard where there is no tender or edible vegetation. Or on a mulch pile that could use a little extra moisture etc.

In permaculture design we refer to this kind of reuse as “energy cycling.” Reusing resources onsite as many times as possible in a trickle-down kind of way.

(Another example of energy cycling would be using old clothes as attire for dirty outdoor tasks rather than throwing them away. And then as the clothes get super worn out, cutting them up into rags which can be used in a downward-cascading hierarchy of tasks — from neat to messy — before finally ending up in the compost.)

Kaizen is one of my favorite concepts. I first learned of it via the world of Japanese business/industry. It means continuous incremental improvement.

Kaizen is a great fit for permaculture design and “DEEP GREEN” living.

(BTW the soap-dish isn’t visible in these shots but it is nearby. It’s a neutral-toned bowl I rescued from the waste stream. Although the bowl is plastic, it’s sturdy and nicely shaped, and it seems to have been made to look a little bit like wood or ceramic, which is very in keeping with my wabi/sabi-inspired aesthetic out there.)

Updates May 13:

• I ended up snapping a couple of pics that show the soapdish. There are a few pieces of an old cake of Maja soap in there, one of my favorites. It lasts a long time and works really well. BTW if it rains, I get some free liquid soap in the bowl. Or, if it starts raining a whole lot, I turn the bowl upside-down over the cakes of soap to protect them from getting totally melted.

• Because the spigot of the water container doesn’t quite stick out far enough for the water to make it all the way into the watering can, I made a tall funnel using a sheet of flexible transparent plastic which I have had sitting in my “purgatory bin” for a while. (The purgatory bin is my way-station for temporarily diverting things from the waste stream. Utimately I either find a use for them or send them on to landfill.) So basically, I kaizen-ed my kaizen from yesterday! I’m really happy with the funnel.

You can see pics here in this post on my deep green Facebook page.

Intentional community and capitalism

Since a lot of people in the permaculture community, and in Degrowth and Deep Adaptation circles, seem to be interested in forming intentional communities “from scratch” (as opposed to working within their existing neighborhood/community, which is always my first recommendation), I’m sharing this good article that might help people avoid some of the pitfalls.

This landed in my email inbox via the organization Shareable which has a steady stream of good content — articles, webinars, podcasts etc.

“Challenges and strategies for anti-capitalist community design (part 1)

“This is the first part in a three-part series on intentional communities and capitalism by Sky Blue.

“Capitalism isn’t just an economic system we live inside. It is a culture that lives inside of us. It influences our psychology, how we design our communities, how we relate to each other, the kind of culture we create, and what’s possible for us to do together.

“Capitalism is one of the most harmful aspects of mainstream society and is deeply entwined with white supremacy, patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism. Societies, including micro-societies like intentional communities (ICs), are a mixture of structures and culture, and economies are a key aspect with implications for both. Capitalism is a structure that encourages individual finances and embeds commodification and transaction into our relationships with each other and the world around us. This fosters and reinforces a culture of hyper-individualism, privacy, competition, objectification, and entitlement. It creates an experience of separation, isolation, loneliness, and fear, and normalizes inequality, oppression, exploitation, and violence.

“ICs are idealistic responses to the problems of society. We see and experience the harm caused by human civilization on people and ecosystems. We want to live in a way that is more healthy and satisfying, where we can have a different relationship to people and place. We want lifestyles that align with our values and help make the world better. But as much as we want something different, we are susceptible to recreating the problems we want to solve.”

Go here to read the rest of the article, and to read parts 2 and 3 of the series:


IC, intentional community, capitalism, hyperindividualism