Connection between racism and environmentalism

From Sierra Club: Two excellent articles. Read and save for reference!

1) Summing up the connection between white supremacy culture and the destruction of our biosphere. “Racism Is Killing the Planet — The ideology of white supremacy leads the way toward disposable people and a disposable natural world,” by Hop Hopkins (who is Director of Organizational Transformation for the Sierra Club).

“You can’t have climate change without sacrifice zones, and you can’t have sacrifice zones without disposable people, and you can’t have disposable people without racism.
We’re in this global environmental mess because we have declared parts of our planet to be disposable. …”

2) And also by Hopkins: “Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Diversity in the Environmental Movement.”

“… Is the Sierra Club trying to expand our base to include more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) to validate the work we’re already doing? Or is the Sierra Club attempting to transform our culture and share power in such a way that BIPOC folks would want to join our organization?”

Sierra Club, systemic racism, white supremacy culture, DEI, talking points

Housing stability and a good life

#housingsecurity #activism #stablecommunity #YIMBY

An article I just read in NY Times — “Imagine a renters utopia; It might look like Vienna” — is fascinating. See link below for whole article; I have included some quotes here.

One very interesting aspect of public housing in Vienna is that anyone can live there even if their income becomes quite high after they move in. This has the effect of avoiding concentrations of poverty. It also maintains a wider base of support for public housing.

By the way, the studio apartments they show in the article are gorgeous and I would totally live there. (And I really love the apartment building shown in the photo that I screenshot below.)

As someone who lived as a renter at apartments, duplexes, trailer park, etc., for almost all of her adult life before coming into sudden money which I used to purchase a home five years ago, I am very often keenly aware of the trade-off of owning a free-standing house. It affords stability (not just for me but for my two housemates), and at the same time, ownership ties up a lot of one’s time and energy.

Puts me in mind of that quote from the 1950s regarding Levittown etc., to the effect that “If a man has his own house and yard he won’t have time to think about being a communist blah blah blah.”

The public housing the way they’ve done it in Vienna creates a huge amount of stability for renters and this has a very positive impact on their well-being, including their occupational freedom. Not just a benefit to individuals; society benefits as a whole when people can become doctors, artists, or whatever their calling is, instead of just having to take whatever job just to pay the bills.

“Soaring real estate markets have created a worldwide housing crisis. What can we learn from a city that has largely avoided it?”

Many quotable quotes in this nice lengthy article; here are a few that particularly struck me:

  • ” … This constituency of middle-class homeowners is what the Dartmouth emeritus economist William A. Fischel calls “homevoters”: a coalition of Americans who — consciously or not — vote to protect the value of their property. They tend to oppose local development and favor exclusionary zoning — which ensures maximum appreciation and prevents their tax dollars from extending to poorer neighborhoods. This tendency, alongside stagnant wages, has transformed the nation’s housing stock into an ever-scarcer and ever-more-expensive class of speculative asset.”
  • “When Karl-Marx-Hof opened, it housed 5,000 people in 1,400 apartments. These apartments were coveted. “It had two central laundries, two communal bathing facilities with tubs and showers, a dental clinic, maternity clinic, a health-insurance office, library, youth hostel, post office, and a pharmacy and 25 other commercial premises, including a restaurant and the offices and showroom of the BEST, the city-run furnishing and interior-design advice center,” Blau writes.”
  • “Today limited-profit housing accounts for half the city’s social housing. Limited-profit housing associations are restricted to charging rents that reflect costs. Investors — banks, insurance funds — may buy shares of the limited-profit housing associations, generally to help fund initial construction. They are paid a low rate of annual interest on their shares. Any profits beyond that must be reinvested in the construction of new social housing. “It creates a revolving flow of financing for social housing,” said Justin Kadi, a professor in planning and housing at the University of Cambridge. Vienna’s main outlay toward housing is now providing low-cost financing for construction — and the government gets that money back.”
  • “The spiral of overvaluation in housing, which makes the housing-haves rich and the have-nots desperately poor, has brought us to a point where only something radical can solve it. The problem with housing in the United States is that it has been locked in as a means of building wealth, and building wealth is irreconcilable with affordability.”
  • “…I asked him, as I asked every Viennese tenant of social housing, what he did with all the money he saved thanks to his cheap rent. ‘I haven’t invested a single penny in the stock market,’ he told me. ‘I would consider it an enormous waste of time to sit in front of my computer and study what the stock market is doing. I prefer to use my time writing, editing an online newspaper supporting interesting initiatives and having fun. … If people don’t have to struggle all day long to survive — if your life is made safe, at least in social conditions — you can use your energy for much more important things.'”

NY Times
Imagine a renters utopia
It might look like Vienna

Bath Hygiene

There’s been a lot on Twitter TikTok and elsewhere regarding bathing. It started when some of us white permie / hippie types started talking publicly about our relaxed approach to bathing. A number of “earthy-minded” actors and other celebrities went viral doing this, and it caused quite a backlash.

Me, I am all in favor and think that a natural approach is great. If you have access to a swimmable body of water I personally think that can totally count as a bath. For years when I lived in Austin my main bath was swimming in Barton Springs. (I used to take a shower after but then realized it didn’t feel necessary.) And in general, I actually don’t use soap on all areas of my skin all of the time. And I’m a big fan of selectively scrubbing just the areas such as my feet, every day or more often than every day, depending on what gets dirty and what the weather is like and so on.

Now a lot of people would disagree and say that if you’re not scrubbing your whole body with soap every day, and not taking a full bath or shower every day (or even more often), you’re not clean. That’s all fine and good everybody needs to decide for themselves.

What we don’t need to do is allow ourselves to be ruled by advertisers and social norms regarding shame about cleanliness.

So in that regard I think it’s great when people share that they don’t necessarily bathe or shower every day. And I love hearing that some parents just let their kids swim and let that count as a bath. (Note though, if we are going into a public swimming pool as opposed to a natural, open body of water such as the ocean or stream or lake, we absolutely have to shower and scrub before we get into the confined space of that public pool, I’m sorry. Respect and consideration for others are a must.)

A relaxed approach to bathing can have many benefits. It helps us get in tune with our own bodies and decide what kind of bathing schedule and practices are good for our own skin, as opposed to us being ruled by advertisers or shame-based social norms. It can significantly reduce household expenses on possibly unnecessary skin products. It reduces the amount of chemicals going into our water. And can significantly conserve water.

We (talking to fellow white people) do need to recognize that some of the things we’re promoting in the name of reducing our footprint, saving time, reducing household expenses on things like soap, keeping chemicals out of the waterways — and allowing our kids to rewild / reconnect with nature — are things that we can get away with because of white privilege. If a parent who is Black, indigenous, or other person of color were saying things like this publicly — that they allow their kids to just run around bathing in streams all summer and not have to take showers etc. — those parents would be likely to have Child Protective Services called on them.

I suspect that colonizer culture / Anglocentric culture is the original source of the shame-based social norms about what it takes to be clean. In traditional cultures all over the world and throughout history, I’m sure most of the kids and maybe the adults mainly stayed clean just in the course of everyday life by going into the river and so on.

So if we’re going to promote these naturalistic practices we just have to be aware and do it in a way that liberates and empowers people to find their own right choice.

That said, we do need to get clean. And there are many practices from other cultures that we can learn from and enjoy.

Personally, I find that scrubbing with a washcloth or loofah is a really great and eco-friendly way to get clean. Especially as I prefer to use little or no running water, only moderate amounts of soap as I have dry skin, etc.

And quite frankly, I don’t bathe every day (though in summer I do have a cooling dip in the ocean or a rain-tub daily), and in winter I really don’t bathe every day. But I do always make sure I feel clean, and at different times a year that means different frequencies.

I will say that when I went to live in Japan in the 1990s I fell in love with their method of bathing. There were public baths, but before you could go soak in that nice super hot water, you needed to scrub scrub scrub with a washcloth, get super clean and only then sit in the communal tub.

I never thought about it much growing up, because the English way of taking baths was what I grew up with, but once I did it the Japanese way I could never go back to just getting in a bathtub of water without first scrubbing clean.

Stay clean and healthy everyone, however you choose to do it. And don’t let the advertisers or indoctrinated shame tell you what clean is.

PS. Celebrities have a lot of leverage to be an anti-consumerist influence. But so do each of us in our own way. Keep going with your efforts, and thanks to each of you for helping people reduce their footprint in ways that add value to their lives.

Water Stories: The Death Spiral of the Watershed

This 3-minute animated YouTube video from Water Stories, depicting the death spiral of the watershed, is an extremely helpful tool for educating ourselves and other people. When we can see the mechanism of destruction, and get other people to see it, we have a better chance of being able to muster the political will to implement the solutions. Solutions which are “embarrassingly simple” (to use a famous phrase from Bill Mollison regarding the solutions to complex problems).

Regardless of where on the planet we live … We can probably all see examples right around us of the things shown in this 3-minute video. Excess paving, removal of trees, landscaping practices that reduce the tree canopy and other surface areas of vegetation, and so on.

In my city and region: The devegetation of the beachside (barrier island), the well-meaning but misguided actions to ease flooding in low-lying areas on the mainland, etc.

And, adding insult to injury, the contamination of the groundwater with herbicides and other poisons.

The things that we think we are doing to ease flooding by spraying herbicides in the canals in the low-lying parts of town (Nova Canal is one), mowing down the vegetation on the banks, dredging the canals deeper, and so on are actually making things worse in the long term. They show it right in the video rivers getting dredged and so on and it just depletes the water table more and more and exacerbates the desertification process.

Every point of elevation above the low poinrs is a point where we have the opportunity and the obligation to catch water and allow it to infiltrate slowly into the ground (“slow, spread, and sink”) rather than let it run off down the denuded slopes and pool in the low-lying areas where we then are tasked with trying to send it “away.”

SIMPLE ACTION STEP!!! Please watch this video and communicate with your neighborhood groups, city officials, county officials and anyone else who will listen so we can all get on the same page about this.

Thank you so much to Water Stories ( for this and all of their other content which is getting the word out.

mortality; death & dying; getting around to things

topics of this post: mortality; death & dying; getting around to things (don’t worry; I’m OK!)

I just found out that an old school friend of mine had died suddenly of a heart attack back in February. The latest of several people I know who have left their earth bodies recently.

Our society tends to be death-avoidant; we tend to avoid talking about death or even thinking about it until the time is right upon us. But death is a part of life, and I’ve always believed we can live more richly if we are willing to talk about it and prepare for it.

I always say I aspire to live to be 120. There are lots of things that need to be done on this planet, and I really want to be part of the shift that I believe is coming; contribute what peaceful and creative influence I can.

That said, various recent things, such as my physical body feeling some signs of its age (I’m using it! of course it’s going to show signs of wear, right?), and several friends my age crossing over, in some cases very suddenly, got me thinking: What would I do if today were my last day?

Actually I think about that kind of stuff all the time; I always have and it enriches my life. But I have never made a post on social media about it before.

If today were my last day, I would make a Facebook post thanking you all for your unique being, and for our interactions over the years, whether it was in person, or online only, or some mixture.

I do regret the many many times when I have fallen short in kindness, compassion, understanding, and just plain listening. As long as I live and breathe, I will always be striving to do better.

And I would say anyone should feel free to celebrate my life in any way they see fit. If you’re a gin drinker, have a dirty martini or Negroni for me. If you are a beer drinker, have a nice zesty IPA. Definitely eat lots of good food!

Of course I would say thank you to my geographically distant siblings and tell them how much I love them. (We stay in touch and I make a point of expressing my love, so they know that already, but.)

Other than that, I would mostly just have my typical day because that’s what I love. Doing my work; enjoying my house and neighbors; enjoying the beach.

Speaking of death preparations, I want to share something we learned in End-of-Life Doula class yesterday. I think this will be helpful to a lot of people. We learned that apparently a living will, Five Wishes document, etc., is not the legally binding document that we think it is. A doctor can override the wishes that we have expressed to our family members and friends, regarding what medical interventions we want or don’t want should we become incapacitated and unable to speak for ourselves. In order to avoid having our wishes overridden, family members need to get the doctor to sign a POLST form. That’s my public service announcement for today. Here’s one website I found helpful regarding POLST forms:

I would invite my local friends to a big party at some friendly outdoor venue like Main Street Station or Beaches. And I would say thank you all it’s been a great life.

If I knew I had a month rather than just a day, then added to all of the above would be that I would do my best to finish at least one of my current books in progress. I feel like I really owe the world more than I have put out so far. Feels like I have been harboring energy and resources for some big project. Actually, I would even do this if I had one day left: I would at least try to finish enough of a segment of the book that people might enjoy it.

My creative ancestors, who worked so hard just to survive, will be seriously vexed if I don’t finish at least one more book before I leave this physical incarnation.

All of that said, I still aspire to live to be 120. But we can all go anytime, so I want to be prepared just in case. I love you guys!!

How about you? What would you want to be sure and get around to if you knew you only had a little time left?

Stealing my friend Tonya R’s status because it adds visual appeal and it fits well with this topic.

Eco-triage: Knowing when to let go, what to let go of

In order to survive as activists, we have to find ways to rest without giving up. Burnout, at least on occasion, comes with the territory for many of us, and if we refuse to learn how to rest, we’ll end up quitting — and/or creating extra work and strife for people around us.

Today’s post is somewhat related to this concept, but slightly different.

Another skill we need is knowing what to let go of. Where to keep applying our efforts, and where to decide not to put any more of our attention and effort.

One simple example for me is native plants. I am very much an advocate of native plants, and I have often called on local governments and developers to use them in landscaping. however if I were to push for 100% native landscaping (or a mix of natives and edibles), it would be a lot of work with a high chance of failure.

Instead, I advocate for vegetation in general. For heat mitigation and stormwater absorption. Do I still get annoyed to see big box store waxy plants planted next to the Atlantic Ocean? Yes. But I am able to separate out my aesthetic annoyance.

Another example: I used to freak out at the sound of trees being cut down in my neighborhood. And I would go running to find the source and see if I could call someone to get it stopped.

I still hate that sound. So often it’s unnecessary to cut down trees. But recently I made a conscious decision to keep focused on the bigger picture, a more regionwide approach. It’s not that I don’t still cringe when I hear the sound of chainsaws, but I am a lot less stressed nowadays as I know that I’m working for something bigger than just my own neighborhood (or wherever in town I happen to be walking).

This isn’t the same as giving up in exasperation. This is a more conscious, empowering decision. It frees up my brain-space and energy to think of more creative solutions and wider variety of options for various situations.

I am also letting go of the need to fight for infill development and increased walkability (shops & services in walking distance) in my neighborhood, something that has actually declined over the years.

Instead, I widened my acceptance to accept the idea that my entire neighborhood may one day become a purely tourist zone — all chain hotels and syndicated eateries — and that I am resilient enough to respond to that as it comes. One thing that crossed my mind not long ago is that if some developer wanted my magnificent corner lot, I could reconcile myself to selling if it were for an apartment complex or other higher use than SFH.

I’d either take the money and move to some other part of town (or entire other state if the situation warrants), or else as part of the terms of sale I would ask to be able to live in one of the units and be the landscaper onsite. Might be a little bit of a tall order but a girl can always dream!

My point is that widening my field of acceptance frees up a lot of my energy, which can then be used to brighten my own day, or creatively brainstorm ideas for other situations — or both!

How about you: Is this deliberate letting-go process something you have experienced yourself? If so what are some things that you have decided to let go of in favor of a bigger picture or more important priorities?

JPS mode

Just Pick Something.

This is an acronym I made up for times when I feel overwhelmed and/or scattered, and can’t seem to decide what I should best be putting my attention on or my efforts toward.

At such times I just pick something. This morning it was moving a stack of bamboo poles in order to tidy up the part of my yard that can be seen from the sidewalk.

And then decluttering my large box of thread and other sewing supplies.

<Note to self — stop composing voice-to-text posts in WordPress. I just lost an entire paragraph. I already know this from the other day when I lost a paragraph three times. I will compose off-line and be back to copy-paste.>

JPS: Tasks that need to get done, and that move me forward, yet are not demanding. Don’t require much thought if any. They can actually be quite restful in this regard. Sort of like a resting stroke while swimming.

From that space, after JPSing a few things, I often find that I’m able to move on to a task that requires more of my creative bandwidth and active energy.

This morning, in the weekly Zoom call with our permie authors’ cooperative, one member raised the question: What do you guys do when you have a short block of time, like 15 or 20 minutes?

As in, a lot of tasks seem to require long blocks of time, so it can be hard to figure out what to do if you only have 15 or 20 minutes.

I offered a few suggestions: pick one room to sweep and mop; sweep the entire house; Declutter one small drawer.

Someone else pointed out that that’s a great amount of time to do a mindfulness practice. Taking breaths, noticing one’s surroundings, and so on.

Garden tasks can be good for fitting into a short block of time too. Chop-and-drop one plant or one area of the yard, etc.

And also, here’s something I noticed when I was writing my book.

I noticed that I was avoiding writing unless I had some long block of time. And mysteriously (haha), long blocks of time would just never happen.

So, I started something that I came to call “grabbing the bull by the horns.” Basically if I even had five minutes of time, or even 30 seconds, I would tell myself, “Hey! you can write something.”

That actually worked well, and I got more into the flow of writing my book. I started doing this with my fiction book-in-progress a while back too, but I kind of fell off the wagon. Time to get back on again.

Along the same lines as JPS, another acronym I use is POFIFOTO. Put One Foot In Front Of The Other. I seem to recall that I have dedicated at least one blog post to this acronym. Maybe more than one post.

When in danger, when in doubt, DON’T “run in circles, scream & shout” — Just POFIFOTO!