Radio Show on Nature Deficit Disorder

If you’d like to hear the recording of my “Green Daytona” radio show yesterday on Nature Deficit Disorder, here’s the link. Since the recording of the shows is done via Facebook Live, you can see me talking with the show host, Dr. L. Ron Durham, Director of Community Relations for the City of Daytona Beach. Dr. Durham is a delightful host, and I am deeply grateful to him for his commitment to promoting environmental awareness in our city.

The show (and my public talk last week on the same subject) were inspired by Richard Louv‘s excellent book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Here also is an Amazon link to Mr. Louv’s book.

If you enjoy the show, you can scroll down the Facebook page to see/hear recordings of our past “Green Daytona” shows.

Failure, or Information?

Oftentimes, what seems like a failure can be seen in another light, as useful feedback; information.

Following is an example from my professional field, permaculture design.

I am on the organizing committee for a state-wide permaculture event that is shaping up to be possibly not-a-success. It’s looking like we will manage to get enough registrations so at least we won’t end up owing the venue money, but by the true measure of reaching and inspiring people, our event is failing.

Or is it?

Actually I think we are getting valuable information, which can guide us in future events. For example:

– People are getting more locally focused — which I think is a healthy thing. Local and regional events are doing well. (A smaller, regional permaculture event with a higher ticket price, that’s being held a couple weeks before our event, is attracting more registrants than our statewide event.)

– People want convenience and comfort. The smaller regional event is being held at a venue that’s well-known in Florida permaculture circles, and the ticket price includes healthy cooked meals. Our event is on rough rural land, and it’s BYO food. (Both events require camping, which I see as another factor limiting the appeal of permaculture events. Not everyone wants to camp, and besides, permaculture isn’t about camping, or making a human footprint on rough rural land. It’s about optimizing the human-built environment while restoring ecosystem health.)

– And, thinking in a permaculture mode: A state border is an arbitrary political line. For permaculture events, maybe state-wide isn’t the way to go; maybe bioregion is a better fit.

– People want value. (Duh.) I put an announcement out on a big eco-oriented Facebook group (several hundred members) in my local area, offering to pay for five people’s tickets, and got not a single taker. Can’t even give it away? That means I have failed to communicate the value of a permaculture convergence (or even failed to communicate what permaculture is) to people in my local area, and will therefore, yet again, most likely be the only person from my area at this statewide event.

– Quality not quantity! Yeah … this is something I am repeatedly forgetting and having to relearn. I initiated one-on-one conversations with a couple of my fellow organizers and have learned some things I wasn’t aware of. Reasons why this year’s site is actually great for us right now. Also, got reminded that several of the people I most love and respect, personally as well as professionally, are going to be there, and that is enough for me.

– Comparison is death. Another one I’m often forgetting and having an opportunity to relearn. Too much peeping into shiny Facebook versions of other people’s achievements (or other movements, other groups, other places) can make a person not even feel she deserves to take up space on the planet, let alone feel she has any business trying to make a difference. And yet, other people’s successes can inspire us to learn and stretch. The best advice I can give is, Know thyself. Learn to recognize the signs of “too much social media”; know when it’s time to gently back off/unplug and simply go about your work, putting one foot in front of the other. I see ants at work, just taking their next step and their next, knowing what they are about, without reference to what others are doing. Same with the beautiful orb-weaving spider building her web outside my studio-office-bedroom door. Working diligently, just being. As humans, we have the opportunity to borrow from and build on one another’s successes. We also have the opportunity to take lessons from other life forms; admire and emulate them.

More additions to this list later … I’ll be back! What examples can you think of from your occupation, or your life in general, on how to turn “failure” into valuable information?

J2ZW Goodness

Those of you who have already joined the Journey to Zero-Waste community, I trust you are finding it a rich enjoyable forum for practical tips! I’m a regular contributor as well as avid reader. It’s so helpful to share information with tens of thousands of people from all over the world. Lots of fresh perspectives.

If you post a question on J2ZW, you will get good answers. And many questions you already have, have very likely already been answered on there, and you can do a topic search. And the admins are pretty good about cracking down on rudeness.

My favorite threads in the past couple of days:

What’s in your trash right now? Let’s work together to find solutions! (You can find my answer, including a creative idea for dealing with Halloween candy wrappers, along with many other folks’ comments.)

Also: What are your favorite ways to store freezer meals? How can I get away from using paper towels? News of a Repair Cafe’ opening in Berkeley, California … and lots more good stuff!

Check it out, and I look forward to having an additional channel for supporting and connecting with more of you! Thanks for being my fellow-travelers on this low-footprint path.

And on that note, did you know that there are Zero-Waste festivals being organized by people all over? I just found out! There was one in St. Kilda, Victoria, Australia in October; and there’s one happening in Montreal as I write this! Maybe some of you will get inspired to organize one where you live.

Apparently the one in Montreal is the third annual ZW festival there. The one in 2017 was attended by 7,000 visitors, and the one in 2018 drew 11,000. This year’s festival has 90 exhibitors! People all over are getting serious about reducing their footprint and cutting out waste.

Showing Up

When I let more than a few days go by without giving you a post, I feel like I’m neglecting you. And after all, “green” is a big topic; there should always be lots to write about.

A chapter of my book Deep Green is dedicated to the importance of mental wellness. If we want to help the world, we have to keep our own minds in order.

Life is filled with storms. Minds are prone to all manner of mind-weather. Deluges, tornadoes, deadly slack doldrums.

About 20 years ago, back when I lived in Austin, I got into fire-spinning for awhile. It started when I saw some celestial-looking woman doing a performance at a party I’d stumbled into where I didn’t know anyone. And this mysterious girl was literally swinging balls of fire on the ends of two-foot-long chains.

I was hooked, and wanted to do it. But had no idea how to approach this woman. The very next day, as I was running errands on foot downtown, I crossed paths with her on the sidewalk! About once a week for a few months, we met in a park and she taught me essentials of her craft.

She was a superb teacher, not only in terms of technique but also in terms of imparting a mind-set. One thing she said has really stuck with me. What she imparted to me me is, it’s possible to do an excellent performance no matter what state of mind you’re in. You can be feeling sad about something in your life; anxious; angry; even checked-out, and still you can give a great performance, provided one thing: that you are in touch with however you are feeling at that moment. (And yes, it is possible to be in touch even with “feeling checked-out.”)

That advice has never failed me, whether at firedancing (for the few years I was a fire performer), or at going on the radio, or giving a talk, or meeting up with friends, or consulting at a client’s property. Or writing this blog. Or going through a divorce.

Or, in the funeral parlor before the cremation, paying respects to the physical form that had housed the spirit of the woman who birthed me into this world.

The mind is ground zero. We have to be willing to know ourselves and face inner stuff that isn’t always pretty. Regrets, self-reflection. Memories of our own cowardice or unkindness or whatever else. We need tools, and most of us also need support of some kind from other people. Getting out into nature is essential too.

This month it’ll be two years since my mother’s passing. It still feels fresh in some ways; I’m still picking up some pieces of my life and my mind that shattered or came unglued with her illness and passing. Actually, it was more like her transition switched on a spotlight in me, illuminating some pieces of my self and my life that were already shattered or unglued that I had not noticed before. Death of a close person has a way of illuminating those places in me.

Mental wellness is not the absence of struggle or difficult feelings. It took me a long time to learn that. I was ashamed of having apparently been born with “mental-health issues,” and for a long time I resisted the idea that I needed to make mental wellness the core of my life. Once I stopped resisting (as much), things got a lot better, and I became more able to show up in the world and contribute to the change I wanted to see.

There’s a whole chapter of my book dedicated to the importance of cultivating mental/emotional wellness. It’s called “Get Your Mind in Order.” Getting our minds in order isn’t like mopping or sweeping or disinfecting a room, or shutting out the rough weather; it’s more like learning to trust ourselves and navigate the storms and open our whole heart to what is.

The mind feels like a muscle to me. As I practice being present with difficult feelings, it seems to stretch and become more resilient. I can tell when I’m on the right track when I feel my heart getting stronger and softer at the same time.

Stretching is a challenge. Many times my first reaction is to shrink back from the task of stretching. But that leads to a dry airless place I don’t care to inhabit.

This morning, Saturday, is the day of our local farmer’s market. I am going with the friend I usually go with. Time to get up (because I’ve been typing this in bed on a sweet cool gray morning), get dressed, and get my shopping bags out.

Enjoy your day, dear reader. Whatever storms it brings, know that you can navigate them and become stronger. And know that you are making a difference in the world.

As always, I am deeply honored by your presence here on this blog. Thank you for reading. And thank you for guiding me — because you do, although silently and anonymously, give me guidance on what to write next. You are like a secret source of light.

Expansion of Unnecessary Work

As I write, one of my neighbors appears to be getting his house pressure-washed. Possibly his entire house; possibly just the front.

The deafening noise is one of those sounds that, when it stops, I retroactively feel as if someone has been beating me over the head with a baseball bat or has tossed me into the spin cycle of a washing machine, and it’s only after it stops that I fully realize how truly loud the noise was.

Not that I don’t notice the noise in the moment; just that the relief when it finally stops is so enormous.

It went on for about a half-hour. Now the immediate area is quiet, though I can hear some kind of mechanized equipment in the distance.

Large mechanized equipment has become more and more of a part of everyday life, at least in places like the USA, where “convenience” and expediency are dominant drivers of everyday activity, and fossil fuels are cheap and abundant.

The original purpose of machines is to save labor. But sometimes that backfires, and people end up just using the abundant extra power to do more work, and increase the reach of human arms.

What did people used to do before pressure-washers existed? Let it slide, would be my guess. Maybe hand-scrub a few bad spots.

The neighbor’s house looks cleaner. But it didn’t really look bad to start with; it’s not something I would’ve noticed.

As I see it, pressure-washers and lawn-edgers and other machines that feed the “fussbudget mentality” have mainly just ended up ratcheting-up the cultural expectations for a brand of neatness and “cleanliness” that causes humans a lot of unnecessary labor, while arguably degrading the outdoor environment.

Is the noise and hassle worth the extra neatness? What do you think?

P.S. Although I generally find mechanized noise disruptive, I don’t mind it as much when the source is carpentry tools. At least then, something is getting fixed or created, as opposed to the great outdoors being obsessively “cleaned,” mowed, or pruned to within an inch of its life!

Eco tip for the day: Give yourself permission to refrain from doing some noisy, fossil-fuel-powered task that doesn’t really need to be done.

Footprint and Resilience

A friend and her husband are leaving the home they’ve owned for decades, and moving out to a rural area in a different part of the state.

I asked if she wasn’t worried about being totally dependent on automotive transportation. At first she assumed I meant the footprint of said transportation. But actually, I was more concerned that a person in her late 50s (my same age group) was moving to an isolated place where she would not be able to walk or cycle anywhere, and would be utterly dependent on the good graces of a gasoline-powered personal conveyance (always a risky proposition if you ask me; give me a bicycle or my own feet any day).

Fortunately, it turns out her future home is very near a bike trail that leads into town. Although town is a few miles away, it’s do-able at least for people who are somewhat in shape, as she is.

Also, she and her husband have met and like their future neighbors. And, they have longtime friends not too many miles away who host musical gatherings on a regular basis.

Important point: She and her husband know how to grow their own food. They also plan to make income from their land by hosting HipCampers.

All of this put my mind at ease somewhat. You’d be amazed at how many people “move out to the country” with all sorts of dreamy bucolic visions, and not a plan in sight. Don’t do that!

Footprint is pretty easy to balance out. (For example, my friend and her husband know enough about regenerative land management that their forest and pasture stewardship will probably more than offset their increased automobile-dependence. Anyway, she is caring and savvy enough to consolidate car trips.) Resilience requires a bit more thought.

Green Trick-or-Treat Tips

TreeHugger (one of my go-to websites for “green lifestyle” reading) offers 9 ideas for plastic-free Halloween treats.

My favorite suggestions from the article are: choose paper-wrapped or paper-boxed candies; buy candies in bulk and offer them loose (I would have tongs available for taking the candies out of the bowl). Making homemade candies is another great idea.

Loose candies might not be a favored option if your neighborhood isn’t close-knit. Then again, a lot of people these days are doing “Trunk or Treat” gatherings in parks or parking lots. The more intimate atmosphere makes it safer to offer loose treats, I think.

Though some cities are still recycling aluminum and glass, I know this has become a problem so I would avoid giving canned or bottled drinks.

You could brew up a bowl or pitcher of “Witches’ Brew Punch” and ladle it into little paper cups as kids arrive. Or, if you live in a small community, offer it in your own reusable cups. They’d have to drink it on the spot, but the thirst-quencher might be welcome! Make hot cider or cold punch depending on the weather.

Regarding their suggestion of foil-wrapped candies, I agree that is a better option than plastic. But I would prefer to give paper-wrapped rather than foil-wrapped — though I guess the foil eventually breaks down in the environment, being metal. (One of my pet sci-fi future scenarios is that everyone’s discarded junk breaks down into its elements, and landfills become mines for metals and other material. “Landfills are the mines of the future,” I went around saying for awhile.)

Meanwhile, on a Halloween thread on Journey To Zero Waste (J2ZW), one new suggestion I got was tangerines painted with jack o’ lantern faces. Also, bananas painted with eyes and mouths to look like ghosts. Cute huh! (Oh, and in case you’re looking for cheap eco-friendly costume options, someone on J2ZW just started a thread on that also. The sugar skulls painted on cardboard boxes are adorable!)

And of course, apples (plain or caramel-coated) are a perennial favorite.

Treats tend to come from raw materials produced far away (chocolate, sugar — and here in Florida, even apples are a faraway treat). But it’s just once a year, and people since ancient times have enjoyed “faraway treats” on festival days.

That said, if you are able to offer a local fruit, or candy produced from local ingredients, I give you bonus happy eco points!

I must confess, Halloween is one special occasion when I have tended to go lax on green practices, and just give the commonly available plastic-wrapped candies. I look for the paper-wrapped ones (Milk Duds, Pixie Sticks, Mary Jane etc.) but if I can’t find ’em I don’t sweat it. TreeHugger and the J2ZW community have inspired me to step up my game. I’m going to look for paper-packaged treats.

Regardless of whether you are able to find “greener” options, my advice to everyone is to just enjoy Halloween. Take trick-or-treating as an opportunity to boost social connectedness and a spirit of fun in your neighborhood. Building stronger communities is ultimately the greenest thing any of us can do.