Finding Peace Amid Danger

“If I could not be peaceful in the midst of danger, then the kind of peace I might have in simpler times is meaningless. If I could not find peace in the midst of difficulty, I knew I would never know real peace.” — Thich Nhat Hanh (via Thich Nhat Hanh gems)

Such wise words. And I would say a similar thing about finding exuberance in the midst of danger. There’s no contradiction between recognizing the gravity of the situation and still taking joy in doing our work; in gardening; in becoming parents or grandparents. Life is fundamentally creative and exuberant even in the midst of a planetary eco crisis.

Baby cardinals screech from a nest high in a tree in the empty lot next door. A sleek black racer snake, chased by a neighborhood stray cat, hurtles into the bushes, practically launching itself airborne to safety. And yes, people keep making art and making babies, and it’s all magic.

Acting Like Our House Is On Fire

“Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” — Greta Thunberg in “I Don’t Want Your Hope,” article on

Further Reading:

Marine life is fleeing the equator to cooler waters. History tells us this could trigger a mass extinction event. (From The Conversation.)

Green Infrastructure Bill

“Finally, Green Infrastructure Spending in an Amount That Starts with a ‘T’

“The U.S. federal government is proposing to spend a sum of money that starts with a ‘T’ on an infrastructure bill, and much of that money (two trillion dollars) is aimed at fighting the climate crisis. That is remarkable, and not just when you consider that we’re only seventy-five days out from an Administration that didn’t believe climate change was real. In my lifetime, we’ve spent sums like that mainly on highly dangerous infrastructure—aircraft carriers, fighter jets, nuclear weapons—and the wars in which they were used. To see a proposal to spend it on solar panels and trains is moving, and also just the slightest bit annoying: Why weren’t we doing this all along? Why weren’t we doing it in the nineteen-eighties, when scientists first told us that we were in a crisis? So it seems a fitting moment to really try to tally up the score: What are we doing as a nation now, is it enough, and how would we know if it were?

“One of the best summaries of what’s in the Biden proposal comes from David Roberts in his Volts newsletter: he highlights the ‘coolest’ features, from electrifying the postal-service delivery fleet (and a fifth of the nation’s school buses) to a national climate lab situated at a historically Black college and a major transmission grid for renewables that may follow existing rail rights of way. The energy systems engineer Jesse Jenkins, on Twitter, points out that the bill should spur the electric-car industry—the subsidy for buyers would make the cost difference with gasoline cars ‘disappear.’ Julian Brave NoiseCat salutes provisions of the plan that would send forty per cent of the investments to disadvantaged communities, which is a sharp turn from the way big federal spending bills have worked for most of American history.

“The criticism, at least from environmentalists, was of the ‘Yes and’ variety. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that she thought we should be spending not two trillion dollars but ten trillion. Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the Sunrise Movement, which has done as much as any organization to get us to this moment, pointed out that the bill incorporates much of what the Green New Deal advocates, including ten billion for a Civilian Climate Corps to put people to work building out the new energy infrastructure. But ‘we’re just orders of magnitude lower than where we need to be,’ she said. ‘And I think that that fight over the scale and scope of what needs to happen in terms of employment and the creation of jobs, in terms of the scale of investment and the urgency, is going to be a terrain of struggle as this plan gets debated and discussed in Congress.’ She’s surely right about that, and I fear there’s likely to be as much pressure to reduce the spending as to increase it.

“The question of whether it’s ‘enough’ is, of course, the right one—and the answer is no. Summer sea-ice coverage in the Arctic has declined by fifty per cent since the nineteen-eighties, and there were a record thirty named tropical storms last year, with one of them, off the New England coast, nudging up against smoke coming from the wildfires on the other side of the country, in California. We should be investing every penny we can in green projects, and even then we would still face an ongoing rise in temperature. That’s why movements need to keep pushing hard to build support for climate action.

“But another test of whether this spending is sufficient will come in the next couple of months as we watch for decisions from Washington on big projects such as the Line 3 tar-sands pipeline, which stretches across Minnesota. One would hope that a two-trillion-dollar jobs program—with all kinds of promises about union contracts—would buy enough good will with organized labor for Biden to get away with killing these projects. Politicians like building things more than they like shutting things down, but dealing with the climate crisis requires doing both, and if this generous new proposal gives Biden the freedom to act aggressively, then we’d get a double return on the investment.

“The Administration faces similar tensions on other fronts. John Kerry, the global climate czar, has been working Wall Street in recent weeks, trying to get the financial giants on board before a global climate summit that the Administration has called for April 22nd. The banks are happy to make proclamations about their net-zero plans for 2050, and they’re happy to pledge lots of lending into the suddenly trending renewables sector, but they’re not happy about stopping their lending to the fossil-fuel industry. Like the building trades, they’d be most thrilled about making money off both the old and the new. And, of course, that would be fine, except for physics.”

(Bill McKibben; in April 7, 2021, edition of “The Climate Crisis,” an email newsletter of The New Yorker Magazine)

One Artist’s Earth Day Pledge

#TransformativeAdventures in art!!

For some years now, I have been using mainly art supplies that were going to be thrown away, that I found or were given to me, or was allowed to take as part of my pay for house clean-out gigs. It is surprising how many surplus art supplies there are. Pencils, pens, paint, paper, canvas. Please someone help

In the past 5 years I have made some new purchases: a bottle of ink for my Rapidograph pens; a bottle of fountain-pen ink; a couple of ultrafine paintbrushes; a little set of water-based acylic paints. I still have the same set of 12 bottles of colored india ink that I purchased back in 2012. I still have a stack of five or six mini canvases from a bunch I bought for my first solo show, and did not end up using all of.

In 2018 I purchased a large collection of beads from a woman who used to have a bead shop. They are arranged in little boxes on shelves in my garage, and will last me a lifetime. Ditto my sewing and needlework supplies — four generations of women’s worth!

Art and craft supplies go an amazingly long way. Maybe that’s why a lot of art and craft supplies end up at curbside or in thrift shops: The people who bought them quit doing art; or (saddest of all) never got around to doing art; or (happiest of all) died with a paintbrush or lump of clay in their hands.

This past week, it came to me: As part of my commitment to Mother Earth, I am officially pledging to only use the art supplies I’ve already got, or ones that come my way after being thrown away by other people. (Other than fountain-pen ink and Rapidograph ink, which I only use a tiny bottle of maybe every year or two.)

I’ve got a bunch of cans of water-based latex paint in my garage, left by the previous owner of the house. And for canvas, I’m realizing I prefer to paint my works on discarded junk surfaces like bottle-caps, old t-shirts, old campaign signs, worn-out pocketbooks, random scraps of plywood etc. The world of trash is my canvas!

I’ve heard from lots of fellow artists and artisans who use mostly or all used stuff to make their creations. Particularly a lot of textile artisans do this.

I’m really excited to make this official!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Happy e-ART-h Day too!

And you can check out my art by visiting my “Art & Design by Jenny Nazak” Facebook page @jennynazakart

Go here to see the Facebook version of this post, which includes a picture of one of my artworks; a Facebook memory from 6 years ago. “Flower Power,” part of a series of artworks I did based on kanji characters. Homage to my “adopted second home country,” Japan, where I lived for two years as a young child and five years as an adult.

Back to “Normal”?

Many people are understandably eager to get back to what they see as the pre-pandemic “normal.” However, I’m a big fan of picking and choosing what works for you in that regard. Many of us have no desire to start cramming ourselves onto airplanes at the drop of a hat, going to theme parks, hugging anyone and everyone, feeling obligated to visit people in their houses or invite people into our houses though we have vastly different lifestyles, etc.

This article borders on introvert-shaming. As life creeps back, some feel dread of emerging from pandemic ‘cave’
Experts say taking small steps over time is one of most effective treatments.
Dinner reservations are gleefully being made again. Long-canceled vacations are being booked. People are coming together again, in some of the ways they used to. But not everyone is racing back. Their stories are emerging as the world begins to reopen – people secretly dreading each milestone toward normalcy, envisioning instead anxiety-inducing crowds and awkward catch-up conversations. Even small tasks outside the home – a trip to the grocery store, or returning to the office – can feel overwhelming. Psychologists call it re-entry fear, and they’re finding it more common as headlines herald the forthcoming return to post-pandemic life.”

I say phooey to a lot of that! Lots of stuff about what we call “normal” life IS overwhelming. Leafblowers, jackhammers, and other loud machinery operating constantly; harsh lighting and extreme cold air in public buildings; TV screens and LED signs covering every possible surface indoors and out; endless-looping bad-news announcements and loud music everywhere; roads clogged with traffic and bad moods. Maybe not wanting to go back to what passes for “normal” in U.S. culture is actually a sign of health. Everyone, feel free to stay home, or just go for a quiet walk around your neighborhood, when you don’t feel like going out into the fray! Not only is it good for your sanity; it also helps reduce our collective eco-footprint.

Sure, some of the pandemic syndromes mentioned in this article (washing your hands a hundred times an hour, or constantly scrubbing the floor of a hallway when you are the only person using it) sound like indicators of mental-health issues. But for those of us who don’t always fit the norms of a society that values and rewards extrovert behavior, the shutdowns gave us a chance to find our own levels of comfort and satisfaction, even bliss. Don’t let anyone shame you about what your level is.

I particularly love the stories about people who are finding their creativity — a common result of spending quiet time alone.

Along those lines, this article “Pandemic a chance to reexamine physical greetings” makes a good point: “The lack of physical touch has been trying, but many have gotten used to newer, more creative ways of greeting one another, whether it’s a friendly wave from 6 feet away or an elbow bump. As more Americans get vaccinated and are able to abide by the new CDC guidelines, we may be able to go back to hugging, shaking hands and cheek kisses soon. But should we?The pandemic has taken the pressure off forced interactions and allowed us time to reevaluate boundaries around physical touch, experts say.”

I’m all for that!

I have written extensively on this blog about “silver linings” of the pandemic slowdown/shutdown/reboot of the default settings of our consumerist culture. Many people and businesses have taken the opportunity to adapt and reinvent, to their own benefit and to the benefit of our planet’s ecosystems.

If in the quiet of the shutdown you’ve found new habits and practices that work for you, keep them! Personally I am finding a lot of freedom, and perfect excuses to keep my footprint low.

And really, who likes sitting in traffic?

On a related note, I was listening to a music video on YouTube, and one of the commercials was for VRBO vacation rentals. It showed this idyllic scene of a family sitting around the table. The message was all about creating lasting family memories. Ironic because this “once-in-a-lifetime boutique vacation memory” used to be just normal everyday family life, before people started rushing around so much.

A “Seller’s Market” for Labor?

Daytona Labor Shortage Grows as Eateries Open,” reports my local paper today. Maybe this is happening in your area too, as things reopen.

The article was no news to me, as my neighbors who work in the restaurants and hotels have been experiencing overwork in under-staffed establishments for months now. Especially with many people still collecting unemployment, motivating people to go back to work at jobs that are hard labor for hard pay even in the best of times is a tough sell.

I’m probably being overly optimistic, but I’m hoping we are seeing a new age of worker autonomy and occupational freedom. Some wages are rising, and that’s part of the equation. Also, I hope that more employers will be forced to confront the fact that they are not offering reasonable working conditions even at the best of times. No, it’s not spoiled or self-indulgent for workers to want plenty of time off and a healthy work-home-life balance. It’s healthy. Time is something a person can’t stockpile for “retirement.” We spend it now doing things that matter to us, or we lose it forever.

But I’m also seeing people start their own little cottage businesses instead of rushing back to work for someone else.

I’m also hoping that more employers have the self-discipline and integrity to do what one currently under-staffed restaurant mentioned in the article has done: temporarily removed some of its tables until it is able to hire more workers, rather than force its existing staff to work themselves threadbare. Customers are willing to wait in line for good service, the restaurant owner points out.

This is healthy for workers, for customers, and even ultimately for the owners. After all, an under-staffed place has an unpleasant atmosphere, and its reputation will suffer.

I like the approach taken by traditional European family-run businesses (at least the ones I’ve read about). A bakery or brewery or restaurant has been in business since 1553 or whatever, but they still only open like 2-3 days a week, during which their goods promptly sell out to their longstanding loyal customers. Sure they aren’t really accommodating to new demand, but they’re like, “So what? We have enough.” From a person who finds the mainstream USAmerican zeitgeist exhaustingly hectic, this attitude is so refreshing.

And I’m cheering on all my friends who are pursuing that type of model. There are plenty of people in my circles who are out there right now marketing their goods and services on social media, to their own exclusive hyperlocal fan-base.

Maybe you can be one of those micro-businesses, if you’re not already. If you want some encouragement give me a shout; I have lots of good examples and ideas to share.

Postscript, mid-April: One of my dear favorite restaurants ended up working its employees threadbare, by refusing to cut the restaurant hours even though they were greatly understaffed. As a result, they just lost probably their best server, leaving them now even more understaffed. The last couple of times I ate there (I eat on their open-air patio, either alone or social-distance with a couple of friends), although the food was exquisite as always, the experience was hard to enjoy because the poor employees were so obviously exhausted.

Meanwhile, another popular restaurant has made the hard choice of cutting its hours. Smart choice and kind choice, not only for its employees but also for its customers.

I fear that my longtime favorite place may not survive.

Postscript 4/16: In the papers and on social media, there’s been a lot of vitriol directed at people who have the gall to choose to stay home instead of rushing out and going back to work at their incredibly grueling, often tip-dependent jobs. Since when did it become a crime for overworked people to reassess their life priorities and decide they’d rather spend more time at home, with family, etc., even if it means earning less? I’m cheering the “work rebels” on.

Thoughts on Piney Point

On the Gulf side of Florida, a vast pond built to store waste from a phosphate mine is leaking. It is horrifying; hard to even grasp the size and enormity of what this giant elevated pond thingee is unless you see it in a photo. Until the other day, I had only seen an aerial-view photo. When I first saw a photo that shows how high the thing is, with the toxic liquid storage pond so high up, I was shocked anew at what we humans have done and considered “business as usual.” Now people in three counties are being evacuated. (Update, I just heard the evacuation is over, as officials say risk of catastrophe has lowered.)

From a fellow permaculture designer/educator, astute words:

“I believe that Piney Point is the manifestation of a system based on consumption and not a balanced relationship with nature. As long as we continue to trade the health of our ecosystem for financial wealth we will continue to create Piney points.”

And my take: So as permaculturists or eco-activists or earth guardians or however we each choose to identify ourselves, maybe part of our task is to help society find the ways to be able to have both prosperity/comfort AND ecosystem health. I actually think this might be our life-calling as eco guardian folk on this planet right now.

Further Reading:

Background on Piney Point (via Glenn Compton from ManaSota-88):


One of the most serious problems associated with the phosphate industry is the gypsum waste produced at phosphoric acid plants. At the present time there are no federal, state or local regulations requiring the industry to make final disposition of phosphogypsum wastes in an environmentally acceptable manner.

The phosphate industry has dumped in excess of 900 million tons of radioactive wastes in Florida and is producing over 20 million tons of phosphogypsum waste annually, and the industry continues to expand their dumping operations.

Phosphogypsum has no economic value because of its impure content. It is dumped at various locations throughout Florida in gyp stacks. Piney Point in Manatee County is one example of a gyp stack.

Phosphogypsum that exceeds 10 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of radioactivity has been banned from all uses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1992. This decision reflected the EPA’s concern that the radium bearing waste, if spread throughout the country, would present a public health threat that would continue for generations, given radium’s 1,630-year radioactive decay half-life.

To date, there have been no published scientific studies confirming that there is a “safe” industrial process to convert phosphogypsum for uses such as landfill cover. Exposure to 20 pCi/g of radiation is not justified by any health study. EPA should be developing a program geared toward protecting the public’s health and the environment from the radioactive components of phosphogypsum.

Allowing phosphogypsum to be used for landfill cover could open the regulatory door for the use of phosphogypsum in construction or agricultural applications. This will put the general public at an unacceptable risk as the phosphogypsum will become widespread in its distribution. The radioactive decay of this material will likely emit particles that can cause increased cancer risks and unacceptable radiation levels in areas normally not having such problems.

More stringent environmental regulation is needed to control the adverse impacts of phosphogypsum. Phosphate rock for central Florida has some of the highest levels of radiation in the United States. Allowing for the widespread distribution of phosphogypsum will lead to less oversight of a dangerous waste product.

EPA lacks the ability to protect the public and the environment from hazards associated with the widespread dispersal of phosphogypsum. The distribution of phosphogypsum will unnecessarily expose workers, the environment, and the general public to otherwise avoidable radon and gamma radiation exposure.

Phosphate companies have had over 50 years to figure out a way to dispose of the radioactive gypsum wastes in an acceptable manner, they have yet to do so. EPA should not permit phosphate wastes to be used in Florida landfills, or in construction or agricultural applications.

Every possible effort to minimize radiation exposure to the public should be done. The EPA is mandated to protect the health of the environment and the people of this nation. However, in this case, EPA is serving the phosphate industry and needlessly opening the door to future distributions of radioactive phosphogypsum wastes.” …

And in closing, I add: You have some version of this in your bioregion. Be it fracking, oil pipelines, mountaintop removal, vast floating plastic garbage patch, or what have you. Human insanity writ large. Humans caused the problems, so we can just as well solve them. Must solve them. Who gets a planet with majestic mountains, clear blue springs, mighty oceans, cathedral forests … and turns it into this degraded mess we’ve turned it into, and then dies or leaves without fixing it? Nope, not us — I refuse to believe we will do that.

The good news is, Nature repairs herself remarkably quickly if we humans can stem the tide of our destructive outputs. We saw this during the pandemic shutdown; the effect on ecosystems was striking and in some cases almost immediate.

By the way, I have realized that when I post grim news, I’m generally not doing it to boost your awareness; you are already aware. Or to increase your sense of urgency — you already have that. Rather, I’m doing it to give you (and myself) the emotional support we need in order to keep up our upstream-swimming mission of shifting our civilization from a hyperconsumerist to a regenerative one, by popularizing low-footprint living. Grim news keeps up our courage; refuels our “why” when the going gets rough; reaffirms that we are making the right choice by choosing to serve as earth guardians.

(And of course, grim news is only the “stick” end of the equation; I believe in providing you and myself with plenty of carrots as well. We need our carrots! But a stick here and there is a remarkable clarifying tonic and motivating force.)

Synchronicity just now: This morning I heard from the service leader of a congregation I’m going to be giving a talk for* later this month. She told me she’d picked a Greta Thunberg quote for my intro. It’s my favorite quote of hers, so I was thrilled!

The quote: ” (oops, internet brownout right now – I’ll grab it for you once the pipeline gets wider again. During the brownouts (which mainly seem to happen when a lot of tourists are in town, which is all the time lately), I can mostly still post to this blog but I have a hard time accessing websites and Facebook. It’s the quote about how we have to act like our house is on fire, because it is.)

OK, I just walked down the street and got a better connection – here’s the quote: “Adults keep saying, ‘We owe it to young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

* (The talk is by Zoom, so I’m pretty sure anyone can attend — message me if you want the Zoom coordinates. I’ll be speaking for about 25 minutes, followed by a Q&A session. The title of my talk is “Little Things Make a Big Difference.”)

Further Further Reading:

Greta Thunberg: We Don’t Want Your Hope (