welcome to DEEP GREEN blog!

Greetings! This blog is dedicated to helping you reduce your eco-footprint for personal and planetary benefit.

Although a low-footprint lifestyle is fun and rewarding, it is not always easy, even if you are doing it for your own benefit (for example, to attain financial freedom; to free up your time; to radically simplify your life so you can focus on what really matters to you.) The dominant mainstream culture has waste and hyper-consumerism baked into every layer of life. A person setting out to live light on the earth encounters many obstacles both physical and cultural. (Car-dependent housing developments; unavoidable single-use plastics; buildings designed to require climate control 24-7 … to name just a few.)

That’s where this blog comes in. I’m here to offer you tips, resources, and moral support. The posts aren’t in any particular order; I write about things as they pop into my mind. If you’re new here, you might find it helpful to start by reading these posts:

Cultural Roots of the Eco Crisis

Footprint Isn’t Everything

You could also start by reading my book DEEP GREEN, a concise orderly guide to crafting your own ultra-low-footprint lifestyle. You can read it for free here on this blog; and you can order your own print copy as well. Also, since the book was published way back in 2017, I have added a 2023 preface (which is currently available only here online since I didn’t get it done before deciding to make a mini print run of 50 copies for the FRESH Book Festival).

A final note: I don’t post here every day. I might even go weeks or months without posting. Important as writing is to my mission, it’s only one of my channels for actualizing the “Grassroots Green Mobilization.” Whether or not you see new posts on this blog, I am always active and always here for you. You can engage with me on Facebook or Twitter; you can email or call me; you can book me to give a talk, presentation, or workshop for your group.

Enjoy this blog, and thanks for helping me create a kinder, saner, greener world!

Memorial Day note to fellow “Woodstock Boomers”

In my immediate previous post, titled “Memorial Day,” I shared with you some of my favorite speakings-out against militarism and war.

I see a lot of us Boomers who identify somewhere along the “liberal” spectrum ranting and meming on their social-media pages about how awful the “red” politicians are. And stating or implying that the “blue” ones are going to save us.

I don’t feel represented by so-called “liberal” candidates who continue to promote and feed war. And when fellow liberal Boomers seemingly are not acknowledging this aspect of the “blue” mainstream.

It’s like we forgot that we really are anti-war. It’s like we forgot that being truly, deeply, adamantly anti-war is very much an option. And a necessity, for the environment as well as for people.

I cringe when I hear fellow “Woodstock Boomers” say that they have grown up since their idealistic days of the 60s. Given up, more like. Some of them, even their kids ended up working for the military or other industrial complexes.

Just about every mainstream Democrat I can think of who has run for office in recent times, are far too entrenched in the war complex. Hearing that President Biden spoke to the graduating class of West Point, with some verbiage of the “protecting our freedom” sort, was just one recent cringe.

And yet, recognizing the gravity of the situation, I still in many cases hold my nose and vote for these types of so-called liberals, just to avoid the even worse alternative. It’s a tricky thing though, and I see both sides of the vote argument.

But, just when I risk going totally down the rabbit hole of “oh well,” last year I somehow started getting emails from Veterans for Peace. And found out that civilians can join. And so last year I joined, as a life member. VFP are a breath of fresh air, a lifeline, a reminder that it is indeed valid and realistic to be absolutely anti-war. They help me hold my center so I can more clearly see the militaristic gaslighting of even the “blue” politicians.

The red politicians, you can see them coming. The blue ones are much less obvious and thus potentially much more dangerous.

Memorial Day

On this national holiday weekend, which honors U.S. military personnel who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces — and which marks the unofficial beginning of summer — (thanks Wikipedia), I would like to share with you some of my favorite writings/speeches about the problems with militarism and war.

• “Supporting Our Troops While Condemning the Systems That Exploit Them” (Desireé B. Stephens, 2024):
“Memorial Day is a time for heartfelt remembrance, a day to honor the valor and dedication of those who have laid down their lives. Yet, it is also a time to confront the uncomfortable truths about how our government often exploits the very individuals we seek to commemorate. … Our government, through policies and practices, has historically leveraged military service as a pathway for those with limited options, creating a system where the most vulnerable are funneled into the line of fire. This exploitation is compounded by the nature of the conflicts in which our troops are engaged. Wars waged under the banner of national security often mask deeper geopolitical and economic interests. These conflicts inflict immense harm not only on our service members but also on innocent civilians around the world. … On this Memorial Day, let us extend our support to the families and communities of the fallen. Their grief is immeasurable, their loss irreplaceable. Let us also stand in solidarity with our veterans, many of whom bear physical and emotional scars long after the battles have ended. Our respect and gratitude for their service must translate into tangible support—accessible healthcare, mental health services, and robust reintegration programs. At the same time, let us raise our voices against the systemic exploitation of our troops. We must demand policies that prioritize diplomatic solutions over military interventions, that invest in our communities rather than in the machinery of war. Our commitment to peace must be as strong as our commitment to honoring those who serve.” (From Let’s Have the Conversation, newsletter by Desireé B. Stephens; subscribe here to read the entire article and a variety of her other deeply insightful writings on decolonization, community-building and more.)

• “War Is a Racket” (Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler, 1935): “WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows. How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle? Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out. Again they are choosing sides. …” Read the piece in its entirety here at ratical.org

A rural life I could live with

Described below is a rural setting that sounds very livable. It has real community, and culture. I personally will always prefer cities, and actually real cities are collections of villages. Which maybe explains why this description of remote villages in Romania sounds like a rural life that I could live with.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because a lot of people in the doomer / prepper groups are saying that everyone has to move out to the country and live with just one or two or a few people on a big piece of land. Truly that is the opposite of sustainability. Not only does the math not add up with 8 billion people on the planet, but also, most people cannot survive, let alone thrive, without sharing labor and ideas and BEING WITH EACH OTHER.

“Weary hooves scuffed up clouds of dust as the herd trudged up Viscri’s dirt-road high street, stopping to gulp water from a trough beneath a gnarled walnut tree. Routine kicked in, and they peeled away through arched gateways and into their own cobbled courtyards, where they’d be milked and fed for the night.

“This was the evening procession of cows, when residents gather outside their pastel-coloured Saxon homes to watch the herds return from pasture – a daily ritual that’s been signalling the end of the working day in Viscri, Criț, Biertan and the other medieval villages of south-eastern Transylvania’s Târnava Mare region for hundreds of years. …

“… the area has a fascinating barely-changed-in-centuries feel to it; horse-drawn carts are the main method of transport and residents eke out a sustainable existence from smallholdings or shepherding. …

“Storerooms were fashioned out of the thick walls, and when Viscri was under attack, its villagers would retreat with their livestock into the church and sit out the siege. The rest of the time, the rooms were used to keep dried hams and bacon fat; the church’s so-called “Lard Tower” was opened every Sunday so that each household could take a single piece of fat or ham to last them the week, a tradition that only ended in the early 1990s.

“On the laneways running down from the church and in the surrounding streets, I came across little stalls outside some of the houses, each one draped with woollen socks and gloves and colourful slippers, the fruits of an initiative that helps local women earn an income. Cristina Vasilche, who has been making two pairs of slippers a day for the last 10 years, showed me the process, scrubbing each alternate layer of wool and linen mesh with soap and water until the supple shoes took shape. …

“Liviu Damian, the man chosen to look after the village flock this season, was spending the entire summer at the sheepfold here, his only company a couple of local shepherds and the fierce sheep dogs that (mostly) keep the area’s wolves and bears at bay. His temporary home was a bare-floored shack, where he cooks, eats, sleeps and – in the room next door – makes cheeses using an assortment of wooden troughs and trays. There were about 180 sheep under his watch, which his shepherds milked by hand each evening; most households own between 10 and 20 sheep, and they all receive a few kilograms of cheese from Damian each week.”

“Europe’s remote, lost-in-time villages” (Keith Drew; bbc.com)

Addressing mean-spirited attitudes toward poverty & homelessness

(Copy-pasting a comment I made in one of our local issues forums, in case some of you might find this verbiage helpful in dealing with similar elitist/classist attitudes in your area.)

Regarding County Commissioner Robbins’ comments criticizing Daytona Beach. I have a huge problem with talking about our unhoused neighbors as a problem the same way that we talk about trash on the beach as a problem.

These are human beings, and homelessness is a result of deep structural issues nationwide that need to be addressed. And throwing mean-spirited potshots is not going to help.

I do understand that a parent would not want their young child to see people sleeping on the streets, shooting up drugs etc.

Back when I was growing up, and we would occasionally see people on the streets, Mom & Dad would take the opportunity to let us kids know there are people less fortunate than ourselves.

So let’s focus on making a world where homelessness and untreated addiction and mental illness isn’t a thing anymore.

On a related note, I have a big problem with calling homeless people transient. Many of my homeless neighbors are a lot more solid steady presence than the rich people who live out of town but own houses here which they maybe occupy a week or two of the year. Rich transients, with not much of a stake in the community other than protecting their own property.

Vacant houses are a huge liability for neighborhoods, and bad for year-round businesses.

The rest of the county tends to treat Daytona Beach like its trashy stripper girlfriend. They want us to shake our moneymaker but then they blame us for looking a certain way. For having the typical problems that are attracted by high-volume tourism.

Added later: Our modern society has taken a bad detour. We have become a society that does not recognize that all members have something to contribute. We sideline people. When in fact, everyone has a role to play. All indigenous cultures knew this and know this. We as a society can relearn what we forgot, and I have high hopes that we will do so.

Cutting out the Big 5

Clothes-dryer, dishwasher, car, air-conditioner, water-heater.

Those are the five items that have struck me over the years as being considered absolutely essential for a respectable middle-class life. Doing without them has come to be seen as unthinkable in North America and other places heavily influenced by North American cultural norms.

I realize these things are considered by mainstream North American culture to be absolutely necessary. But they used to be luxuries.

These five things also account for a large share of the typical household budget. And coincidentally — or not — these five things are also very big-ticket items from an eco-footprint standpoint.

One of the ways that I have been able to liberate myself from the financial treadmill of being forced to work a middle-class type of job and/or constant long hours is to cut out what most middle-class people see as “essential stuff.”

This is something you can look into if you’re tired of high repair bills and the hassle of scrambling to buy/maintain a supposedly essential appliance.

Ask yourself: What if you just didn’t need it? What if you really actually didn’t need it, imagine how much money and time and your own human energy and worry you could save.

Of course not everyone will want to do this, and there are lots of reasons why not. Many of the reasons are emotional. For example, having these items is a proof that one has arrived socially and economically. So cutting them out, even voluntarily, could be seen as a step backwards, a cause for shame.

And of course, there is the convenience factor. Conveniences are called convenient for a reason. But when I look into it, a lot of the hassles these things cause seem to outweigh the convenience, at least for me. Multi-thousand-dollar air conditioning repairs, car breakdowns on deserted roads in the middle of the night, and so on. And the extra hours we have to work to pay for all that.

“But I could never do without my …” is a common utterance even in environmental, permaculture, Riot for Austerity, and Degrowth circles. The conditioning of society is very powerful.

I’m not trying to convince anyone that they should force themselves to do without something. And I’m not trying to shame anyone for wanting conveniences and comforts. I certainly have my comforts that I like, although a lot of people seem to assume that I have no desire for comfort just because I found out that it’s easier for me to do without a lot of things.

I’m just saying, as a person watching from the sidelines while her friends are derailed by one huge breakdown and repair after another, that I would invite people to explore the possibility of ditching some big thing instead of constantly forking over the money and energy without question.

If you end up enjoying cutting out the big five, maybe you can explore some peripheral things like specialty countertop appliances that don’t get much use in your house.

The biggest expense most of us have, of course, is housing itself: the roof over our head. More and more, the things that those of us at the economic margins (whether we inhabit said margins by choice, as I have, or not) used to be able to do to cut our housing expenses have become closed off to us, either by law or by very strong social norms. SROs, living in a van, getting creative about arranging an apartment to accommodate more roommates, Mom & Pop mobile-home parks, quirky sheds tucked out of the way in backyards … more and more, those cost- and labor-cutting options are being closed off to us.

But many of us have found that great financial relief is possible by tackling the “big five” that I mentioned.

But, you say, what if I don’t want to do without that convenient thing? Well you don’t have to. I’m just saying that if you feel financially or energetically crunched you might want to explore it. But I understand that it’s hard for various reasons to live without these things. If nothing else, there is the emotional stigma, because a lot of these things are considered signifiers that one has “arrived,” both financially and socially, so getting rid of them can feel like a backward move in life.

Regarding the washer, even before I started only washing my clothes by hand I found it very helpful to basically share a washer, by using a laundromat or utility room at the RV park etc. I just wouldn’t use the dryer, and not using the dryer saved a lot of money and energy. Yes, it takes a lot less of my human energy to hang stuff on the line and let it dry than to babysit and fret about the dryer. This is something that probably sounds unbelievable except to people who have directly experienced it. If you give it a try, or try cutting out any of the other “big five,” let me know how it goes for you!

If nothing else, I think our society would be a lot healthier if people at least resented being basically forced to take on all of these expensive machines. Like, a person might not be able to do without a car, but at least if they have a healthy resistance and resentment toward this constant financial and energetic burden, they might end up finding ways to reduce or eliminate it. We might have more staunch advocates for public transportation.

In my book DEEP GREEN, and elsewhere on this blog, I have gone into detail about how I do without the typical middle-class signifiers and other expenses that aren’t adding value to my life. I hope you will find my tips helpful. And I’ve also shared a lot of material from other people on a similar path. If you can’t find information on something or other, drop me a line and I will help you find the blog article or book chapter/paragraph. I’m also available for teleconsults at budget-friendly rates.

Cutting out the big five is a quick way to reduce one’s eco-footprint to “Riot for Austerity” levels of around 10% of the US average. When I’m living alone, my electricity use is actually about 3% of the US average. Even though I live with two “civilian” housemates, our consumption of water and electricity hovers around 10% to 15% of the US average.

Speaking of the house, I have posted a series on my YouTube channel, a room-by-room tour of my house. Look for the titles with “DEEP GREEN house tour”; the videos are all grouped together.

On a housing note, Vicki Robin, a famous fellow permaculturist and co-author of the bestseller Your Money Or Your Life, has started an email newsletter and Substack. Reading her newsletter yesterday, I realized we are trying to do similar things with our personal housing surplus. She wrote in her newsletter:

“Currently I’m encouraging house rich people to consider a kind of sharing called in-home suites – to increase the stock of affordable rentals.”

Cool! That’s exactly what I’ve been setting out to do with my DEEP GREEN house! If a lot of us house-rich people do this, maybe it will make a dent.

PS. You can check out Vicki’s page and subscribe to her newsletter here.

Don’t fire your BS detector

“BS” is an abbreviation for a colloquialism which is not G-rated if spelled out. An alternative G-rated rendition would be “excrement of the male bovine.” And the term is popularly used to mean lies; falsehood; deception; fake; insincere; nonsense; something completely untrue; and so on. I believe it originates with USA American English though I could be wrong.

In any kind of organization, there are various essential and valuable roles. Perhaps one of the most essential and valuable is that of the person who is capable of detecting assorted forms of falsity and nonsense. A.k.a., BS detector.

This role may or may not overlap with formal roles in the organization. For example, your CEO could be really good in that role, but they are not particularly a good BS detector. Doesn’t matter as long as they are a leader who was able to recognize the person or people playing that role within the organization, and draw on their insights. Instead of feeling threatened by such insights.

This article is getting long-winded already. Long-windedness, by the way, is one commonly recognized indicator of potential BS, so one needs to be careful of getting too long-winded.

An organization can be a corporation, a nonprofit, a neighborhood association, a school faculty, a congregation, even just an informal group of friends, or a family. Basically a collection of people choosing to associate for the purposes of accomplishing tasks.

The BS detector is often very quick to be fired, either literally or metaphorically. This is because it’s not pleasant to hear BS exposed. Sometimes an organization is getting along very happily with its BS cushion, and the revelation of BS brings discomfort or even misery. On the other hand, the revelation and exposure of BS can bring such fresh air and liberation. If the organization is willing to work through it.

Oftentimes the BS detector person is seen as not a team player; not a helpful person; a contrarian; a difficult person. But a lot of the time those personality traits are actually just the persons allergy to be as manifesting itself. The person is basically saying hey listen, I can’t be with this BS. Obviously I love you guys enough to stick with you, and try to fix things, but if you’re not going to fix things, I’m going to have to leave.

Oftentimes, though, people are very happy to see them leave so they can get back to their peaceful organization. So the detector’s attempt to rid the organization of BS does not work.

But on some level, everyone feels the falsity and stiflement. An organization without BS detection capabilities may feel peaceful and effective (at least to its inner-circle members), but it’s not going to stay healthy in the long run. And it’s going to be squandering human energy, creativity, and other precious resources.

Now, if you happen to be the BS detector in a given situation or organization, here is a big pitfall: Typically, the BS detector does not want to leave the organization. The BS detector is committed to the organization’s mission, and/or feels some form of love and duty to the people in it. The BS detector wants the organization to get free of the stranglehold of BS, so that it can achieve its full greatness.

And when I say that the BS detector is readily fired, unfortunately it’s not a really clear-cut thing. It’s not like anyone will come to you and say you need to go. Rather, you can expect to experience all sorts of ostracism, usually very very low grade and petty, of the sort that will wear you down slowly and make you question your sanity and validity. I’m talking some unbelievably, fiercely, viciously petty stuff. And, as many of you know who have experienced it know, the little stings can be a lot harder to counter than an overt attack, because of plausible denial by often very socially and politically adept individuals.

So, if you really love an organization and are committed to it, and this has started happening, you need to take steps to guard your own emotional safety. Don’t wait for someone within the organization to validate your sense that this is happening. (Anyone who would agree with you is too busy trying to survive in the organization to be willing to admit to you out loud that they share your assessment.)

Just check the results of your bloodwork (if you get health checkups), your inner gut-check, or any other tests that you do to monitor your well-being.

And, you need to know when to cut your losses. Because if an organization just does not want to let go of its BS, there are almost certainly better uses for your heart, energy, and soul. Beware the occupational hazard. The medical consequences and emotional consequences of trying to ride out such malevolent weather can be quite deadly. Even if you consider yourself a person who handles stress well. Maybe even especially so.

As I was typing the title of this post, it struck me that “Don’t fire your BS detector” is true on an inner level as well. We each have our own little inner BS detector, although some of us have unfortunately managed to bludgeon it into silence over the years in order to get by in the world. We need to value and nurture our inner BS detector. Not fire it! No matter how stunted, wilted, pale and scrawny it may be, it can be nurtured back into life. Ways of doing so including spending time alone in nature, spending time with people who have their own robust BS detectors, and just spending time one or two people who truly, deeply love us and get us (although it can be hard to identify such people, if our BS detector is broken — thus creating a vicious circle).

If you are tempted to fire your inner BS detector so you can get on with the rosy business of clinging to the fruits of blissful ignorance (be it a little bubble of popularity, some crumbs of recognition, a 401(k), a nice-looking and only mildly abusive partner, or what have you), please reconsider. Much better things are in store for you if you are willing to face down BS within yourself.

The missing artists?

I started making a little video tour of my house. It was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is navigating some life stuff, but also in general by so many things I’m seeing in this world, people being economically precarious.

And I really have to wonder sometimes if the art and loveliness that is deficient in / missing from this world nowadays is at least roughly correlated with the amount of precarity that people are experiencing and therefore being impeded from stretching, taking a full breath, using their voices, doing their art.

Although art and creativity almost certainly thrive on various forms of tension, some sort of stability, usually in the form of cheap housing, is extremely helpful or possibly even necessary I truly believe. Looking back at various housing situation’s I have been in and witnessed, and the amount of art and creativity that were able to grow there.

The people I see walking around adrift, some probably in need of mental-health services, some very seriously in need of same — for a long time now I have been wondering if a lot of them are the missing artists.

And also, too, I’ll see some guy out there wandering the streets or just sitting on the ground and think hey, back in the olden days he would just have been herding sheep or something, having a useful function, getting to be himself and be considered a member of society but not having to fit himself into a harsh mold he didn’t fit into.

Or what about all the missing rug weavers, mat weavers, basket weavers, roof thatchers. And I wonder if you drew a line for them on a graph, if it would run roughly parallel to the line representing “invasive grasses,” “yard waste,” etc.

My house tour videos, the couple that I’ve done so far anyway, are posted on my YouTube channel @jennynazak764 . Yeah, I don’t know why they put the 764 after my name, it used to just be my name, but then at some point it changed to have a 764 on the end. Maybe I committed some YouTube sin like be too obscure or something.