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.

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 tools 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 enlist me to give a speech, presentation, or workshop for your group.

One thing I will promise you: I will never make a post just out of a sense of duty to post “something” regularly. Or to “keep you engaged”; keep your attention.

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

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NEW: Want more than just my books, blog, Facebook Lives, talks/presentations, YouTube videos, and social-media posts? Something more experiential?

If so, I am now offering the opportunity to come for a Deep Green “Edu-Vacay” or Internship at my urban beachside micro-homestead in Daytona Beach, Florida. My goal is two-fold: to offer you a rich environment for practicing ultra-low-footprint living; and to give you a platform for achieving your personal dreams.

Social distancing strictly observed! The house layout makes it easy (separate entrances etc.) and we meet outdoors only. Contact me for details. (In the meantime enjoy my video tours and Facebook Live’s!)

#AboutMe: Money Nitty-Gritty

(This post originated as a post I made on the Socially Conscious FIRE group on Facebook just now (Wednesday 1/13/2021). I’ve pasted the original post here for starters, and am going to be adding to it. As time passes, the post you see below may get considerably longer and more detailed than the original. To see the original-original, plus a LOT of thoughtful & enlightening posts by other people, join the Socially Conscious FIRE group on Facebook.)

Hi everyone! I have been following and enjoying this group for awhile; frequently Liking and occasionally Commenting, but this might be my first post.

Not long ago, via my permaculture/resilience circles, I learned an acronym that
was inspired by FIRE but is a bit different in orientation. That acronym is FREE: Financial Resilience, Economic Empowerment. The term was coined by permaculture teacher & designer Mike Hoag, who is also a member of this group.

It’s a wider definition that may or may not include retirement per se, and may or may not include having much, if any, money saved. There are many forms of capital other than monetary (such as social capital) — although there’s no denying money can make life a lot easier.

I don’t plan on retiring; I plan on continuing to do my work in one form or another til it’s time to leave my earthly body. (I’m a self-employed writer, educator, and activist.)

If Social Security still exists by the time I’m 67 (I’m 58 now), the cost-basis of my lifestyle is such that I can easily live on that, even in the unlikely event that I earn no other income. I have created a low-overhead (but rich in other ways) life that helps me be financially resilient.

Money is a big subject, and I sometimes feel awkward talking about it in public still, but I see how important it is to share information and experiences, so I’m starting to speak up publicly about money.

In my life, I’ve earned a solid middle-class income for a time (37k-48k a year, which was very abundant as I was living in smaller / less expensive cities) — and I have been very low-income (7-13k before taxes) for much longer periods, and even right to the brink of homelessness at one point.

Three years ago my mother passed (Dad passed in 2010), and I inherited money. I never expected to have money, and on top of grieving the loss of Mom, it took some adjusting to trust myself to use that money wisely. Used about half to buy a home free-and-clear in the city I love and have adopted as my hometown (Daytona Beach, Florida USA); now am working on investing the other half in things that will help my community and make a better world, while also providing me with some sort of return (which may or may not be money).

The security of outright homeownership has made my life so much easier. And made me an even stronger advocate of housing security for all, and a wide menu of housing options to serve all kinds of people’s wants & priorities, than I was already (which is saying a lot).

Recently I became a co-investor/owner in a permaculture farm and education center in rural Florida. Also, I gave a friend, who has helped me a lot, some money to help them buy a house. (Originally had planned it as a loan but decided to make it a gift for various reasons.)

I’m a big fan of Laura Oldanie’s writings on Rich & Resilient Living. (Laura is a friend and fellow member of this group who I met via permaculture circles.)

I will have more to say but will stop for the moment and see if this post sparks any resonance in other people.

Thank you all for being here. I appreciate this group a lot.

Stop Trash-Talking Plants

The language we use affects how we treat the world around us. It works the other way too of course: The way we think of and treat the world around us influences the language we coin to describe it. Since it works both ways, we can’t go wrong no matter which direction we start from in our effort to shape a kinder and saner world. Today’s post is focused on reforming the language we use to describe trees and other plants.

A caveat: My home state of Florida appears to attract a particularly virulent strain of anti-plant-ism. Can humans just not handle any other species being lavishly abundantly successful? Does fecundity freak us out? Who knows. Anyway, the following language may not be used so much in your part of the world as it is in mine. I’d be interested to hear from any of you, to compare notes.

Here are some phrases I’d love to see disappear:

“Clean up those trees” (as in “Let me clean up those trees for you, Ma’am.”) — Nope! My trees aren’t dirty, and I’m certainly not going to pay you to give them a buzzcut. This phrase gets used a lot to describe the bizarre Floridian landscaping practice of scalping palm trees so they look like green-tipped matchsticks. It also gets used to describe yards and lots in general: “Clean up that lot.” Again, Nature isn’t dirty.

“Lot clearance.” — Sounds like a sale at the Dollar Mart. Or a used-car dealership. Not like what anyone should be doing to a piece of ground that’s supporting pollinators and other wildlife. Back off and let the shrubs and meadow plants grow, unless you actually have an immediate use for the piece of land.

“Trash tree.” — No such thing. The trashiest tree probably does more to benefit the earth than the best human. Get thee behind me, chainsaw-wielding agents of destruction! Learn the tree’s proper name, and learn or discover its uses.

“Invasive.” — This word has a legitimate place in horticulture and land management. However, it gets overused to mean any plant that grows lushly. Check your county agricultural extension, or regional or state ag university, for accurate information on which plants are actually invasive.

“It just takes over.” — No, a tree or other plant does not take over. Sore losers took over the U.S. Capitol last week (or tried to, anyway). Shopping malls and yucky cookie-cutter residential developments take over the landscape, leaving no forests. QAnon conspiracy theories about lizard people and pizza pedophiles are apparently taking over a large share of our collective neural mass that formerly had been available for critical thinking. But plants do not take over. They’re just … growing. Being plants. Serving a function in nature. Yes, believe it or not, something other than humans actually gets to grow and thrive on this earth. We humans need to just deal with that and get over ourselves.

“Weed.” — All plants have names. Learn them, and learn about the plants. You might be blown away to find out how many free vegetables, herbs, and medicines are growing wild right around you.

Oh, and there should be a special place in the eco Hall of Shame for the many “mow, blow, and spray” landscaping services who, apparently with no irony intended, name themselves after various birds and other wild creatures. If I were Queen-Mayor of the world, that nonsense would definitely be prosecuted as false advertising.

I know there are more examples of this kind of trash-talk that need to be called out; I’ll add them as I think of them. And please feel free to drop me a line with your suggested additions!

Storing Food “in the Belly of My Brother”

In the grand scheme of history, it hasn’t been that long that human beings have had ways to store wealth. The relatively recent innovations of refrigeration, banks, and other vessels for storing surplus have made life easier in a tangible way. After all, what would we modern industrialized humans do if refrigeration didn’t exist? We’d have to grocery shop every day. And if there were no banks or other investment vehicles, where and how would we store our money? A cushion of surplus tides us over in lean times.

But the dark side of storage is hoarding, and hoarding actually fuels scarcity.

A few years back, I read an article about a Pacific Island culture that had no access to wealth storage. I read it in print, copied from somewhere on stapled-together paper; have never been able to find online. Wish I could; it was a great article. It was by an philanthropist and activist named Fiz Harwood, who founded a now-defunct eco school back in the 1990s.

Long story short, a person’s wealth and status was determined not by how much they accumulated (because there was really no way to accumulate stuff), but rather, by how much they gave away. So a person who caught a big fish and shared it was wealthy. People would constantly try and outdo each other in sharing their surplus, and that was the engine that made the economy go ’round.

Reading about this mind-set was a profound experience for me. Such a mind-set had quite simply never occurred to me, but the conventional mentality of “saving enough for retirement” wasn’t sitting well with me either. And once I heard about this other way of amassing wealth, I could never forget it. I liked it so much better than the mainstream modern definition of wealth. It seemed not only more humane, but also more robust.

There’s something brittle about considering money and tangible stuff as the only forms of wealth. I’ve done house cleanout jobs at the homes of people who had more stuff than they could use in a lifetime, backup upon backup upon backup, stored for years never even unwrapped — but no people to share life with. Or to help each other; count on each other.

The other day someone on Facebook shared an article that reminded me of that one I’d read before about the Pacific Island culture. “A hunter had brought home a sizable kill, far too much to be eaten by his family. The researcher asked how he would store the excess. Smoking and drying technologies were well known; storing was possible. The hunter was puzzled by the question—store the meat? Why would he do that? Instead, he sent out an invitation to a feast, and soon the neighboring families were gathered around his fire, until every last morsel was consumed. This seemed like maladaptive behavior to the anthropologist, who asked again: given the uncertainty of meat in the forest, why didn’t he store the meat for himself, which is what the economic system of his home culture would predict. ‘Store my meat? I store my meat in the belly of my brother,’ replied the hunter.” (See article link below, in Further Reading section.)

Too many of us are storing meat only in our own pantries and not in the belly of our brother. This is not a moral judgment; it is an observation of a mode of life that does not seem to be working out well for us.

When we live by the amass-and-hoard mentality, no amount of money and stuff is ever enough. The goalposts keep moving.

Does that mean we should keep nothing in reserve, not a thing extra? Not necessarily. It is OK and even reasonable to have a bit of extra food in the cupboard and money saved up if you can manage.

But beyond a certain reasonable amount … money and stuff is a liability. Stuff gets lost; having a large concentration of stuff and money can make you a target; stuff and money itself costs money and energy to maintain and even to keep track of.

And, even though it’s not all as perishable as a fresh-caught fish, our stuff (clothing, extra towels, extra cars and houses, etc.) does decay and dissipate. Even money, which humans invented as a durable and portable storage medium, is not immune to decay and dissipation (for example, when the stock market crashes, or inflation hits).

Also, I don’t know about you but I find it really hard to enjoy surplus money and surplus stuff while knowing there are people out there who don’t even have what they need right now. One way I share my stuff when I don’t want to give it away, is to offer it for communal use among housemates or neighbors.

Which is not to say we should feel obligated to share our stuff with just anyone; I actually feel an obligation to be discerning about who I share with, so as not to squander precious resources. It’s sort of an ongoing dance or balancing act.

Further Reading:

“The Serviceberry: An Economy of Abundance” (Robin Wall Kimmerer, in Emergence Magazine). “You might rightly observe that we no longer live in small, insular societies, where generosity and mutual esteem structure our relations. But we could. It is within our power to create such webs of interdependence, quite outside the market economy. Intentional communities of mutual self-reliance and reciprocity are the wave of the future, and their currency is sharing. The move toward a local food economy is not just about freshness and food miles and carbon footprints and soil organic matter. It is all of those things, but it’s also about the deeply human desire for connection, to be in reciprocity with the gifts that are given you. The real human needs that such arrangements address are exactly what we long for yet cannot ever purchase: being valued for your own unique gifts, earning the regard of your neighbors for the quality of your character, not the quantity of your possessions; what you give, not what you have.” (Go read the whole article; it’s a real gem. By the way, Kimmerer is also the author of a book I’ve heard several people rave about: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants.)

Crazy Times

The USA is going through crazy times right now. (And because the whole rest of the world is affected by the USA, the effect of our craziness is spilling over no doubt into the rest of the world.)

We will get through it. The best advice remains unchanged. Build ties with your neighbors; reduce your dependence on fossil fuels and consumerism; reduce your need to earn; reduce your dependence on centralized systems; align yourself with forces of local economic resilience in your area.

Cultivate kindness and compassion and tolerance (except, don’t tolerate racism or other intolerance — see the “paradox of tolerance”*).

And get your mind centered; hone your BS detector; reduce your vulnerability to hysteria and fake news and conspiracy theories.

* “The paradox of tolerance states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Karl Popper described it as the seemingly paradoxical idea that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance.” (Wikipedia)

Healing Our “Culture of Depression”

A few months back I came across a spiritual book I’ve been meaning to share with you. It’s Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Keys To Healing Anxiety and Depression, by Marianne Williamson. What grabbed me about this book was how it makes a connection between the emotional and spiritual suffering so prevalent among individuals in modern industrial society, and our collective spiritual malaise. This is something that I’ve been noticing for awhile now, as I see people out and about in the world.

Here are some quotes from the book.

“It is a radical commitment to try to remember who we are in a world that does all it can, every moment of every day, to persuade us that we are who we really aren’t and that we aren’t who we really are. The world as we know it is organized around the denial of spiritual sight, treating bodies as real and spirit as fantasy. It rests on the presupposition that only what happens externally matters. As such, our modern civilization is spiritually blind. It is ignorant of the deeper reality and meaning of life. It is asleep to the deeper dynamics and evolutionary imperatives of human existence, and in its sleep it has produced night mares for individuals and for the entire species.”

“A Culture of Depression

“There exists a spiritual vacuum at the heart of our society, the natural consequence of which is a low-level sadness. The very worldview that permeates our civilization is depressing. A mechanistic interpretation of the world teaches us to see people as machines, not as multidimensional beings—as bodies, but not as spirits. This mindset denies who and what we actually are. We live with endless, tiny repudiations of our true nature throughout our day every day of our lives. Simply living in today’s world is emotionally traumatic. But our emotional disconnection from each other, from ourselves, from nature, from God—indeed, from any sense of transcendent reality—is not one specific violent event. Rather, it is the consistent, rolling trauma of living in a world so disconnected from love. We are not just depressed about specific incidents, and we are not just depressed as individuals. We are depressed collectively.

“Collective issues run through our personal dramas:

“Someone is depressed over a breakup or divorce. The collective issue is, why do we commonly find relationships so hard to make work?

“Someone is depressed over the loss of a loved one. The collective issue is, why do we give ourselves so little permission to grieve?

“Someone is depressed over the loss of money or career. The collective question is, why have we acquiesced to the creation of an economy in which the majority of people are so financially squeezed?

“Someone is depressed over a child having died of a drug overdose. The collective issue is, what kind of society have we created that so many people are using drugs to begin with?

Someone is depressed over past trauma or abuse. The collective issue is, what is the spiritual vacuum at the heart of our society that so little attention, comfort, hope, and inspiration are available to those who suffer?

“Yes, we have an epidemic of depression in our society today. But truthfully, how could anyone today on some level not be sad? The gap between how beautiful life can be and the way it too often is is heartbreaking. Anyone who is not on some level grieving the state of the world is perhaps not looking very deeply.”

“We’re depressed because life today is off. We’re depressed because too often we have not sense of our place in the universe, our relationship to the source of our existence, a deeper sense of purpose in our relationships with other human beings, or any sense of reverence toward any aspect of life at all. Our entire civilization is ruled more by fear than by love.”

“The crisis of modern society is that human beings too often feel spiritually homeless within it. And how could it be otherwise? How could the soul feel at home on our planet, given the soullessness of our civilization?”

Good book. Highly recommend. Note, it’s not that we shouldn’t seek personal growth and healing by doing inner work. We should. (It’s not for nothing that a whole chapter of my book is titled “Get Your Mind In Order.”) But instead of thinking of ourselves as “broken” or “maladjusted,” and trying to “get our act together” and fit in with society, it makes more sense, and is more helpful in our progress, to recognize that our personal malaise is reflective of a society that has lost its way. A society that itself is topsy-turvy and will benefit from more of us calling BS on its distorted values, and insisting on practicing a kinder and saner set of values.

Further Reading:

Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Keys To Healing Anxiety and Depression, book by Marianne Williamson.

“Climate Change a Mental Health Crisis for Young Californians.” (Brian Contreras, Los Angeles Times Tribune News Service; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal.) “Such dire predictions can affect mental health, particularly among young people. Polls have found that climate change-related stress affects daily life for 47% of America’s young adults; over half of teenagers feel afraid and angry about climate change; and 72% of young adults are concerned that it will harm their community. Climate depression played a central role in teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s political awakening, and … it’s not uncommon … to meet kids who have contemplated suicide over the climate crisis. Surveys have found that young people often experience more fear, sadness and anger regarding climate change than their older counterparts, as well as an increased sense of helplessness or hopelessness … In particular, ‘areas that suffer direct, visible effects of climate change … have been observed to face acute impacts such as trauma, shock and PTSD.’ … To cope, many have become activists or taken steps to reduce their own effect on the planet. Some go vegetarian or vegan. Others have opted not to buy a car, even in car-centric Los Angeles, or are making plans to leave Los Angeles before the fires and droughts become unbearable.”

Happy New Year

I’ve been seeing a lot of posts and memes referring to what an awful year 2020 was, and saying basically “Good riddance!”

No one would deny that 2020 was full of challenges. My heart goes out to the people who lost friends and family members in the Covid-19 pandemic. And my heart goes out to those who were injured or killed by racially motivated violence. Weather-related events claimed lives as well.

So I’m not pretending 2020 was all sunshine and roses. Still, it was a great year in many ways.

There was the fact that the pandemic shutdown led to an unprecedented reduction in carbon emissions — and we saw how quickly wildlife and ecosystems responded to the reined-in human footprint. It really showed what a difference we can make by curbing unnecessary travel and extreme consumerism.

There was the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s rise to mainstream prominence. This past year, many of us heard the word “anti-racism” for the first time, and it gave well-intentioned white people something better to aspire to beyond just “trying not to be racist” (which is impossible because racism is baked-in to the system: systemic racism).

There were other things too but those were the two biggest shifts I felt in 2020.

That said, I DO feel that 2021 will be a great year.

On New Year’s, I love a mixture of new adventures and old favorite things. And I got plenty of both!

New Year’s Eve day, I got a last-minute call from a friend who started a native-plant landscaping business this past year. She’s been getting steady work including some big jobs. She invited me to help out on a job that’ll probably last for several days. We are digging out a lawn and moving a bunch of dirt in preparation for native plantings. It’s hard work and great fun. Exhilarating, even! I expect “native yardscaping” and “re-wilding” to be a growing sector of the landscaping business.

In the evening I headed to the home of a dear friend to ring in the new year. A longtime friend, the first person I met in Florida when I moved here in 2010. She lives about 10 miles from me, and I used to visit her regularly but I hadn’t spent time at her house since before the pandemic hit. On the 31st I bicycled up there carrying a tent and blanket on my back so I could stay the night social-distance-compliant. (Pre-pandemic, I’d just crash on her sofa.) With her housemates, we listened to a bit of music and had a champagne toast. I’m amazed I managed to stay up til midnight.

The camping experiment was a success! I can now highly recommend camping in friends’ yards as a great way to have a social-distance sleepover. That was a fun new adventure.

And I woke up this morning to a PayPal notification — my first book order of the new year. Yay!

And finally, I started a fire just now in my newly built fire pit. Auspiciously, I started the fire with just one match. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before in my life!

I hope you found some satisfying ways to ring in the new year. And I hope 2021 brings you peace, abundance, and adventure.

Building Sustainable Community Right Here Right Now

I hear from a lot of people (either directly, or via posts in online forums) that they don’t feel like they can “do” sustainable living in their current location.

Many people have the idea that they ultimately need to find a way to move out to the country and buy land in order to “do” a sustainable lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainable living (ideally regenerative living, which is what permaculture is) starts right where you are right now. Anyway, not all of us are at all interested in rural living.

To offer encouragement to a person who expressed that “gotta move out to the country” feeling in one of my online permaculture groups, I posted the following comment:

I live in a city too, in a neighborhood that has not “embraced” permaculture per se … but I love where I live, and if you love where you live, that makes it an ideal place to be a hub of permaculture. Even if it’s just you as an individual at first (as it has been for me til relatively recently).

Not everyone has to “get” permaculture, or even know the word, for your permaculture mind-set to start to “beneficially inoculate” a neighborhood and community. It can be something as simple as setting up a Little Free Library in front of your house. Or posting on NextDoor when you have extra seeds or plants to share. Or if you’re ordering a load of mulch, offer to coordinate a group order for your neighborhood. Start a music jam or poetry jam in someone’s yard or driveway. Have an art show in a vacant lot. Organize a Zoom chat for local people interested in “Zero Waste” or other sustainability stuff. Use those as vehicles to share permaculture ideas, ethics, design principles.

The “culture” part of permaculture is huge, and your potential impact in your urban area has the potential to greatly outweigh the impact of moving out to a rural area and getting a big piece of land where there are no people around.

Yes, it can feel scattered and unfocused sometimes. Especially when I hear from fellow permies who live in cities where the permaculture movement is more organized, has made deeper inroads. But if you love your community, it’s a worthy effort. Try to think of yourself as a valuable resource, a “beneficial spore” of regenerative culture. Isn’t your community lucky to have a permaculture person of its own.

(And, More likeminded people will appear, as you keep moving forward with your efforts. You never know when a seed you’ve planted in the past is going to burst forth.)

For ongoing practical & moral support, continue to draw on your online permie groups like this one.

She just now thanked me, said she had found my comment inspirational. Made my day! It’s always a delight to help a fellow “city mouse” who is into sustainable living and wants to take it further.