“Green Daytona” radio show, today noon EST

Making war with nature is expensive and ultimately futile – yet we humans spend so much time doing just that. Tune in Wednesday to Daytona Beach Radio to hear a discussion about how to make peace with nature, appreciate natural energies and resources, and work with them to meet our needs and solve our problems. You can listen at 106.3FM or via the Facebook Live feed on the City of Daytona Beach government Facebook page. And you are welcome to call in! 386-516-8030.


Savoring Darkness

Here’s a fun “low-footprint” tip — recycled from a Facebook memory that popped up on my timeline today. Do you ever do this?

Sweeten your life, and save on your electric bill*, by instituting a “dark night” in your household once a week (or as often as you like). Turn off the lights and go out and sit on the porch, or take walks under the stars. One of my favorite things to do, if no friends or family are nearby, is use the dark hours for chatting with friends on the phone. After all, you don’t need light to speak on the phone, do you! (Of course if you go the phone route, it’s not a completely electricity-free night, since you will use electricity to charge your phone, but it’s still a cool thrifty thing, saving on electric light and appreciating the beauties of the darkness.) It’s very pleasant to chat on the phone in the dark (sitting on the porch or balcony, on the beach, sitting by the river, walking around the block, etc.). If you have kids, make the lights-out night a fun experience by playing hide-and-seek in the yard or empty lot, watching fireflies, pretending to be explorers, and all those other wonderful things we used to do at night as kids back in the “old days”. Or even do this if you DON’T have kids. We should all encourage our inner kid; that inner kid knows what makes us come alive and is always trying to nudge us in that direction.

*Unless you are using a lot of high-wattage bulbs in your house, and keep many lights on, cutting your use of electric lighting probably won’t make a huge difference in your bill. But it can definitely save you a few bucks. More significant benefits of a “Dark Night” habit, in my opinion, are the beauty you get to experience, as well as the expanded possibilities for quality conversation with friends, family, and neighbors. Possibly even more important for a lot of people, there’s the sense of security you get when you realize it’s no big deal doing without lights. Emotional peace of mind is a major component of personal and household resilience, and I recommend taking every opportunity to cultivate that peace of mind. Learning to not only endure, but actually enjoy, being without lights and electricity for even a few hours is a great milestone for some of us who have never lived without all the modern conveniences.

Linky Love

Most of my DEEP GREEN blog entries include links to other writers. It allows me to offer extra material to those of you, my dear readers, who want more, while keeping my posts bite-size for those who just want a snack.

Besides, there’s a lot of excellent eco-related content out there, and I enjoy promoting it. So it was nice to read this article by Rand Fishkin at moz.com affirming the various reasons why “linking out” is good!

Of course, this general principle applies in meatspace too. In my public talks, casual conversation, meetings, any other place where I’m out and about, I try to remember to “link out” where it’s beneficial and appropriate.

Where We Went Wrong: Errors Limiting Effectiveness of the Eco Movement

(A list that’s been cooking in my mind for awhile now. What would you add to this list? Also note that I use the past tense, went wrong. A shift is happening!)

• Not seeing ourselves as the leading edge, not taking leadership; falling into a victim mentality vis a vis government & corporations. Why were we not insisting on walkable cities, on housing developments that conserved resources (and not incidentally facilitated community instead of eroding it)? Why did we roll over and play dead, move into HOAs etc “because schools” – why didn’t we take leadership with our own KIDs, realize WE were the ones to teach the important lesson of conserving resources, putting real physical and emotional health, ahead of opulence and comfort and convenience? We taught our kids materialism against our own principles. We fell in line with everyone else who made a god of convenience. Now we can take charge of creating what we want, if we can’t find it out there.

Just because we don’t (or think we don’t) have access to the traditional conventional mainstream power structure does NOT mean we don’t have power, and does not excuse us from exercising leadership. People in power have listened to me when I spoke constructively from the heart, even though I didn’t look like anybody special.

• Not seeing the self-interest angle. Suffering, self-styled planetary martyrs don’t present an attractive example to emulate. People copy what WORKS and ROCKS and LOOKS GOOD. The other night at a city meeting, one of our city commissioners talked about taking a trip to California and seeing all the stylish beautiful people carrying around their metal straws and reusable eating utensils while out and about.

• Not walking our talk. When people are living in a way that’s out of keeping with their core values, other people can sense that. And the reverse is just as true! Live your values; you’ll inspire others.

• Continuing to waste time debating with climate denyers and other eco naysayers. Squandering our energy trying to persuade them. Ditto for engaging in finger-pointing; setting out to take down the people we see as wrong. We need to be spending far more time engaged in doing the actions we truly believe are right (and making those actions contagious), than focusing on the people we feel are wrong.

• Not putting our financial money where our mouth is. How many of us protesting the big bad corporations have retirement accounts tied to Wall Street? What if we invested it in our own cities’ Main Streets instead? Or in local farms? One of my favorite questions, from Woody Tasch of Slow Money, is, “What would happen if we invested at least 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?” How about within 10 miles? Sustainable finance (or better yet, regenerative finance) is a subject that merits a whole separate post. Stay tuned; I will be posting more about finance in the not-too-distant future.

Conveying an Appropriate Sense of Urgency

One of my criticisms of the mainstream environmental movement has been that people’s everyday living choices often fail to convey a level of urgency that matches the level of urgency expressed in their petitions and protests.

When I first started getting into activism (about 25 years ago, right after moving from Tokyo to Austin), I was surprised to find that most of the other people at the meetings and protests were making lifestyle choices that undermined the very causes we were claiming to stand for.

We protested sprawl development and the relentless march of asphalt, yet most people drove to the meetings, and often in big cars. We protested fossil-fuel dependency and called on the government to “do something,” yet a lot of people lived in big houses equipped with the full arsenal of energy-hogging USAmerican conveniences (clothes dryer, air conditioning, water heater and so on). We petitioned for preservation of wildlife habitat, yet a lot of people kept big lawns.

How could we blame non-environmentalists for living that same way? At least they were acting in accordance with their beliefs!

I have to wonder how much further along we’d be if more of the people who believed there was a state of environmental urgency, had been acting on that belief more. We’d surely have expanded our influence enormously.

No crying over spilt milk; just a good thing to notice from now on. I do notice a lot more people these days going around with their own reusable cups, eating utensils, shopping bags. And more people choosing to reduce their household footprint in various ways, such as downsizing and going car-free or car-lite. More people telecommuting; more people buying local.

On the power of personal daily actions, and the importance of conveying a sense of urgency, I recommend this article in Wired magazine by Leor Hackel and Gregg Sparkman.

Here are just a few tiny bites to tempt your appetite (but please do treat yourself to the whole article):

“As in previous cultural shifts—like those around smoking or drunk driving—more people will need to see fossil fuels as an extreme danger to human health and safety. A powerful way to spread this attitude is to act like it in our own lives, minimizing the fossil fuels we burn.”

“Humans are social animals, and we use social cues to recognize emergencies. People don’t spring into action just because they see smoke; they spring into action because they see others rushing in with water. The same principle applies to personal actions on climate change.”

“Individual acts of conservation—alongside intense political engagement—are what signal an emergency to those around us, which will set larger changes in motion. … With each step, you communicate an emergency that needs all hands on deck.”

Weather Constraints Can Be Liberating

A low-footprint lifestyle can be restrictive sometimes. For example, if your clothes-dryer is a clothesline, you can only do laundry on sunny days. If you choose not to own a car, then some destinations become inaccessible, unless they are on the bus line or you’re willing to pay for a rental car or taxi. (Also, destinations that are a nice walk or bicycle ride away in good weather, can become inaccessible in bad weather.) If you use little or no artificial climate control in your home, then the temperature outdoors will exert a strong influence on what you are willing or able to do that day. Choosing to only eat the produce that’s in season limits the dietary variety that many people, particularly United Statesians, have become used to.

“Bad weather” is a relative term. Usually it’s associated with storms, rain. But, what if the thing you happen to feel like doing on a given day is stay indoors and read a book or watch old movies on TV? Then, for you, a hot blazing sunny day could be bad weather! (Unless you are one of those happy souls who are able to resist the implicit call to activity and industry that “fine” weather makes.)

A day of bad weather can be a welcome treat! (I’ll define bad weather here as “weather that reduces your ability or willingness to go out of your house.”)

There’s something liberating about being weather-constrained. I feel let off the hook for different things at different times. Each new day brings a refreshing variety. The flattened-out quality of modern life, with its constant temperature control and its automated availability of water and dryness, can be (while convenient) monotonous and oddly wearying.

Weather constraints can also be a great aid to decision-making, narrowing down one’s selection of where to work and live; what commitments to take on. I would never live in a place where my body and mind could not endure the prevailing weather. Also, I don’t take on commitments that are beyond my walking or cycling range, unless I’m willing to pay for an Uber should torrential rains and strong winds hit en route.

As for eating in season as much as possible, I love it. It makes me appreciate every fruit and vegetable for the time it’s available.

As I write, the rain that had been teasingly dancing around us for days, always seeming to fall elsewhere (though we got to enjoy the gentle thunder rumbles and tall puffy clouds, and a bit of shade from those clouds) is finally coming down. I’d been planning to go work in a couple of neighbors’ gardens (I’m starting a native & edible landscaping business and am offering free service to my neighbors during the month of August), but it can wait! In the meantime I have plenty of cozy indoor tasks.

How’s the weather at your place today? What kind of weather makes you feel industrious, and what conditions make you want to laze around indoors?

In case you’ve got time and inclination (and favorable weather) for some extra reading, here are a couple of “Scooby snacks” for you:

Some Like It Cool: The Impact of A/C on the South (on ScienceOfTheSouth.com): How air-conditioning has influenced architecture, industry, and popular culture in the southern United States. (Not always for the better, in the author’s view; a certain charm and grace have faded.)

Lessons from a Car-Free Life (by Leo Babauta on zenhabits.net): The author and his wife and family of six kids went car-free after years of car-lite. “Limitations can be liberating,” he points out — and he mentions weather as one example: “Sometimes the weather isn’t great — but truthfully, I enjoy getting soaked in the rain. My little ones don’t mind either — they love stomping in mud puddles. We are so used to being in our metal-and-glass boxes that we forget how wonderful the rain is. And when the weather is good, cars isolate you from that. You don’t get to feel the sun on your shoulders…”

Household Conservation Habits as a Spiritual Practice

Personal conservation habits can become a spiritual practice, helping us to increase our kindness, compassion, and tolerance, as well as become more effective activists.

This idea came to my attention while I was writing my book DEEP GREEN. I became aware that the small daily actions I do around the house to conserve resources are not only an eco action. They are also, for me, a spiritual practice.

For me, a spiritual practice has two essential components:

1) Inner: Quiets my mind, keeps me grounded and centered, grateful, reverent.

2) Outer: Keeps me energized and motivated to keep going out into the world and help however I can.

Recently I gave a talk at my church (Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ormond Beach) on this topic of eco actions as a spiritual practice. You can listen to the audio recording here.