Saturday, January 8, 2011

Small change large dividends

What if everybody did it?

I am awake now (I like to think), but there was a time when I, and apparently everyone on America’s roadways, were sound asleep to the effect of unconscious consumerism on our beautiful multicolored planet. For example, are you old enough to remember the litter epidemic? At the time it seemed that everyone who rode in a vehicle powered by internal combustion threw all their trash and garbage out the window as they sailed along faster that human beings were designed to move.

The trash was ‘out of sight out of mind’ – that is until it started to accrue enough. Before long all of our roadways started to look like landfills. People woke up to it. The litter bag was invented. Anti-littering laws were enacted complete with threatening official slogans like “Don’t mess with Texas”. The media took up the issue in a big way. And, little by little, the problem was reversed. The problem was established, and then reversed, one fast food cup, box, or bag at a time. It is now a cultural norm NOT to litter. Awareness, attention, effort, and peer pressure did the trick.

We found out what would happen if everybody littered – and we found out what would happen if everybody didn’t.

Now that we know the formula for change, there are plenty other epidemics around (derived from unconscious consumerism) that we can go to work on. Some of them are actually quite threatening economically or environmentally or both. A good place to start is a little book I recently discovered by an author who obviously understands some things about personal human motivation.

I like to support friends of the earth who have good ideas that need to be known and practiced by everyone. Author Elizabeth Rogers is one such person. Her book, [Shift Your Habit], is one of the more important books of our time. It combines the attraction of saving the planet with the attraction of saving money. Further, it does so by encouraging readers to make small, almost effortless daily changes which have a large effect over time. Here’s some copy from her website that explains effective green living.

“Going green doesn’t mean spending big bucks on organic food, solar panels, and hybrid cars. At its core, green living is simply about moderation, efficiency, and, believe it or not, living less expensively. Shift Your Habit shows you how to make the eco-friendly changes to your lifestyle that will do the most to benefit the planet and your budget.

Included are hundreds of habit-shifting suggestions that will leave you with thousands of dollars you thought you’d never see again. These are tiny modifications that any family can make…and some already have. In Shift Your Habit you’ll meet fifteen families who can testify to just how simple shifting can be and how much money can be saved.

Shift Your Habit pinpoints small tweaks that can lead to huge personal and planetary rewards.
Every shift counts, and with numbers like these, it’s easy to see just how much.” (

Shift Your Habit offers solutions to expensive and environmentally unfriendly habits in the areas of home and garden, food and drink, kids, pets, work, electronics and entertainment, health, beauty and fashion, transportation and travel, and, holidays and celebrations.

We are all, to one degree or another, involved in a cultural addiction to over-consumption. And, we are all similarly engaged in a process of improvement over time whether we are aware of it right now or not. We are slimming down, picking up, finding better ways, creating green markets, and eating whole foods. As being green and becoming conscious of our environmental impact becomes the norm, the cost of doing so will diminish in a competitive market.

So, consider getting a copy of Elizabeth Rogers’ book Shift Your Habit and start making some small changes in your consuming practices. It will have a large payoff both personally and economically over time.


LaChance, A. J. (2006). Cultural addiction: The greenspirit guide to recovery. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Rogers, E. (2010). Shift Your Habit: Easy ways to save money, simplify your life, and save the planet. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Primitive technology: It still works!

What do I mean by "primitive technology"? Well, the way things are now, what was cutting edge yesterday is archaic today. This laptop would be considered a "dinosaur" if you could see it. Primitive technology is relative.

Primitive technology is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it's fun! I am fairly well trained in primitive wilderness survival skills from my experience at Tom Brown Jr.'s School of Tracking, Nature, and Wilderness Survival (a.k.a. "Tracker School").

My training there took me back to my childhood running the ridges of northeastern Pennsylvania and spending my summers there quite detached from the normal modern world. We had no TV all summer and had to be entertained by fishing, hunting, shelter building, canoeing, biking, reading, gardening, lumberjacking, christmas tree farming, outdoor cooking... the list goes on and on - and it was all fun.

Note to parents - KIDS LOVE PRIMITIVE TECHNOLOGY much more (in my experience of teaching it) than modern technology. This may sound incredible but try it on them and get back to me on how they liked it. Can making a bow-drill fire be more fun and exciting than the latest computer gaming product? You betcha! The Children of the Earth Foundation, an offshoot of the Tracker School, is a great resource for parents who would like to help their kids build a better connection with their planet.

Secondly, learning primitive technology tends to liberate the mind from the trap of modern day marketing and commerce. It's not that modern day marketing and commerce are all bad, but simply that... not needing modern society and its systems for basic survival frees a person to be more creative in approaching the challenge of good, enjoyable living. Because I have the skills, I can literally live off the bounty of Mother Earth - just like a true hunter-gatherer - without the dubious 'benefit' of modern society.

Finally, primitive technology is often more earth-friendly than the cutting edge. True, more people are waking up to the damage humans are perpetrating on the environment. It is becoming more and more politically correct to be "green" in one's lifestyle. Some modern technologies are quite earth-friendly I suppose - and green marketing is a growing industry. Which is good - provided it's true - that is, provided that it's not what we call "green washing."

Really, not all primitive technology has to be stone age either. The bicycle developed pretty much alongside the automobile chronologically, but, it is still more primitive in principle since it is based on the concept of self-propulsion. Walking is very primitive technology! Self-propulsion is better for the planet and the person - and it's more fun!

So, turn the TV off, jump on your bike, and ride over to the nearest piece of woodlands and start to develop a closer relationship with your planet - and enjoy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Global Water Shortages

There was once a time - and not too long ago either - that if a person were to come across a body of fresh water he or she could feel quite certain that it was safe to use in the way God intended and designed humans to use it. This is no longer true.

And yet every drop of water that was ever created still exists in some form or state somewhere on this planet or in its atmosphere. The water lost by the human body through various avenues must be replaced. One rule of thumb is that 8-10 glasses of water per day will do the trick. But that is just the human hydration part. One source I found says that, " the average [American] person uses 60 to 70 gallons of water daily for drinking, bathing, washing clothes and dishes and flushing toilets." Even with that leap in usage amounts (10 glasses to 70 gallons), when you take into account all the water on the planet in all its forms there is still probably plenty to go around. The global population will have to increase to an incomprehensible degree before there is an actual water shortage.

Technically, the water "shortages" aren't really shortages - they are fresh water access problems. And big problems they are! There are four basic fresh water access problems.

The first problem is that fresh water, through industrial, agricultural, or domestic carelessness and apathy, becomes polluted and therefore useless and even toxic until it is purified.

The second is that fresh water all too often becomes salt water and therefore useless to humans until it is desalinated - either naturally or through some man-made desalinization processes.

The third is the problem of insufficient catchment and delivery systems. Having all this potential fresh water is fine but, if you can't collect and distribute it efficiently, it might as well just evaporate!

Finally, and related to the delivery aspect of problem number three, is the problem of human greed and the struggle for political power. Even if we solved the first three problems, we would probably find people all over the globe who would want to use the new water abundance as a vehicle for their own monetary gain or upward mobility. This they would do by seizing control of the means of production and delivery and manipulating them to serve their own ends.

These are truly daunting problems. However, we could choose to look at them as a way of boosting the global economy by creating new jobs and new markets. We could use our collective scientific know-how to turn water into a much more renewable resource. Organic farming and/or the development of non-polluting fertilizers would be a good start. Then we could move to regulate industrial polluters. This could be followed by getting creative and knowledgeable people together into think tanks to come up with ways of creating conservation incentives for the average 60 gallons per day American water consumer. We could develop bigger, better, and more efficient ways of treating and purifying polluted water, of desalinating ocean water, and of temporarily holding and ultimately distributing the potable product. All of this would add up to many entirely new jobs that would have to be filled.

The marketing of these systems internationally would boost both the American economy and the global economy. It could also go a long way toward improving diplomatic relations among the various countries of the world, minimize the occurrence wars and conflicts, and maybe even make a contribution to streamlining our international commerce in energy.

Water for oil anyone?