Lost Knowledge Needs Finding

Potato
Holy Scrap Springs photo by Mikeysklar

This week Im working on a series of podcasts as well as an article for United Academics Magazine which focuses on people who have created their own home and work spaces. Those who left cities and suburbs, left houses and apartments, left conventional jobs, and moved to a rural or undeveloped place. In their new environments they have built or rebuilt their homes using a mix of traditional, proven techniques and new, innovative features.  They do things like grow/raise their own food, collect their own water, generate their own power, and create their own kinds of income-generating work.

This phenomenon, at first glance, is nothing new; people have been leaving cities for the country periodically for decades. (though statistically more people do the opposite) But this generation is the unique above all for the techniques and knowledge it brings to these remote locations. Knowledge that is not only their own, but the never-ending collective knowledge one can consult via the internet. Installing a solar power system? Never built a barn before? Canned your own preserves? Check youtube, the step-by-step instructions are there waiting for you.

Of course the internet is not the only source of knowledge, the offline community that one joins when moving to a rural area also has its own experience and skills which might be called upon. Between the depth of the internet and the generations of experience in your town, whatever it is you don’t yet know how to do on your own, you can learn. And this is exactly what is happening.

Back in the urban-suburban world that so many in the western hemisphere see as the only two choices, such life changes are probably still seen as odd or undesirable. They might lose sleep over barely tenable costs of living and work stress, but they’ve grown up with the idea that this is all normal and simply “life”. Need something for the kids or for the house? Go to Walmart. Need heat? Turn up the thermostat.  All needs are met by some external service or source, all of which come at a monetary cost.  Again, at some point this may seem like the only way life works. But this group of people has proven otherwise, and their will to take action in this manner has inspired more people to do the same.

In the coming series of podcasts you will hear from this special group of people. They’re explain how they used to live and what led them to make a radical change. They’ll also explain the details about why this way of life not only works better for them, but why they are better prepared for the foreseeable future where the value of money decays further and the ability to grow or make things becomes more rare and necessary.

 

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Incapable

New Brunswick, NJ by dan.orso on flickr

The images from my home state of New Jersey the days following hurricane Irene featured flooding like few had ever seen before. The images also showed one re-occurring theme: Infrastructure collapse.  Chunks of highway collapsing, a struggling power grid, and rivers rising up and swallowing entire communities.  Things growing up in the suburbs of New York City, even to this day, many people never imagined could happen.  But this lack of imagination is no excuse for ignorance regarding a looming crisis. There is no shortage of research and reports, as well as examples over the past decade, all of which point to the fact that all over the United States (theyre not alone of course) infrastructure is stretched and strained to its limits. The glorious promise of privatization leading to improved services has resulted in just the opposite. Lack of significant investment under a whole list of economic and social excuses has left millions of people on the edge of a crisis, many of whom don’t even know about it.  Or perhaps, they don’t want to know or will never understand.

There is a phenomenon that didn’t start with this generation or this era, but has very much been perfected in our time: the art of knowing but not wanting to know. That mobile phone we all carry can poison your body – but how could we be without our phones?  The computer we type on is made from toxic chemicals and will one day poison our soil – but how can we not have these essential machines? Cod Fish is on the verge of extinction – but it tastes so good! And of course on the macro scale – our global way of life is destroying the earth at a dangerous rate – but how can we not live the way we live?!

Eddie Izzard, the great comedian and life philosopher, used to do a bit about mass murderers and genocidal maniacs. He said something to the effect of “When you murder someone, we know what to do with you, we put you in prison… but over 10 or 20 people.. we can’t deal with that, we invent things like house arrest and hope no one ever goes in that house.”  Though he was joking I find a great deal of observational wisdom that I apply in present day situations like the crumbling of our infrastructure. Like having to deal with genocidal maniacs, we are once again in a situation that is too hard for many to process. You can present facts and even wait for terrible things to happen which confirm the problem, and still people find a way to ignore it. Perhaps it is simply a mass coping mechanism. Otherwise everyone would so into either a deep depression or a dangerous panic. That or, they might try finding solutions and taking action to better prepare for the future. Regardless of what the economists or the politicians say.

Meanwhile many keep telling themselves that its only a few roads and a few parts of the country that had problems. Keep repeating that line about how these events are rare. Whatever it takes, I suppose, for us to collectively cope and keep doing (or not doing) the same things we always have.

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ctrp338 The Story of the Living Planet Fund

What happens when a someone living in the big money banking sector one day quits it all and tries out the world of environmental activism and conservation? Chiew Y. Chong did just that over 18 years ago when he joined the WWF.

As we strolled through the beautiful gardens in the Chinsan-zo area of Tokyo, Chiew told the story of how once he got to WWF, he had some ideas that had never been tried before by that organization… a sustainable investment fund. He explained the goal of such a fund and what makes it unique. Beyond all that, with a wise and curious spirit, Chiew tells more than a story about a fund, he tells the story of a personal evolution that he believes has been and will continue to spread throughout the planet like wildfire.

To read more about the Living Planet Fund, visit their website.

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Municipal Waste in the EU

Wait don’t leave yet. I know the title doesn’t scream exciting, but if you’re like me, you want to know about how the city you live in handles waste disposal. The EU’s statistics office, Eurstat, has released information for 2007 from throughout the EU27, about how municipalities handle waste, and I think it is very important to analyze these numbers and figure out what is good and what needs improvement as quickly as possible. And if you don’t live in the EU, I still think it is of interest when it comes to learning what to and what NOT to do when it comes to handling a city’s garbage.

Lets start with the positive: Read more

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