Monday, January 31, 2011

Diet For A New America

To start I must say that I love the feedback that my last blog received. My last blog told the story of the world’s largest freighter ship that was recently put into our oceans to supply North America with all the stuff that fill the shelves of Wal-Mart stores. I also shared inspirational actions to inspire readers to realize the joyous lifestyles that can be achieved without ever setting foot in one of these stores. Since I have such a deep passion to inspire non Wal-Mart consumerism, I am beginning this blog with some more images to expose this environmentally destructive giant…

There!!! Now that’s out of my system.

It seems that the only way to ‘beat’ this system is to live like a scavenger – or a bottom feeder. I am very proud of my ability to have so few ‘wants’, so being a bottom feeder brings me much joy.

Almost all the items that surround me in my home are second hand. Five years ago I bought a non-motorized lawn mower, but all my shovels, rakes, composters and other gardening tools were either given to me or purchased at garage sales.

Joanne and I don’t like giving large cable companies our money so we’ve never had cable TV. Our TV was given to us and the movies that we watch were all bought at second hand stores. I love music and my vinyl album collection consists of used albums, thus supporting a local economy. My stereo, CD player, speakers and record player were either given to us or purchased at local pawnshops.

The computer that I’m now using to write this blog was given to me and the desk and cabinets in my art room were all found objects that other people were throwing in the trash.

“One man gathers what another man spills” The Grateful Dead.

By thinking about where our possessions come from – mines, farms, factories (and all the pollution created during these processes) - including all of the in between stages of consumerism – packaging, transportation and finally disposal – we can all focus more clearly on our ‘needs’ rather than our ‘wants’ and these ideals will shape a future for localized industries and marketplaces.

We can take these ideals one step further by also focussing on the foods that we eat…

Most of the foods that are bought by North Americans are processed and packaged foods imported from overseas – China, Spain, Morocco, Mexico, etc. Again, all of the processes needed to supply our ‘wants’ are destroying our global environment. If every person in North America spent time learning about Nature and growing some of their own food, then these problems would become less significant.

I read a book, almost fifteen years ago, that shocked me into a new reality and into a new way of living in harmony with our world.

Diet For A New America begins…

I was born in the heart of the Great American Food Machine. From childhood on, it was expected that I would someday take over and run what has become the world’s largest ice cream company – Baskin & Robbins. Year after year I was groomed and prepared for the task, given an opportunity to live the Great American Dream on a scale very few people can ever hope to attain. The ice cream cone shaped swimming pool in the backyard of the house in which I lived was a symbol of the success awaiting me.

But when the time came to decide, I said thank you very much, I appreciate the kind offer, but “NO!” I had to say no, because something else was calling me, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not ignore it.

There is a sweeter and deeper American dream than the one I turned down. It is the dream of a success in which all beings share because it is founded on a reverence for life. A dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a people living in accord with the laws of Creation, cherishing and caring for the natural environment, conserving nature instead of destroying it. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.

This is not my dream alone. It is really the dream of all human beings who feel the plight of the Earth as their own, and sense our obligation to respect and protect the world in which we live.

This is just the opening page in a book that has shaped the consciousness of millions of people around the world… even mine!

I read this book and shared it with my wife. Immediately we changed our diets and immediately we learned how difficult this transition is. I want to inspire people to realize that the future of our world greatly depends on each of making significant changes in our lifestyles, but more profoundly I want to inspire a change that doesn’t hurt as much as it did in my life. Ha!

My own desire to become more self-sufficient has not ended. In fact, it’s just beginning. Every year I learn more and every year I get better. I don’t want people to think that this change will happen over night and then that’s the end. I want to inspire people to make the first steps of change in their lives and then to prepare for the next step and then the next one.

Here are some simple examples showing how I live my life now, and how I think about the way I want to live my life in the future…

I like to grow many of my vegetables in and amongst my spring flowers.

Once the flowers have died, the vegetable plants then fill the space of my gardens.

What I don’t grow in my own backyard, I harvest from local farmers’ fields. Most of my harvested fruits and veggies end up in my freezer so that I can enjoy healthy food all year round.

When I come home from work, I’m usually very hungry and nothing satisfies me more than preparing a dinner made with food from my summer garden. On this night I made mashed potatoes that I grew, with a side of spiced cherry tomatoes. I thaw the tomatoes and put them into a frying pan with a little oil, dried herbs from my garden and wild garlic that is also grown in my garden.

These two chicken breasts were purchased at a local butcher shop. The chickens were not treated poorly, or filled with hormones. Jo’ and I will share one breast in this night’s meal and tomorrow the other chicken breast will be added to a cream pasta sauce that Joanne will make from scratch.

I was really hungry on this day and so I added some more beans to our meal. This freezer bag holds a mix of two varieties of beans that I grew in my garden. What a great, healthy, and environmentally friendly meal to enjoy and share!

The next morning, I had to prepare my lunch for work. In one container I will add two thin slices of Ontario grown canned peaches, with smaller handfuls of blueberries, strawberries and cherries, that I picked myself, topped off with some natural plain yogurt. The second bowl, that has just a few cut strawberries in it will soon be filled with some plain oatmeal and that’s what I eat before I go to work.

My plan for this coming summer is to learn how to can my own peaches so I don’t have to buy processed ones. This is what I mean by always thinking and planning ahead. Next winter my lunches will be even healthier for me and the world’s environment. One step at a time!

Does anyone remember when I posted a great recipe for zucchini bread, last summer?

One nice and thick slice of this bread will also end up in my lunch bag today. That is, if I can keep it out of my mouth!!!! It’s just so darned delicious!

A couple of nights later, Joanne and I enjoyed a simple spaghetti meal. In our spaghetti I like to grate carrots that I grew in my garden.

It’s a bit more work growing your own food, harvesting it, preparing it for the winter, but enjoying it is the greatest pleasure! These actions bring me closer to the Earth and my connections with the Earth’s life forces and energies.

Humans were not destined to work in factories and labour forces creating Elvis Presley dolls and cel phones. Humans were not designed to eat greasy processed foods shipped half way around the world. Humans are meant for something more glorious than what we have become. I believe that we were designed to evolve above such limiting lifestyles, to forge a future where we can build a relationship of love with each other, our world and all the life that flourishes here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Emma Maersk

For anyone who is concerned about environmental issues, the christmas holiday is the most difficult time of year to get through. It seems that all of our efforts to bring to people’s consciousness the value of living lightly on the Earth, quickly gets discarded as streets and highways become packed full of cars heading for super malls to buy plastic gifts made in China.

I’ve mentioned how my family does its best not to get caught up in these throws of consumerism. We enjoy the holiday season very much, without ever setting foot in a Wal-Mart. We look forward to having a great family meal, using many vegetables that were grown in our gardens – the rest of the veggies and meats are bought at local Farmers' Markets and butcher shops. Joanne and I celebrate the ‘Spirit of Winter’ by decorating our house with images of snowflakes and snowmen/women/person, instead of religious totems – we celebrate God and Creation everyday, in all the things we do. In the seventeen years that Jo’ and I have been together, we’ve bought each other small gifts maybe just three or four times – usually unique, locally crafted items.

This year, Jo’ and I received just a few small presents that brought joy into our lives and those of others.

Joanne’s mom likes to collect old sewing machines. She repairs them, cleans them and then uses them to make things for her friends and family. Last year, Jo’s mom made us a quilted placemat setting for our dining table. Last spring, Jo’s mom found an antique sock knitting machine – ‘nuf said!

My mom was inspired by the gift that one of our friends bought for us last year. It was a simple card, and the profits from the purchase were used to supply rice for families in need. That was our present, this year, from my parents. Not only did they purchase a ‘Card of Hope’ but they donated an additional sum of money so that one family would receive food for an entire month.

This year, our family had one more reason to celebrate. Joanne’s sister and husband had a baby! Now, even though Jo’ and I rarely buy gifts for the christmas season, we made an exception for our little nephew.

Joanne came home from her shopping experience, very frustrated. She told me that she tried really hard to find ‘eco’ gifts but, for the most part, all she could find were plastic toys made in China. She visited many shops and was surprised to find that the store employees were surprised when she asked about ‘eco’ friendly toys made in Canada. After this experience, we’ve learned that in the future we will have to spend more time actually making gifts for our nephew, since so little is available in the markets. Had I realized how difficult this task was going to be, I would have made a better baby’s rattle, that wasn’t packaged in plastic and cardboard – even tho’ this cardboard was made with post-consumer paper materials.

This musical duck is covered in self-advertising stating that it is an ‘eco’ friendly product. Jo’ and the sales girl read all the info on the product and concluded that it was made in the USA. She figured that at least it wasn’t shipped across our oceans from China, and so she bought it.

The duck is still made of plastic and I didn’t really like that. They say that this toy is ‘eco’ friendly cuz it doesn’t need batteries – so that is a plus. The packaging is made of post-consumer paper products, so that’s a bonus as well. When I took a look at the duck and flipped it over, I found that the duck itself was actually manufactured in China. This toy company – found in the USA – had designed a plastic musical duck that didn’t need batteries, that was made in China then shipped to the company in the USA where it could be put inside a box made with recycled materials, thus becoming an ‘eco’ friendly product. Joanne groaned with disbelief when I discovered the true nature of this false advertising.

They say ‘Remember, not all toy companies are the same!” and they are right. Most don’t hide the fact that their products are harming the World’s environment, while their company sugarcoats reality to trick consumers!

One of my greatest ‘wonders’ is wondering why most people seem unable to realize why it is not a good thing to shop at Wal-Mart, Costco, Zellers, Canadian Tire or any other large consumer chain. This fact seems so obvious to me.

To create a product made in China, resources are needed. Many raw materials are imported to China to be used, but a significant fact is that China is destroying – at an ever increasing speed – its own environment to extract these resources. Large scars litter China’s landscapes – caused by mining and clearcutting. Waterways are becoming so polluted that entire villages are being wiped out, forcing these simple people into shanty houses and underpaying jobs working for these companies.

The ‘kicker’ in all of this is the Emma Maersk…

This is the largest ship in all of the oceans. This is the first one of its kind and two more are presently being built and are expected to be operational in the year 2012.

Each one of these ships costs $125, 000, 000 to build.

Because this monster can make an ocean voyage in just under five days, we can expect a massive increase in the amount of perishable food items making there way into our grocery stores…very soon.

These ships are actually commissioned by Wal-Mart to supply the 91% of all its products that are manufactured in China.

Special docking systems had to also be built – I’m not sure of their cost but you can see that this is a very elaborate system – with 11 cranes that can unload the entire ship in just two hours.

The Command Bridge is higher than a 10-story building and a crew of 13 runs the entire operation.

This ship will travel back to China empty.

It’s absolutely mind-boggling to me, how the fact exists that products made in China are cheaper than if they were made in North America. Over ½ a billion dollars will be invested into these ships in just a few years and that doesn’t include operational costs, fuel supplies and all of that kind of stuff. Can we not manufacture plates, cups, party hats, board games and garden hoses here in North America?

Will our societies continue to blindly follow consumer advertising promises of bringing fulfillment into our lives by buying their plastic toys, thus ensuring the collapse of our Natural world, or will a people begin to act as true leaders by initiating local, sustaining economies, thus ensuring a future for mankind?


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Amazing Surprise!

WOW!!! What an amazing surprise I received, the other day! A most positive way to begin the New Year…

Last spring, one of my Facebook friends told me that she wanted to create a quilt to be used to raise awareness about the many issues concerning children with Autism. She wanted to borrow the talents of my Peacebus students to create the artwork for this quilt.

My students handed in to me, many beautifully arted drawings (to see all of the students’ artworks and to know this story from the very beginning - ) and in turn, I sent copies of these artworks to Margaret. From around the world, my Facebook friends delighted in these creations, leaving many inspired comments.

Just last week, I received a letter from Margaret telling me that her quilt is finally finished. I hadn’t thought about this project for many months, so I was brought back to it in quite a shocking way! Absolutely delighted, I was!

So many months of dedicated hard work was going on in another part of the world and this time slipped past me without knowing. Work that I had slightly assisted in, set into motion to take on a life of its own, guided by another artist, inspired by life!

The most significant ‘GREAT JOB!!!’ goes out to Margaret Ann Franklin, of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, for her inspiring presence in so many peoples’ lives! I believe that Margaret has plans for showing this quilted masterpeace so that people can learn about and help children with Autism. In the future, it may be donated to a fundraising event to further support this cause.

Thank you, Margaret, for blasting me with a most brilliant beam of positive energy, so early in the New Year!!!! I’m kinda speechless… except for all of these words.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hangin’ On

In this pen and ink art creation we see images representing the Earth, Moon and Sun. There is also a very large being and we can see that its arms, legs and body are extensions of the Earth’s lands and waters. This being represents the life forces of humanity and because all of the Earth’s life is intimately connected with the energies of the Sun, we can see that this being’s head and mind is interwoven with the Sun.

This painting is delicately bordered and we can see that the Sun’s energies have expanded beyond these limitations – I think there is a metaphor here, presenting itself to us. This border is also broken and we can see that the being seems to be struggling to hang on.

Since the mid 1700’s the world has seen the birth of a Global Industrial race. This newly adapted expansion of humanities ability to subdue Nature has had many benefits – better tools, more food, advances in medicine and technology – and global populations have skyrocketed out of control as a consequence. These expanding populations have given demand to create more powerful tools to produce more food and this has created many devastating consequences, resulting in the poisoning of all the environments that we need to survive.

Today, air and water contaminants leach into our breath and our food. Poisoned soils are being washed away into the oceans as our forestlands are becoming deserts because of deforestation. Icebergs are melting at tremendous rates causing floods around the world. Wind patterns are changing, ocean currents are slowing and our mountains of garbage are reaching towards the skies.

Will humanity continue to loose it’s grip from the heavenly body known as the Earth, or will a new, braver understanding shine through our minds and hearts to allow us the opportunity to re-establish a more profound and sacred relationship with our planet and all other life forces that constitute our universe?


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Resolve

In 2011 I resolve to continue to find ways to make this world

a better place for future generations.

I resolve to understand where my food comes from

so that I can make choices that will protect endangered forestlands.

I resolve to repair cracks in my walls and put better seals around my windows and doors to save energy and money.

I resolve to dress up nice and warm so that I can have fun in the winter season with my family.

I resolve to spend sunny spring afternoons sitting outside painting a picture for a friend.

I resolve to inspire children to be artful and creative.

I resolve to find more patches of wild black-cap berry canes so that I can transplant them into my own garden.

I resolve to plant a tree on Earthday.

I resolve to share my artwork and inspiration with the friends I have made on Facebook.

I resolve to spend time with friends, planting flowers in the shape of peace symbols

in ditches throughout the city.

I resolve to not let a single day go by without thinking about the 35, 000 children that will die each day because they don’t have clean food or water.

I resolve to purchase Canadian made products so that international shipping companies won’t be supported with my money.

I resolve to attend community events that celebrate the diversities of my homeland.

I resolve to go camping even if it is raining on the day of our arrival

because I know that sunnier days will soon be coming.

I resolve to appreciate the beauty of Nature.

I resolve to share the stories of Canadian elementary school students who create art for the children of foreign countries who are suffering.

I resolve to maintain my sense of humour in response to environmental issues.

I resolve to grow more flowers in my gardens.

I resolve to appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments of others.

I resolve to take a picture of you taking a picture of me taking a picture of you.

I resolve to eat locally grown, in-season fruits and vegetables.

I resolve to drink beer with old high school friends around a bon-fire.

I resolve to use simple tools that don’t burn fossil fuels while I care for my home… the Earth.

I resolve to be artful in all things that I do – even if I’m repairing my foundation wall.

I resolve to participate in community bike rallies that are designed to raise awareness about climate change.

I resolve to take interesting photos of the vegetables that I harvest from my garden.

I resolve to pray harder for all the children of the world who are injured or killed in acts of war.

I resolve to try to figure out how to successfully increase my potato harvest.

I resolve to attend great Rock’N’Roll concerts that fill my heart with waves of electric light.

I resolve to find new and fun ways to ask my Facebook friends to share their peaceful thoughts and expressions.

I resolve to not let silly propaganda’s stop me from finding new and more positive ways to affect our future.

I resolve to write more poems in honour of the Earth, filled with my aspirations for humanity.

Welcome to 2011 everybody!!!!

“Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”