It is the failure to realize that arbitrary assumptions about the relationships between parts (sovereign nation-states and national economies) and wholes (international system of government and global economy) in the present system of international government and in the economic theory that we now use to coordinate virtually all large-scale human activities are categorically different from and wholly incompatible with the real or actual dynamics of part-whole relationships in the global environment or ecosystem.
For those of you I didn't lose with that last sentence...
It really is a compelling concept to link environment, culture, social and economic fields and I'm pleased to see it as an emerging field under the banner of sustainability. It is unfortunate that those of us who aren't employed by major institutions that are footing the bill can't afford to go without serious dedication and saving. If there are any rich benefactors who'd like to send me to Hawaii to take this in I'm all for it. The virtual registration, meaning you get electronic versions of all materials I think, costs a mere $300US. I'll keep my eye on it for next year.
The beauty of stumbling on something like this online is that I can use the names and papers as starting points for my own research without paying anybody. If a paper really interests me I can order it through the site for about $5. Not as exciting as a trip to meet people, discuss the topics and lounge by the pool but great for a budget.
Incidentally, I found the conference link on a site called Rick's Cafe Canadien. A lot of the entries are academically oriented but I enjoyed browsing them for links. Odd that his focus is on educational technology...my interests and Jeremy's are coming full circle and connecting. Love it.
There was a lot of talk about raising kids as that was the general demographic, but it was distinctly meaningful and interesting (to me anyway). Not "my little pookie can brush his own hair and stand on one leg at the same time", but more along the lines of "what's your take on the local school system - are you going to send your kids?". Lots of dialogue on discipline - frustrations and successes.
It was refreshing to meet a whole group of people that were simply themselves. The bullshit factor was zero. Maybe that has to do with being out of our 20's? On top of that the food was out of this world and we went home with extra goodies and party favours. We also went home with a sense of excitement for potential friendships and connections.
To the hosts - our sincerest thanks for taking the risk of inviting us!
It's not that I've found fatal flaws, it's actually the opposite problem. I'm starting to engage in the community and am understanding on a practical level that it means giving, not just taking. We idealize the perfect community as a place we could simply move into and all the things that interest and please us are in progress. I'm "getting" it that you have to interact and grow with a community if you want it to be meaningful to you. The fears are that you put all the time, effort and money into all sorts of projects and friends and end up leaving for some reason (like work, family or new interests). It's a very real possibility, but is it an exuse to live in self-protecting and disconnected way?
I care enough that I've drawn up a little plan for making our dwelling space and the whole complex more sustainable in the long term. The personal changes require more cash than anything and can be done in due time, but presenting some of my ideas to the strata will be a whole different experience. I want to plough up some of our unused, overwatered and low visibility lawn/weeds to start making a garden next year. A lot of other work needs to be done on the property so I'm hoping to organize a work day in spring and follow up with a potluck or barbeque. There is a precedent for the work day but that's as far as plans have ever gone. I hope to have the restraint to take things slowly - it would be all too easy to scare the tar out of people with over- enthusiastic organizing.
I like to believe that getting involved here does not preclude moving or doing the same thing somewhere else at some point, should we chooose that path. It does not "trap" me here, but rather "roots". Positive force, not negative. The beauty of committing, all fears aside, is the complete freedom to love being where I am. The consequences of not engaging are depressing. Isn't that why the suburbs are so dull?
There is some stuff I will catch up on soon but in the meantime I thought I'd throw this pseudo-post in to let any readers that I have left know that I'm still here. Thanks for patience.
A lot of people have asked me how I'm dealing with 30 and it seems to be disappointing to many that I don't have much to say. So if you're curious about how it's affected me - it hasn't really (or at least not yet). My theory on it is that I went through such dramatic transitions with becoming a parent as far as both responsibilty and body shocks go that 30 is anti-climatic.
I feel great about the years behind me and what I've gotten done and am really excited to take on the next decade. I'm more full of ideas and energy than I've been in years and can't wait to see where I go with it. Don't take that to mean that I'm not often exhausted and cranky because I've been a bear this week, but in general my mind is more active than it was when I had the teeny babes, and that is progress.
- The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin (Okay a disclaimer here - no, I'm not having any babies, it's a dream of mine though to see midwifery accessible to anyone who wants it).
- Animal Farm, George Orwell
- Pippi In the South Seas, Astrid Lindgren
- Barnyard Dance! Sandra Boynton
- The Overworked American, Juliet B. Schor
- The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Second Edition, Eds. Richard Ellmann & Robert O'Clair
- Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
- Superbia! Dan Chiras and Dave Wann
The last book is my most recent library find. It is fabulous! It is the first sustainable housing book I've found that really addresses the fact that there are millions of houses in the suburbs right now and that we can't all jet off to some remote acreage to build a "perfect" house. Ideas for retro-fitting current homes and transforming some of the grossest aspects of the suburban layout are presented. The steps take guts and vision but not necessarily a lot of cash or dramatic relocation which is refreshing. Check it out and you'll feel the activist in you start to get excited about the possibilties.
Our first committment to this type of eating - and the start of the web project - will come this weekend. We are throwing a small party for my birthday and have decided that the theme will be along the lines of "local flavour". I'm not usually big on theme parties but this will be fun and challenging.
We already have some tasty ideas that will make for an eclectic table but could use some help in the vegetable department. We didn't preserve/store any ourselves from summer, so we need to track those down. Ideas? We can eat a LOT of squash, those are still around. Then again, I'm not averse to serving large quantities of wine and cheese which are both abundantly available around here!
Stats on why it's important to seek local food (snip from Slow Food Vancouver).
Did you know that food in North America travels on average from four to seven days before it reaches the retailer? Additionally, that it has traveled over 2,400 kilometres? The impact of food production on non-renewable fossil fuel can be immense.
How does one keep up that energy and research without becoming a roaring cynic? It's nice to buy organic instead of sprayed vegetables, but as long as Monsanto can frame a farmer for it's GM seeds that blew into his field what hope is there? I find I deal with this attitude regularly. Once I'm committed to doing something, do I aim to effect local change - things I can see in front of me - or to look at the big picture and take on the big boys? Will nothing change unless we can crack the top ranks? Bottom up or top down?
Grassroots action is where it has to start but when are we going to put the right kind of person in a position of power to really shake things up?
Last week the construction crew across the street finally tore down a hundred year old house in a field to make way for a massive new seniors "campus". It was disturbing to see how well built that house was - it wouldn't fall over even when it was left with only one wall. I still haven't gotten over the fact that nobody went in to salvage anything ahead of time. The size of the wooden beams was amazing and the equipement operator went out of his way to break them up into matchstick size pieces before hauling them to the dump. Should have called these guys to salvage it.
We played our first hockey game and yes, it will be sustainable. I got a bit sore but nothing too painful. It was a complete blast. My linemates were great and I even had a few shots on net. A few embarassing incidents too, but I expected that. I'm looking forward to practices even more now that I have some ideas of what I need to work on most.
I came across a site called bagelhole that lists wonders of the sustainable world, including bicycles and ceiling fans, two possessions of mine that make me happy in very different ways. The ladybug also makes the eclectic list.
In fact, how do we sleep at night with Paul Martin calling the shots? He's great only if you compare him to the variety of other politicians we are more scared of - is that what it's come to? I end up voting for someone that has the best chance of doing the least damage? I'm thankful for a minority government this time, even if it gets messy. I like to think that good debate, problem solving and concessions - whether strategic or genuine - should be a part of every government anyway. It makes for backroom dealings of a different sort and keeps leaders alert.
I didn't just bring it up to bang a sociological drum though - I found some good info for anyone who cares about the environmental impact of the hordes of diposable menstrual supplies we go through. (Full of bleach and other chemicals by the way, and we actually place them inside our bodies.) There is a BC company called Lunapads that makes and sells cloth pads and distributes the Diva Cup and a few other items. I really like their tone, style, mission and yes, service. There are a lot of fun and fascinating links off of theirsite and they break them down into essentially menstruation related articles, feminist zines/sites, and envrionmental links.
And who wouldn't be curious about a company called Vinnie's Tampon Case? To read his story go to AdiosBarbie. It's a gutsy business idea, gotta give him credit.
Eat lower on the food chain (less meat and dairy).
Do not microwave in plastic.
Do not use pesticides (inside, outside, or on pets and kids).
Treat dead batteries as hazardous waste.
Wash hands, floors and windowsills frequently.
Avoid "super-strength" specialty cleaners.
Avoid mercury fillings.
Read labels and call 1-800 numbers for information on product formulations.
Write or call local, provincial and federal politicians, asking them to take action to reduce hormone- disrupting chemicals in our environment.
"Four factors make up the ecological debt;
therefore, debt reduction requires policies and
actions that lead to:
1. Increasing biocapacity by protecting,
conserving, and restoring ecosystems and
biodiversity, to maintain biological
productivity and ecological services.
2. Lowering world population.
3. Reducing per person consumption of
goods and services.
4. Improving the resource efficiency with
which goods and services are produced." p. 22
Most of those seem pretty clear but Number 2, lowering world population, is bound to cause some excitement as Malthusian Theory rears it's head again (still?). I wonder how this stacks up considering that as North America we have one of the lower birth rates around but by far the highest consumption in the world. Is giving birth to one child here the ecological equal to having several children in an "undeveloped" country? Are the numbers of people as big an issue as our voracious appetites for stuff? I suppose if we do both we reduce consumption by that much more.
I'm just making this up as I go and if I come up with new thoughts after I've read the report in full or want to recant some I've already written I'll post again soon.
I spent a disturbing hour shopping for used gear a few days ago. So many choices and smells, but it cost less than I feared although it seems like a LOT of gear for a non-hitting team (and where will I store that smelly pile?). Tonite was the big night, practice #1. The outing involved a lot of awkward spills, stretches and pulls along with the glory of scoring while sliding on my stomach during the scrimmage. I can hardly walk the stairs this evening and it may be a rare multi-ibuprofin kind of day tomorrow.
Gotta love it.
I had a short chat with my parents about the "dissonance" entry and Ivy following directions. My dad said essentially not to worry about her taking orders, we all rebel soon enough anyway. My response was "yeah, but I rebelled against the wrong things", and he replied "we all do"...so much calm wisdom to glean from my parents.
Ivy attended her first "Kids Church" today, as we went along with the folks. After recounting all the bible stories she had heard, she excitedly piped up "The teacher told us how to get to heaven! You just raise your hand and open the door!". She was quiet for a moment and then said, "but she didn't tell us how to get back". Another minute later, "Maybe you don't come back". It is interesting how often she asks about heaven and prayers, considering we don't attend church or even talk about it very often. It's poignant to see how pure and up front kids are about things like that and makes me wonder why I don't pay more attention. I suppose I added a lot more filters and defenses as I aged (sounds like I'm about to turn 80, not 30) and now feel compelled to justify everything with logic or science when clearly that doesn't apply to a spiritual experience, almost by definition.
Here's an example from my day. My three year old has started going to a kid's class two hours, two times a week. She's thrilled to go and is always begging to go play with other kids and do something "interesting". She's able to follow rules very well and does the proper things at the proper time. This allows her and her classmates to get the full benefit of the experience (ie not acting up and causing trouble). Great job, right? ARGHHH. At the tender age of three she has learned to follow the leader and that drives me nuts. I want her to question what she's told to do, but I also want her to fit in socially and enjoy herself. How do we teach both of those? More to the point, when to do which one? And how often am I going to regret teaching her to question MY authority? ha ha.
Although she loves it and is good at following the rules and playing with others, she is utterly exhausted at the end of two hours. It takes a lot out of her to be on her best behaviour for that long and she usually breaks down within minutes of picking her up. That's how I sometimes feel myself after a long social outing. She's already internalized that although some parts of it are hard and tiring it's worth it because of the fun things they do. Interesting.
Is this begging to be made into a flowery metaphor for life? Trails appearing and reappearing, taking risks and hoping to find new paths, slowing down to look at options you'd missed before. I'm probably taking this much too seriously, the endorphins are going to my head and I'm starting to sound a lot like my bike-loving significant other...
On a different note, the highlight of my ride yesterday was actually catching sight of a coyote that I startled from the trail. Too bad I scared it but it took my breath away to see it bounding off right in front of me. We don't see a lot of wildlife in the settled valley bottoms around here so I felt privileged.
Today however, I happened to get a lift to a further trailhead, cutting off some agonizing road climbing. I was hot, whiney and cursing on the way up but the view was amazing when I got there. I pushed myself harder than I have in years and didn't allow wimping out on the dry skidded out downhill. Why is it so exhilerating to scare yourself just a bit?
I'm terrified about watching my daughters navigate those impossible waters but draw comfort from a comment a good friend of mine (that's you Kim) once made about kids - it's not like you wake up one day and they're 6 (or 10 or 13), you learn how to deal with different stages as they grow. I want to use these years to build a solid foundation for them to draw on and try to teach the tools for making good decisions. Unfortunately we won't know how well we've done until we've all been through it. And that's assuming they'll place any stock in anything we've said in the first place!
Many houses are clearly built as the money comes in, not mortgaged to the hilt. We're not used to seeing houses without "proper" siding or finishing or landscaping but why not? So many of them were also built in stages, as money or need arose. The clarity of mind to build/buy/rent within one's financial comfort zone frees up a lot of choices regarding work and lifestyle.
There are always tradeoffs of course:
- cheaper land and housing are never conveniently located next to cities where most people find work
- which means you spend more time and money on transportation
- that equals less time at home to relax, enjoy the family and follow personal pursuits
- UNLESS you can go all the way and reduce your wants and needs to a low enough level that you can survive on a lot less money, either self-employed or working locally within limited options.
When you stack it all up it's not necessarily a "greener" or cheaper choice to move to the boonies. To rent a reasonable place in the city close to work, entertainment and supplies makes really good sense. Often the ideal places to live (from my perspective) are the gentrified, high end units near downtown areas which kind of goes against the lowering costs ideal.
Round and round...I guess what's important for me is to live with a balance I'm comfortable with. We have an odd arrangement now I think compared to most people. Jeremy commutes to Kelowna (45 min) twice a week which is never a really good idea but it frees him to work at home the other three days. It also means we can live further from the price tag of Kelowna, keeping housing costs a lot lower. From our townhouse we can walk to all essential services and supplies, which I love. I'm fascinated by the balancing act we all do to try to reconcile our contradictory needs and wants.
"Escape," she explained, "is built into the new system. Whenever the parental Home Sweet Home becomes too unbearable, the child is allowed, is actively encouraged---and the whole weight of public opinion is behind the encouragement---to migrate to one of the other homes."
"We all belong," Susila explained, "to an MAC---a Mutual Adoption Club. Every MAC consists of anything from fifteen to twenty-five assorted couples. ..Besides our own blood relations, we all have our quota of deputy mothers, deputy fathers, deputy aunts and uncles, deputy brothers and sisters, deputy babies and toddlers and teen-agers."
"Mutual adoption guarantees children against injustice and the worst consequences of parental ineptitide. It doesn’t guarantee them against discipline, or against having to accept responsibilities. On the contrary, it increases the number of their responsibilities; it exposes them to a wide varity ofdisciplines….If a child feels unhappy in his first home, we do our best for him in fifteen or twenty second homes. Meanwhile the father and mother get some tactful therapy from other members of their Mutual Adoption Club. In a few weeks the parents are fit to be with their children again, and the children are fit to be with their parents.
To be raised in a western culture is to want what I want and even demand it as a right (whether it's the house, the car, traveling…). Individualism at its peak. Our culture is designed to make it really hard to have children. No wait, relatively easy and expected to have children but very hard to raise them. Being a parent to young children is not about me, first and foremost, no matter how much I'd like to say so. I have to take care of myself of course and I take advantage of all the personal pursuits that I can BUT I am not number one right now. Two little beings depend on me for their lives, literally at this point, and that can't be denied. Enter stress. Nobody wants to admit that they are not in full control of every decision at every moment. It's not compatible with our training.
To me, being a mom is about compromises - a dirty word by our standards but that's a shame. It's possible to be really happy with the decisions you make out of compromise, but they require a lot more effort and creativity. Compromise is how you arrive at win/win situations, right? Anyone in management knows that in principle at least. Of course it's all easier when there's only one point of view, but barring that, you either dictate an option that screws someone else, or you find something in the middle that's acceptable to both parties (in our case, the parents and kids). Yes you lose part of what you wanted in the first place but that means someone else got part of what they wanted. A shift into the mindset of collective good rather than rugged individualism. Unfortunately this is extremely devalued in our culture - compromise viewed as a cop out or weakness, rather than a valuable way of solving problems.
From the Corporation of the District of Summerland site:
As occurred earlier this summer, Summerlanders continue to employ water conserving practices, but recently there has been significant benefit from rainfall, and the weather takes most of the credit. Total water use in August was 1,375 acre feet compared with 2,092 in 2002 and 2,091 in 2003. In July people made their best showing, using 77% of 2002 consumption, even though the weather was hotter and there was no significant rain.
Jeremy (husband) had to work in Kelowna yesterday so the girls and I went along for the day. I'm not sure why I'm super sensitive to chemicals right now but I've always had more trouble than most people. There were a bunch of things that physically affected me and drove me nuts. Blacktop fumes, diesel fumes, "new car" smell, glue of some kind on the construction worker sitting next to me, an improperly washed apple, and almost everything in the mall. No, I can't justify my presence in the mall. On top of those direct physical reactions I felt nauseated taking a little tour through the burgeoning, cheaply-built-but-making-up-for-it-in-size vanilla subdivisions. I know we all need to live somewhere but to think of how short term that planning is and the amount of crap that goes into (and out of) each of those huge homes is grotesque. Not to mention that everyone is ignoring that there is still only ONE access road for those hundreds of new homes going up every year.
So after all that complaining what am I going to do about it? I am always working on ways to reduce the chemicals we come in contact with in the home but action outside of my little zone is also going to be necessary. Some ideas...get involved in the Green Party for educational purposes if not strictly political, harass friends and family until they get on board (only partly kidding), and make sure that at the very least that my strata doesn't use chemical fertilizers, herbicides orpesticides.
I will stop using those asinine plastic grocery bags. I have the worst time remembering to bring my own cloth bags but can be trained. For a more lighthearted statement on not using plastic bags, check out L.J. Williamson in "It's Not My Bag Baby" . I got a few good snickers out of it.
I always go in circles and have to check that against my social work learning. Only the middle to upper class can afford to have an escape like that - could I focus my energy on making changes that benefit people who are stuck in cities for example? How do I reconcile my wealth with those who don't have it?
Taking it to the next level, this means I am infected with the standard attitude of looking for the next big thing - moving on or up. I am happy with where I live and the lifestyle I have - I know that the next "thing" isn't likely to actually make life better so why do I think about it as much as I do?
If nothing else, the books have inspired me to reuse and fix things myself more often. I'm pretty good at recycling but have a long way to go to reduce my comsumption and waste to a level I'm more comfortable with. I've been on a sewing kick and plan to make some slippers from yarn odds and ends I have lying around. I will check for additional yarn at the thrift store a few blocks down before I run to the nearest mega-craft store for it.
On a final note, I love the idea (not necessarily the reality) of growing and consuming most of my own food. For the record, I don't have a yard capable of yielding great harvests. It's actually been referred to as a courtyard. I do have some space though and grew some herbs successfully this year. There is no reason however, not to take full advantage of the many farms in the area. I could purchase larger quantities of vegetables and fruit in season and learn how to store them. This year I'm going to make some jam and store some extra apples. Not too bold, but it's somewhere to start.
I found a simple chart that identifies the connections between social work and environmental concerns. It sent me off on a google spree to do some more digging on other social workers who are already on that track. They are out there and I hope this blog helps both connect me to them in some way and perhaps provide (or find) a forum for implementing creative ideas.