More recent posts / ramblings / whatever can be found at http://thetortoiseproject.wordpress.com.
Nelson, B.C. December 1, 2010
Why I prefer living in a tent rather than owning a house:
1) House-cleaning involves turning the tent inside-out and shaking.
2) Don't have to take out a mortgage to own one.
3) Most maintenance and repairs can be accomplished with duct tape and/or a needle and thread.
4) Much much cheaper to maintain or repair than a house.
5) No yard work.
6) Not likely to accummulate clutter and too much stuff.
7) Ultra-portable - if I get tired of one location, I can move somewhere else.
8) Can take advantage of incredibly scenic views without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege.
9) Where-ever I end my day's journey, I always have a roof over my head.
10) Very little separating me from my environment. This can sometimes be a not so good thing... :-}
Blewett, B.C. March 5, 2008
I just finished reading Luanne Armstrong's latest book (available through www.maapress.ca) and just love this paragraph:
...I look at mountains that are torn and seamed with roads, scabbed with slowly healing clearcuts, and I know the wild is still there, still underneath waiting, just as it waits in cities and under pavement and highways and high-rises, behind dams, powerlines, oil and gas pipelines, behind and between and under metal and glass and concrete.
Most of the people who will look at this site are no doubt living lives of extreme privilege (by global standards) in one of the western industrialized countries. You most likely take for granted a lot of things that are not a given for many people in this world: the ability to turn on a water faucet and have clean water come out of it; access to education; access to health care and medicine; access to a home and a reasonable certainty that your house will not be bombed out when you return to it after a day at work; access to an obscene variety of stuff; leisure time in which to go for a bike ride or a hike or to travel half-way around the world...
Nelson, B.C. February 8, 2008
Personally I think there is something seriously wrong with a world community in which such imbalance exists in people's living conditions and where the spoils of our privilege often impact the living conditions of others as well as cause significant damage to the natural world.
What we do as individuals, how we choose to live, does have a profound impact on the other inhabitants (human and otherwise) of this world. And even if you don't believe that what you do will change anything for the better (and some days I do and some days I don't), at least you can sleep at night knowing you aren't adding significantly to the mess.
So, what can you do?
Well, since this site is about hiking and biking, let's start with an obvious: your car(s). Get rid of it! The infernal combustion engine is a blight upon this earth.
Here's what getting rid of your car will help do:
- reduce greenhouse gases and slow down climate change;
- undermine some of the most powerful corporations in this world;
- reduce the dependence on oil (which is in finite supply);
- reduce the need for further exploration and development of oil rich areas, and the resulting environmental damage;
- and hopefully, at least partially, undermine the US foreign policy of acquiring "oil security" by invading and occupying oil-rich nations.
Okay, one person getting rid of one car isn't going to do all that. But one million people doing the same thing would be a good step in the right direction. A billion, and we're well on the way. But we'll never reach those kind of numbers unless you do your bit.
Yes, I know, getting rid of your car isn't necessarily easy. I did get rid of mine about 8 years ago (after owning vehicles for about a decade) and I've definitely had to make adjustments in my life-style, especially because I live rurally where there is very little usable public transport and distances are large (and geared towards everyone owning a car). My bike is a great way to get around, but is limited by snowy winters and by dark, both of which make riding rural roads less than safe (because of the cars!). The convenience and freedom of movement that comes with owning a car is something that we in the industrialized west take for granted as a right; however, it isn't a right; it's a privilege that comes at great cost to the environment and to the world community.
Sure, not everyone is physically able to ride a bike or to walk. That's why, along with getting rid of your car (if you possibly can), it's important to lobby all levels of government for better (way better) public transportation systems, as well as good bike paths and pedestrian routes. In the meantime, if your can't ride or walk everywhere, car-pool whenever possible, or better yet, join or start a car co-op. In Nelson, BC, check out www.nelsoncar.com for ridesharing and car co-op options.
Another thing to do is to look at where your food and other stuff comes from. If it's coming from half-way around the world, think about how much oil went into transporting it to you, then ask yourself why do I need this particular food or thing that has to come from so far away. Can I do without it? Or will something more locally made or grown do as well? Sometimes stuff that comes from further away is cheaper. Why is that? Probably because working conditions are considerably worse and labour is underpaid. Do you want to support that? It's important to look at all the costs that go into anything you buy, the environmental costs, the costs to worker's health, not just what you pay at the till.
Do I always practice what I preach? No. I buy bananas, which cannot be grown in British Columbia. I could live without them, but I like them. Ditto for chocolate. At least I try to buy fair trade and organic whenever possible, but I am far from an angel on this count.
Then there's the gear I use for my outdoor pursuits. Aside from the problem that much of it being made out of petroleum products (like nylon or polyester), very little of it is made locally. I just bought a new handlebar bag from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) - it's made in Vietnam and I had it shipped here from Vancouver (all the locally available bags where poorly constructed and also came from Vietnam or China or where-ever). My old bag definitely needed replacing and I was left with three choices: no bag, make my own, buy one made in Vietnam (where MEC asures me it was made in a factory with fair work practices - well, maybe). I suppose I could live without one, but I find a handlebar bag extremely useful for touring, I'm lousy at sewing and also wanted a quick release mechanism for the bag (something that would have been difficult to build on my own), and I know of no-one in Canada or in my bio-region making this kind of bike gear since the Serratus factory in Vancouver was closed down.
My bike panniers and my backpack are made by Serratus - a subsidiary of MEC. I was very upset when, a few years ago, MEC (of which I am a longtime member), made the business decision to close down the Serratus factory in Vancouver and job out the making of the Serratus-style packs and panniers to a Vietnamese factory because they could get them made there for less. Think about how much less that has to be when you factor in the cost of transportation. The price to MEC members of these products in now just over two-thirds of what it was when they where made here in British Columbia. Personally I didn't mind paying the extra third for locally made gear, and still found it considerably cheaper than a lot of gear coming from US or European outdoor gear corporations (much of it manufactured in asia as well). Unfortunately, I didn't get it together to let MEC know that I objected to their decision.
I guess, at the time, I felt it was kind of pointless; they'd already shut down the factory in Vancouver before informing the MEC membership. But I think that kind of attitude is a mistake, and it brings me to my next point - which is valid whether as a member of an outdoor gear co-op or as a constituent of a nation: Stop handing over your power.
I watched a movie the other night, Sonnenschein (Sunshine), an epic story of a Hungarian-Jewish family's fortunes throughout the last century. There is a scene where the narrator is reunited with his grandmother and his great-uncle (the only remaining survivors of the family) shortly after the 2nd world war. The narrator relates the beating death of his father in front of the entire population of the concentration camp where they were both prisoners. The great-uncle asks how many of them were there? The narrator answers, three. How many of you were there? Two thousand. Why didn't you stop it? They had guns.
Three uniformed men with guns kept a population of two thousand frozen with fear. If they had rushed those three men with guns, a few of those two thousand would have been injured. A couple might have even been killed. But 2000 against 3 is no contest. Instead they stood by time and again, as they were killed one by one.
Or to put it another way, "in any state, whether a democratic state or a totalitarian state, the rulers rely on consent. They have to make sure that the people they are ruling do not understand that they actually have the power. That is the fundamental principle of government." (Noam Chomsky, in Imperial Ambitions, reiterating the first principle of government stated by the philosopher David Hume in the mid-18th century.)
So, stop convincing yourself that you are powerless. Speak out and do things that send a clear message of non-support to those who govern you when they enact policies that have a detrimental affect on us all. Especially if you live in a country like Canada or the USA, where the risk to your personal safety is far less than the odds of dying in a traffic accident (well, at least until we get rid of all the cars!).