Building community/sustainability

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Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:56 am

This is a recurring theme for me, and I'm finding that due to my recent crisis, I'm writing more than I ever have before to try and extract what all's been rolling around in my brain. This is the biggest part of my personal mission. I tend to write in a quasi-"stream of consciousness" fashion, so please forgive my ramblings. And it does tend to fall into the realm of politics, so if this needs to go elsewhere, please let me know. Would love to get some feedback/comments if you'd care to share. I'll post more as they come, if it's something you all seem to enjoy reading.

I always marvel at social documentaries. People complaining about lack of jobs, no jobs, no choice but to work in shitty jobs, big box stores and fast food, etc. While I realize that it's easy to armchair quarterback other's people's misfortune, sometimes I can't help but marvel at why on earth are they not investigating their surroundings like I do? Some of these areas are drastically financially poor, but they're not seeing the amount of underbrush and natural timber that literally grows up around them. Vast amounts of trees, shrubs and overgrowth surround their plots of land, (if they're so fortunate to have a plot or access). I can't pretend to understand every other person's lot in life and the circumstances that brought them there, but sometimes it just makes me shrug my shoulders. Not everyone can handle being outside or working with sharp tools and saws, but some people might.

Downed trees-- this has been my fascination, as of late. These are trees that have fallen naturally and are chosen by nature to eventually become food for the soil. Some get damaged by storms and other disasters. I'm not talking about irresponsible logging, but being better stewards of what's already there available and not being used for anything but firewood or fertilizer. Sometimes this foliage needs cleared out to provide a safer passage to other areas, or to clear away heavy branches from power lines. People usually see them as a nuisance and fodder for the local landfill, I see them as a gold mine. I look around every day as I drive to various destinations, and I always marvel at the amount of potential that lays rotting in piles on people's properties. Large logs that can be converted into flat lumber supply, bowl/plate blanks, chair spindles, kitchen utensils, fancy pens, handles, duck calls, bottle stoppers, vases, etc. Tree burls, or irregularities in a naturally fallen tree are absolutely prized as veneer. Yes, it would take some initial investment in tools, labor and skills training to get something going, but alot of these things may already be sitting in other people's storage sheds, garages or basements just gathering dust. No one thinks to do it. The ideas are endless. But that's only accounting for large timber.

Sticks and small branches that are able to be shredded can be helped along their natural state of decomposition by running them through a chipper and converted into mulch. Leaves and brush need to be included in that mix to provide a nice balance of brown to green to provide the best possible ground cover for gardening purposes, and to encourage mycellium growth that plant roots can digest. Gardening and food preservation can be so very rewarding and quite the money saver, once you establish a good set of beds and learn the basics. And it's a skill in which most everyone can participate.

Yet we squander so so much of this natural resource, because these things aren't known or are really cared about by the average modern American. We've shunned the old ways of survival and embraced a means of consumeristic, seemingly inescapable economic slavery. It's a type of learned helplessness. Sometimes, people spend thousands of dollars and hours preening over front lawns and back yards, not understanding that with a few supplies and some elbow grease, they could be growing their own food. But it's too much of a bother, and mars up the property value. And who wants to go to that trouble, when you can easily get in your car and run to a local supermarket where it's readily available? Who wants to collect rainwater, or recycle grey water for gardening, when all you have to do is turn on your faucet and let it run into the
drain, never to be seen again? In some places, it even illegal to collect rainwater, which absolutely boggles my mind.

Modern day America is so tuned into the modern disposable consumer lifestyle, that we're blinded to the possibilities of living a self-sustainable life that's in harmony with our community and nature. Our happiness is derived from stuff, not from relationships. Community is of little consequence. Status=value, and is most highly prized. Sports and competition are king. Getting what's mine, and what's OWED to me is what rules. To hell with neighbors or anyone that lives around me. We stress over affluency, but deep down inside we all are stuck in a perpetual state of surviving, and have no concept of what happiness actually feels like. We work day in and day out, working ourselves into illness or injury in a perpetually toxic environment with people we pretend to like, but secretly despise. We lose the ability to communicate and connect with the people we love, and live with painted on smiles and scratch and claw each other at Black Friday sales because that's what seems to be most important to us. More stuff for less money. Save money. Live Better. Walmart.

It's what we've been taught to do socially, for decades now. And I don't think it's an accident or oversight. I think it's all part of the capitalist plan, to further enforce our dependence on consumer products for survival. People can't fathom what a world would be like where we had to put down our cellphones and actually TALK to each other (god forbid). No one has time for community functions, for getting to know our neighbors, for getting involved in activities that matter to the community at large. Yet we seem to magically find time to preen over our lawns, wash and wax our cars, and spruce up the house exterior to ensure it's curb appeal, because that's what's required from our friendly neighborhood HOA. Status is tantamount in our culture, regardless of the real truth... which is, it's only a hollow facade.

It's certainly not a suitable epitaph for my grave stone, I don't think. Here lies the body of reginamirus. Her house had curb appeal and she paid her HOA dues in full every year. Yeah. Not so appealing.

People from all walks of life are hurting and hurt each other more than they know by isolating themselves and severing all connections with the outside world out of fear, ignorance and faulty belief systems. We can do better. We MUST do better. Our children and future generations DESERVE better.

What will it take to regain our sense of community? Or is it actually worth saving at this point? Do we really have to fall into economic ruin before we can appreciate what's already right under our noses?
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:04 pm

Do you have any ideas about how to make any of this happen?

I think there are three main forces that drive our rampant consumerism. First of all there are some people who are making a lot of money off of it, and are not willing to give up their cash cow. Advertisers tell us that if we buy their product we will be wonderful worthwhile people who matter and are sexy, and so many of us buy into this. And finally habit. We are in the habit of throwing things away instead of reusing them.

On the more positive side, there are lot of people who think as you do.

I'm curious about what happens to your garbage. In California, we have three cans - one for garbage, one for recyclables (aluminum, paper, certain plastics) and a third can for green waste (yard clippings.) The green waste is turned into mulch or compost. The hard one for me is kitchen waste. Vegetables, and soiled paper products are supposed to go into the green waste container, but that's the one I sip up on the most. People can and do make things out of logs, and branches, but that's not something that people do on a regular basis. Most people however are good about their recycling and their yard waste.

In California, the driving force behind the recycling and composting is that the cities were running out of space in our landfills. Also some people do care. People in rural areas recycle even though they have plenty of room for more landfills.

You kind of struck a chord with me.

Is that common in other states, or is it just us?
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:20 pm

Yay! I love striking chords! Makes me throw up my hands and yell "woohoo!". lol

But to answer your question, yes. Do I possibly have some ideas about shifting the paradigm away from rampant consumerism? A few. Will they be heeded or observed by the masses? Probably not. But I'm sure there'll be some who will listen. There will be some who don't want to think about it. And there will be others who think it's all a tinfoil hat impossibility, and loads of horsepuckey and fearmongering. It's no coincidence that zombie programs and post-apocalypse themes have become more and more frequent within the last decade or so (a dear friend of mine who's in her mid 70's loves The Walking Dead--she calls it a "morality play", and she's not wrong about that). People instinctively know that we simply cannot continue in this consumerist culture and not suffer any repercussions for it in the very near future. They may deny it, or think they're immune to it's effects, but sooner or later, that giant bubble is going to burst. It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

Then what's left? What happens when all that stuff no longer has meaning? For alot of people where I live (just north of greater Appalachia Ohio), that bubble burst a very long time ago. They are suffering and have been for many years. Some have developed their own close-knit families who look out for each other as best they can, others have pulled away and are self-medicating with all manner of street drugs to just numb the pain. Many have died, others teeter on the edge for a long time. And it's much the same, nationwide.

For me, what's missing is that essence I can only describe as "joyeux de vive", or joy of life. Where do we find such a thing? Advertisers seem adept at distilling that a faux version of that essence and weaving it into a lethal concoction that makes us think we're "happy", but leaves us only wanting more. They're paid the big bucks to do that. They keep us split into categories, "the haves vs. the have nots", and play upon dividing the masses. Because in a sick bastardly way, it fuels sales. And there's simply no money in people who own any kind of collective power and ability to organize, to support each other, to listen to each other and mend fences, and generate their own happiness, virtually free of charge.

I know my interests and my non-stop brain are weaving this tapestry, I just haven't found the selvage edge quite yet. :wink: When I'm finally able to weave this all together, I'm sure it will be absolutely fantastic. All my life experiences have honed me into the person that I am today. I will figure this out. I know it revolves around the power of the community, neighbors and friends who finally drop the commercial pretense and bullcrap that's been spoon fed to them on a daily basis and learn to finally accept and listen to each other. Now whether that involves success teams, or community gatherings, intervention groups, skills classes, who knows. But the pieces are there, I can just feel it.

My head is swirling at the possibilities. I just need to find the edge of that fabric and start cutting the cloth to fit that coat. And I need a support system that shares my vision.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:32 pm

Oh, and to answer your second question...garbage. We have two bins here in OH. One for trash, the other for recyclables. We don't have a separate area for compost. I do, however, have a worm bin that generates lots and lots of vermicompost that I use for my mix for spring seedlings. I also love to not only recycle, but to actually repurpose things. Alot of thin cardboard I use for more permanent patterns for stained glass. Sometimes I'll shop the thrift stores for sweaters that have unusual or distinct colors. I'll take the effort to unravel them, ball them up and make hats and scarves. I also make balls of "plarn", which are plastic shopping bags cut into loops and made into big balls of plastic yarn (plarn). I can crochet mats, purses and resusable shopping bags with this material, and it's saved from going into the store recycle bin (where I don't know what they really do with it). I also use cardboard and newspaper to expand garden space in the fall, or overwinter my raised beds. Lay several layers right over grass or a patch of weeds, add mulch on top, and it creates a nice "soup" that decomposes and feeds the soil as it overwinters.

It thrills me to make useful things of practically nothing. It's a skill that my depression-era grandparents taught me as a kid. :wink:
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby Elaine Glimme » Mon Nov 28, 2016 10:38 am

Do you have friends who think the way you do?

You're not alone. There are people who try to live a simpler life. Live simply that others may simply live.

And as for making useful things from discarded items - our ancestors would would have fits if they saw what we throw away.

This is your dream, please go for it. I don't want to steal any of your thunder. But saying that, I know a lot about waste minimization.
Last edited by Elaine Glimme on Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:44 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:04 pm

Sadly, no. Being a single, middle-aged woman, I'm pretty much invisible now to the world at large. So I tend to hermit IRL, and spend much of my time reading and looking for the answers to the universe on the world wide web. I have anxiety issues that mostly keep me away from strangers as I'm a poor judge of character and tend to only see the good in most people (until it's too late). It's one of the reasons though, that I found Barbara in the first place. I happened to catch her TEDx talk about isolation being the dream killer, and wanted to learn more. I think alot of that though stems from my depression/anxiety issues, and really isn't a testament to who I really am as a person.

As far as people who actually think like I do, I know there are growing groups of grassroots activists out there that are striving for community building, bio-diversity and being good stewards to each other and to nature, but not so much in the state and area where I live. I need to break out of my shell soon and figure out how to set up my nightly (solar-powered) bat-signal so I can draw them to my direction. :)

Had a good, cathartic discussion with my therapist today, and she's going to get me involved in group therapy that meets on thursdays. I'm secretly hoping that this will open doors for me, like a success team. At least I might be able to find like-minded people IRL and incite some fantastic ideas.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby Elaine Glimme » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:21 pm

I guess we're on the boards at the same time. There are good people in the world, and yes, there are scum. So you do have to keep your radar up a little bit. But there are people who think like you.Maybe you could surf the net and look for environmental groups in Ohio. Isolation is a dream killer. It's amazing how much stronger you feel when someone hugs you and says, "Yes, your right."

p.s. Somewhere in Ohio there is a single, middle-aged woman (or seventy-year-old man, or fifteen-year-old boy) who feel as if he/she's the only one who cares about taking good care of our earth, and would love to talk with you.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby Elaine Glimme » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:44 pm

This is your dream, and I don't want to steal your thunder, but I do know a lot about sustainability.


In a lot of the country, California is considered the state of crazy eco-freaks. Some Californians are quite conservative, and materialistic - we have Hollywood and Pasadena, for Heaven's sake! But an awful lot of us care about the earth and want to take good care of it. In some of our churches, we talk about being stewards of the earth, not masters of it. And yes, the world may end in the next month, but I don't think God wants me to help it along by trashing it. If I were God and had created this beautiful earth, I wouldn't want humans to destroy it.

I worked for government for 20 years, and I saw a lot of good things happening in waste minimization. We made mistakes along the way, which is in part where California gets the hippy dippy reputation. When you're the first one to try something, problems happen. But we did a lot of good things. The best things happened when environmentalists partnered with corporations and universities and came up with programs that were good for the earth and saved money as well. If the change is easy to make, and is good for the earth, and also saves money, most of the people will make the change, and that's what you want.

And yes, people matter more than stuff. So please keep on rambling. Out of the ramblings, you may find some steps you can take to make your dream happen. We need you.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:14 am

No thunder stolen at all, dear. I'm always glad for the feedback and the conversation. :)

Taking responsibility for minimizing one's contribution to the carbon footprint is one thing (and a wonderful improvement). And I'm grateful that government is doing their part in setting that in motion with recycling programs and incentives. What I'm talking about though, is stepping out of the rat race entirely and rebuilding the very fabric of local communities. Sadly, I don't think anything short of a zombie apocalypse or some other disaster of global proportions is going to change people's perceptions. Too many are still all about getting what's in it for me, and to hell with the rest of all of you. Even if they're doing the trendy thing and getting the recycled non-colored paper cups from starbucks instead of the red ones, or dutifully sorting recyclables, in the end, they're still doing it isolation, and they are still avoiding contact with icky people. They're not collecting bags for neighborhood plarn parties, or sitting with a planning committee who's making decisions on the best, most effective layout and bylaws for a community garden. Current initiatives rarely involve any human or face-to-face contact, and corporations are STILL making ungodly amounts of money playing the recycling shuffle game.

Tiny house communities that are popping up nationwide are getting in the ballpark. Dignity Village in Portland is even closer. These people are truly walking the talk. Have you ever seen or heard of their story? I'd love to reproduce something like that model in distressed areas nationwide. Or at least here in NE Ohio. Here's a clip about Dignity Village if you've never heard of it before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXGXQm2v6Ps
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby SquarePeg » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:35 am

I'm very much aware of the value of the timber in my lot. I look at it with the eye of a furniture maker and an artist. But all I've ever done is harvest some fallen twigs and branches to fashion helpful things from, such as buttons, dowel pins, shims, a picture frame, a "magic" wand. I have foraged in this lot, too: mushrooms and dandelions mostly.

I have said often that easy credit is the pathway to modern day slavery.

I wasn't always this way. I bought into consumerism while growing up. But then I decided to stop watching television because I got the idea that it was brainwashing me, coercing me into wanting things I didn't really want. Not just material things, but "hot babes" depicted in both commercials and programming. And there is a glimmer of hope. Young kids of today don't sit around watching TV the way I did 30 or 40 years ago. They mostly skip commercials by watching things on YouTube, for example. My daughter, for example, has no interest at all in television. So I hope the upcoming generation will help us return to the old ways.

Anyway, you and I definitely are on the same wavelength.
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby reginamirus » Wed Nov 30, 2016 8:17 pm

Awesome, Squarepeg!

And I absolutely agree with you about the incessant subliminal mantas strategically placed into commercials. I hate that kind of covert manipulation. And I'm also thrilled with this generation of millenials. They're very much unjustly misaligned by political pundits, and are placed in such financial bondage just trying to get a college education. It's good to see that they're not so easily influenced by mainstream, and are very aware of the dangers of consumerism and social excess. I hold out great hope for them, as well.

And being good stewards of nature to me would be working with timber that's already down, or pruned instead of taking out trees for aesthetic purposes. It's replacing with new saplings elsewhere for trees that have to be removed for practical purposes (something my grandfather taught me long ago). It also to me would make loads more sense leaving trees alone for wasteful paper production and using hemp fiber that can be grown in a matter of months, not decades. But that's a different discussion for another day. :wink:
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Re: Building community/sustainability

Postby Elaine Glimme » Fri Dec 02, 2016 8:47 pm

I think I did sidetrack your thunder a little. I'm sorry. There are many ways for people to be good stewards of the earth. I was writing about what I know. And I wanted to say, that you're not the only person who cares.

But this is your thread.

I watched the video. Amazing!

So reading your posts more carefully, it sounds like what you're looking for is that sense of community where everyone cares about everyone else. And their focus is not on how much stuff they can acquire, but on being kind and mindful of the fact that the earth is not an unlimited WalMart. Is that a little closer? And feel free to keep on brainstorming. I'm really enjoying your posts.
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