Today I visited a public organic farm that hauls the veggies to farmers markets with bike carts. Wonderful nomadic world citizens pay visits and are bred there via educational programs. What was odd today was the absence of any citizens interested in the wonderful bounty growing; instead almost every resident of the town had gone to a building served by fossil fuels and obtained food that is transported harmfully and unsustainably. Nevertheless, some local shoppers and gardeners are aware that nomadic people are often inclined to visit and work at small organic farms. Could these travelers and their supporters be more aware than the "working population" of sensible land use and a measure of social justice (i.e., sharing the land)?
A global group called EcoNomads spreads the word of sustainable living, sharing and love. "Intentional communities" are part of this movement, and that explains why nomadic and homeless people are a lot like the formerly wealthy and the spiritual and idealistic crowd: for them, no more private property as conventionally practiced.
Back to the main point: we can possess material wealth, but the "need" to do that is often based on the inexperience people have in their limited consumer culture. We are taught to have rather than to do or be. Some of us find security is not in money but in having supportive people close to us, skilled in working harmoniously with the Earth. As Ivan Illich said, the conviviality of a unique culture's traditions offer the members of a community the chance to keep learning crafts and thus find fulfillment amidst mutual respect.
Recognizing the shortcomings of stressful modern culture, a choice arises that at first seems scary. If the pursuits of learning, enjoying friends, art and community/global activism are what we mainly want to do--along with enjoying other pastimes of a more hedonistic or spiritual nature--then one must strive for such success without material wealth. It is therefore a matter of survival for some of us to deal with the material aspects of living in a minimalist way. It isn't only artists among us who burn inside with the imperative do what we really want to do.
Be financially savvy
As to possessing a major amount of cash or other liquid assets, it could be argued that it's irresponsible to (1) waste money by not using it for something worthwhile and useful today, and (2) allow it to be wasted for you by a crash in the stock market, or by the greater economy as in hyperinflation. Be financially savvy! Get rid of it before it gets rid of you?
It feels so nice to have a big wad of cash available, but what did you have to do to get that wad of cash? Suppose your life was going to be over with on Day X, and you didn't know X was almost upon you, and you wasted your life. One typical way of wasting it is in institutional learning (corporate training?), called "education," which can take 20 years out of our first 25 years of life. This is imprisonment dressed up as slaving away for a chance at future success (i.e., attaining basic needs that are human rights). Think of all those years when children are deprived of their parents and vice versa!
A more obvious way we waste our lives in the "land of the free" is by commuting 80% of our days to a questionable destination--say on a frequently gridlocked freeway to a job at a polluter organization. Shee-it, such people are to be pitied; I mean that sincerely. Some point a finger at such people by saying they are just as much the problem as the big polluting/money boys in costly suits. True, you can hand any of them, "rich" or "poor," a great book or take them to a fine conference on sustainable living, but rather than change they'd almost all rather wait 'til the oil runs out someday (runs out for their children or grandchildren, they erroneously imagine).
Alternative to my Mercedes
I was biking home once last year and I passed a walker in bare feet on the wide foot/bike path near our own Redwood Coast freeway. And I had to apologize for my clatter in the bike box (from some dairy in Seattle): a tin cup, and an empty bottle (ready for a refill of something from the co-op). As I pulled away and down the block I let two motor vehicles pass coming the other way. I spit audibly and I thought, that's a gross sound for someone to hear. But at the same time the huge noise of tons of pollution was hurtling by the poor pedestrian, clattering over rusting railroad tracks. I realized that she would have been only too happy to trade the noise I made to the terror(?) she endured. I have brought up the touchy subject of cars for this reason: the two car drivers are considered successful; the biker and walker not.
I must admit that it's nice to have plenty of money for the co-op check-out line. But almost everyone I know finds it is so much sweeter to trade, barter, give, and receive. I've taken my own fresh-cut organic greens from the garden down to the farmers market and gave away those for fresh food and a rose bush. I got more than my money's worth, from strangers, because they wanted to engage in something real with me. It's more satisfying to do that than to load up a vehicle with the fanciest stuffs that the corporate co-op ships in from thousands of miles away.
I have countless times exited my box of a house where I'd felt cooped up, walked outside for some nature and community, and come up empty. Oh joy, we can walk on pavement somewhere to buy something to consume! Sit in a hemmed-in park. The dreariness of the modern world, all about money and material comforts, is an outrage that grates on dreamers, artists and activists. There is another way, but where and when is it? Being a houseless nomad is not so easy when spaces are denied and stolen by the greedy, the clever and the fearful. When nomads get sick or old, do we just wish them luck?
The property owners find themselves in a materialistic illusion of desire that is somewhat fulfilled by pursuing something that has very little future. In contrast, there are even those who look forward to the end of all the false affluence. Some want that out of a sense of justice, but most want it for Mamma Earth. Some are ready to maximize the kind of slower, smaller economics that can be sustainable. People have a lot of money and energy-fuels for now. Who's to say when it's best to be a minimum consumer: "prematurely," or when the the economy collapses followed by the infrastructure's and the whole society's collapse? For now, give me conviviality, efficiency, diversity, and good local products--toward living in harmony with nature as the whole planet's population did until a moment ago in our evolution.
- Community Supported Agriculture,
pedal power delivered to farmers market: Arcata
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