Archive for the Minimalism Category

BE WEIRD!

The other day I was sitting at home talking with a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in a while.  A tweet came up on my phone which showed a Tiny House and sparked a conversation. She looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to live in a Tiny House, which I normally get that reaction, but what was interesting was what followed.  She said “that’s so weird, why can’t you be normal?”

I had a little chuckle and said this:

Well what IS normal?  Normal is to get married, have a few kids, drive a nice car, have a successful career, live comfortably and live in a nice houses don’t you agree?

She agreed and I went on.

Well let’s take a bit closer look at this; What are the implications of being normal?

  1. Getting married is great but it ends in divorce 60% of the time (average cost of $15,000).
  2. Having kids means your life isn’t about you anymore and kids are expensive, Half a Million expensive!
  3. The average cost of a car is around $30,000
  4. The average cost of a house today is around $260,000, but you will pay $800,000 through the loan
  5. For living comfortably 1 in 20 Americans have $8,000+ in credit card debt
  6. A successful career means you spend most of your time not with loved ones or doing what you love

So if I am NORMAL it means that in the end I will be done with my divorce, “own” a house and a car that I really don’t own, but will pay 4 times the original price tag for at the end of the loan.  Then to top it off I will have two kids, who I love very much, but will only get to see them for two hours, which debt collectors will be calling during, until I get them to bed and collapse myself.  All in all, I don’t get to spend time with those who I love.  I own nothing and I owe an average of 1.85 million dollars over my lifetime.

If Normal is being away from people I love and forever in debt, then I sure as hell don’t wanna be normal do you?

She looked at me as if she had suddenly seen color for the first time in her life, as if she had be seeing in black and white up to this point.

So people, the rub?  BE WEIRD!

The Joneses Are Wrong!

Part of the American Dream is often driven by the “keep up with the Joneses” mentality.   But who says that the Joneses are right to begin with?  Most here know this already, but even though I am acutely aware of such, I still catching myself slipping and wanting this, that or the other THING.  The deep rooted propensity is instilled in us by what sociologist call “socialization”.

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This is defined as:

The process by which culture is learned. During socialization individuals internalize a culture’s social controls, along with values and norms about right and wrong.

We are socialized from day one, but this comes to no surprise when I realize I cut my hair and nails short, while my sister has long hair and has long manicured finger nails.  The examples are endless and its hold on us is so deeply rooted it is hard to resist.

 

The only way to even begin to live a purposeful, simple life is to give up any notion that you are in competition with any other single person. Life is not a game, it’s not a test, it’s not a winner takes all experience. It’s just life – and what happens during your time here is up to you. If you spend your time comparing your belongings, lifestyle, job, family, etc. to anyone else, well…you are being set up for a very complicated existence. How can you learn to experience your life if you are so busy trying to either get outside approval or be like everyone else?

Simple living involves being secure with your choices and your direction in life, without fearing the judgment and influence of others. It’s tough to do, and believe me I struggle with it as well. But I am doing my best to keep what the “other” people are doing in check and instead focusing on my own life and surroundings. A few things I try to keep in mind that might be of help to those of you looking to live your own simple life with your own purpose, instead of that lead by an outsider, include:

1. You can only be in competition with yourself; no one else.
2. People think way less about you than you think they do. (I fight this one often)
3. “Stuff” cannot replace real emotions, feelings or experiences.
4. You only belittle your own self by trying to keep up with someone else.
5. You probably have more than that person you are comparing yourself to.
6. No one is perfect. No one. Even if you think someone is, they aren’t. Trust me.
7. Focus on what you have and not what you don’t have.
8. The world would be a pretty boring place if everyone was the same.
9. Everyone has a path. Follow the one that is yours and ignore those of others.
10. If you cannot stop the comparisons, stay away from big triggers like TV and celebrity magazines. Over time, you won’t even remember who is popular or cool!

By trying to keep some of these 10 things in mind while focusing on the good in your life, you can start living your own real life in your own real way. But by continuing to compare yourself to anyone else, you are limiting what kind of life you can lead – nevermind the fact that you may miss your life altogether. And that is NOT living simply!

A Present For You

I often talk of the downfall of society, consumerism, political injustice, McMansions and suburban sprawl.  But today I was taking a walk and thinking about things in life and what is really important to me.  I was reminded of a saying that a middle school teacher used to preach to us, but I never really hit home till much later

Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.I then stumbled across this video and really liked the message so enjoy.

Spending Around The World

So I found the article below this post and wrote up the post, then as I ventured out to find tomorrow’s post, I discovered everyone and their brother also had posted it!  Being that I hate to post what the other guys post, don’t get me wrong the other Tiny House bloggers rock,  I felt that I should always have original stuff.   So today you get two posts!map

I have this obsession with infographics.  What are infographics, for those of you who might not know, its pretty simple.  It is a graphic that presents information in an interesting and visually stimulating way.  I love it.  While me being a nerd and I love a good data matrix, sometimes the columns bleed together till you want to tear out your eyes.

This infographic is about how people around the world spend on common goods.  It is really interesting to see how much and of what proportion of money we spend on things like clothing, entertainment, alcohol and electronics.  It also serves as a humble reminder that there is much we could do without like people in other countries do.

 

Oil & Food, A Scary Picture

  • Oil is used to deliver the seeds to farmers
  • Oil is used to pump water to the cropspeakoil
  • Oil is used in production of fertilizers
  • Oil runs the tractors that harvest food
  • Oil is in the plastics that we package the food
  • Oil is in the tanks of the trucks that ship food an average of 5000 miles
  • Oil is used to drive your car when you bring the food home
  • Oil powers electricity at every step of this chain
  • Oil helps you cook the food when you bring it….
  • What would happen when Oil is $400 a barrel?

Peak oil is here and now, Get ready for the ride of your lifetime

Info on Peak Oil

Reprinted Treehugger Lester Brown July 2009

Today we are an oil-based civilization, one that is totally dependent on a resource whose production will soon be falling. Since 1981, the quantity of oil extracted has exceeded new discoveries by an ever-widening margin. In 2008, the world pumped 31 billion barrels of oil but discovered fewer than 9 billion barrels of new oil. World reserves of conventional oil are in a free fall, dropping every year.

Discoveries of conventional oil total roughly 2 trillion barrels, of which 1 trillion have been extracted so far, with another trillion barrels to go. By themselves, however, these numbers miss a central point. As security analyst Michael Klare notes, the first trillion barrels was easy oil, “oil that’s found on shore or near to shore; oil close to the surface and concentrated in large reservoirs; oil produced in friendly, safe, and welcoming places.” The other half, Klare notes, is tough oil, “oil that’s buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places.”

The oil-food-security link.
At Earth Policy Institute we note that the prospect of peaking oil production has direct consequences for world food security, as modern agriculture depends heavily on the use of fossil fuels. Most tractors use gasoline or diesel fuel. Irrigation pumps use diesel fuel, natural gas, or coal-fired electricity. Fertilizer production is also energy-intensive. Natural gas is used to synthesize the basic ammonia building block in nitrogen fertilizers. The mining, manufacture, and international transport of phosphates and potash all depend on oil.

Efficiency gains can help reduce agriculture’s dependence on oil. In the United States, the combined direct use of gasoline and diesel fuel in farming fell from its historical high of 7.7 billion gallons (29.1 billion liters) in 1973 to 4.2 billion in 2005–a decline of 45 percent. Broadly calculated, the gallons of fuel used per ton of grain produced dropped from 33 in 1973 to 12 in 2005, an impressive decrease of 64 percent.
One reason for this achievement was a shift to minimum- and no-till cultural practices on roughly two fifths of U.S. cropland. But while U.S. agricultural fuel use has been declining, in many developing countries it is rising as the shift from draft animals to tractors continues. A generation ago, for example, cropland in China was tilled largely by draft animals. Today much of the plowing is done with tractors.

Fertilizer consumes oil
Fertilizer accounts for 20 percent of U.S. farm energy use. Worldwide, the figure may be slightly higher. As the world urbanizes, the demand for fertilizer climbs. As people migrate from rural areas to cities, it becomes more difficult to recycle the nutrients in human waste back into the soil, requiring the use of more fertilizer. Beyond this, the growing international food trade can separate producer and consumer by thousands of miles, further disrupting the nutrient cycle. The United States, for example, exports some 80 million tons of grain per year—grain that contains large quantities of basic plant nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The ongoing export of these nutrients would slowly drain the inherent fertility from U.S. cropland if the nutrients were not replaced.

Irrigation consumes oil
Irrigation, another major energy claimant, is requiring more energy worldwide as water tables fall. In the United States, close to 19 percent of farm energy use is for pumping water. And in some states in India where water tables are falling, over half of all electricity is used to pump water from wells. Some trends, such as the shift to no-tillage, are making agriculture less oil-intensive, but rising fertilizer use, the spread of farm mechanization, and falling water tables are having the opposite effect.
Although attention commonly focuses on energy use on the farm, agriculture accounts for only one fifth of the energy used in the U.S. food system. Transport, processing, packaging, marketing, and kitchen preparation of food are responsible for the rest. The U.S. food economy uses as much energy as the entire economy of the United Kingdom.

Distribution consumes oil
The 14 percent of energy used in the food system to move goods from farmer to consumer is equal to two thirds of the energy used to produce the food. And an estimated 16 percent of food system energy use is devoted to canning, freezing, and drying food—everything from frozen orange juice concentrate to canned peas.
Food staples such as wheat have traditionally moved over long distances by ship, traveling from the United States to Europe, for example. What is new is the shipment of fresh fruits and vegetables over vast distances by air. Few economic activities are more energy-intensive.

Food miles—the distance that food travels from producer to consumer—have risen with cheap oil. At my local supermarket in downtown Washington, D.C., the fresh grapes in winter typically come by plane from Chile, traveling almost 5,000 miles. One of the most routine long-distance movements of fresh produce is from California to the heavily populated U.S. East Coast. Most of this produce moves by refrigerated trucks. In assessing the future of long-distance produce transport, one writer observed that the days of the 3,000-mile Caesar salad may be numbered.

Packaging consumes oil
Packaging is also surprisingly energy-intensive, accounting for 7 percent of food system energy use. It is not uncommon for the energy invested in packaging to exceed that in the food it contains. Packaging and marketing also can account for much of the cost of processed foods. The U.S. farmer gets about 20 percent of the consumer food dollar, and for some products, the figure is much lower. As one analyst has observed, “An empty cereal box delivered to the grocery store would cost about the same as a full one.”

Electricity dominates with consumption
The most energy-intensive segment of the food chain is the kitchen. Much more energy is used to refrigerate and prepare food in the home than is used to produce it in the first place. The big energy user in the food system is the kitchen refrigerator, not the farm tractor. While oil dominates the production end of the food system, electricity dominates the consumption end.

In short, with higher energy prices and a limited supply of fossil fuels, the modern food system that evolved when oil was cheap will not survive as it is now structured.
To continue reading about localized agriculture and urban gardening, see Farming in the City from Chapter 10 in Earth Policy Institute’s book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, available for free downloading.