Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ecovillage Intro

I’m going to start posting ecovillage information on this blog. This is off the top of my head, in no particular order. But it will accumulate after awhile, and then I’ll take some time and collate the info into a proper article.

An important issue to consider with any shared activity is finding the best balance between cooperation and autonomy. Mainstream culture way overemphasizes autonomy at the expense of cooperation. The devastation to the planet and our own spirits is obvious. Many of us have been seeking a better way our entire lives.

The ecovillage format allows people to find the balance between cooperation and autonomy that works for them. Two ecovillages I find inspiring are Dancing Rabbit (located in northeastern Missouri) and Earthaven (located in North Carolina).

Dancing Rabbit has an inspired organizational structure. The ecovillage itself is an umbrella organization that allows individuals, families, and communities to share the same land. For example, Skyhouse is an income-sharing community sharing the same house. People who aren’t drawn to such a close association have their own houses. But all share the same land and share the same goal of living sustainably and harmoniously with the Earth and each other.

Earthaven is divided into neighborhoods, which allows people who feel an affinity for each other to live near each other.

Looking strictly at the economic aspect, ecovillages allow people who aren’t wealthy to live on a fabulous piece of land. Part of the land is devoted to intensive use -- houses and other structures, orchards, gardens. Each house has 1/3 or ½ acre for gardens, orchards, or to be left wild. But typically most of the ecovillage land is left wild, or used for, say, sustainable timber harvesting.

But let’s be real here -- of the three main catastrophes awaiting us, ecovillages can offer protection from only one -- an economic crash. The other two catastrophes -- authoritarian government here in the U.S., and global ecological catastrophe -- will be much more difficult to deal with.

Here are two more options to consider:
* Leave the country.
* Live a nomadic lifestyle which allows maximum flexibility when dealing with rapidly-changing events.

However, both of these options involve keeping most of your assets in the form of money, and it is now obvious that the golden age of the dollar is rapidly drawing to a close. It seems expedient to spend our excess money as wisely as possible before it loses much or all of its value. The ecovillage lifestyle entails de-emphasizing the importance of money in our lives, but it also ties you down.

Truly sustainable living would involve, using Gary Snyder’s phrase, "living with the sun and the green of one spot." This would involve living in modest, solar-powered houses, minimizing automobile use and other energy-intensive lifestyles, and sophisticated, intensive, year-round gardening and orcharding, using coldframes and greenhouses to extend the growing season. Since solar energy is diffuse compared to fossil fuels, a truly sustainable lifestyle would be much more frugal than anything we are used to.

But shared frugality can be richly fulfilling, and this leads to the cultural aspect of ecovillages. Mainstream America is destroying the planet out of unconsciousness, boredom, fear, and compensation for our inner emptiness. Creating an alternative culture will be a challenging task -- but what other option is there? I think this is the only way we can truly unleash our human and spiritual potential.

There is much more to say, and many more posts to come.

Raw Food Recipes

I originally wrote this for a local Peace Community recipe book that was never published. So here it is -- the raw truth. Happy rawing!

Laura and I eat lots of raw foods. Not only do they taste delicious and require little preparation, they are the most natural foods we can eat. Fire was a relatively recent addition to the human repertoire, and humans, like all animals, evolved on uncooked foods. Laura and I feel that raw foods help to keep us looking younger than we are -- I am actually 87 and Laura is 81. ;-)

(For those of you who don’t know us, JUST KIDDING!)

In our experience, eating all raw can be an effective way to eliminate those mysterious "aches and pains" which can accompany middle age. Most Americans go to the doctor to "heal" them, which actually means, "suppress the symptoms." We feel that the human body is a self-healing organism, and all we need do, in most cases, is feed it the highest-quality food, and be patient. Natural healing takes time. In some cases, water fasting is called for, or juice fasting. For us, an occasional all-raw diet works very well as a healing technique.

Whether or not a person can eat 100% raw all the time is, in our opinion, a matter of personal metabolism. Some people recommend 100% raw, all the time. The Living Foods website offers a wealth of information on raw foods, and links to dozens of other raw food sites.

We both eat 100% raw whenever the situation warrants, but usually we eat cooked food as well, aiming for as many fruits and veggies as possible. For most people, a common-sense diet with whole grains instead of white flour, honey instead of sugar, strict moderation with animal products, and so forth, seems a much saner way to eat than the traditional American "meat and sugar" diet. The proverbial "ounce of prevention" goes a long way in our toxic world.

"Raw food recipe" is sort of a misnomer, since most raw foods need little or no preparation. Consider this one:

Ripe Peach
1. Select ripe peach.
2. Put on bib.
3. Eat.

Nevertheless, here are some of our favorite raw foods "recipes."

Banana Smoothie
Did you know that bananas are an endangered species? Here’s the link:
Our banana smoothies are as delicious as any milkshake, and infinitely healthier.
Blend together:
1. About a cup of water.
2. 2-3 ripe bananas. Whenever possible we buy "overripe" (i.e., ripe) bananas on sale at Lowe’s on N. Main, peel them, and freeze them in plastic bags. Frozen bananas make a cold smoothie that’s a welcome summer treat.
3. 1 tablespoon raw honey from you-know-who. (Laura and I are beekeepers.)
4. Seeds or nut butter. I like to add 1 tablespoon of raw almond butter and 1 tablespoon raw sesame tahini.
Instead of nut butter, Laura likes to grind ½ cup of unhulled sesame seeds in our herb mill before blending them into her smoothie. Unhulled sesame seeds are very rich in calcium. She also sometimes adds any combination of apples, raisins, spirulina, nutritional yeast, molasses (for the iron), and bee pollen (which contains a wide variety of nutrients).

Salad Dressing
1. Soak ½ cup of raw sunflower seeds overnight or for a couple of hours at least. Soaked seeds have started to sprout -- they have been "activated," and many of their nutrients have been enhanced. They are no longer dormant and inert, but living plants. Just add water, wait awhile, and a miracle happens.
2. Rinse seeds, and blend with 1 cup of water.
3. Remove seed and skin from an avocado, and blend with sunflower seeds.
4. Use immediately, unless you don’t mind gray salad dressing.
This is a delicious and highly nutritious addition to any salad. Serves two.

Seed Cheese
We learned this from an Ann Wigmore book. Seed cheese makes a great salad dressing, spread for bread or crackers, or mixed into steamed veggies.
1. Soak 1 cup of seeds overnight. Sunflower seeds make a more mellow cheese. Unhulled sesame seeds contain a lot more calcium, but make a bitter cheese. You can also use almonds or pumpkin seeds, or any combination of seeds.
2. Rinse seeds, and blend together with 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon yogurt with live acidophilus culture. What works even better is 1/8 teaspoon of "Yogourmet" freeze-dried yogurt starter, available at the Co-op (Mountain View Market).
3. Pour into bowl, and cover loosely.
4. After about 6 hours, the cheese will have floated to the top. Skim this off, and put in a sealed container. Use immediately, or store in refrigerator. It will keep for several days, but is best if used as fresh as possible.

Watermelon Smoothie
Americans eat the watermelon flesh and throw the most nutritious parts away. This is so typically American. Here’s another way to eat a watermelon:
1. Wash outside of watermelon with Dr. Bronner’s soap, and rinse thoroughly.
2. Cut off about a 2" slice, and cut the meat (with seeds) into blender-sized chunks.
3. Put small amount of water into blender, add watermelon meat, and blend.
4. Add skin (which contains valuable chlorophyll) and blend until smooth.
5. You can also blend in compatible ingredients such as apples, bananas, or carrots.
This makes a delicious, alkalinizing summer drink.
Of course you don’t get to spit out the seeds this way, so there’s always that tradeoff to consider.

Blender Salad
This is a raw gazpacho that’s simple to make.
1. Blenderize together, with a little water, any veggies you have at hand: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, celery, etc.
2. Enjoy!

Veggie Juice
Veggie juice is like blender salad without the pulp. Some people recommend eating the whole vegetable, so that you consume the valuable pulp. But juice has advantages, since it contains the veggie nutrients in concentrated form, and allows you to consume more vegetables than you normally would. Veggie juice is good while juice fasting, or just because it tastes good. It should not be considered a total substitute for veggies unless you are juice fasting. Normally, a combination of both veggies and juice seems like the best policy. We especially like to juice during the summer, because it allows us to keep up with our garden. The past couple of years we haven’t had time to grow our own carrots, so we’ve been buying organic carrots from the co-op (you can special order 25- and 50-pound bags from the produce department). We juice these carrots together with our surplus garden veggies -- spinach and lettuce during late spring; tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash during the summer. We also like to add a few weeds and grass to our juice -- but not too much, or the juice tastes too strong.

We use a Green Power juicer, since the low RPMs doesn’t oxidize the juice as much. If you’re just getting started, buy a cheap juicer. Juicing can be a hassle, especially cleaning the juicer afterwards. If you find yourself using your cheap juicer a lot, then it’s time to consider buying a more expensive machine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Now What?

Dec 04/Jan 05 Grassroots Press column:

I would like to add some observations amid the endless election post mortems:

Forty percent of the electorate didn’t bother to vote. So in terms of the total electorate, the election looks like this:
Nobody 40%
Bush 29.9%
Kerry 28.1%

It seems obvious that the Republican takeover of our national government is an artifact of our winner-take-all political system. No matter what the winning percentage may be, the victor gets it all. We are now on the cusp of an unprecedented Republican feeding frenzy. For people who believed the Republican "less government" mantra, let me say: Wait until they draft your child; then you will learn the true meaning of the term "intrusive government."

As an internet junkie, I have read endless thousands of brilliant articles and commentaries during the past few years. There are so many excellent ideas, ranging from political tactics to the key strategic issue of framing our values so that average America will actually understand what we are trying to tell them. One fact is painfully obvious: The mechanism for implementing all these brilliant insights simply doesn’t exist. Articles get written, read, and quickly forgotten. There is no continuity.

The Republicans have had a centralized, disciplined, well-funded propaganda machine in place for many years. We (and I mean not only Democrats, but everybody to the left of Attila the Hun) need to create an effective propaganda machine of our own. We have not yet done so. For people interested in issues like this, I recommend Digby’s blog or Kos . Then you will see exactly what I mean about brilliant insights that aren’t being implemented.

Over the past couple of generations, progressives of all stripes have lost sight of the fact that you can’t expect to harvest a crop if you don’t tend your garden. You can’t pick roses from thistles. You can’t expect the country to swing your way if the radio contains nothing but rightwing rants, and television is dominated by corporate hacks (otherwise known as "media whores").

We’ve got to return progressive values -- such as honesty and fair play -- back to the mainstream. Print media (including the internet) isn’t enough. It’s too 19th Century. At least half of Americans don’t read. You can only reach them with TV.

We can no longer afford to go to the corporate media on bended knee in the hopes that they will condescend to broadcast a trivialized version of our message. What we need -- pronto, and nothing else will do -- is a progressive satellite channel, the equivalent of CNN or Fox "News." (It has been suggested that George Soros buy CNN in a hostile takeover if necessary, or that Ted Turner buy CNN back.) It wouldn’t be necessary to broadcast propaganda; the truth is radical enough: Republican values condone torture, lies, incompetence, corruption, and the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. There can be no refuge in denial. Bush voters should never be allowed to forget what Republican values really are.