Rationing

ration2I have written before about the climate crisis that humanity faces. The forces fighting for business as usual are so very powerful that I often despair our fate. Yet hope remains within my psyche and that hope lies with individual spiritual evolution. Climate activists tend to pooh-pooh such an approach as being a type of head-in-the-sand denial, but my deepest intuition is that spiritual evolution is the only possible path. Polarization of political approaches has led only to a mean-spirited shouting stalemate. To believe that “we” can successfully impose on “them” our solutions is to perpetuate the power game that has brought us to this point in the first place.

As a culture we have grown soft and deluded. On the other hand, we are a species that has historically rallied together to make courageous sacrifices when confronted with catastrophic times. During World War II, the population of Britain, the United States, and Canada willingly embraced strict rationing and gave up many conveniences in the face of a common threat. Between 1938 and 1944, the use of public transit increased by 87% in the United States and by 95% in Canada. By 1943 twenty million households in the United States were growing “Victory Gardens” which supplied a whopping 42% of all produce consumed.

I have said it before: the crisis we now face is every bit as real and imminent as was Fascism in WW II. The Earth as a human habitat is threatened as surely as England was threatened by the German military 30 miles across the channel. But we don’t believe it because everything in our economic system is geared to hide the truth from us. I won’t belabor the clear facts. Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, is the clearest presentation of the crisis that I have come across and I recommend it.

What, then, to do? First, we have to accept that governments are not going to act in any meaningful way to protect us or the Earth. They are not going to impose needed rationing or ask for any sacrifices (except the sacrifice of our pensions, health care, education, etc.) Then, we can begin to voluntarily take upon ourselves the rationing and sacrifice of convenience that is necessary, and to do so, not in a spirit of despair or gloom, but in a spirit of dedication and love for the planet and all of the life upon it.

During WW II, many things were just not available anytime we wanted them: sugar, gasoline, meat, butter, etc. These things were expensive and if you didn’t have the ration tickets, you didn’t get it. Self-imposed rationing is very difficult to maintain because we are so habituated to having what we want, when we want it. So, Nancy and I are using some simple techniques to help us ration. One is: “If it isn’t organic, it isn’t available!” What a blow to our conditioned minds this is! “But, but, but…” the mind stammers, “what about this or that? What about the cost? We can’t afford…”

gas_rationOrganic foods are not the panacea to the crisis, but for us they are a symbol of the direction in which culture needs to move. The self-imposition of a rationing approach gives us the necessary sense of sacrifice. We have a very limited food budget and to limit it to organic is a “sacrifice.” It is, however, very helpful. It limits the quantity of food we buy and enhances the quality. We also don’t eat any meat products, which eliminates a wide range of choices. We are also going to self-ration gasoline, but haven’t figured out the best approach to doing that yet. It is easy to dismiss such actions as wrong headed or inadequate, but we have to take some steps to, on a daily basis, remind ourselves of the magnitude of the crisis we face.

It’s another of the paradoxes Lao-Tzu loved so much: the more of these “sacrifices” Nancy and I make, the happier, freer, and more basically healthy and content we become.

Nancy’s blog has lots of insights from her shamanic perspective on all of these issues. Check it out: Earth Centered Living After 60

 

Been Awhile

IMG_1755 copy
Our Little “Walden Cabin”

My goodness. It’s been almost two months since my last post. I deliberately took some time off as Nancy and I settled into a new and challenging role as caretakers of 3 acres of family property, including a rustic cabin, here in Mt. Shasta. We still live in our motor home, but are able to stretch our legs a bit within the old cabin as we paint, clean, and help maintain the building. We are also caring for the meadow and trees on the property. It is work that is outside of our comfort zone of familiar routines, but it is enlivening and transforming our lives.

The challenges of the past few months have focused us a bit on day-to-day tasks – not a bad thing in itself. But we have both been reminded recently of the energy that has been driving all of our changes over the past few years. We did not embark on a radical shift of lifestyle simply to have an adventure. We were called in this direction by forces and energies; some material and obvious, some subtle and mysterious. Nancy’s development of shamanic practice and my own immersion in the energies of the earth through Qigong practice have reordered our experience of life. We moved to a “tiny house” because we felt it was the appropriate way of living. We continue to look for creative and authentic ways of living in our work, our environment, and our conversations.

Several years ago I was fascinated by a BBC series called, “Foyle’s War.” It is a dramatic series set in WWII England and, though it follows a story concerning crime in a coastal town, the thematic setting of each episode is an aspect of English life as it was transformed by the War. The threat to England was real and immediate, just 30 miles across a narrow strip of water. The reality of the situation transformed English life. Gas was strictly rationed, as were most commodities. Every piece of scrap was recycled and reused. Tens of thousands of acres of unused land were transformed into food crops by the work of the Women’s Land Army. Every household that had extra room was asked to billet defense workers and refugees from the bombings. Lavish estates were made into hospitals. Bicycles became the mode of transportation. “Dig for Victory” Gardens were planted in every backyard, schoolyard, vacant lot, and golf course – producing twice as much food as had previously been imported. Studies since the war have shown that, despite the horror and destruction, the nutritional and physical health of the English population during the war was better than before or since.

The current threat to human life on Earth is every bit as real and immediate as was the presence of Nazi jackboots across the channel to the English. Yet we continue to live in fear and denial. No civil leadership takes responsibility or steps up to rally us to action. The responsibility has fallen upon us as individuals. Nancy and I are attempting to live with the same sense of purpose and commitment as did the English people. We have heard a call to action, not from the government, but from the Earth Herself and from the Spirits of the mountains, streams and forests.

We’re taking each step that presents itself to us as best we can. If the government won’t ration gas and food, we’ll do it ourselves – limiting our trips and making whole foods the center of our diet. We haven’t planted a garden yet, but we will next spring. We find new ways each week to eliminate wasteful consumption.

It isn’t a walk in the park – more like a journey through the wilderness. But it is an imperative response to a wounded world, and I’m giving every bit of my life to the task. The paradox continues to be the unfolding of freedom, simplicity, and joy in my life beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.