Ramblin’ Man: Trash

trash is a problem


One of the biggest problems our society faces is the amount of waste we produce. Our dumpsters, our landfills, and our landscapes are overflowing with waste. What is waste?
Websters defines waste as (1) Using, consuming, or expending thoughtlessly (2) to lose or cause to lose energy, strength or vigor and (3) to fail to take advantage of; lose: waste an opportunity.

I’d like to offer another definitionto add to this list. Waste is an unused resource. I’ll repeat that, because I think it’s important: Waste is an unused resource.
Our society is overflowing with waste- resources we are not using. From paper cups to food waste to no longer wanted, though once favorite toys to senior citizens who are pigeon holed into “ human landfills” depriving us of their life experience and wisdom. Why do we do it? Why is our society like this?

Let me explain. After World War II, we entered a period when the industrial base which had been built to supply a world war was turned to civilian use. After years of rationing and scarceness, suddenly there was more than one society could use. A new ethic was born, a new society was born. “ The Throwaway Society”. You’ve heard that term before, right?

The throwaway society was able to provide maximum employment and offer huge amounts of goods and services to the public at prices they could afford. Suddenly, Americans had more available to them through production and gainful employment. The key though, was to keep people spending their paychecks by providing incentives to buy “new, bigger, better” products. By building in obsoleteness, we could keep the factories in full production creating a disgusting symbiosis….people had more income to spend, and it was necessary to encourage them to spend it to keep the assembly lines rolling.
Sounds pretty good, right? Not know, but at the time it did. It wasn’t an easy thing to do though. As Americans, we’re descended from imminently practical ancestors. Ask your grandparents…it may be hard to believe now, but prior to about 1950, there were three values most Americans shared…Frugality, Economy, and Neighborly Cooperation. These weren’t just arbitrary values. Survival depended on it.

Frugality, which we look at as a bad thing,”being cheap”. In fact, frugality is defined as practicing or marked by economy…What does that mean? Well, it means making the best possible buying decision, weighing the power of your buying dollar and getting the most for it. Makes sense, right?

Ecoonomy refers to running your household efficiently, using that frugality to make your dollar go even further sot that you can buy more seed, a new plow, or maybe even splurge and get one of them newfangled telephones to communicat with your neighbors and loved ones.

Neighborly cooperation meant knowing your neighbors and being willing to help them with your skills or work- What you got in return was the help of your neighbors with their skills of work. Imagine a barn raising, where all the men in a neighborhood come together to create something. And instead of pigeonholing the women, children, and elderly at home- utilizing their skills to benefit everyone. The men, and the women who choose to, work on the structure, the other women prepare a midday meal for the workers, and meanwhile, the elderly and children spend quality time together removing plants from where the structure will go, or just learning from each other. Youth and experience, who says they don’t go together.

You see, our ancestors needed these values of economy, frugality, and neighborly cooperation….and so do we. Without them, there was and is no hope of building homes where families can grow up and prosper.

So, back to the 1950s. In order to get people to support this new “ throwaway society”, the simple values needed to be replaced with a new ethic. That ethic was a different sort of economy…the government realized that in order to make it successful, the capital had to be in a constant flow, from employers to employeees, from employees back to the employers. By building in the concept of consumer debt, they ensured that people would need to keep working in order to satisfy the need to “ keep up with the Joneses”. In short, it worked, in a very short period of time economy, frugality, and neighborly cooperation had gone out the window.

The self made man replaced the community leader as role model and the new model replaced the trusted old car. The new products rolled off the shelves nearly as quick as they were produced and dreams of utopia inspired newer, bigger, and better replacements even quicker. Which brings us to today.

We’re starting to see the drawbacks of this “throwaway society”. Consumer debt is at an all time high. Instead of working less, we’re working more. Do you realize a family with one income used to typically be able to buy a home, raise multiple children, and still have time to enjoy the home and kids? Now it’s all we can do to have two incomes support a rental home with one child– and forget about time to enjoy either.

The key to this problem lies in our perception of waste and the three values I’ve been telling you about.

For example: a few years ago, I started paying attention to the amount of “waste” I produced… amazingly, I was producing more than 15 pounds a week! Me, a single guy! What did I do? I started by recycling. Jars, pizza cartons, packaging, bottles, scrap paper. Next, I started to compost. My food scraps now create healthy soil for my garden. I was still producing to much waste. So I started to pay attention to packaging, refusing to buy overpackaged products. I was still producing several pounds of waste every week- so I started thinking of ways I could use waht was still going into my garbage…instead of tossing it. As an example, I’ve found over 70 uses for plastic grocery bags! Isn’t that amazing?

Ramblin’ Man: The Questions You Ask

The Questions You Ask

rambling man columnHave you ever known someone who asks everyone they meet the same question? For example, if my friend Jason comes to your house for the first time, within seconds of coming inside he’ll ask you where the bathroom is. Then he’ll sit down and do whatever everyone else is doing without going to the bathroom. If you ask him why he asked, he’ll respond, “I just like to know, just in case.” Seems wise, if strange.

A certain guy I know has been known to ask people if they’re a virgin or when they lost their virginity. He seems to be unaware of the fact that his question makes a lot of people uncomfortable, or at least he pretends to be unaware of it. To his credit, his other question is less intrusive: “What are the three things most important to you?”

One of my best friends asks people, “Can you tell me something good?” Usually people aren’t sure what to say, though with some prodding, they can usually come up with something. I like this question because it forces people to acknowledge the positive things around them. I’ve heard answers like, “My mother just recovered from back surgery” and even “Puppies.” Good stuff.

Another guy I know likes to ask everyone he meets, “If you could do anything in this life, what would you do?” It’s interesting to hear the answers that people give. Some people focus on the immediate and give answers like, “I want to go to Paraguay” or “I want to go skydiving.” Fair enough, though the deeper answers always seem to be a little more interesting, though harder to achieve, such as, “I want to make the world a better place.” Some people are even more specific: “I want to meet the woman of my dreams, have three children, and become a doctor specializing in hemorrhagic fever.”

I have a question like that, though I don’t ask it to everyone I meet. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to hear all the answers people would give, but sometimes it’s just not the right situation to ask such questions. My question is a trick question. I like to ask people without any sort of context, “What do you want?” I get answers that range from defensive to whimsical. From “I don’t want anything” to “I want to be free.” I like to leave the question open for the person hearing it to interpret without specifying whether I mean right now or next week or even in the next life. The best answer I’ve gotten to this question came from a Buddhist monk I met outside of a sacred cave in Laos. He said, “I want what I have.”

Wouldn’t it be nice if that was all we wanted? I’m certainly not so enlightened as he is. My answer depends on my mood, where, when and in what context I ask myself. That’s why it’s a trick question. Maybe instead, I should start asking people if they still masturbate.

Ramblin’ Man: Throw Away Society


rambling man columnOur society faces some problems! One of the biggest is the amount of waste we produce. Our landscape is overflowing with “waste”. What is waste ? Websters defines waste as (1) using, consuming, or expending thoughtlessly or (2) causing to lose energy, strength or vigor.

I’d like to offer one more definition– waste is an unused resource.
The waste which fills our dumpsters and our lives is actually quite valuable. I know a man who collected peoples “trash” from alleyways in Los Angeles for five years, storing it in a building which was slated for destruction. When LA finally decided to tear down the building he sold all of his “waste” for over a million dollars! Another friend rescued two hydraulic tools from a dumpster and sold them for nearly $72,000 dollars!

On a much smaller scale, I personally have pulled blown amps and old computers from dumpsters and sold them for $100 or more.
The point is, there is enough “waste” in the dumpsters of America to feed, clothe, house, and educate everyone. Why does it happen?
After W.W.II, our wartime factories converted to civilian production, suddenly there was more than we could use. A new society was born. “The throwaway society.” The throwaway society provided maximum employment and plenty of goods and services. Americans had more available through gainful employment and massive production. The key was keeping people spending by creating incentives to buy “new, bigger, better” products instead of keeping trusted ones. We introduced the concept of planned obsolescence.

Some of the drawbacks of “the throwaway society” ? Consumer debt is at an all time high and instead of working less, we’re working more. A family with one income used to be able to own a home, raise children, and enjoy some time at home. Now, it is all we can do to have two incomes pay for a rental home, raise one child, and keep food on the table. Another drawback is obvious, the environment. Look around, anywhere…..

Here’s the key, think about the value of what you’re throwing away….is it trash or is it an unused resource….you wouldn’t throw away cash, would you?


Ramblin’ Man: Friends of the Trees

Michael Pilarski and Friends of the Trees

rambling man columnMichael Pilarski is taking action to save the worlds forests.Inspired by Richard St. Brubaker, who promoted tree planting internationally; Pilarski helped found Friends of the Trees Society (FOTS) in 1978.

FOTS mission is to double the worlds forests, inspire, enable, educate, and assist people to live in harmony with forests and trees, and publish positive visions of a sustainable world with strategies to get there.

Rather than just sound the alarm about threats to the environment, FOTS emphasizes immediate action..

“We are a part of the pro-active wing, we have solutions,” Pilarski said.

FOTS operates at local, regional, national, and international levels. They have distributed over 170,000 seedlings, thousands of seed packets, and sponsored events which have brought information to thousands of people. Currently they have over 10,000 people on their mailing list. FOTS and Pilarski have played a huge part in forming the Bellingham Permaculture Club which combines practices of urban and rural sustainability and meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.

The overall system of agriculture and living which has a minimum negative effect on the planet. FOTS has also created The Travelers Repair Network (TERN) which links travelers with individuals and organizations in other countries around the world who are involved in sustainability.

Is Pilarski satisfied with FOTS progress so far?

“Heavens no, the world is heading hell bent for disaster, but the good news is – more people are aware we’re heading there.”
Pilarski offers some everyday steps people can follow to help save the planet: plant trees , look for ways to reduce consumption of the earth’s resources, and support the restoration of nature.

” At Friends of the Trees, we believe in multiple functions for single elements, in other words, one person can do more than one thing at a time.”

“Friends of the Trees is not a radical group,” Pilarski said , “We’re not into extreme action, we’re into promoting non-violence and less consumption.”

In addition to founding FOTS , Pilarski has edited Restoration Forestry: an International Guide to Sustainable Forestry Practices and compiled The Third World Resource Guide with Michael G. Smith. Currently FOTS is sponsoring workshops on gathering local herbs and edible wild plants without damaging the environment on the eastern and western slopes of the North Cascades as well as the Puget Sound lowlands.

On August 16 and 17, FOTS, The Herbalist (Seattle) and Wonderland Tea and Spices (Bellingham) sponsored The Northwest Herbal Fair at the River Farm near Bellingham. This event’s focus was showing people how to use local herbs in their lives. For more information on Friends of the Trees, Permaculture, or current events in sustainability contact Friends of the Trees Society at (360)738-4972.

How to Stop a Tank

How to Stop a Tank and Other Useful Information

rambling man columnRock the vote…they say. What’s the point when the system is so locked into a basic premise that is so incredibly wrong. The big problem is that I don’t feel my government is evil, just misguided. Somewhere along the way from the days of aristocracy and peasants, the peasants bought into the aristocracies lie that as long as some of the peasants could become aristocracy, it was okay if most of the peasants stayed in poverty ridden streets fighting over the crumbs. Look around the world. We represent the aristocracy. Of course, that doesn’t make us exempt from having people who are so sure having cash is the answer to all of their problems that they are willing to sell drugs, rob innocents, rape the planet of resources, and cash in on their sex. That last one includes leeching scumbags and prostitutes. Those are societal driven illnesses. We see the problems in our society quite clearly: crime, drugs, violence in schools, poverty. Instead of attacking the root of these problems, we offer “Band-Aid” solutions. More cops, stricter drug laws, censorship, destruction of liberty, and welfare. When are we going to wake up to the fact that our culture is held together by a quickly stretching net of adhesive tape. The peasants are beginning to get restless. Capitalism means you get to have the chance to climb out of the sewer, but it also means most of the peasants have to remain there. Who am I to complain? Privileged white males have nothing to complain about, right? Bullshit. I can see our society sucks even if I’m not black, red, yellow, gay, handicapped, or insane. The insanity is that this “system” has suckered us all into believing life runs like the lotto. Don’t get me wrong, I got lucky. I live in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not likely to be persecuted for my race, sex, or sexual orientation. I have a better chance of getting hired, rented to, or talked to on the train. So what. Doesn’t change the fact that lots of other people are getting the shaft. It’s not that I feel our society is unfair to me, it’s that our society is not fair. I bet old Karl Marx was right about the masses rising up when they realize they’ve been getting screwed, the problem in the United States is that Americans are so brain washed into believing happiness is only as far away as a sport utility vehicle. We’re like a bunch of retarded kids who keep believing the clown is coming (fuck political correctness). Robert Heinlein once said “ manners are the grease that makes the wheels of society turn” . Personally, I’d like to see the wheels grind to halt before we PC ourselves into oblivion. All these “hatelabels” are to keep us from coming together. I don’t care if you’re a nigger, chink, retard, whore, faggot, logger, or cop, this dago mick won’t judge you until you prove yourself one way or the other. The linguistics make us hate and fear each other and it’s stupid. We perpetuate it just like we perpetuate violence by sanctioning violent retaliation to violent behavior. Again, don’t get me wrong…if you shoot at me, I’ll shoot back….but that doesn’t make it right. It’s just a lot easier if nobody needs to shoot at anyone else. I guess that’s a bit of what I call blue skying though. The world is a nasty violent place and you may have to defend yourself from tanks someday.

Tanks are vulnerable to terrain. A Sherman tank will sink in a cornfield. The first step to stopping a tank is having an understanding of the terrain you’re fighting on. Use it to your best advantage. Bulldozers and tractors can be used to flip tanks onto their sides. Civilians don’t have much of a chance against tanks, but it can be done. Molotov cocktails can be thrown over the engine compartment. If sufficient air is kept from the fans, any internal combustion engine will stop functioning. There is a way to create a naplm like fuel from common materials, but I’m not in to revealing how to make weapons. I like the tactics. Necessity is the mother of invention. Explosives can be used, to blow the tread of older tanks. A 55 gallon drum of explosive buried as a mine can do the trick. You can figure out your own detonation system. The best tactic in any situation where you are outgunned is to set up snipers or to disappear into your familiar terrain until a better opportunity presents itself.

Iraq, Yugoslavia, and a Road in Fairhaven Park


rambling man columnThere’s a new road cut into the woods behind Fairhaven Park. I don’t know why the road is there but it sure ruins a nice walk and some really cool BMX jumps.

There was a whole network of jumps and dirt tracks back there, not anymore.You can expect to see a few more kids hanging out on Railroad Avenue because their bike jumps got plowed over.

Those jumps looked like a lot of work to build, but I suppose it’s more important to build more crappy looking planned communities with generic looking homes. You would think the homeowners around here would take up arms against developers. Every tree that gets cut lowers the potential value of homes because it diminishes the tourism potential of the area. That means home values will remain steady or drop depending on how available affordable housing becomes.

I want to own a home someday but not in Compton, and not in an overdeveloped Stepford neighborhood. I wish Bellingham would put a moratorium on new development. Buy back any undeveloped land and turn it into parks and playgrounds and historic markers, and tourist information booths. I’m worried about that road but at least theres nobody shooting at us or dropping bombs on our country.

In Kosovo, however, a lot of people are dying every day. Ethnic Albanians want to be independent of Serbia. Serbia doesn’t want that. There is no easy solution. Gross human rights violations are being made. I’m afraid we’ll just start dropping bombs like we’ve done with Iraq. The Iraq bombing campaign has been sustained longer than any other US strike since Vietnam. We’ve been bombing them a few times a week! Nobody really talks about it anymore. We are killing people. Stop for a second and think about it. That’s what bothers me…nobody is thinking about it.

It deserves a moment..at least. What are we trying to accomplish? To overthrow the regime? Or to just have somebody to bomb? It’s crazy. Real people with real families, real loves, hates, jobs, hopes and fears are dying as a result of our bombs and sanctions. I’m sure of that, but I’m not sure why. If you know, fill me in. I wonder if some country might “accidentally” launch something at us. China is upset, Italy is mad, Iraq and all the Arab countries are a bit sore over this whole bombing thing…Maybe on the eve of Y2K Mother Russia will get her last laugh…oops! sorry, it’s our computers, don’t retaliate…please…we didn’t have the money to fix em..honest….