Archive for December 18th, 2008

You Got to Let Go of Remote Control: The Wake-Up Call is in Your House!

Sharon December 18th, 2008

Don’t ever doubt the power of just one mind.
Or the world-wide power of just one rhyme.
Don’t ever doubt the force of the bassline.
Or a record gone round to burn the house down.
You got to let go of remote control!  You got to let go of remote control!You got to let go of remote control!  You got to let go of remote control!

Hey world, you know you got to put up a fight
Hey world, you rumble in the jungle tonight
Hey world, keep bringing it the rest of your life
You got to put up a fight, You got to put up a fight!

- Michael Franti and Spearhead

(Ok, you don’t have to or anything, but I’d strongly recommend that you listen to the song while you are reading this blog post - sometimes things just need the soundtrack.  This is one of them - you can see it on youtube actually: and the song is downloadable in various places. We need the sound to go with the ideas here, and who better than Franti?)

Ok, folks, time for our wake up calls!  Today is the end of the year preparedness wrap up.  This is not your normal blog post, this a party, and like all the best parties it has a soundtrack, some singing and dancing, some call and response.  Because this is the year that normal started to go to hell, and we got our wake-up call!  But that doesn’t have to be bad news - knowing that we have to be responsible, that our future is in our hands can be empowering too.  Time to let go of the remote control, to let go of all the things we let operate on remote control, and time to take charge of our futures.  We got to put up a fight on this one - we’re not going gently into any kind of night.

Who’s out there now?  How many of you got your wake up call this year that we can’t count on everything working the way it always has? By my count there were 14 states that had a significant portion of their population lose power for more than a day or so: Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire (some of y’all are just logging back on), Texas, Indiana, Iowa Minnesota, Michegan, Ohio, Alaska.  I’m probably underestimating the number, too.  Ok, report, who am I missing??  What was it like?  Were you ready - would you have been ready if it lasted longer?

What about the places where a large number of people had to grab their bug out bags and run?  Iowa, right, and Minnesota, Californians from the Wildfires, and Lousianans and Texans from the Hurricanes.  Name your states, folks!  Call out loud!  Did your plan help you?  What will you do next time?

And time to sing out, all those folks who weren’t part of any official disaster, but feel like they got hit by an earthquake anyway - you lost your jobs, you lost your homes, you are still sitting in your homes, but what you had ain’t worth nothing and you know that all the things you assumed would keep you secure, well, they aren’t so solid anymore.  Time to find some small measure of security in all this bad.  What can you do now to insulate yourself from the next little earthquake?

What about the 1 in 5 Americans who ended last winter in debt to their utility companies, struggling to pay for increasingly unaffordable heat, light and power?  One out of every 20 Americans got shut off last year - that’s more than five million households who had to live without a major utility! Anyone want to bet that number won’t go up?  Can you manage without them?  We’ve got to get the coal fired electric plants closed down - are you ready to make do with less energy?

And yes this was a rough year for America, but it certainly isn’t just America.  Check in, all of you from the 91 countries that the CIA notes had serious shortages of oil, gas or electricity.  What about the victims of floods in Britain, riots in Greece, the Earthquake in China, or any of the other disasters that hit around the world?  Anyone here reading from those places?  Don’t stay silent!  Sing out and tell us how you do, how you did, and what you’ll do next time.

Ok, so you survived.  How’d it go?  Were you safe, were you strong?  So you made it through - were you ok, were you ready?  What did you learn in your trials this time - what will you change for the next time?

 What about those of you who had no trials - do you think you won’t ever?  Time to practice, because three days without power will teach you more about what you need to get along than all the reading you can do on the internet.   

All of us who had our wake-up calls, either because our basic systems failed, or because we saw our neighbors lose theirs - it isn’t just enough to shrug and go on - it is time to resolve that next time you’ll be ready, you won’t be stuck, you won’t be powerless, just because you are without grid power.  There isn’t any getting off easy in this life, unless you are rich - and most of us will never be that. 

 Do you have an evacuation plan, a bug out bag, a little cash in reserve and enough gas to get where you need to go?  Do you have a way of finding your loved ones if you have to get out? 

 Are you set with light, heat, cooking and anything else you need to be secure and comfortable at home in a power outage?  Don’t rely solely on a generator - getting gas out of the ground takes power, and widespread enough outage will mean you still need those no-power backup systems.

Are you talking to your neighbors, talking about how to manage systemic problems?  How will you deal with waste, with food, with the elderly and ill in the neighborhood?  

Most of all, are you set to take care of yourself and your own needs, maybe to help others, or are you likely to rely on safety nets?  There’s no shame in relying on a safety if you really need it - but I think there is some shame in making use of a safety net you could have avoided requiring.  The safety nets are most likely to catch those who need it if those of us who can take care of ourselves as much as possible. 

 It is so easy to live in the world and trust that the systems will keep you going on remote control, that it is enough to do nothing, or maybe to do a little.  But if you haven’t had your wakeup call, it is coming.  We have no choice but to let go of the remote control, to take responsibility for ourselves and our future.

What will you do this year to be more prepared? Remember, there’s no getting out of it - we’ve all got to put up a fight, because no one is going to make it easy for us.


We're Gonna Need More Pie

Sharon December 18th, 2008

Yup, another rerun, but this is one of my all-time favorite posts. I thought about editing the parts that reflect badly on me, but those are the funniest bits, as usual, so I just left them in.  I had so much fun writing this - and Edson helpfully points out that Obama, whatever his limitations, is clearly on the pie platform too - he’s a big fan.  So that can only be good ;-) .

The other day I got embroiled on a newsgroup in one of those endless discussions/debates/headbangings about what the best approach to greening the planet is. Of course, all of you know that my defining characteristics are my reasonableness, aversion to confrontation and sensitivity, so my role here was to calm the hot tempers and settle the differences of others, which I do from my sheer love of humanity. I provided a calm and rational perspective that I know helped settle everything right down, because that’s just the kind of healing, caring person I am.

Ok, just on the off chance that anyone involved in that group says otherwise, I want ask you upfront, who will you believe - them or me? After all, the people saying I was fanning the flames of this stupid umm…integral argument are nothing more than two or three hundred ordinary voices, where as I am a professional idio…author. I daily produce hundreds of words that are pulled randomly out of my a…er…finely crafted and honed for maximum effect. Sometimes the words even make sentences. Once in a while even grammatical sentences. These words are read by as many as eight or nine people around the world every single day. So you can certainly imagine that my ravings…um wisdom should outrank the sworn testimony of several hundred people.

So you’ll be proud to know that I, of course, natural leader that I am, did come up with a healing solution, something that we could come together on, a real commitment to change, a possible solution to the profound difficulties wrought upon us by the Great Change that comes sweeping over the (ok, stupid metaphor deleted)… But I did have an idea.

The idea was pie. And my position is that I’m for it. I know this is just the kind of hard-edged, radical position taking that you can expect on this blog, the reason you know you can turn here first to hear opinions that are beholden to no one…except the guy up the road with the cherry trees, who I can’t afford to piss off if I want pie. But this kind of risky political statement in favor of pie is just the sort of thing I know you’ll wish to support by donating a large portion of your salary to keep me going. Just click on the button below that says “big heaping wads of cash.”

I’m in favor of pie. I mean, what could be better than pie? It is commonly associated with good, noble things like motherhood, America, light bondage and domination, clowns and the federal reserve, so how could we not be for pie? In fact, who isn’t for pie? Well…

I have to tell you the ugly truth. There are powerful anti-pie interests in our government, and people working night and day to restrict your pie access. But we here at Casaubons book (Who is “we” you ask in puzzlement? Well, Sharon has obviously gone off the deep end writing her book, as you can tell from this post, so mostly the voices in her head. But they sometimes wear cool hats, and one of them is named “Leo.”) are committed to bringing you the truth about pie access and other equally crucial issues, like socks and beer.

It occurred to me, as I was healing the rift in this newsgroup brought on by unnamed troublemakers not named Sharon, that pie can do a great deal to heal our environmental crisis. For example, today’s climate change and peak oil news was particularly awful. There’s the coal, the war, the monks in Burma. There’s the fact that even if we halved our emissions, global warming will keep going for 600 years . There’s the mass extinctions. The fact that one of the few bits of environmental good news, the reforestation of the east is threatened by us: And then there’s the financial news…

All in all, I think the only possible reaction (other than hysterical weeping) to all this bad news on a cold, snowy afternoon is to put on fuzzy pajamas, bunny slippers and eat half a pie. Or to drink a lot of local beer, I guess. Heck, you could drink beer and eat pie together.

Yes, I know that’s pathological of me, but sometimes a retreat into pathology is rather comforting. I doubt I’m the only person who has ever responded to the bad news about our environment by thinking “apple or pumpkin?” The reality is whether we believe in stockpiling ammo or creating sustainable ecovillages, the need to derive comfort where we can is our common ground.

Pie can bring us together. And that unifying power isn’t limited to the peak oil movement – pie can cross religious, cultural and national boundaries. While there may be deep cultural divisions between those who believe that you should make your sweetened orange vegetable pies with sweet potatoes and those who vote for pumpkin, I believe these barriers can be crossed, if only we’ll just take a piece of each with a lot of whipped cream.

Pie can be a powerful political motivator as well. Right now, money tends to be the most powerful tool in politics, but let us not underestimate the influence of pie. Pies in the face are a powerful tool of political resistance in Europe. I’ve heard rumors that Bill Clinton sent the Haitians back because the republicans offered him all the blueberry pies he wanted. Dick Cheney regularly sits around nude, plotting his attacks on Middle Eastern countries while eating entire mince pies.   

This kind of inside information isn’t easy to come by – the author had to send several pies to congressional aides. Fortunately, they are sleep deprived, wired on coffee and often morally bankrupt so bribing them with pie is very easy.

But pie is also essentially, deeply democratic. Pie is an essential ingredient in town-meeting style democracy in many New England states, along with baked beans. And pie is about democracy – fundamentally, pie (and pasties, empanadas, dumplings, wontons and all the other pie relatives) are about stretching high value foods to share with everyone. If you have six apples and ten guests, someone gets screwed, unless you put them between two crusts with some spices and call it pie – everyone gets a piece of sweet apple, everyone gets some crust. Pies are a way of getting maximum enjoyment from high-value foods. Meat, fruit, spices – these things are special. But they can be enjoyed regularly if carefully combined with filling starches. They are about democracy, frugality, comfort and family.

And pies are things that you have to produce either for yourself or in your locality. The truth is that frozen pie crust tastes awful, and that Sara Lee pies taste like corn syrup, which is what they are mostly made from. Real pie - good pie comes either out of your kitchen or a local bakery or diner where they make it fresh every single day from real ingredients. Pies are part of a whole lifestyle – if you want to eat pie, you have to cook, or you have to have a little Mom and Pop bakery. And those things are democratic too – as opposed to corporatist.

Sure, you say, but if I eat too much pie, I’ll get fat. And lord knows, that’s a real possibility. But here’s the thing. How many of you have ever met a really fat Amishman? I haven’t. And they eat pie more or less constantly, or so my Amish neighbors tell me.

Pie can power a human-powered lifestyle in the way that junky processed crap can’t. Certainly the Amish cookbooks I’ve seen are filled with pies. And back when dessert (or breakfast in New England) was routinely pie, people were a lot thinner. One might argue that pie isn’t what makes you fat – it is not living the pie lifestyle. Because the pie lifestyle means picking berries or walking to the bakery. It means eating pie as a treat, and as the place where you put your special festival foods that you don’t have all the time, while most of you meals are simple.

Instead, for most Americans, breakfasts is false pie - poptarts, which despite a plastic resemblance are not pies at all – because they aren’t actually food. The poptart lifestyle makes you fat, the pie lifestyle makes you thin, or thinner.

Pie makes you thin. It brings about democracy. It brings about agrarian or relocalized societies and economies. It provides comfort, crossing political lines. People talk about oil as the “master resource” but perhaps we need to start reconsidering the power of pie to create a sustainable, human powered economy. Pie-centered societies, ones that provide a chicken in every pot pie, are what we’re striving for. We can all consume less, and still have an evenly distributed piece of the pie.

Which is why I must say to you with a heavy heart – we are facing peak pie. Corporate interventions, and the “better than homemade” slogan has resulted in a US population that mostly doesn’t know how to cook anymore. Millions of people think that pumpkin comes from a can. Farmers are still going out of business at an appalling rate. The majority of our pie ingredients are contaminated by pesticides. Our ability to provide for our pie needs is deeply threatened. We are facing the final destruction of the pie lifestyle – and the end of the last remnents of our democracy.

So what can we do about it? How can we fight back for the pie lifestyle, for Mom, Teddy Bears and Apple (or Peach) pie? The only way to deal with this depletion crisis is to start living the pie lifestyle. Bake a pie today from locally grown ingredients. Eat a pie today, and use it to fuel human powered activity – dump your leaf blower and get out a rake, get rid of the power mower and bring out the push mower, lose the chainsaw and get the bucksaw down.

Make a pie and give it to a neighbor. Give out the recipe. Get together and make pies for elderly shut ins or the school bake sale or to buy solar lighting for the neighborhood watch. Throw a pie at a warmonger – we’ll have a bake sale to raise your bail. Point to the coal plant builders and the energy wasters and tell people - they are against pie! Start “Pie Eating Veterans for the Truth” and tar polluters and heavy emitters with the scorned label “pie haters.” Don’t forget to mention that they don’t like mothers, babies or kittens either. Have a town meeting and hand out pie. Give out pie at the voting booths, to hungry people in the park, to the shelter and soup kitchen. Try pies from other places, other lands – and send the money you would have spent on poptarts to good causes. When the world seems to suck, eat pie, and use that energy to get back on your feet and fight again.

Fight now, for motherhood, justice and apple pie!