Meat is Not Killing the Planet

World-destroying beasts

Industrial Agriculture is.

Meat is, of course, produced by industrial agriculture (IA), and the meat thus produced – IA meat – is absolutely bad for the planet and for the health of those consuming it. IA meat makes up almost all of the meat that is produced today, and thus it is very understandable that meat in general seems terrible for the environment – most people don’t realize that there is meat that isn’t produced by IA.

It is very important to recognize, however, that plant-based IA is also terrible for the planet. This often goes unacknowledged by those advocating for vegan and vegetarian diets.

Before going into the details of these distinctions, I want to acknowledge the truth – to the extent that they are true – of the many articles and studies that claim that meat is terrible for the planet. The meat available in grocery stores (IA meat) is terrible for the planet, period. Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) are hell-holes of animal cruelty and disease, as are IA slaughterhouses. IA beef, as an example, takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. IA figured out that chickens would eat their own shit if it was mixed with enough molasses and salt. IA meat is absolutely worse for the planet than IA plant-based foods. In South America they are cutting/burning down the Amazon to make room for more pasture for cattle. These things acknowledged, let’s now examine how these facts don’t tell the whole story.

The primary misleading assumption is that IA is taken as a given. Given the choice between IA meat and IA plant-based foods, the choice is clear: IA plant-based foods are more humane and better for the planet. But this is a false dichotomy. IA plant-based foods are still inhumane, terrible for the planet, and terrible for people’s health. IA plant-based foods are heavily reliant on fossil fuels and IA plant agriculture is unsustainable.

So it is not meat production and consumption in and of itself that is harmful but instead the constellation of bad practices that comprise industrial agriculture. Let’s now dig into how exactly IA plant-based foods are problematic:

Energy Consumption

IA is highly reliant on fossil fuels across the entirety of its supply chain. In the US, 15-20 Calories of energy are spent to produce one Calorie of food.

Large amounts of  fossil fuel are required to power heavy farming machinery, to process foods, to refrigerate foods during transportation, to produce packaging materials, and to manufacture and transport chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Fertilizers containing nitrogen are particularly fossil-fuel-intensive; production and transport of 1 lb of nitrogen releases an average of 3.7 lbs of CO 2 into the atmosphere.

A tremendous amount of energy is also used to transport our food. As a result of the development of centralized industrial agricultural operations and the corresponding disappearance of local family farms, food is now shipped extraordinarily long distances before it reaches your dinner plate. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, food and agricultural products (not including imported or exported foods) are transported 566 billion ton-miles within U.S. borders each year, constituting more than 20% of total U.S. commodity transport. In 1969, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that, on average, food traveled 1,346 miles. Another study conducted in 1980 determined that fresh produce traveled 1,500 miles!

Furthermore, an increasing quantity of food is now being transported internationally; in 1998, a total of 172 million tons of food were shipped into and out of the U.S.10 In 2001, the U.S. imported 39% of all fruits, 12% of vegetables, 40% of lamb, and 78% of fish and shellfish. This excessive and unnecessary food transportation requires the consumption of large quantities of fossil fuel, thus polluting the environment and damaging human health. Lengthy food transport also generates additional energy expenditures by creating the need for increased food packaging, processing, and refrigeration.

Fossil Fuels and Agriculture

If we recognize that we have to cease all carbon emissions, relying on an agricultural system that depends on fossil fuels is insane.

Monoculture and artificial fertilizer

IA plant-based foods are essentially synonymous with monoculture. Monoculture is the cultivation of a single crop in a given area. Think endless rows of corn, soybeans, and wheat. This is obviously not a natural state, and there are many problematic consequences of practicing it.

First, to create cropland one must destroy an ecosystem. Instead of a forest or a prairie, there is now a field. Instead of many birds, animals, and plants, there is now one. Monoculture is the exact opposite of diversity, and diversity is necessary for a healthy environment. There’s a lot of death and destruction that goes into creating cropland.

Monoculture breaks the cycle of life. Simplified: the soil feeds the plants, the plants feed the animals, and the animals feed the soil. Growing for market entails taking from the soil – from the land – and not giving back to it (because it’s shipped far away). This is unsustainable. In order to grow, plants require nutrients. The big three are nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus. When plants are grown and harvested, the nutrients are taken from the soil, which then has fewer nutrients for the next crop. Continue this for too long and the soil becomes barren – it will no longer grow crops. To rejuvenate the soil, nutrients must be added back to it – this is what we call fertilizer. Non-monocultured soil is fertilized by dead plants and animals, and animal feces. Monocultured soil misses out on most of these inputs.

Back in the early twentieth century we were starting to run out of nutrients in our soils, which was resulting in diminishing crop yields. This problem was overcome (at least for the time), with the Haber-Bosch process, which allowed us to “fix” nitrogen out of the atmosphere, at the expense of immense heat and pressure fueled by natural gas. The Haber-Bosch process was discovered as the result of a multi-year, focused, competitive effort responding to the widespread fear of food scarcity.

The Haber-Bosch process has dramatically changed the face of agriculture and with it the face of our planet. The introduction of nitrogenous fertilizers and their increasing application had a dramatic impact on grain yields. Together with new high yielding, short-stalked varieties and chemical protection, yields of wheat and rice worldwide eventually tripled and quadrupled during the 20th century (Smil 2011). The availability of these fertilizers also opened the door for farms to move away from the proven and millennia-old system of cycling and re-cycling nutrients and organic matter in each farm. Diversified farms growing crops for humans, soil-building crops for livestock where the manure was applied back onto the land had been the norm. Now it suddenly became possible to look at a farm in a much more linear way, importing plant nutrients and exporting crops. Industrial monocultures began to take over. Farms moved away from being diversified and multi-dimensional and the `modern’ corn-soybean crop farm took over. Also the disconnecting of animal husbandry from the land and from crop growing set the stage for the so-called CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). What used to be the perfect “marriage” between cropping and livestock turned into two serious problems, the need to import expensive fertilizer into farms and the necessity to dispose of animal manure. A much-valued resource, `black gold’ has suddenly become a waste disposal problem (Pollan 2006, Montgomery 2007, Hager 2008). Haber-Bosch also made possible the `Green Revolution’, which transformed agriculture during the mid 1900’s in many so-called developing countries. This massive technology transfer of a more industrial style agriculture rested on the availability and application of nitrogen fertilizer.

The increased yields worldwide supported the rapidly expanding global population, which grew by 5 billion between 1900 and 2000. The number of humans supported per hectare of arable land has increased from 1.9 to 4.3 persons from 1908 to 2008 (Zmaczynski 2012). Today our world food supply has become very dependent on anthropogenic nitrogen. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers supply just over half of the need of our world’s crops (Smil 2011).

Without this industrial nitrogen our soils today simply could not grow enough food to provide for our current dietary needs. While this fact might be a reason to celebrate, it does come at a higher and higher price. The increasing application of soluble nitrogen fertilizer and pesticides into soils and environment brings with it serious ecological challenges in the form of emissions of nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, as well as ground water contamination and surface water eutrophication (Smil 2001, Smil 2011, Charles 2013). The well-documented `dead zones’ in the Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea have gained infamous notoriety, among countless other examples. Additionally, industrial agriculture and the `Green Revolution’ have had other dramatic negative, unforeseen and unintended consequences. Socio-economically, with the advent of industrial agriculture came the disruption and weakening of traditional farming systems and the communities and local economies they were embedded in (Berry 1986, Shiva 1991). The significance of Haber-Bosch in our current world can hardly be overstated.

The Haber-Bosch Process

The energy and hydrogen required to power the Haber-Bosch process are provided by fossil fuels, which are of course problematic and unsustainable.

The Haber process now produces 450 million tonnes of nitrogen fertilizer per year, mostly in the form of anhydrous ammonia, ammonium nitrate, and urea. The Haber process consumed 3–5% of the world’s natural-gas production (around 1–2% of the world’s energy supply). The Haber–Bosch process is one of the largest contributors to a buildup of reactive nitrogen in the biosphere, causing an anthropogenic disruption to the nitrogen cycle. Since nitrogen use efficiency is typically less than 50%, farm runoff from heavy use of fixed industrial nitrogen disrupts biological habitats. Nearly 50% of the nitrogen found in human tissues originated from the Haber–Bosch process.

Wikipedia

Pesticides

Monocultures are also vastly more susceptible to diseases and pests than polycultures are. Thus they require herbicides like Bayer’s RoundUp (glyphosate), fungicides, and pesticides. These are toxic, and end up in the soil and water harming humans and other life.

GMO

You might be thinking that you can avoid the above issues by buying non-GMO organic. You’d be partially correct, as non-GMO organic is less problematic. It’s still however quite problematic. Most of the issues with monoculture still pertain to organic plant-based foods. Large amounts of fossil fuels are still required to grow, preserve, and transport it.

Organic farming, as it is practiced now in the U.S, is largely reliant on the very synthetic fertilizers and the confined animal feeding operations that it prohibits. The link in this reliance is animal manure and the key nutrient is [once again] nitrogen.

http://csanr.wsu.edu/organic-ag-synthetic-nitrogen/

The exception to this is of course if you buy from local farmers whose methods you trust. But how many people buy exclusively from local farmers? And even then they are still using fossil fuels, as we all are. And as the above link points out, pretty much any farmer growing for market benefits from synthetic nitrogen fixing.

Water

IA plant based agriculture also draws heavily on water resources. The reason California has droughts and water issues is the same reason as why the Ogallala aquifer that feeds America’s breadbasket is running out: IA agriculture uses more water than is sustainable. Addressing water scarcity would take an entire blog post on its own, but is a huge deal, and IA is a huge contributor to it.

In short, IA plant-based foods are neither healthy nor sustainable. When articles tell you to stop eating meat, this is what they want you to support instead.

Non-Industrial Agriculture

And believe it or not, there are viable sources of healthy meat. In fact, when done properly animal husbandry is good for the planet. I’ll even take it one step further and say that responsible animal husbandry is actually crucial to the future of agriculture.

Cows

Let’s start by talking about cows. Cows and beef get a lot of bad press, for example, the statistic I quoted above that it takes seven pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. The argument goes that this grain could instead go to feeding people directly. Ignoring the fact that no human would want to eat the grain that gets fed to cows, let’s instead talk about how cows shouldn’t be eating grain in the first place. They should only be eating what they evolved to eat, which is motherfuckin’ grass.

Cows are incredible. They are renewable solar energy sources. They turn sunlight into beef and dairy. Grass, unlike monocultures, requires very little management. Now you might say here, plants turn sunlight into food even more efficiently. You are of course correct, but you might not be aware that pasture is not the same as cropland.

Pasture =/= Cropland

Intact grasslands inhabited by herds of large herbivores have a tremendous capacity to sequester carbon in the soil. Data in terms of tons of carbon per hectare is hard to pinpoint because estimates obtained through measurement and modeling vary by several orders of magnitude, depending on geological conditions, rainfall, types of grasses and whether they are cut, and the presence or absence of herd animals (whether wild or domesticated livestock). Furthermore, sequestered carbon can remain in the soil for varying lengths of time. Some carbon-containing soil organic matter decomposes in a year or two, much of it remains in the soil for a few decades, and some isn’t recycled back into the atmosphere for thousands of years (if ever). The ten-foot-thick topsoil of the American Midwest (much eroded today) testifies to the ability of grasslands to store carbon underground.

The highest carbon storage comes from native grass mixes occupied by large, roaming herds of herbivores. Sadly, 97 percent of the original North American highgrass prairie has been converted to cropland, suburbs, and sown pasture. Originally covering 70 million hectares, its carbon-regulating capacity was enormous. Judging by the data, albeit sparse, coming from management-intensive grazing practices that seek to replicate natural herbivore grazing behavior, it is conceivable that highgrass prairie could sequester 8–20 tons of carbon per hectare per year. Today, instead, most of this land is a carbon emitter, because it is cultivated for crops. Plow-based cultivation that exposes bare soil to the air, water, and wind makes its organic matter (carbon) available for oxidation. A similar story has transpired in the steppes of Asia, the veldts of Africa, the pampas of South America, and so on. According to the FAO, up to a third of global grassland has already been degraded. What could be a carbon sink is becoming an emissions source.

Charles Eisenstein, Climate, A New Story

Furthermore, not all soil is the same, and there is plenty of soil that is unsuitable for growing crops yet grows grass well. Thus, done properly, cow pasture does not compete with cropland, and expands the amount of land that is able to contribute to human food.

As mentioned above, large ruminants (i.e. cows, bison, etc.) play a crucial role in healthy grasslands. Their main contribution is their heavy hoofprint which presses grasses down into the soil, thus sequestering carbon, but their poop also contributes. What makes a ruminant a ruminant is that they have four stomachs that allow them to ferment grass inside themselves, growing bacteria, which is what actually provides them nutrition and energy.

Rumens are meant to digest leafy plant matter. In the case of cows, mostly grass. Their stomachs are not meant to digest grain, nor do they handle it well. Thus, it makes little sense to be feeding cows grain. IA does it because it causes them to gain weight faster, with higher fat content, at the expense of their health.

As large ruminants, cows in particular have a huge roll to play in regenerative agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is practicing agriculture in such a way that it is not only sustainable, but actually regenerates the land upon which it is practiced. An example would be reclaiming the land now used for cropland in the American high plains and restoring it to prairie. This would stop the carbon emissions that cropland causes, and start to once again sequester carbon. Since the American Bison was hunted close to extinction to remove it as a food source for Native Americans by colonizers, cows will be very helpful in restoring the prairie. Cows are also incredibly useful for building soil and soil health in any grassland setting when managed properly. Pastures sequester more carbon than do forests.

Carbon sequestration is important for more than just fighting climate change, it also makes for better, healthier soil. In the soil, carbon is commonly referred to as ‘organic matter content’ and is one of the primary things that determines how healthy soil is. This is because carbon enters the soil in the form of plant matter, which then becomes food for the bacteria and insects that make soil alive. Soil with high organic matter content can also absorb much more water during rainfall, making less runoff and therefore less soil erosion.

Pigs and Chickens

The main two other meats that we eat are pork and chicken. IA pork and chicken are way worse in pretty much every way than IA beef. Given the choice between IA pork and chicken and IA beef, I’d choose IA beef every time, both in terms of my own health and that of the planet.

Outside of IA, however, both pigs and chickens have valuable contributions to make to a holistically managed farm. Pigs turn compost into bacon and lard, and chickens remove insect pests and produce eggs and meat. Pigs also can provide value by working the land. Look up Joel Salatin for more information. They can be raised in a way that is beneficial for the land, and provide valuable nutrition.

Done properly, animal husbandry is much more labor efficient than plant-based agriculture in terms of calories and nutrition produced (Outside of IA. Of course it’s more labor efficient in terms of man-hours to have fossil fuels do all the work). I don’t know how many people have ever tried to completely feed themselves out of a garden, but gardening is long and hard work. Properly managed animals require a lot less time.

Conclusion

If you actually care about the planet, the thing to do is stop supporting the Industrial Agriculture system. This, however, is harder than it sounds. It pretty much means that you stop buying food in the grocery store. And since that’s where pretty much everyone gets their food, it’s a tall order.

However it’s easier and easier to support local, regenerative agriculture. There are CSA’s (community supported agriculture) all over the place, likely near you. Most metropolitan areas will also have access to a butcher that sources local, healthy meat.

One way or another, at some point we will no longer use natural gas to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. We might stop when we realize that burning fossil fuels is no longer tenable. At the very least we’ll stop when we run out of natural gas at some point in the future. By being dependent on a non-renewable resource, the Haber-Bosch process is by definition unsustainable. A sustainable agricultural system will need animals, especially cows, to maintain soil fertility.

Support holistic/regenerative local farmers!

Outrages, causes vs. symptoms

Image result for us detention camps
Immigration Holding Cell

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve.”

Thoreau

In this quote Thoreau is referring to philanthropy as practiced in his time, yet I feel it is relevant today in an even broader sense.

The United States is a house divided. Never before has our social discourse been so polarized. The Left and the Right cannot even speak to each other. Both sides feel under attack. Both sides are scared. Each side feels like the other is the Enemy.

There are countless problems in the country and the world, all existing simultaneously. The Left is killing unborn babies. The Right is dictating control of women’s bodies. The Left wants the country to be overrun by immigrants. The Right is tearing children from their parents. The Left wants to make it harder for people to earn an honest living. The Right wants to destroy the environment and kill us all through climate change. The Left wants to take the money of working people and give it to lazy slackers who don’t contribute. The Right wants to destroy the social safety net. And so many more.

My contention in this post is that all of these issues, and any future issue that is the focus of national attention for a news cycle, are branches of evil. This doesn’t mean that they’re not important, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about them, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do anything about them. What it means is that these issues are symptoms, rather than causes.

Let’s take the hot issue right now – kids in detention centers being taken from their parents and abused. Is it terrible? Absolutely. But why is it happening? The Left says it’s because Trump’s administration is heartless and cruel. The Right says it’s because illegal immigrants are trying to come here with no respect to our laws and take hard-working Americans’ jobs away from them. To an extent, both of these narratives are true. Both they are both incomplete.

Why are these people trying to come to the US? Because they are seeking a better life. Why are they seeking a better life? Because their old lives were shit. That’s the only reason you’d walk your family thousands of miles to an uncertain future. Why were their old lives shit? For a number of reasons, but the biggest is that foreign (mainly US) corporations, with the help of the US government, have been taking their resources and destabilizing their governments.

From A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis:

…we must also acknowledge the role that a century of U.S.-backed military coups, corporate plundering, and neoliberal sapping of resources has played in the poverty, instability, and violence that now drives people from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras toward Mexico and the United States. For decades, U.S. policies of military intervention and economic neoliberalism have undermined democracy and stability in the region, creating vacuums of power in which drug cartels and paramilitary alliances have risen.

Medium.com

From John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:

I was hoping to end a war I had helped create. As is the case with so many things we [Economic Hit Men] must take responsibility for, it is a war that is virtually unknown anywhere outside the country where it is fought. I was on my way to meet with the Shuars, the Kichwas, and their neighbors the Achuars, the Zaparos, and the Shiwiars—tribes determined to prevent our oil companies from destroying their homes, families, and lands, even if it means they must die in the process. For them, this is a war about the survival of their children and cultures, while for us it is about power, money, and natural resources. It is one part of the struggle for world domination and the dream of a few greedy men, global empire.

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Ecuador is in far worse shape today [2004] than she was before we introduced her to the miracles of modern economics, banking, and engineering. Since 1970, during this period known euphemistically as the Oil Boom, the official poverty level grew from 50 to 70 percent, under- or unemployment increased from 15 to 70 percent, and public debt increased from $240 million to $16 billion. Meanwhile, the share of national resources allocated to the poorest segments of the population declined from 20 to 6 percent.

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During this same period, the indigenous cultures began fighting back. For instance, on May 7, 2003, a group of American lawyers representing more than thirty thousand indigenous Ecuadorian people filed a $1 billion lawsuit against ChevronTexaco Corp. The suit asserts that between 1971 and 1992 the oil giant dumped into open holes and rivers over four million gallons per day of toxic wastewater contaminated with oil, heavy metals, and carcinogens, and that the company left behind nearly 350 uncovered waste pits that continue to kill both people and animals.

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Trying to help the families in detention centers on the border is all well and good, but it does not address the conditions that created the situation in the first place. By enjoying the resources that our corporations have taken from Latin America and paying taxes to a government that has overthrown democratically elected presidents to install military dictators friendly to US corporate interests, we are the cause of the very problem we are now trying to fix. Even if we were to somehow rescue and save all of the families currently in the detention centers, there will be more. Cutting down a branch without digging out the root is a temporary solution at best. There will soon be another branch.

So what is the root? In the case of immigrants in the detention centers, it’s US corporate and governmental pillaging of Latin America. Even more broadly though, I put forth that almost all worldly injustice has a foundation of economic injustice. As long as there is economic injustice (the root), it will breed countless other forms of injustice (the branches). Where does ecological destruction come from? Short-sighted pursuit of profit. Where does racial injustice come from? Historically, slavery was obviously an economic endeavor, and today the main fear of immigrants is that they will take current citizens’ jobs – again, economics. Helen Fischer in her fascinating book The Anatomy of Love makes a very compelling case that the injustice between men and women was first started with the adoption of the plow 4,000 years ago which created an economic imbalance between the sexes. This economic imbalance persists to this day, and is behind most of the injustices that men perpetuate on women. Why is there sex trafficing? $$$. Why are there starving children? Because they have nothing to offer to trade for food. Perhaps the one type of injustice that economics don’t play a large role in is LGBTQ+ issues, and even here I have a suspicion that economic issues do factor in somehow.

To put it all into a word, it’s capitalism. Capitalism as practiced today, and the scarcity that inevitably accompanies it, can reasonably be said to be behind almost all modern injustice. What’s much harder to swallow is that by participating in capitalism, we first world citizens create the demand that is the fuel for the world destroying machine. We Americans have cheap gas because we kill innocent civilians in the Middle East and support cruel dictators there as long as they allow us access to their oil. We have cheap clothes and shoes because they are made by women and children in horrifying conditions. Our cellphones are made in factories that more closely resemble prisons and which have nets installed to catch people attempting to escape by suicide. We destroy the earth and sea digging for fossil fuels and valuable metals. All so that we can have air conditioning and Netflix. In other words, we are “doing the most by [our] mode of life to produce that misery which [we] strive in vain to relieve.”

Now we did not choose capitalism, we were born into it. Most of our affluence and privilege is never even thought of, it simply is The Way Things Are. Growing up my family used A/C in our house, because why wouldn’t we? In many places you need a car simply to live. But we can no longer claim ignorance. A casual look at any problem of the world, much less all of them, reveals that things cannot continue as they have been.

As an individual, there’s very little most of us can do to directly help the immigrants in the detention centers. Unless you’re a doctor or such with the available time, probably the most you could do is donate to the ACLU. Most of us will probably voice our disapproval on social media and call it a day.

What you can do as an individual, however, is stop contributing to the conditions that created the current immigrants and thus prevent a similar thing from happening to others. This is how you strike the root. What does stopping contributing to capitalism look like? Many things.

A simple heuristic is to seek to meet as many of your needs as possible outside of the money system. Food offers an easy example. By growing your own food, you prevent a great amount of injustice. Bananas are instructional. Banana plantations are often hotbeds of human rights abuses. Bananas must also be shipped to the US using fossil fuels. By no longer buying bananas, you are no longer personally culpable for that expenditure of fossil fuel nor the market demand that fuels human rights abuses. (Sorry to ruin bananas for you) A much more domestic example is corn and soy in the US. Monocropped industrial agriculture is terrible for the planet, farmers, and your health. And corn and soy are in almost everything. Similarly, ditching your car for a bike relieves you of the culpability for all of the death and destruction that accompanies oil production.

Thinking along this line however quickly reveals how hard what I’m asking is. Most Americans meet pretty much all of their needs through the money system. To meet your needs without using money would require a radical restructuring of your life. Most of us would have no idea how to even start going about this.

It’s easy to point a finger at the other side and make them the bad guys. It’s easy and it feels good. Self righteousness is seductive. What’s not easy is to look in the mirror and recognize that you may have been out of integrity.

Perhaps though, recognizing these truths might grant us some grace for others. Underneath our seemingly unbridgeable differences, we’re all the same. We’re all looking for the same things. We all want to feel safe. We all want to love and be loved. We all want respect. Perhaps recognizing the ways in which our lifestyle choices are out of integrity can help us understand and have empathy for the choices of others. This is a hard time to be a human. There is so much suffering in the world today. But fighting each other is not the answer.

I believe that the world’s problems will only be getting worse. I further believe that the solution to them lies not in authority or an institution, but in each of us taking personal responsibility for the consequences of our lifestyles. This is difficult because we humans are loss adverse, meaning that losing $100 feels way worse than gaining $100 feels good. This applies to us first world citizens because we have a lot of privilege and affluence, and letting it go will feel like a loss. It is not easy.

When the next outrage is reported in the news, rather than blaming someone else,  I encourage you to examine how your lifestyle may have contributed to it.

Energy Price Tag

An idea for a new law: next to every normal price tag must be an “Energy Price Tag” that tells you how much energy was spent to get that item/service to where it is – in other words its cost in terms of energy.

First, a brief digression into what I mean by energy. In this post when I refer to energy I will mean in the physical sense, i.e. as defined by science/physics. Energy is the ability to do work. There are a large number of units that all measure energy. The SI unit for energy is the joule. Energy is also given in terms of: BTUs, kWh, calories, and other units.

Why would we want to do this?

Because it would raise awareness around energy consumption. Most people have no idea how much energy it takes for our economy to function as it currently does, and this would make it far more transparent. It would make it much easier for people to factor in environmental costs to their purchasing decisions.

For example, pre-industrial agriculture was an energetically positive endeavor. What I mean by this is that more energy was gained by eating the food than was spent to grow it. This is not the case for modern industrial agriculture, which is completely reliant on fossil fuels. Now on average 12-15 Calories of energy from fossil fuels are spent to create one Calorie of food. This results in a huge net energy loss.

How would this work in practice?

Businesses at each step of the supply chain would be responsible for monitoring and reporting the energy that goes into their process/product. It would be the energetic equivalent of a value added tax – without the tax.

There would of necessity be some sort of compliance enforcement. Perhaps the IRS could be expanded to include energy monitoring, or there could be independent firms that do the same thing, like accounting firms today.

Once the system was in place, it would be simple for the last step in the supply chain to add up the energy cost of the previous steps, add their energy cost to it, and then display it for their customers.

What would the difficulties of implementing this system be?

Most of the difficulty in implementing this new law would be in getting the necessary systems to do so up and running. A standard would have to be created and agreed upon, and then some kind of monitoring agency would have to be created. Businesses would have to implement new processes to determine and then monitor their energy usage.

Because monitoring and reporting energy use would be an added burden on corporations, they will be opposed to doing so. Corporations will almost certainly lobby against this, should this idea ever make it into potential law.

The biggest difficulty would be that this would have to happen world-wide. Because supply chains are so globalized, instituting this law in just one country wouldn’t work. However, it would really only take a handful of the largest economies to insist on this rule for it to be implemented.

What might the consequences of implementing this system be?

Hopefully, and especially if this effort is accompanied by an educational campaign, consumers would display some amount of preference for lower energy cost goods and services. For a (made up) example, if a bottle of Coke and Pepsi cost the same amount of money, but it takes twice as much energy to create that bottle of Coke than that of Pepsi, some amount of people might decide to purchase the Pepsi on the basis of its lower Energy Price Tag (EPT). All other things being equal, I imagine that most people would chose the energetically cheaper option. I can even see people being willing to pay more money for a product with a significantly lower EPT.

If the above bears out, this could have all kinds of eco-friendly effects. Companies might start advertising that their product is energetically cheaper than their competitors’. Companies would be incentivized to be more energy efficient. Local goods would almost always be energetically cheaper than foreign goods, and thus there would be some amount of incentive to shop local which is good both ecologically and socially. New machinery would almost always be more energy expensive than repairing old machinery, and thus EPT might help combat planned obsolescence.

Other considerations

I glossed over it earlier, but coming up with standards to properly measure energy usage and then allocate it appropriately among goods and services will not always be easy and in some cases could be incredibly difficult. For example, how would one allocate the energy spent researching a new pharmaceutical over the pills it leads to? This might require two separate EPTs, one covering the manufacture and transport of those individual pills and another noting the net research energy cost. However, I think the time and energy it takes to do so will be well worth it.

In my initial conception of this idea, I think it would be best to only measure and account for non-biological sources of energy (fossils fuels not being considered biological). Thus fossil fuels, wind, solar, geothermal, etc. would all factor into EPT, while human and animal physical labor would not. An exception to this would be biofuels such as ethanol. The EPT of biofuels would only measure the energy that went into growing them, not the energy that they captured from the sun.

Determining the EPT of energy itself would be another interesting case. Perhaps noting that energy source’s EROI (energy return on energy invested) would be sufficient. Dividing the amount of energy you use from a given source by its EROI would give the EPT of that amount of energy.

It is also worth keeping in mind what EPT would leave out. EPT would not measure ecosystem degradation or destruction. EPT would not account for socially disruptive practices. EPT would not measure humans rights abuses such as sweatshops, and perversely would actually incentivize them. Perhaps this could be addressed by requiring sweatshop use disclosure in products.

I’m sure there of many considerations I haven’t thought of, and would love to hear from you if you think of one.

Case Study: The Roseto Effect

It would not occur to anyone to question the statement that we ‘need’ iodine or Vitamin C. I remind you that the evidence that we ‘need’ love is of exactly the same type.

– Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being

This is the first of a series of Case Study posts. The Story of Progress would have us believe that things have never been better than they are now. While modern living does have advantages, I would contend that they are less and fewer than many believe. These Case Studies will highlight things we have lost as we have pursued modernity.

In the 1960’s the small town of Roseto, PA offered a puzzle to the U.S. medical establishment. The residents of Roseto did everything you’re not supposed to do, and yet were far healthier than the U.S. in general and neighboring towns in particular.

In 1964 a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined a population of recent Italian immigrants in Roseto, a small town in the state of Pennsylvania. The study was instigated because the town doctor was completely baffled by the Rosetans’ near immunity to heart disease. He reported his observation and an extensive statistical population study funded by American State and Federal governments was conducted.

The study compared health statistics of Rosetans to neighbouring towns and the initial results were astonishing. During the seven year period of study from 1955-1961:

  • No-one in Roseto under the age of 47 died of a heart attack; there was a complete absence of heart disease in men under the age of 55
  • The rate of heart attacks in men over 65 was half the national average
  • The death rates from all causes was 35% lower than anywhere else
  • The study confirmed the town doctor’s findings and went on to examine the factors that gave the Rosetans such improved health. It became known as the ‘The Roseto Effect’.

So what gave the Rosetans a near imperviousness to heart disease?

Well, the researchers asked the same question and first looked at the most obvious factor – diet. Being Italian immigrants, the researchers thought that the Rosetans must be eating a healthy ‘Mediterranean’ diet of fish, olive oil and fresh vegetables. Not so – in fact the researchers discovered that the Rosetans did not have enough money for fish and ate high fat meatballs and sausages, with an average fat intake of up to 40% of their entire diet! And the fats weren’t your ‘healthy’ types of fat, for the Rosetans liked to fry all of their food in good old lard.

The researchers then thought that surely if diet was not the contributing factor than it must be lifestyle, so they looked at how the Rosetans spent their leisure and work time. It turns out that the Rosetans were very hard workers but mostly worked in slate quarries or mines, which were renowned for having extremely harsh working conditions with high rates of on-site accidents. As for leisure time, the Rosetans loved their wine and cigars and consumed both with reckless abandon.

So let’s get this straight – the Rosetans had extremely low to no heart disease, yet they ate red meat deep-fried in lard, smoked and drank heavily, and worked in toxic slate mines? Yep.

This also had the researchers totally stumped as well and they studied all other possible factors such as ethnicity, water supply, environment, you name it. In the end, the researchers concluded that the unusually low incidence of heart disease in the town could not be attributed to any of these factors.

While living in the town to conduct the study however, the researchers observed several major differences as to how the Rosetans related to others in their community. They noticed a remarkably close-knit social pattern that was cohesive and mutually supportive with strong family and community ties, where the elderly in particular were not marginalised, but revered. Put simply, the Rosetans lived in brotherhood with one another.

So the researchers instead suggested that “the quality of family relationships and the social milieu may be pertinent to the occurrence of or protection against death from myocardial infarction.”

When investigators sought to unravel Roseto’s secret they conclusively determined it to be the ties of family and community in Roseto. What made Roseto different than neighboring towns and America in general was that it was peopled exclusively by close knit Italian American families who still practiced their Old Country ways.

Each house studied contained three families, or three generations. The elderly were neither institutionalized nor marginalized, but were “installed” as informal judges and arbitrators in everyday life and commerce. 80% of Rosetan men were members of at least one community organization.

Rosetans, regardless of income and education, expressed themselves in a family-centered social life. There was a total absence of ostentation among the wealthy, meaning that those who had more money didn’t flaunt it. There was nearly exclusive patronage of local businesses, even with nearby bigger shops and stores in other towns. The Italians intermarried in Roseto, from regional cities in Italy. Families were close knit, self-supportive and independent, but also relied…in bad times…on the greater community for well-defined assistance and friendly help.

Because they supported each other, they did not need outside assistance. There was no crime rate and few applications for social assistance (then called Relief). That’s not a typo… there was a zero crime rate (meaning no reported crimes) and no files for any emergency relief. “Back then everybody knew everyone else,” said Michael Romano, 62, the borough council president. “If you walked down the street and you were doing something wrong, the parents didn’t have a problem disciplining someone else’s child. It’s not that way today.”

In 1963, the investigators made a prescient observation: they believed that as Rosetans became more Americanized (meaning less close, less modest, and less interdependent), they would also become less healthy. The wearing off of the now famous “Roseto” effect would be apparent within a generation. And so it was.

In the 1970’s, the region was suburbanized, including Roseto. Single family homes, fenced yards, and country clubs were brought in. The social ties weakened and then started to fail. A 1992 survey, as published in the American Journal of Public Health, confirmed this sad prediction. The officials of the AJPH, no doubt beguiled by Roseto’s fate, descended on the town yet again. Again the investigators rifled through the death records of Roseto, and again they compared them with the surrounding towns of Nazareth and Bangor. The result: the Rosetans now suffer equally from the ravages of heart disease as every other town does, in the vicinity or not.

In fact, the wearing away of intra-marriages (Italian to Italian), the dismantling of the social ties between family and community, the adoption of conspicuous consumption by wealthy Rosetans, and ignorance of common values, could be charted with precision from decade to decade. Lo and behold, there is an almost perfect correlation between Americanization and heart disease death rates.

We humans are social animals. We evolved in close knit bands of relatives, knowing those around us intimately. This is necessary for our health. There are countless articles detailing the dangers of loneliness. In particular are highlighted the Lonely American and the Lonely Man. This is due to the breakdown of family and community in modern society and its attendant separation and isolation.

One-in-six Americans are prescribed psychiatric drugs. Are that many of us born with abnormal brain chemistry? Or is there perhaps something crucial lacking from our society that is making us sick?

The Economics of Cooperation

At East Wind we reap the benefits of cooperation. Because we work together, we are able to achieve a lifestyle of leisure and comfort while spending far less money than the national average. Let’s get right into the numbers (the following numbers are based on our fiscal year 2016-17, specifically July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. As far as expenditures go, this year is representative of East Wind’s operating costs.)

Population:

It is probably impossible to come up with an accurate average population count at East Wind. Members leave East Wind and drop membership to pursue other opportunities, and new members are constantly joining. Members often leave the farm, sometimes for extended periods. At the same time, there are pretty much always non-members – visitors, and guests of members – on the farm whom we are feeding and clothing and who may or may not be contributing labor. To avoid even attempting to address this problem I will be using our population cap, which we were at for the year in question, of 73 members as our population count. This is slightly misleading as we do not have 73 full members and there are benefits such as full health coverage that only full members receive, but fairly accurate as most of the benefits of living at East Wind are shared by everyone living here.

Labor:

Click here for a full description of East Wind’s labor system. Something not mentioned there is the many vacations we East Winders enjoy. While our weekly labor quota is 35 hours per week, once a month we have a holiday, and quota is reduced by 8 hours for the week the holiday falls in. Members also get the same 8 hour quota reduction for their birthdays. Every year members get three weeks worth of hours (105) on their anniversary as a ‘paid vacation.’

As a community we worked 101,798.9 hours for this year. Bear in mind that the following does not truly reflect our average working week but instead is a rough approximation based on the idealized population of 73 members. As mentioned above, East Winders will leave the farm for sometimes significant amounts of time. Furthermore, outside of the winter months we always have visitors and guests here who contribute labor to our community. These caveats noted, our total hours divided by 73 members and 52 weeks works out to 26.8 hours per member per week.

Food:

I cannot even begin to describe how well we eat here at East Wind. Every night at 6 our cooks put out dinner for community. The deliciousness and variety is continually amazing. Our cooks serve all different styles of meals: Thai, Southern, Mexican, Indian, Italian, barbeque, or just good ol’ meat and potatoes. Lunch is often put out at noon, usually consisting of leftovers and maybe a fresh dish or two. We are also free to cook whatever we want for ourselves at any time. During the summer there’s fresh produce from the garden, and there’s always cold raw milk on tap and freshly baked bread to eat. We buy things to eat that we don’t produce ourselves such as avocados, pasta, fruits year round, and chocolate chips. Desserts often just appear on the serving counter at night. You have to eat here to really understand, but I’d say we eat better than just about anybody. And we do it while spending way less on food per person than just about anybody. Our successful ranch, dairy, garden, and food processing programs contribute greatly to this low cost, high quality food.

Food Costs for a year:

Buying food: $81,138

Kitchen Supplies: $3,770

Food Processing (meat and veggie): $2,362

Garden: $5,639

Ranch & Dairy: $25,005

Water: $207

Total: $118,121

Total food cost per person per month comes to $134.84

We are able to keep our food costs so low because we provide a good chunk of our food for ourselves, outside of the money economy. And we of course do all our own preparation. The following breaks down how much time we spend growing, preserving, and preparing our own food.

Kitchen = 12,826.3 hours

Food processing = 4,381.2 hours

Garden = 5,677.2 hours

Ranch & Dairy = 11,178.8 hours

Meal Preparation:

One of my favorite things about East Wind is that every single night I get to enjoy a delicious, fresh, home-cooked meal. Before living at East Wind I would cook for myself, but with hardly any variety because I am a lazy cook. Cooking for one or two just always seemed so inefficient. Here that’s obviously not the situation. If we say that East Wind prepares about eleven community meals a week (seven dinners and four lunches) then we only spend .3 hours per person per meal. That level of efficiency is only possible in cooperative living. I guess you could pop something in the microwave and have it be ready in less than 18 minutes, but there is absolutely no comparison between our freshly made, many-dished meals and frozen microwave dinners. This .3 hours per person per meal also includes cleaning and all the ancillary chores associated with maintaining a kitchen like stocking and ordering food (which would be shopping for those in the mainstream).

Food Production:

I asked our incredible Food Processing manager if she had any numbers on our food production for the past year, and boy did she.

Veggies:

The following list is what we put up from our garden production in 2016. We certainly consumed much more than this, but there’s no way to know how much. A key thing to keep in mind is that the following was produced by our gardens and food processing kitchen. Our veggies are of the highest quality. We use completely natural methods here at East Wind, and you cannot get any more local. We use nothing artificial; no fossil fuel fertilizers, no pesticide, no GMO seeds, etc.

  • 100 gal. Tomato Sauce
  • 25 gal. Pickled Peppers
  • 10 gal. Roasted and Tomatillo Salsas
  • A small chest freezer’s worth of Strawberries
  • Two large chest freezers’ worth of Corn, Okra, Pesto, Sweet Peppers, Eggplant, Summer Squash, and more
  • 100’s of lbs. of Beets and Carrots
  • 3,000+ lbs. of Squash and Sweet Potato
  • ~2,000 lbs. of Potatoes

Dairy:

We have a fantastic dairy program here and milk 3-6 cows twice a day, every day. Our cows are treated extremely well, and like our garden, are natural. They are grass fed and we don’t use hormones. This year, they produced ~34,000 lbs. of raw milk (~4000 gals.). We drink a good portion of this. What we can’t drink we turn into butter, cheese, and yogurt. In 2016, we made ~150 lbs. of the most delicious butter I have ever had. Our butter is a rich yellow, so different from what you can find in stores. We also produced ~1,500 lbs. of all different varieties of raw cheese. In our processing we use no pasteurization, which maintains all the healthy probiotics native to raw milk.

Meat:

Like everything else at East Wind, our meat animals are all natural and raised with love. We use no hormones or antibiotics, nor herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers on our pastures. Something that truly sets East Wind apart is our meat processing. We do everything ourselves. Our animals are raised, cared for, slaughtered, butchered, preserved (naturally, not artificially), and eaten all within a quarter mile radius. You cannot get more local.

We didn’t keep the most detailed records of our meat production for 2016, so the numbers that follow are averages.

6-12 Pigs @ 100lb. yield        900lbs. pork

2 Hogs @ 400lb. yield            800lbs. pork

3 cows @ 300lb. yield            900lbs. Beef

Eggs:

We have numerous egg layers in two mobile chicken tractors, and get an ample supply of farm eggs every day. The difference between our farm eggs and those we purchase is stark, the yolks of our farm eggs are a rich, dark, orange color, while those of our purchased eggs are a pale yellow. It goes to show that malnourished chickens produce malnourished eggs.

Medical Care:

East Wind provides medical coverage to the best of our ability for full members, including vision and dental. Our total medical expenditure came to $50,138. This works out to $686.82 per member per year. Compare this with the national average: “A 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that employer-sponsored family healthcare insurance premiums cost $17,545 annually, and the average worker contributed $1,071 for single coverage and $4,955 for family coverage per year.”

We also create a ton of our own medicine from herbs we grow in our herb gardens. These include salves, tinctures, tea blends, and more. Our healthy, active lifestyle further contributes to lower medical costs. Because we pay cash out-of-pocket for medical expenses we often get huge reductions in charges, as much as 40% off.

Energy:

Despite owning and running a nut butter business and factory, our per capita energy consumption cost is quite low. We heat a lot of our buildings with firewood which we harvest from dead standing trees. Only our business offices, factory, and certain member rooms (as well as hallways) have air conditioning.

Energy Costs for 2016-17:

Electricity: $35,571

Propane: $7,648

Forestry: $1,815 (2312.1 labor hours went into Forestry this year)

Total: $45,034

Total per person per month comes to $51.41.

Electricity consumption:

Total community kWh for the year: 544,830

Per person per year: 7,463 kWh

National Average: 12,987 kWh in 2014

Source: “Electric power consumption measures the production of power plants and combined heat and power plants less transmission, distribution, and transformation losses and own use by heat and power plants.“

It is worth noting that East Wind’s electrical consumption includes the energy consumed by our Nut Butters factory and yet we are still significantly below the national average. It is also worth noting that some of the buildings built here are not very energy efficient.

Nut Butters:

Our main community business, East Wind Nut Butters, made $630,000 in profit for fiscal year 2016-17. This amply covered our domestic costs. We put in 18,734 labor hours into this business, which works out to $33.63 per hour. Not bad for a bunch of hippies.

Total Cost of Living:

Factoring in the varied other costs that go into providing a high quality of life, we pay a total of $533.05 per person per month to live as we do. Included in that amount is each member’s Discretionary Fund, which is $150 a month. That number encapsulates every domestic expenditure: medical care, auto maintenance and gas, housing, food, energy, shopping, discretionary funds, phone and internet, etc. In short, we have an incredible quality of life for far less than most people spend.

Per capita, we each live on $6,396.58 a year, which is well below the national poverty line of $12,060.

Cooperation pays.

Why I Don’t Vote – Part II

In posting my last post Why I Don’t Vote (in national elections) to Facebook I received quite a number of responses, many of them critical of my stance. I wrote the following on Facebook to provide additional context to my last post and will repost it here:

Before I address my post I want to share a little about myself as many of you do not know me well. The past Presidential election was the first I did not participate in since being able to do so. I reached my majority in 2004 just in time to vote against Bush’s second term. I voted straight Libertarian (and Democrat when there was no Libertarian candidate). Though my thought has grown quite a bit since then, even back then I did not like the “System.” In 2008 I had planned to vote the same way but at the last minute inside the voting booth switched my vote for President from Johnson to Obama, swayed by the possibility of a candidate who might truly change things up. I was disappointed, finding Obama hardly better than any other politician. That being the case, I returned to voting straight Libertarian in 2012. Had Bernie been the Democratic candidate in 2016 I would have voted for him for the same reason I’d voted for Obama, on the off chance that he might actually be something different. But of course he didn’t win the primary.

I used to vote for the same reasons so many of you are telling me I should now. I’ve been on your side of this argument many times. My final argument when doing so was usually, “If you don’t vote, don’t bitch.”

What was different in 2016 was my perspective on politics in general. In 2012 I voted Libertarian mainly on the basis of their stance on U.S military involvement in the rest of the world, which is essentially that we shouldn’t be involved militarily in the rest of the world. I felt that by voting for Johnson I was voting against U.S. troops killing foreigners, especially innocent civilians. By doing so I felt I could then say, “At least it wasn’t me, I voted against our neoliberal foreign policy.”

But even then I knew that to be a cop-out. Despite my vote, it was really oil that drives the death and dislocation the U.S. has caused in the Middle East. Oil I was helping create demand for by driving a car, eating non-local food, and buying plastic products. Regardless of how I voted, my lifestyle was predicated upon the American Empire and the innocent deaths it causes. I was also by that same stint contributing to climate change, which I feel is probably the most urgent issue facing us as a species right now.

Perhaps this gives a window into my current stance on voting and political action in general. My vote for a third party candidate is meaningless in all but the most abstract sense. So much so that Vivian got quite mad at me leading up to the 2016 election when I told her I might vote for Jill Stein. She was angry I might “throw away” my vote on a third party candidate and gave me the classic “lesser of two evils” argument.

By then I had already moved to East Wind, and while we are most definitely still plugged into capitalism, I felt that I had changed my lifestyle as radically as I could to no longer support the destructive actions of modern civilization while still having a good quality of life. My guilt of complicity in the American Empire thus assuaged, I realized that not one of the Presidential candidates stood for a fraction of what I believe in, and in general I had no faith in the American political system.

This brings us to my post. As far as voting itself goes, I’ve already shared my thoughts on it. I think most people recognize that unless you live in a swing state, your vote in a Presidential election is pretty much only symbolic. For example, I live in the Red State of Missouri. Trump won the state by over 500,000 votes. Had I voted for Jill Stein as I had considered, he still would have beat Clinton by that same number. Had I voted for Clinton as my sister wanted me to, he still would have won by over 500,000 votes. I consider either scenario a meaningless difference.

I think where I differ from most of you who disagree with my post is that I try to take a global, rather than just national, perspective on politics. From a global perspective, I find the way we humans collectively live on this planet to be simply unconscionable. Approximately 9 million people die from hunger each year. That’s almost 25,000 people dying each day. Due to hunger. It’s not as if the food doesn’t exist to feed them – it does – but they can’t afford it. They can’t afford it because of our capitalist world-economy which unavoidably concentrates wealth in the hands of the few, leaving the many with next to nothing. So much so that they die from lack of food.

We are in the beginning of the sixth mass extinction event in the last 450 million years. According to the UN Environment Programme, we are losing 150-200 species every day; this is nearly 1000 times the “natural” rate. This is obviously not due to an asteroid, but is attributed to us humans.

We’re losing the rainforest. We’re losing the coral reefs. We’ve overfished the oceans. We are causing climate change which will be catastrophic for us and other species. And all of these trends look to be only getting worse as time goes on.

The driving cause of all of these – and many more – problems is how we humans relate to each other and our planet on a global scale – in other words, civilization. Now, did any of use create this system? No, we were born into it. But it is my position that if we do not work to correct it we are just as culpable. This brings us to the discussion of political action.

It is my position that by living inside this system one helps perpetuate it. I almost certainly at some point in my life bought an article of clothing made in a sweatshop. Was I aware of it? No. Did I still contribute to oppression and injustice? Yes. The same idea applies to virtually every facet of mainstream American life. We have the cheapest gas in the world outside of major oil producing countries because of our economic and military empire. A huge chunk, if not all, of the destabilization of the Middle East can be laid at our feet because of our interest in its oil. By buying gas and driving cars I feel we are complicit in that mass amount of suffering.

Are any of us in this thread doing these things directly? No. But I don’t see that as an excuse.

The best solution I’ve found to this problem is to stop contributing to this destructive system, to unplug from the Matrix. More than one person has called this “dropping out.” And they’re right. But they see it as me washing my hands of responsibility while I see it as stepping up and taking ownership for my part in our destructive world-system.

This brings us to privilege. All of us participating in this thread are incredibly privileged. We were born middle-class or better in the richest, most powerful empire the world has ever seen. Compared to so many others, we have it so easy, we have it so good. But privilege cannot exist without oppression. They are two sides of the same coin. Our nation’s vast material wealth comes at the expense of mass worldwide poverty and of the destruction of nature.

It is my position that by enjoying our privilege without working to remove it we are in a morally indefensible position. I have tried to cease being part of the problem. I live below the poverty line and receive only $150 a month for discretionary spending, and yet still benefit in so many ways from the suffering of others simply by virtue of living in America. Short of living alone in the woods, which I don’t have the skills to do, I’ve yet to find a better solution.

To address the issue of voting one last time, I do not feel that many Americans agree with my views. I think most of us like being the richest country on Earth. I don’t think I could ever do anything inside of the system to address the many problems I see in the world in a meaningful way, so I am instead seeking to create change from outside of the system. I no longer will vote because I feel the economic world-system that our nation, and every other nation, rests upon is irredeemably broken and by participating in it I would be complicit in perpetuating it.

Furthermore, a friend from high school, JP, informed me that the  the Gilens and Page study I referenced in my first post has been debunked. I had not looked into their methodology until just now and agree with both their critics and JP in that their data does not support the conclusions they drew. That said, I still agree with their conclusions. I referenced that study because it succinctly summarized what will now require many more sources. One of the interesting things his link informed me of was that they considered the rich the top 10%, with a yearly income floor of $160k. I do not consider these to be “elites.” Perhaps oligarchy is overdramatic, but I don’t think anyone can argue that true elites, let’s go with the popular top 1%, have far more influence than the rest of us. I don’t have links ready to share, but I can mention books that have shaped my belief that the super-wealthy in many ways control the direction of society. Two books in particular were particularly illuminating: Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John C. Perkins and The Underground History of American Education by John T. Gatto. Another data point worth mentioning is that our central bank, the Federal Reserve is a private entity owned by member banks, which are owned by private citizens. While I have no idea who they are, I can’t help but imagine that there are some unimaginably wealthy central bankers who have an absolutely enormous influence on the world

Why I Don’t Vote (In National Elections)

This post is written mainly as a response to criticism from my sister Vivian, who thinks it hypocritical of me to advocate for political change when I did not vote in the Presidential election.Therefore I will at times be addressing her directly. This started when she took umbrage with me sharing the following photo on facebook:

First off, this Princeton University researcher sums up my stance pretty well: “I’d say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups — of economic elites and of organized interests.” [Update 8/20: I’ve learned that this study has been debunked. See my follow up to this post.] These “economic elites and organized interests” have been referred to as the Deep State. Real talk: America is not a democracy, it’s an oligarchy. And I’m not an oligarch.

For this reason and others, I have no faith in the American political process. I believe that working inside of the system is a waste of time. Vivian disagrees. She thinks that change is slow, but it is only possible by concerted, cooperative effort inside the political system. I think this view is naive.

By voting, you are implicitly agreeing that our system is just. It is a tacit agreement that the Way Things Are is acceptable, it is condoning the status quo. By participating in the 2016 Presidential election you agreed that it was a legitimate process to decide the leader of America. I don’t think it is. The French Revolution proved once and for all that the power lies in the people. When you vote in a broken system, you are handing that broken system your power. Furthermore, I feel that believing your vote has meaning actually dis-empowers you. By believing that your vote matters, you are less likely to engage in political action that does actually have an impact.

I’m going to even take this one step farther. You (Vivian) accused me of resting easy on my privilege. I going to actually flip this argument back onto you. You say that voting is meaningful. That working inside the system is slow and incremental but is what makes actual change. The very fact that you can afford to wait for slow, incremental change is what privilege looks like.

You’ve been more politically active than most people, but tell me, how many times have the changes you’ve pushed for become a reality? As I understand it, you’ve been on the losing side almost every time, even at the local level. How many hours have you spent demonstrating with nothing to show for it? You exercised not only your vote but also your right to demonstrate and speak and still nothing changed. Tell me again how voting is effective. The fact that you continue to support a system that perpetuates injustice simply does not make sense to me. Again, I will reiterate my basic stance that ordinary citizens no longer have any meaningful impact on the political process in America.

Here’s a brief list of political issues that I have feelings about: monetary reform, climate change, cutting down the rainforest, plastic in the oceans, ocean acidification, desertification, soil erosion, factory farming (CAFOs), monoculture agriculture, Monsanto patenting plants, Nestle owning water, fossil fuel dependency, economic structure (i.e. capitalism), American military atrocities in other countries, racism, fascism, gender inequality, wealth and income inequality, political corruption, police brutality, pollution, oil pipelines, human trafficking, ending the drug war, terrorism, NSA spying on all Americans, literal Nazis, the military-industrial complex, education reform and more.

Each of those issues have multiple people dedicating the bulk of their lives to righting those wrongs. And they’re losing. For every victory, there are five defeats. There will never be a congressperson, let alone a Presidential candidate, that will represent my stance on even a fraction of these issues. The US political system systemically precludes that possibility.

It’s too much. As an ordinary citizen I cannot make much of an impact on any one of those issues, much less all of them. It is impossible. The only solution I have been able to find is to cease being part of the problem.

I remember you arguing that while Hilary has her faults, she was the lesser of two evils. I don’t disagree. But that still doesn’t qualify her to lead the country. It’s a classic sales technique, that I learned as the “alternate of choice.”

The Alternate of Choice is a closing technique in the form of a question with two answers — and either answer is an agreement. The key is to give two solutions that both lead toward the sale. By giving two choices, one or the other is usually chosen. This is much better than what happens when you give one choice and the only other option is “no.” Here’s an example: “The way I see it, Mary, the only real decision we need to make today is how soon you can start reaping the benefits of our fine service. Shall we schedule our people out here tomorrow, or would the next day be better for you?” Once it’s scheduled, it’s sold.

“So Citizen, which will it be, the blue asshole or the red asshole?”

As if all of these reasons weren’t enough, there’s the simple pragmatic fact that my vote, should I ever cast it, would not count. And neither does yours.

I want to be clear that I am not against voting in general. In fact, I am very much for it. I am quite politically active here at East Wind. I attend, and speak at, virtually every community meeting we have. Not only do I attend them, but I have initiated our political process here by proposing meetings myself. I likewise vote on virtually every community vote we have. Furthermore, I regularly discuss community issues in my free time. The difference is that here at East Wind, because there are only so many members, every vote actually does count. When my vote counts, I vote.

I take a much broader view of political action than you do. I view every action as political. It is in this sense that I view myself as far more revolutionary than most people. For example, by living at East Wind I pay no taxes to the Federal government. This means I am not supporting the military in its killing of countless civilians in the Middle East. I am not paying for drone strikes. Anyone who does pay Federal taxes is. You are paying for those bombs, I am not. Another benefit of living here is that both my economic and carbon footprint is much smaller than the average American’s. I am thus that much less responsible for the devastation of our planet than the rest of my country. Lastly, I am in the process of writing what is ultimately a political book that I hope will have a far larger impact than my vote ever could.

If you want to pretend that voting makes a difference, fine by me. You didn’t hear me criticizing your naivete until now after you forced the issue. I direct my political efforts in other directions that I feel to be more meaningful. It is not apathy that makes me refuse to vote, but conscientious abstention. I wish you would stop criticizing me for trying to solve the many issues of our world in a different way than you choose to. Be happy that we’re both working to make the world a better place.

A YEAR AND A HALF AT EAST WIND

This post is long overdue. I had originally planned to update this blog about every two months or so, but that’s obviously not happening. So I’ll update when I do.

A lot has happened since I last wrote of East Wind. Perhaps most significantly to me, I became a Full Member at the start of February. Provisional membership lasts a year at East Wind, after which Full Members vote on the Provisional Member’s membership. I passed 🙂 . This entitles me to the same rights as any other member of East Wind, including full health care (major medical, dental, vision), a full vote, 1/73rd ownership of East Wind, three weeks vacation each year, and the security of knowing it would take two thirds of all full members to force me to leave.

It has been a beautiful and mild summer here, with ample rainfall. Everything is super green even now in August. The local area here actually made national news due to the torrential rainfall and subsequent flooding that we received in late April. Many local bridges were knocked out and many people in the area lost their homes. It was devastating. Luckily East Wind came through pretty much unscathed. We lost a canoe or two, but otherwise came out great. Our creek became a roaring river during the flooding; I witnessed entire trees whizzing by going at least 20 miles an hour. Our hayfield flooded, as it is land owned by Army Corp of Engineers for just such an occasion. For about two months we had lakefront property due to the high levels of Norfork lake. The creek has finally returned to its normal level lately and it will be fun to explore how it is different.

My labor here has become relatively settled. While I enjoyed keeping an open schedule when I first got here, over time I found myself taking on more and more scheduled labor. It suits me well. An average week goes as follows:

Mondays:

I teach a dance lesson at 11am. Though not actually labor, the lady I teach gives me 1 PSC for each hour I teach her, so it works out to the same thing. I eat lunch at noon. While we are in production I have a nut butter production shift monday afternoon. These last usually between 3 and 5 hours.

Tuesdays:

Tuesday mornings I get up early and milk the cows at 6:30am. We currently milk four cows, which produce more milk than we can drink. The only other scheduled labor I have on Tuesdays is my HTA shift after dinner. HTA stand for Hard To Assign, and refers to cleaning the kitchen. I wash pots for two hours every Tuesday evening and consider it a bargain for never having to cook. The rest of my tuesday I keep open to be able to work on projects.

Wednesdays:

I milk cows again on Wednesday mornings and teach another dance lesson at 11. After lunch I make cheese. Lately I’ve been making mozzarella, which is about a ten hour process. I’m starting to get good at it, it actually tastes almost the same as you would find in a store.

Thursdays:

The only scheduled labor I have on Thursdays is my CP shift in the afternoon. CP stands for Consumer Products, and essentially entails answering the phones and every so often selling some of our products to the rare walk-in customer. Since I have access to the internet while doing this shift, I often research for my book or catch up with friends and family.

Fridays:

Friday mornings I milk again, this time at 6am. I have my third and final dance lesson of the week, again at 11. In the afternoon I do my second CP shift.

Saturdays:

Saturday morning is my bread shift, which I usually start at 8:30. There is a bread shift every morning so that we always have fresh bread. I make white bread because most other people make wheat bread. After lunch I have comptoil which entails collecting all of the full poop buckets from the composting toilets and replacing them with empty ones. It’s not near as gross as you might imagine. I then shower thoroughly, which is labor creditable. I then usually clean an elevator in the factory if we are in production.

Sundays:

Sundays I have no scheduled labor. Our community meetings are Sunday at 2 however, and are labor creditable. I attend almost all of them. Otherwise I usually take Sunday as a rest day, or catch up on things I didn’t have a chance to get to over the week.

I’ve also undertaken a few projects in my time here. The project I’m most proud of is also the most boring. Nut Butters had been losing potential customers due to not being certified by a third party food safety company. To become certified we need a Hazards Analysis and Control Points (HAACP) program and the foundation of a HAACP program are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). SOPs are essentially written out instructions for everything that gets done in the factory. Everything. And that was my job. I took notes left over from previous managers and wrote out an SOP for just about every job in the factory. What I didn’t do my friend Warren did. It was a lot of time in front of a computer and wasn’t the most fun. It was important though, and in the end we got a 99/100 on our inspection.

A less important but much more fun project was building shelving and drawers for our new walk-in pantry. Our old pantry was too small and too old, and so this spring Becky tore it down and built a much nicer new one. I undertook to build the storage spaces for it. Our kitchen managers told me what they would like – a wall of shelving and a wall of drawers – and left the rest up to me. I drew out a design, compiled a materials list, ordered materials, and with help turned my vision into reality. These shelves and drawers should serve East Wind for years to come.

As I mentioned in my last East Wind post, I had taken our nut butter onto Amazon. Since then I have sold over $38,000 of our product there, at about a 25% profit margin. In July of this year alone I sold $8k. Not a huge deal compared to our bottom line, but I’m still proud.

One thing that has been really nice is how much time my labor here affords me to work on my book. I have a number of jobs that have a good amount of down time to them, namely my cheese makes, my breadmaking, and my CP shifts, and these allow me to serve community while at the same time making progress on my book. One of the many perks of this lifestyle.

Something that might be of interest to you is how I view the turnover in membership here. While the bulk of people that were here when I got here are still here, there has been a fair amount of turnover in the last year and a half. However, by and large I think it has been really good for East Wind. In that time we’ve gained some great new members, and the vast majority of those who have left are what I would consider people I’d rather not live with. In general, I feel that East Wind has amazing momentum in the positive direction. Nut Butters just had it’s best year in years, we’re building two new buildings this year, and there are more and more badasses on the farm.

So life is good at East Wind. Again, no promises, but I might post some updates in the relatively near future; some writing I’ve done for my book.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

I didn’t vote in the Presidential election. Aside from the fact that by dint of living in Missouri my vote doesn’t count, this was a deliberate and considered decision. Essentially, I view participating in the political system as tacitly endorsing it.

Before elaborating on that, I want to make it clear that I think the Donald will be an absolutely terrible President. Regardless of how his Presidency plays out, America has almost literally just elected Hitler. Because he will be President, things will be worse for almost every American, myself included, that is not a rich, straight, white male. This would not be as true had Hillary won.

But let’s take a broader perspective. As Trump is clearly a power-hungry, egomaniacal, ignorant demagogue, how could anyone – let alone almost a majority of Americans – vote for him? I mean, right?! Who even voted for him? The answer is poor people, that’s who. And, surprise, surprise, poor people now make up the bulk of America.

Now, I grew up in an upper-middle class household in the Blue State of New Jersey. Almost all of my friends grew up in similar situations. With the exception of my friends here at East Wind, my friends live a very comfortable middle-class lifestyle in or near a city on either the east or west coast. Middle America is a different story.

At East Wind, I still live a very comfortable middle-class lifestyle. We call ourselves bougie here. But East Wind is in Ozark County, MO, one of the poorest counties in the entire country. When I first got here I volunteered a number of times at the local food bank. It was my first real encounter with poverty. If I’m honest, my main impression was simply dismay. I had never seen such beaten-down, broken human beings. It was hard to witness. And there weren’t just a few.

In America we have a national mythos, a collective story if you will, that anyone can make it. We call it the American Dream. For people like me who had never really seen poverty as anything other than a statistic and the occasional homeless person, the American Dream still rings true. But for a ton of Americans – again, now almost the majority – the American Dream is dead. But for those of us lucky enough to be born into the middle or higher classes, it can be easy to subconsciously buy into the idea that people are poor because they brought it upon themselves, that it’s their own fault.

I don’t believe that. I see widespread American poverty as a symptom of our world-system. A capitalist world-economy, especially when paired with a debt-based money system, will inevitably concentrate wealth in the hands of the few. As this happens, the many unavoidably become poorer and poorer. There is no way around it in a system such as ours. How else could there be widespread systemic poverty in the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen?

What this means in everyday life is that a majority of Americans are living in constant fear of being unable to provide for even their most basic needs. When someone is fighting just to keep a roof over their head or doesn’t know where their next meal will come from, do you think they can have any empathy for people for whom a major concern in life is what pronoun that are addressed by?

A friend of mine, whom I very much admire and respect, ironically wore a “Make America Great Again” hat at Burning Man. But to the beat down poor of America that slogan is not a joke. What Trump was selling them was a chance to regain their dignity. Put yourself in their shoes. You know you’re a good person. You know you do your best. Despite all this, you can barely make ends meet. How could this be your fault? To you, Mexican immigrants are actually a very real threat to your livelihood, as they will accept less pay to do the scant work still available in your area. To you, building a wall to keep that from happening actually sounds like a great idea. You know that Hillary is a politician’s politician, and that under her nothing will be different for you. Things will only continue to get harder and harder. Trump’s not a politician, he’s an outsider. He’s never played the game and he’s promising to kick those fat-cat politicians right where it hurts (recall that Trump absolutely trounced the traditional Republican candidates as well). And he’s promising to make things go back to the way they were, when it wasn’t hard to find a job or put food on the table.

Except, of course, he’s not going to do that. But perhaps you can now see his appeal to poor people. The reason he’s not going to do that is the same reason life is so hard for so many Americans in the first place: systemic concentration of wealth creating widespread and systemic poverty.

Here and there leading up to the election I’ve broached some of these ideas in conversation, and consistently encountered the argument from my more conventionally liberal friends: “Yes, Hillary’s not perfect, but she’s infinitely better than Trump. Think of how women, minorities, and the queer community will suffer under a Trump Presidency. Clearly she is the lesser of two evils.” And they are, of course, perfectly correct. There will be pain and suffering under Trump that would not happen had Clinton been elected. It is a great sadness that this is so.

But let’s now step back even further. America is the global hegemon and even the poorest of us benefit greatly from this being so. We have cheap energy and material wealth such as no nation has ever known, nor is likely to see again. But this great wealth and power of course has come at a price. America has toppled democratic governments, supported dictators, armed warlords, assassinated heads of state, and killed countless innocent civilians in the process. We as First World citizens have also – less directly through the world market – created the economic incentive for sweatshops, the destruction of the rainforests, the spoiling of the Earth’s rivers, and have created the sixth Mass Extinction Event (called the Anthropocene – Age of Man – extinction) through our effect on the environment, losing up to 140,000 species a year. This suffering is magnitudes greater than any that Americans will face under Trump.

And do you know what the primary driver of the world-economy is? First World consumption. These atrocities happen every day so that we can make, sell, and buy $800 shoes or bottles of wine. The way we collectively choose to live our lives on this planet, what I have called our world-system, is the reason we have war, why countless species are becoming extinct, and why there exist enough disenfranchised people in America for Donald Trump to be President-Elect.

Now, as Billy Joel said, we didn’t start the fire. But if you’re not trying to put it out, you’re part of the problem. And if you live a First World lifestyle, not only are you not putting it out, your consumption is actively stoking it. Our world-system is bigger than the American Presidency. Everything I’ve just pointed out would still be true regardless of who won last night. Which is why I didn’t vote yesterday. A vote, even for a third-party candidate, is still an implicit vote of confidence for The Way Things Are.

As Audre Lorde said, the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. I instead voted in a much more meaningful way – in actually what I feel is the only meaningful way – when this past January I left Babylon and moved to community. Not that East Wind is unplugged from the system, nor are we sustainable yet, but at least we’re trying.

Had Hillary won last night I can easily imagine what my Facebook feed would be like today. Everyone bemoaning Trump’s victory would instead be slapping themselves on the back for electing the first female President. As if she wouldn’t be President of the Patriarchy. Despite the meaningful changes she might have been able to enact regarding the rights of women, minorities, and the queer community in America, she would have continued Business As Usual with all its attendant atrocities I mentioned earlier. It just would have been more palatable. And those atrocities, I feel, are the far more pressing issues of the world today.

Up until last night, I honestly thought Clinton would win. However I was hoping it would be Trump. Not because I liked him or supported him in any way, but because a Trump Presidency will make heretofore hidden faults of the system show through more openly. It will be a very scary time. We First World citizens are addicted to our affluent lifestyles. Common wisdom has it that before an addict can recover, they must first hit rock bottom. I don’t think Trump will be rock bottom for all of us, but maybe he will be for some of us.

Trump’s base, the poor people of America, have few options available to them. The same, however, is not true of Hillary’s base. So if you’re reading this in America, and you voted for Hillary, I encourage you to consider what part you play in our global system. Perhaps you could hold up a mirror to your lifestyle and #checkyourprivilege.

THREE MONTHS IN

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and the length of this post reflects that. I apologize for both the wait and the length. I’ve been pretty busy settling into my new life here.

April 18th marked my official three month anniversary as an East Winder, and I’m loving it more than ever. There is a vote on each provisional member’s membership at the three month mark, and I did not receive a single no-vote, which felt very nice. There will be one more vote on my membership at my one year anniversary, and should I pass that I will become a Full Member.

Spring is definitely sprung here in the Ozarks, and it is incredibly beautiful. I have never lived anywhere more gorgeous. The trees are flowering and leafing, everything is turning green, and it is all so wonderful. I have never before lived so close to nature, and find myself constantly grateful to do so now. I consider myself so lucky to no longer be trapped indoors when it’s a beautiful day out, and can instead either work outside or simply take the day off on a whim.

Being so much closer to nature has also given me the gift of looking at the natural world in ways I never have, and now wish I had been. The most notable thing is an appreciation of seasonality. Living in Babylon (what East Winders call mainstream society), seasons pretty much just meant the weather would change and the leaves would grow, change color, and then fall off. But watching winter turn to spring here has given me a completely new appreciation for the seasons, and their effect on the world around me. Working in the garden I’ve started to learn the order of planting, and for the first time became concerned about frosts. Being out in the woods first cutting down dead trees and now herding our goats, I see the land take on a very different character as some plants sprout and grow and others fade away. Strawberries, instead of being available whenever I want them, only come once a year (which is almost upon us!). I’m learning to identify the different plants that grow here, what they signify, and what they may be used for. I went mushroom hunting last week, and found my first morels, a highly valued delicacy. These too only appear for a few weeks out of the year.

Speaking of food, I need to rave about how well we eat here. It is absurd. I have never eaten so well in my life. I’m an admittedly lazy cook, and would be grateful simply to have food regularly prepared for me. But it is so much more than that here. I eat a huge variety of meals, in a large variety of styles. Every meal has at least five different dishes, and often more. And it’s all freshly made, from the best quality of ingredients I have ever heard of. Only the very, very best of restaurants could match the quality of ingredients here, and even then I would not be sure. I’m not sure it’s possible to be more local, organic, farm-to-table, than we are. There have been a large number of meat-heavy meals since I’ve been here as winter is the time to slaughter animals, which have almost all been born, raised and cared for, slaughtered, and butchered right here on our farm. I actually helped to butcher the last pig we killed this winter, and found it to be an incredible experience. Not only was I grateful to have the opportunity to learn how to carve and preserve an animal, but I also learned a lot about how bodies are built. It turns out a pig’s musculature is not all that different from ours, and I found my knowledge of human anatomy to be quite helpful in separating the different muscles of the pig. Our garden is getting into full swing and will provide us with delicious and nutritious veggies all year long.

Another form of food processing I have started to learn is the art of cheesemaking, which I am finding fascinating. Cheesemaking is important here because it allows us to preserve our excess milk, produced by our dairy cows, AND because cheese is delicious. I’ve made a couple cheeses now: simple farm cheese, ricotta, whole milk ricotta, and a passable attempt at feta. There have been some bumps, but so far I’m decently happy with what I’ve produced. We are very lucky to have an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable, and meticulous food processing manager, Rin, from whom I consider myself very lucky to be able to learn from, as well as eat the products she presents to community. Cheesemaking is also my first venture into fermentation, which I find to be a really interesting field of study. Beermaking is next.

I’ve also:

… started to learn to use our sawmill. I think it’s so cool that some of the dead standing trees we cut down a few months ago during Forestry season are now being turned into lumber by us. The work itself is a little rote and mechanical, but I find it really rewarding to be able to produce our own lumber. I really enjoy working with and learning from Dusty, a co-manager of both Forestry and Building Maintenance. Before coming to East Wind he ran his own contracting company in LA building mega-mansions for movie stars and is incredibly knowledgeable and skilled.

… been working production shifts in our nut butter factory. “Nut Butts” is currently the lifeblood of East Wind, and allows us to do all of the other awesome stuff that we do here. I’m therefore more than happy to work in the factory and help support our lifestyle here. The shifts are usually 2-4 hours long and are pretty simple. There are a few different jobs on each shift, which one person will do for the length of the shift. Each job is straightforward and simple, and it’s actually kinda fun finding a rhythm together to bang out the job.

… worked at the local food bank a few times. East Wind grants its members labor credit for hours spent in community service, which we call Community Support. I think it’s pretty awesome. Working at the food bank was actually a pretty depressing experience for me. Ozark County (wherein East Wind is) is very poor, and until handing out food here I had never encountered poverty on this level before. To directly see and interact with their suffering made me sad for them, and angry at the system that creates that level of suffering. It also made me very grateful for the countless blessings in my life.

… worked a little bit in the garden. Nothing too special, mostly doing some planting and hoeing, but I find it’s quite enjoyable work. There are usually other people around and we chat and joke while working. When it’s a particularly nice day I usually work in the garden to be able to enjoy the weather and get hours at the same time.

… started goat herding. And it’s probably my favorite work on the farm. I get to walk around and chill on our beautiful land for three hours with our goats, which are great animals. And the mamas just kidded! Sadly it was a rough birthing season for our goats as four of the babies were stillborn, and we might lose one of our mamas, Ocean. The four kids that did survive however are ridiculously cute, friendly, and playful. Because of that they don’t like to go too far from the goat barn, but soon they’ll be going out again. I like to goat herd as I get hours to just sit in nature and do as I please: read, pet goats, practice music, or just be.

… been working to improve how East Wind handles it’s domestic grey water. Currently it empties out onto a hillside, which is obviously less than ideal. Apparently there used to be a sewage pond, but then someone decided to build a new system and left it unfinished in its current state. So another East Winder, Will, and I have been working first to cover up the standing water, which is just about done. Next step is to decide on and design a permanent solution, and then implement it.

The largest project I have undertaken since getting here has been creating an Amazon.com seller’s account for East Wind and listing our nut butters on there. It was unexpectedly hard to create this account for us due to Amazon’s unclear requirements to do so. Once I was finally able to get cleared to sell on Amazon it was a good bit of work to list all of our various products with appropriate information and pictures. However it’s all done, and we’re live and have already shipped five orders. I’m pretty proud. Should you be so inclined, you can buy our healthy and delicious nut butters on Amazon and support East Wind. Who knows, I could even have been on the shift that produced what you buy.

Dusty (of the sawmill) is also involved with the Ozark Neighborly Exchange, a local organization encouraging locals to come together and create self sufficiency through the unity of their neighbors. They put on a one day congress a few weeks back and a bunch of East Winders and I attended. There were some cool presentations by some impressive people there, and I learned a good bit. It was also encouraging to see about 200 people there, and to know that there is a community of like-minded people in the greater Ozark area. Until then I was unaware of the strong self-sufficiency/back to the land sentiment here in the Ozarks.

Something else I love about East Wind is all of the crazy talented musicians here. It’s so nice to have live music around. And then we have weekly jam nights, some of which have actually sounded really good. A couple will be getting married here soon, and an East Wind band has formed to play at their wedding, I’m looking forward to hearing them play. II still haven’t started working on my music much, finding that figuring out my labor and socializing take up the bulk of my time, but I have started playing the drums a little bit. There’s at least a few other people here into EDM production, and I’m looking forward to learning from them.

While I’m in fantastic spirits now, there have been a few rough patches for me. Nothing serious, but I have found myself lonely at times. What I told myself during these times (and which has since been proven true) is that it’s normal and to give it time. I’ve started to build real connections with people here, and feel it will only get better with time. When I would get a little down I would perhaps question if this all wasn’t a big mistake, but there was always an answer: I can’t imagine a more powerful way to fight for what I believe in.

Another much less serious… let’s just call it a complaint though it hardly qualifies is that the internet can be quite slow at times. Usually it’s slow but workable, but sometimes it just does not go. This is something I’m going to be looking into to see if we can’t find a better option. However I really like that I’m not connected to the internet 24/7 anymore, which I did not expect. Now I have to take a five minute walk if I want to use it, which is no problem when I need to but is enough to stop me from defaulting to browsing Reddit or Facebook when bored. When I first got here I asked about getting Internet in the dorm buildings and learned there was a community meeting about five years ago and community decided against it. Apparently at Twin Oaks and Acorn, the other two large FEC Communities people hardly ever socialize because they’re all in their rooms on the internet and it harms community. I find that a really compelling argument and no longer wish for Internet in my room.

I’ve been playing a lot of games here, which I enjoy. There’s a bunch of chess players here, and I play more chess than I have since leaving Dallas when I lived with a chess Master. I’ve also got back into Magic, which I used to play back in highschool. I never could quite bring myself to get rid of my cards, and now I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve also played a good amount of Catan, and have started to learn Go. Oh! And also Tak, which just got invented and will only be familiar to fans of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles.

The weather has been wonderful this April, and there have already been some days spent hanging out at the creek drinking and enjoying the sun and the water, something I’ll never grow tired of.

I’m sure there’s more I’ve done that I can’t think of at the moment, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

Cheers!

Originally published April 29, 2016