The Planet

The 11th Hour

I bought this documentary recently. “The 11th hour” – produced and narrated by Hollywood wonderboy Leonardo DeCaprio. It’s ok. It’s good. Some might even say it’s great. I don’t know. I’ve seen a few of these documentaries over the past few years. It’s definitely been a trend for quite a while now to make films about the environment and how we are all going to hell. Mother Earth is swallowing us, punishing us for our sins. This very well might be true of course. If it’s not a punishment, it’s definitely a natural consequence for our actions over the past decades.

Along with “The 11th hour”, I also have the movie “The Inconvenient Truth” and the mini series “The Planet” in my collection. They’re all pondering the same theme, but in different ways. And I guess these movies speak to different people. “The Inconvenient Truth” is a good source of cold, hard facts. This is how it is. Deal with it. “The Planet” is my absolute favourite. Visually stunning and it really shows how good documentaries are an artform. You should check it out.

These three movies have something in common. They focus (mostly) on the bad stuff. They focus on pollution, soil erosion, species going extinct, greenhouse gases, vast landfills, peak oil, contaminated waters, melting glaciers, toxins in food and everything else that tells us we’re going downhill. Fast. And these are the stories we have been fed for a while now. The media are full of it. Most people with access to any kind of media gets these kinds of messages every day. Most people know these stories. Most people know the facts (or at least enough to make a decision or make up their mind about it). I don’t think that is the main problem anymore.

People know what’s happening. And they know why. I think the main problem is that many don’t know what to do about it. Of course – some couldn’t care less no matter how much they learn. Some just don’t care. But the problem with these movies and with media in general, is the massive single focus on the bad stuff. We’ve been bad and now we have to face the consequences. Experts, researchers, governments, activists and organisations are smacking our hands; putting us in the naughty corner.

Smacking hands, spanking or putting kids in the naughty corner doesn’t work. It does not change behaviour or attitudes. It does not make them learn anything of value to use further in life. It. Does. Not. Make. A. Difference. At all. Making us feel guilty, ashamed, frightened and bedazzled by shitloads of scary photos, facts and numbers does nothing but that. Make us feel guilty and scared and small and unable to take action and change. Consequence is good, but punishment and fear is not.

All of these movies play on strong emotions. As all good movies and art do. And strong emotions can lead to changes and actions. That is great. But it can also make you feel like a spectator; passive. Like there is nothing you can do about it. And that is my point.

Many people really don’t know what to do, or they believe that whatever they do doesn’t make a difference. Because we get bombarded with the “you’ve been naughty” message, and no one sits down and talk with (not to) us about it, or tells us how to make a change for the better and do something. We remain spectators. And strong forces work every day to keep us in this state.

These have become big shot mainstream movies. They mostly follow standard dramatization and cause-effect narratives as foundations. And what unfolds on screen is unquestionably one of the greatest dramas possible. Superior to any Hollywood produced sfx loaded blockbuster action movie.

But still. I wish that the focus had shifted a little. That movies and media in general would focus on what to do. How to do it. In “The 11th Hour” this is mostly left out of the movie. Some of it has made its way to the extra material on the DVD. Probably because the drama is what sells. The how-to-solve-it doesn’t.

Solutions are out there. They are manageable and ready to use for anyone. You just have to dig a little deeper, see through the “end of times” scenarios and take action. The solutions don’t make money for big production companies and newspapers and they don’t make us consume more. Maybe that’s the “problem”.


A challenge

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2009

We so need to do this. Head over to The Crunchy Chicken to learn why and join in.


Diaper stash

My recently arrived diapering stash. We used the plastic disposable stuff when T was a baby, but hopefully we’ll get a hang on some of these cloth diapers this time around. I don’t know what’s happened in-between, but cloth diapers didn’t even occur to me the last time I was pregnant. Or after she was born for that matter. I guess I was into bein’ green and everything back then also, but (thankfully) a lot has happened since then – I’ve changed, learned more about being green, thinking more about our choices and how it affects us and the planet. So – we’re definitely moving forward.

I have kind of mixed feelings about the diapering right now. First of all – the more I think of and read about the disposables; the enormous amount of mostly plastic landfill – literally a ton of diapers pr. child – that takes about 500 years to decompose... The thought of wrapping your kids reproductive organs in non breathable plastic for 2-3-4-5 years, all the chemicals involved to make the diapers feel “dry” even after hours and hours… Well, the list goes on. Right now I cannot believe that this didn’t hit me with T. Or with myself a little earlier (I’ve used cloth pads for a few years now, and I love it).

But I have no idea if it is going to work for us. Is it going to be a lot more work? Are they going to leak all over the place? Can we adjust to the thought of doing laundry on a more regular basis instead of collecting huge amounts and then having to wear different coloured socks because nothing else is clean? (Get the idea?) Yes, we’re that kind of people. But I guess it has to change now or else this cloth diaper idea will be a very short lived and smelly business. I’ve bought three bamboo (so much better than cotton in so many ways) fitted diapers, one all-in-one organic cotton, twenty organic cotton flat fold diapers and some other “stash” to try out. And I just love the wetbags from Planet Wise. Pretty pretty. I’ll have to knit and buy some wool soakers as well.

And to take this even a little bit further (some say a little bit too far), I’m thinking of trying “family cloth”. Yes, that’s apparently what it’s called and I don’t know why. Let me explain. Basically it is wiping your behind with cloth instead of paper after doing your business. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but now seem like a good time to try it out, since we have to wash diapers anyway. The main thing about using cloth instead of toilet paper is of course to use less paper – less disposables. And it is better for our skin. Another good thing for us is significantly reducing the amount of paper in our compost toilet. Most of the stuff in there is actually paper, and it takes quite a while to decompose. And it makes the process slower… Well, nuf’ details about that. We’re doing cloth for pee and paper for poo. And paper for guests of course.

Ideally I’d make the wipes myself (cutting old t-shirts or cotton flannel into squares and hemming…). Ideally I’d even make the diapers myself, but I’m not quite there at the moment. Maybe one day…

Or maybe I’ll make those wipes anyway. I mean, seriously…


Status quo

It’s winter. Right now it’s the kind of winter that has us locked inside, or at least stuck up here. Where we live this happens some times. Not very often though. But right now, with me looking (at least feeling) like a stranded whale, a car that desperately needs an update in so many ways… Well, it was safer to stay at home. To drive anywhere I’ll have to put chains on the car (ehm the tyres that is), and then maybe we’ll get down and up again. Sigh…

So we’re here, me and the little one, trying to survive without driving each other crazy. Mostly being inside the house because of the slippery, icy, wet, windy and grey happening outside. Today was cupcake baking day. Blueberry cupcakes with so much blueberries they were really blueberries with a little cupcake added to them. Yum.

And since the husband has our camera at work, I can’t take photos of them. But I have this one… Kind of related.

Two of my cake tins, both thrifted. Old cake tins are something I always look for on flea markets and thrift shops. I just love them, and of course they can store almost anything (like needles and thread and bias tape, or stamps, postcards, the little ones beads…) – not just blueberries with a little cupcake added :).


Thoughtful friday #2

After enlightenment - the laundry.
Zen proverb


Toys and "stuff" - part I

When you have children, you get a whole new perspective on “stuff” and how it comes into your home. Maybe you were already into simple living, decluttering, organizing and living green before you had children, or maybe having children awakened this “interest” or need to do so. One thing is for sure – the amount and flow of stuff changes when you have children, whether you want it to or not.

The toys. Oh, the toys. And the baby stuff. The baby “toys”, the automatic rocking chairs with the animal sounds and annoying, repetitive music, the flashing and beeping and moving toys with batteries, the walking chairs, the baby carriages with all kinds of “entertainment” installed, the potty that plays a tune when you go pee pee, the small computers made for pre-toddlers, every kind of pedagogically correct toy and gadget that you just got to have if your baby is to develop properly and fast enough. Or the kind of stuff you just got to have because “everyone” else got it or tells you that you simply cannot live without. Your family will give you all kinds of “good” advice, your friends will tell you, and the producers and manufacturers will undoubtedly tell you. It's good for the baby they say. You need this to be a good parent. Or you need this to be hot and trendy. And lets not forget – it makes your life so much easier. What a treat.

Kids and especially babies don’t need all this stuff. It’s all bogus. As first time mothers most of us bought and got loads of things and toys that we didn’t need. And the baby certainly didn’t need it! But we end up with lots of it no matter what. And many of us have rooms and even houses full of it years after the baby is born. There it lies forgotten or just put away so we don’t have to look at it and deal with it. Gathering dust in the basement or in the garage, or piling up with the vast (and always growing) amount of toys in the kids’ playroom.

No wonder some people say it’s expensive, loud and exhausting to have kids.

It really isn’t. Children don’t need to learn how to play. They don’t even need toys to do so. Toys (and especially baby gadgets) are usually something made up by adults to keep children busy when we’re off to do other things. These days it’s mostly made of plastic, many of them contain harmful chemicals, most of them are made in China by underpaid workers in dangerous environments, many of them are made to do one thing and don’t really stimulate fantasy, creativity or playfulness at all, but might keep your child busy for a couple of hours before they lose interest. And – most of them ends up as toxic, non-recyclable items in the landfill, or if they’re lucky – at Goodwill.

I’m painting a black picture here. Many (more and more) parents are fully aware of this, and buy safe products for their children; focusing on quality, safety and the environment - not quantity. Many parents quickly realise that having lots of fancy stuff has nothing to do with being a good parent, or having a happy childhood or developing properly. I’m not saying we should stop buying toys altogether. I’m not saying you should not buy anything for your new baby. I’m saying you don’t need to buy all this stuff.

Our four year old has quite an “impressive” amount of toys. And yes, she has some of the above mentioned plastic from China. But this is an ongoing (never ending?) process of refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle for us. The refuse part is definitely one of the hardest ones. The reduce part is not always easy, but she’s in on it from time to time. Even she can see the need to reduce the amount because it doesn’t get played with and ends up as clutter and even more stuff to clean up. And the things she loves and plays with the most - is the simple, creative, open ended toys and everyday items and art supplies. Who would know? ;)

So – what do babies need then? And how to recognize what is a good and high quality toy? More on that later.

Note to self

Twelve Excercises for Mindful Parenting

1. Try to imagine the world from your child's point of view, purposefully letting go of your own. Do this every day for at least a few moments to remind you of who this child is and what he or she faces in the world.

2. Imagine how you appear and sound from your child's point of view; imagine having you as a parent today, in this moment. How might this modify how you carry yourself in your body and in space, how you speak, what you say? How do you want to relate to your child in this moment?

3. Practice seeing your children as perfect just the way they are. Work at accepting them as they are when it is hardest for you to do so.

4. Be mindful of your expectations of your children, and consider whether they are truly in your children's best interests. Also, be aware of how you communicate those expectations and how they affect your children.

5. Practice altruism, putting the needs of your children above your own whenever possible. Then see if there isn't some common ground where your needs can also be met. You may be surprised at how much overlap is possible, especially if you are patient and strive for balance.

6. When you feel lost, or at a loss, remember to stand still. Meditate on the whole by bringing your full attention to the situation, to your child, to yourself, to the family. In doing so, you may go beyond thinking and perceive intuitively, with the whole of your being, what really needs to be done.

7. Try embodying silent presence. Listen carefully.

8. Learn to live with tension without losing your own balance. Practice moving into any moment, however difficult, without trying to change anything and without having to have a particular outcome occur. See what is “workable” if you are willing to trust your intuition and best instincts.

9. Apologize to your child when you have betrayed a trust in even a little way. Apologies are healing, and they demonstrate that you see a situation more clearly, or more from your child's point of view. But “I'm sorry” loses its meaning if we are always saying it, or if we make regret a habit.

10. Every child is special, and every child has special needs. Each sees in an entirely unique way. Hold an image of each child in your heart. Drink in their being, wishing them well.

11. There are very important times when we need to practice being clear and strong and unequivocal with our children. Let this come as much as possible out of awareness and generosity and discernment, rather than out of fear, self-righteousness, or the desire to control. Mindful parenting does not mean being overindulgent, neglectful, or weak; nor does it mean being rigid and controlling.

12. The greatest gift you can give your child is your self. This means that part of your work as a parent is to keep growing in self-knowledge and in awareness. We have to be grounded in the present moment to share what is deepest and best in ourselves.

Source: Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, the authors of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting



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Happy new year :)

Not so much happening here during Christmas – we all got the flu and sinus infections and ended up with antibiotics and painkillers, herbal remedies, cough syrup and the lot.

Most of us are better now – my husband is still on antibiotics, but is feeling better.

I just hate the thought of antibiotics in the first place, but this time it felt like the only way to survive Christmas. Luckily our four year old was really sick for a couple of days, but quickly got better with a lot of TLC – sleep/rest, smoothies and too much television… It’s wonderful to see how her body works and heals itself from illness in a whole other way then ours. When she gets sick – she really gets sick, but usually it lasts for a few days and then its over. With us it’s another story. Often we’re walking around feeling sick-ish for days or even weeks – low energy, cranky, body hurting in different places… Why can’t I just get sick and then start the healing process? I’m thinking it’s because her four year old body is so much healthier than ours in terms of (for example) – getting a lot more exercise, eating (and drinking) a healthier diet than us (a paradox isn’t it), not being vaccinated, not usually taking any kind of medicines, not been exposed to so many years of pollution and toxins…

So – after these last few weeks of feeling sickish my body desperately started craving fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if it’s a psychological or physical kind of craving, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a cliché, but it feels real – my body needs fruits and veg and healthy green stuff right now. At the moment I have aversions against almost all kinds of meat.

And lucky us – we got a juicer for Christmas from some very nice friends.

Before breakfast today:

1 green/yellow apple
A big handful of fresh spinach
A slice of lime
Another apple

Throw it all in the juicer and enjoy. Both the four year old and I love it. And no, you cannot taste the spinach. At all.