What I learned on vacation

Time off work = more time to read thought-provoking stuff

<i>Los Indignados</i>

Los Indignados

I love vacations, ’deed I do
As I write this column, I am still on vacation in southeastern Arizona. One of the things I have gotten to do this week is catch up on a little reading. I picked up a couple of good magazines at the natural-foods co-op here in Sierra Vista, where I am staying: the Sept./Oct. issue of the American version of Canadian anti-consumerist mag Adbusters, and the Sept./Oct. issue of BackHome Magazine.

Adbusters, for the uninitiated, is worth spending time (and $8.95) on. Thought-provoking, both visually and textually, it offers a refreshing antidote to the corporate/financial/environmental/etc. ills that currently ail the nation and planet (and zero advertisements). The current issue features an excellent short essay by Italian writer/activist Franco “Bifo” Berardi—“Lesson of Insurrection”—that takes a look at what it means for the common people to rise up against the powers that be, a la Tunis or Cairo. Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells weighs in with a piece on this year’s anti-government Indignados protests in Spain.

Paul Gilding, former global chief executive of Greenpeace, offers a must-read, splash-of-cold-water piece: “The science says we have physically entered a period of great change, a synchronized, related crash of the economy and the ecosystem, with food shortages, climate catastrophes, massive economic change and global geopolitical instability,” he writes. “It has been forecast for decades, and the moment has now arrived. We now need to get ready.”

British writer Paul Kingsnorth is also featured: “I looked at the rampant and expanding growth economy, the stagnancy of our political systems, the lack of will among politicians. I looked at the growing human population and its ever-increasing consumer demands. I looked at the peaking of our oil supplies, and at the number of people who denied the existence of climate change.

Goats are useful for many things, including weed-eating.

“I saw the forests continue to fall. I saw the oceans continue to empty of life, the climate continue to change and the corals continue to die. I saw the human machine continue to advance, and I saw most humans in the rich world (and a growing number elsewhere) unwilling to do much about it if it meant giving up their car, their dishwasher and their other everyday comforts. I saw a terrible bind.”

BackHome offers an array of useful articles—on homeschooling, heating with woodstoves, curing meat, splitting firewood, canning tomatoes, controlling weeds with goats, growing cherries, being prepared for a natural disaster, and more.

Stephen M. Schaub’s article on bartering for goods and services is particularly interesting: “In today’s struggling economy … resourceful Americans are increasingly seeking alternative means of surviving tough economic times. One of those new old ways involves barter.”

Schaub includes useful barter-related websites as well: BarterQuest.com, TradeAmericaOnline.com, U-Exchange.com, ToySwap.com and ClothingSwap.com.

“Join the green revolution: barter,” writes Schaub. “By putting your things in the hands of people who want them, factories will need to spend less energy and material to make new ones. You’ve kept something out of the landfill. If you trade your item with someone else, and they trade theirs with you, you’re essentially eliminating two items from having to be manufactured …”

Get ready.