Just Telling StoriesIt was six years ago when Gord set his eyes on a fiery little red head wearing gumboots, a yellow floater suite and driving a boat named ‘Brutus’; she drank scotch…straight, could catch and clean a crab, use a chain saw, and lived off grid with a humanure bucket in her very classy bathroom.
Within three months they were engaged, and in six months married. Gord brought two little kids into their family, and not to be outdone, Ann brought her parents. Another short six months passed, and together this new multigenerational blended family purchased the Eco-Sense land and sold everything to move into two trailers to make this piece of land in the Highlands their home…forever. It was five years ago that this passionate couple embarked on a journey to create a life that would transition two somewhat sane normal people into living in a mud house and pooping in a bucket and teaching others about how to live sustainably.
This past month (October 2010), our story culminated in being presented an international award where the Eco-Sense home achieved ‘Petal Recognition’ in the Living Building Challenge. (See next weeks post for full details of the LBC certification)
The Living Building Challenge is the greenest building rating system on earth, surpassing LEED, Architecture 2030, and Passivehaus standards. Until the next home is assessed we oddly have the label as “The World’s Greenest Modern house”. As you can imagine it got a bit busy around here with all the media. See this link for many of the recent articles. https://ecosenseliving.wordpress.com/2010/10/16/media-list/
BUT… lets put this into perspective. There are millions more sustainable houses that exist… virtually all indigenous peoples around the planet… Our family’s story is just a part of a bigger new story that is unfolding as our culture moves towards a more sustainable and just future.
Stories told in the present connect our past to our future
Stories have been at the core of humanity right from the early hominids. This is how social evolution occurs. Think back to how our early ancestors told their stories… how First Nations told their stories; then try to think how we tell our current story, of our culture, of our social rights of passage, of our status, of the place we inhabit. Stories appeal to our common values from our ancestral humanity and NOT to our modern day inhumane culture of over consumption and distraction from our sense of place. Our current consumer culture is probably the only one that has ever excluded the past and the future. We have become a me-now culture.
In today’s realm we are not painting pictures on cave walls, or performing the same dances with song and symbolism… we are not passing culture, values and stories on from one generation to the next; we are so much more efficient and sterile at getting the distorted message across! So much more modern! Hell we have TV, billboards, Youtube, video games, advertisements, corporate lobbyist, and of course email updates from crazy people living in MUD houses.
Our Eco-Sense real life story is easily lost in the bombardment of the masses with the fictional news we call reality. We think happiness comes from a new iphone and that meaningful existence on earth can only come from monetary growth. Our culture believes money is real wealth; that GDP is more important than millions of years of evolution; and that the earth’s resources only have value in terms of their use to us this second. To hell with our evolutionary past or our descendants of the future…we want, so we take; This is our right, ‘cause we earned it. What a crock of SHIT! Obviously there is no use looking at the facts… else we wouldn’t be in the position we’re in… excuse us as we should clarify that our kids wouldn’t be in the position we put them in.
OK, so your saying “I know where you’re going”. Really? How did you come to wear the clothes you do, buy the food you do, throw away the stuff you do, and program your kids for this dysfunctional culture. What… you grow your own food… why? Hope you don’t buy local meat because hey that’s dangerous (according to our cultural rules that protect us from the improbable risks while exposing us to the probable risks), and how dare you think of drinking raw milk! ( All those poor babies being malnourished by unpasteurized breast milk… we really need to be milking all moms, healthy and unhealthy, combining all their milk and pasteurizing it because raw milk is dangerous you know).
Obviously most stories come through the media…mostly because we hardly ever bump into each other any more (we’re all in cars or watching TV). The news has become advertisements selling consumption and fear coupled with celebrated arrogance and ignorance. You can listen to the radio and hear about bootie; watch TV and envision driving a beautiful car; play a video game like Street Fighter and pretend you can kick the ass of every stranger; you can even google all the loveless sex out there. What story do I learn from these messages? I could do whatever it takes to kick someone’s ass, to get a nice car and get some bootie and have sex in unfulfilling ways and feel that I have reached the penultimate of humanity… twice as much would demonstrate ultimate. Ah the story of our culture! I find this reality demented! I’ll take the mud house and bucket…
What stories should we start to tell? David Eisenberg, a policy guru from Tucson was in town for a lecture and a visit. He told us many stories, all linking the reconnection of people to the environment and community. One story in particular differentiates western reality from many indigenous peoples reality. Our culture sees trees, land, water, and minerals… as resources to be stripped, mined blasted, drained …
One friend of David’s explained that the earth is their family, that it is no different then a brother, grandmother or sister. A hard one for our consumptive culture to wrap our head arounds, but if you viewed the place you existed with such reverence would you clear cut your grandmother, would you stuff radioactive waste in your daughter, would you blow up your son? A different story… a different reality. We belong to this earth…not the other way around.
All of our scientific study with earth sciences, life sciences, and social sciences tell us conclusively that the earth actually functions with all life, energy and resources… as one. But our modern culture has strayed so far from this reality to the point that many among us actually won’t accept well supported scientific evidence.
Some even condemn the science while gladly accepting the benefits that this same science provides in the form of extremely clever technologies. Our species is clever, but profoundly lacking in wisdom.
Telling Different Stories
Obviously people are not genetically programed to listen to facts when it goes against their social programing…so the only hope is to start telling LOTS of different stories…because we ARE programed to respond to stories. People won’t listen to facts about climate, our failing unjust monetary system, species extinction, but they will, oddly enough, listen when they visit our home on tours. They leave inspired, and desiring what we have…you know a MUD house, a bucket, less money, and a lifestyle that uses 90% less water and energy. I love that people that I otherwise wouldn’t connect with desire a beautiful healthy home like ours… I want them to crave it… If tours of our home and lifestyle can leave someone who cares not about climate change, human exploitation, or the pillaging our our planet, craving a lifestyle where you work 1/3 of your time, spend a 1/3 of your time in the garden, and spend the last third doing whatever (like being with friends, doing art, or being active in our community), while at the same time having a lower ecological foot print… then bring it on!
For a look inside the human mind from a biological and cultural perspective check out these lectures by Dr. William Reese. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3F9cDA-R4J8&feature=related
A friend from our first workshop back in 2006 told us that if he could teach his kids just one thing it would be “When you tell the story of your life, tell a good story as the story you tell, becomes your story”. So there you go…it’s that easy. Start telling the story about your life as the life you crave with the values you hold…tell it into reality.
The new story of technology
We watched an interview of Barry Lopez by Bill Moyers. In the interview Barry Lopez told an old story, but one in which is really significant as a new story, (http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/04302010/watch3.html). It is the story of Zeus and Prometheus. Prometheus came and stole fire, a symbol of technology. Here is Barry Lopez’s version of Zeus speaking to Prometheus.
“Okay, you stole fire. Great for you. Now your people have technology. Wonderful. But here’s something you don’t know. You lack two things. And if you don’t take these two things that I will give you, this will be a failure. Technology, you know, fire, all your magic, it will fail completely. It will be your undoing. And the two things that you need to make it work are justice and reverence. And if you have these two things, you won’t get in trouble with this third thing that you thought was the be all and the end all.”
The point of this story… reverence is the ability to have awe and respect for all things including those that can’t always be known. Justice combined with reverence will control for the ill effects that technology brings with it. So Technology will fail without justice and reverence. Very wise indeed.
The story of Transition. What happens when there is a story that is positive, full of energy, and good news. Well we only have to look as far as the Chilean Miner rescue. In our own little world here, it seems this past month that our story is becoming popular once again. With our enjoyment of our home, our new levels of food self sufficiency, reaching our goal of balancing work/home/volunteering, beginning to understand our role in the wider community, and the final results of the Living Building Challenge. We have stories galore that have been written for updates, then left to be forgotten on the solemn hard drive.
But it is important for our stories as well as all the others to be told; these are good ways of living and being, good ways of shifting towards a richer culture, and sharing where and how transition has occurred. These stories of transition need to permeate and surpass the ass kicking muff nuzzling self indulgent images of our current culture. Stories filled with justice and reverence that harness our explosive technology will ultimately prevail because down deep we all still crave our genetically programed human values of love, sharing, and community.
A sad political Story
It seems our federal government and their media friendly supporters had been trying to push to idea that climate change and climate science was inaccurate; this has been quietly dropped from the mainstream… except perhaps the national enquirer. The new story being told in mainstream is how Canada is going to be a “winner” with climate change. Warmer weather for growing, access to the oil rich arctic… great outcomes from a really shitty reality. But what is missing in these corporate sponsored stories? What about the collapse of ocean life; what of the collapse of other countries and cultures; what about the famine, drought, fires, and floods, what of the immense pressures for migration to the only habitable places on earth… and I use the word migration over immigration on purpose. What of the stories of world unrest while resource wars are fought; and what are the stories of the costs incurred by monsoon patterns, wiping out our food production season after season washing away roads from coast to coast, followed by droughts. What is the story for the sockeye that have their rivers flooded at the wrong time of year. What of the story of the Amazon that all but dried up in drought as the great hurricanes pulled the moisture from the Amazon. What of the story on planning for geo-engineering? These are all happening…but not in the mainstream news.
The mainstream story tellers we rely on don’t have the freedom to tell the whole story, they only tell the piece that fits into a 30 second sound bite, or that can fit between the advertisements on a page written for a grade nine education; it best not insult the corporate sponsors, or for that matter be muted and diluted from the PMO’s office.
Where to find the stories?
There are places out there where you can get a different fun and inspiring story. Here are a few:
RSI animate“History of oil”
We believe that our Western Civilization will be ending its current bad story within this century, in our kids Parker and Emily’s life time. Changes are underway and we all need to pull together even more to adapt to this changing world.
Western Culture is just a story similar to many other cultures before; like the Roman’s, the Mayan’s, the Easter Islander’s… and undoubtedly there will be new authors for the next versions of failed culture. Our story is Eco-Sense… our family has a story, and the house on the front cover is not glamorous or expensive, but it is beautiful… its simple… it’s full of good news offering hope and inspiration.
So let’s celebrate all the new stories out there… let the bad ones die out and sit on the history shelf for reference. What we say and do today is our collective story that will become the past of future generations.
Update on the Living Building Challenge coming soon.
Gord and Ann Baird