I recently received the October 2009 issue of The Sun, which is probably my favorite magazine. It’s hard to call it a magazine though, because there are no ads and the essays, poetry, photography and short stories are all so rich and compelling. The publication is really a literary feast. I devour it within days after it arrives in my mailbox. At the end of each month, I anxiously check my mail to see whether the latest issue has arrived. Okay, maybe I’m a bit quirky, but I know other Sun readers agree with me.

This last issue was filled with topics that are very near to me and to all of us – economics, consumerism, what really matters in life, and the suburban empire, not necessarily in that order. The theme of this issue is “Small is Beautiful” which is featured in the eponymous “Dog-Eared Page” with the essay “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” by E. F. Schumacher. The title alone is enough to mull upon and muse over, but the essay is like an arrow straight to my heart. You have to read the essay to get it and then read it again and again to get it some more! It’s that good. The principle of the matter is that ‘small really is beautiful‘ and that the more we want, the bigger it gets, and the more it harms the earth and humans. What is ‘it’? Well, ‘it’ is everything humans (namely Americans, and yes, I am an American, but I’m constantly trying to end my ceaseless and needless wants and trying to determine what’s really important in life) want – bigger cars, bigger houses, more clothes, more electronics, more stuff to fill the bigger houses, essentially more junk for the landfills. And, more stuff to block out the important things, like quieting the mind, ceasing the non-stop chatter in our heads, finding what you really love, resolving anxieties and fears, and giving loving-kindness towards all, including the earth and fellow human-kind. Material stuff does that – the more we want, the more we get, the more we continue to want, and the worse we feel. It’s a terrible vicious cycle that has to end. I think the time is now, the opportunity is here…. and we just need a grassroots – internal and external – effort to make it happen and to end our compliance on materialism and consumerism. How do we do it? It starts from within, small steps here and there, and on a very individual basis, filled with much reflection and introspection. Then start talking about it, the changes you’re making, what you saved by not buying something, or what you saved by recycling, or better yet reusing and reducing.It’s not just that though…. there’s so much more, like ending dependence on things that are harmful to us and to the earth – diamonds, gold, ores, petroleum, gases, etc. This green movement shouldn’t be about whether you can afford $40,000 for the latest electric or hybrid car. It should be about a revolution of how to change what we want and understanding what we need. Stand yourself in the shoes of the early pioneers of this country, or any country, for that matter, and start acting locally to change the global picture.

This brings me to the interview in the current issue of The Sun, “The Decline and Fall of the Suburban Empire: James Howard Kunstler on Reshaping the American Landscape,” by Leslee Goodman. You can read part of the interview online and get a sense of the ‘converging crisis’ we all share and face. I actually was not familiar with James Howard Kunstler until this interview. And now, I want to read every one of his books. Follow his website and his blog for more shockingly compelling reasons to start changing now (read his forecast for more). Now, I’m not typically a doom and gloom kind of person, so I really have to balance this stuff out with positive things (like reading animal memoirs such as Alex and Me, or writing poetry, or playing music, repeating positive mantras and intentions, and doing everything I can locally). But the key parts of this interview for me are acting and living locally, creating strong local economies, speaking out for improving rail and train infrastructure in the US, changing how we think about money, mortgages and the suburbs and bringing support mechanisms back to our country, such as agriculture and farming. For me, the US food system is downright scary. Every packaged good you look at comes from another country, other than our own! If those other countries’ infrastructure or production fails, we are out of luck, starving, and causing awful health conditions that we cause ourselves! Okay, yes, I’m ranting here. But I strongly believe in and support local economies. Can you make a mission for yourself to buy only locally grown food, or only to come from within your state? I have and do this with the following foods: veggies from local CSA, eggs and milk from local raw milk dairy (make my own yogurt) and buffalo meat from within my state (and that’s only about once a month, the rest of the time I’m a vegetarian). I also buy local or statewide fruit as much as I can. As for everything else, I aim to buy organic and as local as possible. I still need a good source for local cheese and am working on that. I also aim to have a productive garden and fruit trees very soon, along with solar and/or wind, gray-water collection, and composting. I also buy in bulk and recycle every single thing from every paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, etc. Recycling does take time and some storage space, especially if you don’t have curbside recycling, but I encourage you to do it, even if it means starting small. (Starting small is good, and it means you’re doing something and can only grow from there). I also reuse as much as I can, support my local food coop, shop at the resale shops, make my own jewelry, hats and scarves, and use cloth bags for shopping and transporting. I also do not buy bottled pop, water, or juices anymore. They simply take too many resources, aren’t good for you, are filled with either sugar or chemicals, or both, and are another money-making industry that doesn’t return good to the earth or to people. We need to become more of a DIY society, with an economy and support system that allows DIYers to thrive and succeed. If you have a local community of DIYers (one fixes shoes, one repairs computers, one bakes bread, one makes cheese, one creates soap, one who sews and repairs clothing, a supplier of fruits and veggies and meats, one who tends goats, buffalo, cows, and chickens, and beyond!) you could have everything you need to live comfortably within your own community. We need more community gardens, community orchards, and community chickens and cows or whatever. What we need is to be reminded, mindful of, and respect the pioneer days and have a return to homesteading, with a balance of this millennium. Also, talk to your community leaders to encourage discussions and action on improving transportation within our communities, our states, and across our nation. What would you do if you didn’t have a car? Could you carpool, walk, bike or take mass transit? If you couldn’t, why not? Could that be changed?

Wow, what a rant today! This isn’t my usual blog-posting style, but these topics are so important to me. Go find yourself a copy of The Sun and get inspired to make changes in your own life, today! Feel like posting what’s important to you or ways that you are taking care of yourself, the earth, and fellow human-kind? Leave a comment here – I’d like to hear what others are doing.  Take Care!