a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for December, 2007

Luxury R.V.s – “Really Vexing”

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It starting raining – hard – in the middle of the night. I’m now trained to hear it through a sound sleep – like I am a cat’s meow or a dog’s whine. I was up and out with the dogs before daylight – anxious to put on a heavy-duty raincoat for the first time in months and feel the cold drops hitting my face. Me and the mutts, taking advantage of the holiday school break, went a few blocks to the school yard to run around and play ball. It was 38 degrees, dark gray and the rain was steadily coming. It was glorious – the best holiday gift I could imagine, after 9 months of drought in NC.

Not much could dampen my joy, even the sound, smell and sight of a huge – I mean, really really big, McMansion-style RV sitting in the what should have been an empty parking lot. I smelled it first – the idling engine rumbling, as it had probably done throughout the night. As the darkness lifted, I noticed that there was a satellite dish sitting on top. Sigh. Never leave home without – um, everything – ?

The dogs noticed nothing, of course – and continued to run in circles, huge dog smiles on their faces. I threw up my arms in surrender. Together, we ran across the road towards a small farm to visit the friendly, grass-fed cows, and bring apples to the new goat in the next pasture. Like the fuzzy cows, we were all pleasantly steamy, my good-mood rescued by standing in the Winter rain, the carbon-emitting, monstrosity all but forgotten. All but forgotten…

I couldn’t help myself, when I returned home, I looked up some emissions statistics on Simple Green Options.

Total Emissions Per Vehicle
SUV (15mpg) – 2.29 lbs/mi
Average Car (25 mpg) – 1.39 lbs/mi
Prius (55 mpg) – .61 lbs/mi
Motorcycle – .57 lbs/mi
RV – 4.58 lbs/mi

Total Emissions Per Person
Average Car/Single Driver – 1.39 lbs/mi
Average Car/Family of 4 – .34 lbs/mi
Train – .32 lbs/mi
Bus – .48 lbs/mi
Plane (250 mi trip) – .85 lbs/mi**
Plane (600 mi) – .69 lbs/mi**
Plane (3500 mi) – .56 lbs/mi**

I’m not against practical RVs or campers. When used responsibly for long-distance travel, they are, by the look of these figures, more environmentally friendly than flying, especially if you are toting along an entire family. And if you’re making your R.V. living a full-time gig, you’re most likely making a smaller environmental footprint than the average household.

Unfortunately, many RVs are bigger – much bigger – than they need to be, equipped with every convenience imaginable, travel with only 2 passengers and are part of a luxury lifestyle that includes another large home and additional vacation or business travel by air. Pretty big “feet”.

It’s Noon and it’s still raining. I’m happy and filled with hope for the new year – a hope that we will all take a more holistic look at how we live and how we affect the planet and the lives of others with our choices. And that we will all feel as grateful as I do right now, for the blessings of nature instead of the blessings of material wealth.

Thinking Outside the Vatican

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Christmas Day

Speaking of holiday contemplation, The NY Times today revealed a strong message from Christmas in Rome. Pope Benedict XVI spent part of last night’s Christmas Mass on environmental concerns – going straight to the source: Us. “What would he (Bishop Gregory of Nyssa) say if he could see the state of the world today, through the abuse of energy and its selfish and reckless exploitation?”

Speaking of this “ill-treated world”, he continued, “Man is so preoccupied with himself, he has such an urgent need for all the space and all the time for his own things, that nothing remains for others – for his neighbor, for the poor, for God. And the richer men become the more they fill up all the space by themselves”

Ouch. The truth hurts.

But, It also heals, helps and lights the way to Change.

Merry Christmas!

Holiday Contemplation – a 12-Step Program

Monday, December 24th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

As promised, I’m continuing my search for joy and good cheer this week. I mulled some local raw cider from my CSA and did the same with my favorite local wine. I attended a celebratory bonfire for the Solstice and made a few new friends. I baked cookies and roasted chestnuts. I have been singing along to Bing Crosby’s White Christmas on a cd that I found at the used book store and last night, I rented the video of Irving Berlin’s, “Holiday Inn”, a musical with Fred Astaire and lots of dancing. It made me feel so gleeful that I found myself air-waltzing through my house during the final scene.

I’m ready to tone down and turn in – ward, that is. And, as if by some holiday magic, I was reading the December issue of Ode magazine and found a wonderful idea, shared by Jay Walljasper, to help me. As I settle in for a couple days of peace and quiet, I’m feeling a need for some sincere contemplation. Turning the twelve days of turtle doves and milking maids into twelve themes to explore and share with others feels equal parts comforting and challenging. I’m looking forward to setting aside some time each day to consider these questions and share them with friends as we move into the New Year. (This idea comes from Lynn Jericho, a counselor in New Jersey.)

December 25: Receptivity What gifts from the universe have you declined to accept or acknowledge?

December 26: Generosity. Think of three people and what you can give of yourself to them.

December 27: Humility. Think about how humility can become a great source of strength and power for you.

December 28: Nobility. Make a list of people from whose noble qualities you can learn.

December 29: Solidity. For 12 minutes, simply feel your soul’s solidity.

December 30: Fludity. Consider the importance of flow to your well-being and happiness.

December 31: Luminosity. Look back at your darkest moments of the last year and remember what qualities in yourself and others lit the way for you.

Jan. 1: Reflectivity. Let an image from the outer world settle in your mind and write down five thoughts you associate with it. reflect on it and how you might transform it.

Jan. 2: Equanimity. Pick a recent event and review it in light of various possible emotions like happiness, anger and fear.

Jan. 3: Fecundity. Celebrate the richness of your imagination. Hold this vision and then plan tomorrow’s activities.

Jan. 4: Sagacity. Think of yourself as an elder who has learned from the trials and triumphs of experience. What are some profound lessons?

Jan. 5: Unity. What ideas, yearnings, themes or insights have come together for you through the holidays?

Peace on Earth. Goodwill towards all. Merry Holidays. Tao

Dance Naked All Year-round

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Jerry told us this story at a Solstice bonfire at Pickards Moutain the other night. It happened to his childhood friend, Mark Berrang (who everything happens to). He was at an outdoor music festival in the mountains of VA. Prowling the grounds after midnight, he came upon a crazy-happy guy dancing in circles, buck-naked. “What are you doing, dude?”, Mark asked. “It’s the Solstice!”, naked guy exclaimed, spinning gaily. Mark thought a minute and then said, “Actually, it’s not the Solstice for two more weeks.”

Naked guy paused mid-step, then grinned, turned away and continued to dance.

The Solstice is as much a frame of mind as a single event. It’s about the continuous cycle of new beginnings in nature and in our lives – Life, Death and Rebirth.

Grow with it.

Celebrate Balance…and Local Wine

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

The forces of Yin and Yang must work together as complementary opposites to bring balance. Work and surrender, Effort and Ease, Dark and Light, it’s all there in the cycle of nature and it’s all there in the monthly, daily and hourly cycles of our lives. I bring my attention to this every day in yoga practice, yet, in the face of the many personal and worldly responsibilities, I often miss the lighter side of living. I forget to celebrate. And I’m talking more than metaphor. I mean getting down to it – Eat, Drink and Be Merry.

So, I’m going to give it a try over the next week and I’m happy to have found something to help me along – something I can sip, savor and enjoy without giving up my “be the change” philosophy. It’s local and it’s red, a wine straight from Old North State Winery in Mount Airy, NC.

I had been enjoying a CA organic wine, Our Daily Red, which I found at Whole Foods Market. Nice stuff. But since moving to Carrboro, I’ve been evolving into a loyal local lunatic and decided I wanted to drink local, too. My co-op introduced me to many NC wines, but I crave red wine on the dryer side, something that has been hard to find in the land of scuppernogs. Until now. Somehow, someway, a winery in Mount Airy, NC manages to produce a dry, full-bodied red in Restless Soul. The creepy-fun, creative label pulled me in, the taste and texture has kept me buying.

So, if you live in or near NC, check it out to soothe your, you know, “restless soul”…everyone else, check for local wines in your area – you may find a favorite.

And, oh yeah, Cheers!

To Buy Or Not to Buy…a little of each

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

There’s lots of talk about Holiday shopping (or not) and gift-giving (or not) this year. Even the people who are giving are talking about not giving so much. There’s many worthy and creative angles to come from on this subject and it’s all out there. First, it was about giving organic, then Fair Trade was all the rage. This year, it’s all about going beyond the mall and giving handmade gifts, (10,463 people took the Buy Handmade Pledge so far). More families are choosing to give one gift to each person by drawing names or giving through groups like Heifer International.

There’s exceptions to the new rules, of course. Kids have visions of sugarplums (or skateboards) dancing in their heads this time of year, and there’s plenty of room to indulge those dreams (and often in eco-fashion if you do your research). For the grown-ups, there are still special things that come packed with meaning, memories and beauty (this is where the organic/Fair Trade/handmade part comes in.)

In terms of meaningful gifts, there’s one standby gift that I rarely hesitate to give and always love to get. Books. I can’t get enough of them and I know many people just like me. I buy and trade at used bookstores all year-round, but for newer reads that I can’t readily find, I shop Independent. Enter Booksense. It’s the easy way to give favorite picks to people near and far and support Independent booksellers at the same time. Booksense markets Independent booksellers throughout the country by providing an online store locater by zip code and by selling gift cards to any of those stores. also connects Independent online sellers on their site.

It appears that a general consensus has taken hold: Less is more. Keep it healthy for the planet and people, DIY says more, consumables count and, overall, it’s not about the stuff. Interestingly, this new attitude has done nothing to dampen the holiday spirit. In fact, those I’ve spoken with seem to be basking in a kind of joyful relief. With shopping kept to a minimum, the pressure is off and the opportunity to rekindle the spirit of the season is looking every bit as good as a full Christmas stocking.

The Art Of Conversation

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

by Greg Gillette, Asheville, NC

Has the ability to spark a true soulful conversation been forgotten by the majority of people who are too caught up with materialism and their own inner world? As a whole, the art of conversation is lost, but for the brave and concerned few, we can revive the art of soulful conversation to the forefront to save our society.

Deep down, everyone longs to express their emotions and their dreams and everyone, deep down, is a beautiful spiritual being. But how do move away from inauthenticity and revive our ability to engage in soulful conversation? You must instill in yourself a wholehearted interest for your fellow human beings and have the courage to go beyond the norm and ask big questions. Granted, you cannot have a soulful conversation with everyone, but you can begin with good intentions and a willingness to share ideas and see what happens.

With most people you come in contact with, you will have to begin with the usual pleasantries of how are you, what do you do, where do you live. Then you can bring forth the what are you passionate and curious about. Ask someone big, open-ended questions, like, how do you feel about the state of this country or the world? Are you doing what you want to do? What do you dream about? What are your hopes? What gets you out of bed each morning? Some people may not know what to say because they never hear these questions. Be ready for some possible awkward moments and remember that the biggest gift you can give someone is listening.

The easiest way to test your boldness is to talk to the people you come in contact with every day, such as the local barista, cashier or waitperson. Ask an interesting or funny question. Try these and see what happens: Have you had any interesting dreams lately? Do you really like your job or would you rather be doing something else? What’s your favorite color and why? What’s one thing that you want to do that you have not done yet? You may learn something new or make a friend. At the very least, you may just brighten up the day.

Our society has become too mundane and superficial. It’s time to strike out and get people out of their boxes. Living is about mystery and connections. Lighting sparks of fires can result in deeper relationships and compassionate communication and help us take steps to wake up our society to a fuller potential both personally and otherwise.

I leave you with a passage from Goethe’s “The Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily.”

“Where do you come from?” asked the King.
“From the subterranean passages where gold is found,” said the snake.
“What is more precious than gold? asked the king.
“The light,” answered the snake.
“What is more precious than light?” asked the king.
“Conversation,” said the snake.

What Sustainability Means – Really

Monday, December 17th, 2007

by Jerry Stifelman, The Change

Michael Pollen has a superb piece in this past Sunday’s NY Times magazine about the sustainability of industrial agriculture. He’s concerned that we’re watering down the term “sustainability” to a kind of agreeable lowest common denominator that everyone can agree with and that no one has to do very much about. He instead offers a very precise definition of unustainability:

“A practice or process that can’t go on indefinitely because it is destroying the very conditions on which it depends.”

Which makes the definition of sustainability, thus: “A practice or process that can continue indefinitely by virtue of preserving the conditions upon which it depends.”

This is inarguable. And since The Change likes (and depends upon) the truth, we will advocated this to all of our clients.

In fact, this definition is so crystal frickin’ clear, I think it should be sent to every legislator, public executive and business executive and they should be asked to evaluate all systems that come before them accordingly.

The Truth is Your Best Tool – ready or not.

THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

brought to you by The Change, a strategy and design agency with an agenda to change the world