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

Archive for February, 2008

Water Ways

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Although our ponds, creeks and trees have been helped by some showers this Winter, our reservoirs are still at extremely low levels. The recent hard rain is a blessing, but one that is only the bare beginning of drought recovery for NC.There has been hopeful movement towards change in our water consumption habits, but I’m afraid we have not completely changed our mindset and will become complacent once again. I’m afraid we have not learned what we need to know.

As we are reminded by history, there was once a time when we knew we were related to Water. There has always been drought, but there has never been excessive use by an unsustainable population as there is today. Rainfall or not, our days of abundant water supplies is gone.

We need to understand, without hesitation, that Water is sacred, the origin of life. Eliot Cowan, Shaman and author of Plant Spirit Medicine, hears it this way: “Look at the way people squander water. They don’t realize they are utterly dependent on rainfall, that water is the very blood in their veins.”

We need to mend our water ways and attitudes now and for the future. We cannot prevent drought but we can be better prepared for it when we honor nature and water day to day in a way that respects our dependence on it. It’s time to reestablish our connection to the source of life and give water the attention it deserves, both for our dwindling water supply and for our own wholeness.

Maher, Letterman, Barker

Monday, February 18th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

What do Bill Maher, David Letterman and Bob Barker have in common besides television? When it comes to how we treat animals, they get it.

In the Ecorazzi news, Bob Barker donates 1 million dollars to his Missouri alma mater to establish a undergraduate animal-ethics program that will teach about animal advocacy. Mr. Barker closed every telecast of his long-standing game show, The Price is Right, by urging people to spay and neuter their pets. He doesn’t feel it was enough. At age 84 and recently retired from his day job, he plans to commit even more time to his activist work for the animals.

Bill Maher, in response to criticism that PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, sometimes “crosses the line” in their activist efforts – Says Bill, “It’s not the worst thing in the world to cross the line. To me, a much worse thing is to never even approach the line. ”

David Letterman, late night TV host, on the circus – “What is more American than eating cotton candy and watching animal abuse? Am I right?”

My closing reminders: Adopt from shelters and rescues, don’t buy from breeders. Spay and neuter. Train don’t restrain. Don’t visit the circus or urban zoos. Don’t eat animals raised in feed lots. Support animal advocacy with your words, your actions and your wallet. Animals have a lot to teach and share with us. Let’s pay attention.

Fix It – Don’t Throw It

Friday, February 15th, 2008

From Beth at Fake Plastic Fish:

“The big question is why we don’t know how to fix things already. Why does it require all this research? And how many times have you taken an appliance to a repair place, only to be told that it’s not worth it to fix and that you should junk it and buy a new one? Everything has value and is worth fixing or repurposing in some way.”

Tao says: She’s right, you know. Why don’t we even value the idea of fixing things? Throw-away is one of the first things we are taught in this culture. Little kids learn it way before anything else. How many times do you hear well-intentioned adults praising their children for “throwing it away”? Forget the Santa Clause fantasy – I feel that this misleading notion is far more dangerous and disappointing. As one of those kids, I have a vague recollection of wondering just where all this stuff went (I remember the same feeling about seeing water going down the drain). There were no conversations in my house about sewer systems or landfills – or fixing things, for that matter. However, there were waste baskets in every room.

I came across a used handheld vacuum cleaner that I took in for repair. I was told it would cost more to fix than if I simply bought a new one. When I replied that I didn’t mind paying more for the repair, the shop owner looked at me incredulously and flat out refused to do the work, still encouraging me to buy the new one. I did find someone else to fix it, but I think most people would have innocently given in to the new purchase.

As Beth says, most things we discard still have value. It makes me sad to see furniture being thrown out when I’ve seen first hand what an upholsterer friend can do with just about any piece in any condition. He remade my couch and here’s one of the chairs he has refurbished. He fixes and rebuilds a lot of things. This kind of skill and talent is a rare find, but there are others participating in the economy by fixing stuff, so if you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can. (You can reach my friend, Michael May, at Mid-Century Modern, 919-986-1531.)

Change is not just about resources and technologies. Change is about attitude and re-framing our perspective about stuff and convenience. Change is about taking responsibility for our stuff and rethink our consumer-driven ideals. Fix it, don’t throw it.

Stop and Smell the [organic & local] Roses

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

In Roman mythology, Cupid is the son of Venus, goddess of love, a mischievous boy who goes around wounding hearts with his arrows, causing people to fall in love. So that explains it! Love can hurt, but giving flowers to show it doesn’t have to.

Just say no. To buying conventional flowers today. Most (78 – 90%) of cut flowers travel from Latin American, are grown with chemicals and pesticides that harm the soil, the water and the workers that farm them. And they are messing with the bee population. Show a more creative side of love this Valentine’s Day.

Try appealing to other senses. Just about anything delectably edible will do. Local wine, fair trade olive oil, nuts and organic chocolate are always a treat. Make a bouquet of edible greens for the table. And skip the store-bought cards on virgin paper while you’re at it. Make your own from scrap to save a tree and avoid adding to the growing mountain of paper waste in the landfills. Or, express your love with sidewalk chalk.

Before the massive outsourcing trend of, well, just about everything – you could find healthy flowers at a locally-owned shop right in your neighborhood. When looking for planet and people friendly flowers, ask your local florist or try these sources:,

Man Bites Bird

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Have you seen the photo moving around recently of the sea bird and it’s stomach contents?

It’s a shocking look at what was found inside a dead albatross from the Hawaiian Islands. This poor bird swallowed more than a half pound of plastic, including what appears to be several bottle caps and a cigarette lighter.

Sierra Magazine captions it with this quote from Art Buchwald,

And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate and the disposable bottle, and this was good becaue man could then take his automobile and buy his food all in one place and he could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use. And pretty soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles, and there was nowhere left to sit down or to walk. And Man shook his head and cried, ‘Look at all this God-awful litter.’

P.S. This was written in 1970.

Kissing and Coffee – Larry’s Beans Brew Guide

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Read Larry’s Lips –

Business is a part of life says Larry’s Beans, a fair-trade, organic coffee company that is out to change the world. Therefore, it should be fun, fulfilling and a force for good.

Larry’s says, “We believe in the vast deliciousness of slow-roasted coffee. We believe that salsa dancing, an Irish jig or a nice tango will put a smile on anyone’s face. (Larry himself is addicted to waltzing.) We believe in economic justice for all. And we believe kissing is always a good thing.”

Larry’s Beans coffee brew guide says that coffee is like kissing and this handy little booklet of brewing options explains why. My favorite is on page 14 – “A quick one to go, the one cup drip method”, featuring the all-too-familiar, “Leaving-for-Montana Kiss”.

Larry’s Beans offers 100% Fair Trade, shade grown, organic coffee, slow roasted in small batches in a greened up bean plant in Raleigh, NC and is locally delivered in a veggie-diesel bus. Larry loves coffee, dancing, cats and everything sustainable. Learn more at and

(Disclosure:, we, The Change, created the Coffee is Like Kissing brew guide for Larry’s Beans. It is available here.)

At Home on my CSA Farm

Monday, February 11th, 2008

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I belong to a CSA where I get a weekly supply of unpasteurized cheese, butter, milk and eggs. Each of the members takes a turn picking up the group’s weekly supplies. I had my turn last week. After a quiet 40-minute drive on a two lane road, I arrived at “my” farm. There were 11 cows, including a 10-day-old baby who nibbled my fingers when I was petting her. There were lots of chickens roaming freely around the barn and small house, seemingly oblivious to the cats and a dog.

While the farmers, Brandon and Andrea, quietly and busily filled my coolers with orders, their two small children toddled around, playing with sticks and picking through pebbles. At one point I saw Chloe, a tiny blond girl of around 4, walk confidently up to a newly hunted deer hanging under the porch. It’s head was covered in burlap and hung close to the ground. I watched as she lovingly placed her arms around its neck and rubbed her hands through the fur, whispering something that I could not hear.

When I was loaded up, I found myself reluctant to drive away. Something drew me in to this scene on this cold, sunny day. I can only imagine it was life itself.

I know the farmer who raises and milks the animals who give me milk to drink and feeds the chickens whose eggs I eat. I now know the animals themselves. I know a whole lot more than I used to.

Crazily Sane

Friday, February 8th, 2008

Norma Grasse belongs to a quilting club. She says she quilts about 4 hours/night. When asked why she does this, she said, “quilting DRIVES ME CRAZY AND KEEPS ME SANE.”

It makes sense to me. Perhaps all the people who are screwed up in the world are the ones who don’t have anything to drive them crazy…

Are you crazily sane?

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

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