I am one of those people who prepares for a trip. Really prepares. I do the research, make lists and reservations in advance. Make sure I know where I am going and what I need to bring. Sure, I leave plenty of time for spontaneity and surprise, but the more prepared I am in advance, the more I can really enjoy those moments and have fun. Whether I am going to Japan or Asbury Park, you can trust that I will have done my homework and the trip will go as smoothly as possible.
Unfortunately, I am not traveling these days. But If ever we needed an itinerary and road map for the trip to our future it’s now. I thought I would apply my trip planning skills to our mutual journey into the future based on what we know right now…
California. Oregon. Colorado. Australia. Russia. The Amazon. Fire is a sign that the world has inflammation — we are inflamed. Why do we get inflammation? Because we aren’t doing the right things to prevent it. In our bodies, inflammation is our whole system trying to tell us that something is wrong and begging us for attention and care. In nature, rampant fires are the same desperate call for attention. Fire is a normal part of nature. In some places (Australia) certain trees can’t grow without fire. Fire, managed properly, in the manner that indigenous people used for thousands and thousands of years, is an effective tool for so many things (it’s better than chemicals for controlling weeds, for instance). But fire out of control is a sign that we have mismanaged things and we are on the wrong road to the future. The images from the West Coast look like a road to hell. Whether you believe in hell or not, no one really wants to go there.
I was in Australia during the fires of 2019 and 2020. It was possible to be there and ignore that they were happening — pretend that things were normal other than a bit of smoke in the air. We must stop pretending that everything is normal. It’s not. I also saw how Aboriginal people are still marginalized, disrespected and not listened to. We buy their souvenirs, we listen to their sanitized stories for entertainment. But we are not really paying attention. It’s time to pay attention.
In the future, our path must include adding indigenous fire management practices into our lives, (including the widespread grazing of animals) and include indigenous people and their wisdom into planning for the future. Our greatest mistake as a species is that we have not honored, respected and learned from the wisdom of our original people. Combined with that we have a resistance and skepticism to scientific solutions that don’t fit into a profit scheme. In addition, our homes and communities must be built with fire resilience in mind from the start. And our choices of where we live and how we grow our food should consider the risks of fire. If fire destroys our homes and communities, it’s a little bit crazy to rebuild exactly the same way. While it may seem like an overwhelming task, these fires are erasing whole towns and lives and literally warning us that we must be willing to start over and start smarter.
Fires will never go away. They are normal. Preparing and planning to live safely in a world on fire will also become normal. The planned burns of indigenous practices, and grazing of grass eating animals solve many problems at once, leading to a safer life for everyone.
This year it’s COVID. But there will be others. There always are. Especially if we continue to live and travel and invade nature and eat as if the life of what we are eating has no consequences. Whether it’s bats in remote caves or wet markets, or pigs in grotesque confinement in Iowa, or chickens in cages, until we can grow our food in a way that works respectfully with nature, there can be no true health.
In nature, every single thing is absolutely connected. And since we are nature, we are connected too. If we pollute our waters, we pollute nature and then our own water and food we eat. If we decimate our soil, our soil can no longer do its job to keep the climate stable. If we raise our foods among filth and disease, no amount of antibiotics or other genetic modifications will stop those diseases from infecting us. And if we over sterilize things, thinking we can kill all the “bad things” we throw the whole system out of whack. This is why fecal transplants are the most effective cure for C. Diff in hospitals — over sterilization can actually cause infections. So wash your hands, but don’t bleach or “Lysol” every damn thing. Wear a mask because it’s polite, but also build up your immune system so you are healthy from within.
None of us want to lose our freedoms, our ability to explore and travel and eat great and delicious foods — whether it’s a plant, an animal or a fish—in a restaurant or at home. So that means we have to be thoughtful and make good choices by protecting ourselves and our environment. Choose your food wisely and from organic and regenerative sources. Pay attention to where your food is coming from and learn about it. Stop looking for a miracle cure and change your behavior. We have to change our behaviors and then nature responds in kind. In the meantime be prepared. Wear a mask. Get a vaccine if it’s available. Wash your hands.
When we travel we spread things and pick up things. When Europeans came to America, we brought smallpox, which killed 90% of all native Americans! And then we tried to kill the rest by destroying their food sources and shooting them. And when that didn’t work we tried killing them with alcohol and taking their children from them. And when that didn’t work we tried taking away all their lands and destroying what was left of their land. WHY? Why? Perhaps we are the pestilence? Think about it. Don’t be that way if you can help it.
Being a good traveler is about learning to understand and respect the people, places and environments you are visiting. Wherever we go in the future, that’s what we need to learn.
In 2009 when I wrote Organic Manifesto, I said that the real threat wasn’t climate “change” — because the climate is always changing. And it wasn’t just greenhouse gasses (although I had one chemical farmer from Iowa complain to me that the weather was starting to feel like he lived in a greenhouse…I kid you not). It’s about Chaos. Climate Chaos.
Not too much changed in Agriculture in Iowa between 2009 and 2020 when a Derecho — an inland hurricane — decimated 10 million acres of corn and soy crops — which shouldn’t have been planted there in the first place. Those crops are being grown for ethanol and confined animal feed. Thanks to the pandemic, we don’t need the ethanol. And those animals should be grazing on grass and pasture, not corn and soy. But crop insurance will probably cover their losses and they will probably continue to destroy nature’s ability to function because a lot of people just hate to change and want their meat cheap. A lot of farmers are afraid to change. But even worse, some do want to change but their banks won’t let them.
What has changed whether we like it or not is that ice sheets are melting faster than predicted, permafrost is thawing (hence the fires in Russia), hurricanes are coming faster and more furiously than ever before and cumulative temperatures are rising so fast that by the time it’s too late we won’t know what hit us.
Here is what I’ve learned from history: if we listen to the complainers, the resistors, the trolls, the religious evangelicals who are just waiting for the rapture, the indignant and ignorant “masses” and the people who think true strength comes from belligerent people who think true strength only comes with guns we might as well just let all the fires burn and let everyone go to hell. (Or are we creating hell on earth?) Those who can see a way forward must seize the day and grab the reins and move forward as fast as possible while those in the back continue to kick and scream and yes, perhaps shoot each other.
Here’s what I have learned from traveling: There are lots of answers and possibilities out there. I’ve seen public transportation that is practically from outer space (Japan, Germany). Communities built for walking and biking that are more delightful than you can imagine (Most of Europe, Australia, Japan). Countries that are sustained on clean renewable energy (Germany). Locally grown organic foods that fill you with life and joy when they are simply prepared (England, Australia, Germany, parts of America and others).
If we can keep our soils free from chemicals and covered with cover crops, if we can keep our forests wild and let our animals feed on pasture, if we can keep our oceans clear of plastic trash and oil spills and wasteful fishing, if we can learn to travel in new ways and power our homes and lives with renewable energy we can create a world so beautiful and joyful that the rapture will be here.
But what about jobs? Don’t worry. There will always be jobs because people like to work. Truly. We all like to feel useful and contribute to the world. It’s just that the jobs will change, just like the world changes. Sure, we can long for times gone by when things were different and perhaps simpler. The problem is, those longings are often fantasies. Reality was much harsher. Our most important job now is creating a new type of economy, a new world of jobs that cultivate financial well being for everyone while protecting and caring for nature, our children and our future.
The recent rise in nationalism (and conspiracy theories) is normal during chaotic times — people become afraid of uncertainty so they hunker down at home and want to shut and lock the doors from some imagined monster out there. But it only takes a few days locked up at home to realize we need each other. We are not meant to live self sufficiently, whether as a household or a nation. We need to trade our skills and services and goods in order to live a full life. For example, I am a great cook and gardener, but I don’t grow my own wheat or make my own bread. I’d much rather go to a bakery. That trading is what makes governments and regulations helpful. Government is not bad (and neither are swamps, by the way — swamps stabilize shorelines and provide cleansing of the water and habitats for wildlife.) Government is only as good as we are as humans. Which is why I always roll my eyes when people say “this is not who we ARE,” when something bad or stupid happens. Clearly, it is who we are. Apparently we are lying, cheating, cruel, mentally ill and violent people. But we are also kind, generous and curious people. The truth is we NEED each other. And we need other countries for things we can’t do or grow ourselves. Even if we think we don’t. We do. Throughout history, this idea of needing things from other places was what drove many wars and invasions. Clearly, there are better ways to get what we need — trading, importing and exporting and sharing. Governments help manage that process.
We also need to understand that the economy is really a reflection of our emotional states. If we are afraid, it contracts. If we are confident, it expands. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense, which is also a reflection of our emotional state. For example, as I write this unemployment is at an all time high, as is our national debt. But so is the stock market. So what gives? I had a recent conversation with a Goldman Sachs employee who said that they believe the current high stock market is the result of most sports being shut down —- so sports betters and gamblers are turning to the stock market to get their “rush” and make some “easy money.” What does that say about our current emotional state? We are confused, perhaps depressed and bored and certainly uncertain about what comes next. We also often prefer to create elaborate games to cheat our way to winning rather than just, simply, do the right thing and have faith in the future that evolves from doing the right thing.
From an economic perspective, in order to travel forward to whatever comes next, it pays to have some cash, definitely some credit, have MINIMAL to no debt and be willing to work, trade, share and appreciate all the gifts that other people and other countries bring to the table. Tip generously. Support your local communities. Pay full price to those who deserve it. Ignore the haters. Appreciate the value of others and appreciate your own value. That’s just good economic common sense.
The Post Office
Here is something I know for sure — the post office has been “in trouble” for as long as I’ve been paying attention, which is about 45 years (I was raised in the direct mail and publishing business, so postal rates were one of our biggest expenses). Here is something else I know for sure — the Post Office connects us. It was the internet before there was an internet. But the internet, while reducing the amount of mail in general, has not reduced the need for mail in general. In fact, with the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic, the post office is more important than ever. After all, who will deliver all those things we are ordering online? Especially out to those rural areas? Fed Ex and UPS are sharp competitors, but not everything is a box, or a package that must be sent overnight. Here is something else I know for sure — the Post Office is a service — a service paid for by our taxes and key to maintaining our democracy. So messing with it before an election? That’s just not right.
Here’s what else I learned from being in the direct marketing business: it’s all about targeting your customer. Back then we had giant main frame computers that did sophisticated modeling to make sure the people who wanted giant tomatoes got mail about growing giant tomatoes, and the people who wanted to lose weight got mail about how to lose 3 dress sizes in 3 days (JK) and those who wanted to get ripped abs and have more sex got the promises that they could, and it was easy and free for 21 days. We made a shit ton of money doing that kind of targeting. Today, it’s Facebook and Google who are making the money targeting your reality — only with their advance AI they can exponentially target you and change your behavior and not for the better. (Watch The Social Dilemma for more info.) If all you are doing is getting your news from social media and your favorite TV channel, I can guarantee you that your view of reality is skewed — guaranteed or your money back! Except you are not paying for that skewed reality, advertisers are. So I don’t owe you anything, even if I am right.
Put down your phone. Detach from social media for a few days. Or if you stay on, search out the other sides of things. Turn off the gosh darn TV. Pay attention to the actual world around you. Listen. Talk with people. Go to your local post office and talk to the people behind the counter. And while you are there, send someone a care package. Buy stamps (there are so many beautiful choices!). Write and send some letters just for the fun of it. Try to see the world as it really is, not as others are telling you it is.
And while you are waiting for the future to arrive, write a letter to your future self. The thing I love most about “good mail” is that it is sensual — the feel of the paper, the smell of ink or pencil, the stamps, the love you can see in the handwriting…the joy we feel when we receive it. Let’s fall in love with the possibilities of creating a new future and write love letters to each other about what it will be like.
There is a phrase in Shamanism known as dissolution — it’s the moment in a journey (or also in a hallucinogenic trip) where the you as you know it ceases to exist — the ego dissolves, the body dies an often violent death. But during the dissolution and after you remain conscious. You realize that there is consciousness independent of your body and often, you experience a powerful rebirth into something better and greater. We are in the midst of a dissolution now and once started, it can’t be stopped. But we must remember that after dissolution comes rebirth. And what that rebirth involves is up to us to create together.
Lastly, in these chaotic times we are all wondering what is really true and what is “fake news.” A word about that: Your eyeballs are for sale. You may not realize it, but it IS a truth that there are people around the world bidding on a piece of your eyeballs. This, if anything, is the “shadow” market where “dark forces” are doing their work. It’s business (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, Tick Tok, the “Media.”) It’s economic (Amazon, e-commerce sites, advertisers, services). And it’s political (Russia, China, USA and anyone else who wants to influence you to their world view…including “Q!”). It is a truth of the internet that all the information you get for “free” is at the cost of a piece of your eyeballs which hopefully will influence your brain and behavior. So what is really true? No one really knows for sure! Which is why you have to learn to trust yourself and your own eyes to see the world in as varied and a diverse a perspective as possible. When you travel, falsehoods fall away — what you thought was one thing before you experience the real place often turns into something else — sometimes better sometimes worse. In these times we can’t travel as easily or as far, so we must learn to see in other ways. Reading, watching, communicating, observing. But also prioritizing what is important to us and our values and living according to our own truth. It is statistically and realistically impossible to ever expect that the whole world will see things the way we want them to. It’s impossible to ever expect even our own families to see the whole world the way we want them to. So then what is truly important and true? Kindness. Love. Respect. Freedom. Joy. Every single one of us, no matter our differences wants and needs the same things: A safe home. Clean water to drink. Food. A safe place to raise our children. Good work. And if we don’t have those we will do what we must to find them, even if it means leaving the places we have known and loved. I believe our job together on this earth is to make sure as many people have all those things as possible so that we can all co-exist in as much harmony with each other and with nature as is possible.
That’s my truth. But it’s up to you to find your own. I am not here to convince you.
I am an optimist and I love to travel, so I know there is a path forward that leads to better things. But we must be willing to do the research and the work to make it a great trip — this is not about just getting on a cruise liner and letting someone else do all the planning and work…we know how that movie ends. So get out some books and start reading. Do some internet searches on where you think you might want to go. Dream the big dream, which is free and doesn’t cost a thing. Feel the fear and do it anyway. And have faith in the universe because it truly is a magical place.
One final word of advice: Pack snacks.