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Archive for the ‘Non-consumerism’ Category

It Only Takes Common Sense to Be Healthy

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naturalI just discovered a great resource for natural medicine or naturopathy, an example of alternative medicine that focuses on natural remedies and the body’s ability to maintain and heal itself.

I have to admit that I’ve been suspicious about alternative medicine ever since I started showing interest and passion in the medical sciences, but when I read more about naturopathy, and especially when I discovered WellWire, I realized that it’s really all about going back to basics and learning to live a sustainable, self-sufficient, and balanced lifestyle, which are things that I also personally uphold.

When we go back to basics and when we acknowledge how much we’ve been underestimating our bodies’ capabilities, you’ll realize that you can totally do away without taking in all those pills and multivitamin capsules and acai berry drinks, and still be healthy. All you really have to do is, again, look around you and embrace what nature has to offer. And I think WellWire‘s pretty good at advocating this philosophy.

Going back to basics when it comes to health is something that I work on each day, what with all the health trends being endorsed by models and so-called health gurus every hour on TV. It’s tough; I often forget about what my body really needs. And there’s also this ongoing paranoia when it comes to sickness, when really, at the end of the day, health and wellness isn’t about completely obliterating disease from the face of the earth. I think we’ve allowed this fear of disease (and death from disease) to take over our every day lives, that we end up stuffing ourselves with all sorts of meds that end up destroying our liver anyway. What’s even worse is when we shrug it all off and say, “Ah, to hell with it. We will all eventually die of cancer anyway. Let’s live in the moment!” and allow our bodies to waste away in drunken escapades and cigarettes.

Naturopathy is such a refreshing avenue in healthcare because it reminds us of the common sense we tend to overlook each day. Yes, it’s pretty much common sense, really — “eating the rainbow” (every color of fruit and veggies), managing stress to maximize your immunity to the flu, staying outdoors early in the morning to absorb all that sunny, Vitamin D goodness, etc. And with the ridiculous expenses attributed to hospitals and treatments, going back to basics also means saving yourself if not hundreds, thousands of dollars just to stay in shape. The sun is free, for one thing!

So, like I would always tell you guys — just look around you! Nature demands our attention… and for a pretty good reason, too.


That Ain’t My America

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The American Dream?“When success is equated with excess, the ambition for excess wrecks us.”

Growing up, I have seen countless people around me, including my own family, move to the United States to seek a better life. “Better” can mean anything, from finding a more stable job to being able to live in a decent neighborhood to raise their kids. To my mom, who left an awesome job, her friends, immediate family and native land many years ago, a “better” life meant giving her kids the choice to move to the “Free World” should they wish to do so when they’re old enough to make such decisions on their own. To my brother, who’s now a college sophomore at Fordham, it meant fulfilling his dream to pursue an American education. That being said, I think it’s safe to say — at least for the purpose of this post — that a “better life” for us basically meant pursuing the American Dream.

I can still remember my very first impression of America, way before I decided to move here. From what I had then gathered from books, newspapers, magazines and television, I thought of America as a country where the gap between the rich and the poor was almost nonexistent. It was a land of equal opportunity for all, where prejudice was just a fad of the past, not only when it comes to race, but more so on social standing. It was a place where farmers, construction workers and janitors were given the same esteem as businessmen, executives and doctors.

James Truslow Adams once said that everyone should recognize and fulfill their right to achieve a “better, richer and happier life.” But through the years, the concept of the American Dream only made people do precisely that — dream — causing towering expectations for the majority that were hardly met, if not at all. Historically, this phenomenon hasn’t exactly helped the minority and lower class citizens gain what the dream had once promised — social equality.

In the 1990s to the 2000s, an increasing number of people confessed to have lost faith in the American Dream, perhaps precisely because of these unfulfilled expectations. George Carlin once joked that “it’s called the American Dream ’cause you have to be asleep to believe it.” A number of writers, poets and musicians have expressed how dangerous it was for people to keep holding on to the American Dream, where the pursuit of happiness is somehow equated with the pursuit of greater material wealth.

I’m not educated enough to make an objective critique on the American Dream, but I do have a thing or two to say about it, based on my own experience. When I had that first impression of America, when I once thought that it was a near-perfect land of milk and honey, people said I was too ignorant and naive for saying such things, for having such faith in a country that clearly only cared about being a Superpower and maintaining that position by trampling over everyone else along the way. Now, I would surely risk being called ignorant and naive yet again for what I’m about to say, but I’ll say it nonetheless: I refuse to lose faith in my American Dream.

My family has been here for decades, and being here myself, I can’t help but be grateful. Sure, I would occasionally encounter racial slurs directed at me, or sometimes even feel like a “second class citizen”, but this place gives me hope. It really does. Why? Because to me, the American Dream is ultimately what you make of it.

In the Declaration of Independence, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are considered inalienable rights, and basically, the stuff that make up this so-called American Dream. To me, Life means being able to wake up each morning in a place so huge that there’s always room for opportunity and second chances; Liberty means being able to make the decision to live here on my own, to start anew if I need to, and be absolutely anything I wish to be; and Happiness means not the pursuit of material wealth, but wealth that comes in knowledge, skill, experience and wisdom that one can only acquire in a place so advanced, so foreign, and so new.

So if the American Dream is, ultimately, what you make of it, then golly gee willikers, absolutely anything can be what you make of it!

“Like a puppet on a monetary string, maybe we’ve been caught singing: red, white, blue and green. But that ain’t my America. That ain’t my American Dream.”

(Italicized words from Switchfoot’s “American Dream”)

Written by Karla Mercado

August 13, 2009 at 4:16 am

Musing of the day: Trapped

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Homo Sapiens, who awoke to myth in a tribe and grew into politics as a citizen, is now trained as a lifelong inmate of an industrial world.

-Ivan Illich, based on Michel Foucault’s Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (on the rise of the pan-therapeutic society in which morality-charged roles are extinguished).

Written by Karla Mercado

May 16, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Go green for kids

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Dandelion's "Imagine a Better World" collection

Dandelion, creator of earth-friendly toys and other kid goodies, has come up with a spiffy new collection called the “imagine a better world” collection.  It is based on John Lennon‘s old sketches for his son, Sean, and the stuffed critters are made from organic terrycloth with a fluffy stuffing of natural corn fiber.

They’re soooo cute, right?  I love ’em, but as much as possible, I want to actually make toys for my kids more than I purchase them.  I’m sure it should be easy enough to come up with my own collection once I’m able to grow my own field of organic goodness.  😉

Anyway, kudos to Dandelion for this groovy collection.  I’d love to buy it once it’s officially out in the market.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 28, 2009 at 7:40 am

Going weed

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It’s been a while since I last wrote about the self-sufficient lifestyle I’m trying, day in and day out, to work on.  I recently became interested in the concept of native plants through various articles and websites, some of which are listed on the sidebar under I Hug Trees & Metazoans.

Growing native plants is very underrated if not widely discouraged these days, when industrial planting is the “practical”, not to mention “aesthetic” way to go.  Native plants are usually considered weeds in most gardening circles and are eventually pulled out.

What is so great about native plants though is that they’re low maintenance, they live long and they’re ecologically beneficial.  Most industrial plants, like our usual indoor flower pots, grass lawns and groundcover, require the right kind of soil, the right kind of place, the right kind of temperature and the right kind of fertilizer and pesticide to survive.

They may look more sophisticated compared to their native cousins, but native plants are known to withstand any kind of weather or creepy crawly it encounters along the way.  Native shrubs and trees encourage different kinds of habitat, from insects to birds, that are actually beneficial to their survival and surrounding area.  Obviously, in my book, these creepy crawlies are always more than welcome.  🙂

I found that growing native plants will largely support that self-sufficient home I wish to cultivate, since not only is naturescaping so energy and ecologically efficient, but there’s also a huge variety of edible native plants out there, from herbs, berries and filling fruits like persimmons to help create a highly non-consumerist home atmosphere.  I also think they’re actually quite pretty, a lot of them even prettier than the industrial plants we’ve become so used to.

Here are some of the native plants that I can imagine cultivating in my backyard:

Native Tree:

Douglas FirThe Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).  I see a bunch of these in my area, which isn’t a surprise since this native tree is commonly found in spacious, dry to moist soil.  It loves the sun, families of birds and critters, myself included, who love seeing Christmas trees all year round.  Plus, it reminds me of Baguio.  😉

Native Shrub:

Huckleberry EvergreenThe Huckleberry Evergreen (Vaccinium ovatum).  Buds pink, bell-shaped flowers, and don’t you think those berries look so pretty?  Well, they’re edible, too!

Shade Aesthetics:

Shooting StarThe Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia).  These beauties are at their best in spring.  The foliage is just as awesome, but grows dormant in the summer.  The flowers can be white, light pink, or this lovely lilac shade.  It’s obvious why they’re called shooting stars, ey?

For sweet-toothed, music lovin’ creatures:

Wild Sweet WilliamWild Sweet William (Phlox divaricata), and…

Sideoats GramaSideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula).

Native plants are known to attract butterflies, bees, and create songbird havens.

Wild Sweet Williams survive best in highly organic soil, and provide sweet nectar to hummingbirds!  The flowers are nicely scented to boot.

Sideoats actually look familiar, don’t they?  I remember seeing a few of these in my elementary school.  We’d play with the seedheads and pretend they’re bigas when we played “chef.”  These are very drought tolerant and provide great feed to birds and small mammals.

I want to start growing native plants as soon as I can.  There are loads of possibilities even here where the weather can be lip-cracking cold and the air thin and dry.  I found a bunch of native plant nurseries in my area, mostly up in Santa Fe, which isn’t a surprise — I remember Santa Fe to be rich in native perennials and herbacious shrubs.  I can’t wait!

Written by Karla Mercado

February 28, 2009 at 1:35 am

Vermicelli, anyone?

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(Written 31 October 2008;  Earl now has his own worm farm)

I’ve always wondered where Italians got that name for this type of noodle.  But this blog is about a totally different topic altogether.

Earl just recently decided to try his hand at vermiculture.  It is basically breeding earthworms to produce nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer.  I think it’s a great add-on to the itty bitty things we wish to do for the environment.

Getting into vegetarianism has opened so many doors for us to tap other related activities that would help strengthen our convictions.  On a personal level, it has also helped us as a couple to discover so many new things that we have in common.

We have pretty diverse beliefs but always with a common ethical and environmental denominator.  For example, I am largely into animal rights, while Earl is into non-consumerism. We’ve constantly discussed topics such as freeganism, bushwalking, organic cooking, foraging and health.  But I noticed recently that we’ve been talking a lot about our desire to become self-sufficient.

We both agree that growing our own food is a great way to contribute to the environment, and at the same time train ourselves to reach that level of independence, which was the kind of independence our ancestors had once upon a very long time ago, way before the dawn of modernity and instant coffee.

Imagine picking herbs, plucking out tomatoes and digging for potatoes just three steps away from your kitchen or maybe even less, depending on where your garden is located.  It’s always fresh and you know exactly how the food on your plate was cultivated and produced, precisely because you grew them yourself.  It also reminds us human beings that we can indeed be strong enough to not have to rely completely on supermarkets and genetically modified onions to whip up an awesome salad.

And so this morning, Earl started telling me about his newfound interest in vermiculture.  Believe me, it’s so fascinating that I wish I could do it myself, but given this tropical climate, breeding healthy earthworms is almost impossible.

There are so many interesting tidbits about this practice.

Did you know that, by breeding your own earthworms, you can actually create different kinds of fertilizer that would address different kinds of plant needs?  In other words, giving your worms a particular kind of diet would correspond to a particular kind of successful harvest.

Did you also know that worms require calcium to produce eggs?  It is recommended that egg shells be a regular part of the worms’ diet to address their calcium needs.  They love curling up in them too.  So cute!

Worms help pick up your garbage.  It’s their favorite meal, so kitchen wastes can easily be taken care of by tending your own little worm farm.

It’s also practically odorless.  Way, way better than your usual garbage bin.

A worm farm is basically a tiny ecosystem, so the breeder shouldn’t attempt to remove other critters that seem to be nesting with the worms — they’re considered helpers.  But centipedes should be evicted, as they are carnivores — they eat baby worms and eggs.  Yikes!

Breeders shouldn’t allow worm bins to heat up past 90 degrees.  It will cook the poor worms — something no one should smell!  Double yikes!

Read more about making your own worm compost system here:  http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Own-Worm-Compost-System

It’s an exciting undertaking and I can’t wait to see how it’s gonna pan out once Earl starts.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 1, 2009 at 3:05 am

Autarky during ‘that time of the month’

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(Written 1 November 2008)

Warning:  Boys, this might freak you out.  You may skip this entry if you wish.  :p

While I am still on the topic of self-sufficiency, you guys might find this particularly interesting.  Or perhaps some of you might find this a bit too extreme.

This is a kapok seed pod.  When ripe and ready for harvest, it becomes…

…like this.

A friend of mine who has been living a largely self-sufficient lifestyle for quite some time now grows a kapok tree in her backyard and uses the fiber to — you guessed it — make her own monthly bleeding pads.

I’m sure a lot of you wonder how in the world she, first, harvests enough kapok fiber to last her every monthly visit (Answer: The kapok tree is, luckily, a tropical plant;  she easily tends to it at home) and most importantly — is that sanitary?! — which was also what I first asked her.

This self-sufficient, non-consumerist innovation is actually a spin-off to our grandparents’ pasador cloths, which were regularly washed and folded up.  Kapok napkins pretty much use the same technique by using washable cotton casings over the kapok fiber.

The fiber is way more absorbent than the old pasador cloths, and more importantly, disposable;  the casings are washable and, well, there you have it — a clean and green way to avoid those scented, badly designed plastic napkins that are injected with so many chemicals, and require energy to be produced.

Interesting Tidbit: The kapok tree helps provide habitat to bats.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 1, 2009 at 2:55 am