Posts Tagged ‘global warming’

Buy Nothing Day

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Buy Nothing Day was launched by Vancouver’s Adbusters Magazine.

“The journey towards a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year. This November 23rd, go cold turkey on consumption for 24 hours … see what happens … you just might have an unexpected, emancipatory epiphany! … Join millions of us in over 60 countries on November 23/24 and see what it feels like. Then, after Buy Nothing Day, take the next step … for generations, Christmas has been hijacked by commercial forces … this year, let’s take it back.”

My extended family did a Christmas like this a few times. My nephews were 6 and 7 years old the first time. You had to make all presents with things you found, and nothing could be bought. No bought wrapping paper either–everything had to be recycled. These are the best Christmases we ever had. Inventive, hilarious and fun.

I’m not sure that personal choice alone is going to effectively challenge consumer capitalism, but it’s worth a try. North America’s profligate spending and wastefulness is truly repellent.

Also, from a design standpoint, departing from consumerism produces the happy result of automatically creating better design. Every time. At the risk of stating the obvious, our anti-consumerist design/gift guidelines could be:

• Less is more. This is almost always true.
• Buy less and when you do buy, buy items of significantly high quality, items you’ll never tire of and that will improve with age. The expenditure is worth it, and in the end you’ll find this has actually cost you the same or less than the sum of many cheap expenditures.
• Nothing substitutes for the handmade
• Artisanal, high-quality, local production from carefully chosen materials can be far better-looking than factory-produced brand name goods or furniture (but some artisans have to stop adding busy, funky, weird detailing to everything. (3 different woods/materials in one table; curlicues.) Awkward aesthetics are wasteful too–we tire of them, so they work against longevity).
• If you must buy new, try to buy mostly things made/grown in your own town/region/country.
• Use found objects. Items with some history bring some humanity with them. So many spaces are utterly dead because they lack the marks of  their natural origins, or of the human hand, history and use. Bring a fallen tree branch into the house. Google “biophilia” to found out how seeing natural objects is beneficial to health and serenity.
• Don’t buy anything made of chipboard! Better to find solid wood items at thrift shops. At IKEA, some items are far better quality than others. Avoid anything made of cheap laminates.
• Older couches and chairs often have solid hardwood under-structures. Collect these! Instead of buying a new couch, get an old one re-sprung and re-upholstered. This also supports local labour, and you end up with a far better product with longevity; perhaps even an heirloom. Or just throw a nice blanket over the thing.
• Collage a card for a friend/relative rather than buying a present. In the long run these mean far more to people than objects do. I know I don’t want anything bought new. It’s never right.
• Old second-hand books are a fantastic present. We should support local bookstores in general.
• Enjoy your improved surroundings. They will make you happy.


Thursday, November 8th, 2012

UD SRS GOES IR Animation of Hurricane Sandy

It looks as if we may have inadvertently designed this storm ourselves.

Animation by University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment

“Around the time of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, Pastafarians celebrate a vaguely defined holiday named “Holiday.””

Friday, December 10th, 2010

This is my Holiday post, but I’m referring to the Pastafarian holiday known helpfully as “Holiday.” ‘Pastafarians’ for those who don’t know the term are followers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or FSM), the spoof religion invented by American physics graduate student Bobby Henderson who launched his own ‘church’ as a challenge to the Kansas School Board’s attempt to teach creationism in schools. Henderson was having a laugh, but his satirical religion is also a dead serious attack on Intelligent Design, a sort of Creationism Lite that makes pseudoscientific claims in support of the Christian creation myth. His entertaining original letter to the school board includes a mock scientific inverse correlation between pirates and global warming (pirates in fact play an important role in the religion). More on this to follow.

Henderson probably could not have predicted that the FSM would become an internet phenomenon with a worldwide following, but FSM appeals on many levels. It’s sweet and tolerant as well as being absurdly and even caustically funny. The FSM creation myth, which is charmingly idiotic but also strangely moving, presents a picture of an accidental but benign and fun-loving universe. According to Wikipedia “the central belief is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe “after drinking heavily”… the Monster’s intoxication was the cause for a flawed Earth.”

But never mind its belief structure. Its ethics are exemplary (if you can ignore its sort of frat-boy interest in stripper factories). The best thing about the FSM idea is its rampant inclusivity and general friendliness. You don’t even have to believe in any of it to be considered a member! In fact, you’re probably a member just by virtue of reading this. Maybe even a pirate! No offense to any other religion here (not that it’s illegal or even unethical to offend religions, and they often offend me—refusal to ordain women/marry gay people?!), but at this time of year I think of The Flying Spaghetti Monster because to me its ‘Holiday’ far better embodies the purported spirit of Christmas/Hanukkah/Thingamajig than all those traditions combined. FSM is far more welcoming and tolerant than any other religion (or club), it has the advantage of being irreverent and positive and hilarious, and it inspires community involvement without treacly sentimentality. And is it really that much more bizarre or ridiculous than any other religion? I mean take a close look at any or all of them. And humour is often as salutary as prayer, is it not? So what if it’s wearing an eye patch! Spirituality lacking irony always seems a little sinister to me. It ought to walk the plank! I was going to say something negative about the piously humourless and the spiritually proud, and people who talk about yoga or cleanses at parties, but that is so not in the spirit of FSM. Let’s have some noodles and a beer. Carbo diem!

If all of these virtues weren’t enough, FSM engages in specific humanitarian efforts, and I would strongly recommend getting into the Holiday spirit by taking part in its Kiva micro-loans project. FSM is taking on other religions—such as the Mormons—by trying to raise more money for charity than they do. Members have raised US$444,000 already but want to reach half a million by New Year’s. Ask yourself this: What would the Flying Spaghetti Monster do? He would help out!

FSM is also the religion of crafters and hobbyists and noodlers (no pun intended) who have produced a cornucopia of DIY doodles, video, photography, and craft projects all over the world. Above is a Christmas tree topper. Below, an FSM float at a Solstice Parade in the Seattle neighbourhood of Fremont, accompanied by its pirate attendants. Need further proof of this devotional productivity? Look at this search on Etsy.

Among my favourite Pastafarianism items of belief is the connection between pirates and global warming. Via Wikipedia:

According to Pastafarian beliefs, pirates are “absolute divine beings” and the original Pastafarians. Furthermore, Pastafarians believe that pirates’ image as “thieves and outcasts” is misinformation spread by Christian theologians in the Middle Ages and by Hare Krishnas. Instead, Pastafarians believe that they were “peace-loving explorers and spreaders of good will” who distributed candy to small children, adding that modern pirates are in no way similar to “the fun-loving buccaneers from history.” In addition, Pastafarians believe that ghost pirates are responsible for all of the mysterious lost ships and planes of the Bermuda Triangle. Pastafarians celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19.

The inclusion of pirates in Pastafarianism was part of Henderson’s original letter to the Kansas State Board of Education, in an effort to illustrate that correlation does not imply causation. Henderson presented the argument that “global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of pirates since the 1800s.” A chart accompanying the letter (with numbers humorously disordered on the x-axis) shows that as the number of pirates decreased, global temperatures increased. This parodies the suggestion from some religious groups that the high numbers of disasters, famines and wars in the world is due to the lack of respect and worship towards their deity. In 2008, Henderson interpreted the growing pirate activities at the Gulf of Aden as additional support, pointing out that Somalia has “the highest number of Pirates AND the lowest Carbon emissions of any country.”

Etching of “Noodle Beard”:

For five years I have had the FSM emblem on my car (below). My American brother-in-law bought it for me as a ‘Holiday’ present after introducing me to the FSM (thank you, Tom). This thing has been an excellent conversation starter out on the street, up here in Canada. It either leads to surprise introductions to other FSM appreciators or it leads to explaining pastafarianism to the uninitiated.

See more pastafariana below. It’s only a tiny sample of FSM arts and crafts to be found on the FSM website (apologies to the original creators who are not always named but who have donated their work to the glorification of his (or her) holy noodliness).

And look at this costume, not to mention the handmade FSM sweater above. Now go send an FSM “Holiday” ecard. Happy Holiday, everyone. Arrrr!

Below, from Flickr: drawing from the Netherlands; ‘Holiday’ lights in Texas, by Beth; cloud sighting at bottom by Misty.

Touched by his noodly appendage

FSM makes an appearance

It's true! The Flying Spaghetti Monster does exist! Ramen!