Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I Use Toilet Paper

On the surface, the answer is trite and obvious, and this may seem like a strange topic, especially for a blog concerned with the "big picture".  The timing may be puzzling, too, unless you follow The Archdruid Report, where his did discuss sewer districts recently.  The point he was making was about forming local associations to deal with local problems.  I and several others made the point that dealing with your own waste is best done at an individual or household level.  The problem, of course, is when your neighbors refuse to properly deal with their own waste and try to pass it along to you.  This, then, becomes a management of the commons issue, which was the post John Michael Greer put up three weeks before.

Back to the issue at hand, there are several arguments against using toilet paper.  From the prepper/survivalist crowd, you hear that toilet paper is an industrial product which will not be available after a major collapse, so you might as well get used to it now.  Environmentalists say that it is very resource intensive for something that just gets used once and disposed of.  Some who have switched to rinsing say they like the results better.  These are good arguments and I agree in principle that at some point I will need to switch.

So why haven't I?  First and foremost, I live in town connected to a sewer system which I am obligated to pay for and to which I can only attach approved plumbing fixtures.  Mullein might make great cowboy toilet paper, but I don't dare flush it.  Health codes do limit my choices too, although composting toilets are an option. Of course, for composting toilets, toilet paper is a good source of the carbon needed to keep odors down. From the collapse standpoint, a weakness of bidets is that they require a supply of fresh water under pressure. And if you use a washcloth, you need to have a means of washing it.  So, you really have to consider your sewage system if you decide to stop using toilet paper.

But there is a much, much larger issue, one that you probably intuitively grasped at the very beginning of this article.  Toilet paper is just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to preparing for the future.  It is relatively cheap, especially if you can get it on sale, and especially because it can have a very long shelf life.  Not only does it take time to set up a system that does not use toilet paper, it takes time to maintain it.  On the flip side, you can save some money.  What each person has to do is evaluate where to invest his or her time to get the best payback.  For me, for now, toilet paper is not the answer.

We must manage our time and choose our priorities as we make the Long Ascent.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What Are You Living For?

Bug: Place your projectile weapon on the ground.
Edgar: You can have my gun, when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
Bug: Your proposal is acceptable. 

-- From Men In Black

In response to the recent mass shootings, President Obama proposed 23 Executive Orders to limit gun ownership, New York passed a new gun control law, and many new laws have been proposed.  The response has been dramatic: gun sales have gone through the roof, sheriffs are vowing to refuse to enforce the law, and some are proclaiming a second American Revolution if people from the Federal government come to take their guns.  The majority of Americans, though, are horrified at the thought, if they think of it at all.  "Nothing is worth dying for" is a popular sentiment.

Charles Rangel has once again reintroduced legislation to reinstate the draft.  His point, as it has been since he started in 2003, is that war is a terrible thing and if military service were involuntary we might not go to war so quickly.  That is a fine sentiment, especially when the wars were already unpopular under George W. Bush.  Today, however, that could backfire, as people are starting to think it a good idea to replace war-weary troops, especially since record numbers are dying from suicide.

I'm sure there are many reasons why this is happening.  I would like to highlight something James Howard Kunstler pointed out years ago in The Geography of Nowhere: we have transformed our neighborhoods into sterile places that we don't care about.  Once the four lane highways and the strip malls and the big box stores and the skyscrapers come in, every place starts looking like every other.

So, to go back, people say "Nothing is worth dying for", but, would you really want it said of you, "S/He died for nothing"?  Everyone has to die sometime.  Ideally it would come after a long, happy life, but that is not always possible.  The worst is a slow, painful, pointless death.  What makes an early death tolerable is if it is meaningful, if it serves a purpose.  It should be a purpose that the person dying felt was worth dying for.  And if you know what is worth dying for, you know what you are living for.

The Long Ascent will be very difficult.  Only those who know what they are living for will want to make the trip.