Category: Podcast Episodes

S1E27 – Kylie on Aquaponics and Small-Scale Food Forestry

Episode Notes

In this episode, I talk with Kylie about how she designed her backyard aquaponics setup and how she developed a small-scale food forest in the front yard of her house.

Our guest, Kylie, has a YouTube channel where she discusses aquaponics and gunfighting (https://www.youtube.com/c/AutonomousAlternative), and she is on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/autonomous_alternative/). She accepts donations for the free content she produces (https://ko-fi.com/autonomousalternative)

The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter at @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript

Margaret  00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week’s episode I’m talking with Kylie, an aquaponics farmer. And aquaponics is basically, in short, the idea that you can raise fish in order to use their waste to provide you with other food that you grow. And I didn’t really know that much about this and I got really excited about it when I first started seeing her videos on the process. I ran across her, she has a YouTube channel that I’m sure she’ll talk about on the show. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Da da da daaaaaa!

Jingle Speaker 1  00:59
Kite Line is a weekly 30-minute radio program focusing on issues in the prison system. You’ll hear news along with stories from prisoners and former prisoners as well as their loved ones. You’ll learn what prison is, how it functions, and how it impacts all of us.

Jingle Speaker 2  01:11
Behind the prison walls a message is called a kite. Whispered words, a note passed hand-to-hand, a request submitted the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a kite means trusting that other people will bear farther along until it reaches its destination. Here on Kite Line we hope to share these words across the prison walls.  

Jingle Speaker 1  01:27
You can hear us on the Channel Zero Network and find out more at kitelineradio.noblogs.org.

Margaret  01:39
Okay, so if you could go ahead and introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then any—I dunno, just like a brief introduction of how you got into what we’re going to talk about today.

Kylie  01:52
Okay, my name is Kylie, she/her pronouns. I’m an aquaponics farmer, or a small-time farmer honks farmer, a backyard one. And I show and talk about how it’s going to be beneficial for yourself and your neighborhood and everyone else around you to have access to that in your own backyard. As well as doing things like food forests, and reclaiming the land that you do have around house and in your area, in your community, anywhere you can get to.

Margaret  02:25
Okay, so, so what is aquaponics? It’s a word that I had probably heard before, but as we discussed a moment ago, before I hit record, I didn’t know the difference between it and hydroponics. And I don’t—you know, so what is aquaponics?

Kylie  02:40
So the big difference between aquatics and hydroponics is whether or not you’re using fish in your system. If you’re using fish to provide all the nutrients and everything else that you need to grow your plants, then that’s aquaponics. But when you’re dealing with hydroponics, usually you’re using different types of chemicals and fertilizers in order to amend your water so that can grow healthy plants. Aquatics is really just a mixture of aquaculture and botany, or whatever the word for taking care of plants is.

Margaret  03:21
That’s interesting to me, because one of the reasons that I never got particularly into hydroponics is that it seemed like it—if you have to add the nutrients to the water yourself—like you have to go out and buy them or something to add them—it didn’t really have a lot of interest to me as someone who is interested in building things that could be autonomous. 

Kylie  03:42
No, and I’m really not interested in involved becuase of that. With the hydroponics you’re completely dependent on lots of different industries in order to amend your water. But with the aquaponics, you can make it so that everything is sustainable and you can grow your own fish food, feed fish, and then use their fish waste in order to grow your plants.

Margaret  04:06
How did you first get involved in in aquaponics?

Kylie  04:09
Um, about eight years ago—maybe 10 years ago—I saw my husband out in the backyard digging a koi pond. I said. “What are you doing this for, you know, you don’t have enough time to take care of just a koi pond just sit there and look at.” And I thought he was crazy at the time. He dug a small one in the backyard. And of course he didn’t have much time to take care of it and I started taking care of it and started improving it little by little through the years, and then decided, hey, we have this fish and we have all this fish waste that we’re having to deal with all the time. Why don’t we just route it through a couple of pipes and try and grow some plants in it? And the first couple of times that we started—we ended up with some lateral systems and those that workout for us, they leaked all the time, it was a huge nightmare. We almost just stopped doing it entirely because it was such a mess. But little by little we tweaked the design and we’ve ended up with something that’s been running strong for probably about four years now non-stop. 

Margaret  05:19
Okay. And so what is the end result of aquaponics? Are you basically, are you raising fish to eat? Or is it more about keeping fish and then using their waste to grow vegetables? Like, what is the—what’s the goal? What is the result of it?

Kylie  05:35
The goal is that, of course, you can grow all your vegetables that you need. And then if you want to grow protein as well because I don’t know what vegetables I can grow within the system that are going to provide me with protein or fats or anything like that. So if you’re looking for a more rounded, a more full diet, or whatever you want to say, growing the fish with it is going to provide that for you. Now, if you don’t want to eat the fish, that’s completely up to you. That’s dependent on you. If you just want to have koi—of course, you’re not eating koi, you can just have them because they’re pretty in they’re big waste producers, that’s something that you can do, that’s a personal choice. But for me, we probably a few fish a year. We don’t eat them that often because it’s a little weird when you don’t have such a big setup and you see your fish every day, and—it’s a little bit more to have to go and harvest them. So usually when they do get too big, we’ll either sell them off to other people that are gonna use them for the same thing, or—that’s about it. We’ll pull a few and eat them but it’s not very often for us personally. But it’s definitely an option with the system if that’s something that you’re looking into, because it takes about eight months for tilapia to grow out, for example. So every eight months, you’re going to have a fresh rotation of fish.

Margaret  07:02
And what’s the advantage of using aquaponics over other methods of like backyard gardening and things like that? Like, what draws you to aquaponics besides the fact that you also get a fish pond out of it?

Kylie  07:14
Well, um, I would say space, but there’s a lot of different aquaponics systems and ways that you can go about it. I honestly haven’t seen very many people using the vertical system that I’ve come up with because it takes all the growing space that you do have, even if you have a—you know how these apartments will have like a small five by five little patio in the backyard? You’re not going to be able to grow anything in that. You know, maybe it’s all concrete, maybe it’s there’s no grass there, and you can’t even have anything there except for maybe a couple of potted plants. But those still take up a certain amount of ground space. With this you could have, you know, a two by five footprint. And you could have a 10-square foot grow space for yourself, if that makes sense. So you take that little 5×5 and you turn it in—and—well, you’re only using 2×5 and you’re turning it into a 10 just like that. Because it goes up about 8 feet.

Margaret  08:20
Okay. And so it’s particularly good for, like, kind of like backyard level growing and, you know, porch growing and stuff like that? Does it also—are people doing this who are out on land, or?

Kylie  08:35
I’m the only one doing it the way that I’ve seen so far. I’ve taken little bits from both hydroponics and aquaponics because it’s far more common to see a vertical system in a hydroponic setup. So I’ve taken things from what they do and I’ve mixed them together with aquaponics to kind of create my own. The way that I’ve done it, it’s scalable. So if you did have a bunch of land out there, wherever you’re at, you could link these things up and just have them going on in a straight line forever. And with the addition of course with more pumps and more filtration, but you can just keep on adding onto the system easily. So if you only have the 2×5 grow space, you can still do it and get a lot out of it—enough to feed, you know, a two-person household salads every day. Or you could have, you know, you could have a full scale setup, you know. You could have one of those industrial farms, yeah it’s gonna take a little bit more work and you’re probably going to cut some corners here and there on, you know, like tank buildings and stuff like that in order to save yourself some money, but it’s definitely doable on a larger scale.

Margaret  09:43
Okay. And what—what kind of climates does it work for? Like what kind of climates is this good for?

Kylie  09:50
I can’t personally speak for climates up north because I’m in the subtropics and tropics. 

Margaret  09:59
Mhmm. 

Kylie  10:00
So for me it works year round. And it’s absolutely beautiful. It never stops, I don’t ever have to worry about anything freezing over. But if you are in a cold climate, there are options for you. You can insulate your tanks, you can also start growing indoors so that you can grow year-round. The best option, instead of getting a bunch of grow lights and trying to go that route is probably a greenhouse, that way you get the free sunlight. And then all you’re doing is what I’m doing right now is paying for a little bit of power to run the pumps.

Margaret  10:32
Okay. Yeah, I spent a lot of my—a lot of my life is involved with the frustrations of things freezing, like, and being destroyed in the winter. I’m on my, like, maybe third propane hot water heater for my shower here. And so I’m like, anything—as soon as you’re like, “Oh, it involves water pumps,” my thought was like, “Oh god, I’m gonna have to replace every fucking piece of it every time it drops below freezing.” So a greenhouse makes more sense. 

Kylie  11:04
Oh, yeah. I mean, if it’s like that, you’d have to stop the pumps for a certain, you know, however many months out of the year and bring them inside, take all the water out of things because if it does freeze over, you know, it just expands and starts cracking everything.

Margaret  11:20
Okay, so what are you feeding the fish? You said you’re also growing the fish food? Is that—what makes that more efficient than just growing your own food?

Kylie  11:28
Well, there’s a lot of foods that you can grow very easily and there’s parts of different plants that we don’t necessarily—like yucca, for example, or I think another name for it is cassava? Is that, you know, we the roots of it, but we don’t really eat the leaves of it. So I have all this biomass sitting there growing out my yucca, and I can’t really touch it. It’s not doing me any good. But I can go and feed that to my fish and they love it. So I’m getting free food out of the deal, and I’m also feeding myself at the same time. And when I’m pruning those yucca leaves, you know, daily, it actually makes the yucca plant grow a lot more vigorously. So there’s a lot of different plants such as sweet potato, things like that, that I can take the leaves from that I wouldn’t normally eat and feed them to my fish. Tnstead of buying the commercial fish feeds that are filled with all sorts of horrible chemicals that are going to get you sick, you can just grow your own fish food. And even inside the system itself, if you don’t have other space to grow different plants to feed them, you can grow extra things like lettuce in your system and just feed them the extra lettuce.

Margaret  12:41
Okay, that’s cool, it—I’m not very—of all the sort of off-grid skills that I have, food has never been one of them. And I think people—listeners have probably sort of noticed that I haven’t really covered much about how to do one of the most basic things that everyone is interested in for being prepared, which is growing food. And so I get excited about concepts like this and I ran across—I ran across your work because of other work that you’ve done. You do videos around gun fighting and general, like, preparedness to be in the field and stuff like that. And then I saw your hydroponics work and—or aquaponics work.

Kylie  13:25
Yeah, it’s a—my gun fighting stuff is more kind based on, like, logistics. It’s less about, I don’t know, I don’t really see anyone else kind of doing what I’m doing in the format that I’m doing it. So it’s kind of hard to describe for me, but it’s based in logistics. This is what you should be looking into, don’t worry about all the fantasy scenarios, don’t worry about any of this, this is what’s going to keep you alive in this very specific scenario of a gunfight without any context there as to what fight is or why it is or how you got there. That doesn’t matter.

Margaret  14:04
I’ll probably ask you a bit more about that stuff at the end. But I wanted to talk to you more about food stuff. Like how—I mean, obviously one of the answers is watch your video series on it. But how does one get started doing aquaponics? What would you say to someone who’s starting to do it?

Kylie  14:21
Start taking care of fish first. Even if it’s—even if it’s something that you’re looking at down the line and, you know, maybe you don’t want to jump right into it. If you have just an apartment for now and all you can keep as a fish and you don’t have the room for this but go into it someday, start taking care of fish now. That way, you know, even if you have a small aquarium in your house, one day you can translate those same skills into a bigger format. And there are small-scale aquaponics things that you can do with just a fish aquarium in your house to kind of work through the kinks and learn what works and what doesn’t and how to take care of the plants at the same time, because those two skills are extremely—there’s a lot of—what do you call it? Like, you’re learning from your failures type-thing. You know, there’s a lot of trial and error there?

Margaret  15:16
Yeah, I’ve only ever tried to keep a fish once and it was a terrible—is one of those goldfish that was like, you go to the community swimming pool and it’s, like, they don’t chlorinate it that day and they put goldfish in it and you can bring them home, and then the goldfish die after like three days. Which doesn’t do anyone any good because then I just became convinced, like, ah yes, I cannot—yeah, I’m like, I can’t keep fish, they just die. Because I’ve tried once. This is also the reason I don’t garden, to be real. I, you know, when I was a kid they were like, bring home this sapling and plant it.

Kylie  15:51
But you know what, the reason why [inaudible]. A lot of people don’t think that they can take care of things just for those reasons you go to even Home Depot, for example, and the plants are almost dead by the time you get them. 

Margaret  16:04
Yeah. 

Kylie  16:05
So you take them home and normally something that you’d be able to keep up with, it’s already dead when it’s in your hands. You know, maybe hasn’t started showing the signs of it or what have you, just like some of the fish that you get. So it’s like, it gives people a bad taste in the mouth and then they decide, “Oh, I’m not gonna ever be good this.” Like, I know how it is. I failed math a few times. I don’t think I’m ever gonna be good at it at this point. I’m not even gonna touch it. So I can imagine seeing something dying in front of you, that’s even bit more rememberable. Oh no, I can’t be trusted with that. But it is a lot easier with—

Margaret  16:43
Sorry, you cut out. It’s a lot easier with what?

Kylie  16:45
I just said it’s a lot easier than you think. 

Margaret  16:48
Okay. Yeah, no, I’m like—I’m now trying to figure out whether my landmates will forgive me if I dig a koi pond. I have a feeling that we’re not in the right, you know, the right space for at least an underground one. Maybe like a smaller setup like you have. But I don’t know. So you do—you do work around—you do work around aquaponics but you also have interest in forest agriculture and community agriculture, right? As like a kind of like a larger food autonomy idea?

Kylie  17:24
Yeah, basically my vision and what I want to see in my community is just reclaiming all the land around us. Deciding what we want to do with it. Whatever the city says, if we all have food forests in our front lawn, waht are they gonna to do? You know, what are they going to do? You know, the code says one thing, but if we’re all doing it and that’s what we’ve decided we wanted for our community, they can’t stop us. So my goal is to kind of do the guerilla gardening thing where I can, and where I can get away with it. And being an example in my own neighborhood to my neighbors, which, my neighbors have already started catching on. What I’ve done is I’ve taken over my front yard, gotten rid of all the grass that literally doesn’t pay rent. It doesn’t feed you, it doesn’t do anything but poison your land and waste your time and money. So I’ve taken that up and I’ve planted a food forest with tons of different plants kind of living and helping each other, and it’s just out there. I have neighbors coming up to me all the time taking coconuts and—what are they called—papayas and stuff like that every day. Then I have little peppers in there, and another little herbs and everything else, and people can just walk by on the sidewalk and pick it up. And since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been seeing a lot of my neighbors start growing their own fruit trees, because I have fruit trees completely surrounding my property. So wherever I have a free spot that’s maybe like eight by eight, I’m going to put a fruit tree. And I’ve given out tons of fruit trees, because whenever I get them, of course I save the seeds and I plant them. If they grow, that’s great. I hand them out to someone, they go plant it somewhere. So it’s like, there’s little things that individuals can do. And just saving seeds, for example. Just save a seed, put it in a pot, hand it off to someone that can grow it. You know, there’s a lot of things that we can do and we can influence everyone around us to do the same thing. If we have an entire neighborhood with food forests in their front lawn, that’s going to change the climate of the area. That’s literally going to create a microclimate. 

Margaret  19:36
Yeah.

Kylie  19:36
And that’s going to encourage all the natural flora and fauna and all the animals to start coming back and, you know, for the people that will eat that protein, that’s another food source. In my area in South Florida we have a lot of—a lot of wildlife and there’s a lot of invasive wildlife too, which I’m trying to get a handle on. I’ve definitely seen an impact since I’ve been actively going after them and trying to encourage other people to eat them when they can. Because, you know, it’s destroying our ecosystems down here. But I have noticed a difference, just me going out and during those little things. So wherever you’re at, there’s something that you can do. If there’s a median in the middle of the road, there’s nothing stopping you from going and plan something out there. If they take it up, they take it up, you know, and there’s not really a loss there, you can always get another seed. But you gotta try. That’s the important part.

Margaret  20:40
That’s interesting to me because I often think about how we don’t think about how we can have an impact and how, like, you know, it’s—some of these problems that we deal with, right, are so big that we just sort of think, “Oh, we can’t have any impact on this.” And then even, like, when—I was raised very detached from—I mean, I spent time in nature, but I spent—I was still very detached from like the concept that I would have an impact on nature. Like the idea that, like, hmm—like with a prepping thing, everyone talks about like, “Oh, well, I’ll just go out and eat deer and squirrels or whatever,” right? But then I remember reading about how, during the Great Depression, people hunted deer and squirrels almost to extinction. And it’s—and I—people don’t think about the fact that we can have this outsized impact. And the idea that you can create an actual microclimate in your neighborhood is really cool. I’ve never really thought about it quite like that before.

Kylie  21:38
Yeah, I’ve read a few things where, in different countries at certain points in time—I don’t remember where it was or when it happened—but they started doing something similar to that. And they were creating microclimates around their area. And, you know, increase the the wildlife and everything else. So even if, during the Great Depression, you know, people want to say, “I’m gonna go out meet deers and squirrels.” Well that’s, you know, with as many people as there is, that’s still a limited thing. You could, just like you said, you could almost go and hunt them to extinction. If the environment still isn’t beneficial to them, they’re not going to be there in those great numbers that you need them to be.

Margaret  22:16
Yeah, it’s that extractive mindset, right? The like idea that nature is just this pool of resources that we draw from, not something that we actually tend to and try and—try and improve or try and create, like, a symbiotic relationship with.

Kylie  22:31
Right. Yeah, people think that they can take a resource without replacing it, you know, and you have to—if you’re hunting an animal, you also have to encourage their propagation. 

Margaret  22:42
Yeah.

Kylie  22:43
You know, or else you’re only going to be hunting them for a short period of time.

Margaret  22:47
Yeah, I sometimes wonder if that was the—if that was the food system that I had grown up into I, you know, probably never would have gone vegan. My veganism was absolutely a response to the ways in which, you know, industrial meat production is done.

Kylie  23:06
No, that’s another reason that I like to do what I do. Because it’s like, if someone, you know, if we have a bunch of squirrels out here because we have so many fruit trees and everything else, if someone wants to go out and take one of those squirrels and eat it, I don’t see that as any type of thing. That’s the way things are supposed to be. I don’t—I want to create an alternative, literally, for that industrial monocultural agriculture. You know, it’s like, it’s too much. And it’s completely unethical. People have to do what they have to do, of course, but there needs to be an alternative there for it. If we want to get rid of that, we have to first create the alternative. 

Margaret  23:50
Yeah. 

Kylie  23:51
And the alternative may be reclaiming our lands around us and using them to propagate food.

Margaret  24:00
What—I especially like this idea, because most of the ways that I’ve seen people talk about, you know, raising animals for proteins, is on like a small-scale or an off-grid sense, is more about specifically the raising of animals, right? Like, it’s—as compared to what you’re talking about that kind of interests me more is about, like, creating the environment in which these animals can flourish enough to the point where one could, you know, without fucking up their overall population or whatever, like, go and take some of them.

Kylie  24:37
That’s exactly it. And I feel like, once we can free ourselves from having to spend so much of our time in pursuit of money in order to get food and provide for ourselves and be subservient to that, you know, food system, you know, we’ll have more time that we can spend, you know, in our communities. Rather than having to work maybe 40 hours a week, maybe we can cut back a little bit, because we’re not having to worry about the basics of food. And once we’re spending—my idea is once we’re spending more time at home and we’re growing our own food, we have a lot more time to organize, and we have a lot more to lose with our residences, our land, or wherever we we reside. Um, once we can do that, then the next step is, what’s the next thing that you need? You need housing. You know, if we’re spending that much more time at home organizing, maybe we can protect that housing. Maybe we can protect our residences so that when they do come in, try and tell us, “Oh, that’s not code, you can’t do that.” Or “We’re going to kick you out because you’re not paying rent,” or whatever else it is, we can just squat it. You know what I’m saying we can say, “Hey, we’re all here, we got the time and you can’t starve us out, you know? Maybe we can start to reclaim parts of our lives, maybe we can spend more time at home with our families. The more food we grow, the more freedom we grow for ourselves. And then we can translate that into securing other basic necessities of life, like our housing. 

Margaret  26:21
Yeah. I think of when I first got involved with anarchism I spent maybe five years at least—maybe a little bit longer—without a job as a result of that, and I worked constantly but it was just all organizing and especially just sort of, like, frontline work. And a lot of it was like squatting and things like that, and some of it was squatting so that we have place to live or whatever, but also a lot of it was like, you know, squatting as a political project and things like that. And I like the—but it was definitely something that was presented on some level as, like, you know, there’s a certain amount of like privilege to be able to just, like, “Oh, I’m just gonna choose to not have a job and trust the movement to take care of me.” And, you know, there was a lot of like food donations we ate and stuff like that. And I think we, like, worked for it. I’m not embarrassed of this period of my life or whatever. But I like this way of doing it where that generalizes a bit more of the way that you’re talking about it, where we can minimize the amount of, like, you know, paid labor or whatever that we have to fuck with.

Kylie  27:30
Right. The amount of time that we need to sell of our lives in order to survive and meet our basic necessities.

Margaret  27:37
One thing I’ve always liked—you talk about food forests and, again, I I haven’t really fucked with food production. You know, this last year I finally realized, I was like staring at the, like, “Oh god, I actually have to fuck with food production.” And I’m in a very good place to do it because I, you know, live off grid on technically a farm. And—but the thing that—but it never—part of what never appealed to me about it, that food force does appeal to me, is I kind of like the idea of like food forests is, like, the like lazy way of gardening in some ways. Like it’s a lot more like planning, but then theoretically, you’re growing plants.

Kylie  28:15
Oh, yeah. So it’s a lot easier.

Margaret  28:17
Yeah. How does—like, how did you get involved with doing that? Like, what are—what are some steps that people can take to start doing food foresting if they have, like, a yard or something like that?

Kylie  28:32
Well, in my area, the code tells me that I can have ornamental, you know, bushes and stuff like that. And I can have, like, mulch surrounding them. But I can’t just go and take away all my grass. They tell me that. But what I did is I planted a couple fruit trees in my front yard. You know, they don’t say anything about trees, luckily, in my area. So I planted a couple trees and then I put mulch around. And then I would plant, you know, a bush, maybe like an oregano bush in between those two trees. And then I put a little bit more mulch around that one. And then it just kept on growing from there. And each thing I would just start planting another plant in between each of the other ones, and then just adding mulch until it completely on my entire front lawn. And then it completely covered my entire back lawn—or backyard, whatever you want to say. It’s little by little. You know, if you start—the best place to start is with fruit trees. You know, you get that whole canopy up and you don’t want to be completely covering everything. But you get that up and then you start mulching around it, just start moving out slowly from there. 

Margaret  29:48
Okay.

Kylie  29:49
And eventually you’re going to start to see all the native pollinators come back into the area, you’re going to see all the birds come back, all the bees. I swear, like, the first year I did it, I had never seen like a bee warm before. And then all of a sudden in my coconut trees, there’s just forms of bees. You know, they’re not like harming anything, but it’s like, oh, wow. And they’re all going around pollinating all the little flowers and all fruit trees all around my place. It was amazing. And I’ve never seen that in my neighborhood before. And it happened quickly.

Margaret  30:21
That’s interesting. How, were you—like how long from planting the trees till that kind of stuff started happening?

Kylie  30:30
Oh, about a year, because I do it pretty quickly. Like, you know, adding the mulch and adding plants and growing it out. I did it pretty rapidly. And after about a year I would, you know, I’ve got really sandy soil here that doesn’t have a whole lot of anything and it’s very loose, kind of falls apart little gray. And, you know, I reach down in my soil now and I reach down past the first layer of woodchips and all the woodchips underneath that are completely broke down now. It’s completely, like, black soil underneath there. And there’s mushrooms growing everywhere. You’ll pick up a piece of the mulch, and it will just be one big cake of mycelium or whatever it’s called—the white little tendrils that interconnect it. And that happened within a year of just—I first put manure down, like cow manure, and then I put the mulch on top of it. And it took a year, you know. And then my fruit trees started really producing well, and the bees and birds showed up, and it’s been beautiful ever since. It’s probably gone on about five years now. And it’s it’s very low-maintenance. Like you said, it’s kind of the the lazy way of gardening.

Margaret  31:49
Have you had much pushback from the city or neighbors or anything like that?

Kylie  31:54
I had pushback. Several years ago when I first—I think it was after I planted my first fruit tree out there. I wasn’t really trying to do the food forest thing yet or anything, but I was trying to get rid of some of my grass. And I had a—I was out there in the yard working. I was really hard, frustrated, been digging holes all day. And I had a city code compliance car stop right in front of my house and he came out to me and he didn’t even speak to me, which I found odd. And he walked straight up to my door and he put a notice on it. And I walked over I picked it up. I said, “What’s this? What are you doing?” He’s like, “Oh, well, I’m I’m fining you for this,” or whatever. And I was just like, “How the hell are you gonna fucking find me, you didn’t even tell?” You know, at least give someone a warning first. 

Margaret  32:46
Yeah.

Kylie  32:46
Maybe you’ve been putting stuff in my mailbox and I didn’t see it or know about or whatever. But like, you can’t just come at people like that. And I started getting irate with him. I’m not exactly proud of it. 

Margaret  33:00
[Laughing] Uh huh.

Kylie  33:01
I just kind of explained to him. I was like, “Why are you extorting people? Do you feel proud of yourself? Like, how—are they gonna pay you extra for doing this?” I said, “Listen,” because he was wanting me to go and pay for sod because my grass wasn’t looking good enough up to his standard. And that’s really what it was all about. I guess the sod wasn’t up to his standard—is a little brown places, we were going through a drought. I wasn’t watering my lawn because I didnt [inaudible]. You know? And he’s like, “Oh, well, you need to go out and buy sod.” I said, “Well, I can’t do that. You know, I don’t have the money to do that. What do you expect me to do? Do you think fining me is going to help me find the money in order to do what you want me to do? Do you want this neighborhood to be beautiful, or do you want to just punish me?” And I don’t know if what I said got through to that individual. But I’ve never had them come back. I don’t know if he went back to the headquarters and put a little black mark and said don’t visit this house. But, I don’t know. Whatever has happened since then has happened since then. And I’ve checked in with him a few times, like, “Hey, can I do this? Can I do that?” Just to get an idea if there’s going to be pushback—not that I’m asking permission, but it’s good to know if there’s going to be pushback. So, you know, I’ve been lucky. 

Margaret  34:22
Yeah.

Kylie  34:22
I’ll just say I’ve been lucky. And I think that the more people that see what I’m doing, and they see that it’s possible, the more it’s going to start happening and the less they’re going to be able to enforce it, just like I was saying earlier. It’s too much. 

Margaret  34:36
Yeah.

Kylie  34:36
You know, when you do find everyone $300 a day every day? That’s unsustainable. It’s not even realistic to expect that.

Margaret  34:43
Yeah, I find building code stuff to be this interesting mess of, like, I remember the first time I watched some of dealing with it, a friend of mine—one of my first friends to like go get land and start, you know, building a place to live rurally—and he got, you know, he was allowed—the like hippies in the area had fought for the fact that you could now do human compost. And you could—you know, human waste compost not human bodies—and you could do a solar water pump for your well. And he was like, great! So he went and he set all that stuff up and then they came and they were like, “You don’t have a septic field or a septic tank.” 

Kylie  34:44
Yeah, they’ll get you on those septic codes.

Margaret  34:58
And he’s like, correct, in this county you’re allowed to do this. Yeah, it was interesting, because it was like, even though you’re allowed to do it the, like, you know, the natural way or whatever, you still have to have, like, a regular grid tied electric pump for your well, and you still have to have a septic field or a septic tank, even though—you know, it’s that weird thing where, like, I’m sure the people who fought for the right to compost their shit, like, probably were living in houses that were pre-built and already had all the septic stuff already figured out. And it’s just like such a—you know, it’s interesting cuz I had this moment of being like, “Oh, I’m so glad I live really and I don’t have to deal with that stuff.” I was like, wait, like living rurally, we think about and deal with code all the time also. You know, everyone who wants to do something slightly out of the ordinary has to deal with—it’s such a—it’s such a nonsensical, small thing. You know? It’s so, like, I think if you tell the average person, like, “Hey, if you buy a house, you’re not allowed to paint it like pink with purple polka dots.” And you’re, like, but it’s my house. Don’t we live in this, like, capitalist country where we, like, our private property is, you know, our own private property? And you’re like, yeah, you still can’t paint your house. I don’t know, I was a grouchy libertarian teenager for a couple months around stuff like that before I realize the nightmare of capitalism.

Kylie  36:53
Till you realize that you still can’t do what you want to do because there’s still another guy bigger than you are.

Margaret  36:58
Yeah, exactly. It was actually like I was—

Kylie  37:02
The septic company lobbied the government to not let you get away without a septic tank.

Margaret  37:08
Yeah. My communist girlfriend in high school was like, “Corporations would run everything.” And I was like, you’re right and I don’t have a counter-argument. And that ended my, like, three months of being a libertarian. But I was like, but I still don’t want the government to tell me what to do. Yeah. To tie this in to anarchy and anarchism and doing for ourselves, one of the things that we talked about when we were talking about maybe doing this episode is—something that came up for you as you were talking about how, like, politics and organizing, and maybe anarchism specifically, is like a practice or it’s nothing. And I was wondering if you wanted to talk about your thoughts on that.

Kylie  37:53
Um, I just get tired of people getting caught up in—not that I’m bashing, you know, the intellectual side of it at all. We need people to think of alternatives, we need people to theorize, we need all of that. But when you put that onus on the average person and you expect them to go read a book in order to, you know—they don’t—my point is, they don’t need to go read any book in order to do things. You know what I mean? If there’s homeless people in your area that need to be housed and fed, it doesn’t matter if someone’s read a book. They can be completely illiterate. That doesn’t change the fact that their praxis or whatever you would call it is effective. They can go help, you know, change people’s lives without ever knowing what they’re doing is called. Just because there is a label for it doesn’t mean that you have to apply that label. Because, especially in this country where we’ve all been propagandized so thoroughly that anything outside of the system as it is, is seen as, you know, a Boogeyman. It’s scary. You can’t mess with it, you can’t talk about it. So if, for example, you talk to your neighbor about, let’s say, setting up a community garden, and you mentioned communism or anarchism, he’s probably just not even gonna talk to you. Because it’s not—it’s not because he doesn’t agree with what you want to do, it’s because he has these preconceived notions of what that means. And if you just leave that out of the conversation, and you leave the conversation at “What can we do to improve our and our community’s well being?” You know, like, that’s where the conversation needs to be centered. Not on, “Oh, you didn’t read this book or that book or agree with this 100-year-old philosopher this or that.” You don’t need that. People before Kropotkin and Karl Marx, you know, were doing and living in these societies that were anarchistic by label, by modern label, you know, they didn’t have a word for then call it anything that was just the way of life and made sense for them at the time. And somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that as an entire people throughout the world, you know. Once this type of, you know, brutality and violence took place and subjugated everyone put them into different categories and classes—once that took hold, we forgotten it. But every—you know, I believe that, you know, throughout—we got to the point of where we are because we did act like that. We evolved as human beings because we act in community, because we acted without arbitrary authorities over us. I think that we evolved to this point because of those things. So we need to recognize that that’s in all of our ancestries. 

Margaret  41:07
Yeah.

Kylie  41:07
That genetic or mental, you know, memory is there. We just have to find it again and cut through all the bullshit that we’ve been taught in order to rediscover it and be like, oh, there is a way to just live. I remember when I was a kid, I was talking—I was having like an existential crisis, where I was like 12 or 13. And I was talking to my friend, I said, “You know, I don’t really want to go to school, I don’t want to like, go and grind out a job. Why can’t my job just be to grow a little bit of food? Why can’t I just go sleep on the beach, make myself a little hut? And have a little garden there and just be myself?” 

Margaret  41:48
Yeah. 

Kylie  41:48
And I was asking all these sorts of questions like, why not? Why not? Why not. And my friend who’s, you know, 13 as well, got extremely upset with me and started screaming at me, and she’s like, “But this is just the way it is and you need to get used to it because you’re not going to, you know, survive with that type of thinking, or with that type of mentality.” And, you know, it kind of cut through me and I’m like, well, maybe she’s right. And of course, you know, to an extent she is right. The system will kill you if you step outside it. It’ll will either jail you, starve you, or fucking literally murder you if you step outside the system and try and grow your own food, or trying to create your own education systems or systems of, you know, governments, I should say. It will fucking kill you. And, you know, I had to take what she was saying. I don’t know if it was from the frustration of not being able to explain to me why life is fundamentally like this now and why it’s so unnatural. Or if it came from a genuine concern of, you’re going to die. But either way, it kind of woke me up to, oh wow, something’s not right here. Why am I kind of the outlier here, you know? That little schism kept on going on until my early 20s, until I finally figured it out. But, you know, because I—you know, despite all that, you know, at 13, all that questioning, I was still subjected to all the propaganda in this country and I still, I still succumb to it and I joined the US Army at 18. You know, like, I kind of took what she said to her. I’m like, well, I better get with gettin and do what I’m supposed to do. So I tried that for a few years. And despite my anarchist tendencies without a label, and anarchist leanings and thoughts without that label, like, I still went in. And, you know, that little schism just drove me crazy until my early 20s. And so I was like, oh, this isn’t working for me. This isn’t working for anybody. You know, there’s got to be something else, there has to be a real alternative. And I started reading history, you know. There is a lot of good that can come and help shape your worldview from the books and from the theory and everything else. So when I started reading history, and I’m like, we came from this. You know, look at the Amazon. Supposedly that’s a gigantic food forest. You know, like, there’s a lot of little archeological dig sites where they find all this shattered pottery and all these plants that are basically, you know, plants that we made just like corn and everything else wasn’t just something that was naturally here all the time. We made that from a grass. You know, and the reason that we were able to do that in such a short period of time with such genetic diversity is because, for example, everyone had tiny little farms around their residences. You know, instead of these gigantic farms, it was tiny little home gardens. So you have, you know, hundreds of people around you all growing these little different strains of corn and grasses, and eventually turns into something bigger. They’ve separated us entirely and prohibited us from even dreaming about that. Now, I think that’s like one of the biggest fucking crimes in the world so far, is that they make us go along with the genocide and the war and the famine and all of that when we literally don’t have to, because they’ve coerced us.

Margaret  45:34
One of the things when you’re talking—one of the like advantages of a label, in some ways… I don’t know, I think about like, so—and this is presumptive—but you went in, you said you went into the military kind of like not, you know, you had all this sort of like anarchistic energy, but you didn’t really know what to do with it yet, or you didn’t, you know, you didn’t know yourself in that way. But so in some ways I wonder if that’s, like, one of the advantages of a label is that, for me, when I finally, like, kind of, like, discovered and sort of calling myself an anarchist I was 19. And it was able to—I was able to like kind of—it was like a lens with which to see my own thoughts. And I think that I try to not feel confined by the label “anarchist,” like, but it still helped me wrap my head around ideas that I’ve been struggling with for so long to realize that there was this strain. And I do think there’s huge limitations with anarchism, especially as like, viewing it as like a Western philosophy and, you know, like, oh, it’s 150 years old and comes from Europe or whatever. But it still gives me a, like, a sense of, like, now I can look back and see rebels throughout history and see, like, very similar ways of struggling. And, I don’t know.

Kylie  47:02
Right, right.

Margaret  47:03
I still agree with you about the, like, you shouldn’t propagandize your neighbors, you know, I think that just, like, going and getting the shit done… 

Kylie  47:09
Right.

Margaret  47:12
Yeah.

Kylie  47:14
But, um, you know, the label is useful on an individual level for you to group certain ideas together and to learn more about it. Because, of course, you’re building off people’s knowledge previous. Like, of course, I’ve read Mutual Aid. I think it’s—I think it’s brilliant. And maybe, like, I don’t have to go exactly with what he says, but I can build off of it. I can take the labor that he’s already put down for us and I can build off of that. I can use that as a jumping off point. But the the problem is, is when you get dogmatic about these things.

Margaret  47:50
Yeah. 

Kylie  47:51
You know, some people get dogmatic and it’s like, okay, but, you know, give—leave some room for nuance. Leave some room for expansion. Don’t just sit there and be stagnant. You have to grow. And you can’t use it as a limitation. 

Margaret  48:08
Yeah.

Kylie  48:08
You know, that’s when it becomes problem is when it becomes a limitation. It limits your efforts or your organizing or your ability to work with others. But if you can use it as a way to further your own understanding of what’s going on around you and your own ability to increase the well being of people in your community, then that’s where it’s at. That’s where you have to focus it.

Margaret  48:34
Yeah. What was it like to sort of fall out of favor of like—like, okay, so you went and joined the army and then you kind of—did you, like, realize that was a mistake? Or how did that—I don’t know. I’m just curious about the way you were talking about that.

Kylie  48:52
Well, you know, just like I said, I had anarchist tendencies, you know, when I was younger, and then 9/11 happened. My dad told me that we’re at war when I was 11 and that kind of stuck with me. And of course all the propaganda that was ramped up right after that, I felt like I had to. Um, I went in and I didn’t really know what was going on in the war—it was probably 2008 by the time I went in, and I didn’t really understand it. I was just taking with whatever my parents said, wherever they heard on Fox News, probably. And I just ran with it. And I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was part of making my community better or safer or what have you. I thought I was doing the right thing. They use that type of goodwill to exploit it, you know? I don’t really blame people for for going in and seeing an opportunity there because that’s what they’re taught. 

Margaret  49:49
Yeah. 

Kylie  49:50
You know, almost everyone when I went in there for education if you ask them. That’s why you’ll never see free education in this country, because that would hurt the military recruiting numbers. But beside that, I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be there during basic training, because they brought us all into a building and they put on a video for us. And it was all this literal propaganda—like country music stars talking about, “Oh, you’re the hero of this nation,” and they’re playing all these like patriotic songs and stuff. And I started looking around the room—of course, I had little butterflies in my stomach because that’s, you know, what they’re trying to elicit from you. Of course, it’s an emotional reaction that they’re trying to elicit, it was working on me. But I kinda like snapped out of it and I’m like, “Where the fuck am I at?” And I looked around and all the other people around me had tears in their eyes. And I was seeing that it was affecting them, like, in a very, very big way that itwasn’t quite affecting me. Of course, I’m there, I’m in the moment, it’s affecting me. But it wasn’t affecting me to the degree that was affecting everyone else. And I’m looking around at these people, like, this doesn’t seem right. Like, they don’t seem like they’re thinking for themselves right now. You know, no one seems like they’re really, you know—for lack of a better word—coherent. And then I started just slowly seeing how the system was, and how the war machine was, and hearing stories from, you know, sergeants, and this and that. I’m like, holy fuck, I don’t want to be a part of this. When your drill sergeant, you know—someone asked him, “Have you ever hesitated when, when you saw a silhouette of someone’s body to shoot?” And he said, “Well, I never did before until I shot a pregnant woman in the stomach.” 

Margaret  51:49
Oh, god.

Kylie  51:51
You know, “I jumped in through a window in the middle of the night, and I saw a silhouette and I just put two rounds into the belly.” And ever since then he’s hesitated. But, you know, that still didn’t make me feel good about him as a person because, oh, now you hesitated. You know, like, oh, you didn’t just completely go off the deep end and be like, I can’t do this anymore or frag your officer. You decided, oh, well, I’ll hesitate for a second. You know, that’s what your takeaway was, instead of the, you know—what I would see is the the normal reaction of, “Oh, my god, put me in jail.” You know, I’m a bad person, that type of reaction. But it wasn’t like that. And everyone else around me is fauning over this guy. Like, “Oh, wow, whoo.” And, you know, I—that was still in basic training. I really realized that that was not the place for me. And the rest of the time—I was good at it, you know, it wasn’t like I had a bad time there. Yeah, there was traumatic shit. You know, I didn’t go overseas or anything else like that. But there was like, crazy shit that happened because you got a bunch of young people, you know, given access and authority and power and whatever else they think they have. And, you know, crazy stuff happens. But it was like, I’m not supposed to be here because of, you know, I don’t feel safe around these people. These aren’t good people, a lot of them.oYu know, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat there and listen to someone tell me about how they’ve murdered people. And it was just like… there’s nothing. 

Margaret  53:30
Yeah.

Kylie  53:31
You know, they’re just recalling it. Like, they don’t see any—they don’t read into it. You know, “Why did I murder that person? Why was I there in the first place?” They don’t question that at all. And that’s where I saw the problem to be. Because if you’re really feeling like you’re there to protect people, or you’re doing it for your community, trying to protect and that’s what they lead you to believe, then the last thing you’re going to do is hurt another community the way that you’re afraid for your community to be hurt. So if you go over there and kill someone’s mother, you know, like, that’s exactly what you didn’t want to happen here to your mother. You know, how can you justify this? 

Margaret  54:10
Yeah. 

Kylie  54:13
How can you live with it? And how can you not—the powers that sent in there and try and, you know, resist that? Because you should—if you care about your own family you should be able to care about and empathize with everyone else’s families. And I didn’t see that with people I was around. So I got out in a hurry, long story short. 

Margaret  54:39
Okay. Yeah, I—one of the most like alienated I’ve ever felt from, like, people—or especially… I don’t want to specifically say especially men, but I want to say like maybe some of the ways that like men are taught to behave in our society or whatever. I remember talking to a friend who was on a boat with her boyfriend and they were boarded by pirates, and—or they were being approached by pirates or something like that. And her boyfriend was, like, so excited because he finally had an excuse to kill somebody. 

Kylie  55:20
Oh, wow. 

Margaret  55:21
And he was like, “I get to try and kill somebody now.” And he was, like, gleeful. And she broke up with him. And just hearing that was like the most, like, oh there’s people who think that way. And it’s so confusing to me. You know? I’m not a pacifist.

Kylie  55:50
Right.

Margaret  55:50
This show is clearly not a pacifistic project. But there’s still just this, like, gap between—I don’t know. And I just, yeah, I…

Kylie  56:04
It’s because they don’t see other people as humans. They’re looking for an excuse and they have that eagerness. And it’s like, if you’re eager, like, that’s not a good sign, you know? 

Margaret  56:16
Yeah. 

Kylie  56:16
You know, I’m prepared to do what I need to do, but I’m not eager to ever do it. You know, I’m hoping for a world where no one ever has to do that. You know, that’s the ideal right there. But if you’re sitting there just waiting, itching for it, because you want to enact your power—your feeling of powerlessness on someone else—because that’s what I see it as. You know, if someone sits there and says, “Oh, I want to go overseas because that’s the only way to murder people legally.” 

Margaret  56:45
Yeah.

Kylie  56:46
You know, like that’s you projecting your own powerlessness, because you feel like you have to enact that on someone else in order to feel power. You know, you obviously weren’t feeling powerful before, you know, if you feel like you need to do that—that you feel like you need to do that to someone. And for no other reason other than it’s legal. Not because they did something to you, but because it’s legal. And of course, you know, legality is no measure of morality. And it’s scary when you come across people like that. I don’t blame anyone for distancing themselves, protecting themselves from that.

Margaret  57:26
Yeah. You know, that, uh—yeah, I don’t even know what to say about that other than it’s just fuckin—it’s fucking wild. Okay, so to, we’re kind of coming up—we’re coming up on an hour. But there’s a couple more, a couple more short things that I kind of wanted to ask you a little bit about. You know, a lot of your work is—for anyone who, you know, is listening, you do a lot of video content on YouTube. You have a lot of videos showing how you build the aquaponic stuff that you do, but also videos about tactical stuff. And I remember when I reached out to you I said, “Hey, I’m doing this anarchist prepping podcast.” And I use that as shorthand. I, you know, theoretically it’s a community and individual preparation podcast. 

Kylie  58:18
Yeah.

Margaret  58:19
And you’re like, “Oh, god, I hate prepping.” And I—and then I watched more videos—I watched the video where you you have your camping bag, and everything that goes in it. And I really liked that content, it’s a very good video, and I recommend it to people. There’s a lot of really good specifics in that video. But I was like, okay, so there’s clearly an issue with maybe, like, the label or the culture around it, like, do you want to talk about your issues with, like, prepping as a label or a community or an idea?

Kylie  58:51
Well, I think what sticks in a lot of people’s heads when they think about prepping is the damn show—Doomsday Preppers. You know, a lot of that was silly. A lot of it was silly. And I can, you know—for most people, that’s their exposure to it. So—and then you have the whole subculture around that that’s all based on individualism. And just, I’m going to go hoard this thing so that I have the power over others if things happen. I think that’s a lot of the mentality that goes into it. You know, you don’t see prepping as a community-based thing very often. Especially not on that show, not what’s being sold to us as prepping, you know. They want to frame it as that so you go out and you just buy things for yourself and keep on hoarding all these materials. But it’s like, really, that’s not gonna help you. You’re not growing food yet? You should have just bought seeds and started learning to grow. If you really want to, like, make sure that you can sustain yourself and your community, that’s where you need to first focus, is reclaiming the lands around you. But no one focuses on that. They focus on, oh, do I have the newest and latest gun so that I can go out and kill the marauders? And it’s like, okay, you know, you need to scale back your fantasies a little bit and assess what may actually happen. You know, if you’ve ever been in a natural disaster like a hurricane or something else like that, here in Florida they happen all the time. So I grew up going through these power outages and, you know, homes being torn apart. And every time that happened, it was like a fucking party. Like it was the—it was some of the funnest times in my life. All of a sudden, I’m outside riding bikes with my neighbor. All of a sudden, I’m like, going out and collecting coconuts and helping my neighbors and getting to know them and clearing the roads with them and making sure that people will have power and being like, “Oh, this person over here has a generator, let’s go get all the extension cords and make sure everyone’s fridges are running.” You know, it’s like people come together naturally. All the labels and all the bullshit goes right out the window as soon as something real happens. So all these fantasies that people have about, oh, Yellowstone’s gonna erupt and then the marauders are going to come from my food bars. And I have to kill them all with my children wearing bullet proof vests and they’re going to shoot them all with .22s. It’s like, it’s insanity to me. Not to like, you know, denigrate anyone, but it’s not healthy. 

Margaret  1:01:33
Yeah.

Kylie  1:01:34
It’s absolutely not healthy to be thinking like that, where everyone’s your enemy, everyone’s out to get what you have. Instead of saying, “Hey, I have more than what I need. Let’s build a bigger table.” You’re saying, “I’ve got more than what I need, I need to keep it, you know, so these other people don’t get it and I got kill them if I have to.” But it’s like, how long are you going to be able to live like that? You know, so you got 100 Bakker buckets. And even if you are having to live like that, that’s not life? 

Margaret  1:02:02
Yeah. 

Kylie  1:02:04
Like that’s—why are you even fighting at that point? I don’t understand that, personally. Like, my life has gotten to that point where all I have to look forward to is eating Bakker buckets and sitting inside a house with no lights on and never stepping outside because I’m afraid someone’s gonna steal them. Like, that’s not a life, you might as well just kill me. You know, I want to be outside interacting with people and seeing kids run around the neighborhood and scream and yell and laugh. You know, like, that’s the goal. You know, when kids can be kids again, like, they can be free and not have to worry and they’re safe. And they’re fed and they’re healthy and educated. Like, that’s the ideal. That’s what we should all be working towards with prepping. But you got these people just working towards, “I got to get more bullets so I can shoot everyone in my neighborhood.” Like, that’s not where it’s at. If you’re talking about prepping just to shoot individuals, like, holy shit. Just like the other guy you’re talking about.

Margaret  1:03:01
Yeah, you’re—one of my favorite, you know, a guest that we had on last fall—I just use the Royal we for myself—the guest that I had on last fall—the show is eventually gonna end up more collective but at the moment, it’s just me. And I had on a guest named Deviant who had stockpiled a fair amount of ammunition before the current ammunition shortage and Deviant got an incredible amount of joy out of, like, getting to be the like, the bullet fairy and go around and, like, “Oh, you’re just getting into guns now? That makes sense. Here Do you want to hold out of 223 ammo so that you can train?” You know. And like, to me the only point of stockpiling anything is to share it—is to be able—yeah, and like my personal goal, like I don’t stockpile ammunition—mostly cuz, you know, got into it too late. But, you know, I do. I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food and I have a lot of five gallon buckets of food because I live somewhere with space in a way that a lot of people I know don’t and they’re not for me. Like, I don’t want to eat beans and rice for the rest of my life. Like, you know, they’re just there to like tide us with a—broad “us”—over either through like small interruptions in food, or in a large interruption with food, it’s to tide us over long enough to get food into the ground.

Kylie  1:04:32
Right, of course. No, no, I totally agree with emergency—to have those things. And the best part about having those things, as I imagine, it’s not going to do me a favors to sit there and stare at it inside my house all day, these little hoards and stuff like that. The real joy comes from like what you said, just going out and handing it out. Making people’s days, making sure they have a, you know, belly full of food at night. Like that feels so much better. You know, like even if you want to look at it as a personal thing. I want to feel good. I want to feel good about what I’m doing. You know, like, I feel good when I give someone something, you know, that’s a, you know, call it selfish. But, you know, that’s the thing, you know, it feels a lot better to give something and make someone’s day then does just sit there and stare at yourself.

Margaret  1:05:18
Okay, well, do you have any last thoughts about, you know, we’ve clearly moved a fair amount away from aquaponics. But about, like, food autonomy in general, or the work that you do, or anything else that you want the audience to hear?

Kylie  1:05:32
I just want people to realize that they have power. They have power to affect the people around them, and that’s the only real power that we have. That’s the only power that exists in the world. You know, the violence and the brutality and of, you know, the systems that be, that’s not power, that’s just an illusion of power. And we can affect each other. Like you—just like we were saying, if you can make someone’s day, that’s power. 

Margaret  1:06:05
Yeah. 

Kylie  1:06:06
You know, and you got to understand that. Instead of going around and trying to make people subservient to you or make them feel like they’re underneath you, make them feel like they’re with you. You know, I mean, when you see someone down don’t punch them down, bring them up.

Margaret  1:06:26
Yeah, I like that.

Kylie  1:06:28
That’s it.

Margaret  1:06:29
Cool. Where can people find you online? Where can people engage with the content that you make?

Kylie  1:06:37
So I’m in two main places, I’m on YouTube and I’m on Instagram. Both of them are AutonomousAlternative, all one word. And um, yeah. I’m in the middle of my next series, which is the firearm series. I’m about midway through that and should be finishing up soon. And then after that, it’s whatever people want to see.

Margaret  1:07:02
Cool. Yeah. And if you want to see someone with gigantic bolt cutters and how you attach gigantic bolt cutters to your pack, I highly recommend your channel. There’s a lot of other good stuff, but I was specifically impressed by being like, you know, it has never occurred to me that there’s a version of this world where I would need to figure out how to connect, like, what four-foot bolt cutters or whatever to my backpack.

Kylie  1:07:27
The authorities sure do you like to hide things behind the law locks and fences, so it can’t hurt.

Margaret  1:07:33
Yeah, no, it—it makes a lot of sense. As soon as I saw it I was like—I love those moments of, like, you know, I spend all my time like reading about preparedness and writing this podcast or whatever, and then seeing something that I’m like, oh, yeah! Okay, well, thank you so much. 

Kylie  1:07:50
Of course. Yeah, it was really a pleasure being on here. Thanks for reaching out.

Margaret  1:07:59
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. That’s, I think the main way that people hear about it. And telling people in person is, of course, the coolest way. Although, well hey, maybe by the time you listen to this you might actually be able to interact with more than 0–2 people or whatever. And telling people who’s cool. Also, telling people online tells the robots to tell other people to listen to it because algorithms are weird. And so is making the same exit commentary every single time I record an episode, but I’ll just roll with that. And also, if you want to support the show more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up an ostensibly monthly zine that fell down a lot during COVID, but I seem to be picking it back up. If you go there, you can get a bunch of exclusive content. And it’s so exclusive that if you want it for free, just message me. Basically, anyone who lives off of less money than I make on Patreon, please just message me and I’ll get you access to all the content for free. But that said, I’m excited to say that I’m starting to bring other people on board. Live Like the World is Dying becoming a more collective project. And of course, that means financing more people as more people do the work. And I’m so grateful about it, I think the show’s gonna start getting back on track. And particular thanks to Casandra the transcriptionist [transcriber’s note: you’re welcome!] and thanks to Jack who is editing—doing editing on the audio now. And in particular I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog and Kirk and Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, and Hugh. I really appreciate it. It’s your contribution—it’s everyone’s contributions that is helping this podcast continue. Thank you so much. And I hope that everyone who’s listening is doing well and enjoying—well, I guess the spring in the Northern Hemisphere, autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. I like autumn a lot too. So, you know. I hope you’re doing well and I will talk to you all soon.

S1E26 – adrienne maree brown on Emergent Strategy

Episode Notes

The guest adrienne maree brown can be found on twitter @adriennemaree and instagram @adriennemareebrown. The book we are discussing the most is Emergent Strategy.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

Transcript

Margaret 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. I use she or they pronouns—and I’m sorry that it’s been a minute since an episode has come out and it’ll probably stay a little bit slowed down for a little while, it might be an episode a month for a little while. It’s not that I’ve run out of people to interview or subjects that I want to cover, it’s that it’s hard for me to get anything done right now, which I think might be something that might—you might identify with, as well. I’ve kind of said that the only thing I’ve managed to accomplish so far in 2021 is talk shit on the internet and not die. And I’m doing very good at both of those things. I’ve have honed my talking shit skills, and I’m reasonably good at not dying. One thing that people don’t talk about enough with off-grid life and things like that, I spend an awful lot of my time just maintaining the systems that sustain me. I spend a lot of my time trying to fix broken water pumps and learning that—the thing is, when you do everything DIY and you’re not particularly skilled, the first time you do something you probably do it good enough, but good enough often means that it will fall apart before before too long. So I’ve rewired my electrical system probably seven or eight times. It seems to be holding good now. My plumbing system, I’m going to be crawling under my house and rewiring my plumbing system a lot. I’ve had a lot of things freeze and break. And there’s just a lot of—a lot of uphill learning curve, especially to do alone. This week’s guest is Adrienne Maree Brown and I’m very excited to have her on the show. We talk a lot about—well, about Emergent Strategy which is a conception of strategy, of political strategy, that embraces change and embraces the fact that, well, you can’t have one strategy now can you? And we also talk a little bit about her work as a podcaster with the podcast How to Survive the End of the World, which is, yeah, as she points out that maybe the closest thing there is to a direct sister podcast or sibling podcast to this show. This podcast is a proud member of Channel Zero Network of Anarchists Podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network.

Jingle 02:48
One two one two, tune in for another episode of MaroonCast. MaroonCast is a down to earth black radical podcast for the people. Our host, hip hop anarchist “Sima Lee The RBG” and sex educator and crochet artists “KLC” share their reflections on maroons, rebellion, womanism, life, culture, community, trap liberation & everyday ratchetness! They deliver fresh commentary with a queer, TGNC, fierce, funny, Southern Guhls, anti-imperialist, anti-oppression approach. “Poli (Ed.) & Bullshit”. Check out episodes of MaroonCast on Channel Zero Network, Buzzsprout, Soundcloud, Google, Apple, and Spotify. All power to the people, all pleasure.

Margaret 03:40
Okay, so if you want to introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of a brief introduction to you and your work, especially around Emergent Strategy.

Adrienne 03:51
Okay, my name is Adriennne Maree Brown, I use she and they pronouns. I am based in Detroit and I’m the author of five books including Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, and almost everything I’ve written is in some way inspired by Octavia Butler or in touch with Octavia Butler, including Emergent Strategy. So, yeah.

Margaret 04:18
Yeah, that was one of the—one of the many reasons I wanted to have you on this show was that if there’s one book that keeps coming up over and over again on this show—and pretty much anyone vaguely on the left who cares about what’s going on in the world—it’s a Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. And one of the things that really struck me about your work with Emergent Strategy the—not just the book, but the kind of the concept of emergent strategy that I want to talk to you about—is basically, the thing that I loved—I mean, I loved a lot about Parable of the Sower and Parable of Talents. But the idea of creating this essentially religious way of interacting with chaos and change and like embracing those things and learning to use them as our strengths, whether because it’s nicer or because it’s our only choice, it really appealed to me. And then learning that someone was taking that out and developing it further into essentially a strategy both for like political change, but also personal development. I got really excited about it. So I was wondering if you could kind of introduce the basic concepts to listeners who might not know what the hell I’m talking about.

Adrienne 05:31
That’s great. Yeah, so Emergent Strategy is, it’s rooted in many, many things, I think it’s the way that the world works. I feel like it’s strategies for getting in right relationship with change. And once you understand that change is constant, and that you can either be thrown about by change and see it as a, you know, wild chaos that you can never get your footing in. Or that you can partner with change, you can begin to shape the changes that happen in your life or in the era that you live in. Emergent Strategy is for people who are ready to be responsible for shaping change around them. And some of the key lineages of it are the scientific concepts of emergence. So emergence is the way patterns and the way—like basically all these patterns arise out of relatively simple interactions. And they’re very complex patterns, but each of the interactions or each of the relationships are relatively simple. So I think of like a flock of birds, a huge murmuration of birds, moving through the air, avoiding predation. And it looks like the most complex, choreographed, beautiful thing. But it’s actually this simple system where each bird is paying attention to the five to seven birds right around it and following the subtle cues that they’re sending each other: it’s time to move, left, dip, rise, move, right. One of the core questions of Emergent Strategy was, what would it look like if our movements and our species could move in that way? What would it look like if we could murmur it together? How would we have to trust each other? So adaptation is a big part of that, is what does it look like to adapt with intention. Not just react to the chaos, but really adapt in ways that keep moving us where we want to get to. And then there’s a lot about interdependence: what is the quality of relationships between each of the parts of our systems? Between you and my, between the people in our communities? How do we attend to the relationships? How do we think about decentralization? And I feel like one of the big lessons I’ve had, both in recent years and in looking back at movements throughout history, is that those that centralize are those that are not able to live as long as they need to live in order to do their best work. The centralization—something about gathering everything around one mind, one idea, one way of being—actually weakens us as a species. And nature shows us the biodiversity and creating more possibilities is actually the way to survive. And so now I think that’s a lot of my work is, what does it mean for us to be biodiverse in a fucund and world? What does it mean for us to decentralize how we hold power and how we hold responsibility for what happens in our communities? How do we adapt well?

Margaret 08:28
I love all of it. I just eat up all this stuff. I’ve been thinking a lot about what you’re saying about murmurations and the way that—the way that animals move in nature and the way that, you know, flocks move, and things like that, I was thinking about—I’ve been having some conversations with a couple people around the riot or the insurrection or whatever the hell people call it on January 6 at the Capitol, and the way that the rightwing crowd moved. And it’s so funny to me, because like, there’s like jokes on Twitter where it was like, we know it wasn’t Antifa because there wasn’t, like, a group of gay folks handing out sandwiches. And like, there wasn’t a medic tent set up and stuff. And people present it kind of as a joke, but I realized I was looking at it and I was like, I’ve been terrified of people being trampled at demonstrations. I’ve been in militant demonstrations a lot of times, and I’ve never seen it happen. And watching that happen, I was trying to figure out what it was. And I think it has to do with what you’re talking about, about our side at its best embraces interdependence and chaos and change and, like, and isn’t there as a group of individuals. Like people talk about—sorry, this is something I think about way too much recently—

Adrienne 09:40
Yeah, no, go off.

Margaret 09:42
People have been talking about—I grew up being told the left is like The Mob. It’s like the big mass action where everyone loses their individuality and it’s bad chaos and everyone gets hurt. And then that just hasn’t been my experience at all in large demonstrations. And then I look at what the right wing does when they all gather to go try and do this thing, and that’s what I see. So I don’t know. Yeah, I just, I’ve been thinking about that emergence stuff a lot as relates to that.

Adrienne 10:10
Yeah, I think that your—what you’re speaking to is, like, extremely important distinctions which is, when a group comes together who have all been deeply socialized and have bought into their own supremacy, right? Supremacy is a disconnecting energy. It’s like you can belong, as long as you play along by these rules, which are that we are better than everyone else and we’re constantly reinforcing that betterness. But better, you’re—then you have to constantly be reinforcing and finding new ways to be better than, better than, better than—even to the point that like, I’ve got to get to the Capitol door before you do, even if that means stepping over your body in the street. And you pair that with capitalism which is also the constant growth, constant bettering, constant one-upping, right? Constant showing what you have. There’s so much—trying to think if you have—what the word is—like that sense of, like, this is just ours. This is mine, this is—you know? And I feel like when you go to spaces that the left has organized, there’s such a care at the center of it. Like we’re there not because we’re just, like, I’m here to fight somebody, or I’m here to dominate, but we don’t even necessarily believe it’s like our way is “the right way.” It’s more like, we want to find a way to be loving and caring with each other. We don’t think we’ve ever gotten the chance to experiment with that at scale, as a species. At the current scale that we’re at, everything we’re doing is constantly trying to defend ourselves and care for ourselves under the conditions of oppression. And it means that when we come together—I always see the same thing. I’m like, are we going to be safe? But then people are taking such care of each other, from the street medics, to the people who are watching after the kids, to people who are like, I brought for extra signs so everyone would have something to carry. People—I always notice is that people bring extra water and extra food and, like, one of my favorite things, and one of the reasons why I’ve always been such a stan for direct action is that those spaces tend to be such active spaces of love and care and precision and, like, let’s attend to each other and attend to the work we’re up to. And, you know, we can go overboard with how attentive we are to everything. Because I think is part of our responding to the trauma of living in a society that’s so actively does not care for us. And so watching those people who actively don’t care try to come together and assert themselves as victims and, you know, it’s not funny. It’s actually quite sad, you know. It’s just sort of like, you have so much power, you abuse it—so much so that you end up abusing yourselves and you’re you’re continuously cutting yourself off from what is the best part of being alive, which is the nature of togetherness. That’s what I want to study is like the scholar—I’ve called myself a scholar of belonging. What does it actually look like to belong, to be part of something larger than yourself, of ourselves? And in that belonging, to take responsibility for our survival, for how we do—how we be with each other?

Margaret 13:20
I’m so glad I brought this up, then because you just managed to finally articulate this thing that me and my friends have been trying to wrap our head around for—since we saw it happen on January 6th. So you mentioned trying to—trying to do this at scale, and how that’s something that’s somewhat unprecedented by human society and that—go ahead. I just want—how do we—how do we do that? And one of the things that really interests me about your work and about the work that I care about, is that it’s embracing diverse strategies, rather than saying, like, this is the one way that we do it. So obviously when I say, how do we do that? I don’t mean because you are our leader, but you know, instead—yeah, like, how do we—how do we learn to weave different strategies, different ethical systems, different ideas about how to change things? How do we weave that into a coherent force?

Adrienne 14:17
Yeah, I mean, this is the question of our lifetimes, I think, you know, is like, how do we do this thing? This is why I’m, you know—when Walidah Imarisha created that term visionary fiction I was like, “Yes, that’s what I’m about is trying to figure out how we do everything that we’ve never really experienced in our lifetimes.” The best I have so far is what I witnessed when bringing people together for the Emergent Strategy immersions, or bringing people together for a process of, like, how do we do community together? Beloved community. Like, what does it actually look like to practice that? And some of the elements of that are that people are really invited to bring their whole selves into wherever they are. That there is a sense of organized care. That we don’t just leave it up to, you know, hoping everybody just figures it out. But there’s a—there’s a real ability to name, here are the needs in this community: the access needs, the food needs, the water needs, the timing needs—we need breaks, we need gender-liberated bathrooms—here’s all the things that we need in order to fully be here. And then we have to let people unleash what they have to bring to the table. And this is where I think, you know, when I started writing Emergent Strategy I was onto something that I’m not sure I even had articulated fully to myself. But it was my critique of how movements and Nonprofit Industrial Complex was playing out, which is, we were often trying to bring people into space where only a portion of them was welcome. And where we weren’t asking them to truly bring their offer. Like we were like, “Can you just come be a number in the strategy that we’ve already figured out? Or can you come play your position?” Like you show up in the debate exactly as we expect you to, and we’ll say what we expect to say and we’ll move forward with the lowest common denominator of a solution, which no one’s actually passionate about, and like, nothing will actually change. Philanthropy will keep paying us. It’ll go on and on forever and ever. And for me, I was like, I’m really not interested in playing the game anymore. I really want to see what happens when you unleash people to come together. And what I see is—what I’ve witnessed is people very quickly are like, how do we hold really authentic, effective accountability processes in real time together? How do we offer each other the rituals we need to really relinquish harm and trauma that has built up in our community? Here, we have tons of ways to care for each other. We created this exercise—and when I say we, it was one of the groups that was participating created this exercise that became something we did at everything else we ever did. And it was healing stations, where we just said, everyone gets 10 minutes. Go to your bag and pull out whatever you find to be healing, and create a healing station with your small group. And 10 minutes later, the room would have transformed into this place that felt like we can do anything, because we’ve got vibrators and cigarettes and Tarot decks and incense and medicines and tinctures. And like, anything, you know—and I was like, y’all just walk around with everything you need. So many books, you know, so many ways that people are like, this is how I care for myself and I want to offer it, I want to leave it here for other people to access and have contact with. That kind of—those moves, watching how quickly community did know, not only how to take care of itself, but how to hold each other accountable, and how to stay together. I was blown away. So I think a lot of the answers, we need to actually be willing to get into smaller formations and really practice being with each other. And let that proliferate, right? I think so often we’re oriented around, like, how do we build a mass movement that’s all thinking the same way to strike and to have this impact. I really love the idea of united fronts where people are all in their political homes united around some common organizing principles, but allowed to be their own weird, magical way of being and care for themselves where they need to. So that’s why I identify as a post nationalist because I do think that the American experiment is literally at a scale that doesn’t function. Like there’s, it’s—the scale is too big for there to be any kind of real, you know, something that’s not just a brand of togetherness, but that’s an actual practice of togetherness. You know, 70 million people or whatever are committed to voting for white supremacy in the country.

Margaret 18:50
Yeah.

Adrienne 18:50
Like, that’s not, you know, that’s not a viable strategy for how we move forward at this point. I love the idea of secession radical secessions. I love the idea of the Zapatistas claiming territory within territory with indigenous leadership would be like, a dream come true to me. I love, you know, people who are living off the grid and finding ways to divest from the American experiment already. So, you know, I think all of those are some of the ways.

Margaret 19:21
Yeah.

Adrienne 19:21
And I think right now with the pandemic unfolding, I think a lot more of us are like, “Oh, I do need, like, literal community.” Not social media community, not conference community, but I need, like, literal people I can call on, that I could walk to their house, that I can count on to hold boundaries around safety. Like, we need those things. And I think that’s the answer. I always think community is the answer.

Margaret 19:47
No that—that makes sense. And that’s one of the main focuses on like, the—one of the main points of this show is to talk about how preparedness is more of a community thing than an individual thing.

Adrienne 19:56
Absolutely.

Margaret 19:56
So one of the things you were saying about—

Adrienne 19:58
Yeah, cuz individually, we just hoard.

Margaret 20:00
Yeah no, totally. Yeah. One of the things you’re saying about—because earlier pointing out that direct action is a really good way to create a sense of belonging. And that’s something that I’ve been watching happen in a lot of people who’ve been kind of radicalized to the left within the last year, since the uprisings last summer started. And what you’re talking about, about creating these moments of belonging, I definitely, I think for my own experience, it has been those moments of, you know, facing down a very powerful force together and the way that—the way that you figure out who has your back when, like, literally—just to tell a random bullshit story, at one point I was, like, part of some march and, you know, the cops wanted to arrest me because I may or may not have been burning an American flag and things like that. And I thought all my like—yeah, I thought all my, like, punk friends were going to protect me. And then half of them were just gone. And then all of these people I’d kind of written off as like—this is a while ago, I was young—I’d kind of written off as hippies. Like some of the, like, older—I was like, oh, they’re probably liberals or whatever—just surrounded me and were like, “Hey, just so you know, we’re here to physically protect you from the police arresting you. They’re definitely talking about arresting you.” And it was just this nice moment of, like, realizing that in moments of conflict or even not unnecessary conflict, but moments of tension, you find out what community looks like. And maybe that’s what COVID is unfortunately doing for all of us about how we have to suddenly develop mutual aid networks at a scale that we never did previously in the United States.

Adrienne 21:40
Absolutely. I absolutely agree with that. And I think that Octavia Butler taught us this. In all of her works it was like, you’d never know who you’re going to be in the apocalypse with. Like, you have plans, you think you know what they look like and feel like, but you really don’t know who’s going to have your back under that pressure. And in some ways, I think it’s because people don’t even know themselves if the—what they’ll be capable of under the pressure. And, you know, this pandemic has revealed for people so much about what they’re like under pressure, because some people under pressure have really turned inward and disconnected from community and are, you know, really in a deep, lonely, isolated place. And I see that happening with people that I didn’t expect it from, you know. And then I see other people who are really finding ways to weave themselves into community. And there’s not a right or wrong here. It’s just very fascinating to see who turns towards others and who doesn’t. And what we need, right? I thought—I was like, I’m a loner, I like to be by myself you know, I’m a—that part of Octavia Butler’s life always appealed to me because she just was by herself, like, just chillin and writing sci fi. But I spent a few months all alone. And I was like, I don’t like this, I want to be with the love of my life, I want to be with my friends, I want to be with my parents, I want to, like, be with people who can lay hands on me when I’m sick. And, like, have my back, you know, physically rub my back.

Margaret 23:08
Yeah.

Adrienne 23:09
I just was like, I—that part, physical touch felt so important to me. And I’m watching our communities now. I’m like, there’s mutual aid but there’s also just, like, the need of being a body alive in this time. And like, what do we—what are the very fundamental needs? Which I also love about Octavia’s is writing. Like, what—there are some very fundamental human needs that we share. And then there are beliefs, destinies that pull us forward. And what you’re looking for in your community is the folks who can balance those two things, who are like, we can find ways to attend to the very non-negotiable physical needs. And we can align ourselves around a destiny. And it doesn’t have to be a perfect alignment where we all say the same words and we’re all coated out. But there has to be substance of like, oh, I want to be in communities that hold each other accountable. I want to be in communities that are abolitionists where we’re not trying to dispose of or lock anyone away. I want to be in communities that really love the earth, like, at a primal, this is home level, you know? And so on and so forth. And I’m like, I meet those kinds of people, actually, more often than you think. And writing books has been my way of, you know, go “Hoo de hoo!” Like, who is out there that is potentially my people? I feel very excited right now by, like, just—I’ll say this: the other day was Valentine’s Day. And I often, like, ignore that completely, capitalism, whatever. But this time I was, like, you know, there’s a lot of lonely people out there. Let me just try something. And I had a dream about it that was like posting a “looking for love” post but it was basically like for Emergent Strategists anP pleasure Activists and people who, like, really are like riding on this like Octavia way, right? And it was like over 1000 people wrote in and they’re like, “I’m looking for love and those are the kind of principles I want at the center of it.” And it made me so excited because I was like, this is what we—there’s enough people now that are at least looking at each other, like, I may not, you know, stamp Emergent Strategy on my forehead, but I do want to be in right relationship with change, and I want to be in accountable relationship with pleasure, I want to claim, you know, my power in this lifetime, I want to take responsiblity for community. I’m like, there’s enough of us now that we can fall in love with each other and, like, have, you know, radical families, and like, all that kind of stuff. Just, you know, we are a generation too. Like, we come from generations that held the ground for something outside of capitalism, something outside of nationalism, something outside of colonialism, militarism, all those things. And now we’re that generation. It’s just articulating ourselves again, and again, and again. Like, we’re here, we love each other, we’re taking care of each other. And as this added—you know, I think our folks are so brilliant, because they’re like, this is not the first pandemic. This is not the last pandemic. You know, like, we have our folks who came through the HIV AIDS pandemic and are now here and teaching us inside of this moment, and we will teach people the next one and—

Margaret 26:12
Yeah.

Adrienne 26:13
Right? Like, we keep going.

Margaret 26:16
Yeah, one of the things that people I’ve talked to have brought up a lot that I’ve been really excited about is—excited about is the wrong word—but the fact that, like, the apocalypse isn’t an event as much as like this cycle, ongoing process, thing that comes and goes, like, you know—and actually, I mean, even just to talk about Octavia Butler’s work again from a fangirly point of view, like, one of the reasons that her work was so important was, in my experience, I’m not incredibly well read, it was the first slow apocalypse in the kind of still recognizably an apocalyptic story of people leave their homes and go on the road and figure out how to start a new society. But it was a slow apocalypse. And that’s something that I think we need more of just out of—one of the hardest things that I’ve struggled with, in my personal life is—and this is awful, because I sound like Chicken Little—but it’s trying to convince people that we are in an apocalypse. Like we are in a slow apocalypse right now.

Adrienne 27:17
Exactly. We’re in it.

Margaret 27:18
Yeah. And people are waiting for the bomb to drop. So they’re like, “Oh, it’s not the apocalypse.” And I’m like, well, but what—what do you need? Like, failed infrastructure? You know?

Adrienne 27:31
How badly does it have to be? Yeah.

Margaret 27:33
And I’m actually curious.

Adrienne 27:35
Yeah.

Margaret 27:35
I’ve been meaning to try and ask people—well, actually, no, I want to bring it back to the Octavia Butler stuff and then—you also write fiction, and you also focus on—I’ve seen a lot of your work around trying to present visionary fiction and present futures. And that’s something and‚I’d like to hear more about. I’m just always trying to ask people about—because obviously it’s very close to me personally—but how do you—

Adrienne 28:03
Well you write them.

Margaret 28:04
[Chuckling] Yeah. What it—like, what is the—what is the importance of writing futures? Like, what is the importance of imagining futures?

Adrienne 28:15
Yes. You know, I just listened to—I got to read a bunch of Octavia Butler’s work for this NPR Throughline podcast. And they include a lot of interview with her. And she’s talking about how important it was for her to write herself in. She was like, “I wanted to write myself into the narrative, into the story.” And I think for so many of us, when we look back, we can see either stories of our trauma or stories—or like the gaps, the erasure, where our story should be, and they’re not. And I live in Detroit, and Detroit, you drive around and if you know what you’re looking at, right, if you’ve seen like maps or pictures of what it looked like 40 years ago to now, you can see that it’s a city full of gaps, full of spaces where there used to be homes. Like literally on a block it’ll be like, “Huh, this is kind of random. There’s just two houses on this block.” It used to be seven, right? But time and the economic crisis and other things disappeared those homes and I feel like history can look like that for those of us who are queer or trans, Black or Latino, Indigenous, etc. can look back and be like, “Where were we? Where were we?” And white supremacy and nationalism, other things, errased the full story of us so that we are left with just the trauma that we’ve been able to unveil. And so writing futures—writing ourselves into the future—is to me a way that we go ahead and stake a claim. Like, we are here now imagining ourselves. And in the imagining, we are creating room for something different to exist. And whenever I am engaging in fiction writing as a practice, I really feel like I am up to something that—the biggest thing maybe that I’m ever up to, is understanding that the whole world that we currently live in came out of someone’s imagination. All of the constructs, the way that I experience my own gender, the way that I experience my skin, the way that I experience my size, the way that I experience my desirability, my worthfull—worthiness, you know—there’s so many fundamental aspects of myself that are just miraculous, because that’s what everyone is. But they’ve been so complicated, and I’ve had to fight to feel like I deserve to exist. And that fight is because someone imagined that I did not. And they imagine that, you know—I was this morning thinking about all the Black children that we’ve lost to police violence, and like, they’re all dead because someone imagined that they were dangerous, you know. Imagination is a very, very powerful drug, a very powerful practice. And, to me, I’m like, if we want something new, we have to actually imagine, what does it look like? When I say defund the police, what am I imagining happens when there’s a domestic violence incident on the street? And does that mean—am I imagining myself willing to go down and intervene? Am I imagining myself calling community mediators to come on over right now, something’s going on? You know, what do I imagine happens? Because if I can’t imagine it, I’m definitely not going to be able to invite tons of people who are used to the putative system to come join me on another path. The imagination to me is how we create the future that we want to be, and how we make sure that we’re not absent from it. So—and I have to give a lot of props here to Disability Justice communities because I feel like I’ve just now starting to understand how much I learned from Disability Justice communities around this. But they’re like, if we’re not in the room and y’all plan something and it doesn’t have a wheelchair ramp, and it doesn’t have an accessible bathroom, and it’s like chemical scent overload or whatever, it’s because we weren’t in the room. So you didn’t even imagine us there. You didn’t not imagine us, you just didn’t think about us at all. We were just not part of it. And as a facilitator, the number of times that happened was like, “Oh, I’m sorry, like, I just didn’t.” And it’s like, no, that’s not acceptable. Like, now I’m like, how do I make sure that people are in the room where imagination happens? How do I make sure that they’re in the pages where imagination happens? And because then you end up with a future that is accessible, that is equitable, that is pleasurable, and is sustainable, right? Because we’re all there dreaming it.

Margaret 32:37
Yeah, the—this happens sometimes when I interview guests and I’m like, instead of having like a good—especially my year of reasonable isolation, I’ve lost some of my social skills. So people say things, and I’m just like, thinking about it. You know? Instead of having like, an immediate response.

Adrienne 32:52
I’m like—I would love to do a study on the social skills we’ve all lost.

Margaret 32:56
Yeah.

Adrienne 32:57
Because I just like, yeah.

Margaret 33:00
Yeah. [Laughing]

Adrienne 33:01
I’m also having—I have that experience all the time these days where I’m just like, everything moves slower now.

Margaret 33:06
Yeah.

Adrienne 33:06
And I’m thinking about it.

Margaret 33:07
Yeah. And then, you know, in some ways I’m, like, glad because I’m like, well, I don’t have an immediate response to what you’re saying, because I’m just thinking about it. I’m like, I just want to sit with that. Like that’s, you know, that touches on something that I’ve thought about before, but I haven’t—and I’ve tried to address in my own work, but I haven’t succeeded at yet. And I haven’t given enough attention to.

Adrienne 33:28
Yeah.

Margaret 33:28
To talk about something else. I very embarrassingly, after I named my podcast Live Like the World is Dying, googled—I was like, “Well, what if I called it something like How—” Because I always do things that are like “how to” or like, you know, whatever. Yeah.

Adrienne 33:42
How To… [Laughing]

Margaret 33:42
And um, do you want to talk about your own podcast with a very similar title?

Adrienne 33:47
Yes. I mean, our podcasts are definitely siblings in the territory of content.

Margaret 33:51
Yeah.

Adrienne 33:53
Yeah. So I have a—I have two podcasts. Actually now I have three podcasts.

Margaret 33:56
Oh wow, okay!

Adrienne 33:57
I’m an unstoppable podcast machine. So I really love the art of podcasting. You know, there’s something beautiful about just sitting and having a conversation, listening to a conversation. So my first podcast, my longest running one, is called How to Survive the End of the World. And it’s with my sister Autumn. And we’re both just obsessed with Octaviam obsessed with apocalypse and like how do we turn and face the fact that we are in apocalypse, and that we have been through many, and that apocalypse is actually a moment you can harness for change. And it’s actually quite a powerful portal if we harness it that way. So there’s a lot of philosophy and theoretical conversations mixed in with, like, hard skill offers. So that one is is kind of a blast, you know. It—for me it felt very liberating to just turn directly and face apocalypse and just get to be in conversations that are all, like, related to what is. And then I do the Octavia’s Parables podcast with Toshi Reagon where we’re reading the Parable of the Sower chapter by chapter. We just finished that first season. Now we’re going to head into the Parable of the Talents, and then we’ll keep going with Octavia’s work just—we’re like, even though only two of her books are called parables, they’re all parables in a way so. And then Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute just last week launched our podcast, which is the three kind of core collective members take turns interviewing different people who are, what we see is like living Emergent Strategy in the world. And we’re just examining, like, building basically a set of audio case studies for people to listen to. Like, what does it look like to practice Emergent Strategy and all these different realms of movements?

Margaret 35:46
Okay. I admit the How to Survive the End of the World one—people have been, you know, that—more and more, I think, people—for some strange reason everyone’s really into prepping right now. It’s hard to figure out why. But I actually—

Adrienne 36:04
No idea why. Mysterious.

Margaret 36:07
And I like that there is—that there is other stuff out there. And I was wondering if you had—

Adrienne 36:13
Oh, yeah.

Margaret 36:14
—your own thoughts about, like, where people can find stuff about whether individual community or social preparation? Or like, how else people can get—

Adrienne 36:23
So we have brought on a series of guests. Last year, I was away on sabbatical and my sister did, I think, the best episodes of the entire podcast without me, which were—it was apocalypse of survival series. And each of the guests are people who have their own work and their own lives. But there’s a group called Queer Survival—Queer Nature. They basically blew our minds. Blew our minds. And it was just very tangible stuff on, like, how do you think under the pressure of crisis? And they do trainings, they do offerings. And then Leah Penniman came on from Soul Fire Farm and was really talking about, like, how do we reorient our relationship to food? Because, you know, what happened when the pandemic went down. Everybody was like, run to the store, buy everything frozen and canned, stick that in your house. And like—I’m like, so basically, you’re prepared to give up even having access to any organic, fresh food. And that’s your plan for how you’re going to survive. Like, what does that mean? Right. And I feel like, listening to someone like Leah Penniman, it’s like, what is it instead look like to begin to organize ourselves around farms, around food growth, around the cycles of planting and gardening and growing. I’m hoping that that becomes one of the next iterations that emerges from this pandemic crisis is that people are like, okay, we were not fully ready to actually be growing and thinking about food as a community. That’s something we want to be orienting ourselves towards. I know that for me that’s something I’m thinking about is, do I have the first clue about how to grow my own food if I wanted to? [Laughing, inaudible] How would I do that? You know? So I just started, I’m now growing cilantro and lavender, which is not something I could survive on but it is, like, a move in the right direction. And I have aloe and I have other things. But I’m like, what does it look like to actually, like, think about a season and put things in the ground? And how much food would it take for me and my partner to live? How much will we be able to contribute? One of the things I love, that I feel like I learned from the conversations with Leah, but with other farmers, Black farmers—Derek Cooper, other folks—is like, everything that we grow is actually immediately abundant. If you’re doing it, if you’re in right relationship with whatever it is you’re growing, you end up with more than you could ever need. And that’s why so many farmers end up doing all kinds of cooperative efforts of sharing their food out to other people, because you get so much. I love that as a problem and as a challenge for us. It’s like, could we deal with the abundance that would come if we actually all gave a portion of our time and attention to growing food directly from land? So that’s one of the things I’m—that’s like one of my next horizons is, like, inspired by this Soul Fire Farms community is, like, what does it look like to actually get our hands dirty in a different way.

Margaret 39:23
Cool. Yeah, I um—when all this happened I was like, I live on land that is technically a farm. And I consider myself to not have a green thumb at all. And—

Adrienne 39:36
Yeah.

Margaret 39:37
—and I’ve like, you know, the few times I’ve tried to grow food, it’s failed. So I’ve convinced myself that I will never successfully grow food. And so—

Adrienne 39:43
You’re like, see, I can’t. [Laughing]

Margaret 39:44
Yeah, exactly. Which is funny because I think that I’m capable of, like, almost anything because I’m so obsessively DIY that I like—I’m, you know, in a house I built and I’ve learned plumbing and electrical since the pandemic started so that I could make my house meet my needs and, and all of these things. But I’m like, I’m convinced that growing food is entirely just magic that is beyond me. And what I’ve decided to do personally is I’m going to start mushroom cultivation because I’m like, well, this fits my like, “I live in the forest.” Everyone else lives in, like, you know, elsewhere in the sun. And I’m like, “I’m in the forest, everything is dark and rainy.” And, you know, trying to play to my strengths while still—but then there’s the thing where it’s like, I don’t even envision—as much as I talked about my isolation, I still live with land mates, right? I’m, and I imagine that, come crisis, we continue to help each other. And so I’m like, well, I live with people who know how to grow food. So— I will focus on learning how to fix the rainwater catchment and things like that.

Adrienne 40:36
Exactly. Exactly. Like there’s a way to be of use. And I mean—well, two things are happening right now. One is, I have my first mushroom log out on my deck. So we, you and I are mycelium familia. And I’m very excited about it. But same thinking is just like, I can grow mushrooms, like, I’m in a place where, like, there’s enough condition for mushroom growing. And then I feel the same way, right? That I’m like, even if I never get great at growing food, if I’m in community with people who do grow food, but I have other skills to bring to the table, then that’s great. And one of the things I’m always worried about is like, is my only skill talking? Like, do I still do I have other—you know, like—and then, you know, like, no, facilitation is a skill. Mediation is a skill. That’s something you can offer to a community. I do doula work, that’s a skill. But I’m always looking at like, you know, I’m of value in the current conditions, how would I be a value in future conditions. And I want to make sure that whatever I’m developing myself, I would be a community member that people would be like, “you’re of value to us.”

Margaret 40:44
Yeah. Yeah.

Adrienne 41:47
And not just because of what you do, but how you show up how you are, right?

Margaret 41:50
Yeah.

Adrienne 41:51
Like, I would love to have such value to my community that even if I can’t do anything—because I have arthritis that it’s just getting worse and worse and worse and worse—so Toshi and I talked about this often that, like, if the community all had to run for it, we wouldn’t be running for it. So we would be like, okay, we’ll sit and hold down the fort and, like, distract them and point them in another direction and that’ll be our usefulness. Or whatever it is, like, you know—but be—I think everyone should be thinking about that question. How can I be of use in community? How do I understand my usefulness? How do I understand the relationships I’m in? Not transactionally, but in a sense of mutual aid and a sense of, we all need, we all have to give, how do we do that well with elegance, with grace? Yeah.

Margaret 42:34
Yeah, the usefulness question, it comes up so much when we talk about disability and the apocalypse, like you’re talking about, and I really liked the way that you phrased—you phrased it, how you come to interactions is also part of our usefulness. And, you know, and—and then there’s even stuff around like, you know, I’ve friends who, through like, sort of, like no fault of their own, or whatever, have… let’s go spiky personalities. Right? And yet, we—I think it’s like, partly it’s a challenge to figure out how we can be useful, but it’s also partly a challenge to figure out the usefulness—like, what people around you bring to you. And so like, for me, it’s like, okay, my friends who are, like, maybe really hard to get along in a facilitated consensus meetings because they’re opinionated and angry. And like, often because the world has done horrible things to them. And yet, like, for me, I kind of secretly enjoy, like, learning to help those people point themselves. Be like, ah, you have all of this anger. Here’s this institution that needs destruction. How would you go about destroying it? You know.

Adrienne 43:09
Like, how would you do it? I love that, Margaret, because I—I just turned in the final draft of my next book, which is called Holding Change, the Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation. And there’s a whole section on there, like, quote/unquote problem participants. And one of the things I was noting in there is like, every single person who shows up in the space as a problem—whatever kind of problem they are—if you can harness the energy that they’re bringing in, they’re often the most effective people. They’re coming to the space. Right? You should be able to harness and move that energy somewhere. But particularly the grumpy, grouchy, curmudgeonly, flat, you know, this isn’t working. Often those are the most visionary people in the room. And what’s happening is that they are hurt by how it’s all going down. You know, they’re like, why are we not free yet? Why is it going like this? Like, why aren’t we doing a better job? And like, harnessing that energy could free and save the world, right? So I always keep a couple of curmudgeonly, grumpy people close by. [Chuckling] Just keep me honest and to keep me like motivated.

Margaret 44:47
I think we’re running up on time. How can people find out more about your work?

Adrienne 44:55
You know, go to akpress.org to buy the books there. I prefer people buy them straight from AK, which is an amazing people’s press. And I’m on Instagram, that’s where I’m like a person, you know, on social—the place where I—I mostly put pictures of things that I think are beautiful or cool. And then I have a website, adriennemareebrown.net, where I blog and I keep an archive of the interviews I do. So this will eventually live there. Yeah.

Margaret 45:31
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, or any of the other episodes, please tell people about it. Like, first and foremost, the way to help the show is to tell people about it in person or online. And, you know, I always go on about the algorithms that run the world and how we can influence them. And, you know, and that’s kind of shitty to just sit around and try and influence algorithms. But if you like, or subscribe, or post about this, or review it, or whatever, on whatever platforms you listen to it, it helps far more than it should. It helps bring it up into other people’s feeds and it helps people more find—more people find out about it. And all the support that I’ve been getting for the show, especially seeing people post about it on social media and things like that. And, you know, people I know telling me that they like it is kind of the reason that I’m continuing going with it right now. I’m very low energy these days, and that’ll swing back around, I’m sure. But hearing that it’s useful to people is—matters to me and it makes me feel like I’m not wasting my time. So thank you all. And also you can support the podcast more directly by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. There’s not a ton of stuff that you get, like, that exclusive, except that I do ostensibly a monthly scene that I mail out to people. It’s also very far behind. I point to, you know, the world, and hold that up as my excuse which is getting kind of old for myself, but so it goes. And I do try and post up there as much as I can and also try and send out presents to my Patreon supporters as much as I can. In particular though I would like to thank Hugh and Dana and Chelsea and Eleanor, Mike Satara, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. I—I’m overwhelmed by the amount of support that I’ve been getting. And I’ve been able to use that to hire a transcriptionist. And now also potentially get more help, like the show might end up collectivizing, who knows, we’ll see how it goes. In which case, me having bad mental health times won’t be as much of a hold up. And that’ll be good for everyone. And so thank you to my supporters for helping that make—helping that look like it might become a possibility. Anyway, I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s going on and I’ll talk to you soon.

S1E25 – Cici and Eepa on radio

Episode Notes

Cici can be found on twitter @postleftprole. The IAF-FAI can be found on twitter @IAF__FAI and through their website iaf-fai.org. The Javelina Network can be found on twitter @JavelinaNetwork.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this show on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

For an overview of radio from an anarchist perspective, check out the zine For An Anarchist Radio Relay League.

Transcript

1:32:19
SPEAKERS
Margaret, Cici, Eepa

Margaret 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. Are use she or they pronouns. This week I’m talking with two people who have a lot of experience with different radio communications, mostly HAM radio and other means of two-way radio communications. Their names are Cici and Eepa and they work with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and/or the Javelina Network which is a network of—well, they’ll explain it. And we’re going to be talking a lot about radio communications, and they actually do a really good job of breaking it down—a subject that could feel very technical. I know I get very overwhelmed when I try and understand radio communications. They break it down in a fairly non-technical way that, well, I’m excited for you all to hear. So this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And usually I lead with a jingle, but this week I’m going to do something slightly different and first I’m just going to say welcome to the Maroon Cast. I don’t believe they have a jingle yet. But there is a new podcast on the network called the Maroon Cast and it is absolutely worth checking out. And the jingle—they actually call it a commercial—that I am going to play is from the Institute for Anarchist Studies who are offering grants. And here’s that. Hooray. Hey radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists. Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and Indigenous archaisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That’s anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends. Okay, so if y’all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then any political or organizational affiliations that makes sense with what you’re going to be talking about today.

Cici 02:32
So my name is Cici. I do she/her pronouns, I also do they/them pronouns. I don’t really have any organizational affiliations at this time. I am—I have some experience with radio in a like a certain area, but in other areas I’m still learning and I’m trying to get up to speed. I am a licensed radio operator which helps a bit. But obviously, like, you don’t have to be licensed to do stuff with a radio. And that’s I guess enough about me.

Eepa 03:13
All right, [I didn’t catch a lot of this except Eepa] and I use he/him pronouns. My affiliations, I’m with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and I’m a part of the newly formed Javelina Network. And basically, I am fairly new to the whole communication world. But it’s one of those things that I’ve become very passionate about building up people’s knowledge that way in communities for mutual aid, you know, both in disasters and just for general preparedness. We have ways of communicating that don’t rely on, you know, corporate infrastructure or government infrastructure.

Margaret 04:02
Yeah, so I guess one of the first things that I want to ask you all, for people who are, like—so this will probably be in some ways a slightly more technical conversation than some of the—some of my shows, just because, at least, there’s an awful lot of acronyms and weird technical stuff that comes along with learning about radios. And I think it’s worth—I’m going to ask you all a lot about that stuff. But I guess I was wondering if you all could start with kind of like a pitch for why we should care about radios. Like, we all have cell phones. Shouldn’t we just use cell phones? Like what are some of the advantages of understanding and having an experience with radio communication?

Eepa 04:40
So one of the things that people should consider whenever they’re using—whatever type of communications you’re using on a daily basis, that could be using email through ProtonMail or using Signal or WhatsApp, or just using your regular cell phone service—these are things things that are controlled by somebody. So the infrastructure that makes them possible is controlled by either corporations, or they’re controlled by corporations and regulated by the government. They’re subject to warrants and data collection and they’re subject to a lot of other, you know, less security-related, but more just infrastructure in general. You know, if, as we saw in hurricane Maria, when hurricanes come they knocked down cell phone towers and if you don’t have cell phone towers, your cell phone just becomes a, you know, a box with whatever photos you have on, it doesn’t become very useful for communications. And the same thing goes for emails, when you are logging on to your, you know, ProtonMail account which is, you know, a great service and everything—if those servers go down in Switzerland, then you’re out of luck—that that means that communication no longer exists. If the United States government decides to block a certain app that—that could basically cut off your service and take away all of your context. So it’s a very fragile thing that we have, you know, during normal circumstances cell phone services is great, it’s convenient. And honestly, it should still probably be your primary means of communication because of its ease of use. But there’s a lot to be said for having all of the infrastructure you need to communicate in your own hands without needing any external infrastructure, aside from a community of other people who are likewise equipped and trained to communicate with.

Cici 06:42
I think that’s an excellent answer. In addition to what Eepa said I would basically just add on, like, yeah, there’s—it’s hard with the infrastructure that people usually use—cell phone towers, servers, routers, or at least, you know, commercially available routers and phones and everything. People don’t have—people in, like, their communities don’t have a lot of control over it. One of the things that I’m actually—I need to do way more study into it, because it’s rather technical. But if something were to happen and the internet were to go down, either unintentionally, because—or, you know, not because of a—because like it’s natural—something natural happens like a hurricane. Or because the government has shut the internet down for the express purposes of, you know, preventing people from communicating. One of the things radio can do is it can actually mimic a internet, I should—I may say mimic but it’s actually a true internet protocol. So you can actually get an internet running up in your community. Those are the kind of things that I think radio is great for. I would echo what Eepa said where it’s not really a—in terms of people saying, “Well, I have a cell phone what’s, you know, what is radio offer to me?” I’d actually say, yeah, I don’t think that just being able to say, “Hey, I communicated with somebody in another spot.” Like, that’s not really the attraction necessarily for learning a bunch of radio things. I would also note for a lot of people who are just doing off-grid stuff, there’s a lot of places where your cell phone just, there’s just no signal, it’s too far away from cell phone towers. You can still get out with a radio if something were to help. A lot of people are like, well, you know, I’m not gonna be setting up a another Wifi internet system. But, you know, if you’re ever hiking or you’re doing stuff that’s just not close to a big city or whatever, it can still be useful if something happens, you get hurt, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal needing extreme medical attention immediately. So I just like to point that kind of thing out where it’s useful on an individual level, but it’s also useful on a community level.

Margaret 08:58
Yeah. Yeah. I mean—

Eepa 09:00
I think that that’s probably one of those—I think that’s one of those misconceptions that people have about radio, just in a general sense, is they think that it’s two people on walkie-talkies talking to each other. But there’s a whole realm of radio use that includes, you know, sending messages, photographs, even videos utilizing radio that people are probably not aware of.

Margaret 09:24
I only learned about that really recently when someone was talking about how you can take your Baofeng radio and—I think it was, like, get a photo from the international space station on your cell phone by having your, like, cell phone listen to what’s coming out of your radio?

Eepa 09:46
Yeah.

Margaret 09:48
That was a good moment of like, “Oh, this is some scifi shit.” And I’m like, “Oh, and I mean it’s some like 1970s scifi shit.” But it’s—that’s so fucking cool. Yeah, I mean, okay, so like, I’m rudely guessing that a lot of people who are listening, if they have much experience like, say, direct action stuff, they’re probably their only real experience with radios might be walkie-talkies. Right? And so I was—I was wondering if there’s like a way to, like—the thing that really intimidates me when I look at radios is that I look and then I’m, like, okay, there’s high frequency, very high frequency, ultra high frequency. There’s walkietalkies which use FRS. There’s MURS. They’re CB radios, there’s GMRS radios, there’s the Business Band, there’s a HAM radio. There’s AM/FM, SSB, contint CW, like, there’s like all this shit, right? And so I guess I kind of wanted to like start and try and kind of break some of this down if you all can, like, maybe talk starting with like—maybe you’ll have a better pedagogical sense of like where to start or something. But in my head, I would ask you first about maybe, like, Family Radio Service, the walkie-talkies, that people might be used to, like what they can be used for and kind of build out from there. Or if there’s another way to introduce all of this that you all would like to use.

Cici 11:18
I can’t actually speak too much to the Family Radio Service. I’m glad you mentioned that there’s a lot of different modes. What tends to happen is there’s very few people that know all of that, or if they do they’re a dime a dozen. At least from my experience talking to other radio people, they tend to focus in areas that they think are interesting, or areas that they think are useful, or whatever. So for instance, you mentioned Family Radio and you mentioned, I believe it’s GR-GMRS, I actually have like no experience in those. I mentioned in the introduction that I’m licensed. What I meant by that, or I probably should have been more specific, is that I’m licensed as an amateur radio operator. If people have ever heard someone talk about HAM radio, that’s basically what I’m talking about. HAM is just another way of saying an amateur radio app. I’m an amateur in the sense that I don’t get money. I’m not like a radio station. I’m not commercially broadcasting, like, the radio you might listen to music or whatever. So that’s all that means. Amateur doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know a lot or that, you know, it just means I don’t get paid. And that my license basically says I can’t get paid to broadcast. So that’s kind of my experience. So yeah, I don’t know if Eepa would be able to talk about the Family Radio Service. Some people have heard CB radio. I believe that’s—it’s similar to amateur radio but it’s it’s still very different. I actually associated with truckers doing stuff in the, like, I know, that’s kind of an old association, doing stuff in their cars. As far as modes, I know Margaret, you mentioned things like single sideband which is that SSB. That’s a voice mode. You mentioned—I guess I should start with the—you mentioned high frequency, very high frequency, and ultra high frequency. Usually people will shorten that to the individual letter. So like very high frequency they’ll just say VH, VHF. Those just basically are a shorthand way of talking about how far you can talk. So for instance, people that have Baofengs are often going to be using very high frequency or ultra high frequency. Very high frequency is usually going to be a line of sight, maybe a little bit further because radio waves can actually see a little further than, like, the way we see the horizon. But for instance, if you and a friend both had Baofengs and you lived in the same city, depending on your antenas, that a bunch of other technical stuff, you should be able to hear each other. A lot of times the type of radio also use a repeater. The repeater is basically something that will send the signal further—it’s it’s own equipment but it will send your signal further than if you just had it by yourself. So when people hear that I just want them to think, “Oh, that’s just distance.” My interest is in very high—or, excuse me, is in just high frequency, just HF. That tends to be very far distances. So like that’s usually talking to people in other countries, or talking to people across, like, a country, like a big country like the United States, or the so-called the United States. I’m in the Midwest, I can use high frequency to talk to someone in California which is obviously not line of sight or, you know, horizon. So that’s all that means. I don’t—a lot of times HAM radio and radio in general uses these terms that make stuff sound really technical and really like scary, but it’s actually just a—there’s an easier way to understand it. So that has to just do with distance. That’s all I’ll say about that for now. I don’t want to overload but uh…

Eepa 15:01
Yeah, and so basically what I’ll add to that is there’s two basic things that somebody who’s new to radio needs to do to understand what their radio is going to be used for. And so like Cici was talking about with the frequencies: Frequency is one of the two things that you really need to pay attention to when you’re a beginner, is frequency and wattage. So wattage is just how much power is actually being emitted from your radio. So one of the ways that you can think about frequency—we’ll start with frequency first—is it’s basically wavelength. And so the shorter your wavelength, the smaller it is, the smaller the distance—or the frequency or sorry, the frequency. So ultra high frequency, very short distance. Very high frequency is going to be kind of a medium distance. And then high frequency is long distance. Now what the Family Radio Service radios that you’re talking about, they broadcast on very high frequency. But what makes them not very good for communicating at distance is they have a low wattage, so they’re legally not allowed to go above a certain wattage. And so that means that they can only communicate at like a very, very short distance. Basically, these radios were designed so that way parents and kids could have radios or, you know, a family convoying on a vacation—this is in the days before cellphones—could have communication with each other. And so they didn’t need very high wattage, and they didn’t want these radio frequencies to be basically blocking other radio traffic. So it’s a low wattage, very high frequency and that means that it’s going to be a very limited distance. So even with like ultra high frequency, if you have a low wattage, you get even less distance. What amateur radio opens up to you is higher wattage, and it opens up more frequencies. So that’s the key thing there.

Margaret 17:09
Okay, yeah, I took a bunch of notes about this right before. Right before we started I was trying to like map out all of this because I’ve been learning about this some for a while. And I was just trying to map all of this out. And what I came up with was basically like three types of, in the US, unlicensed types of radios, and then like two sort of types of licensed radios with HAM radio being kind of like the big—or amateur radio being like the big open one. And it was kind of interesting to me because I learned, like, for example, like I was reading about, like, what the hell is the difference between CB and FRS, and between walkie talkies and trucker radios as I always kind of saw it. And yeah, so I guess if CB is high frequency it needs—it can go further on lower wattage—or I don’t know if it goes through a low wattage, but it can go—it bend—the the frequencies like bend around the horizon and hills and shit better. But apparently it takes like a much, much more of an antenna and it doesn’t like going into buildings and shit very well as compared to like—

Eepa 18:17
Yeah.

Margaret 18:17
UHF, which is like much more—I don’t know, in my head it’s almost like piercing rather than, like, you know, it doesn’t go very far but it like goes through things a little better or something? And doesn’t need as much of an antenna. I don’t know, that’s what I—what I—so I guess—like, what I came up with as the things that you can use unlicensed are—well, I mean, you can theoretically use anything—well anyway—actually, I’m gonna ask you some about some of that stuff and a little bit, what you can get away with. But unlicensed, you can use FRS which are like the walkie talkies, you can use CB which has like a slightly higher wattage limit and is shortwave only but requires more of an antenna, and then something called MURS, M-U-R-S, Multi Use Radio Service, which is, like, a little bit better. And then, I think, in terms of licensed radio, I’m actually—I’m running this past youu so you can like tell me if I’m wrong. But also if I’m right then I’m just expressing everything that I learned to the audience. In terms of licensing, there is one type of license you can get without taking a test, you just give the US government 70 of your dollars. And it’s General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. And it’s, like, still substantially more limited than amateur radio, right? But it allows more—I don’t know, it’s a little bit—it’s nicer than than family radio service. It’s nicer than a walkie-talkie. It’s like a fancy walkie-talkie. And you don’t have to take a test, versus amateur radio, which I guess you have to in order to—you have to pass these very intimidating tests in order to start using it, or in order to legally start using it. And I guess—I dunno, does that match up with with—does that seem correct? This is just like what I put together right for the show.

Eepa 20:08
Yeah, so if people wanted to just get on the radio, like, tonight, if you could just go down to the store and pick something up and get on the radio. Basically, what you outlined is spot on, you know, Family Radio Service is probably the weakest kind of radio that you can get. And, again, if you’re within, you know, eyesight of the person you’re talking to those kind of radios will work for you. CB radios are larger, typically they’re mounted in like a vehicle. So they are a little bit less easy to keep on your person but they do carry further. So this is what nowadays you tend to see, like, off -oaders and other things like that use whenever they’re going out in the desert and off-roading. Again, you have limited channels on both of those. So you have, like, you know, theoretically there’s a bunch of channels in there, sub-channels, but it’s very limited. So if you’re in a city or something, you could find very easily that all of those channels are occupied and being used by people. And so that could just make things really confusing and really challenging. CB radios are kind of known as, like, the wild west of like the radio world, because you can say and do anything on that radio channel without any kind of punishment. So it’s full of very not great things. And, again, it’s a very busy radio channel because it’s used by a lot of unlicensed people to communicate. Now, when you’re talking about basic commercial radio, which is that license you’re talking about for those handheld, the GMRS, that is going to be something that usually requires that you show you are a business. So you need to have an LLC, a nonprofit, some kind of designator, some kind of, like, you know, tax ID or whatever, to tell the FCC that yes, I’m a business. They will assign you a little tiny frequency of the spectrum that none of the other businesses in your area have and then you’re stuck with it. So that means that you might have a few channels on your radio, but that’s all that’s going to be available to you to legally use. And you’re having to pay money on a regular basis to keep that license.

Margaret 22:23
Okay.

Eepa 22:24
The one upside to that is you do get to use a slightly more powerful radio that—I mean, they are designed for, you know, like, mines and construction sites and factories, that’s typically where these kind of radios are used. So they are more powerful and they also have the legal ability to be encrypted. So you can actually get encrypted radios, which is not legal on any other radio service. The only way you can do that is through the GMRS. But you have to go through a major company to get your encryption service which means if somebody wants to de-encrypt your radio, all they have to do is get in contact with the company and find out what your encryption keys are and then they’re in. So this is also something that you see a lot of law enforcement that had switched to is this style of radio, just a modified one that are, you know, higher power and use repeaters. So these are all legal non-testing options, but they’re purposefully designed to limit you. They’re designed to basically reduce your capacity to communicate beyond line of sight in a way that, I mean, the amateur radio community would say the reason why is because, you know, you can’t have people running rampant on the on the air, there needs to be, you know, law and order on the air. So that’s part of the reason why the amateur bands are more thoroughly regulated, is to basically make sure that there’s a system of accountability to the government.

Margaret 24:00
Okay.

Cici 24:04
Actually, I’m really glad that Eepa shared tha. I have—my information outside of HAM radio is very limited so I actually learned a lot listening to that. The only different thing I would like to say is there’s actually a lot of changes coming with the—not with the testing, but the FCC—this is extremely recent. Like, I think the actual report from the FCC is, like, was dated like December 28—of like a few days ago, like last month, basically, it’sless than a month old. But they did actually say they’re going to start charging people for HAM radio licenses. This is extreme because it used to—like, as of right now it’s completely free. You have to take a test, but you don’t have to pay any money. Sometimes if you look online you’ll see people saying they want $15. That doesn’t actually go to the FCC, that goes to the people providing the test itself. Those people are actually just HAM radio operators. It’s, one of the interesting things is that the FCC actually has a very decentralized, like, they basically let HAM radio operators test each other and that’s—they just send the paperwork to the FCC to get your callsign. So if anyone’s at home thinking, “Oh, I was thinking about getting licensed and I think I’m ready.” If you don’t want to pay the FCC $35, like, I would, I would say, like, do what now. Along with that, they actually cut the GMRS license to $35 as well, it used to be $70. So they actually made getting a GMRS license and getting a HAM radio license the same price. HAM radio—people on ham radio, very upset, like, they—one of the big things is, oh, we need to attract people to HAM radio. So, like, the community in general is not happy about this change. It hasn’t taken effect yet. The report doesn’t actually say exactly when it’s supposed to take effect, like, it’s supposed to take effect the month after the report, but then it has to go through a bunch of bureaucracy. If I had to guess I’d say they’re probably going to try to do it sometime around February/March. But it might be sooner, it might be more after that. As far as my experience, I—that’s correct, you do have to take a test to get into HAM radio. Even in HAM radio, the first—there’s three levels. Basically you have to pass each test to get to the next level. So like you can’t just, like—so the levels, the first one you have is technician—technician level. The second one’s a general level, that’s actually where I’m at. I have a general level license. And then the highest one is called amateur extra, a lot of people just say “extra.” That’s—extras basically have the most privileges on the HAM radio.

Margaret 26:36
They all sound inverted. Like, if I was to come up with the hierarchy, I would be like amateur, general, technician.

Cici 26:44
Yeah no, they’re like actually, like, holdovers from older—like there used to be advanced, there used to be a novice and, like, they’ve changed—the FCC is the one that’s in charge of making these levels. And it’s like, it’s changed a lot. It used to be kind of like five or like three and a half kind of, and now it’s basically just the three. Sometimes you’ll run into a really old HAM who’s like, “I haven’t advanced license,” and it’s, like, what the hell is that? But it’s basically like an old, depreciated license that they don’t issue anymore. So yeah, I’m at the middle level. You can’t just jump straight to, like, one of the levels. So like, if you’re like, “I think I know enough to get an extra license,” you can’t just go and say, “Give me the extra test, I’ll get an extra license.” But you can take them all in one sitting. So like, if you’re like, “I’m pretty sure I could do the extra,” they’ll give you a technician test. If you pass it, they’ll give you a general test. If you pass it, they’ll give you an extra test. The extra test has more questions, it’s—I’m actually studying for it right now. It’s very technical. It’s kind of like what Eepa was referring to. There’s kind of a culture of HAM radio. And it’s, there’s this idea that you basically have to earn your privileges on the bands by knowing what you’re doing and all this type of basically hierarchy type of ideas. But I mean, it is helpful to know some of the things that are in the test. I’ve actually learned a lot, just from having to study for the technician or the general test even though I’ve forgotten some of it. The licenses are good for 10 years. So you do have to actually renew them every 10 years. So yeah, after a few years I’ll have to renew mine, and pay them this stupid fee that didn’t exist when I first got it. But yeah, also something I want to put out is if you—you only need a license if you want to transmit. By what I mean by that is if you want to send a signal out. That’s important if you’re, like, if you’re in an emergency situation, you’re probably going to want to send a signal out. If you’re trying to communicate with people that are not near you, you want to send a signal out. But if you just want to listen you actually don’t need a license, you can actually go grab a radio tonight, tune your radio to HAM radio bands and just listen all day long, as long as you don’t transmit. And technically you’re not supposed to interfere. So you can’t, like, jam other people’s signals. But, like, if you’re not transmitting, you can listen, like whatever. Like there’s no license to listen. So that’s something interesting I want people to know: if you just want to listen to stuff, you don’t actually need a license.

Margaret 29:05
What do they talk about around you? Because around me, like, I got a scanner and, you know, it doesn’t transmit any way, right? And I set it to listen to HAM radio channels, and I mostly heard like a 70-year-old talking to maybe a 15-year-old about like how to cook hot dogs and how to get trucks unstuck in mud, and then started explaining a story about snakes that I found very improbable. And that was about the most interesting thing that’s happened, like, all of the many hours I’ve, like, just had the scanner on in the background. I don’t know. I’m curious what you all have heard people talking about on these things.

Cici 29:45
So for me, I actually don’t do that much listening. Going back to kind of like different areas of different—I guess that’s something called “rag chewing.” In the HAM radio world that’s if you hear someone say, “Oh, you’re rag chewing,” that’s basically you’re getting on the radio, you’re just listening to other people. A lot of times people will make—I don’t want to say a game, game probably sounds—is the right—is the wrong—but people will actually do this as a contest. Like, sometimes people will try to contact as many people as you can in a certain amount of time. You’ve heard of people called “contesting,” that’s what they mean. You’ll hear some people “de-exing,” this is better if you have that—so if you’re in the high frequency, you try to get people as far away from you as you can. A lot of that, actually, you don’t say much. Because you want to get as many contacts, you’ll actually have this very non-conversation. It’s basically like your call sign, like, some necessary information and that’s it. Some people actually automate it. It’s interesting. So you don’t actually say a lot when you’re doing that. However, I know we mentioned ultra high frequency, the UHV—or excuse me UHF, I’m sorry—UHF earlier, and somebody might be thinking, “Why would I want to even talk”—like they’re very short, like, distances. They can penetrate into buildings which is helpful. So someone’s like, “Why would I want to do that? If somebody right there, like, what’s the point?” I mentioned earlier, one of the things you can do is you can create your own WiFi networks. Those actually operate. And those vary—or excuse me, not very, but ultra high frequency. 13 centimeters is about where that happens if people are able to look at a band plan and, like, see what links go where. If you were trying to set up your own—like, even like the commercial WiFi networks operate in that same thing. That’s why your router is generally limited to your house and just outside your house and why you can’t pick up a router like a mile away. So that’s kind of like—I know, this is getting away from the question of what do people talk about around you.

Margaret 31:50
Oh, no, no. Go on. This is a better tangent.

Cici 31:55
It’s like you don’t have to necessarily even if you—there’s a lot of people that have radios and they hardly ever listen, they don’t ever rag chew. One of the things I’m trying to learn is it’s basically Morse code. I don’t know why I said basically, it is Morse code. It’s called—for technical reasons it’s called “continuous wave” in HAM radio. So if you hear people saying CW, that’s Morse code. One of the attractive things in Morse code—because someone’s like, “Well, why would you want to do that, that seems way more, way more like technical and you have to learn a whole thing and then”—it gets out when nothing else can. When I say that is a radio signals take up a certain amount of space, basically, in the bigger—the more space it takes up—bandwidth is how, I guess, the technical word for that. But the more bandwidth it is, the harder it can be to get that signal out. This is particularly pression, as Eepa was saying, a lot of times you’re limited in how many watts you can put out. So if you’re running something that’s not a lot of watts—especially you’ve got like maybe an antenna that you’ve made or an antenna that’s not extremely efficient—if you can do something like Morse code, it might get out, when if you were trying to do a voice code wouldn’t get out. Now you have trade-offs with that, like, you know, you have to, you have to have equipment that will use it, you’ll have to have somebody on the receiving end that can listen to it. But actually a lot of people use automatic—something, I forget what it’s called. But it’s basically something where when it comes up to your computer, or your radio, depending on if your radio is nice enough, will just automatically translate the Morse code for you. So you don’t necessarily have to know it. In the HAM culture it’s kind of like, well, that’s cheating, you know, like you’re supposed to like actually learn it and whatever. But if you’re using it as an emergency thing, for instance, it can be really important. Another thing is if you don’t really want to listen to what people around, you have to talk about, like I don’t want to care—I don’t care how people make hot dogs. The jokes is actually that if you are actually—a lot of it’s just what gear do you have, what radio do you have? And like, “Oh, how nice is your radio?” And it’s just, like, this is not information I need. One of the things, you can actually send out images? Which seems kind of like, “Well, I’ve got a computer, why do I care that I can send out images and like actually receive them?” This can be key if you’re in a place where the government’s actually shut down on purpose, you know, your your internet or your cell phone stuff, because they’re doing things that they don’t want people to know. For instance, I don’t actually, I don’t know if it’s still happening. But I remember in the northern region of India, there was a blackout there a year or so ago. The Indian government was doing just, we don’t really know because nothing could get out. But if you had a radio that could send out—there’s fast scan and slow scan—TV is what it’s called. But if you could send out an image without the government knowing, you could potentially let people know what’s going on and in a situation where it’s otherwise impossible to get communication out. So I mean, that’s something that I—basically my answer to the question, “What do people talking around me?” is, “I don’t really know.” I’m not listening to people around me so much and I’m not a I’m not rag chewing, basically. But that’s just to give people examples of what you can do if you’re like, well, I’m really antisocial, I don’t want to talk to anybody around me about just random stuff. So…

Eepa 35:14
Yeah, for like around me, one of the things that—I actually do listen. I’m actually still in the process of getting licensed. The tests are themselves are, you know, intimidating and challenging but you can develop a lot of interesting insights, basically, by listening. And, I mean, around where we’re at it’s simple stuff, like, they have little game shows where you can, like, call in answers to trivia questions. And they have, like, little social meet and greets. They’ve got like a technical night where if you’re having a problem with your radio, you can call in and they’ll help you troubleshoot what’s going on with it. And this is all done via repeaters, which means you could use a UHF or VHF, you know, like a Baofeng basically, to talk to somebody in Ohio. Now, again, these repeaters are run by local radio clubs which means, you know, you don’t control the infrastructure, which means if those repeaters were to go down or, you know, the government was to take them over or something like that, you could lose access. And that’s one of the reasons that I’m very interested in HF because HF is a self-contained communication system where you’re able to do everything on your own. The IF’s in contact with some of the people—some of the anarchists in Ethiopia. And during the recent civil war in Tigray that was one of the issues that they were running into and something that they had wished that they had basically prepared was people who could actually send out images and send out news reports on the radio from within Tigray because a lot of the news was only coming from the Ethiopian state forces. And there were, you know, reports and rumors of massacres and other things like that. But there were no images, there was nothing really to substantiate what was happening. And so just touching on that, the ability to send images and things like that is really nice. But just when it comes to listening, I think that’s actually something really critical to think about when you’re looking at radio from a prepper kind of standpoint, from a—the idea that you are trying to get into communications because you want to be a part of community awareness. The primary thing that you will be using radio for in a situation where communications are shut down through normal means, and that could mean just a grid down, you know, Hurricane knocked out the power grid or something like that. Or it could be something more sinister where, you know, the government is purposefully denying people access to communication. The primary thing you’re gonna be doing on radio is listening, is intelligence gathering. It’s figuring out what all the other HAMs that are on the radio are talking about, what are they seeing, you know. Are they seeing, you know—are there rumors of, you know, troop movements to the north? Are there rumors, that there’s a food shortage in the town that’s north to you or that, you know, they’re sick people really concentrated in a certain area? That intelligence gathering is something that you can do with really cheap equipment. You can—one of the things that we recommend on our site is to get a shortwave, you know, receiver or something that can listen to all of these different bands. And just use that as a tool in your community to get people the ability to listen and learn because information is absolutely critical for survival, it’s the central thing you can have in a situation where stability has crumbled, is to have information awareness on the ground. So listening, even when you’re, you know, not licensed, can do that. It also can kind of give you an idea of what your local HAM community is like. Because one of the things that you will very, very rapidly learn, if you’re a minority and you’re involved in HAM, is that the community is blazingly white. And sometimes they can be fairly reactionary. And you can actually start to take notes of people that are actually kind of cool on the radio and people that you never want to talk to you again, just based off their call signs because they’re required to give those. And that can help you decide in the future how reliable somebody information might be, or what kind of perspectives they might be providing in a disaster situation. So that kind of, like, finite information gathering is an important skill to develop even before you consider transmitting, you know, that’s something you can work on right now.

Margaret 39:59
Yeah, that makes sense.

Cici 40:00
I’m actually really glad he mentioned that. Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, Margaret, I’m sorry,

Margaret 40:04
No, go ahead.

Cici 40:05
I was just gonna say like, I—I’m gonna preface this just legally by saying, don’t ever do anything illegal on the radio. But one of the things that I don’t think people necessarily realize is that the FCC isn’t—they don’t have the manpower to sit and listen to like every single band. So like, generally, if you’re doing something say, untoward, or you’re not necessarily licensed, it’s not the FCC that’s going to like find out. It’s the other HAMs. HAM radio is largely kind of self-disciplined. It’s self—like, for instance, we do our own testing. Like, it’s not like if you do—if you do something someone’s—the band hammer is gonna come down. It’s basically if you piss off enough HAMs or if they know, they’ll— they’re the ones who’s going to report it. Eepa had mentioned earlier in our conversation that in HAM radio you can’t send encrypted communication. However, you could send—and there’s kind of a formality of how you send information via HAM radio—but for instance, you could say what they would expect you to say if you were doing a regular HAM conversation and it could mean not what they would necessarily expect it to mean. So for instance, one of the things on—I don’t know a lot about voice because I actually am trying to focus more and Morse code, but one of the things that you’re supposed to do on Morse code to call a another radio is CQ, CQ CQ. And then someone will be like is, you know, are you looking for someone? You can use those codes to mean for your intended audience whatever you want them to mean. So it’s not encrypted. But it’s also something where the other HAM radio, if someone happens to be listening, has a HAM radio, they won’t necessarily know what’s going on. Again, you should never do anything illegal on the radio. I just want to let people know that it’s not like there’s a radio police that sits and actively listens, like, it’s really just other HAMs that are gonna report you. Also, that’s something to know. If you note that you’re in kind of a, you know, maybe you live in a really remote area and there’s just not a lot of other HAMs, you’re listening on the air, and they’re just not a lot of other people, you don’t hear a lot of other people. That also might mean there’s not really a lot of people listening, which means there’s not a lot of people that could report you to the FCC. So that’s something to keep in mind as well. If people were, you know—also something to note that even in a licensed situation, for something that’s considered an emergency, and this is actually one part of the test, you can break HAM radio protocol and laws in the case of emergency. And that’s actually something that’s acknowledged. So like, if something were happening where it’s like, this person needs immediate attention, you’re not expected to follow all the—like, you can get on the air and be like, “I’m not licensed, but I need help,” and most HAMs are gonna not, you know, they’re not going to get on you. Like, that’s allowed. So that’s also something I want people to know, like, if you just want to radio for emergencies technically you should be licensed and it’s good, because you’ll have experience and you’ll know what you’re doing, but if it’s something like this is like four death, or this is extreme, other HAMs aren’t gonna report you. Like, people are generally, you know, and also that’s allowed. So even if they did report you other HAMs would be like, well, that’s allowed in the rule. So something I just wanted people to know.

Margaret 43:44
Yeah, that actually helps.

Eepa 43:45
So if you break your leg out in the woods, go ahead and get on your Baofeng and start honking.

Margaret 43:51
So I feel like at this point, I should probably tell the audience what a Baofeng is. Which is, as far as I understand—because that’s actually, that’s how Baofengs were introduced to me, right is like, “Oh, yeah, I got a Baofeng.” Like, “Oh yeah, there’s radios over there, they’re Baofengs.” And like, everyone like talks about it, like, “Whoa, like, this is the fucking coolest thing ever,” right? And it’s just a really cheap radio that can do a lot of things. And it can do a lot of things that are legal like transmit at low wattage on FRS. And it can do a lot of things that would only be illegal if you were licensed. But it’s just kind of like, what, a $20 or $30 radio you can buy on the internet and you can like swap it out with a nicer antenna? And it’s just kind of like—it’s become, like, kind of like a thing in this sort of like tactical and prepper and whatever worlds is like Baofengs is, like, the thing. But actually what you were talking about, about how you can use it in emergencies. That’s kind of how I’ve always seen, like, I have a Baofeng, right? I don’t really know how to use it. I’ve pretty much just used it to listen to things. But I’m like, okay, I could theoretically transmitted an emergency if I needed to. And, you know, for a $20 thing that can transmit in an emergency, that’s cool. It’s also cool that it’s a tool that, like, isn’t limited, like, I hate when I buy something and it’s like, this is locked down to make sure that you can’t do the things it’s supposed to do. Just the things that you’re allowed to do. You know?

Eepa 45:23
Yeah.

Margaret 45:23
I hate that kind of shit, I—there’s a, just, I don’t know, whatever. I’m clearly an anarchist, I—there’s—I don’t really have to defend this position very hard.

Eepa 45:36
Yeah, and so like, those Baofengs are basically like, I mean, the the way that you can think about it is, like, your first, you know, foray into radio if you are, like, just—what I generally recommend Baofengs for is if you’re actually interested in doing like, computer stuff with it, if you’re interested in doing programming, they can be really fun to play with. Also, if you’re interested in a radio that the cops can confiscate and you’re not going to miss it because it’s not that much of an investment, that’s another really good reason to get a Baofeng. But if you’re a beginner and you’re serious about getting into radio, I do think that there are better options for just ease of use, because Baofengs can be very difficult to program, sometimes, they can be very finicky to use all of the functions of it. And so something like, you know, an Alinco, or a Yaesu, you know, these types of like, you know, Japanese radios can be a little bit more easy to use and they’re going to be much more durable, you know, as far as like weather proofing and things like that. But again, that’s something you have to weigh the pros and the cons of, you know, is this something that’s gonna be confiscated at a protest, I probably don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. Whereas if you’re something where this isn’t my go bag, I need something that’s going to survive no matter what, then you might want to invest more money in something that’s going to be easy to use and is going to be durable. So I mean, yeah, the Baofeng s ubiquitous, because it is cheap and there are better options that are still affordable.

Margaret 47:20
I feel like the Baofeng is like such a perfect way to introduce someone to help goddamn convoluted radio looks, like, you know?

Eepa 47:30
It can’t—that’s one of the issues with it is if you were—if I was to hand you a Yaesu. Like if I was to give you just like a Yaesu FT4X you would be able to program that without plugging in into a computer. It’s much easier to use. You can just run to the menu, everything’s right there. It’s not convoluted and complex. And I think that’s one of the issues with the Baofeng is it kind of—if you’re not used to radio it can be very, very intimidating if you see that as your first introduction to radio. At least that’s been my experience. I do have Baofengs, I was that typical person where I went out and I, first thing I got was, you know, a four-pack of Baofengs that I split amongst some of my comrades. And we were, you know, learning how to use them. But it was much more challenging. And the first time I used a radio with a nice, smooth, easy operation interface, you know, a nice, easy menu system. It really—it made it a lot less intimidating.

Margaret 48:35
Now you sold me. I mean, yeah, like, I basically look at my Baofeng and I’m like, I’m an idiot. And I’m like, I know how to program a computer to some degree, like, I’ve been doing technical shit for very long time. And I just look at it, and I’m like, I don’t have enough time to dedicate in my life. Actually, this ties back to something I don’t remember—I think it was Cici who was saying it but I’m not sure—earlier about how like, you know, Cici’s like well, I actually very involved in this community, right, but then you’re like, but I only know about the stuff that I’m interested in. I don’t necessarily have to know everything about everything. And that is one of the things that’s so hard about radio is when you look at it from the outside, it’s just a string of letters that you’re supposed to know how to make sense of. I mean, it honestly reminds me of like when you get into guns or something when everyone’s like, “Oh, yeah, well if you don’t have this thing go attached to this thing and the other thing and then this thing, then you’re just gonna die.” Well I don’t wanna die.

Cici 49:32
I mean it’s actually—yeah, I’d say with guns it’s a good analogy. Like, there’s very few gun people who, like, their experienced with revolvers, and they’re experienced with like the latest pistols, and they’re experienced with like lever guns, and their experienced with black powder, and their experienced with like—yeah, like, if people are—I don’t know if listeners, if your listeners would have a good sense of like how guns are. I know you’ve done some episodes on firearms, but generally people tend to know more about certain aspects of firearms and they do other aspects, even though—even people that have a broad knowledge will know more about stuff than others, like black powder is very specific. A lot of people don’t—who know a lot about guns, still don’t know a lot about black powder, or vice versa. In the same way radio is kind of like that. There’s very few. And I mean, like, I haven’t met anybody who’s, like, I know everything about every aspect of radio. That’s, like, a crazy person. Like, or I should say, a person who’s like, you know, they might be an engineer or something or that’s their job.

Eepa 50:33
Yeah, yeah.

Cici 50:34
So for most people, like, I actually don’t do too much what I would call local radio stuff and be—that’d be the very high frequency and ultra high frequency. I am interested in mesh networks, which would be the setting up those WiFi networks, but I haven’t actually done a lot with it. What I’m interested in, the stuff is usually called high frequency, it’s more long-distance, it’s very different from the ultra high frequency. So I’m still learning a lot about setting up a mesh network and how to do a decentralized WiFi. I’m still learning a lot about that. What I guess my interests lie more in something called, I mentioned Morse code over there. There’s another aspect of radio called QRP. So yeah, QRP is just a fancy way of saying low power. Generally, when people talk about radio they’re gonna be talking about wattages. So we’ve been talking a lot about Baofengs and I know Eva mentioned the Alinko radios, Yaesu radios, these are generally going to be handy talkies. They looknkind of like what people might think a walkie-talkie would look like. The type of radios that would be a base station, they’ll look very different. They look kind of like a—basically a box. It’s a real, if it’s a nice space station, that might be a really big box. Generally those are going to be at 100 watts or more, but those are also going to be extremely expensive. They’re going to also generally require kind of semi-complex antenna setups, a lot of room to set up some type of base station like that. The stuff that I’m interested in for low power, the difference is that it’s much cheaper. And a lot of people look at radio and they’re like, I don’t have an extra $1,000 to just drop on like a nice radio, I don’t have an extra—especially if you want to do long distance stuff. That was kind of my interest. That’s actually why I have a general license. If you get a technician license, it actually kind of limits you to very high frequency and ultra high frequency. You can do some stuff on the longer distance, but it’s very limited. So yeah, you to even do stuff with long distance in a general sense, you have to get a general license, but a QRP is a way that you can not spend a lot of money—or at least spend less money, it still might be a lot of money, relatively speaking. But um. What’d you say?

Margaret 52:58
And QRP means low powered, right?

Cici 53:01
Yeah, low power. For Morse code, that’s five watts or less. For voice modes like single sideband, that would be 10 watts or less. Actually, a lot of HAM radios kind of poopoo it because they’re like, why would you use, you know—it’s just, it can be difficult because you’re using such little power, but you get a lot of benefits with it. A lot of benefits is you can use a radio that doesn’t—or you can use an antenna that doesn’t take up a lot of space. If you live in an apartment, that’s huge. If you live in a place where, you know, like, you don’t—you’re not supposed to set up outside antennas or something, that’s huge. I already mentioned that it’s very cheap, or cheaper, I shouldn’t say very cheap. But it’s cheaper than doing other types of radios that use much higher power. Also, one of the big things is that you can make your own radios. We were talking about earlier how one of the benefits of radio was that it’s decentralized, like, you’re not about to go make your own smartphone.

Margaret 53:55
Mm hmm.

Cici 53:56
At least I can’t. I don’t know anyone who can. But you could make your own radio. And you can make your own antenna. In fact, a lot of HAMs encourage people to make their own antennas because it’s—antennas are actually kind of expensive to go buy. It’s actually cheaper to make them. So like a lot of HAMs will just learn how to make antennas out of, like, nothing. Like a lot of people make them on a tape measure and stuff, like it’s very—if you’re kind of that person where it’s like I want to experiment and I want to kind of just make stuff with found materials or stuff that’s, like, I have already at my house. Like, that’s a huge benefit. Also, we didn’t mention this earlier, but RF safety kind of is a related to the amount of—it’s related to a lot of stuff, but it can be related to the amount of watts you’re putting out.

Margaret 54:39
What is RF?

Cici 54:41
Oh, sorry, RF is radio frequency. It’s just—it’s the type of energy we’re using for radio.

Margaret 54:47
So what is—how does it tie in to safety? Sorry, I’m just like…

Cici 54:52
Oh, it’s okay. So if you’re using something like 100 watts or more and you’re transmitting. Like, for instance, you should never touch an antenna at that many watts that’s transmitting. You’re gonna get an RF burn. It’s basically something that, like, it can get kind of complicated. But—and there’s—I don’t want to like scare people or anything, like, it’s not—I’m not trying to be like, “Oh, we didn’t talk about safety.” But the lower wattage you use the less you have to worry about that, basically, especially if you have an indoor antenna or something. Like, if you have an indoor antenna, you really want to keep your RF, like, levels lower so you don’t—part of it is actually practical, like, we haven’t talked a lot about interference. But if you have a really, really high, like, wattage, and today—it can cause interference. And it can be something where your neighbors are trying to like use their electronics, and they hear all sorts of weird stuff, they hear all sorts of clicks and whatever. That’s because you’re using like a really high power radio. So, like, your neighbors just might get mad and be like, “You’re, we see this antenna outside your house, and it’s doing this thing and blah, blah, blah.” So using a less power, it can be—it can cause less interference. But also it will just cause less RF like fields, which means that it’s safer to operate inside. And someone might, like, might be thinking, “Well, why would I want to operate inside? If I can operate outside, shouldn’t I?” Well, it depends. Are you doing something where you don’t necessarily want people to know you’re operating. A big antennas, like, if you have a huge antenna outside your house, or even just kind of a moderate one but something that’s obviously an antenna and not a TV antenna, it’ll be like, well, that person’s a radio operator. Not everybody wants that immediately known if they were to walk by their house. I’ll just say that. It’s something that, if you’re using QRP, it’s much easier for you to not cause interference, to operate from completely inside, and to be able to make your own equipment.

Margaret 56:51
It’s really cool honestly. Like, talking to you makes me want to learn how to build radios.

Eepa 56:58
I mean, it’s like, there’s some benefits to, like, QRP, like low power HF radios for prepping especially because they’re mobile. You can literally put one of these—you can put a full QRP setup—a low power radio, power source, an antenna, and like an antenna tuner—in your purse. You could put it in a very small satchel and be able to talk to somebody states away. So these can be really compact and really mobile solutions that still give you access to autonomous email, like, still give you access to, you know, listening to all of these different bands, transmitting all these different bands. So from a preparedness perspective, that is a huge benefit. The low wattage basically allows you to use less power from your battery so you can use a very small solar panel that folds up and into your backpack to recharge your battery when you need. And so that just has tremendous benefits for mobility. And one of the key things to think about from a, maybe, a situation where you have any type of adversary. So that could be, you know, a lot of white supremacists militia types have created radio nets and have radio training. They’re—they’ve been working on preparing this for years, they have pre-designated frequencies and nets, they’ve got all these different things set up. And one of the things that they can do is they can track you. So it’s extremely easy to triangulate and locate the source of a transmission. So if you are needing to transmit something that is sensitive or that will identify you, as politically opposed to people that might be interested in finding you, you’re going to want to transmit from locations away from your place of residence and also in a way that doesn’t, you know, create a big circle on the map around your house. You’re going to want to choose random locations to transmit from, and you’re going to want to use, you know—low power helps with that a little bit as well. You can reach the people you need to without giving away your position too much. But as soon as you click the transmission button, you’re opening up the world to find out exactly where you’re at. So you can transmit what you need to, pack up, and get out of there if you need to. That’s the nice thing about those low power rigs. So that’s something to really think about when you’re getting into radio. And, yeah, you can build your own, you can build your own antenna. There’s some awesome antennas that you can literally just launch up into a tree with a slingshot and it’s—all it is is one giant long strand of speaker cable, speaker wire. That’s it, that’s an antenna. Nothing more is needed. You just need a little antenna tuner to hook up to it and your radio and you’re good to go. So those kinds of things are—they open up the whole world to you on a very, very—on a lower budget than you would be if you had a base station. One of the things that we talked about with the article that we released the Javelina Network is that handheld radios and QRP HF radios are very good for transmitting on the go and that was our main focus on that. You can do base stations which is like based out of your apartment, based out of your co-op or your bookstore or whatever you want to do. But again, that’s a known location, that’s a fixed location, that means that you have to be much more careful about what you’re transmitting. And if you’re transmitting outside of legal areas, the amateur radio committee has a whole community of amateur snitches that their whole thing—they get their jollies by tagging people on not having licenses and stuff. So it can happen. You just got to be careful about what you do.

Margaret 1:00:53
That’s actually one of the questions that I—when I asked around basically being like what should I ask these people? One of the questions that came up a couple times was how real is—I think—it was presented to me that’s called fox hunting? Like, the hobby of tracking down on licensed operators. What a great culture, what a wonderful culture where their whole thing is just snitching on people. But so, yeah, my question was, like, how real is that? Like, how much do people—especially like, let’s say if you’re not—I mean obviously if you’re doing something where people are—where the people around you are politically opposed to you, and opposed to what you’re saying, obviously that will increase the odds. But if you’re just, like, coordinating some random bullshit like picking up lumber or something like that, how much do you act—do people—how real is this? How much do people actually get kind of tracked down?

Eepa 1:01:52
So from my experience, basically, fox hunting—I’m sorry, I’ve got a ICE helicopter flying over me right now. The—as far as fox hunting goes, if you go to any type of, like, HAM Fest or HAM convention or HAM con or, you know, whatever you want to go to, they will all have fox hunting competitions. This is something that, you know, people really enjoy doing is just like, you know, hunting down signals. Now, what this is typically used for is not going to be tracking down the guy who’s saying, “Hey, I got lumber,” or, you know, the person who’s like, “Hey, you know, I need to pick up a quart of oil from you,” or something like that, or the gal that’s, you know, “I’ve got eggs for sale,” or something like that, you know. It’s not typically going to be stuff like that. It’s usually like sources of interference that people are going to be tracking down. So if you’re causing a lot of interferenc, and it’s pissing people off, then they will fox hunt you down, and they’ll find out what’s going on. So if you have a jammer or something like that, which are illegal, and you operate that jammer and it makes people mad—if you operate it for long enough, people will find it and they will make sure that that is put to the stop. And so you have to be careful if you do utilize jammers and things like that, that you’re not using them when you don’t need to. So fox hunting in, like, day to day circumstances is a little bit less of a threat. If you know kind of what radio people sound like—and, again, do this at your own risk. This is something, again, that, you know, is illegal. But if you had like a fake callsign and you just follow the standard protocols of calls, you could basically get away with it as long as you didn’t accidentally have some callsign that somebody there knew as being somebody else. So generally it’s not going to be an issue if you’re just talking between two people, you select a frequency, you listen to it, nobody’s on that frequency, nobody’s been on that frequency for a long time, and you just use it to call each other to coordinate something. Just kind of sound like you belong and you’ll be okay. As soon as you get into an adversarial situation, that’s when you do have police operating like stingers and other devices that will track down cell phone data, they’ll track down radio data, everything—any kind of frequency that’s being emitted, those things will be able to track down the source of so just be very aware of when and how you’re transmitting, and be safe about it.

Cici 1:04:29
Absolutely. And I would actually add to what Eepa says: If you’re going to use a call sign, first you want to absolutely know who—you know, if you’re licensed—So, okay, so for people who are like what the hell is call sign?

Margaret 1:04:43
Yeah I was about to ask.

Cici 1:04:46
For HAM radio, what—basically what happens is you take this test. Assuming you pass they’ll—what the license actually—the most important thing that I guess the license gives you is a call sign. I actually have a call sign. I’m not going to say it. The reason I’m not going to say it is because for anybody that says a call sign, it’s instantly look up-able. When you take the test you have to give like an address, it’s supposed to be your home address, of where you live. And basically that data is publicly available. So like, if I were to say my call sign right now, anybody listening to this podcast could go look it up online and find out exactly who I am—or at least, I shouldn’t say exactly who I am. They could find out the name that I gave to the FCC, which is my real name. They could find out the address I have listed. You’re supposed to updat it, like, you know, every time you move or whatever. A lot of people don’t necessarily but like if they find out, like, that can become an issue. So for instance, let’s say you just found a call sign. Nobody’s using it. Cool. Somebody happens to look it up—and they might actually do this innocuously, a lot of people want these—they’re called QSL cards. It’s basically a little card that say, “Hey, I contacted you.” And it’s like a postcard that ‘s like, oh, cool. So they might just look it up just thinking, “Hey, I contacted you, I want a little postcard,” and see that, you know, that call sign’s registered to somebody in Texas. You were transmitting from, like, Washington. Like, they might be, like, well, that’s kind of weird. That’s not necessarily a tip off. Because, you know, you could be traveling. It’s not like you have to change your call sign when you go traveling, you’re on vacation, whatever. But if you’re constantly—like, if you live in Texas and you’re constantly transmitting from Texas and you never transmit for Washington, but that call sign is assigned to someone in Washington, like that’s gonna tip somebody off, like, is this person really who they say they are? Also, you might—this gets a little dicey, too. But if you’re using voice modes and, you know, your call sign says tou’re this 58-year-old guy and you don’t sound like a 58-year-old guy, like, that might start making sound like, you know, is this person who they say they are?

Margaret 1:06:57
Is it gonna be like four random letters or something? Like is—or is the call sign, like, this is like, I don’t know, Phoenix Rising, I don’t know…

Cici 1:07:06
Oh no, they’re random letters. Like, for instance, I’m not gonna say my call sign. But, for instance, I’m reading this book, HAM—like HAM radio people generally love sharing their call signs, like, they’ll put it on books. The call sign of [inaudible] from this guy that I’m reading, it’s G0KYA. And actually, the G in the beginning means that he’s actually from the UK. So not only are they location-specific, but they’re country-specific. So like, if you just made up a call sign, like, people can generally tell if it’s real or not. They’re supposed to be a certain length, they have certain—like, for instance, in the in the US, generally if you get a call sign, it’s gonna start with K or W. So like, that’s something, if you’re going to do that, you should know that these are things. Now of course this could all be alleviated just by getting an actual, like getting licensed and getting an actual whole sign. Still be careful who you share it with, you know. Like, maybe don’t just go around telling everybody what your call sign is like most HAMs do. Just because, you know, maybe there is that really reactionary guy at the local HAM and, like, he gets a whiff that you’re not, you know, you’re not—your politics upset him. He knows your call sign. Also, if you’re broadcasting you’re supposed to actually say your call sign every 10 minutes. So it’s not like, “Well, I’m just never gonna say my call sign when a broadcasting.” You’re supposed to. You’re not just gonna keep it secret so that’s something to think about. As far as fox hunting, yeah, there’s this whole thing where HAMs will set out a radio, they’ll hide it, and the whole game is to try to go and find the transmitter. This is actually something you don’t even need to be licensed to do, you’re just listening for this transmitter. So like, technically, you wouldn’t even—you don’t even need a license to go fox hunt. Anybody could track it down if they’re just listening to you.

Margaret 1:08:48
That honestly sounds fun.

Cici 1:08:50
Also—I would also mention, that’s actually something I’m interested in doing. We’re not the only people at Radio Stash, obviously have radios. And if you know how to foxhunt and you note that there’s this—or maybe there’s just this guy in your local HAM community. If anyone’s interacted with HAM, it tends to be very old, white, retired dudes. Like the average age of HAMs is probably something like 60 or 70. Like, it’s very old. Like, it’s people that have the money to buy like $1,000 base stations usually. So like, maybe there’s a guy there that’s, you know, he’s always got a Blue Lives Matter shirt on. Or maybe, you know, he went to, you know, he went to DC recently, or something. And maybe you don’t know his, you don’t know his call sign, or maybe he’s using a fake call sign or something. But if you can triangulate your signal, you could probably find out where he’s at least transmitting from. Whether or not that’s his house is, you know, it’s a different thing. But you can actually use a lot of this stuff—the stuff that they use against us you can also use, like, to help us as well.

Margaret 1:09:56
So I’m impressed that we made it an hour and eight minutes before we brought up the fact that the fascist attempted to stage a coup in the United States yesterday. Sorry, anyway, what were you gonna say?

Eepa 1:10:11
Oh, no, I was gonna basically just add that when it comes to that security culture around call signs, that’s really important. I’ve remember going to a protest of a basically a bunch of white supremacists, you know, ethno-nationalists or whatever. And there was a guy there who had his FRA sticker and his call sign on the back of his truck. And so I just went online, I looked at the call sign, and I showed him a picture of his home address. And I said, “Do you live here?” And he’s like, “Yes.” And then I showed him a picture of his little earth and his truck sitting in his driveway of his house, I was like, “This is your house in your truck, right?” And, you know, his face went white. And it was just like, either you put the call sign on the truck, or you put the the FRA sticker, but you’d never put both.

Margaret 1:11:02
Yeah.

Eepa 1:11:02
And typically, it’s just don’t even put your call sign in your vehicle. Because if you show up to an event, police will be able to look that up, fash will be able to look that up, anybody who knows about that can look it up. So that’s just a really basic piece of security culture to do. And I can guarantee you that there are people who were in DC that had their call signs that the FBI are going to be looking up as we speak to go and arrest them. So don’t snitch on yourself.

Margaret 1:11:31
Yeah.

Cici 1:11:32
Yeah. So no, I mean, like, be very diligent who you share your call sign with. Talking about repeaters, anybody could call into a repeater. So if you’re using a repeater and you know that there’s people in the area that you don’t want them to know your call sign, like, either don’t transmit longer than 10 minutes or, you know, just be aware of that you don’t want it to be where there’s a situation where you’re constantly saying your call sign and now people you don’t really want to know where you are, either know where you are, or they find out you have a call sign, or something like that. I do want to mention that if you’re doing a data mode—there’s these things called data modes, which are basically not voice modes. It’s, you know, it’s not your voice. Also Morse code obviously isn’t your voice, it’s just a series of beats dits and dots. It’s harder for people to tell that’s not necessarily you—not in the terms of location but in the terms of like, dits and dots. So like, if you have a friend that lives close to you and you know, their licensed, and and they said it’s okay—you should never do anything illegal on the radio, by the way.

Margaret 1:12:35
Yeah, that would be wrong.

Cici 1:12:37
For someone to tell that, oh, that’s not you doing dits and dots. I mean, they could maybe? Like maybe your friend transmits at a certain speed and you never transmit at that speed. But even then you could use a keyer which just puts it in automatically. And then like lots of people use keyers, like, that could be—like someone would have to really know, like, I know that dude and I know, that’s not how he sends code. Like, that’s a really specific situation. But if you’re not using voice you have a little more… I don’t know. Don’t ever do anything illegal on the radio. But also, you don’t have to use voice.

Margaret 1:13:12
Yeah.

Cici 1:13:13
Just gonna say that.

Margaret 1:13:14
And I mean, like, it’s funny because like, I actually think that—go ahead, go ahead.

Eepa 1:13:18
No, no, no, no, go for it.

Margaret 1:13:21
I actually do think that, like, I think it would be great for us all to get licenses. Like it would actually be like, you know, I mean, it’s like—do I think it’s like ethically necessary that people have licenses to drive cars? No. But do I, like, want people who are driving cars to know how to drive cars? Yes. Right? And it’s not the same thing, right? But like, I would say that, like, I intend to slowly work towards getting my license, right? And, you know, anyone who’s interested in radio, it seems like a really good way to do it. And so—but yeah, no, I appreciate that sort of nuance of the conversation around, like, here’s how you can choose to access radios while you’re still working on them in emergency situations, etc. You know?

Eepa 1:14:06
Well, and I would say, basically, when it comes to getting your license, I think that is actually an important step for people to take because one of the things that allows you to do is to get lots and lots of practice. Practice is going to be the most important thing for you to actually be effective in a, you know, grid down or a, you know—in a sensitive situation, you don’t want to be figuring out how to do new modes, how to, you know, what the bands are in the area, what your radio can operate at. You don’t want to be figuring that out on the fly. And so if you spend a lot of time with a license interacting with other people in the community, even going and learning from some of those old white codgers who, you know, know how to build, you know, nice antennas or mobile rigs or things like that. You can do that and you can learn—you can learn a lot. And so that’s the upside to the license is that you’re going to be able to develop and nurture the skills that will come in handy later. Because one of the things that I’m very interested in is a program called JS8Call. And what that does is basically it creates a network of people that, you can be off the radio, and somebody can send you a text message. And the next time you get on the radio, other radios have stored that and when you get on, it’ll send you that message. So it’s just like an email, or just like a text message.

Margaret 1:15:32
Cool.

Eepa 1:15:33
In that whenever your radios on, you can get those messages. So the other nice thing about that is they have individual rooms. So you could set up a room in JS8Call just for your local mutual aid thing. And if somebody logs in, you will know that they have logged in from your group. And if somebody logs in who’s not from your group, you will know. So it offers you a little extra level of security over just general voice transmission and things like that. So, but learning the fineties of all of these different things and learning what your niche is, because again, everyone has different interests and different talents. The best way to explore that is going to be with a license. Now, the second things go south and you need to be using your radio for revolutionary purposes, you also need to know how to operate securely without your call sign, and how to, you know, vary your location, how to vary your signal strength, how to use transmission that actually bounces off of the ionosphere instead of line of sight, and things like that. There’s all kinds of cool tricks you can learn, but you really need to practice them and refine them and make sure you know what you’re doing before you get to a situation where you’re going to be asked to be the expert. And it can be very intimidating, technically, to be like, you know, there’s all these different things that I can learn, I can do all this, I can do all that. One of the things you can do is if you are one of those people, like, you know, us, that’s very interested in radio and thinks that it’s like really interesting and cool, is become extremely proficient at something and then develop simplified protocols for people who aren’t extremely interested but want to have communication. We have, one of the members of the Javelina Network is a veteran who used to be a radio operator overseas. And basically, you type the numbers in, you push the button, you call. And that’s basically the level of complexity. And that enables large-scale coordination of logistics, of people movement, of intelligence, of all kinds of stuff like that, just having community members that know how to make those transmissions. So if you are the kind of person who’s excited and interested in radio, and you’re developing those skills, your other role is to act as a teacher about just basic stuff. You pre-programm the radio and you give it to somebody and you say, “Okay, this is how and when to transmit. This is why you transmit. This is how you stay safe.” You just give them the basic instructions and that way, they don’t have to worry about programming, they don’t have to worry about all of the minutia that, you know, you can get easily lost in. And that’s the way we can we can lift each other up. That’s part of, like, what the Javelina Network’s all about.

Cici 1:18:11
Absolutely. I love that. Also, I would say to people—so yes, HAM radio is generally—it’s going to be more reactionary as a general rule. You’re going to generally be dealing with old white dudes. But it’s not—I don’t want to paint them as all bad people. Like there are—some places are better than others. I liked what Eepa said earlier about just kind of listen and see what kind of people are there. Some HAMs, some like people in HAM radio, they love teaching new HAMs, they love trying to—there’s this kind of subset of HAMs that we always need to be like getting more people into this. It’s like, if you just show up and you’re just like, “I don’t know anything,” or you know, I don’t know anything, but I need help. There’s, depending on the club or the culture that exists in your area, there might be somebody there that’s like willing to just take you under their wing. That’s actually a word in HAM culture for people that teach. It’s kind of hard to find these people actually, but they’re Elmers. An Elmer is actually supposed to be a mentor for you. They’re supposed to, like, help you. You know, you don’t have to be super political and you don’t have to tell these people what you think or whatever. A lot of HAMs, you know, a lot of HAMs actually won’t tell other people what they’re thinking either. They’re there just to have fun with the radio, they’re not trying to necessarily tell people all of their business either. So yeah, you might have a guy that, you know, we were talking about access to equipment can be a huge limitation to this hobby. If you find an Elmer, and a lot of these guys have old equipment or they have just, they’ve accumulated equipment, they might just give you an old radio they’re not using anymore which could be huge, you know, and you can develop like these relationships that they don’t have to be, like, your best friend, like—or you know, maybe they are your best friend. I don’t know. Like, they can, you know, they don’t—not all HAMs are like out to get you or trying to like find all the—they’re not all just trying to find the person messing up so they can report them to the FCC. There’s actually, with a license change, I’ve been reading a few things in HAM radio community and one HAM was so upset that he was like if I hear somebody transmitting and they’re made up a license, like, I’m not going to report it. Because he’s, like, he just doesn’t think people should pay $35 to the FCC. So I mean, like, not everyone is not everyone in the HAM community is like, “Oh, we’re gonna get you.” But also, yeah, I would also say, share what knowledge you have. One of the things that I think, like, if you are somebody that does have a little bit more money, or maybe you do have a little bit of, I don’t know, you could buy 10 Baofengs, you can give them out, teach people how to tune them into the police station—a lot of police have, they basically have it where you can actually listen to them. A lot of people actually do this, not just for political reasons but just to, you know, they just want to know why there’s a million sirens going off. As long as you don’t transmit and as long as you don’t jam the signal, you can listen all day long. And that can be helpful. Listen, see what’s going on, call your friends being like, this is where they’re going to be at or this is what’s happening. As far as the licensing goes, part of the reason people get licenses is so they don’t accidentally do stuff. For instance, like if you were listening into like a ambulance, or like a health—like something for, like, EMTs—you don’t want to accidentally interfere with them. Like, obviously, they’re going to go help people who are in like medical distress. So like, you want to make sure that you know how to use the Baofeng but that’s kind of what Eepa was saying. Like, if you have access to where you can get equipment to people, and you can teach them. “Look, I’ve already programmed this for you. I’ve already set it up to the frequency. This is how to change the frequency if you need to. But in general, like, just listening and if youm you know, want to let somebody know what you hear just, you know, call somebody.” That’s great. Like, no one is expected to know everything in this hobby. So like, yeah, if you can help somebody who—I actually don’t know a lot about Baofengs. I’ve been focusing on other stuff. So like, I’d love for someone to help me do things that are more like VH VHF type of technologies. So…

Margaret 1:22:18
Well, do y’all have any—we’re kind of running out of time and it’s funny cuz there’s so much about radios that I can easily talk with us forever. But are there any last thoughts that we—or things that we haven’t covered that you want people to know?

Cici 1:22:35
Ah, I didn’t mention this earlier, but I’m actually a volunteer examiner. I mentioned earlier, like ham radio people are the ones who actually give the exams. If people are interested in getting licensed, either now or in the future—I don’t know I didn’t put out any contact information, but feel free to let get in touch with me. I’m actually currently studying for the extra license. I want to do it before they have to pay the FCC $35. But once I get the extra license—one of the things the licenses actually let you do is test other people to get licensed. So maybe you’re in an area where, again, the HAM club sucks, they’re really reactionary, they don’t want to help new HAMS, they’re just mean, whatever, but you still want to get licensed. If you have a friend that can help, like, basically a—you need three VEs to do a test. But like, if you have three people in your community who could basically be those VEs and help you get tested—

Margaret 1:23:32
What does that mean? Oh, a volunteer examiner?

Cici 1:23:35
Oh, yeah, volunteer diameter. Yeah, sorry, VE. That can help tremendously. One of the things that pandemic’s actually done is that you used to have to do that in person but now there’s actually a whole system of people doing this remotely. So you can actually take your tests on Zoom, you don’t have to show up anywhere. So that’s great if you’re, you know, you’re homebound, or you know, it’s a pandemic and you just don’t want to leave your house because you’re quarantining. So yeah, that’s actually one of the benefits that’s happened recently. Like, this is recent in terms of, like, I think, April they—the FCC authorized like 14 groups to give remote exams. So yeah, if people have questions about getting licensed, questions about QRP which was the low power stuff, questions about Morse code, please get in touch with me. It can feel very overwhelming but I want people to know that they’re not—they don’t have to sit there and struggle. I’m actually also trying to learn how to do antenna stuff—antenna stuff’s just one of the coolest things. But yeah, I guess that’s my last little bit.

Eepa 1:24:40
Um yeah, for me, basically, I want to encourage people to check out the Javelina project. This is something that we have launched together, basically a bunch of decolonial, anti authoritarian kind of people who are interested in building autonomous communications, building networks, creating ways for us to basically keeping in touch and to get information in and out of places as time goes on. You know, we want to be the kind of people that help, you know, next time there’s a Standing Rock or Wet’suwet’en and actually set up indigenous communication networks in and out. So that way, you know, when you’re frozen out of any type of other media, you can still get media in and out. And we’re trying to create resources for, you know, like, a how-to guide of how to set up digital modes on your Baofeng, that’s gonna be an article that’s gonna be coming out soon.

Margaret 1:25:30
Cool.

Eepa 1:25:31
We’re going to be doing an article soon about pirate radio, how to set up a pirate radio station. We’re going to be doing articles about, you know, like JS8Call. So I definitely encourage people to stay tuned for that. We already have a guide up on the Indigenous Anarchist Federation website called Skills for Revolutionary Survival: Communication Equipment for Rebels. And that has information, all the basic information about what radios are, what radio you need depending on what situation you expect to be in, recommendations based off of price and like weatherproofing, things like that. And then video resources that you can watch to not only start studying for your test if that’s what you’re interested in, but also to look at kind of the logistical side of communication. So those videos are a part of that article as well. And basically, you know, just get out there and you can start working with a very cheap radio very fast, use a shortwave radio scanner and start listening to all your local channels. If you want to be the person in your, in your little anarchist cell or in your community who’s, you know, next time there’s a big storm system that comes through and you want to listen to weather bands, you can learn how to do that. Learn how to listen to it on your radio. And that’s a skill you can start developing right now. So there’s no time to wait. You can always start the next day that you have access to it and get involved.

Margaret 1:27:00
Yeah. Okay. And then how can folks find you all online?

Eepa 1:27:05
So for the Javelina Network, our Twitter literally just got launched. And it is @JavelinaNetwork which is spelled like the animal: J-A-V-E-L-I-N-A-Network. We decided to go with Javelina because, you know, instead of being hams from Europe, we’re the Indigenous little pig so. We’re the Javelinas is on the air.

Cici 1:27:36
I love that, by the way. I didn’t even think about like people contacting me.

Margaret 1:27:43
You don’t have to say it if you don’t want, but you just—you said earlier that people should contact you. So I’m giving you a chance if you want.

Cici 1:27:49
I guess Twitter but, like, I don’t know if people should contact me on Twitter. I’ll go ahead and put my Twitter, why not? I think @postleftprole I think?

Margaret 1:27:59
That sounds right.

Cici 1:28:03
Yeah. Get in touch with me I guess. Just, I guess, request to send me a DM. I guess you can’t like to send a DM if I haven’t friended you or whatever. But just send a friend request be like, “Hey, I listened to the podcast, I’m curious.” I’ll, we can talk further. So. I’m not always online but uh, I try to respond—I’m actually on Twitter a fair bit so I guess I’ll try to respond. I’m not always on Reddit, or at least I’m not always checking my messages on Reddit. So Twitter’s probably more reliable. Right now I’m not a—I don’t have any official channels. I should probably think about that. In the future, actually, I hope to put up some videos and stuff to help people do radio stuff. So if people want to get in touch with me to see if when I get that going, like, I’d be happy to let people know.

Margaret 1:28:55
I’m really excited about that work.

Eepa 1:28:56
And you can contact both of us. I was gonna say basically you you can contact both of us at javelinanetwork@protonmail.com. That’s an email that all of us that are part of the Javelina Network more generally have access to. And so, like, if you’re interested in something as well, that’s a—if you’re just want to use email, that’s a good way to get in contact with us as well.

Margaret 1:29:20
Cool. All right. Well, thank you all so much for your time, and I’ve been I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a long time. And I—you’ve really helped break the, like—I’m like, okay, I was like, I came into this with practically a spreadsheet being like, “Alright, this thing maps to this thing. And then this thing has 40 channels and blah, blah, blah.” And then you’re all like, “No, no, no, you just, you find something you’re interested in and you go with it. ” It’s brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed that, or at least got something out of it. And if you want to support the podcast you can do so by telling people about it, you can tell people on the internet, you can even tell people about it in person, although you should tell them from far away—so you should probably shout about it from far away. Like walk up to strangers and scream, “Hey, Live Like the World is Dying!” That would actually be pretty cool if it became the new YOLO… because everything is YOLO. Anyway. But yeah, people have been doing an amazing job of telling people about the podcast, and it’s been really wonderful bringing in new listeners. It makes doing this podcast feel worth it. And if you want to support me more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. If you support me on Patreon, it’s how I pay for the podcast. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up zines ostensibly every month but I am very far behind because of the pandemic and my resultant complicated ability to interact with my own mental space and the amount of work I have to do—which I’m sure no one else is dealing with, it’s a thing with the pandemic that actually only affects me. I’m the only person who is dealing with it. [chuckling] Anyway, sorry. But yeah, and you can support me there. And if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, don’t support me there. Just contact me and I’ll get you access to all of the information, all of the stuff that’s behind the paywall of Patreon, I can give that to you for free. But in particular, I’d like to thank Eleanor and Mike and Satara and Kat J and The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the Dog, Nora, and Chris. Thank you all so much for making this possible. I never expected to get as much—anywhere near as much support as I do get from people. And I’ve been able to start passing that along and, you know, hire a transcriptionist to keep this podcast more accessible and hopefully start looking into other ways to expand this content beyond just me in the near future. So thank you. Thank you all so much for listening, and I hope you’re doing as well as you can with everything that’s going on.

S1E24 – Philip on Security Culture

I talk with Philip about security culture: the idea of creating a culture of security so that activists and revolutionaries don’t get caught.

S1E23 – Dibs on Fitness for Every Body

I talk with Dibs, a personal trainer, about fitness for the apocalypse or revolution and how fitness works for people with different relationships to their body, such as hormones, disability, etc.

S1E22 – Walidah Imarisha on Envisioning the Future

I talk with historian and author Walidah Imarisha about how we use our imaginations to direct our action and about why we need a world without police and prisons.

S1E21 – Petra on Camping Equipment

I talk with a wilderness instructor about what people ought to know before heading out on a long hike, about what camping equipment she likes, and about what skills you do and don’t need to study ahead of time.

S1E20 – Deviant on How to Let Yourself In

I talk with hacker and lockpicker Deviant Ollam about bypassing physical security and why and how he believes in community preparedness. Did you know most construction vehicles use the same few keys?

S1E19 – Moira on Know Your Rights

I talk with anti-authoritarian lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen about why you should shut up, how you should shut up, and if she has any other advice for encounters with law enforcement, like shutting up. We also talk about the stages of encounter with law enforcement, what encounters with the feds often look like, and how to get involved in supporting radical legal work.

S1E18 – The Basics, pt 1

I go over the basics of prepping as I see them and answer social media questions about food, water, community care, and the philosophy of anarchist/leftist prepping.