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S1E44 – Mo on Grand Juries

Episode Notes

Episode Summary:
Mo, a criminal defense/movement lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, talks about how Grand Juries are used by the State to destabilize communities, and what your options are for resisting them if you are issued a subpoena. Margaret and them talk about the importance of not cooperating with Grand Juries and how you can be an eternal badass…i mean protect yourself and your community by resisting them. They also talk about the most important legal strategy: Hope.

Guest Info:
Mo, Moira Meltzer-Cohen (they/them), is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who works at the intersection of Criminal Defense and struggles for social and economic justice. They work for the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Federal Defense Hotline. You can find them on Twitter @ProbYrLawyer.

Show Links:

National Lawyers Guild Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811 IF YOU RECEIVE A SUBPOENA FOR A GRAND JURY CALL THEM. (If you call you might get Mo!)

NLG NYC_:_ On Instagram @NLG_NYC

Civil Liberties Defense Center: for legal primers, brochuers and information.

Grand Jury Resistance Project: Chelsea Manning Grand Jury Resitance info.

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at


Mo on Grand Juries

Margaret 00:15
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 I will be talking to my friend Mo, who is a lawyer. And not just any lawyer, but the lawyer I know who got one of my friends out of jail when he was in jail for Grand Jury resistance. “What is a Grand Jury?” you might ask, and “Why might we resist it?” Well, that’s the topic of this week’s episode. So if you stay tuned, you will hear all about Grand Juries and why they suck, and what we can do about them, and what you can do about them. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s the jingle from another show on the network.

Margaret 01:48
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then kind of what you do for work.

Mo 01:53
Hi, Margaret, I’m Mo. My name is Moira Meltzer-Cohen. My pronouns are they/them. I’m an attorney, and I work at the intersection of criminal defense and struggles for social and economic justice. So, I’ve probably represented a lot of your listeners.

Margaret 02:13
Hurray. Yeah, for context. I’ve literally had nightmares, where I get rounded up by cops, and I’m just like, “I need to call Mo!” And and then Mo comes and saves me.

Mo 02:26
I’ll do my best.

Margaret 02:27
Yeah, I appreciate it. The only other phone number I’ve memorized besides like my immediate family. So speaking of friends of ours that Moira has gotten out of jail, I want to talk about something that happened a number of years ago to our mutual friend, Jerry Koch, which was that one time Jerry Koch was may may or may not have once been in a bar. And people in that bar may or may not have been talking about a crime that happened. I think, before Jerry even moved to New York City, but I’m not entirely certain. And that crime was that someone may or may not Well, clearly, someone did it. No one knows who did it. Someone bicycled past recruitment center and threw a box full of black powder at it, and it destroyed the door in the middle of the night, and no one was hurt. And because it was a federal crime, it became this huge deal. And so Jerry was subpoenaed to speak before a Grand Jury, and Jerry refused to do so. And as a result, he spent nine months in jail without being accused of any crime, and basically, like all of his rights were taken away. Like all of his, you know, First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were not enough to say, well, basically, they can try and make you talk even though it’s not illegal to not talk to them, and they can still throw you in jail. And I wanted to have Mo on one because Mo was the one who got Jerry out of jail. But also because I think that it’s useful for people to know about the Grand Jury process, kind of what it is, what it can do to social movements, and how we can prevent it from doing those things to our social movements as we fight for a better world. So do you want to tell me like, What is a Grand Jury?

Mo 04:18
Right? So the Grand Jury is anomalous in the American legal system, and it’s, as you will see, it’s so anomalous, and it so disregards so many of the core assumptions that most people have about the Constitution and the American legal system that I have encountered many people, including many attorneys, who have a really hard time believing that Grand Juries exist and operate in the way that they do actually operate. So a federal Grand Jury is an investigation where 18 to 24 people are called together in the same way that, you know, you get called for, like jury duty. People get called for Grand Jury Duty. And they hang out and listen to prosecutors to federal prosecutors present evidence about various criminal offenses and determine whether or not a crime has actually occurred. And in doing these investigations, federal prosecutors can issue subpoenas, which say, to whoever they’re issued to, you have to show up to this Grand Jury and answer my questions in front of these 18 to 24 people. And there’s really…and you don’t get an attorney in there with you. And there’s no judge in there. There’s just the prosecutor and these people who have been called to Grand Jury Duty. And they can tell you to come and give testimony and answer their questions. And they can also tell you to come and bring various kinds of documents. And this is compulsory, whereas usually, you would have the right to decline to participate in a police investigation, which is what I talked about last time I was on your show, which is that you really never have an obligation to talk to police. Unfortunately, this is sort of the opposite, where if you are issued a Grand Jury subpoena, and you declined to participate, you can be ordered by a judge to participate, sort of, in spite of all of the rights you think you have, like the First Amendment, right to Association and Speech and Belief, and your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent. And your Sixth Amendment right to have a lawyer with you, if you’re being questioned, all of those rights kind of fly out the window. And if you refuse to participate, a judge might order you to participate anyway. And if you continue to decline to participate, the judge will find you in Contempt of their Order To Participate, and they can throw you in prison. And so you can spend a pretty significant amount of time in federal prison, not because you have been accused of a crime, not because you have been convicted of a crime, but because you have declined to help the state make out their case against yourself or someone else.

Margaret 07:29
One of the things that really strikes me about Grand Juries is like when you first try to describe the process of someone, it sounds like a good thing, right? It’s like set up to be this thing where you’re like, oh, you can’t just accuse people have crimes. And you actually have to have a meeting ahead of time to make sure there’s enough evidence before you can accuse someone of a crime. And it just I feel like the state is really good at taking things that like ostensibly might possibly be designed to protect us from government overreach and turn them into over government overreach.

Mo 08:01
That’s exactly right. So a Grand Jury is a it’s a process that was invented in the 12th century. And the reason that it was invented is it was a group of sort of citizens, men, who would come together to privately investigate whether an offence had even been committed, because sometimes the Crown would just throw people in, in jail. And so this was… the Grand Jury was a step that was intended to make sure that there was some constraint on the unfettered power of the Crown. And unfortunately, the way that the Grand Jury has been adopted and used in the United States is not…it is an arm of state power, as opposed to a bulwark against it. Although, federal prosecutors get really butthurt if you say things like that, and they…they’re constantly saying, we’re a bulwark against unfettered power, but they’re….

Margaret 09:07
And that’s why we threw your friend in jail for nine months for not talking to us.

Mo 09:11
I can never tell if federal prosecutors actually believe the things that they’re saying. They’re very defensive about… they’re very defensive about the Grand Jury process. And they seem genuinely to believe that it’s protective, despite the fact that there, I think, is only one other nation in the world that still uses Grand Juries, because they have come to be understood as really damaging. They’re not transparent. They’re secret proceedings. They’re frequently compared to Star Chamber Proceedings. But one of the things that is a big difference between a federal Grand Jury and the Star Chamber is that the Star Chamber Proceedings were public.

Margaret 09:54
What’s a Star Chamber Proceeding?

The Star Chamber was this like, sort of secret authoritarian court.

Margaret 10:03

Mo 10:04
So, yeah, so the thing about Grand Jury proceedings is the claim that’s made is that they happen in secret so that they don’t sort of destroy the reputations of people who the innocent accused, right? But there’s actually ways of initiating a criminal prosecution that don’t involve secrecy, right? You….people in countries all over the world managed to prosecute criminal offenses without using Grand Juries. And it involves sort of public cross examination and having sort of the trappings of due process that we would assume, obtain in the American legal system, and they typically do, but federal Grand Juries, you know, as I said, there, it’s totally unnecessary. But, they’re very useful. They’re very useful for a number of reasons, because their critical attributes give tremendous power to prosecutors. Sorry, let me rephrase that they’re very useful to prosecutors for a number of reasons. They’re not particularly useful to anyone else? They’re quite dangerous for exactly these reasons.

Margaret 11:18
Because they can like…they can use them to just fish information out of scenes, right? Because you can show up and say…

Mo 11:24
There’s a bunch of things about them. One is that what a prosecutor can ask is almost unlimited. There’s there’s really… the rules of evidence that we would think about, like, you know, hearsay, being inadmissible various kinds of unlawfully collected evidence being admissible, relevance, right? If you’re having a criminal trial or a civil trial, you can’t just get any kind of…you can’t start asking questions about unrelated things, right? Well, in a federal Grand Jury, you can, and there’s…Furthermore, there’s nobody there. There’s no judge there, there’s no defense attorney present. The only person who’s present is the prosecutor. So the prosecutor gets to determine what evidence gets seen, and what evidence doesn’t get seen, right? They’re presenting their case to this Grand Jury, but they’re not giving a complete picture, which is why we have Grand Juries where, you know, over 99%, of people accused of a federal offense get indicted by a Grand Jury. But are those people ever cops? I mean, almost never, right? And that’s because the prosecutor controls how evidence is presented and what evidence is not presented, and how evidence gets placed before those grand jurors. And so they really control the narrative. And they basically determine what gets prosecuted and what doesn’t. They can also use the federal Grand Jury, as you said, to go fishing, because they can basically issue as we saw with Jerry, they can issue a subpoena to just about anyone and ask them just about anything. So, you know, we have no idea whether they actually thought Jerry had any relevant information about that event, which they refer to as The Bicycle Bombing. Right? Who knows whether they actually thought that Jerry had any information about it, despite the fact that he told them publicly many times that he did not. And they don’t seem to have had any real reason to think he did. But what they definitely thought he had information about was anarchist organizing in New York City. And that’s clearly what they were interested in asking him about. And so maybe they weren’t necessarily going to get information about the Bicycle Bombing from subpoenaing him to come and give testimony. And maybe they weren’t gonna even get information about any kind of Federal offense from his testimony, but they sure we’re gonna get some social mapping. They sure we’re gonna get some information about, you know, potentially about like, internecine quarrels in the anarchist community. So, you know, a lot of, a lot of this is a fishing expedition. And I think that sort of brings us to the next thing that you and I were discussing, which is, Grand Juries are these really complicated, really anomalous legal proceedings. They’re sort of quasi criminal. They involve a lot of different really technical elements. But at bottom, they’re sort of anathema to anarchists. And there’s a few reasons for that. And I think, you know, this is sort of the thing that I guess we wanted to talk about, which is that,

Margaret 14:55
Yeah, why don’t anarchists talk to Grand Juries?

Mo 14:58
Well, this is yeah, I mean, this is the thing, right, is that there’s sort of three things going on. One thing is anarchists pretty much don’t talk to Grand Juries, on principle, because fuck the state. But there’s also materially, it’s very dangerous to give testimony to a Grand Jury, because you’re essentially, even if you’re not giving them information about any unlawful activity, any information that you give to the state, can and very much will be used against you and your community. And anytime you’re talking to a federal Grand Jury, or a federal investigator, law enforcement of any kind, anything that you say, can be used to get more information can be used to cause trouble in your community, and can be used to prosecute, prosecute you or the people in your community. And then the third even more technical reason is that strategically, legally, there are a whole slew of reasons and legal arguments that you can bring to bear against cooperating with a federal Grand Jury. And, in fact, you know, I would say, as a legal matter, you know, I can’t…whether or not to cooperate with a federal Grand Jury is not a decision that an attorney can make for another person.

Margaret 16:25

Mo 16:26
But there are a number of legal advantages to litigating questions around the enforceability of a Grand Jury subpoena.

Margaret 16:39
Well does this tie into, like, how how you got Jerry out?

Mo 16:44
Yes. Well, there’s sort of there’s phases, right, because the first thing that I would say, the first thing that would happen in Grand Jury litigation, is developing arguments or or seeing if there are arguments against the enforceability of the Grand Jury subpoena. And these range from things like: “Is the subpoena properly issued and enforceable?”to “Can you enforce this Grand Jury subpoena against this particular individual?” Does this Grand Jury subpoena impermissibly intrude into First Amendment protections? Does it impermissibly intrude into Fifth Amendment protections? Can you demonstrate that this particular subpoena was issued on the basis of illegally collected evidence? There’s things like that, that certainly you would want to litigate before just rolling over and cooperating with a Grand Jury. Again, from the legal point of view, quite apart from the issues of principle, you know, if you don’t, if there’s a way to avoid incriminating yourself, you, you know, I would advise you to do it. So, there’s a whole kind of litigation to…that happens sort of up front, to try to do what’s called “quash the subpoena”, right, to nullify the subpoena. That almost universally fails. We are not successful with that litigation that happens early on in the process. And then what what typically happens? Well, sometimes what happens is that the prosecutor gives up, but that’s, that’s not typical. Although it happens occasionally.

Margaret 18:39
We could hope we could pin all of our hopes on that.

Mo 18:43
Yes. I wouldn’t expect it.

Margaret 18:47
No, we should pin all of our hopes on it. That’s what’ll happen. You heard it here first, there’s nothing to worry about.

Mo 18:55
Please call my office. If you get a Grand Jury subpoena. Do not lay awake in bed hoping for the prosecutor to let it go.

Margaret 19:03
Interesting. Okay. Okay.

Mo 19:05
You know, we even have a hotline.

Margaret 19:07

Mo 19:08
Which I can tell you about later. But yes, we…you can call the office, you can call the hotline. You can call your local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.

Margaret 19:19

Mo 19:20
Hire a lawyer instead of hoping.

Margaret 19:22

Mo 19:23

Margaret 19:24
And probably a movement lawyer rather than like one that’s just looking out for…

Mo 19:28
For sure. Yes. Hope is not a great legal strategy, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

Margaret 19:36
It’s almost like we should be prepared as individuals and communities for bad things that might happen.

Mo 19:42
It’s almost like that.

Margaret 19:43
Yeah, but that would be crazy. Anyway. Okay.

Mo 19:46
Typically, what happens is that you litigate the validity or the enforceability of the subpoena. And then the judge typically says, “The justice demands that we do unfettered investigations, and be allowed to ask whatever questions we want. And, if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t be worried, just go talk to the federal Grand Jury.” And they will, the judge, will order the witness to give testimony. But of course, the judge can order you to do something all they want. That doesn’t mean you actually have to do it. And so, if you continue to refuse to give testimony before the federal Grand Jury, the way the judge will enforce their order, is to say, “Well, if you won’t give testimony, I’m going to hold you in Contempt of Court. And the sanction for being in Contempt of Court is that I will put you in federal prison until you agree to give testimony. And if you don’t agree to give testimony, then you are going to stay in federal prison until the Grand Jury expires (Grand Jury is typically at last 18 months). So, I’ll keep you in federal prison until the Grand Jury expires.” And then the other way that you can sometimes get out without giving testimony is to just demonstrate that you will not be convinced by your confinement to give testimony, right, because the the only permissible reason to put somebody in prison for civil Contempt is to convince them to change their mind. Right?

Margaret 21:40
Cause that’s coercive instead of punitive. Is that the idea?

Mo 21:42
That’s right. That’s right. So there’s…

Margaret 21:44
What a weird dumb distinction that the law wants to make.

Mo 21:49
There’s a distincation that…I would say it’s a distinction without a difference, except it does have this very significant meaningful difference…

Margaret 21:57
Right, legally.

Mo 21:57
Which is as follows:

Margaret 21:59

Mo 22:00
A judge cannot put you in prison to punish you in the absence of due process, in the context of Grand Jury litigation, Contempt of Court is Civil and not Criminal. And so you don’t get due process in the way that you would have to, in order for the judge to punish you. And so the judge…the fiction here is that the judge is not punishing you by confining you, the judge is just putting you in an uncomfortable situation with the promise that it will stop if you agree to do the thing the judge wants you to do. So, it isn’t punishment. It’s coercion.

Margaret 22:51

Mo 22:52
So it’s, it sounds very silly, except what follows there from is that if you can demonstrate to the judge, that it isn’t coercive, and it’s only punitive, then they have to release you, because it’s unconstitutional to punish you.

Margaret 23:13

Mo 23:14
And so, being able to demonstrate that the confinement in federal prison has been transformed from a coercion into a punishment is the way that you can eventually after some, usually many months, you can get your client out of prison, which is what happened with Jerry.

Margaret 23:43
Okay, I kind of love because it’s like, “Look, if you’re a badass, and you come from a badass movement, I’m sorry, you just can’t put badass is in jail. It’s just not allowed anymore”, is like the kind of and like, I’m under the impression when you were talking earlier about one of the reasons why anarchists in particular, might want to refuse to speak to Grand Juries is does this build a stronger case for future anarchists basically, to be like, “Oh, it doesn’t work. This won’t work.”

Mo 24:13
Absolutely. I dont think it will prevent them from trying to exact a cost.

Margaret 24:17

Mo 24:19
They’ll still put you in.

Margaret 24:20
Right. But I was under the impression this was like part of the way of explaining to a judge like “My you know, my client cannot be coerced into testifying.”

Mo 24:33
Absolutely. Yes, very much. You know, there’s…and it isn’t just to be clear, it isn’t only anarchists who do this. There’s some really great case law that stems from different organized crime people and white collar crime, which is just another kind of organized crime, I guess, people refusing to cooperate. There’s a really great case where a Jewish guy says that it’s against, you know, It violates the tenets of his faith to to snitch, which I as a Jew, I I would say, “Yes that I would agree with this assessment.” And of course the judge said, “No, you… I’m sorry you don’t have a religious First Amendment right not to snatch.” Morris Simpkin, I think was the was the guy. Rabbi Morris Simpkin.

Margaret 25:26
That rules.

Mo 25:27
Yeah, no, he’s he’s a hero. And then there’s a guy who basically was released, because he, he said, “I’m not going to…I’m not going to talk. Because, as you know, I have several million dollars waiting for me in an offshore bank account. If I tell you about it, I won’t, you know, I wont be able to access it later.”

Margaret 25:51
Did that work?

Mo 25:53
I don’t think it actually did work particularly well. I think the Court said something like, “You know, this is a little too venal even for us to deal with.” But, so…it isn’t just anarchists who refuse to cooperate with Grand Juries. And then there’s also people who refuse to cooperate with Grand Juries, because they’re in fear for their life, which is, I think, maybe even more common than people refusing on principle.

Margaret 26:23
Yeah. So how does this come up in movements? Right, like, you know, the the example that we use at the beginning is a fairly like, it ties into the anarchist movement in New York City at that time, but it’s a fairly isolated incident. But I’m under the impression that Grand Juries are used or end up disrupting social movements in a broader sense.

Mo 26:45
Yeah, absolutely. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Nobody talks, everybody walks”? That’s sort of, I think this is not a legal strategy commentary. But, I think the sort of the goal of anarchist communities is to recognize that the more people talk, the more evidence you are creating, the more information you are providing to the State that can–even if you’re providing evidence that has nothing to do with unlawful conduct–providing information of any kind to the State gives the state a toehold that gives them a foot in the door, it gives them something to hang a warrant on for example. It just gives them an entree into your community in a way that makes you more vulnerable. And so, you know, when when we’re saying, well, “Nobody talks, everybody walks,” the less information the State has, the less effective they will be at intruding into your community, at manufacturing allegations of unlawful conduct of fabricating, you know, conspiracy charges. There’s all kinds of ways that federal prosecutions can emerge. I mean, I would say, it’s important to recognize the way that State repression is used against vulnerable communities generally. A few years ago, there was this really horrific conspiracy prosecution that involved over 100 people in the Bronx. And, you know, there was a guy who ended up in federal prison because the evidence that he was part of this conspiracy was that he waved to somebody at the bodega.

Margaret 28:38
Oh, God.

Mo 28:38
You know, so when we’re talking about, is it protecting our communities? I’m not suggesting that, that there’s a conspiracy to hide. It’s that…or that there’s even unlawful behavior to hide or to conceal. It’s just that it is very disturbingly easy for federal law enforcement to sort of manufacture charges and allegations out of whole cloth that can just devastate a community, you know, with long term consequences. So, not handing over information to federal prosecutors or law enforcement of any kind even if you think the information is harmless, or even if you think the information serves to demonstrate your innocence. Any amount of information that’s given to federal law enforcement is dangerous to you, and it’s dangerous to your community.

Margaret 29:46
So, if you get subpoenaed or you suspect you might be subpoenaed. I’m under the impression that because the subpoena is not a warrant, that It’s not illegal to…to not get subpoenaed, to avoid being subpoenaed. Is this is this true?

Mo 30:09
It’s not…I mean, I know what you’re trying to say it’s not…you’re not going to get like arrested for avoiding service of a subpoena,

Margaret 30:19
Right? Which means you think they might come to your door, just don’t answer the door or don’t be there? Not saying that this is the strategy everyone should take, obviously. But, I’m curious…because this whole thing is so anonamalous, a nominal…is out of the ordinary. It…I’m under the impression that there’s like, a lot of history of people…like it’s a weird…I’m under the impression is a gray area where you’re kind of like allowed to go on the run. Like, it’s not illegal to flee a subpoena. It would be illegal to flee after you’ve been subpoenaed is my impression. I’m not telling people what to do. I’m just merely… it’s a very interesting part of this whole thing from my point of view,

Mo 30:59
It’s not necessarily exactly illegal. You could be arrested on what’s called a “Material Witness Order.” Because you haven’t, you’re not being accused of a crime. Right? So running isn’t exactly illegal. There are examples of people going underground to avoid subpoena. I’m not sure it’s…you know, I wouldn’t advise somebody to do it as a lawyer. But, you know, I would tell them what the potential consequences might be. But, largely the consequences would be a lot of discomfort and instability, I think. And if you, you know, I guess it sort of depends on what kind of resources you have, if you feel like you want to, if you want to go underground in order to avoid a subpoena, and you think that’s going to be easier than getting a movement lawyer to fight the subpoena. Or, you know, I think it would be very disruptive at one way or another, you are going to get a subpoena. It’s going to be disruptive. So I guess, pick your poison.

Margaret 32:06
Fair enough. I just, I kind of want to go through, like, what happens if you get a subpoena? And you know, obviously, or if you believe you might get subpoenaed. And so when I imagine the flowchart, like, yeah, one of the options is if you’re aware that you might be subpoenaed, and you want to disrupt your own life dramatically…

Mo 32:25

Margaret 32:26
And it’s basically a way of LARPing undergrounder because you’d like on the run from the law, but you’re not breaking the law to go underground.

Mo 32:34
I don’t know if you can LARP underground. I don’t know if you can learn being underground. You…because even if you’re being underground…

Margaret 32:44

Mo 32:45
Because you have a delusion that you might be subpoenaed, you’re still going to be really uncomfortable.

Margaret 32:52
That’s true. Yep. Okay,

Mo 32:55
The consequences are still going to be real.

Margaret 32:57

Mo 32:58
But sure, one of the…one of your, one of the options available to you is to go underground. And then another option that’s available to you is to call an attorney. I’m gonna give you the hotline number, the National Lawyers Guild, federal defense hotline is (212) 679-2811. And if you call that hotline, you will get me, and you can have a privileged, confidential, and secure conversation about your rights, risks and responsibilities. And I will do my very best to connect you with appropriate legal resources in your jurisdiction. And that’s a better idea, in my opinion then going underground, but I am not the person who’s looking at subpoena. So that is a choice that you get to make.

Margaret 33:53
Yeah, I’m not advocating here. I’m just like, you know, laying out options to people.

Mo 34:00
It is an option.

Margaret 34:01
Okay. Okay. So if you get the subpoena, and you decide to fight it, and they call you, what next?

Mo 34:08
I’ll take a look at the subpoena, or your attorney will. Your attorney will take a look at the subpoena. They will call the prosecutor who issued the subpoena. Typically, they’ll ask for some time to postpone the date of appearance so that they can put together some legal arguments and try to have the subpoena quashed, which as I said before means nullified or withdrawn. They try to look for some way in which the subpoena is unenforceable or invalid. And that can be on the grounds again of the First Amendment. Like, “This subpoena intrudes into First Amendment protected behavior. The subpoena is a Fourth Amendment violation,” or “We believe that it that the subpoena was issued on the basis of evidence that was illegally obtained by the prosecution.” Or, “This subpoena in some way violates the Sixth Amendment,” or, very commonly, “This subpoena violates the Fifth Amendment and testifying in front of this Grand Jury would expose the witness to criminal liability.” So, you make all of those arguments. If the federal prosecutor really wants you to give testimony, what they will very frequently do is approach the federal government or they’ll approach the Department Of Justice and ask for what’s called an “Immunity Order”, which undermines your right against compelled self-incrimination, because it involves a promise not to prosecute you. And so, the idea is that they can then compel your testimony, because nothing you say could be self-incriminating,

Margaret 35:55
Right. But it’s still incriminates everyone else you know, and…

Mo 35:59
That’s right.

Margaret 36:00
Which could lead to them…

Mo 36:00
And probably still yourself anyway.

Margaret 36:02
Right, because then if they get someone else to talk, they could talk about you, and then their testimony can be used against you.

Mo 36:08
And your own testimony can be used against you, it just isn’t quite as straightforward as it might otherwise be.

Margaret 36:13
Oh, cool. Okay.

Mo 36:14
No, Immunity Orders are not meaningful in the way that the government would like to have you believe. So, you know, honestly, testifying before a federal Grand Jury really does…I can’t emphasize how dangerous it is, it really does expose you and anyone else, you know, to criminal liability, even if you haven’t done anything unlawful, because this is really a situation where your innocence will not protect you. And very often, especially if we’re talking about the sort of world of “conspiracy”, the very fact that you might be perceived to have information in itself can be parlayed into evidence of culpability. You know, there’s there’s just a lot of ways in which giving testimony before a federal Grand Jury is very dangerous, and really exposes you and anyone, you know, to criminal liability. And it also perpetuates the cycle of more Grand Jury subpoenas being issued,

Margaret 37:31
Right. Because they know it works.

Mo 37:34
Well. Because, if one person responds and goes before the federal Grand Jury, and are asked who was at the anarchist meeting in 1998, and then says, “Oh, I think, you know, Jose, Joseph and Joe, were all there.” Then Jose Joseph and Joe will get supoenas.

Margaret 37:55
You know this is a public show, though, right? You just used their names…

Mo 37:59
Oh. Hahah.

Margaret 37:59
And I really like interrupting you with jokes, because I feel like a jerk every time I do it. Anyway, I’m sorry. Please continue.

Mo 38:12
I love you very much.

Margaret 38:13

Mo 38:18
Yeah, it perpetuates a cycle of more subpoenas being issued, because anybody who says anything, the prosecutor then takes anything they’ve said, and you know anybody’s name who comes up gets, then that that person gets a subpoena. They also, you know, the more information you give them, the more that they can figure out how to target people who feel isolated and vulnerable, and who are more likely to cooperate, right. So if you…and just to be clear, what the federal government perceives as like “vulnerabilities and weaknesses” are not necessarily things that are vulnerabilities and weaknesses. So for example, they may target people who have children, believing that, you know, someone who has a child will be more willing to cooperate with the federal government, then to potentially risk prison time for a refusal to cooperate. They might target someone who’s gender non conforming, you know, on the belief that, you know, a trans person would be less likely to be able to like tolerate the idea of going to prison. They might target someone who has mental health issues, or who has a lot of friction in their community. The belief that a person who has…who’s sort of fighting with other people in their community will have an incentive to, I guess, to talk shit about those people, and to give them up and to give the government information. I think the federal government thinks we’re a lot less organized and a lot more petty than we are. And, I think the federal government thinks that we have a lot less courage than we have. But yeah.

Margaret 40:12
I mean, it’s one of the reasons that Grand Juries are scary, right, is that it’s one of the things where, as you said earlier, like “Innocence will not protect you,” you know, like, there is a level of risk just being socially engaged in activist movements, right, and so, you know what, whether or not you…what…whether or not you like do crimes, doesn’t necessarily, like affect the degree to which this particular threat might threaten you?

Mo 40:47
Yeah, I mean, I think this is the point where, you know, to return to the story of what happened to Jerry, right? Nobody ever said that Jerry knew anything about the Bicycle Bombing. Nobody ever said Jerry was involved in the Bicycle Bombing. The claim that was made is that he might have been present when a couple of other people were having a casual conversation about it.

Margaret 41:11

Mo 41:12
Which is, you know, one of the reasons that we say like, “Don’t speculate. Don’t make jokes. Don’t brag,” right? Like, because you’re not just exposing yourself to liability. You’re exposing anyone who hears you, or who is believed to have heard you to a Grand Jury subpoena, which if they’re a principled person means exposing them to prison time,

Margaret 41:41
Right. When when Grand Jury stuff hit closer to me, and it started affecting more my friends, and you know, when Jerry went to jail and stuff it, you know, sort of selfishly scared me. I had nothing to do with any of that stuff. I wasn’t living in New York, any of that. But just that realization, my that my like, non crime-ness is not enough to keep me safe or whatever. But then, I guess I’m trying to, like, offer this, like note of courage or hope, I guess, which is my legal strategy is hope. But, that’s not true.

Mo 42:16
When you say it like that, it actually sounds reasonable, though.

Margaret 42:19
Well, okay. But so the one of the things that I remember when we were working on on Jerry’s campaign, was there’s this flowchart of Grand Juries, right? And what can happen to you at each stage. And the end result of that is freedom.

Mo 42:38

Margaret 42:39
Like, the degree to which it sucks before then varies. But, the the end result is that you’re out and you’re back with people, and everyone knows that you’re fucking badass and have their backs. And, and, and I feel like that’s a useful thing that like, I hold on to, and that I think other people. I mean…

Mo 43:02
That’s true. I think that’s true. You know, there…it is finite. There’s a few really unusual cases where someone has been charged with instead of Civil Contempt, Criminal Contempt. There are, you know, a few very, very specific instances where, you know, really post 9/11 people who were alleged to have been involved in, quote, “terrorism,” have done very serious prison time on Criminal Contempt for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury. But typically, what we’re looking at is a maximum of 18 months, which doesn’t have no lasting consequences.

Margaret 43:51
Oh, yeah.

Mo 43:51
But, but it is finite.

Margaret 43:54

Mo 43:55
You know, I mean, one of the things about Grand Juries for…in terms of resisting as a community, is that federal Grand Juries are secret, right? No one can talk about what happens in the Grand Jury room, with one significant exception, which is the witness. The witness can disclose that they’ve been subpoenaed. The witness can say what they said or what they didn’t say. They can say what they were asked. And the power of the federal Grand Jury really does very much lie in its secrecy. You know, I said, there’s no judge there. There’s no defense attorney there. I think even more importantly, there’s no public there. Right? And so it functions to isolate the witness. It functions or it is intended to function to isolate the witness. But the fact is, you know, one of the things that, as you know, Jerry did was he stood out on the courthouse steps and he made a statement and he said, “I’ve been subpoenaed. This is what I think they want to ask me about. I’m not going to talk to them about it.” He went into the Grand Jury room, he came out and disclosed what he had been asked very publicly, you know, he made a bunch of statements about his commitment to principle, and people really rallied around him. And that really served to undermine that terrifying power of secrecy, just by making that process more transparent.

Margaret 45:34
Yeah. Well, are there any final thoughts about Grand Juries that you want to want to offer the audience? Or did we miss anything major?

Mo 45:46
So, you know, we were just talking about how, you know, in Jerry’s case, and in many other cases, I’ve, I’ve litigated, the witness has been very public about their experience with the Grand Jury with the subpoena with litigation. And this is socially useful and politically useful. I will, I’d like to let your audience also know, it’s legally very useful, because at the end of this process, when you’re trying to demonstrate to a judge that your client is in-coercible, that they, that the incarceration that has been imposed upon them in order to coerce them, isn’t working, and is therefore punitive, but since they haven’t been given any due process, they’re not allowed to be punished and should therefore be released. The evidence that you put before the judge is evidence of the witness’s articulated moral conviction, their psychological makeup, and all of these social incentives that have not wavered or changed over, you know, some not insignificant period of confinement. So, all of those sorts of public statements, and, and those acts of silence before the Grand Jury, those are, in fact, the substantive evidence that will hopefully serve to win their freedom.

Margaret 47:09

Mo 47:11
And in fact, one part of the evidence is social support. So the more you can educate your community about what a Grand Jury is, why they’re dangerous to the community, and really help people to rally around, it sort of…showing that kind of community support, also functions to help the judge understand that it would truly be a loss, a moral loss for the witness at this point to disappoint all these, all these supporters. I want to reiterate sort of the consequences of cooperation with a Grand Jury, because, you know, being confined in a federal prison is terrible, and, and frightening and hugely disruptive. So, you know, I think there are a lot of incentives for people to cooperate. But I think people really need to understand that the consequences of cooperation don’t just include snitching about criminal conduct. It includes disclosing information about people and movements, that is totally unrelated to illegal behavior, but can be compromising in other ways that aren’t any of the State’s business that can cause internal conflict in movements, can chill other people’s commitment to movements, their willingness to participate in movements. And, of course, the, you know, the consequence that I keep talking about is the witness themself ending up in prison, which, you know, if you are convicted of a federal criminal offense, as opposed to being civilly confined, because you’re refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury, the sentencing guidelines for federal offenses are typically way longer than 18 months. So you know, when we’re talking about going in for being a recalcitrant witness, and saying, I’m not going to cooperate with a federal Grand Jury, it is truly finite, which is may or may not be the case, if you end up incriminating yourself or somehow exposing yourself to criminal liability. And then you’re looking at a much longer sentence that, you know, that is punitive. And that that is going to last a lot longer than 18 months likely.

Margaret 49:38
So it’s kind of a parallel to the whole like, “Shut the fuck up when you’re arrested thing,” where like, all right, you’re going to jail and the difference is whether you’re going to jail, like for a couple of days or you know, for a long ass time.

Mo 49:53
Right. I mean, I again, I cannot advise someone not to cooperate with a Grand Jury. That’s not my role, it would be unethical for me to do that. But what I can do and what my job is to do is to make clear what all the various consequences might be…

Margaret 50:15

Mo 50:16
Of cooperation, or non cooperation. And I’m not going to, I’m not gonna lie, like, if you’re subpoenaed before a federal Grand Jury, and it’s at all politically motivated, you know, there is a long history of federal Grand Jury abuse in this country that goes back to, you know, prosecuting abolitionists for sedition, and continues through the labor movement, and the 19th century anarchist movement, and the Women’s Rights movement and anti-war stuff, and Black Panthers and environmental stuff and the Green Scare. It’s a pretty strong through line of using the federal Grand Jury to disrupt, drain, distract, and repress social movements.

Margaret 51:07

Mo 51:09
And one of the reasons that Grand Jury subpoenas are such a powerful tool is that the government’s basically always going to get something that they want, right, they might not get to put all of you in prison, but you know, they’re gonna get something. Either they’re gonna get the information they want, which has sort of the added consequence of disrupting a whole community, because everyone’s afraid. And there are indictments and convictions. Or they can get someone to cooperate and catch them in a perjury trap, and then exploit that person for more information by agreeing not to prosecute them for the perjury, or they can subpoena someone that they absolutely know, for a fact will not cooperate. And then they can do what I would call “coercing Contempt of Court”, right? Because they’ve subpoenaed someone they know is going to…they can be held in Contempt. And then they exact a real cost from that witness, and from the whole community, and they’re draining the whole community of time and energy and resources, and distracting from the actual work that that community was trying to do in the first place.

Margaret 52:17

Mo 52:17
So, you know, I think your exhortation to hope is well taken. But, I also want to be very real about the fact that a Grand Jury subpoena, in and of itself, can be extremely disruptive. That said, I mean, we have been through this a bunch of times. We know how to support each other. We know how to endure the consequences of resistance. We also know how to endure the consequences of people betraying us in cooperating with Grand Juries. Right? And there’s people like me, there’s lawyers and legal workers and people like you, and people like Jerry, who is now both a former Grand Jury resistor and a lawyer.

Margaret 53:05
Yeah! That’s cool.

Mo 53:07
Yeah, I know, I couldn’t yell, any harder. There’s, you know, there’s a lot of people out there who have already been through this crucible.

Margaret 53:16

Mo 53:18
You know, and like I said, there’s ways to protect each other from subpoena by observing good security hygiene.

Margaret 53:24
Yeah. It’s a…it’s’s a…it’s a proud lineage to be part of, you know, if you need to hold on to something, like going through the like history of people who’ve been fucked over by Grand Juries. It’s like, you just like listing the high points of American history, you know, like…

Mo 53:43
No, I mean, you’re gonna be in good company.

Margaret 53:45

Mo 53:46
I mean, to be clear, not every federal Grand Jury is…I mean, every prosecution is political.

Margaret 53:52

Mo 53:53
But, not every Grand Jury investigation is explicitly motivated by political animus against the person who’s being investigated.

Margaret 54:02

Mo 54:03
But there is, you know, there is a very well documented history of the federal government just using Grand Jury subpoenas to gather information to disrupt, to, to criminalize people who haven’t actually done anything unlawful to criminalize people who are doing something that is unlawful, but just.

Margaret 54:28
All right. Well, if people want to know more about Grand Juries, is there any resources you could point them to? Or?

Mo 54:35
No, there’s no resources, sorry.

Margaret 54:37
Okay. Wait…are you doing dry sarcasm back at me? I’m supposed to do the dry sarcasm.

Mo 54:44
Sorry. No, there are there are resources. There are some zines out there that I think are pretty good. There’s one that we put together during Standing Rock. There’s…actually, oh no, that’s on jury nullification. There’s a really great–this is off topic so you can totally feel free to cut it–there’s a really great scene on jury nullification that was written and illustrated by the guy who wrote “Go The Fuck To Sleep.”

Margaret 55:10
Oh, that rules. We’re gonna keep that in. Okay, cool.

Mo 55:13
Anyway, yeah, there’s like there’s good zines. There’s a–I think it still exists now I gotta google it…Oh well, the CLDC, the Civil Liberties Defense Center, and Lauren Regan have a Grand Jury brochure that’s good. Oh, and then here it is the Grand Jury Resistance Project. I think this is what it is. This is at And has a brochure about about Grand Juries. There’s also some information from…there’s a really great resource that is on That is a letter that Chelsea Manning wrote to the judge in that case when I was representing her, that goes through sort of the history of Grand Juries in the United States and internationally. And I think it’s, if I say so myself, it’s a really thorough and really compelling letter. And, I think it was really helpful in educating the judge about, you know, what her reasons were at least, for refusing to participate in the federal Grand Jury system, and what her objections were. So if anyone’s interested in that again, that’s at And, they have a search function.

Margaret 56:33

Mo 56:33
And it was the letter that Chelsea Manning wrote to Judge Trenga at some point when we were trying to get her out.

Margaret 56:42
Okay, well, thank you so much for taking time out to tell everyone about this terrible thing.

Mo 56:49
My pleasure?

Margaret 56:52
Do you have any anything else that you want to shout out or ways that people should or shouldn’t reach you or anything you want to promote?

Mo 56:57
Yeah, I would, I would just like to remind people that there’s really never any reason to talk to police officers of any kind. Certainly not prior to consulting an attorney. If cops knock on your door, tell them you are represented by counsel, and to leave their name and number and your lawyer will call them back. Feel free to call me at the National Lawyers Guild Federal Defense Hotline at (212) 679-2811. And just remember, if you are arrested to say, “I am going to remain silent, and I want to speak to a lawyer,” and then actually remain silent.

Margaret 57:41
Sounds good. All right. Well, thank you so much.

Mo 57:45
You’re very welcome.

Margaret 57:51
Thank you so much for listening. I hope you never need the information that was in this week’s episode. But, I feel like it’s worth having in your back pocket just in case, like a lot of preparedness. And see this is a preparedness episode, you all were like, “The fuck have to do preparedness?’ Well, we want to be prepared for a lot of different threat models. So if you enjoyed this episode, you should tell people about it. You can tell people about it in person. And you can tell people about it on the internet. And you can tell algorithms about it by liking and subscribing and rating and reviewing and all that nonsense that tells robots what to do. And you can also support this podcast by supporting the people who helped make, which it just not just me anymore, it’s a whole team of people working at a publisher that I’m part of, an anarchist collective publisher, called a Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And if you support us on Patreon, you’ll get access to…well, you won’t get access to a ton of like unique content. But, what instead is you’ll support us making content. And then if you support us $10 A month you’ll get a zine in the mail every month, and anywhere in the world. In particular, I would like to thank Mikki, and Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher Eleanor, Natalie Kirk, Micaiah, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog. Your support makes this show and so many other projects possible. Alright, well that’s it for now. And I will talk, I guess “at” you soon, not really “to” you because it’s kind of a one way communication media, which is kind of weird, but it is what it is. I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s going on.

Find out more at

S1E43 – Elle on Threat Modeling

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Margaret talks with Elle, an anarchist and security professional, about different threat modeling approaches and analyzing different kinds of threats. They explore physical threats, digital security, communications, surveillance,and general OpSec mentalities for how to navigate the panopticon and do stuff in the world without people knowing about it…if you’re in Czarist Russia of course.

Guest Info

Elle can be found on twitter @ellearmageddon.

Host and Publisher

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at

Show Links


Live Like the World is Dying: Elle on Threat Modeling

Margaret 00:15
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 with me at the exact moment is my dog, who has just jumped up to try and talk into the microphone and bite my arm. And, I use ‘she’ and ‘they’ pronouns. And this week, I’m going to be talking to my friend Elle, who is a, an anarchist security professional. And we’re going to be talking about threat modeling. And we’re going to be talking about how to figure out what people are trying to do to you and who’s trying to do it and how to deal with different people trying to do different things. Like, what is the threat model around the fact that while I’m trying to record a podcast, my dog is biting my arm? And I am currently choosing to respond by trying to play it for humor and leaving it in rather than cutting it out and re recording. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network.


Margaret 02:00
Okay, if you could introduce yourself, I guess, with your name and your pronouns, and then maybe what you do as relates to the stuff that we’re going to be talking about today.

Elle 02:10
Yeah, cool. Hi, I’m Elle. My pronouns are they/them. I am a queer, autistic, anarchist security practitioner. I do security for a living now that I’ve spent over the last decade, working with activist groups and NGOs, just kind of anybody who’s got an interesting threat model to help them figure out what they can do to make themselves a little a little safer and a little more secure.

Margaret 02:43
So that word threat model. That’s actually kind of what I want to have you on today to talk about is, it’s this word that we we hear a lot, and sometimes we throw into sentences when we want to sound really smart, or maybe I do that. But what does it mean, what is threat modeling? And why is it relevant?

Elle 03:02
Yeah, I actually, I really love that question. Because I think that we a lot of people do use the term threat modeling without really knowing what they mean by it. And so to me, threat modeling is having an understanding of your own life in your own context, and who poses a realistic risk to you, and what you can do to keep yourself safe from them. So whether that’s, you know, protecting communications that you have from, you know, state surveillance, or whether it’s keeping yourself safe from an abusive ex, your threat model is going to vary based on your own life experiences and what you need to protect yourself from and who those people actually are and what they’re capable of doing.

Margaret 03:52
Are you trying to say there’s not like one solution to all problems that we would just apply?

Elle 03:58
You know, I love…

Margaret 03:58
I don’t understand.

Elle 04:00
I know that everybody really, really loves the phrase “Use signal. Use TOR,” and you know, thinks that that is the solution to all of life’s problems. But it actually turns out that, no, you do have to have both an idea of what it is that you’re trying to protect, whether it’s yourself or something like your communications and who you’re trying to protect it from, and how they can how they can actually start working towards gaining access to whatever it is that you’re trying to defend.

Margaret 04:31
One of the things that when I think about threat modeling that I think about is this idea of…because the levels of security that you take for something often limit your ability to accomplish different things. Like in Dungeons and Dragons, if you were plate armor, you’re less able to be a dexterous rogue and stealth around. And so I think about threat modeling, maybe as like learning to balance….I’m kind of asking this, am I correct in this? Balancing what you’re trying to accomplish with who’s trying to stop you? Because like, you could just use TOR, for everything. And then also like use links the little like Lynx [misspoke “Tails”] USB keychain and never use a regular computer and never communicate with anyone and then never accomplish anything. But, it seems like that might not work.

Elle 05:17
Yeah, I mean, the idea, the idea is to prevent whoever your adversaries are from keeping you from doing whatever you’re trying to accomplish. Right? So if the security precautions that you’re taking to prevent your adversaries from preventing you from doing a thing are also preventing you from doing the thing, then it doesn’t matter, because your adversaries have just won, right? So there, there definitely is a need, you know, to be aware of risks that you’re taking and decide which ones make sense, which ones don’t make sense. And kind of look at it from from a dynamic of “Okay, is this something that is in my, you know, acceptable risk model? Is this a risk I’m willing to take? Are there things that I can do to, you know, do harm reduction and minimize the risk? Or at least like, make it less? Where are those trade offs? What, what is the maximum amount of safety or security that I can do for myself, while still achieving whatever it is that I’m trying to achieve?”

Margaret 06:26
Do you actually ever like, chart it out on like, an X,Y axis where you get like, this is the point where you start getting diminishing returns? I’m just imagining it. I’ve never done that.

Elle 06:37
In, in the abstract, yes, because that’s part of how autism brain works for me. But in a, like actually taking pen to paper context, not really. But that’s, you know, at least partially, because of that’s something that autism brain just does for me. So I think it could actually be a super reasonable thing to do, for people whose brains don’t auto filter that for them. But but I’m, I guess, lucky enough to be neurodivergent, and have like, you know, like, we always we joke in tech, “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” And I feel like, you know, autism is kind of both sometimes. In some cases, it’s totally a bug and and others, it’s absolutely a feature. And this is one of the areas where it happens to be a feature, at least for me.

Margaret 07:35
That makes sense. I, I kind of view my ADHD as a feature, in that, it allows me to hyper focus on topics and then move on and then not come back to them. Or also, which is what I do now for work with podcasting, and a lot of my writing. It makes it hard to write long books, I gotta admit,

Elle 07:56
Yeah, I work with a bunch of people with varying neuro types. And it’s really interesting, like, at least at least in my own team, I think that you know, the, the folks who are more towards the autism spectrum disorder side of of the house are more focused on things like application security, and kind of things that require sort of sustained hyper focus. And then folks with ADHD make just absolutely amazing, like incident responders and do really, really well in interrupt driven are interrupts heavy contexts,

Margaret 08:38
Or sprinters.

Elle 08:40
It’s wild to me, because I’m just like, yes, this makes perfect sense. And obviously, like, these different tasks are better suited to different neuro types. But I’ve also never worked with a manager who actually thought about things in that way before.

Margaret 08:53

Elle 08:54
And so it’s actually kind of cool to be to be in a position where I can be like, “Hey, like, Does this sound interesting to you? Would you rather focus on this kind of work?” And kind of get that that with people.

Margaret 09:06
That makes sense that’s…. i I’m glad that you’re able to do that. I’m glad that people that you work with are able to have that you know, experience because it is it’s hard to it’s hard to work within….obviously the topic of today is…to working in the workplace is a neurodivergent person, but it I mean it affects so many of us you know, like almost whatever you do for work the the different ways your brain work are always struggling against it. So.

Elle 09:32
Yeah, I don’t know. It just it makes sense to me to like do your best to structure your life in a way that is more conducive to your neurotype.

Margaret 09:44

Elle 09:45
You know, if you can.

Margaret 09:49
I don’t even realize exactly how age ADHD I was until I tried to work within a normal workforce. I built my entire life around, not needing to live in one place or do one thing for sustained periods of time. But okay, but back to the threat modeling.

Margaret 10:07
The first time I heard of, I don’t know if it’s the first time I heard a threat modeling or not, I don’t actually know when I first started hearing that word. But the first time I heard about you, in the context of it was a couple years back, you had some kind of maybe it was tweets or something about how people were assuming that they should use, for example, the more activist focused email service Rise Up, versus whether they should just use Gmail. And I believe that you were making the case that for a lot of things, Gmail would actually be safer, because even though they don’t care about you, they have a lot more resources to throw at the problem of keeping governments from reading their emails. That might be a terrible paraphrasing of what you said. But this, this is how I was introduced to this concept of threat modeling. If you wanted to talk about that example, and tell me how I got it all wrong.

Elle 10:07

Elle 10:58
Yeah. Um, so you didn’t actually get it all wrong. And I think that the thing that I would add to that is that if you are engaging in some form of hypersensitive communication, email is not the mechanism that you want to do that. And so when I say things like, “Oh, you know, it probably actually makes sense to use Gmail instead of Rise Up,” I mean, you know, contexts where you’re maybe communicating with a lawyer and your communications are privileged, right?it’s a lot harder to crack Gmail security than it is to crack something like Rise Up security, just by virtue of the volume of resources available to each of those organizations. And so where you specifically have this case where, you know, there’s, there’s some degree of legal protection for whatever that means, making sure that you’re not leveraging something where your communications can be accessed without your knowledge or consent by a third party, and then used in a way that is conducive to parallel construction.

Margaret 12:19
So what is parallel construction?

Elle 12:20
Parallel construction is a legal term where you obtain information in a way that is not admissible in court, and then use that information to reconstruct a timeline or reconstruct a mechanism of access to get to that information in an admissible way.

Margaret 12:39
So like every cop show

Elle 12:41
Right, so like, with parallel construction around emails, for example, if you’re emailing back and forth with your lawyer, and your lawyer is like, “Alright, like, be straight with me. Because I need to know if you’ve actually done this crime so that I can understand how best to defend you.” And you’re like, “Yeah, dude, I totally did that crime,” which you should never admit to in writing anyway, because, again, email is not the format that you want to have this conversation in. But like, if you’re gonna admit to having done crimes in email, for some reason, how easy it is for someone else to access that admission is important. Because if somebody can access this email admission of you having done the crimes where you’re, you know, describing in detail, what crimes you did, when with who, then it starts, like, it gets a lot easier to be like, “Oh, well, obviously, we need to subpoena this person’s phone records. And we should see, you know, we should use geolocation tracking of their device to figure out who they were in proximity to and who else was involved in this,” and it can, it can be really easy to like, establish a timeline and get kind of the roadmap to all of the evidence that they would need to, to put you in jail. So it’s, it’s probably worth kind of thinking about how easy it is to access that that information. And again, don’t don’t admit to doing crimes in email, email is not the format that you want to use for admitting to having done crimes. But if you’re going to, it’s probably worth making sure that, you know, the the email providers that you are choosing are equipped with both robust security controls, and probably also like a really good legal team. Right? So if…like Rise Up isn’t going to comply with the subpoena to the like, to the best of their ability, they’re not going to do that, but it’s a lot easier to sue Rise Up than it is to sue Google.

Margaret 14:51

Elle 14:51
And it’s a lot easier to to break Rise Up’s security mechanisms than it is to break Google’s, just by virtue of how much time and effort each of those entities is able to commit to securing email. Please don’t commit to doing crimes in email, just please just don’t. Don’t do it in writing. Don’t do it.

Margaret 15:15
Okay, let me change my evening plans. Hold on let me finish sending this email..

Elle 15:23

Margaret 15:25
Well, I mean, I guess like the one of the reasons that I thought so much about that example, and why it kind of stuck with me years later was just thinking about what people decide they’re safe, because they did some basic security stuff. And I don’t know if that counts under threat modeling. But it’s like something I think about a lot is about people being like, “I don’t understand, we left our cell phones at home and went on a walk in the woods,” which is one of the safest ways anyone could possibly have a conversation. “How could anyone possibly have known this thing?” And I’m like, wait, you, you told someone you know, or like, like, not to make people more paranoid, but like…

Elle 16:06
Or maybe, maybe you left your cell phone at home, but kept your smartwatch on you, because you wanted to close, you know, you wanted to get your steps for the day while you were having this conversation, right?

Margaret 16:19
Because otherwise, does it even count if I’m not wearing my [smartwatch].

Elle 16:21
Right, exactly. And like, we joke, and we laugh, but like, it is actually something that people don’t think about. And like, maybe you left your phones at home, and you went for a walk in the woods, but you took public transit together to get there and were captured on a bunch of surveillance cameras. Like there’s, there’s a lot of, especially if you’ve actually been targeted for surveillance, which is very rare, because it’s very resource intensive. But you know, there there are alternate ways to track people. And it does depend on things like whether or not you’ve got additional tech on you, whether or not you were captured on cameras. And you know, whether whether or not your voices were picked up by ShotSpotter, as you were walking to wherever the woods were like, there’s just there’s we live in a panopticon. I don’t say that so that people are paranoid about it, I say it because it’s a lot easier to think about, where, when and how you want to phrase things.

Margaret 17:27

Elle 17:28
In a way that you know, still facilitates communications still facilitates achieving whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, but sets you sets you up to be as safe as possible in doing it. And I think that especially in anarchist circles, just… and honestly also in security circles, there’s a lot of of like, dogmatic adherence to security ritual, that may or may not actually make sense based on both, you, who your actual adversaries are, and what their realistic capabilities are.

Margaret 18:06
And what they’re trying to actually accomplish I feel like is…Okay, one of the threat models that I like…I encourage people sometimes to carry firearms, right in very specific contexts. And it feels like a security… Oh, you had a good word for it that you just used…ritual of security theater, I don’t remember…a firearm often feels like that,

Elle 18:30

Margaret 18:31
In a way where you’re like,” Oh, I’m safe now, right, because I’m carrying a firearm.” And, for example, I didn’t carry a firearm for a very long time. Because for a long time, my threat model, the people who messed with me, were cops. And if a cop is going to mess with me, I do not want to have a firearm on me, because it will potentially escalate a situation in a very bad way. Whereas when I came out and started, you know, when I started getting harassed more for being a scary transwoman, and less for being an anarchist, or a hitchhiker, or whatever, you know, now my threat model is transphobes, who wants to do me harm. And in a civilian-civilian context, I prefer I feel safer. And I believe I am safer in most situations armed in that case. But every time I leave the house, I have to think about “What is my threat model?” And then in a similar way, sorry, it’s just me thinking about the threat model of firearms, but it’s the main example that I think of, is that often people’s threat model in terms of firearms and safety as themselves, right? And so you just actually need to do the soul searching where you’re like,”What’s more likely to happen to me today? Am I likely to get really sad, or am I likely to get attacked by fascists?”

Elle 19:57
Yeah. And I think that there is there’s an additional question, especially when you’re talking about arming yourself, whether it’s firearms, or carrying a knife, or whatever, because like, I don’t own any firearms, but I do carry a knife a lot of the time. And so like some questions, some additional questions that you have to ask yourself are, “How confident am I in my own ability to use this to harm another person?” Because if you’re going to hesitate, you’re gonna get fucked up.

Margaret 20:28

Elle 20:28
Like, if you are carrying a weapon, and you pull it out and hesitate in using it, it’s gonna get taken away from you, and it’s going to be used against you. So that’s actually one of the biggest questions that I would say people should be asking themselves when developing a threat model around arming themselves is, “Will I actually use this? How confident am I?” if you’re not confident, then it’s okay to leave it at home. It’s okay to practice more. It’s okay to like develop that familiarity before you start using it as an EDC. Sorry an Every Day Carry. And then the you know, the other question is, “How likely am I to get arrested here?” I carry, I carry a knife that I absolutely do know how to use most of the time when I leave the house. But when I’m going to go to a demonstration, because the way that I usually engage in protests or in demonstrations is in an emergency medical response capacity, I carry a medic kit instead. And my medic kit is a clean bag that does not have any sharp objects in it. It doesn’t have anything that you know could be construed as a weapon it doesn’t have…it doesn’t…I don’t even have weed gummies which are totally like recreationally legal here, right? I won’t even put weed in the medic kit. It’s it is very much a…

Margaret 21:52
Well, if you got a federally arrested you’d be in trouble with that maybe.

Elle 21:55
Yeah, sure, I guess. But, like the medic bag is very…nothing goes in this kit ever that I wouldn’t want to get arrested carrying. And so there’s like EMT shears in there.

Margaret 22:12

Elle 22:13
But that’s that’s it in terms of like…

Margaret 22:16
Those are scary you know…the blunted tips.

Elle 22:21
I know, the blunted tips and the like safety, whatever on them. It’s just…it’s it is something to think about is “Where am I going…What…Who am I likely to encounter? And like what are the trade offs here?”

Margaret 22:37
I remember once going to a demonstration a very long time ago where our like, big plan was to get in through all of the crazy militarized downtown in this one city and, and the big plan is we’re gonna set up a Food Not Bombs inside the security line of the police, you know. And so we picked one person, I think I was the sacrificial person, who had to carry a knife, because we had to get the folding tables that we’re gonna put the food on off of the top of the minivan. And we had to do it very quickly, and they were tied on. And so I think I brought the knife and then left it in the car and the car sped off. And then we fed people and they had spent ten million dollars protecting the city from 30 people feeding people Food Not Bombs.

Elle 23:20

Margaret 23:22
But, but yeah, I mean, whereas every other day in my life, especially back then when I was a hitchhiker, I absolutely carried a knife.

Elle 23:30

Margaret 23:31
You know, for multiple purposes. Yeah, okay, so then it feels like…I like rooting it in the self defense stuff because I think about that a lot and for me it maybe then makes sense to sort of build up and out from there as to say like…you know, if someone’s threat model is my ex-partner’s new partner is trying to hack me or my abusive ex is trying to hack me or something, that’s just such a different threat model than…

Elle 24:04
Yeah, it is.

Margaret 24:05
Than the local police are trying to get me versus the federal police are trying to get me versus a foreign country is trying to get me you know, and I and it feels like sometimes those things are like contradictory to each other about what isn’t isn’t the best maybe.

Elle 24:19
They are, because each of those each of those entities is going to have different mechanisms for getting to you and so you know, an abusive partner or abusive ex is more likely to have physical access to you, and your devices, than you know, a foreign entity is, right? Because there’s there’s proximity to think about, and so you know, you might want to have….Actually the….Okay, so the abusive ex versus the cops, right. A lot of us now have have phones where the mechanism for accessing them is either a password, or some kind of biometric identifier. So like a fingerprint, or you know, face ID or whatever. And there’s this very dogmatic adherence to “Oh, well, passwords are better.” But passwords might actually not be better. Because if somebody has regular proximity to you, they may be able to watch you enter your password and get enough information to guess it. And if you’re, if you’re not using a biometric identifier, in those use cases, then what can happen is they can guess your password, or watch, you type it in enough time so that they get a good feeling for what it is. And they can then access your phone without your knowledge while you’re sleeping. Right?

Margaret 25:46

Elle 25:47
And sometimes just knowing whether or not your your adversary has access to your phone is actually a really useful thing. Because you know how much information they do or don’t have.

Margaret 26:01
Yeah. No that’s…

Elle 26:03
And so it really is just about about trade offs and harm reduction.

Margaret 26:08
That never would have occurred to me before. I mean, it would occur to me if someone’s trying to break into my devices, but I have also fallen into the all Biometrics is bad, right? Because it’s the password, you can’t change because the police can compel you to open things with biometrics, but they can’t necessarily compel you…is more complicated to be compelled to enter a password.

Elle 26:31
I mean, like, it’s only as complicated as a baton.

Margaret 26:34
Yeah, there’s that XKCD comic about this. Have you seen it?

Elle 26:37
Yes. Yes, I have. And it is it is an accurate….We like in security, we call it you know, the Rubber Hose method, right? It we….

Margaret 26:46
The implication here for anyone hasn’t read it is that they can beat you up and get you to give them their [password].

Elle 26:50
Right people, people will usually if they’re hit enough times give up their password. So you know, I would say yeah, you should disable biometric locks, if you’re going to go out to a demonstration, right? Which is something that I do. I actually do disable face ID if I’m taking my phone to a demo. But it…you may want to use it as your everyday mechanism, especially if you’re living in a situation where knowing whether or not your abuser has access to your device is likely to make a difference in whether you have enough time to escape.

Margaret 27:30
Right. These axioms or these these beliefs we all have about this as the way to do security,the you know…I mean, it’s funny, because you brought up earlier like use Signal use Tor, I am a big advocate of like, I just use Signal for all my communication, but I also don’t talk about crime pretty much it in general anyway. You know. So it’s more like just like bonus that it can’t be read. I don’t know.

Elle 27:57
Yeah. I mean, again, it depends, right? Because Signal…Signal has gotten way more usable. I’ve been, I’ve been using Signal for a decade, you know, since it was still Redphone and TextSecure. And in the early days, I used to joke that it was so secure, sometimes your intended recipients don’t even get the messages.

Margaret 28:21
That’s how I feel about GPG or PGP or whatever the fuck.

Elle 28:24
Oh, those those….

Margaret 28:27
Sorry, didn’t mean to derail you.

Elle 28:27
Let’s not even get started there. But so like Signal again, has gotten much better, and is way more reliable in terms of delivery than it used to be. But I used to, I used to say like, “Hey, if it’s if it’s really, really critical that your message reach your recipient, Signal actually might not be the way to do it.” Because if you need if you if you’re trying to send a time sensitive message with you know guarantee that it actually gets received, because Signal used to be, you know, kind of sketchy on or unreliable on on delivery, it might not have been the best choice at the time. One of the other things that I think that people, you know, think…don’t think about necessarily is that Signal is still widely viewed as a specific security tool. And that’s, that’s good in a lot of cases. But if you live somewhere, for example, like Belarus, where it’s not generally considered legal to encrypt things, then the presence of Signal on your device is enough in and of itself to get you thrown in prison.

Margaret 29:53

Elle 29:53
And so sometimes having a mechanism like, you know, Facebook secret messages might seem like a really, really sketchy thing to do. But if your threat model is you can’t have security tools on your phone, but you still want to be able to send encrypted messages or ephemeral messages, then that actually might be the best way to kind of fly under the radar. So yeah, it again just really comes down to thinking about what it is that you’re trying to protect? From who? And under what circumstances?

Margaret 30:32
Yeah, I know, I like this. I mean, obviously, of course, you’ve thought about this thing that you think about. I’m like, I’m just like, kind of like, blown away thinking about these things. Although, okay, one of these, like security things that I kind of want to push back on, and actually, this is a little bit sketchy to push back on, the knife thing. To go back to a knife. I am. I have talked to a lot of people who have gotten themselves out of very bad situations by drawing a weapon without then using it, which is illegal. It is totally illegal.

Elle 31:03

Margaret 31:03
I would never advocate that anyone threaten anyone with a weapon. But, I know people who have committed this crime in order to…even I mean, sometimes it’s in situations where it’d be legal to stab somebody,like…

Elle 31:16

Margaret 31:16
One of the strangest laws in the United States is that, theoretically, if I fear for my life, I can draw a gun…. And not if I fear for my life, if I am, if my life is literally being threatened, physically, if I’m being attacked, I can I can legally draw a firearm and shoot someone, I can legally pull a knife and stab someone to defend myself. I cannot pull a gun and say “Back the fuck off.” And not only is it illegal, but it also is a security axiom, I guess that you would never want to do that. Because as you pointed out, if you hesitate now the person has the advantage, they have more information than they used to. But I still know a lot of hitchhikers who have gotten out of really bad situations by saying, “Let me the fuck out of the car.”

Elle 32:05

Margaret 32:06
Ya know?.

Elle 32:06
Absolutely. It’s not….Sometimes escalating tactically can be a de-escalation. Right?

Margaret 32:17

Elle 32:18
Sometimes pulling out a weapon or revealing that you have one is enough to make you no longer worth attacking. But you never know how someone’s going to respond when you do that, right?

Margaret 32:33

Elle 32:33
So you never know whether it’s going to cause them to go “Oh shit, I don’t want to get stabbed or I don’t want to get shot,” and stop or whether it’s going to trigger you know a more aggressive response. So it doesn’t mean that you know, you, if you pull a weapon you have to use it.

Margaret 32:52

Elle 32:53
But if you’re going to carry one then you do need to be confident that you will use it.

Margaret 32:58
No, that that I do agree with that. Absolutely.

Elle 33:00
And I think that is an important distinction, and I you know I also think that…not ‘I think’, using a gun and using a knife are two very different things. For a lot of people, pulling the trigger on a gun is going to be easier than stabbing someone.

Margaret 33:20
Yeah that’s true.

Elle 33:21
Because of the proximity to the person and because of how deeply personal stabbing someone actually is versus how detached you can be and still pull the trigger.

Margaret 33:35

Elle 33:36
Like I would…it sounds…it feels weird to say but I would actually advocate most people carry a gun instead of a knife for that reason, and also because if you’re, if you’re worried about being physically attacked, you know you have more range of distance where you can use something like a gun than you do with a knife. You have to be, you have to be in close quarters to to effectively use a knife unless you’re like really good at throwing them for some reason and even I wouldn’t, cause if you miss…now your adversary has a knife.

Margaret 34:14
I know yeah. Unless you miss by a lot. I mean actually I guess if you hit they have a knife now too.

Elle 34:22

Margaret 34:23
I have never really considered whether or not throwing knives are effective self-defense weapons and I don’t want to opine too hard on this show.

Elle 34:31
I advise against it.

Margaret 34:32
Yeah. Okay, so to go back to threat modeling about more operational security type stuff. You’re clearly not saying these are best practices, but you’re instead it seems like you’re advocating of “This as the means by which you might determine your best practices.”

Elle 34:49

Margaret 34:49
Do you have a…do you have a a tool or do you have like a like, “Hey, here’s some steps you can take.” I mean, we all know you’ve said like, “Think about your enemy,” and such like that, but Is there a more…Can you can you walk me through that?

Elle 35:04
I mean, like, gosh, it really depends on who your adversary is, right?

Elle 35:10
Like, if you’re if you’re thinking about an abusive partner, that’s obviously going to vary based on things like, you know, is your abusive partner, someone who has access to weapons? Are they someone who is really tech savvy? Or are they not. At…The things that you have to think about are going to just depend on the skills and tools that they have access to? Is your abusive partner or your abusive ex a cop? Because that changes some things.

Margaret 35:10
Yeah, fair enough.

Margaret 35:20

Elle 35:27
So like, most people, if they actually have a real and present kind of persistent threat in their life, also have a pretty good idea of what that threat is capable of, or what that threat actor or is capable of. And so it, it’s it, I think, it winds up being fairly easy to start thinking about things in terms of like, “Okay, how is this person going to come after me? How, what, what tools do they have? What skills do they have? What ability do they have to kind of attack me or harm me?” But I think that, you know, as we start getting away from that really, really, personal threat model of like the intimate partner violence threat model, for example, and start thinking about more abstract threat models, like “I’m an anarchist living in a state,” because no state is particularly fond of us.

Margaret 36:50

Elle 36:51
I know it’s wild, because like, you know, we just want to abolish the State and States, like want to not be abolished, and I just don’t understand how, how they would dislike us for any reason..

Margaret 37:03
Yeah, it’s like when I meet someone new, and I’m like, “Hey, have you ever thought about being abolished?” They’re usually like, “Yeah, totally have a beer.”

Elle 37:10
Right. No, it’s…

Margaret 37:11

Elle 37:11
For sure. Um, but when it comes to when it comes to thinking about, you know, the anarchist threat model, I think that a lot of us have this idea of like, “Oh, the FBI is spying on me personally.” And the likelihood of the FBI specifically spying on ‘you’ personally is like, actually pretty slim. But…

Margaret 37:34

Elle 37:35

Margaret 37:37
No, no, I want to go back to thinking about it’s slim, it’s totally slim.

Elle 37:41
Look…But like, there’s there is a lot like, we know that, you know, State surveillance dragnet exists, right, we know that, you know, plaintext text messages, for example, are likely to be caught both by, you know, Cell Site Simulators, which are in really, really popular use by law enforcement agencies.

Margaret 38:08
Which is something that sets up and pretends to be a cell tower. So it takes all the data that is transmitted over it. And it’s sometimes used set up at demonstrations.

Elle 38:16
Yes. So they, they both kind of convinced your phone into thinking that they are the nearest cell tower, and then actually pass your communications on to the next, like the nearest cell tower. So your communications do go through, they’re just being logged by this entity in the middle. That’s, you know, not great. But using something…

Margaret 38:38
Unless you’re the Feds.

Elle 38:39
I mean, even if you…

Margaret 38:41
You just have to think about it from their point of. Hahah.

Elle 38:42
Even if you are the Feds, that’s actually too much data for you to do anything useful with, you know?

Margaret 38:50
Okay, I’ll stop interuppting you. Haha.

Elle 38:51
Like, it’s just…but if you’re if you are a person who is a person of interest who’s in this group, where a cell site simulator has been deployed or whatever, then then that you know, is something that you do have to be concerned about and you know, even if you’re not a person of interest if you’re like texting your friend about like, “All right, we do crime in 15 minutes,” like I don’t know, it’s maybe not a great idea. Don’t write it down if you’re doing crime. Don’t do crime. But more importantly don’t don’t create evidence that you’re planning to do crime, because now you’ve done two crimes which is the crime itself and conspiracy to commit a crime

Margaret 39:31
Be straight. Follow the law. That’s the motto here.

Elle 39:35
Yes. Oh, sorry. I just like I don’t know, autism brain involuntarily pictured, like an alternate universe in which in where which I am straight, and law abiding. And I’m just I’m very…

Margaret 39:52
Sounds terrible. I’m sorry.

Elle 39:53
Right. Sounds like a very boring….

Margaret 39:55
Sorry to put that image in your head.

Elle 39:56
I mean, I would never break laws.

Margaret 39:58

Elle 39:59
Ever Never ever. I have not broken any laws I will not break any laws. No, I think that…

Margaret 40:08
The new “In Minecraft” is “In Czarist Russia.” Instead of saying “In Minecraft,” because it’s totally blown. It’s only okay to commit crimes “In Czarist Russia.”

Elle 40:19

Margaret 40:23
All right. We don’t have to go with that. I don’t know why i got really goofy.

Elle 40:27
I might be to Eastern European Jewish for that one.

Margaret 40:31
Oh God. Oh, my God, now I just feel terrible.

Elle 40:34
It’s It’s fine. It’s fine.

Margaret 40:36
Well, that was barely a crime by east…

Elle 40:40
I mean it wasn’t necessarily a crime, but like my family actually emigrated to the US during the first set of pogroms.

Margaret 40:51

Elle 40:52
So like, pre Bolshevik Revolution.

Margaret 40:57

Elle 40:59
But yeah, anyway.

Margaret 41:02
Okay, well, I meant taking crimes like, I basically think that, you know, attacking the authorities in Czarist Russia is a more acceptable action is what I’m trying to say, I really don’t have to try and sell you on this plan.

Elle 41:16
I’m willing to trust your judgment here.

Margaret 41:19
That’s a terrible plan, but I appreciate you, okay. Either way, we shouldn’t text people about the crimes that we’re doing.

Elle 41:26
We should not text people about the crimes that we’re planning on doing. But, if you are going to try to coordinate timelines, you might want to do that using some form of encrypted messenger so that whatever is logged by a cell site simulator, if it is in existence is not possible by the people who are then retrieving those logs. And you know, and another reason to use encrypted messengers, where you can is that you don’t necessarily want your cell provider to have that unencrypted message block. And so if you’re sending SMS, then your cell, your cell provider, as the processor of that data has access to an unencrypted or plain text version of whatever text message you’re sending, where if you’re using something like Signal or WhatsApp, or Wicker, or Wire or any of the other, like, multitude of encrypted messengers that you could theoretically be using, then it’s it’s also not going directly through your your provider, which I think is an interesting distinction. Because, you know, we we know, from, I mean, we kind of sort of already knew, but we know for a fact, from the Snowden Papers, that cell providers will absolutely turn over your data to the government if they’re asked for it. And so minimizing the amount of data that they have about you to turn over to the government is generally a good practice. Especially if you can do it in a way that isn’t going to be a bunch of red flags.

Margaret 43:05
Right, like being in Belarus and using Signal.

Elle 43:08
Right. Exactly.

Margaret 43:10
Okay. Also, there’s the Russian General who used an unencrypted phone where he then got geo located and blowed up.

Elle 43:23

Margaret 43:24
Also bad threat modeling on that that guy’s part, it seems like

Elle 43:28
I it, it certainly seems to…that person certainly seems to have made several poor life choices, not the least of which was being a General in the Russian army.

Margaret 43:41
Yeah, yeah. That, that tracks. So one of the things that we talked about, while we were talking about having this conversation, our pre-conversation conversation was about…I think you brought up this idea that something that feels secret, doesn’t mean it is, and

Elle 43:59

Margaret 44:00
I’m wondering if you had more thoughts about that concept? It’s not a very good prompt.

Elle 44:05
So like, it’s it’s a totally reasonable prompt, we say a lot that, you know, security and safety are a feeling. And I think that that actually is true for a lot of us. But there’s this idea that, Oh, if you use coded language, for example, then like, you can’t get caught. I don’t actually think that’s true, because we tend to use coded language that’s like, pretty easily understandable by other people. Because the purpose of communicating is to communicate.

Margaret 44:42

Elle 44:43
And so usually, if you’re like, code language is easy enough to be understood by whoever it is you’re trying to communicate with, like, someone else can probably figure it the fuck out too. Especially if you’re like, “Hey, man, did you bring the cupcakes,” and your friend is like, “Yeah!” And then an explosion goes off shortly thereafter, right? It’s like, “Oh, by cupcakes, they meant dynamite.” So I, you know, I think that rather than then kind of like relying on this, you know, idea of how spies work or how, how anarchists communicated secretly, you know, pre WTO it’s, it’s worth thinking about how the surveillance landscape has adapted over time, and thinking a little bit more about what it means to engage in, in the modern panopticon, or the contemporary panopticon, because those capabilities have changed over time. And things like burner phones are a completely different prospect now than they used to be. Actually…

Margaret 45:47
In that they’re easier or wose?

Elle 45:49
Oh, there’s so much harder to obtain now.

Margaret 45:51
Yeah, okay.

Elle 45:52
It’s it is so much easier to correlate devices that have been used in proximity to each other than it used to be. And it’s so much easier to, you know, capture people on surveillance cameras than it used to be. I actually wrote a piece for Crimethinc about this some years ago, that that I think kind of still holds up in terms of how difficult it really, really is to procure a burner phone. And in order to do to do that safely, you would have to pay cash somewhere that couldn’t capture you on camera doing it, and then make sure that it was never turned on in proximity with your own phone anywhere. And you would have to make sure that it only communicated with other burner phones, because the second it communicates with a phone that’s associated to another person, there’s a connection between your like theoretical burner phone and that person. And so you can be kind of triangulated back to, especially if you’ve communicated with multiple people. It just it is so hard to actually obtain a device that is not in any way affiliated with your identity or the identity of any of your comrades. But, we have to start thinking about alternative mechanisms for synchronous communication.

Margaret 47:18

Elle 47:18
And, realistically speaking, taking a walk in the woods is still going to be the best way to do it. Another reasonable way to go about having a conversation that needs to remain private is actually to go somewhere that is too loud and too crowded to…for anyone to reasonably overhear or to have your communication recorded. So using using the kind of like, signal to noise ratio in your favor.

Margaret 47:51

Elle 47:52
To help drown out your own signal can be really, really useful. And I think that that’s also true of things like using Gmail, right? The signal to noise ratio, if you’re not using a tool that’s specifically for activists can be very helpful, because there is just so much more traffic happening, that it’s easier to blend in.

Margaret 48:18
I mean, that’s one reason why I mean, years ago, people were saying that’s why non activists should use GPG, the encrypted email service that is terrible, was so attempt to try and be like, if you only ever use it, for the stuff you don’t want to be known, then it like flags it as “This stuff you don’t want to be known.” And so that was like, kind of an argument for my early adoption Signal, because I don’t break laws was, you know, just be like,” Oh, here’s more people using Signal,” it’s more regularized, and, you know, my my family talks on Signal and like, it helps that like, you know, there’s a lot of different very normal legal professions that someone might have that are require encrypted communication. Yeah, no book, like accountants, lawyers. But go ahead.

Elle 49:06
No, no, I was gonna say that, like, it’s, it’s very common in my field of work for people to prefer to use Signal to communicate, especially if there is, you know, a diversity of phone operating systems in the mix.

Margaret 49:21
Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, it’s actually now it’s more convenient. You know, when I when I’m on my like, family’s SMS loop, it’s like, I constantly get messages to say, like, “Brother liked such and such comment,” and then it’s like, three texts of that comment and…anyway, but okay, one of the things that you’re talking about, “Security as a feeling,” right? That actually gets to something that’s like, there is a value in like, like, part of the reason to carry a knife is to feel better. Like, and so part of like, like anti-anxiety, like anxiety is my biggest threat most most days, personally. Right?

Elle 50:00
Have you ever considered a career in the security field, because I, my, my, my former manager, like the person who hired me into the role that I’m in right now was like, “What made you get into security?” when I was interviewing, and I was just like, “Well, I had all this anxiety lying around. And I figured, you know, since nobody will give me a job that I can afford to sustain myself on without a degree, in any other field, I may as well take all this anxiety and like, sell it as a service.”

Margaret 50:33
Yeah, I started a prepper podcast. It’s what you’re listening to right now. Everyone who’s listening. Yeah, exactly. Well, there’s a value in that. But then, but you’re talking about the Panopticon stuff, and the like, maybe being in too crowded of an environment. And it’s, and this gets into something where everyone is really going to have to answer it differently. There’s a couple of layers to this, but like, the reason that I just like, my profile picture on twitter is my face. I use my name, right?

Elle 51:03

Margaret 51:04
And, yeah, and I, and I just don’t sweat it, because I’m like, “Look, I’ve been at this long enough that they know who I am. And it’s just fine. It’s just is.” One day, it won’t be fine. And then we have other problems. Right?

Elle 51:18

Margaret 51:19
And, and, and I’m not saying that everyone as they get better security practice will suddenly start being public like it… You know, it, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Like, a lot of the reasons to not be public on social media is just because it’s a fucking pain in the ass. Like, socially, you know?

Elle 51:36

Margaret 51:36
But I don’t know, I just wonder if you have any thoughts about just like, the degree to which sometimes it’s like, “Oh, well, I just, I carry a phone to an action because I know, I’m not up to anything.” But then you get into this, like, then you’re non-normalizing… don’t know, it gets complicated. And I’m curious about your thoughts on that kind of stuff.

Elle 51:56
So like, for me, for me personally, I am very public about who I am. What I’m about, like, what my politics are. I’m extremely open about it. Partially, because I don’t think that, like I think that there is value in de-stigmatizing anarchism.

Margaret 52:20

Elle 52:20
I think there is value in being someone who is just a normal fucking human being. And also anarchist.

Margaret 52:29

Elle 52:30
And I think that, you know, I…not even I think. I know, I know that, through being exactly myself and being open about who I am, and not being super worried about the labels that other people apply to themselves. And instead, kind of talking about, talking about anarchism, both from a place of how it overlaps with Judaism, because it does in a lot of really interesting ways, but also just how it informs my decision making processes. I’ve been able to expose people who would not necessarily have had any, like, concept of anarchism, or the power dynamics that we’re interested in equalizing to people who just wouldn’t have wouldn’t have even thought about it, or would have thought that anarchists are like this big, scary, whatever. And, like, there, there are obviously a multitude of tendencies within anarchism, and no anarchist speaks for anybody but themselves, because that’s how it works. But, it’s one of the things that’s been really interesting to me is that in the security field, one of the new buzzwords is Zero Trust. And the idea is that you don’t want to give any piece of technology kind of the sole ability to to be the linchpin in your security, right? So you want to build redundancy, you want to make sure that no single thing is charged with being the gatekeeper for all of your security. And I think that that concept actually also applies to power. And so I…when I’m trying to talk about anarchism in a context where it makes sense to security people, I sometimes talk about it as like a Zero Trust mechanism for organizing a society.

Margaret 54:21

Elle 54:21
Where you just you…No person is trustworthy enough to hold power over another person. And, so like, I’m really open about it, but the flip side of that is that, you know, I also am a fucking anarchist, and I go to demonstrations, and sometimes I get arrested or whatever. And so I’m not super worried about the government knowing who I am because they know exactly who I am. But I don’t share things like my place of work on the internet because I’ve gotten death threats from white nationalists. And I don’t super want white nationalists like sending death threats into my place of work because It’s really annoying to deal with.

Margaret 55:02

Elle 55:03
And so you know, there’s…it really comes down to how you think about compartmentalizing information. And which pieces of yourself you want public and private and and how, how you kind of maintain consistency in those things.

Margaret 55:21

Elle 55:22
Like people will use the same…people will like be out and anarchists on Twitter, but use the same Twitter handle as their LinkedIn URL where they’re talking about their job and have their legal name. And it’s just like, “Buddy, what are you doing?”

Margaret 55:37

Elle 55:38
So you do have to think about how pieces of data can be correlated and tied back to you. And what story it is that you’re you’re presenting, and it is hard and you are going to fuck it up. Like people people are going to fuck it up. Compartmentalization is super hard. Maintaining operational security is extremely hard. But it is so worth thinking about. And even if you do fuck it up, you know, that doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world, it might mean that you have to take some extra steps to mitigate that risk elsewhere.

Margaret 56:11
The reason I like this whole framework that you’re building is that I tend to operate under this conception that clandestinity is a trap. I don’t want to I don’t want to speak this….I say it as if it’s a true statement across all and it’s not it. I’m sure there’s absolute reasons in different places at different times. But in general, when I look at like social movements, they, once they move to “Now we’re just clandestine.” That’s when everyone dies. And, again, not universally,

Elle 56:40
Yeah, but I mean, okay, so this is where I’m gonna get like really off the wall. Right?

Margaret 56:46
All right. We’re an hour in. It’s the perfect time.

Elle 56:50
I know, right? People may or may not know who Allen Dulles is. But Allen

Margaret 56:54
Not unless they named an airport after him.

Elle 56:56
They Did.

Margaret 56:57
Oh, then i do who he is.

Elle 56:59
Allen Dulles is one of the people who founded the CIA. And he released this pamphlet called “73 Points On Spycraft.” And it’s a really short read. It’s really interesting, I guess. But the primary point is that if you are actually trying to be clandestine, and be successful about it, you want to be as mundane as possible.

Margaret 57:22

Elle 57:23
And in our modern world with the Panopticon being what it is, the easiest way to be clandestine, is actually to be super open. So that if you are trying to hide something, if there is something that you do want to keep secret, there’s enough information out there about you, that you’re not super worth digging into.

Margaret 57:46
Oh, yeah. Cuz they think they already know you.

Elle 57:48
Exactly. So if, if that is what your threat model is, then the best way to go about keeping a secret is to flood as many other things out there as possible. So that it’s just it’s hard to find anything, but whatever it is that you’re flooding.

Margaret 58:04
Oh, it’s like I used to, to get people off my back about my dead name, I would like tell one person in a scene, a fake dead name, and be like, “But you can’t tell anyone.”

Elle 58:15

Margaret 58:16
And then everyone would stop asking about my dead name, because they all thought they knew it, because that person immediately told everyone,

Elle 58:22

Margaret 58:23

Elle 58:24
It’s, it’s going back to that same using the noise to hide your signal concept, that it…the same, the same kind of concepts and themes kind of play out over and over and over again. And all security really is is finding ways to do harm reduction for yourself, finding ways to minimize the risk that you’re undertaking just enough that that you can operate in whatever it is that you’re trying to do.

Margaret 58:53
No, I sometimes I like, ask questions. And then I am like, Okay, well don’t have an immediate follow up, because I just need to like, think about it. Instead of being like, “I know immediately what to say about that.” But okay, so, but with clandestinity in general in this this concept…I also think that this is true on a kind of movement level in a way that I I worry about sometimes not necessarily….Hmm, what am I trying to say? Because I also really hate telling people what to do. It’s like kind of my thing I don’t like telling people what to do. But there’s a certain level…

Elle 59:25

Margaret 59:25
Yeah, you’d be shocked to know,

Elle 59:27
You? Don’t like telling people what to do?

Margaret 59:31
Besides telling people not to tell me what to do. That’s one of my favorite things to tell people. But, there’s a certain amount of.

Margaret 59:38
Oh, that’s true, like different conceptions of freedom.

Elle 59:38
But that’s not telling people what to do, that’s telling people what not to do.

Elle 59:44
It’s actually setting a boundary as opposed to dictating a behavior.

Margaret 59:48
But I’ve been in enough relationships where I’ve learned that setting boundaries is the same as telling people to do. This is a funny joke.

Elle 59:55
Ohh co-dependency.

Margaret 59:58
But all right, there’s a quote from a guy whose name I totally space who was an old revolutionist, who wasn’t very good at his job. And his quote was, “Those who make half a revolution dig their own graves.” And I think he like, I think it proved true for him. If I remember correctly, I think he died in jail after kind of making half a revolution with some friends. I think he got like arrested for pamphleteering or something,

Elle 1:00:20

Margaret 1:00:21
It was a couple hundred years ago. And but there’s this but then if you look forward in history that like revolutionists, who survive are the ones who win. Sometimes, sometimes the revolutionists win, and then their comrades turn on them and murder them. But, I think overall, the survival rate of a revolution is better when you win is my theory. And and so there’s this this concept where there’s a tension, and I don’t have an answer to it. And I want people to actually think about it instead of assuming, where the difference between videotaping a cop car on fire and not is more complicated than people want you to know. Because, if you want there to be more cop cars on fire, which I do not unless we’re in Czarist Russia, in which case, you’re in an autocracy, and it’s okay to set the cop cars on fire, but I’m clearly not talking about that, or the modern world. But, you’re gonna have to film it on your cell phone in order for people to fucking know that it’s happening. Sure. And and that works absolutely against your best interest. Like, on an individual level, and even a your friends’ level.

Elle 1:01:25
So like, here’s the thing, being in proximity to a burning cop car is not in and of itself a crime.

Margaret 1:01:33

Elle 1:01:34
So there’s, there’s nothing wrong with filming a cop car on fire.

Margaret 1:01:41
But there’s that video…

Margaret 1:01:41

Elle 1:01:41
There is something wrong with filming someone setting a cop car on fire. And there’s something extremely wrong with taking a selfie while setting a cop car on fire. And don’t do that, because you shouldn’t do crime. Obviously, right?

Elle 1:01:42
But there’s Layers there…No, go ahead.

Margaret 1:02:03
Okay, well, there’s the video that came out of Russia recently, where someone filmed themselves throwing Molotovs at a recruitment center. And one of the first comments I see is like, “Wow, this person has terrible OpSec.” And that’s true, right? Like this person is not looking at how to maximize their lack of chance of going to jail, which is probably the way to maximize that in non Czarist Russia… re-Czarist Russia, is to not throw anything burning at buildings. That’s the way to not go to jail.

Elle 1:02:35

Margaret 1:02:35
And then if you want to throw the thing at the… and if all you care about is setting this object on fire, then don’t film yourself.

Elle 1:02:41

Margaret 1:02:41
But if you want more people to know that this is a thing that some people believe is a worthwhile thing to do, you might need to film yourself doing it now that person well didn’t speak.

Elle 1:02:53
Well no.

Margaret 1:02:56

Elle 1:02:56
You may not need to film yourself doing it. Right? Because what what you can do is if, for example, for some reason, you are going to set something on fire.

Margaret 1:03:09
Right, in Russia.

Elle 1:03:09
Perhaps what you might want to do is first get the thing to be in a state where it is on fire, and then begin filming the thing once it is in a burning state.

Margaret 1:03:25
Conflaguration. Yeah.

Elle 1:03:25
Right? And that can that can do a few things, including A) you’re not inherently self incriminating. And, you know, if if there are enough people around to provide some form of cover, like for example, if there are 1000s of other people’s cell phones also in proximity, it might even create some degree of plausible deniability for you because what fucking dipshit films themself doing crimes. So it’s, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s some timing things, right. And the idea is to get it…if you are a person who believes that cop cars look best on fire…

Margaret 1:04:10
Buy a cop car, and then you set it on fire. And then you film it.

Elle 1:04:15
I mean, you know, you know, you just you opportunistically film whenever a cop car happens to be on fire in your proximity.

Margaret 1:04:23
Oh, yeah. Which might have been set on fire by the person who owned it. There’s no reason to know one way or not.

Elle 1:04:27
Maybe the police set the cop car on fire you know? You never know. There’s no way to there….You don’t have to you don’t have to speculate about how the cop car came to be on fire. You can just film a burning cop car. And so the you know, I think that the line to walk there is just making sure there’s no humans in your footage of things that you consider to be art.

Margaret 1:04:29
Yeah. No, it it makes sense. And I guess it’s like because people very, very validly have been very critical about the ways that media or people who are independently media or whatever, like people filming shit like this, right? But But I think then to say that like, therefore no, no cop cars that are on fire should ever be filmed versus the position you’re presenting, which is only cop cars that are already on fire might deserve to be filmed, which is the kind of the long standing like film the broken window, not the window breaker and things like that. But…

Elle 1:05:29
I think and I think also there’s, you know, there’s a distinction to be made between filming yourself setting a cop car on fire, and filming someone else setting a cop car on fire, because there’s a consent elemenet, right?

Margaret 1:05:34
Totally. Totally.

Elle 1:05:47
You shouldn’t like…Don’t do crime. Nobody should do crime. But if you are going to do crime, do it on purpose. Right?

Margaret 1:05:55
Fair enough.

Elle 1:05:55
Like that’s, that’s what civil disobedience is. Civil disobedience is doing crime for the purpose of getting caught to make a point. That’s what it is. And if you if you really feel that strongly about doing a crime to make a point, and you want everyone to know that you’re doing a crime to make a point, then that’s, that’s a risk calculation that you yourself need to make for yourself. But you can’t make that calculation for anybody else.

Margaret 1:06:25
I think that’s a great way to sum it up.

Elle 1:06:27
So unless your friend is like, “Yo, I’m gonna set this cop car on fire. Like, get the camera ready, hold my beer.” You probably shouldn’t be filming them.

Margaret 1:06:38
See you in 30 years.

Elle 1:06:39
Right? You probably shouldn’t be filming them setting the cop car on fire either.

Margaret 1:06:43
No. No

Elle 1:06:44
And also, that’s a shitty friend because they’ve just implicated you in conspiracy, right?

Margaret 1:06:49

Elle 1:06:50
Friends don’t implicate friends.

Margaret 1:06:53
It’s a good, it’s a good rule. Yeah, yeah. All right. Well, I that’s not entirely where I immediately expected to go with Threat Modeling. But I feel like we’ve covered an awful lot. Is there something? Is there something…Do you have any, like final thoughts about Threat Modeling, and as relates to the stuff that we’ve been talking about?

Elle 1:07:18
I think that you know, the thing that I do really want to drive home. And that honestly does come back to your point about clandestinity being a trap is that, again, the purpose of threat modeling is to first understand, you know, what risks you’re trying to protect against, and then figure out how to do what you’re accomplishing in a way that minimizes risk. But the important piece is still doing whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, whether that’s movement building, or something else. And so there there is, there is a calculation that needs to be made in terms of what level of risk is acceptable to you. But if if, ultimately, your risk threshold is preventing you from accomplishing whatever you’re trying to accomplish, then it’s time to take a step back, recalculate and figure out whether or not you actually want to accomplish the thing, and what level of risk is worth taking. Because I think that, you know, again, if if you’re, if your security mechanisms are preventing you from doing the thing that you’re you set out to try to do, then your adversaries are already winning, and something probably needs to shift.

Margaret 1:08:39
I really like that line. And so I feel like that’s a decent spot, place to end on. Do. Do you have anything that you’d like to shout out? People can follow you on the internet? Or they shouldn’t follow you on the internet? What? What do you what do you want to advocate for here?

Elle 1:08:53
If you follow me on the internet, I’m so sorry. That’s really all I can say. I’m, I am on the internet. I am a tire fire. I’m probably fairly easy to find based on my name, my pronouns and the things that I’ve said here today, and I can’t recommend following my Twitter.

Margaret 1:09:17
I won’t put in the show notes then.

Elle 1:09:19
I mean, you’re welcome to but I can’t advocate in good conscience for anyone to pay attention to anything that I have to say.

Margaret 1:09:27
Okay, so go back and don’t listen to the last hour everyone.

Elle 1:09:31
I mean, I’m not going to tell you what to do.

Margaret 1:09:34
I am that’s my favorite thing to do.

Elle 1:09:36
I mean, you know, this is just like my opinion, you know? There are no leaders. We’re all the leaders. I don’t know. Do do do what you think is right.

Margaret 1:09:55
Agreed. All right. Well, thank you so much.

Elle 1:09:59
Thank you. I really appreciate it.

Margaret 1:10:07
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, you should tell people about it by whatever means occurs to you to tell people about it, which might be the internet, it might even be in person, it might be by taking a walk, leaving your cell phones behind, and then getting in deep into the woods and saying,” I like the following podcast.” And then the other person will be like, “Really, I thought we were gonna make out or maybe do some crimes.” But, instead you have told them about the podcast. And I’m recording this at the same time as I record the intro, and now the dog has moved on to chewing on my cloak. Why am I wearing a cloak? That is a question between me and God, I guess. And if you want to support this podcast, you can do so by supporting its publisher, which is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And actually, Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness is a very old project, but also a new project. We’re relaunching it’s And we’re going to be bringing you all kinds of stories, and podcasts, and memoir, and role playing games, and all kinds of fun stuff. I think you’ll actually really like it. I hope you really like it. And we’re also looking for more content, and we do pay our contributors, so please check out our submission guidelines. Or just support us on Patreon which is And we send out a zine every month to our backers as well as put it online. Although people can also eventually read the content for free on our website. Because paywalls are gross and weird. In particular, I would like to thank Mikki, and Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jennipher, Eleanor, Natalie Kirk, Michiahah. Nora, Sam, Chris and Hoss the dog. Your contributions are absolutely what make this podcast possible. Because it no longer supports me directly. My this used to be supported by a Patreon that was for me directly. But now it instead supports a whole bunch of people doing a whole bunch of other things with as Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness and also people who are doing transcription and editing and all of those things that make podcasting possible. So thank you so much. I hope you’re doing as well as you can, and I hope that you to find someone’s arm to chew on in a very annoying fashion. Much like my dog is doing to me. Take care

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S1E42 – Bay Area Doula Project on Abortion and Abortion Access

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Margaret talks with two people who work with the Bay Area Doula Project. They talk about different kinds of abortions, histories of abortion methods, different kinds of self-managed abortions, clincal and procedural abortions, pharmacological methods vs herbal methods, and abortion access.

Guest Info

Bay Area Doula Project can be found on Instagram @BayAreaDoulaProject or on Twitter @BAPDtweets

Host and Publisher

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @LiveLikeTheWorldIsDying. You can support the show on Patreon at

Show Links

If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice
We’re a national nonprofit network of law students and lawyers who know that reproductive justice doesn’t just happen.

Places to donate:

Some history of misoprostol in Brazil:

Some history and resources on Reproductive Justice:

Some info on trans-inclusive abortion care:

California judge overturns 11-year prison term for woman whose baby was stillborn
Adora Perez, who admitted to using meth, was originally charged with murder and pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter.

Women who were recently imprisoned for their pregnancy outcomes in California:

Adora Perez:

Chelsea Becker:

For the following, folks may want to consider digital security. As in use a VPN to visit these links, TOR, ect…

We like hackblossom’s guide: Digital Defense Fund also has great info:

info on abortion with herbs:

info on abortion with pills:

Other Projects
Awesome fund in Mexico City:
The New York Doula Project:

They also have this great zine on being your own doula:


Margaret 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast. It feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret killjoy. And this week I’m talking about some end times stuff. It’s not really end times. End times is too complex… whatever. You’ve heard me talk about my opinion about end times and how complicated that is. But, I think that is absolutely happening right now is that people’s ability to access abortion is being stripped away inside the United States. And so I’m talking today with two people from the Bay Area Doula Project, about self managed abortion, about the state of things, about the different types of abortions that one might seek to release their pregnancy. And I think that there’s going to be a lot in here for every listener, including those who think it doesn’t affect them directly. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show in the network.


Margaret 02:13
Hi, if you two could introduce yourself I guess with your your names, your pronouns and kind of what you do what what brings you on the podcast today.

Aspen 02:25
I’m glad to go first. My name is Aspen I use they/them pronouns. I’m an abortion doula fertility awareness educator and also an herbalist. And I’ve been work doing abortion work for the past, I don’t know, handful of years, seven years or so I’ve been deepening the relationship with the idea of abortion, the practice of abortion, the herbs that have been facilitating abortion for centuries. And I’m excited to be on this podcast just because it feels like a really but especially potent moment even thoughaccess to abortion has been on the front of my mind for a long time. I’m like thankful for this moment where it’s in more people’s awareness.

Cobalt 03:08
And I’m Cobalt, I’ve been doing abortion support work, you know everything from emotional support, to rides and hosting people who have to travel and also abortion, you know, education about self managed abortion with pills and abortion support education, helping other people kind of understand what their power is in supporting other people through their abortions, whether it’s in or out of clinic. And I’ve been doing all of that for more than a decade now. And yeah, what Aspen said about why we’re here. And oh, and we are with Bay Area Doula Project. Which, there are a bunch of doula projects around the country that have, you know, different ways of working that are just based on you know, what’s appropriate for the area and the collectives. And, we are a pretty small group focused on, like you said, the supporting people individually and also helping other people learn how they can support their communities.

Margaret 04:06
So what does that look like with the Bay Area Doula Project? Is it you know, can people just reach out to you? Is it like, basically, people are like, “I’m hoping to have an abortion. I’m pregnant and wish I wasn’t. Can you all help me in various ways?” Or what is the…what is the actual project kind of look like on a tangible level?

Cobalt 04:24
Aspen does a lot of the answering the emails, so I think they should talk on this.

Aspen 04:29
Yeah. So we definitely have like a platform for people to reach out if they’re looking for…you know, as an abortion doula, we hold a lot of hats. You know, sometimes we provide counseling. You know, sometimes people don’t…don’t know their options, don’t realize like, you know, they have options inside clinics, outside of clinics. And so meeting people where they’re at whether they’ve already made their decision or they’re still in that sort of uncertainty, space of uncertainty. We can pair people with abortion doulas, if that’s what they’re seeking. We do also partner with an organization called Access, which is our, our local California abortion fund. And through that sort of pathway, we can connect them with like ride support, child care support, hotel if the hotel if they need it, because sometimes abortions need multi or multi day procedures and they need overnight support. And especially if people are traveling, even in California people have to travel hours. So we also provide trainings and that’s a lot of our work at Bay Area Doula Project is providing trainings so that people can learn how to support their communities as an abortion doula or an abortion supporter.

Margaret 05:36
So why do people have to travel hours if you’re in the golden land of California, where everything is perfect and easy and accessible? And everything’s great.

Cobalt 05:48
Yeah, because we still don’t actually have that very many clinics, because the clinics that do exist in smaller towns tend to be extremely risk averse. And so they may not do procedures for people who have, you know, a pre existing medical conditions like a heart condition. Maybe even the reason that they need to terminate is also the reasons they’ll be refused an abortion.

Margaret 06:11
Oh, cool.

Cobalt 06:13
People may be refused, because the anesthesiologist doesn’t know their job and doesn’t know how to work on fat people, or maybe the gestational limit that the clinic has. And so therefore, they need to travel to a place where they can get in hospital care, or something like that. And, yeah, so and or the clinic that’s in their town is maybe only open one day a week, and it’s not a day that they’re able to do things.

Cobalt 06:36
How do people….you said that one of the things that you end up helping people do is pick between clinic and non clinic, clinic abortions? What kind of, I mean, obviously, you can’t give the listener advice, because you don’t know the listeners position. But like, How does someone go about picking between clinic or non clinic for their abortion?

Aspen 06:54
That’s a good question. I think that…so so earlier, Cobaltt and I were talking about how we really complement each other and how we practice and how we move through this work. And so I’ll talk from my perspective, as someone who identifies as a spiritual…like I and like, something that’s big for me, when I’m walking someone through that process is like, consent is like the number one thing like every step of the way, they’re making a choice. And it’s their choice. And I think choice has been one of those big words around the abortion movement. And it’s not just the choice to have an abortion and not have an abortion, but how they’re going to have an abortion, who they want to be around. Do they want to be in their home releasing their pregnancy? Do they want to go to a clinic? Do they have the time to actually work with herbs over a couple of weeks? Or do they want to get it done sooner? Because it’s just a matter of practicality? And like, what are they feeling? Because I think that when it comes to reproductive justice work, and when it comes to abortion, a lot of sometimes there’s a lot of healing and doing what our body consents to, because most people in this world have had an experience where that consent has been crossed. And so I think that this is an opportunity to heal that within them spiritually and emotionally. So I think that, walking through that someone’s process with that is asking a lot of questions and just meeting them where they’re at.

Cobalt 08:13
Yeah, for me, I work with a lot of folks, but specifically with trans guys, and, you know, other folks who may deal with like, body dysphoria stuff, and, you know, for a lot of reasons, needing to get an abortion in clinic might just really add to that. So, you know, that’s one of the reasons that a lot of people I work with might decide, you know, that they would just like to do some pills and have something that’s like, relatively straightforward and doesn’t involve anyone sticking any instruments anywhere. And, you know, but of course, all that’s also limited by, you know, things like what’s the gestational age that you’re at, also by like any other health concerns people might have, how available pills are, things like that. So, you know, there’s like a combination of physical safety concerns why someone might decide that working with the clinic is more important. There’s also a lot of other things that can go in to making it so that doing things outside of clinic is both safe and practical and a much better experience.

Margaret 09:17
That makes sense, as a trans person who is very statistically unlikely to get pregnant, personally, pending various medical things that may or may not be on the horizon. I’m curious, though, you know, you say that you you do work with, with trans folks who, who do need abortions, and I’m wondering if you have any, like, advice around seeking abortions while trans whether how that impacts either the way that one might navigate the social and political environment of the medical industry or, and this is completely I have literally no knowledge about this about whether or not various medical transitioning that people might be doing, whether that impacts anything about the decisions that they might be making? Basically just like, so much of what we hear about about abortion applies, for good reason, you know, majority of the people who can get pregnant are cis women I would guess statistically, but I feel like there’s not as much information out there for people who aren’t.

Cobalt 10:15
Yeah, so let’s see, there’s a few things. First of all, so Miffy and Miso, the abortion pills, both are have have like very low incidence of side effects, but Miffy. Sorry, so I should first say slang terms, Miffy is mifepristone. Miso is misoprostol. Much easier to just say Miffy and Miso. So mifepristone is the Ru-486. It’s a progesterone blocker, and it can help increase the effectiveness of the abortion. So you can do things with Miffy and Miso together or just Miso alone, like either one is safe and effective, but with Miffy is a little bit more. Okay, so that said, Miffy can increase blood levels of testosterone, Valium, Xanax, ibuprofen, and some other drugs. So you don’t have to, like stop taking T or something in order to, you know, take medication abortion, but it may actually heighten your T levels in your blood for a little bit, you know, you should also be careful, if you’re taking any of those meds to maybe calm yourself or reduce pain. You might need a slightly lower dose than usual. So that’s like, one thing is like, just, you know, interactions and things to worry about. But as far as dealing with clinics, it can be really complicated. You know, even in the Bay Area, not every provider that you might go see is super, you know, trans informed. And you know, even if you have a support person with you, right, like, it can be really hard to make decisions about how much you’re going to push back against anything, because it might compromise your care. And so people you know, may try to go stealth, you know, they may be out and you know, put pronouns on the door, and really, you know, like, make demands of people really just, yeah. That part depends on personality. Problems that can come up, people can hear a masculine voice on the phone and think it’s your, you know, somebody’s boyfriend calling to set up the appointment for them and just refuse to serve them.

Margaret 12:12
Oh, shit. Okay. No, that makes sense. I just, that never would have occurred to me. Yeah. Because they think that the, they think that the person who needs the abortion is not the one making the decision?

Cobalt 12:21
Exactly, yeah.

Margaret 12:22

Cobalt 12:22
Yeah, they’re worried about coercion. And so they’re, like, “No, how, you know, the, the person who’s getting the abortion has to call.” and they’re like, “But it’s me!”

Margaret 12:31

Cobalt 12:32
And so that can be difficult. I’ve even heard, even heard of people having problems with insurance. Like if they had even if you have insurance, insurance might go “Well, well, your gender marker is male. And this is not…this procedure is not for men.”

Margaret 12:46
Oh, god.

Margaret 12:47
Yeah. Yeah. It’s awesome. And, yeah, and then there’s, you know, just stuff like being in the waiting room can be kind of uncomfortable, right? Like, one of the reasons that, you know, we do like waiting room support is because, you know, you’re sitting in the waiting room, and people are looking at you weird, because you’re a like, dude, and why are you there? Or sometimes clinics will be conscious of that. But, their solution is to like, sweep you into a backroom somewhere. So nobody sees you. And like that could feel like crap too. Yeah. So yeah, those are a few of the challenges that I can think of.

Margaret 13:28
Yeah, I could see that impacting people’s decision about clinic versus nonclinic, for example.

Cobalt 13:34
Yeah. And also, you know, if you’re, you know, if the place you have to go is like “women’s clinic”, like it can be really hard to tell if they’re gonna be, you know, yeah, kind, anything, giving you good service, give it give you you know, quality medical care. Yeah.

Margaret 13:50
So, let’s presume that I don’t know anything about how abortions work, which is not totally the case, but I try… whatever. How, you know, I’ve heard you’ve talk about abortion pills and herbal abortions so far, like on this, what are the what are the differences between this. I’m under the impression both can be used for both self managed and being taken care of, I don’t know the opposite of self managed. You know, what, what are the advantages or disadvantages that people might be looking at?

Aspen 14:24
Yeah, I can start and please fill in any gaps I have Cobalt. So herbal abortions, herbal release. One of the incredible things I think about when I think of herbal abortion is it’s an opportunity to connect to connect with your individuals ancestral medicine, like all of our lineages. There have been abortions that have happened within our lineages you know, we think we focus on the birth but you know, it’s an opportunity to connect with the plants from your your lineages, connect with your families medicine to like take things slow and learn a form of medicine that can’t be taken away by the governmen,t. Can’t…there can’t be distribution mishaps when you can grow these plants in your garden outside or in a pot even, or even on your windowsill like these plants are in grocery stores. They are literally under our nose are everywhere. And I’m, you know, talking from a place in California where things are growing a lot. So it’s also… I’m in a position of privilege to, just how incredible the growing season is out here. But the thing about herbal abortions is that a lot of this medicine has been like scattered, it’s been specifically targeted through many systems of harm, through colonization, through the witch trials, through even through like, medical Industrial Complex was like built on the backs of herbalist and medicine, people who knew this knew how to control their family size. And so there’s a lot of reclaiming someone’s power when they are working with plants and other medicines too. But I’m just talking specifically about this. But because that information has been so scattered and hurt and harmed, like a lot of it has contained, like that lineage of medicine has continued and has been resilient. And there’s a lot of information, but a lot has been lost. And so one of the things I think has been lost is that either the information of how to induce an abortion later, later on after you know, six weeks and someone’s last menstrual period isn’t so accessible. So it’s much better and safer. And someone will have better effects if they use plants earlier on, either even before they miss their period, which is just isn’t an option for everyone. And so that’s definitely a con of like herbal abortion is that people because we’re trapped in this, in capitalism, people don’t even realize that they missed their period. Because we’re not taught how to track our cycles, or how to follow our own rhythm when we’re following the rhythm of capitalism. And it can take two, three weeks of an herbal protocol where you’re taking herbs all day long, on quite a regiment before the pregnancy actually releases. And so during that time, you’re going through quite a phase of uncertainty. Are the herbs going to work? Are they not going to work? And you also have to really keep with it. And so for some people, that’s a pro and some people that’s a con but it definitely is a much more involved process than some of the other options. And I think that something that can really help for anyone who’s releasing a pregnancy with herbs is to prepare for it. Prepare for your abortion a year before. So it means like building relationships with these plants. It’s not just picking up the plants that you just met for most people. And so that’s the herbal piece. There’s also the medication piece, and someone can, depending on where they are, either access medications from a clinic, where they’re given mifepristone inside the clinic and then they’re given misoprostol to take within 48 hours. The mifepristone ends the pregnancy. It blocks progesterone and the misoprostol causes uterine contractions, which is cool, because that’s the same thing that the herbs are doing. So that is an option for some people. And now, you know, and there’s been really interesting developments since COVID, that telehealth, and people are able to access these medications by ordering them online. In some states, people can even order these medications, the abortion pills even before they’re pregnant, just to have on their shelf. And so when abortion is like induced with medications, it can be more of that something’s being done to your body, then your body is like just releasing the pregnancy on its own. So it can be more of a physical experience than the herbs. Do you want to add a little bit about medications before I move to like surgical and those kinds of things.

Cobalt 18:49
I was actually going to ask you to say something about combining herbs and medications.

Aspen 18:54
Yeah, so herbs and medications play really well together. You know, like we mentioned, like I mentioned before, this process of mifepristone, which is blocking progesterone and then misoprostol, which is inducing uterine contractions and stimulating the uterus, this is actually the same template, herbs have been doing the same things that the way we ingest herbs that they induce on to the body. And so in some cases, some people can only access misoprostol because it’s more easily accessible. It’s cheaper than mifepristone and there is a beautiful legacy of around the world of misoprostol being used on its own. it is highly safe and effective. And so when someone doesn’t have access to that first pill that mifepristone, this is where pills…or this is where herbs can come in. Herbs that block progesterone, pair really well at misoprostol, and so there are herbs that can help in combination with misoprostol help ease the process of abortion, but also herbs can come in just to help our nervous system, help calm us down, like I’m just I’m always about talking about chamomile to help you know ease our bodies leading into an abortion, after an abortion, and herbs are also there to help supplement all that blood loss with iron support and nutrition.

Margaret 20:08
Well, I’ve heard that both medicated and herbal abortions can be fairly intense, like, physically on you, and so the idea of like, working with something to sort of mitigate that, that makes sense to me.

Cobalt 20:20
Yeah, I was also gonna say, nausea can be an issue when dealing with all those uterine cramps to you, which is something where like, yeah, you can take a Dramamine. For that you can also yeah, have some ginger or some other…anything that kind of helps calm that nausea is a good idea. Also to add on to like the history of Miso was basically like, we owe a huge debt to people in Brazil, for miso it was originally an ulcer medication, it still is an ulcer medication, it’s prescribed to humans, and also two dogs and horses, possibly other animals as well. And it was available in Brazil with a big warning on it saying that, you know, you shouldn’t take it as a pregnant person. And it’s known that it could cause interactions. And so people in Brazil started using this. And eventually, providers in Brazil were like, “We’re seeing a lot fewer complications from more physical abortion techniques,” right, from, you know, people, you know, sticking unsterile instruments in places that they shouldn’t go or, you know, having like punctures, because of the instruments being, you know, used or misused, and were like, “Well, this is happening a lot less what’s going on?” and you know, sort of like talking to, you know, patients and things. And that is how Miso got figured out. You know, it was really people creatively, you know, off label usage. And, yeah, and that was in like, the, like, late 80s and into the 90s, when that was going on, and then we got Miffy. If you’re, if you’re a human in the 90s, then, Ru-486. Right, was developed in France in early 90s, as well, and then we didn’t get them as available in the US, the FDA didn’t approve them. I shouldn’t say available in US, but the FDA didn’t approve them until 2000. So, yeah, there’s gonna be a lot of, you know, Aspen mentioned, telehealth, you know, also allegedly, one could use an online pharmacy to order things they’re often called, like a combo pack, where it just comes with like, you know, the Miffy is in like, one, you know, larger circle of the foil pack and then the the Miso pills that you need are in the rest of this, you know, smaller bits there.

Margaret 22:37
So when you say “”allegedly”, is that because it’s not always legal in all areas, and yet somehow might still be accessible in areas where it’s not legal, which obviously no one should ever do.

Margaret 22:45
Yeah and actually, so this is the interesting thing about abortion generally, and, you know, abortion with pills specifically, and even just supporting people with abortions is that basically, there’s no specific laws against it. So in a lot of ways, it’s totally legal. But also, as we know, basically people can make anything illegal if they try hard enough if they really care. And so people will dig up practicing medicine without a license and abuse of a corpse and all kinds of other stuff that was never meant to criminalize, you know, a pregnancy loss of any kind. And yet, it happens all the time. It especially happens with people who use drugs and come to the hospital having a pregnancy loss. And that is like the most common way for people to get reported and in fact, there were like two cases within the last few years in California where we had like this one jackass prosecutor tried to charge two different women with murder for…

Margaret 23:41
Oh my god.

Cobalt 23:42
Yeah, for having admitted to using meth and then having….and there’s no medical connection. Like there’s literally like no research that indicates that that’s…there’s a correlation there, but he managed it. Luckily they’ve now both had their charges fully dismissed. But you know, it’s still lost them years of their lives. So yeah, so yeah, so basically, I’m gonna say “allegedly”, and, you know, in my craft and whatever else, so for some things. And Aspen…

Aspen 24:10
I also want to just add “allegedly”, misoprostol is also used to stop hemorrhaging inbirth, and so midwives have access to misoprostol, allegedly, so they should have it in stock.

Margaret 24:20
Yeah. For births. Yes,

Aspen 24:23
Yes. Strictly, yes.

Margaret 24:26

Cobalt 24:27
Yeah. I mean, it’s also the standard protocol, when someone you know, has experienced a pregnancy loss, you know, the loss of a pregnancy that they wanted to keep, and there might still be some tissue around that needs to be expelled. So yeah, it’s, it’s used for a lot.

Margaret 24:44
What’s the effective shelf life of….the prepper and me is coming out whenever like things can be acquired. I’m like, “Acquiring things! How long does it last?”

Cobalt 24:55
Yeah. I forget right now what the shelf life is, I’d have to look it up. I’m also fairly laissez faire, about expiration dates, you know, things like, it’s always best to, you know, have the things as fresh as possible. And also, things often continue to work long past, you know what it says on the bottle.

Margaret 25:18
Yeah, I’m under the impression, it’s like a, you just start losing some efficacy rather than entering danger. But then the danger might be that you’re using something that is less effective than you need it to be is would be my concern. But I also don’t know anything about applying or using these things. So I don’t know whether you’re like, “Oh, it’s not working, just take more whether that’s like ever the plan.” I’m not trying to make y’all give medical advice on this show.

Aspen 25:40
Can’t give medical advice. But I do want to say that like the general protocol, if someone does have…if someone is taking medication and like not, all the tissue doesn’t actually release just to take another protocol of the medication within the week are within 48 hours. And so if an abortion is incomplete, the risks are, we’ll get into the risks a little bit later, but there is like the potential for infection and things like that, even though those those those possibilities are lower than the reality that the body will just continue to release the pregnancy on its own. But it also, it also depends on how far along someone is. And so there’s a certain protocol of taking a certain amount up until 12 or 13 weeks. And then after that point, actually, it’s better to take less misoprostol to release a pregnancy. So it just depends on how how far along the pregnancy is.

Cobalt 26:34
Yeah, and that’s because the the body gets more, I guess sensitized to the miso and more, you know, prone to do contractions as you get later in the pregnancy. And so you actually want less and there is a danger of taking too much in the sense that the contractions can get so strong that that becomes a danger, a uterine rupture. So yeah, like, there is such a thing as taking too much. Don’t just ever be like, “Well, I think this is probably less than efficacy, I’ll pop a few more,” is probably not a good idea.

Aspen 27:09
Yeah. And the same with herbs. That’s what I, you know, as an herbalist, I see that a bit too much on the internet, but people being like, here are the 20 herbs that I know that can cause on abortion, and it’s like actually it works a lot better if using three or four with intention, that we know what they’re doing, than throwing in the kitchen sink, whether it’d be with medication or with herbs.

Margaret 27:32
That makes a lot of sense to me. So okay, we’ve talked about medicated abortion, herbal abortion, and then what would you call things like D&C [dialation & currettage] ? Is that the medical abortion? Like, what’s the, the taxonomy here is not super important. Do you all want to talk about other types of abortions?

Cobalt 27:49
Yeah, I would say procedural abortion. Some people will say surgical, which I find, you know, scary and like, there’s no scalpels involved, and it just doesn’t feel accurate. Other people will say therapeutic abortion, which also just seems like an odd word choice to me. So…

Margaret 28:03
That makes it sound like there’s really nice music playing.

Aspen 28:09
Right, which like I hope?

Margaret 28:09
Yeah, no, I mean, I would want that. I’ve had some, this is a tangent, but I had some energy work done at one point, and I was like, “Why isn’t that dentist like this? This rules. Like, this is so much nicer.” Anyway, in terms of the atmosphere, I don’t want my dentist putting crystals in my mouth. I want my dentist cutting abscesses out, but but I want but it would be really nice if you know, there….everyone’s talking very calmly. And anyway, please continue. I’m sorry.

Cobalt 28:40
Yeah, so that’s so yes, I say procedural, you know, this is stuff where like, when we’re supporting people who are having, you know, in clinic abortions can become relevant, not something that I would generally encourage folks to do at home, you know, again, unless you’re, although, you know, I will say like, I do know, folks who, you know, practice menstrual extraction on each other. And, you know, there are ways to do that, you know, safely but, you know, again, it’s one of those things that you don’t want to do it like, first time, you know, when it’s critical. That’s something that if people have a lot of practice in then it can be okay. And it can be a good way for people to get to know their bodies if that’s something that they want to do. There’s also, just want to plug there’s an awesome papaya workshop. So papayas are vaguely uterus shaped. And you know, and they kind of have a wall with some soft stuff in it. Andthey’re so I think it was UCSF developed a whole like a program where they like teach med students how to do IUD insertion with papayas and also teach them how to do an aspiration abortion with a manual. So there’s two there’s two different kinds of things that can be used for an aspiration abortion and one is like, like desperation…

Margaret 29:57
So what is an aspiration abortion?

Cobalt 29:59
Ah-hah, that is basically, that’s something that can be done a little later than pills, is sort of the first like least invasive procedural method that can be used where basically they’re using a vacuum either an electric vacuum and EVA for electric vacuum aspiration. It’s a machine that is providing the suction or manual vacuum aspiration MVA that is using this kind of like, big kind of syringe shaped thing to….yeah, actually, this will not help podcast listeners, but this. [Holds up an MVA] and basically, you know, you pop the base, and then pull this out.

Margaret 30:45
Dear listener, they’re holding a giant, weird syringe thing. I actually didn’t catch your pronouns at the very beginning. I just use they for you.

Cobalt 30:52
Yeah, they/them is perfect. Yeah. And so when you, you know, so if I had had my hand on the end of this, you know, when it pulled it out, it would have like, stuck to my hand, right? You know, creates that vacuum. And then when you’re using this on a person…

Margaret 31:05
There’s no needle again?

Cobalt 31:07
There is actually…

Aspen 31:08
It’s called a cannula.

Cobalt 31:09
Yes, cannula, which is this sort of straw that goes on the end,

Margaret 31:13
Which I pronounced wrong in my other podcast, and like four people yelled at me.

Cobalt 31:19
Haha, It’s medical terms.

Margaret 31:21

Cobalt 31:23
So yeah, but then. So this is what you know, goes through the cervix, this, this is the part that needs to…the cannula is the part that needs to stay sterile, it’s going into the cervix. And so that’s definitely a place where infection can be introduced and stuff. But assuming you’re all in a good clean environment, then this is what’s used. So the, you know, the vacuum is working, it’s pulling tissue in through the hole at the end of the straw. And then they’re, you know, using that against the wall of the uterus and stuff to make sure they’re getting out all of the tissue. Yeah, so the the advantage of that the fact that you have this manual aspiration is that it can be used anywhere, whether you have electricity or not, you know, it’s something that’s used in a lot of clinics all over the world, that don’t necessarily have stable power.

Aspen 32:05
Or, you know, if you’re outside of a clinic, then it’s something that can be used in a living room with like someone who has the experience of it. And that’s where you can get your music playing good, happy, you know, however, you can create the scene, however you’d like. And I think that’s one of the things about, you know, having an aspiration abortion in a clinic, you have people who are in that medical model, or you could have one at home with someone who has the experience of using it. And you can really set the tone and the setting of who you want to be there. And how you want it to be. You can, you know, in every procedure, there should be the option, whether there is or not, there should be the option to slow down. But when you’re in your when you’re in your own space, you can really set the terms of slowing down and taking a break and having some tea. So that MVAs can work in or out of a clinic.

Margaret 32:52
When I…I’m really not trying to play like I’m the expert here. I did a…my other podcast, I did an episode about the Jane collective and in Chicago. And in it, I ended up talking about the people who invented the “cannula?” [pronounces carefully testing the pronunciation]

Cobalt 33:09
Yeah exactly.

Margaret 33:10
And then later, menstral extraction, the guy who invented…I don’t have anyone’s names in front of me, I don’t have any notes in front of me…But the women who invented menstrual extraction, and so I’m kind of I’m framing this as a question…Basically, they were able to do it so that wasn’t considered medical, and it wasn’t considered an abortion, because it was just the like, an extraction of the menstrual products or whatever. And it was like a way to skirt…because it wasn’t an abortion. It was just like, “Oops, we’re just cleaning out all the menstrual products.”

Aspen 33:43

Margaret 33:44
Is that….that seemed really hopeful to me in the era of post Roe v. Wade, that was going around.

Aspen 33:50
Yeah, those people…so there was a Jane collective up in Chicago, but the people who really worked with menstrual extractions lived in California. So in California, it’s considered a home remedy. And I think that’s the language that they’ve used. And it was sort of, you know, people can extract their period or their menses, even if they aren’t pregnant. And it’s actually what some people prefer to do, because they don’t want to bleed. They could extract their menses, but it is a bit of like an involved experience. You have to have a cannula inserted into the uterus and have that be extracted, but then you’re not bleeding for multiple days, which may be one of the ways to practice before someone’s actually pregnant is to extract each other’s menstrual cycles. But the thing about it is that, so someone, so by the time….So someone’s inserting the cannula in with the MEs (Menstrual extraction). There’s a little bit of a smaller syringe, and the person who’s having the experience can actually pull the syringe and so it’s much more of like I’m doing it to my own body too, which makes it a bit detached from like a providers providing a service who’s not actually part of the clinic system.

Margaret 33:51
It’s cool. I got really excited when I learned about it and I remain excited about it.

Margaret 35:01
Like in a dettached way.

Cobalt 35:01

Cobalt 35:02
Yeah, I think it’s very cool. I appreciate people that are, you know, doing it thoughtfully and safely. And I’m also much more of a proponent for pills, like myself again, because like, I also deal with like, the dysphoria, and I’m kind of like, “I’d rather not deal.” And also because they really are, you know, the pills, depending on you know, exactly how far along on your gestational age it’s like, up to 97% effective.

Margaret 35:30

Cobalt 35:30
And, you know, with with no risks of…very low rate, you know, you’re not, you’re not inserting anything there. So you’re not introducing a possible infection vector that way. There’s also no like risk of puncture. Although 1) it’s better not to have an IUD in if you’re inducing, pretty terrible cramps. But, uh, yeah, so but it’s definitely an option for people who you know, don’t like have access to pills, don’t have you know, access to herbs, or not doing things that you know are the right time for that, it’s definitely another option that is available to folks. And that can be done quite safely.

Aspen 36:07
And it’s, it’s all done on like a shorter timeline, like with with herbs and with….like herbs is one of the longer timelines and with medication, it’s within a couple of days window, but someone’s still going to be likely bleeding for a couple of weeks after that, even if they pass the tissue, their bodies still healing, and they’re likely still bleeding. And with the menstrual extraction, and with the MVAs, you’re you’re taking out all the contents, and so it’s much easier to go right back into getting back into your flow. You’re not…there’s a shorter healing time, maybe like

Margaret 36:37
Get right back to work?

Aspen 36:39
I was gonna say that. Honestly to me, and that’s their priority. They’re like, I don’t want to be disrupted.

Margaret 36:47
We got to eat, you know?

Cobalt 36:48
Yeah, exactly. I can’t afford to miss my job. So yeah.

Margaret 36:54
Yeah. Okay, well, to go back to kind of the doula project itself, I’m kind of curious about how things like this, you said, there’s a whole bunch of these around, are they? Is it a network? Are these just completely independent and autonomous groups that use similar names and structures like, like, what’s going on with doula projects?

Cobalt 37:16
So the original doula project is in New York, and they even have a book out about kind of their founding and some of the work that they do. The people that initially formed the Bay Area Doula Project, got a lot of their initial materials and like kind of training and inspiration from those folks. And I know a couple people associated with the project in New York, but we’ve not like strongly connected as any kind of organization. It’s really been something, I believe, where people who want to set up a doula project, you know, may inherit some materials and just go with it. And again, do with it, what’s possible and appropriate, in whatever location there they are.

Margaret 37:58
How would one go about starting in such a thing?

Cobalt 38:03
That’s a very good question. We fell into…So, so history of theory of Bay Area Doula Project is that it’s been through, my understanding is that it’s been through sort of several incarnations where people have kind of, you know, some group of people have done it until they have gotten burned out or had other projects and then or been priced out of the bay area or whatever. Yeah, and they, you know, leave but have left behind some, you know, group of people who, you know, then try to, like resurrect it in a new like, new and different way that’s appropriate for this, like new group who’s taking it over. That’s certainly what happened with us. So we came into this pre founded, Bay Area Doula Project has been around for in one or one or another form for a bunch of years now. But as far as like, trying to get started, I think it’s, you know, find at least a few other folks with, you know, similar care about, you know, abortion and specific and emotional support around medical care, like, and, you know, start figuring out what is needed in your area, you know. One of the things here…so like the New York Doula Project, they do a lot of in clinic work, they have, you know, they train people to be in the clinic, and people work shifts, and they sort of help whoever comes in who, you know, to have somebody, you know, hand to hold and, you know, just someone you know, being there who’s not practicing medicine upon them. And whereas here, you know, the local clinics do have, you know, some great people doing counseling and things already that are paid to do that. So it’s not something they need volunteers for, you know, but so we focus more on the out of clinic stuff or on the waiting room support, you know, things like that, you know, helping people get from place to place and have…not feel so isolated, or scared while things are happening.

Aspen 40:00
I think that there’s something beautiful in that like, we can’t just be duplicated everywhere. And I think that the best thing people can do is go to their community and figure out what the needs are. I’ve seen some doula projects who focus like, mostly on more practical support. So like they’re connected more with like the abortion funds in their area. I’ve seen doula projects do like Plan B drives where they distribute Plan B to a bunch of people. So it can look like you know, being an abortion doula can look so many different ways. And so I really just want to empower people to go to their communities and ask. Figure out what the need is.

Margaret 40:35
You talked about abortion funds, and one of the things that I’ve been running across in the wake of, you know, this thing that is happening, where Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land or whatever. And one of the things that I’ve been running across as people saying donate to abortion funds, rather than, say, for example, Planned Parenthood. Is that a framework you all believe in? If so, can you can you talk about what abortion funds are? And how people who want to help…how can people best help if they’re not starting a doula project? Like with their money?Is it abortion funds? Is it something else? Is it you all?

Cobalt 41:18
It is definitely abortion funds. You know, Planned Parenthood does a lot of good things that they’re also already pretty well funded. You know, everybody knows who planned parenthood is. Abortion funds are the people who fill in all of the different gaps, right, they, you know, in a lot of ways, a lot of times they do, you know, work directly with clinics, you know, help support clinics in you know, whatever way, so you’re also helping support, possibly a Planned Parenthood or possibly a more independent clinic. And, you know, funds are also going to be helping with the things that make access actually possible. So again, helping with people who need to, you know, get a bus or train or a car, to travel costs or, or plane possibly hours to get to their appointment, helping people figure out childcare, and helping people afford meals while they’re doing this traveling, you know, filling in all of those gaps. Not every fund does the practical support part, but a lot do and I think it’s, you know, a growing thing. So that’s really why I would say and again, not just in, you know, certainly certainly in the States, where, you know, abortion access is most restricted, but really everywhere, everywhere needs them. And also, the funds that are part of the NANF, if, you know, they kind of work together. They’re, they’re a network for a reason. And so it’s been…

Margaret 42:34
What’s the NANF?

Cobalt 42:35
Ah, the National Network of Abortion Funds.

Margaret 42:38
Cool. Thanks.

Cobalt 42:38
So jargony, Yeah, yeah. So it’s a network for a reason. And when those, you know, if there’s a clinic that’s, you know, really low on money this month, and has a particular need, you know, the call will go out and it will get covered, you know, by however, we can make it happen. So, yeah, donate to your abortion funds.

Aspen 42:58
I totally agree with that, and that abortion funds are doing a lot of good, I really appreciate they’re doing a lot of local work. It’s not just this like overarching Planned Parenthood, even though Planned Parenthood, I want to keep I want it to keep on staying or sticking around. But like, I think that people should really be directing their energy elsewhere. But the thing about abortion funds is that their funding clinical abortions, which is just a part, just a sliver of abortions, which we’ve been mentioning throughout this entire podcast, so find your local abortion doulas who are doing work too and get…you know, we also need to be funded. And that’s something that, you know, me personally, I’m trying to figure it out because a lot of the work that…the people who are providing and supporting abortions outside of clinics are supporting people who can’t afford, you know, or access clinical abortions, which the abortion funds are filling to some extent. But, I mean, there’s so many, like we mentioned before, there’s so many reasons why people might not want to go into a clinic, whether it be just not aligned with what their what their what they’re wanting, and yeah, abortion providers outside of community abortion providers are doing really great work and we need to be funded to.

Margaret 44:08
Yeah, no, that makes sense.

Cobalt 44:11
I also want to plug If/When/How. They have a repro[ductive] legal helpline, so anyone who has any questions about, you know, legality of something they might be considering, or especially if someone has been criminalized for a pregnancy loss of any kind, those are folks that will jump in and help. They are awesome. They’re If/When/How, or they’re like Lawyering For Reproductive Justice, I think is the name, is the full name, and they’re just fantastic. There’s a lot of other great orgs you know, doing work in the space. They’re one of them. I also realized we’ve been using this term reproductive justice and I want to make sure that we call out like the, you know, history and origin of that, which is that in 1994 I think it was a group of black women, you know, really called out that like you choice just doesn’t, you know, cover it right, like choice is not enough. And, you know, called out the you know that it’s not just the choice to have an abortion, right, it’s access to abortion, but it’s also the choice to have a child when you want to, and to parent the children that you might already have, you know, in, in safety, and then health. And so reproductive justice is just like a much wider lens, and, you know, more inclusive of all of the, you know, things that come under bodily, bodily autonomy and parenting and yeah, so like, you know, the formula shortage that we’ve been having is definitely a reproductive justice issue. The fact that WIC doesn’t cover diapers, the Women, Infants and Children program that like makes sure that kids have food doesn’t cover diapers, and if you don’t have diapers, then you often can’t drop your kid off for daycare, because they’ll require you to give them a certain number of diapers for the day. And so therefore, you can’t like go…

Margaret 45:55
Have a job to buy diapers.

Cobalt 45:56
Exactly. You know, that’s a reproductive justice issue. The asthma rate for often, you know, Black, or Latin or Native American, you know, places like asthma rates, worries about, you know, if you do have a child, can you safely breastfeed them because of the pollution that you know, is in your area, right, like, all of these things are also like big and important. And that is, you know, once again, black women like leading the way to think about all this stuff more broadly. So, I’m going to call that out.

Margaret 46:33
Yeah. Do you ever have those moments where you just, there’s something you already know, but it still hits you as an epiphany, like, whenever I do this kind of….whenever I like, talk to people about this kind of thing. It’s I don’t know, I just have this moment where you’re talking about like, “Oh, in case you’re being criminalized for losing a pregnancy…” And I’m like, “What fucking world we live in?” It’s like something I’ve been, like aware of for a very long time, right? Which is like every now and then it like slips through the armor that you build up. And you’re like, oh, right, people aregoing to be locked into cages because they lost a pregnancy that they may or may not have wanted to lose.

Aspen 47:11
People already are. People are already incarcerated in the so called United States for miscarriages. And it’s just going to increase because really, we are criminalizing bodies that are losing pregnancies, whether it’s by an abortion or a miscarriage. And the thing is that they’re, they’re medically identical. So yeah, it’s it’s really concerning how many people are going to be harmed in general, but specifically the people who are going to be miscarrying losing pregnancies.

Margaret 47:41

Cobalt 47:41
And I was just gonna say, this is a good chance to circle back to, okay, so like things that can go wrong, especially specifically….

Margaret 47:47

Cobalt 47:48
Specifically about pills, which is, you know, you might be bleeding a lot, the recommended, or the sort of definition is, if you’ve soaked, you know, all the way through two or more pads an hour for two hours, then, you know, like, go seek help for blood loss. I feel like I would probably go in a little sooner, especially, you know, depending if people were showing other signs of blood loss, like, you know, being pale or like, you know, if their skin like, you know, if you the dehydration test, if you like kind of pinch the skin on your hand, and it stays up, you know, you don’t have enough fluid in your body, like, that’s another, you know, check, but definitely, if it’s more than two pads an hour for two hours. So that should also be a consideration, you know, is like, how close are you to the hospital, you know, when you’re sort of figuring these things out there. And then the other big thing is like infection. So you know, if you, in the days after develop a fever, or start having some really bad smelling, or strange looking discharge, then that’s probably you need to go to the hospital. But, like, Aspen just mentioned, miscarriages or miscarriages. Medically, there’s not a blood test that one could give for what pills a person might have in their system. There’s like, no medical reason why one would need to say whether or not this miscarriage was self induced or not.

Cobalt 48:01
There’s…like it should not change the treatment plan or the plan of care of a doctor at all. So there’s literally no reason for you to self disclose, and certainly no reason for a doctor to or a nurse or anyone to pry. So one thing is a lot of the guidelines for self managed abortion, encourage people to take things by mouth. And that’s partly because one could also take it vaginally, but if you swallow it, it’s gone. If you spit things out into the trash, or if there’s like residue leftover in the vagina, that could be something that can be used to criminalize a person. So that’s why it’s like kind of the protocol is to let things dissolve in the mouth. And then once they’ve been in the mouth for the required amount of time, you know, you could swallow them or spit them out. But the the choice, the best choice is generally to swallow them. So yeah, but the most important thing is, yeah, there’s no medical reason why you would need to say anything about, like, what started the sequence of events, and just that you’re there, you know, you think you might have lost a pregnancy and you’re bleeding a lot, or you might have an infection. Yeah.

Margaret 48:01

Margaret 49:18

Aspen 50:26
Yeah.I appreciate you Cobalt naming like those, like those big things like the, like, possible complications, or like bleeding too much, and also infection. But the reality is that the biggest complication and risk of, of abortion is being incarcerated for it and being criminalized for it. So that is honestly like the biggest harm or the biggest, like concern of abortion, to be honest.

Cobalt 50:50
Yeah, it’s also important to say this is a lot safer than carrying a pregnancy to term. As far as like likelihood of side effects, likelihood of harm, especially, you know, again, frankly, especially if you’re a person of color in America, and especially if you’re a Black person in America, you know, the mortality rates are absurd, for people who are getting for black people who are giving birth, so there’s multiple, there was multiple points buried in there. One is that it’s super safe. And two is that like, we need to do better by Black folks, and they are linked together, but also separate.

Margaret 51:25
The fact that the most dangerous part about seeking an abortion is that someone might try to lock you into a cage and ruin your life for doing it is so just fucking dark. I don’t know. Like, again, not in this like surprising way. But every now and then I just have like these moments where I’m like, there’s someone right now who’s in a cage for like, smoking weed, and the fact that we live in a society that has people in cages period, just like walking around being like, oh, that’s the place where everyone’s kept in cages as if that’s like this, like normal thing. But every now and then it just, yeah, I don’t know why it’s just every now and then just like hits me like this horrible dark epiphany, that of something I already know. But…Aspen, at the very beginning, you talked about how one of the things that you do is teach people how to track fertility. Is that something that there’s like a really short, useful way to talk about to an audience? Or is that? Or maybe like how people can go about finding this out? Or?

Aspen 52:25
Yeah, I mean, so I am a fertility awareness educator. So looking at those terms, fertility awareness, there’s a directory via the Read Your Body app. So if you look up, there’s like a Read Your Body fertility awareness directory, and there’s like, a bunch of fertility awareness educators, so you can really find someone who like who meshes with you and who you’re interested in learning from. There’s also like, it’s possible to also self teach or like, be self taught when it comes to fertility awareness. In my own journey. I was self taught for a while until I just really needed another human to be like, “You’re doing it, right.” So I also want to validate like, needing that community support and that like, you know, it’s it’s also okay to, to learn from someone. And I think that…so I’m excited about cycle tracking, not only it for…for me, it feels like a huge resistance against the laws that are being passed that are restricting abortion to a certain certain week, because it’s essentially capitalizing off the fact that most people who bleed haven’t been taught much about their cycle, they’ve just been taught that it’s like a pain. And that’s pretty much it. Which if for some people, it is just a pain, which is okay. But I track both…I take my temperature every morning. Every time every morning, when I wake up, I take my temperature and I write it down. Every day I check for my cervical fluid. Every time I use the bathroom, I look in my underwear and when why when I wipe across my vulva, I look at the toilet paper, and I see cervical fluid. And that is what…in those combination of combination of information. I know when I’m fertile. I know when I’m infertile. And it might be news to someone to learn that. If you have a uterus, you’re not fertile every single day of your cycle. That was news to me. I was really raised with like the hyper fertility myth. And so just bursting that bubble in the first place, I think is important. And knowing that it’s totally possible to check cervical fluid to take someone’s temperature every morning, and to make different decisions to use condoms certain times of the month, to abstain certain times of month, to have different types of sex and intercourse in different types of the month, to avoid pregnancy pretty effectively.

Margaret 54:32
Hell yeah. Alright. Is there last stuff? Is there stuff that I should have asked you but I didn’t? Like, I mean, obviously, there’s a lot more about all of this. Well, for example, actually, we didn’t talk about like specific herbs and I was guessing that that was kind of an intentional thing of like, not trying to just go tell people to drink pennyroyal tea or whatever. I’m using that as a specific example of what you shouldn’t go do, to my understanding, but…

Aspen 55:00
Yeah i i Like don’t call out certain nerves, because I think that I really want to elevate people building their relationship with herbs and there are so many herbs out there but since you mentioned Pennyroyal and that’s a friend of mine like there’s a lot of slander on the internet right now against pennyroyal. I just want to push against it for a second because pennyroyal is so great in a tea. There has been harm caused to some body because they’ve ingested the essential oil. So never ingest the essential oil, but Pennyroyal tea is such a great ally and friend when it comes to releasing pregnancies. But I do want to name a couple resource books, “Natural Liberty” by the Sage Femme Collective is a really great book, that’s like a pretty extensive resource book about a lot of different types of self managed abortion. It does use gendered language so just as a content warning. There’s like a if you can go through go through your TOR and your VPN, there is like a Rise Up pdf of it online. So it’s easy. It’s like free online, or you can purchase the book. Holistic Abortions on Instagram is another maker of educational content that I would suggest finding some information from. They have a zine called “Grow Your Abortion”, which focuses on like 10 plants. And it teaches you how to gives you information on how to grow these plants, what dosages, how to work with the…how they would work together. Because like I mentioned, at some point in this podcast, it’s about choosing three or four plants with like, with reason and skill, rather than just choosing a bunch of plants. And like, you know, there’s these resource books, because a lot of this information has been lost to us in our lineages, but I also want to elevate the fact that like, so these stories and medicines might still be within your family line. And I really want to encourage folks to talk to your elders, talk to the people who you can talk to about abortion within your families to learn what are your family’s abortion stories? Did your did your abuela did your grandmother drink some tea to release some pregnancies? Because she might have and she might have some stories that she’s like, ready to share.

Margaret 56:58
Fuck, yeah. Okay, any last? Any other? Any other thoughts?

Cobalt 57:05
Oh, yeah, you know, I wrote down some things to make sure we covered and the last one I wrote down was that like, LMP is confusing and terrible.

Margaret 57:14
Okay what’s LMP?

Cobalt 57:14
So yeah, LMP is your last menstrual period. Right. And so your your gestational age, like the number of weeks pregnant you are is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period, regardless of whether you know that you only had sex once in the last month. And you know exactly when it was, that’s not the day that they will consider you to start having been pregnant. It’s just the first day of your last menstrual period. So when people hear like a six week abortion ban, I think most people will kind of assume that it’s like six weeks from your first missed period. But it’s not. Like it’s, you know, it’s basically two weeks from your missed period if you have regular periods and happen to have noticed, you know, when it went missing, so yeah, it just I don’t like it so much. And it causes Yeah, like it’s it muddies the debate more, so I just needed to say that I hate it.

Margaret 58:05

Aspen 58:06
Some of my final thoughts that I want to share is that abortion has been happening as long as people have been giving birth. And like, really, abortion has become medicalized through legislation and the so-called US over the last 150 years and there’s so…it’s like, there’s the right now is like a great opportunity to zoom out and be reminded, like the large expansiveness that is abortion care, it is clinical abortion, but also, it’s much more than that. And whether or not this is going to be published before after Roe v. Wade, is overturned, if it’s overturned, whatever is that, like, I really want to encourage folks to make a safety plan like, you know, “What would happen if you did if some, if you did get pregnant, or you know, someone in your community did get pregnant? How would you respond?” Because it’ll be much more easier on your nervous system in your heart. If you already have that plan in place, already have the ideas and the resources you can reach out to before you need it.

Cobalt 59:03
Very much seconded. Yeah.

Margaret 59:05
Yeah, there’s something that you all brought up at the very beginning. I actually wrote it down. I remember which one you said is like, kind of almost being like thankful for this moment that it’s in people’s minds. I didn’t get the impression that you all were like, “Oh, thank god everything’s about to get harder,” or whatever, but like, but it was still an interesting silver lining that I pulled from what you were saying.

Cobalt 59:23
Yeah, I mean, that is the weird thing about stuff like this right is it gets more attention to something that’s already been bad. Yeah, that’s what I’ll say. Roe has never ever been enough. You know, three years after…two-three years after Roe v. Wade, they passed the Hyde Amendment which makes it so that no federal funding can go towards abortions which means that people who you know rely on Medicare or whatever can’t get their their abortions funded that way. That’s another reason why the the abortion funds are so important. And yeah, it just means that like, although things are going to get harder for more people, you know people are gonna have to travel further distances and all of that stuff, for you know poor people and young people of color, and people living on reservations and all kinds of stuff. It’s just already access already hasn’t been there. And so in some ways, this is a huge change, but in some ways, it’s just not a change at all. And we need to do better. Like, you know, I met some abortion activists from Mexico City, and they, you know, part of their slogan is that, you know, like, “it needs to be free and on demand.” And I was like, we don’t even bother trying to ask for it for free in the States like…but we should. Yeah. Everywhere. Free. On demand. Easy to, you know, access all of that. Yeah.

Aspen 1:00:51
Yeah, I really feel like this moment in time, people want to…people’s eyes are open. And so that’s a lot of my excitement. And I also feel like some shits gonna have to burn down before things get better. And this is something that is needing to burn down, because the clinic system has never served everyone and we need to expand access to abortion in a way that’s actually sustainable. That includes ancestral medicine that actually prioritizes the wellness of the person. And I think that what’s going to be…what’s going to grow out of this, what’s going to be born out of this is going to be something amazing and radical, so I’m here for it.

Margaret 1:01:26
Yeah, fuck yeah. All right.

Cobalt 1:01:29
Uplifting ending!

Margaret 1:01:31
Well, how can people find or support either your project or you as individuals, if that is a thing that you desire strangers on the internet to do? Yeah, where where would you like to draw attention?

Cobalt 1:01:48
I prefer to remain a cipher. But we are BayAreaDoulaProject All one word on Instagram, and BADPtweets on Twitter.

Aspen 1:02:02
Yeah, I want to second that. Please come reach out to us at BADP. Send us an email, find a post on on Instagram or on Twitter, come comment if you’re if you’re interested in like, getting involved or like learning more about what a doula project is, and wanting to support people more around abortion. And if you’re looking to provide, you know, funding to this sort of effort to I really would encourage you to reach out because if you have money to share, and you want to support abortion workers who are doing the work on the ground, then we’d be happy to funnel that money too.

Margaret 1:02:38
Fuck yeah, thanks so much for coming on.

Cobalt 1:02:43
Thank you.

Margaret 1:02:48
Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, the first thing you should do is check out the Bay Area Doula Project and give them money. And when you’re done giving them money, and maybe you don’t have money, I’m not trying to be like “the only way to do anything good in the world is money.” That’s not…that’s completely not true. But it is a thing that you could consider doing. And or you could start your own doula project. Or you could do anything else that you feel drawn to including tell people about this fantastic podcast you listen to called Live Like The World Is Dying. And you can also support this podcast and not just by telling people about it. But by sponsoring Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness on Patreon. Because Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness is a publisher that publishes this podcast. It also publishes another podcast that you might want to check out. It’s called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And it is a podcast that has different fiction, and essays, and memoir, and role playing game content, and all kinds of stuff, basically, that we publish every month with Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness also gets put up in audio format. And the host of that show, Inmn, then goes and interviews the authors about what it is they’ve created. It’s really cool. And you should check it out. Because I made the theme song. You can hear me play piano on it. In particular, I would like to thank Hoss the dog, Chris, Sam, Nora, Miciahah, Kirk, Natalie, Eleanor, Jennifer, Staro, Chelsey, Dana, David, Nicole, and Mikki for your support and making this podcast possible. I would also like to thank Inmn, the producer. And I would like to thank Bursts, the audio editor, and you can check out Bursts’ is podcast The Final Straw, which is also on the Channel Zero network, but not part of Strange In A Tangled Wilderness, because the world is full of all these complicated interacting things and different organizations that do different things made up of different volunteers. Can you tell that I haven’t gone outside enough today and I’m rambling at you? Well, I’m gonna go outside now and you should too, or maybe you were outside already. Either way. I will talk to you all soon. And I hope you’re doing as well as you can

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S1E41 – Casandra on Mediation

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Margaret and Casandra talk about the importance of learning mediation skills, what mediation is and what different processes look like.

Guest Info

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at You can support the show on Patreon at



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, Kiljoy, and I use ‘she’ or ‘they’ pronouns. And today we’re going to talk about something that everyone has requested. Just kidding, no one actually bothers request this because they don’t know they need it. That’s actually not true. People actually haverequested this. We’re gonna be talking about conflict mediation, and we’re going to be talking about when conflict mediation isn and isn’t the way to handle different types of situations. And when we’ll be talking to Cassandra about that. And I’m very excited to hear what they have to say. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show in the network.

Margaret 01:40
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of your background, both professionally and non professionally with what we’re gonna be talking about today with conflict mediation.

Casandra 01:52
Yeah, my name is Cassandra, I use ‘they’ or ‘she’ pronouns. I’m a volunteer mediator at a community mediation center. I trained in mediation…What year is it right now? I don’t know, eight years ago?

Margaret 02:08
It’s 2022, right now,

Casandra Johns 02:09
Nine years ago, something like that. And I also worked at my local mediation center, at the beginning of the pandemic, as program coordinator for one of the counties.

Margaret 02:25
So what is conflict mediation? This is when when you don’t like someone, you just respond passive aggressively to them and or cancel them, right?

Casandra 02:36
Yep, and block them on Twitter.

Margaret 02:39
That’s important.

Casandra 02:42
Conflict mediation is where a third party is called in to be present during discussion about a conflict. So, in its most basic form, that could mean asking a friend who isn’t like a stakeholder in a conflict to come sit in while you talk with someone who you have issues with. Through the mediation center, like on a, on an organizational level, we deal with all different sorts of conflicts. So community conflicts, like neighbors disputing property lines. We also do family mediation, parent/teen, stuff, things like that, we do a certain amount of mediation through the court system. So people in my area can opt to do mediation instead of going to like small claims court, which is pretty cool.

Margaret 03:32
So like if you’re mad at your neighbor for hitting your car with their bicycle. I don’t know that’s not a good example. Instead of suing them, you can, like go hash it out with someone.

Casandra 03:49
Yep. Yeah.

Margaret 03:50
How do you then maximize your personal profit?

Casandra 03:54
Well, that’s a good question. I mean, the chance if you go before a judge, there’s a chance that they’ll say, Nope, you don’t get this money. Whereas in mediation, you get to talk to the person and explain to them why you need the money, and they explain to you why they can’t pay the money, and then you work out a plan, which usually benefits both people.

Margaret 04:14
Well it just doesn’t lead very easily to feeling righteous and better than everyone, though. So it seems like a disadvantage.

Casandra 04:21
Yeah, I mean, I think if you want to feel righteous, you should probably just sue someone and okay, and not worry about mediation. Yeah.

Margaret 04:29
So what were you gonna say before, i said weird sarcastic things?

Casandra 04:32
The center where I work, also has this really cool program, where we do restorative justice processes for youth offenders. So, rather than going through the usual punitive process, some juvenile offenders have the option to do restorative justice instead.

Margaret 04:52
Give me an example of like, not a “John did this,” but I like what that might look like?

Casandra 04:59
Yeah, Let me think. I have to be vague. So I’m remembering a case where one teenager punched another teenager, like the, I think they were at the movies or something, this was pre-pandemic, and was charged with assault. And so rather than having to go through a punitive process and have that assault charge on their record, they have the option to do this restorative process instead. So that would look like sitting down with the person who was harmed or with a proxy, we use proxies as well, if the victim doesn’t want to be present, and talking about the impact of their actions and then coming up with a plan for making amends, which can be really varied. Like it can be, It can be as simple as like, “I will go to therapy.” Or it can be direct remediation, like “I will pay you money or do yard work for you,” you know, it, people get really creative. But it’s a cool option.

Margaret 06:04
Okay. What is the difference between, outside of a legal or court system, what is the difference between conflict mediation and restorative justice? Like, when is one thing appropriate? And when is the other thing appropriate?

Casandra 06:20
Yeah, I think of mediation as a part, like an aspect of larger alternative justice processes. So it’s like a tool you can use in alternative justice processes. But alternative justice processes are intended for instances where harm has been caused. So it’s not just a you and me on equal footing having a conflict or disagreement, actual harm has been done. Does that make sense?

Margaret 06:46
Yeah, so like, basically, if I’m trying to…if someone within my same social circle sexually assaulted me, and then I don’t want to go and sit down have a like samey samey conversation with them about like, how we all have feelings. Instead, I can….instead restorative justice as the more appropriate thing, then specifically, mediation in that circumstance. Is that what you’re saying?

Casandra 07:11
Yeah, or probably transformative justice. But yeah.

Margaret 07:15
What’s the difference?

Casandra 07:17
Sure. So.

Margaret 07:19

Casandra 07:20
No, that’s fine. Restorative justice was developed, I think in the 70s, I want to say, and that’s what the mediation center where I work…that’s what we use in conjunction with the court system. And it’s dealing more with individuals. So, this individual has harmed that individual, and we’re going to figure out how to make amends as best as possible between the two of them. Transformative justice, I think, was developed in the 90s. And it’s a more systemic approach. So it’s acknowledging that people often cause harm. Because of trauma, because of a lack of resources, you know, it acknowledges that we’re all a part of these larger systems of oppression. And so through this transformative process, it seeks to heal both people. Often communities are brought in as part of that as well.

Margaret 08:22
Okay. So like, everyone who’s involved with the thing shows up, and has a say in it.

Casandra 08:31
Maybe not for all parts. But, you know, the hope is to bring in as many people as possible, because the idea is that, that creates more sustainable change.

Margaret 08:42
So how does one…How does one go about doing this, right? Like to focus maybe more on mediation than restorative and transformative justice? We obviously within our communities come up with like ad hoc means quite often, and we just sort of try weird things all the time. And sometimes those things don’t work very well, like passive aggressive notes. Or, you know,

Casandra 09:11
Wash your dishes!

Margaret 09:13
Yeah, totally. Yeah. You know, like, how does one do this? Like, if I’m starting to feel like I’m either having conflict with someone that I’m in community with, or I’m watching a conflict develop within the community that I’m part of? What are some steps to notice that that’s happening and work to resolve it?

Casandra 09:35
I feel like that shouldn’t be a big question, but because we’re so conditioned to be conflict avoidant, not just on an interpersonal level, but like, society, you know, we live in a….part of liberal democracy, part of representative democracy is like creating these abstractions when it comes to conflict and creating institutions to deal with it, instead of even acknowledging that the conflict exists. Now I have to remember what your question was.

Margaret 10:09
So what the fuck do you do when you’re like, really pissed off that your roommate won’t do the dishes, and is like, snubbing you at parties and this pretending like you don’t exist. But they think that it’s happening because you borrowed their guitar without asking.

Casandra 10:31
I mean, mediation doesn’t have to be a big formal thing, right? Like, you can just ask a mutually trusted friend to be…Well, first of all, you can just talk to them. So, so mediation is just a tool in our toolkit. But there’s something about having a third person present, who isn’t like a stakeholder in a conflict. And even if they don’t say anything, just having a third person present and witnessing is sometimes really helpful. One of my favorite mediators at the center rarely says anything. He just has this presence, he’ll sit there with his hands in bold and just like exists, and somehow people are like, Oh, well, shit. Now I have to…

Margaret 11:13
Just like quietly judging you?

Casandra 11:16
No, just like, holding this like, calm space. He’s, yeah.

Margaret 11:23
Quietly judging you! Because like, well not in a bad way, right? Because like, yeah, if I’m like, if I feel really, like, justified and you know, like, bah, blah, blah. But then as soon as I realized I’m saying it to a third party, I’m like, “Oh, this might not make sense.” Like when I say to a third party? Yeah, yeah, no, okay. Okay.

Casandra 11:41
Yeah. And anyone can do that. Right? Anyone who isn’t a stakeholder and who’s comfortable being around, conflict can be in that role. Obviously, there’s more that you can do to like develop those skills. That’s why trainings and mediation centers exist.

Margaret 12:00
Most of the time, I’ve tried to do this. It’s gone very badly when I’ve been asked to mediate things, but I think that’s usually because the people…because I did everything, right, and the people involved id everything wrong. But, it seems like people got really defensive and kind of entrenched in their positions. And it stayed a really like, “No, I’m right. Fuck, you,” “No, I’m right. Fuck you,” kind of thing? How do you break that up?

Casandra 12:31
Yeah. Have you heard the analogy of like, if you draw a heart on a piece of paper, and place it between two people, and they’re like standing on opposite sides of it, and ask them to describe what they see, they’re going to describe totally different things, but they’re looking at the same image, you know?

Margaret 12:50
Oh, because it’s like, not symmetrically positioned between them.

Casandra 12:53

Margaret 12:54

Casandra 12:55
I think that…Well, first of all, I think it’s okay for people to just not agree, tight? Part of getting over our conflict avoidance, as a society, I think is acknowledging that, like, we’re not going to agree and that’s not only okay, but positive. Like we need to have people around us who we disagree with, in order to like, examine our own opinions and things like that. But, the second thing is that conflict isn’t bad or scary. Like, I feel like part of people’s fear around not agreeing with someone is that the assumption is that if you and I don’t agree, then we can’t have any sort of relationship or function. Like we’re so conflict avoidant, that if we don’t agree, we just simply can’t function.

Margaret 13:46
Oh, yeah, totally. And then we just like ice each other out completely.

Casandra 13:49
Yeah, which is really common and unfortunate. And obviously, like, there, I’m gonna disagree with a Nazi, right?

Margaret 13:58

Casandra 13:59
We’re not just going to agree to disagree, but I’m gonna ice them out. But, that doesn’t have to be the case for everything.

Margaret 14:06
No, that makes sense. I kind of…I kind of do this thing where I have, like, one set of values that I hold myself to, and one set of values that I hold other people to, you know, so like, I’m trying to come up with a good value to to use this for. I don’t want to get…Okay, so like, but if there’s if there’s something that I believe I shouldn’t do, it doesn’t necessarily mean…even though kind of in the abstract, I wish no one would do it. Like okay, like lying, right? Like I have a very, very strong sense of never lying to anyone that you’re not trying to control or hurt, right? And I, I will, like live or die by this as a person, but I recognize that not everyone I surround myself with holds the same value, and it like rubs me the wrong way. But, I can agree to disagree about it because I recognize that this is a value that is not shared by everyone. Um, and I’m on my own, like, wing nut paladin and kick or whatever. Andk but then yeah, like, there’s other values like, you know, “don’t be like”, I don’t know, “don’t be fucking, like racist or whatever, like, don’t be a fucking Nazi,” that or…is that kind of what you’re kind of what you’re saying, like learning to have different standards for yourself versus other people or I guess that’s not just the only way to…how do you how do you personally decide which things you are allowed to disagree about and which things you’re not allowed to disagree about?

Casandra 15:39
Oh, I don’t feel like I’m in total agreement with anyone, like literally anyone. And that’s great. Yes. The world would be really fucking boring. If I was. There’s this, there’s this essay called “In Defense of….” shoot, am I going to forget it while we’re recording? No. In Defense of Arguing.

Margaret 16:05

Casandra 16:05
Like an anarchist theory of arguing or something like that. And the author talks about these like larger things, like how social democracy…how the how liberal democracy as a larger structure encourages us to to not be in direct communication, and to avoid conflict.

Margaret 16:24
Well, okay, so, how does this I guess my question is like, okay, we know that Nazis are on the far end of one…you know, like, God gave us Nazis, so that we have enemies. You know, there’s this, like pure representation of bad right, that most of society used to agree on and it’s no longer the case, but like, we have this pure representation of bad over on one end, and then you have like, you know, “John Barrows, my guitar without asking sometimes, and thinks it’s okay, that he does.” Or someone is has a different interpretation of some political analysis or, you know, like, like, shit that I might feel really directly personally strongly about, but is at the end of the day, not a big deal. You know, so that…Is the answer, “Everyone’s just gonna draw those lines in different places?” That’s my instinct is that everyone’s going to draw the lines of like, well, I can be in community with someone who I don’t know, like, sometimes as a like grouchy libertarian on some issues. Or some other people will be like, “Oh, I can be in community with Marxists,” or something, right? And then other people will be like, “No, we’ve seen where Marxism leads to. So fuck them.” So people are going to draw these lines in different places. Is it just, is it just alright, that people are going to draw those lines in different places.

Casandra 17:53
Yes. And that, thank you. Yeah. So it’s alright, that people are going to draw this lines in different places. And that reminds me why I brought up that article, which is what…not only is it okay to draw those lines, but having actual dialogue about where we draw those lines and why, and how they might be different from where other people draw those lines is ultimately productive.

Margaret 18:15
That makes sense.

Casandra 18:18
Because that’s how we, you know, interrogate our own boundaries, right? And our own ideology.

Margaret 18:26
It was interesting. I was like, this thing is gonna be very, like nuts and bolts episode Are we like talk about like, really specific practices, but…

Casandra 18:32
I mean, we can but…

Margaret 18:33
No, we should do it too, but I, what I really like thinking about this stuff around…Yeah, the how we build diverse communities and how we avoid, you know, I would argue that echo chambers are one of the things that destroys communities of resistance more effectively than even sometimes outside pressure. You know, as soon as everyone starts…go ahead.

Casandra 18:55
Oh, I was just gonna say that like moral homogeneity is also what leads to these like, fundamentalist movements that were opposing, right. .

Margaret 19:04
Yeah. And then yet, like, people were like, well, you know, you can’t let ‘something something’ in because it’s a slippery slope. And I’m, I’m on this like, crusade against slippery slope as a useful phrase, because, well, it’s a useful phrase, be like, “Hey, that’s a slippery slope,” should mean like, so be careful when you walk it not like boarded up, none shall enter like, you know, maybe like put handholds along the way to like, help people like navigate complicated ethical terrain.

Casandra 19:31
Cautionary signage.

Margaret 19:32
Yeah, exactly. Like instead of being like, well, everyone who likes the following philosopher who died 100 years before Nazis came about is a Nazi, even though like, you know, both Nazis like this guy and some Nazis hated this guy and some non Nazis hated this guy. I’m actually not trying to defend Evola right now at this time. That’s not the path I’m trying to go down right now. Maybe Nietzsche is how I’m trying to…But I don’t even want to defend Nietzsche… anyway.

Casandra 20:04
They can both go to the sun as far as I’m concerned.

Margaret 20:08
But like, but you know, where we draw these lines might be different about like, okay, so like, fuck this guy, but is it fuck everyone who is inspired by this guy? And is it fuck everyone who’s inspired by people who were inspired by this guy, you know? Because, like how many how many layers removed from something do we still hate it? You know?

Casandra 20:33
Yeah. Yeah, totally.

Margaret 20:37
So nuts and bolts of conflict resolution?

Casandra Johns 20:42
Can I first…

Margaret 20:43
Yeah, please do.

Casandra 20:44
Before we move into specifics. I think the like overarching stuff is really important because every so often I see these pushes in radical spaces to develop more skills around things like transformative justice, but no one talks about conflict resolution, no one talks about mediation, which is wild to me. Like, the reason I trained as a mediator is because I saw it is like one of the building blocks of these larger structures. But it’s just not something that seems to be valued or discussed on the left for the most part. And that’s baffling to me, considering how much divisiveness we face and how we all seem to agree it’s a huge issue. But haven’t put in the work to develop the skills to like, deal with it.

Margaret 21:35
So what we’re doing is we’re jumping straight to the like justice framework, which is, you know, far more, it’s not inherently punitive, but like, it’s more antagonistic and implies far more heavily that there’s like harm that’s been done. And it’s one directional, right like, which is often the case, I’m not trying to claim that this is not the case quite often, but but we’re jumping to that rather than a lot of things that could be headed off way before they get really intense through mediation, or even things that are really intense are still a mediation type thing rather than a transformative justice type thing is that right?

Casandra 22:12
So yeah, even just as abolitionists, if we’re talking about divesting from the current system as a whole, people don’t just go to court because they’ve been abused, you know, they go because they’re in conflict with someone and want an authority figure to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. And so that’s something we have to replace as well.

Margaret 22:36
Yeah, I know that makes sense.

Casandra 22:36
And ideally without the authority figure. But even like, it doesn’t have to be some intense formal, heavy thing. You know, like I’ve mediated for friends, and it’s just been like a very casual conversation. I think that normalizing it, talking about it at all would be great as the left, but then normalizing these practices,

Margaret 23:02
Just normalizing going to your roommate, your housemate, the third person and being like, “Hey, like, we keep arguing about the fact that I want to leave my socks in the living room.”

Casandra 23:16
Will you just be present while we chat through this?

Margaret 23:18

Casandra 23:19
Like yeah why not? You know.

Margaret 23:22
Okay. I’m coming up with silly examples, but I’m like, mostly because I’m just not feeling very imaginative off the top my head, but

Casandra 23:28
I’ve had housemates, I know how it goes.

Margaret 23:31
It starts feeling really personal at a certain point.

Casandra 23:33
It does!

Margaret 23:35
Yeah, and sometimes it’s really easy to be really, really angry at this, like, heavier stuff than the larger framework of what’s happening.

Casandra 23:46
Yeah, totally. I have a child, I understand that. I’m taking your lack of folding your laundry personally at a certain point.

Margaret 24:01
That’s because you’re the authority. No, I don’t want to get into that that’s a different conversation.

Casandra 24:07
Abolish bedtimes?

Margaret 24:12
Yeah, okay. So like, well, actually, I mean, I mean, this would be an appropriate, like mediation would be an appropriate thing to do with, like, between you and between a parent and a child at various points also, or is that?

Casandra 24:26
Yeah, yeah, one of my favorite types of mediation that I do through the center’s parent/teen. There are different types of mediation. And the type I was trained in somewhere between what’s called facilitative and transformative mediation. So, in some scenarios, we’re just hashing through a specific problem. And the people aren’t going to have a relationship after that. And then in other scenarios, we’re actually trying to shift the relationship to make it healthier, which I prefer. And

Margaret 24:58

Casandra 24:59
The Family mediations tend to go in that direction. But there’s a power dynamic, right. And so part of the mediators job is to level out power imbalances, which can be really tricky. But also really cool to watch.

Margaret 25:17
Well that’s cool, because I think that critiques of power are necessary, but there’s always going to be different types of relationships between people with power imbalances, right? Even when, like two adults are dating, you know, there’s going to be power imbalances based on like, different levels of societal privilege, or, you know, heterosexual relationships have a massive power imbalance to start with that they have to deal with…either overcome or like learn to address. So it makes sense to, like…

Casandra 25:46
I think personal history and like communication style cnn create that

Margaret 25:52
In terms of like, if someone has a more aggressive communication style, and another person has like a style that is triggered badly by that style of communication, is that kind of what you’re getting at?

Casandra 26:03
Yeah, things like that.

Margaret 26:05
Okay. I remember thinking about how this has to, like, sort of be taught and developed, I remember being at a workshop once at a conference about this issue….Pardon me, as I pull a tick off of my head and cut it with a knife

Margaret 26:23
But ticks aside, you know, the way the way that this needs to be taught was really laid clear to me, I was at this, this workshop, and we’re going through and, you know, the person teaching the workshop was teaching about conflict resolution and things and, and a friend of mine, who was a, I believe, a kindergarten teacher, I’m not entirely certain worked with very young kids. And my friend was explaining it was like, “oh, when two kids get in a conflict, like they both want a toy, you know, it’s recess, and only one of them gets the toy. And they, they both want it, they get really excited, and they run up and they’re like, “Teacher, Teacher, we have a conflict, we have to resolve it.”” You know, and it was this really amazing heartwarming story. And, unfortunately, most of the people at the workshop, because they didn’t have enough context for what was being told in the story were like, Ah, yes, this is the wisdom of children. You know, we should all just learn from children. And then my friend came up to me later, and was like, that was really frustrating. The kids do that, because we taught them how to,

Margaret 26:23
Oh God!

Casandra 26:29
Yeah, yeah.

Margaret 26:33
And it… And there was a certain amount of like wisdom of children, and that they hadn’t specifically developed other bad habits, like, you know, I have a lot of bad conflict habits that I don’t love about myself that are ingrained to me for various purposes. But, it seems like we still have to, like…go ahead.

Casandra 27:47
Even that approach, that they were excited to talk about it…like they knew where to turn. They knew where their resources were, and they were excited to resolve it. Like imagine feeling that way about disagreeing with someone. One of my teachers says that every mediation is a success, meaning that regardless of whether or not people come to an agreement, the fact that they’ve shown up to talk about it shifts something in their relationship. And that is in and of itself a success.

Margaret 28:16
That makes a lot of sense. And then also might lead to kind of my next question, which is like, when? Well, as I had a phrased was like “when conflict resolution fails,” you know, but it seems like sometimes you would go and be like,”Oh, we’ve heard each other out. And we fucking hate each other. or we’re fucking mad about this thing.”

Casandra 28:39
We’ve heard…like feeling hurt, being able to say your piece to someone, and knowing that you’re in this contained space where they have heard you. And then still not agreeing with them is still a form of resolution, you know, like, we’re not going to agree on this. But, I’ve had the opportunity to, like, say my part. And that’s something.

Margaret 29:03
Yeah. No, that makes sense. It’s like, asking nicely before you ask meanly, in terms of like, on like, a social change level, right? You know, we’re like, “Hey, give us our rights.” And they’re like, “No, we don’t give you your rights.” and we’re like, “Well, we asked, now, we’re not asking anymore.” And that. And that’s sort of assuming one person is like, right in this mediation whereas theoretically, probably both parties think they’re right, but I don’t know. Yeah, I feel like sometimes I’ve been asked to kind of mediate informally, which i don’t have nearly the background you do, but I like rambling. And I’ve kind of ended up leaving with this result with like the, you know, no one’s really asking my opinion, necessarily, but I’m like, oh, probably the answer is that they hate each other. That the answer is that like both people feel totally justified and from their own perspective, they are totally justified. And probably this won’t be settled and they should stay away from each other.I don’t know.

Casandra 29:59
Which like, at least they knew that afterward, you know?

Margaret 30:02

Casandra 30:03
Yeah. I mean, I’ve had many…or I’ve been present for…. I’ve been present for many more mediations than I’ve actually actively mediated just because of the job I had. Which is awesome, because I get to see the way other people mediate and learn from that. But I’ve witnessed really shocking mediations where it seems like the people walk in hating each other, and they don’t come to an agreement. They’re not going to agree. But they… the sense in the room at the end is peace. You know, they’re like, “Ah, well, we both know, we’re not going to agree and why. And at least we know that.”

Margaret 30:43
Yeah. Yeah.

Casandra 30:45
Which is real. Right. Yeah.

Margaret 30:49
No, I like that. Because it’s like, it’s not trying to…

Casandra 30:53

Casandra 30:53
I’ve already said this but, yeah, they’re not trying to solve everything, you know, like some things just don’t get solved. But, but at least everyone knows what’s happening.

Casandra 31:04
And there’s that detachment to, you know, the idea that one person’s right and the other is wrong is something that if you’re mediating, you can’t, that can’t be in your brain. It’s not your job to decide who’s right and who’s wrong or to even have an opinion about it. And there’s something freeing there, because suddenly, you can see why both people feel they’re right, like where the rightness is in, in both stories, which is pretty interesting.

Margaret 31:30
Well does that end up leaving the mediator like, hated by both sides often? Because like, this person, this staying neutral when clearly I’m right?

Casandra 31:31
No, and maybe this is important to talk about, but like part of, especially in a formal setting, when I open to mediation, some of the things I explain include, like confidentiality and mandatory reporting stuff, but I also explain that my role is to be neutral. I’m not going to take aside, I’m not going to make decisions or offer opinions or advice, like, all I’m there to do is to help them communicate productively. Yeah.

Margaret 32:07
And I actually, I would guess, that the average, not…no training mediator of the things that you just said that they might fail at, would be the not offering advice part, right? So it’s not like showing up to the council of elders or whatever the people who are going to, like, offer their wisdom down onto you. Instead, it’s really just about helping the people involved, develop their own communication as relates to it. So it’s not a…you’re a no way like a judge or an arbiter. Is that kind of what you’re saying?

Casandra 32:39
No, there are. So there are different types of mediation. Arbitration is involved in certain types, but not the type I do and not the type that I think is useful in like, community and interpersonal settings. Yeah, and it is hard sometimes to not give advice.

Margaret 32:59
Yeah, I know when I’m like, I think people might have failed that. I’m like, No, that’s probably what I failed at.When I have attempted to mediate things, because I’m like, ” Ah! I now, see, because I have all of the information. Now I will clearly explain because I’m so wise.” And then I’m like, “Why isn’t this working?”

Casandra 33:13
Okay, no, it’s it’s really hard. And it takes a lot of practice. Honestly, the…when in mediations where I take a more active role, because in some mediations, I don’t have to people are…people don’t really need much guidance sometimes. But, when they do, I find myself almost like teaching healthy communication skills through example. And there’s really not any time for me to think about offering my opinion or something like that. I’m like, so busy trying to help them untangle the communication.

Margaret 33:50
Okay. Which seems like, in a similar way that like facilitating consensus in a large group is absolutely not about your own opinions about what should happen. And basically by being a facilitator in a large group you like, kind of like, get your own voice removed from that particular decision.

Casandra 34:12
Yeah, I see it as a spectrum of skill sets, the like facilitator, the mediator and then whatever we want to call these transformative or alternative justice.

Margaret 34:21
Judge Dredd? No, we have no movie about that. Okay. Okay, so which brings me to this idea like, right, you’re like, oh, you know, you’re gonna come in assuming neutrality as mediator, not that both sides are equal, but assuming your own neutrality to help foster communication. What about when it is…like, this sounds like it would be really unhealthy if I was forced to do it with an abuser, right? And so I’m under the impression that you would not use this in situations of abuse is that?

Casandra 34:59

Margaret 35:00

Casandra 35:01
Yeah, yeah. And, and maybe before that, it’s expected that if a mediator doesn’t feel that they can maintain appropriate neutrality, they just don’t mediate the case, they pass it to someone else. So that’s, you know, people are gonna have strong opinions, and feel triggered by different scenarios. And that’s real and fine.

Margaret 35:27
Oh, I meant I meant as a participant, I wouldn’t, you know, I wouldn’t want to be called…am I wrong in thinking that it would, that I wouldn’t want to be called into mediation with my abuser, you know?

Casandra 35:42
Well, I mean, the easy answer is no. But both restorative and transformative justice, have mediation type processes, that can be a part of these larger processes.

Margaret 35:59

Casandra 36:00
So, and maybe we don’t call it mediation, maybe we call it like, a facilitated dialogue or something?

Margaret 36:06
I don’t know.

Casandra 36:09
I think it’s, it’s a tool, right? Like mediation is a tool. And you have to do it differently when there’s a vast power imbalance like that, or when harm has been caused. But..

Margaret 36:25
So I guess…how do you judge…How do you judge when to use mediation versus transformative justice? Like, how do you decide when a given thing is the right means?

Casandra 36:42
That’s a really big question. Because ideally I don’t, right? So I can tell you at the Center, how it works, which is that if the courts contact us and are like, “We have decided that someone harmed another person, therefore this is going to be restorative process.” Like that’s how we know.

Margaret 37:00

Casandra 37:01
But in this larger project on the Left of developing these these alternative systems, that’s something we have to figure out. And I don’t think it can happen without intact communities. Because, I don’t think it would be an individual process.

Margaret 37:21
Yeah, okay.

Casandra 37:23
But as a mediator, if I’m in a session…maybe this is a much simpler way to answer it, If I’m in a session, and someone says something about, like, causing physical harm to the other person. That’s a like, “Oh, we got to stop this and shift” moment.

Margaret 37:39
Okay. That makes sense. That is kind of one of my questions is like, do you ever like, yeah, escalate up the like, response ladder? It’s a terrible way of phrasing it. But yeah,

Casandra 37:53
There are plenty of cases that get called…so that so the Community Mediation Center, it’s all free, right? Like anyone can call in with anything and be like, can you help me with this, which means there are plenty of cases that we can’t mediate, that we say, “Oh, that’s, that’s not an appropriate topic for us. But here’s some other resources.”

Margaret 38:11
And that would be usually cases of like, clear harm having been caused?

Casandra 38:15
Yep. Or like certain types of conflicts, just because of the way the legal system is set up. Like, custody disagreements, we don’t do it our center, it’s just bureaucratic bullshit. But I think it would be similar in a community setting where different mediators are comfortable mediating different types of cases. And if something comes up within a mediation that either signals that harm has happened or that isn’t suitable for that particular mediator, you just stop and find someone else to help.

Margaret 38:49

Casandra 38:50
Like, we all have different skill sets, you know,

Margaret 38:52
And what you said about it requires an intact communities to be able to, to effectively do this kind of thing, as a, you know, the more transformative justice element of it. It’s kind of interesting to me, right? Because then that’s something that… it seems to me that intact communities relies on conflict, resolution, and conflict resolution, and mediation and all of the things we’ve been talking about. So it’s sort of a…

Casandra 39:19
Chicken, egg?

Margaret 39:20
Oh, I was thinking almost of a like, like, building a building, you know, like, a pyramid, a traditional representation of hierarchy. But, in this case, representing bottom up, you know, where like, the strong base of a community is not it’s like justice system, but instead it’s like, conflict resolution and the ability for diverse opinions to coexist. And there’s the general ability for people to coexist, because people implies diverse opinions unless you live in some hellscape. Ideological bubble.

Casandra 39:54
Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.

Margaret 39:57
Now, it’s interesting because then this answers the question of how do you supplant the justice system? which is an important question.

Casandra 40:05
You support people in developing skill sets like this, which I was thinking about it before this interview and remembering when I was…so I don’t get paid to mediate as part of the neutrality, nut the initial 40 hour training, I took cost money, because it’s a non profit, very poor mediation center. And you’re one of the people who who you gave me like 50 bucks or something.

Margaret 40:32

Casandra 40:32
And you said, you messaged me, you said something to the effect of like, “Oh, I’m giving you money. This is like a skill that I think we need in more radical spaces.” And I was like, “Fuck, yeah, this Margaret person seems really cool.”

Margaret 40:44
Cool. Yeah, I don’t remember that. But, I believe you. I don’t remember a lot of things, dear, listener. That’s one of my skill sets is that I don’t remember things.

Casandra 40:59
That can be a blessing, I suppose.

Margaret 41:02
Sometimes, it’s like I, you know, it helps me really live in the present, you know, because it’s all just fog in front of me and behind me. I have impressions, impressions of what’s ahead and impressions of what came before. No, that’s great. I mean, how common are these types of organizations? Like, you have one in your town? Is it? Do I have one in my…well, I don’t have one in my town. There’s 500 people who live in my town.

Casandra 41:28
I’m only really familiar with my state. So, I’m in Oregon. And we have a network of Community Dialogue Resource Centers [CDRC]. I’m so bad at acronyms. There’s a whole network all over Oregon. And each center works, to some extent with the current justice system, depending on where they are in the resources, but they also offer free community mediation, and it’s really easy in my state to get training. Like at my center, you can, if you speak Spanish, and are willing to volunteer, as a bilingual mediator, you can get training for free, like it’s a pretty accessible thing, but I’m not sure about other states, like the agreement we have with the Justice System to do these restorative processes for youth offenders is pretty unique, apparently, like it’s a it’s a test…test run, that’s been going on for years. But I don’t think that’s necessarily common.

Margaret 42:31
I mean, it’s so basically, a way that some elements of the Justice System are trying to move towards an actual reasonable model away from the incarceration and punitive model is that right?

Casandra 42:43
Yep. Yeah. And it’s been because people at these Community Dialogue and Resource Centers have pushed really hard for the state to implement these programs here. But it’s also…I mean, has really good classes, you can just take on mediation. You can get, I have a whole…I’m looking at it, I realized this is not a video recording, but I have a whole bookshelf full of books on mediation, AK has presses put out…you know, there, there are lots of resources on mediation that are accessible. If people want to explore the skill set.

Margaret 43:22
Would you be able to provide a few of those links for our show notes?

Casandra 43:27
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Margaret 43:29
Thanks. So okay, my last question, I want to I want to take with take you on this journey, where we imagine you know, a society without the state, whether because we win or because we lose, depending on how you know, like, like,

Casandra 43:47
How you want to look at it?

Margaret 43:48
Yeah, I mean, you know, obviously, like, this is a, it’s not gonna be like some wingnut thing for people, for me to suddenly be like, “What if there was an apocalypse?!” right? Y’all are listening to Live Like The World Is Dying. I kind of want to ask you about the role of, and I know a lot of it’s implied, but we talked about, but like, the role of conflict resolution in terms of community preparedness, if you have like thoughts around that? [That] didn’t really end with a question mark.

Casandra 44:18
That’s fine. That’s hard for me to answer because it feels like a given. Like, community preparedness means that we need functional, intact communities, which means we have to have systems that could look all sorts of different ways, right? But we have…

Margaret 44:34
Like passive aggressive notes?

Casandra 44:36
That’s one way. But we have to have systems for working through conflict or else we do not have functional communities. And maybe different communities choose to do that in different ways. This is just like one particular tool or skill set that’s very adaptable.

Margaret 44:54
So if the state is abstraction of power, right, away from ourselves, basically the existence of the state, the long standing existence, the state is probably a huge part of what leads us to this conflict avoidance that you talk about, like causes these problems, we’re so used to relying on the state to handle our conflicts for us by calling armed people who like putting people in cages. And so basically…do you ever have those moments where like, you’ve been an anarchist for a long time, and then you still end up with these, like, obvious epiphanies that like, seem really obvious when you say them out loud, but still feel like epiphanies? That’s what I’m having right now about this, because I’m like, “Oh, this is everything. This is the foundation,” which is also what you just said, I’m saying this back to you.

Casandra 45:39
That’s why it’s so baffling to me that I’ve searched for years for collectives, groups, any, any individuals, anyone offering these skills in radical spaces, and it’s so hard to find. And that’s wild to me. It’s so wild. And that doesn’t, people aren’t doing it.

Margaret 46:00

Casandra 46:01
But it just doesn’t seem to be of high value.

Margaret 46:04
I wonder if it’s like, because people…because I have seen a lot of groups, and I’m glad there are groups that focus on transformative justice, right, but that’s the top of this pyramid of needs…my hierarchy of needs that I’ve created because I love hierarchy.

Casandra 46:19
Such a good anarchist.

Margaret 46:21
I know. I wonder if it’s kind of similar to how like, it’s a lot easier to find like armed anarchist organizations that will teach you how to shoot guns and like harder to find ones that’ll teach you how to like immediate conflict resolve, like someone angrily comes into your…you know, I and often I’m…the individuals do this, right? Like, there was a time. I don’t know if this person listens to this podcast, but a friend of mine was at some anarchist screening at some info shop and some angry guy comes in and starts yelling this and that about I think trans people. And my friend who’s trans was just like, “Hey, man, you want to go outside and have a cigarette with me?” And just like, went outside and talked to the guy. And he calmed down and left, and like, and my friend carries, right. But like, it’s so much easier to find information about the nuclear option the the, you know, the escalated version than it is to find resources about the “Hey, man wanna step outside with me and have a conversation.”

Casandra 47:26
Yeah, those soft skills are really devalued because of the way our society…

Margaret 47:32
What?! What if there was like a word to describe type of…We should call it patriarchy?

Casandra 47:38
I mean, who did people used to go to? Right? Was it like, grandma? Or like, gr… you know, the people, we devalue? e?

Margaret 47:53

Margaret 47:55
Well, I, you know, it’s hard. I don’t know where to go from, okay like, now we understand the entire basis of an anarchist society, without the state, basically means that we have to learn how to stop putting this not on other people, because obviously, we need other people, we need society to help us do this, but stop putting it on this, like, legalized abstraction that’s off in the distance.

Casandra 47:55

Casandra 48:23
So there, I mean, there are interpersonal skills, we all need to develop right around communication? But if we’re talking about people actually filling these roles that we need, we have to actually figure out how to support people in developing those skills and like value their skill set.

Margaret 48:40
Yeah. So how do we how do we do that?

Casandra 48:44
Well, you did it for me, I was like, Hey, Internet, I need money for this training. And you were like, “Here’s 50 bucks. This is important.” I was like, “Thanks!”

Margaret 48:58
Best part is that was probably a couple of years ago when I had substantially less …and like I’ve, since I think people who listen to this know that I’ve since like, started a nonprofit job and like, have more money than I used to.

Casandra 49:09
Oh, this was like 2016.

Margaret 49:11
Yeah, okay. Yeah. Okay. But okay, so like, so people can go and get trainings and people can bring this kind of information to their communities, both by doing it, but also by maybe like spreading the skills that people could be setting up like informal collectives or formal collectives are something to kind of like, work on fostering these types of skills like what else can we do?

Casandra 49:38
Just talking about it more. I mean, I remember who was I…Oh, I guess I can’t talk about this on the internet. I was doing seasonal labor that grants one a lot of spare time to talk and the people I was doing this….

Margaret 49:53
Blueberry harvest.

Casandra 49:55
Yes, blueberry harvest. The people that I was doing the seasonal labor with were like, “Hey, what if we listen to Rosenberg’s lectures on non violent communication and practice, because we got time to kill.” And we were like, “Alright,” so we all… I mean, and there’s a lot to say about NVC and its flaws, but we agreed to do this as a group and she sat around and practiced arguing using NVC until we got comfortable like, I, it’s hard to, it’s hard to, like, write us a prescription for people to normalize something like this, right? But the, the solution is that we have to normalize it somehow..

Margaret 50:35
No, that makes sense. Do you have any any final thoughts on conflict resolution or things that we didn’t talk about that we should have talked about?

Casandra 50:46
Um, it’s really important, we won’t function as a society without it whether it’s mediation or some some similar skill. I don’t know, Google “mediation centers” where you are. Chances are there there’s one somewhere in your state, or wherever you’re listening from.

Margaret 51:08
Yeah, I think we sometimes try to reinvent the wheel all the time, within radical subcultures. I can’t speak to other ones besides the anarchists ones, because it’s the one I participate in the most. But, we I think sometimes we like only look to existing anarchists projects as like, the realm of what’s possible. And that seems nonsensical.

Casandra 51:29
Yeah, actually, that reminds me…so that the center where I work is not politically affiliated, right. I’m like the youngest person there. It’s mostly a bunch of retired folks of various political leanings, which we don’t talk about. And there’s something to be said, for working in spaces like that, and learning these skills in spaces like that, because we don’t live in an anarchist society right now. Which means that we need to be able to navigate conflict with people who aren’t anarchists. And so if two people are in conflict, and they aren’t anarchists, and I approach them and say, “Hey, I’m an anarchist mediator,” then suddenly I’m not neutral or like a useful resource, right?

Margaret 52:16

Casandra 52:17
So it’s not that I think we shouldn’t have anarchists mediation collectives. I’m just saying that. I don’t think people should shy away from these a-political resources, because they really valuable still.

Margaret 52:31
There’s this thing I learned yesterday while doing research for my other podcast that you can check out, it’s called Cool People Who Did Cool Stuff that comes out every Monday and Wednesday. Okay, and um…

I know what you’re going to say, and yes.

Margaret 52:43
Yeah, well, okay. So like, I learned about this thing where, you know, I have infinite respect for the Jane Collective, right, the people who in the late 60s, early 70s, in Chicago were in this collective that ended up including more than 100 different people; women working as Abortionists illegally before Roe v. Wade. And for some reason that’s on a lot of people’s minds right now. But then I discovered looking back that in the 1920s and early 30s in Germany…Cassandra’s already heard this…there was all of these non politically affiliated organizations of illegal birth control advocates and Abortionists all over Germany. There’s more than 200 of these groups, and they were non politically aligned. But it was almost all syndicalists, anarchist syndicalists coming from a specific union, the acronym of which I forget off the top of my head. FAUD actually, I now remember it. And it’s like the Free Workers Union of Germany or something. And even though they did a lot of organizing and propaganda as anarchists in the rest of their lives, the abortion clinics, were not an anarchist project, because that wasn’t the point of it. And they weren’t there to recruit. And they weren’t…they were just there because people needed to have access to birth control and abortions. And I could imagine mediation….you know, if I was forming an anarchist mediation collective, if it was like, “We are the anarchists mediation collective,” it would maybe be for the anarchists, but if it was like, “We are anarchists doing this mediation collective and we’re willing to tell you, we’re anarchists, but it is not about anarchism.” I don’t know is that?

Casandra 54:23
Yeah, totally. I mean, I remember during my first training, going up to one of the directors and asking, I don’t remember what question I asked, but it was something about like, “What we’re talking about sounds like prison abolition,” you know, and like, there’s a particular mediation center in my area that is politically affiliated, and I was asking him if I should try volunteering with that center or with one of the non affiliated centers, and he said, “Definitely one of the non affiliated centers because the whole point of this if we’re actually abolishing the prison industrial complex is to get everyone to divest from it, which means everyone needs access, which means we don’t want to turn them off because we say we’re liberals or anarchists or whatever.”

Margaret 55:17

Casandra 55:18
I say liberal because he was probably a liberal, but surely, yeah.

Margaret 55:23
Yeah. No, that that makes a lot of sense to me. It’s interesting challenges a lot of like, the presuppositions I have about like when it isn’t, isn’t useful to identify projects politically. But, I think that makes a really strong case. Because, the point has never been, from my point of view to create little weird pure bubbles, cause, as we talked about creating weird pure bubbles is just….they’re just going to destroy themselves, much like bubbles, when you blow bubbles, they don’t last.

Casandra 55:54
Well and even like if you create this weird pure bubble, what if someone..what if you’re in conflict with someone outside that bubble? Is that person going to trust a mediator who is strictly inside that bubble?

Margaret 56:08
No, then we’ll just go break their windows, no matter what happened. Even if our friends are the one at fault.

Casandra 56:15
You know, if I get in an argument with my Catholic, Republican, anti-semitic neighbor across the street, even if I might prefer an anarchist mediator, that’s not something he’s going to agree to, therefore, the mediation won’t happen, and therefore it’s not productive.

Margaret 56:33
Right. Yeah. And, and even then, like, if you have a mediator who specifically there to be on your side, you don’t have a mediator, you have an advocate, I guess.

Casandra 56:42
Which is important. Advocates are really important. But that’s different. Different skill set.

Margaret 56:50
Yeah. No, totally. I mean, and then you get into the like, since you can’t enter someone into transformative justice, if they don’t want to, and if they’re not part of a community, you know, sometimes like, I remember there was an instance where to abstract this as far as I possibly can with the story is still making sense, where an anarchist went on a really bad date with a guy who wasn’t an anarchist, and then, like 30, people in black bloc, showed up outside his house with megaphones, and scared the everLiving shit out of him. And I think he was a little bit more careful from then on. But…

Casandra 57:28
Different techniques for different scenarios, right?

Margaret 57:31
Exactly. Exactly. Like, not everything should resort to violence or the threat of violence, but also, not everything…I think that is…I think that’s one of the things that turns people off from a lot of mediation is that I think that people see it applied at times when sometimes like,”No, maybe just like direct conflict is the actual answer to certain types of problems,” you know, but not that not that many of them.

Casandra 57:56
Well in mediation when it’s done well, I see the same argument around nonviolent communication, which I think Rosenberg was brilliant, I think that…or is? he like…

Margaret 58:07
I don’t know.

Casandra 58:08
Anyway, I don’t know, I think the way it’s applied often is horrible. But, I see this a similar argument around mediation and NVC and where those tools can be utilized to like tone police or silence people, etc. But mediation, one of the foundations of mediation is that it’s a consensual process. Which means that if someone’s in a mediation, and is like, “Oh, this doesn’t feel good to me anymore. This is like some boundaries been crossed, or I’m not comfortable with the way I’m being asked to communicate,” or whatever. They just stop the process. That’s it.

Margaret 58:50
Yeah, no, that makes sense. Yeah, I wish I could have done that with like…I have such negative connotations for NVC, because I feel like the times it just gets use…it’s, it’s just been like weaponized against me by people who are like, making me cry and then asking why I’m communicating so meanly while I’m crying because of the things that they’re saying to me or whatever, you know?

Casandra 59:10
Same, same. When I when I actually read Rosenberg, I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s not what he was describing.

Margaret 59:20

Casandra 59:23
Yes, yeah.

Margaret 59:24
And the spirit of the law, the spirit of the idea often gets stripped away and left with the letter of it.

Casandra 59:31
I’ve also had so many jobs where I’ve had so many bosses who were like, hippies using NVC to just like gaslight the shit out of you, you know? Like, “Yeah, I hear you feel this way. But I’m still your boss and will fire you.” You know?

Margaret 59:52
Yeah. All right. Well, I think we’ve covered every single thing about mediation and…

Casandra 1:00:01
Ever. Yep. And even can go and mediate now I’m sure.

Margaret 1:00:04
Yeah, totally. Just make sure to stick your own opinions in. Anyone is free to leave at any point all they…they will just be excised from the community. And, passive aggression is the logical response to everything. What else, did we cover everything?

Casandra 1:00:20
Gossip with your friends about everything you hear in a mediation so they can cancel each other.

Margaret 1:00:24
Oh, yep, definitely. And it’s really good to not only block people on social media, but then yell at everyone else to block the person on social media. Getting anything? I sarcastically make fun of things that people do in order to defend themselves from really bad things that happen. I understand why people do these things sometimes. It just gets out of hand.

Casandra 1:00:49
Different different tools for different scenarios.

Margaret 1:00:51
Yeah, totally. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on. Is there anything you want to shout out or plug or draw people’s attention towards here at the end of the episode?

Casandra 1:01:05
Um, maybe this…I don’t know publishing project called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness.

Margaret 1:01:12
Oh, are you part of a publishing project?

Casandra 1:01:13
Have you heard of that?

Margaret 1:01:15
Is it Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness at The publishing collective that you and I are both part of?

Casandra 1:01:24
Yeah, yeah, we could call that out.

Margaret 1:01:27
Yeah, if…this podcast is published by Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness, and we also publish a monthly zine. We’re publishing a bunch of books this year. And we’re really just…it’s a project that’s been around in one incarnation or another for about 20 years. But we’re like really, kind of kick starting it. No pun intended with the company this year and trying to give it a good push and we have a bunch of stuff coming out.

Casandra 1:01:54
If you like podcasts, now, there’s an audio version of each zine each month.

Margaret 1:01:58
Oh, yeah. What’s it called?

Casandra 1:02:01
Oh, shit, isn’t it’s just called Strangers [In a Tangled Wilderness]? This is our job.

Margaret 1:02:10
We’re very professional. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on.

Casandra 1:02:18
Thank you.

Margaret 1:02:19
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, you should learn how to mediate or don’t learn how to mediate and just walk like a wrecking ball through communities and tell everyone what you think. I guess I’ve already made enough sarcastic jokes this episode. Mediation is really cool. And you should look into it. You can also support this podcast. The main way you can do that is by telling people about it. You can tell people about it on the internet, or in person. Those are the only two spaces that exist I think. But either way you’d be helping us out. You can also support us directly by supporting us on Patreon. Our Patreon is, and depending we put up content every month, we have now two podcasts, this one and the podcast Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. We publish a lot of fiction, we will be publishing some poetry’s, and role playing game content, also some essays, memoir, history, you name it. And in particular, I’d like to thank Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsey, Staro, Jennifer, Elena, Natalie, Kirk, Micaiah, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog. You all are amazing and make all this possible. Strangers…well, this podcast used to be just me. But now it’s going to be coming out more regularly, thanks to all the hard work of all the people who work behind the scenes. So thank you for supporting them and thank you people who are behind the scenes for doing that also Anyway, I hope you’re doing as well as you can with everything that’s happening and I will be back soo

Find out more at

S1E40 – Max on Taking Care of Medical Needs

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Guest info and links

The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at Tangled Wilderness You can support the show on Patreon.

Referenced Texts:

> Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology, 9e
> Taylor and Kelly’s Dermatology for Skin of Color, 2e
> Sanford Guide To Anti-Microbials
> UpToDate:
> UpToDate – Evidence-based Clinical Decision Support | Wolters Kluwer
> Where there is no Doctor:Books and Resources – Hesperian Health GuidesHesperian Health Guides
> American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons


Max on Taking Care of Medical Needs

Margaret 00:15
Hello, and welcome to Live Like The Wold Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Margaret killjoy. I use she or they pronouns. And this week I’m talking to another medical practitioner. I’m talking to a nurse practitioner named Max, who is going to talk about how to access medical care when medical care doesn’t want to give you access to medical care. And we’ll be talking about the different ways that people source medications, and we’ll be talking about the different diagnostic tools and kind of talk about what you can do to learn how to be your own doctor. Yeah, I hope you enjoy it. This podcast as a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Ba-da-da-dah-dah-da.

Channel Zero Jingle

Margaret 02:18
Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess a little bit of your background as relates to the kind of stuff we’re going to be talking about today.

Max 02:27
Sure, my name is Max, I use he/him pronouns. I’m a medical provider, technically, I’m a nurse practitioner with a degree in family health care. I’ve been working in health care for about 15 years on the, on the East Coast, first doing primary care and working with LGBTQ+ folks, and now mostly doing HIV care in an infectious diseases environment.

Margaret 02:56
Okay, so the reason I wanted to have you on the show is I wanted to talk about, I guess you could say like DIY allopathic health care, or maybe rather like accessing allopathic medical care without access to the allopathic medical system. And, I was wondering if you could kind of give a brief introduction to that, and also explain what allopathy is, for anyone who’s listening who’s not familiar with that term?

Max 03:21
Sure. Allopathic is the word I think I’m going to use to describe the medical world I work in, I think about it, like how people talk about Western medicine. But I feel like there are so many different contributions to what we think of as Western medicine, from all over the world historically, and currently that it seems kind of like a dumb term. And I sort of reached out to some friends of mine who are in other kinds of health care, outside of this sort of what we think of as like this health care model and was like, “What’s the best terminology?” and they’re like, “Oh, “allopathic”, that’s what you should use,” you know, and so I think, “all right, that’s what I’m going to use for this.” And for me, I think a lot about expertise, right? Like someone could learn to work on a bicycle outside of ever having to learn necessarily in a shop or in a school. And they could learn to work on their bicycle super super well, and they could learn to start working on other people’s bicycles. And they could go on the internet and they could diagnose problems with bicycles and they could you know, become the person who lives next door who’s really really good at fixing everybody’s bicycles. And ultimately with experience that person can be an expert in bicycles right? That’s that’s something we allow people and there’s something about allopathic medicine that just doesn’t allow for that expertise outside of really rigid model, outside of schooling outside…it it police’s its borders. So like, if you want to go and look something up about your own health care on the internet, the things that you find are are terrible, even the things that are supposed to be reliable, like something like Medscape or something like that, you know, it’s like every, “Oh, you have a sore throat,” you look up sore throat, and it gives you every possible thing that could ever possibly have ever caused a sore throat, including some kind of cancer, right

Margaret 05:16
Yeah like if you look up, yeah.

Max 05:17
Yeah. And if you…but if you look up how to fix a flat, there’s not disclaimers about “Oh, you might cut off your tongue while fixing a flat, or run yourself over, or wear a helmet.” You know, it’s this…it’s like, matter of fact, you’re allowed to access the information. And I think that there’s…it’s a big problem when it comes to health care. And…

Margaret 05:29
Well everyone has bicycles, but only some people have bodies.

Max 05:42
No, no one has bodies. No one…

Margaret 05:44
Yeah. But everyone has a bicycle. So it makes sense.

Max 05:47
Everyone has a bicycle. Yeah.

Margaret 05:49
Yeah. Sorry, I cut you off. Please continue.

Max 05:51
No, it’s fine. Makes total sense. I, I, I also think too, about a lot of the, you know, I think one of the things I think about in your show is that idea of like, you know, the prepper, and the fallout shelter, or like the little green anarchists like how that’s not necessarily like a sustainable model in the, in the tradition, like, because we need each other, right. And I think one of the things that we need about each other is that we need all of each other. And I think this idea of being able to just go and live on the mountaintop and survive on your own is deeply ablest and assumes a lot about bodies and what bodies need and what people need to keep their bodies healthy.

Margaret 06:29
Yeah, and it doesn’t take into account that like even able-bodied people aren’t always perpetually able-bodied, you know, like, speaking as someone who currently lives alone on a mountaintop…you know, I think about it a lot, right? Like, I’m like, if I fall on the ice, my dog isn’t going for help. You know, and like, I could probably only do what I do with access to a cell phone. You know, like, realistically, I mean, sure people successfully live alone for long periods of time, without access to any of that, but people also unsuccessfully live alone without access to other people, too. So I agree with you. I am….Yeah, we do need each other even even, even when you choose to be mostly isolated, which actually come any kind of crisis. I’m not making this about me, I just got really self conscious thinking about the mountain top thing. You know, come any kind of crisis, I immediately don’t want to be alone anymore. Like, be…living alone only make sense in the context of the entire, like, social infrastructure that we have set up, you know?

Max 07:34
Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure. And it’s like, as soon as you get a little bit hurt, and you’re laying on the ground, and you’re like, “Why did I do that thing that I just did that got me a little bit hurt?” you’re like, “Will I be hurt forever. Will anybody findfind my corpse.

Margaret 07:51
Okay, so, so and then. So, you’re someone who does have access to a lot of the, you know, traditional allopathic medical world, right. And and what you’re saying is that it’s something that people can become more competent as individuals, whether they’re, like specializing, or whether they’re just like Jack-of-all-trades-ing their, you know, their health care. What does that…what does that look like? What are good places to start, either in the current context, or in a, you know, a crisis context in which we might be detached from social infrastructure? Like, what what should people learn?

Max 08:28
I’m definitely not in the working in any kind of realm of right now, like, emergency, right? So this definitely isn’t the like, ‘how to, you know, stop somebody from bleeding and excessively’ or…

Margaret 08:41
We have that episode, actually, so.

Max 08:43
Exactly, yeah. No, I’ve listened to it. And it was great. Um, but it’s sort of more like, how do we access these things, so that so that people can become experts outside of a traditional model, right? And so I think about things like, like, sort of big three big things as like reliable sources, right? Where can you look up information and actually get information without being told that you’re gonna, that you have cancer when you just have a sore throat, right. And, and then you have access to diagnostic tools, and things that help make diagnostics, and things that help sort of lay it out. And then because that’s something that you…we use all the time. And then the final thing I think about is, and also in in that realm of tools, is medications, right? Like how do we get medicine? You know, like this, like medicine in pill form, medicine in injectable form, like how do we get those things outside of a doctor model? And then the final thing is just like, what makes someone an expert is experience. But so the big things I’m going to talk about, like are like what I’d like to talk about, I guess is sources, and tools. Tools, and in the sense of tools I think, you know, diagnostics, manuals and things like that, but diagnostic tools and, and medicines. Okay, so

Margaret 10:09
This is exciting, I want to know these things, and then I’m going to ask you about fish antibiotics afterwards.

Max 10:13
And then in the very most fundamental level, I think that everyone in the whole world who…should have a little index card that they keep on their person that says, you know, their name and emergency contact, what they’re allergic to, if they have any medical conditions, if they take any medications, you know. It…or make, you know, or make that if you live with someone who’s older, if you live with someone who’s house bound, if you live with someone who’s particularly vulnerable, help them do that, make them for that for them, and just have that on hand. Because that just simplifies every process.

Margaret 10:50
I, I really liked that idea. And then like maybe people who have access to whoever in your neighborhood has a lamination machine, you know, make laminated cards for everyone. No, that makes sense. It’s one of the questions I get the most, you know, because the traditional, as you kind of mentioned, the traditional prepper space is very ableist, and very focused on people who are not marginalized by society. And, and so a lot of people are like, well, you know, “I need a thyroid pill every day, or I’ll die,” or, you know, or “I don’t want to go off antidepressants, I’d rather die,” or, you know, whatever these things are. And I don’t usually have good solid answers. So that was actually why when you reached out, I was so excited to talk to you. So I guess, do you want to start with sources? What are good sources, obviously, WebMD and Wikipedia, but…

Max 11:41
I have a ton as they do about ways of sort of amassing medication, so we’ll get to that.

Margaret 11:46
Okay, cool. Yeah, yeah.

Max 11:47
So, sources was like the first thing. If you can get health insurance right now. And I mean that in like…there are sometimes ways to get it. Like if you can access a lower income clinic, or you know, someone who’s a social worker, or does case management, they can help you often get, like state assistance health insurance. And like if you’re super sick, and you have a complex issue that would might involve…like, if you have a broken bone, or you worried that you might have legit pneumonia, you can absolutely always give fake information at an emergency room. Just be savvy about it…

Margaret 12:24
Right, and obviously only do this….

Max 12:25
And if you have to get hospitalised…

Margaret 12:27
Oh no, obviously, we’re talking about fiction in this particular context, as we would never advocate for you to break the law, but yeah.

Max 12:31
Yeah, absolutely fiction. Yeah, absolutely fiction and in…

Margaret 12:33
In a post apocalyptic society that looks exactly like our current society. This is what you could tell.

Max 12:37
Yeah, that’s what we’re, that’s what we’re talking about. And the only way to talk, you know, and in said society too, if you end up in a in a hospitalized situation, and you’re what they consider to be indigent. They know they can’t get blood from a stone. So they’ll often sort of retroactively sign people up for medical coverage to cover that. This is all of course, assuming that someone is documented so I don’t want to, I don’t want to assume that. So that’s on the baseline. But, so things that you could do diagnostic wise, right, we can learn and people can learn how to do physical exams. But I’m a big fan of, of, of some sources that people can access, there’s this book called “Where There Is No Doctor”, and everyone and their mother should ownthis book. You can get free PDFs of it, and tons and tons of languages, tons and tons and tons and tons of languages. And it is an incredibly useful thing. People should just get it for each other for like birthday presents, you know, and it pretty much shows you how to like diagnose and treat a wide variety of illnesses, even with explicit medication instruction. And it’s just, it’s just a really, really, really, really useful tool. There’s also this thing, this online thing that most healthcare people have access to called “Up To Date.” And if you know anyone in healthcare, and you know, in an in an in an alternate reality, where people can share things like you know, logins and things like that, you know, someone who might be willing to share that, you can use Up To Date to diagnose and treat everything. And what it is, is it’s, it’s, it’s staffed by medical people who create, you know, pages about different illnesses, about different things that you might encounter, and gives you all the most quote unquote, “up to date” well referenced literature about whatever it is, you know, and they kind of grade like, “Okay, we give this a Grade A, we give this a Grade B” in terms of like, okay, this is a good intervention or not. And you it’s, it’s, I look at it all day long, and I’ve been doing healthcare for a long time. Another possible thing that one could do if one was in like a collective of people was you could all go in on it have an Up To Date.

Margaret 15:06
How much does it cost? Or do you need to provide like medical license? Or?

Max 15:09
I’ve not had to, to sign up for it? I mean, and I think it’s, I think it’s very worth it. But I think it’s also like one of those kinds of things like, you know, a lot of subscription services where somebody’s got login. And there’s no way to sort of misuse it, you know.

Margaret 15:29
it just, it drives me crazy how like, this exists, and that we can’t access it. Like, I mean, obviously, some people can. And that’s, that’s wonderful. And I’m sure there’s reasons or whatever, but it’s just, it’s very frustrating the idea that, like, we’re all stuck with WebMD, you know, whereas like, actual doctors are able to like…it’s not that they just magically know, all this information, you know, I mean, I’ve been going to a friend of mine for years as like my primary medical provider, basically. As soon as he started going to med school, you know, he just started answering everyone’s medical questions for the community that he was in. And, you know, yeah, he spends all of his day like reading and stuff like that, and keeping up to date…it is a very clever name…about all this stuff. And it’s amazing how much it changes. I don’t know. I don’t know, I sorry, I just got really frustrated, think about how that that exists, and I can’t immediately access it, and I’m stuck, like, using things telling me I’ll die of cancer.

Max 16:30
And it’s, it’s…that’s kind of one of the things I mean, like what else? What else? Where else? Is it so difficult maybe to to access, actual legitimate, you know, resources, if you have a friend, like who’s in health care, and they’re associated with a university or like a major hospital system, there are also sometimes these biomedical libraries online? Well, of course, there are there are biomedical libraries online, sorry. And, you know, you can look up to the very most current research on things papers wise, you know, and that’s a fantastic, fantastic resource. If you know anybody with a login, who’s…or is…who is a medical student, or even just a student period, most of them have an online acc… online access to really, really good current research. And ways of guiding care. And so that’s another great tool. So you can actually be doing, you know, very, very current, you know, well documented smart health care for people, because they’re these things exist. These these documents, these research papers, exist, we just, it’s the access, right? It’s, it’s the access like 100%. Let’s see….

Margaret 17:56
I mean, it’s, it’s ivory tower shit, it’s like, it’s the same as like, whenever I’m trying to research history. There’s all kinds of papers written by historians, and they’re all locked up behind these academic paywalls. And I basically have to like bug my friends in the academy being like, “Hey, can you pull this paper?” Or like, write the author’s directly and be like, “Hey, you’re the only person who’s written about the blue spectacles worn by the nihilists in 1860s. Russia, can you tell me why they were blue? Can you just give me the paper?” You know, and I don’t know. Sorry, as an aside, it just irritates me. I don’t like this ivory tower thing.

Max 18:28
It’s ridiculous. It’s so ridiculous. And you know, but it really, I think, probably a lot of people are only probably a couple of degrees, like, away from someone who might have one of these log-ons…logins. So I think we should just pressure the hell out of our friends and colleagues, and make sure that they you know, distribute…

Margaret 18:48

Max 18:49
equitably, equitably. The…one of the things I really use a lot is like dermatology guides. So if you have a bunch of friends and you want to go in on a little like Biomedical Library, you know, you know if you know someone who ever went to nursing school or anything like that, ask them if they have, you know, things like anatomy books and things like that. But if you can get Derm books, they’re great. There’s one called “Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology”. And it’s just like the tome, and has, it has tons of color pictures, if you get an outdated one, just know that some of the recommendations in terms of things like antibiotics might be outdated, but…but what the rash is, and what it what it is, you know, is not…it hasn’t changed. That book, though, has…centers I think white skin considerably. There’s a book called “Taylor And Kelly’s Dermatology For Skin Of Color” that’s much much better in terms of, obviously, skin of color. It’s very, very good book as well. The problem with both of these books is that they’re not cheap. So it’s totally worth finding old copies. But then again, just remembering that, you know, the “how to treat things” might have changed.

Margaret 20:11
Okay, so the diagnostics are good, but the treatment…

Max 20:15
Yeah, but the “what to do” has changed.

Margaret 20:17
But once you diagnose it, then you can reference Up To Date or whatever to figure out a better….

Max 20:23
Absolutely. And just in terms of rashes, you know, rashes kind of can all look like each other, too. So that’s that problem with rashes.

Margaret 20:30
I mean, to be honest, like to just admit to everyone the main thing I’ve been going to medical care provider for many years, I, you know, i was a squatter, and I live in a van, I live in a cabin was was like, “Hey, what’s this rash?”

Max 20:43
What’s this rash!

Margaret 20:44
And usually the answer is shower more, and…

Max 20:48
Dirt rash.

Margaret 20:50
Yeah, and like, I think, ended up having to put anti-dandruff shampoo on various parts of my body at various points, and like leave it there for 10 minutes. Anyway, now that you all know more about me, then you need to…dermatology that that makes sense.

Max 21:09
I love getting to tell patients to shower less that sometimes happens with eczema,

Margaret 21:13
Oh, interesting. I haven’t had that problem. I’m looking forward to having that problem.

Max 21:24
So there’s a thing called the “Sanford Guide To Anti-Microbials”. They’re little bitty books, if you can get a very, very up to date one, or like, like, current one. Sorry. That’s a really useful thing. They’re teeny. The CDC website is really, really useful when it comes to all manner of things like travel exposures, bacterial and viral illnesses, their STD stuff is great, their PrEP stuff, which is like a pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, their PrEP guidelines are great and super, super accessible. And that’s just free and available, and you just look it up. But just instead of looking at the…look at the “For Providers”, you know, always just click on “For Providers.” And then I really like the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeon website when it comes to like certain exercises for bones and joints. And then let’s see, a lot of schools and universities will just have like”best practice guidelines, which are just the best ways to…like algorithms for diagnosing things. And then there’s some, like online videos, there’s this place I used to work….They… I used to refer a lot of my patients at this one practice to this place called Excel PT, Physical Therapy, and I love them because they have tons and tons and tons of free physical therapy videos on their website that are really really good. Like they’re legitimate physical therapy exercises that people can go through and be put through. And I just really liked them because I feel like, I don’t know it’s not just a printout. It’s…they’re actually putting someone’s body through the motions. They have them right up there and there’s not like 50,000 disclaimers, like you’re gonna…I don’t know, I really I think they’re super, super valuable. And I use them a lot with patients of mine who are uninsured who can’t go to physical therapy. So, that’s some of my…those are like my manuals, I love manuals anyways, in all manner of things.

Margaret 23:37
Yeah, that’s like the…sometimes people come over my house are sort of disappointed because I’m a fiction writer, and most of my shelves are just like…if I see a manual for how to do something at a used bookstore, I’ll buy it.

Max 23:47
Oh my gosh, totally. Every time.

Margaret 23:51
I really don’t see the world where I’m trapping small game. I just don’t see it happening. I’ve been vegan for 20 some years, but…

Max 23:59
I got this really good. It’s like a guide. It’s exactly that. I have to remember the name. I’ll have to tell you later. We can cut this out of there.

Margaret 24:07
Naw, we should leave that part in.

Max 24:10
It’s like a hunter-trapper manual. It’s so good.

Margaret 24:14
Good. Will we be able to put in the show notes all of the… wil you be able to send me the list and I could put this in top of the show note, so you don’t have to dig through the trans, transcription to find these again. Anyone who’s listening they’ll be in the top of the show notes.

Max 24:27
Absolutely. I will send you all of my, all of my bits and bobs. And then, I guess after after that comes to me like, diagnostic tools in terms of like physical things in like, you know everybody if you you know [have a] blood pressure cuff, pulse oximeter and stethoscope. Right. But you can use…if you get a microscope and you have slides…like a decent student microscope, you can actually diagnose a fair number of things. You know, if you can, you can learn how to Gram stain so you can figure out, you know a lot about bacteria.

Margaret 25:08
What kind of stuff can you successfully diagnose yourself with this kind of thing.

Max 25:12
Like with a microscope, for instance?

Margaret 25:14

Margaret 25:16
You can diagnose like a yeast infection or a fungal infection. If you have a microscope and something called potassium hydroxide, you can like…Trichomoniasis is like an STD. You can absolutely see Tric, like swim on a microscope slide. Um, you can, you know, if you look at a slide and there’s like loss of white blood cells, and then also like little ‘cock-eyes’ , sometimes you can diagnose certain kinds of STDs. And then yeah, with a microscope slide and some some pH paper, you can diagnose bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections and Trichomoniasis for sure. For sure.

Margaret 26:08
That’s cool.

Max 26:09
And then, yeah, it’s really cool actually. It’s fantastic. And it’s old school and, you know, people miss things. And sometimes things don’t look like how they should but there’s tons of information about that online

Margaret 26:22
There’s a question and probably, you probably can’t,but a friend of mine in med school saw his own chromosomes. And I assume that’s more than a microscope.

Max 26:33
Yeah, no. But, you know, a student microscope is going to be kind of more like bigger, bigger cells, things swimming across, you know, little fungal things that are growing. That kind of stuff.

Margaret 26:46

Max 26:48
And then if you can get access to urine dipsticks, so which you can actually buy, I think just, I mean, I even I think I looked them up on Amazon, which I shouldn’t have. But I did, just to see how easy they were to get, because there are in medical offices. They just have to be kept like in the little…they have to be kept in their little container that they’re in because they have to be kept dark. But, those can be used to diagnose, you know, a urinary tract infection. And if there’s sort of three things, or if there’s little two major things going on on them, you know, if you see something like an increase in the white blood cells that are on the little strip, and you see something called leuk leukocyte, esterase, or leuk esterase, or nitrites on there, those things pretty much are indicative of of a UTI. So if someone has recurrent UTIs, they can actually like pee on a strip and be like, you know, this is this is legit, this just this isn’t just me feeling like dehydrated or having coffee, too much coffee bladder or something like that. So it’s kind of really useful. Also, if someone just has a ton of glucose on there, that you know, that’s like a diabetes diagnosis. So that can be really useful. Having a glucometer is really useful, which tests their blood sugar levels because it can test to see if someone, you know if someone in somebody’s community is diabetic, and they get too low or too high, or just in general, if you have someone that’s not faring super hot, you can check their their blood glucose levels. The problem with glucometers is they’re maddeningly proprietary. So you get them and like there’s strips and there’s the little finger stick things and they all go with the one has the ones and so it’s really obnoxious because it’s not like you can super easy cobble together a little glucometer setup.

Margaret 28:44
That’s basically to rip off diabetic people.

Max 28:47
Oh, completely. It’s just all…it’s the dum dum dum dum, dum dum. You know, pregnancy tests. There’s home HIV tests. Now we’ve got COVID test. Apparently, mine’s coming from the government. I just finished and I just got it back a negative rapid covid just like two seconds before this. I was feeling kind of rundown. Yeah, I was feeling kind of rundown. So I was like, I should do this before I see my kiddo tomorrow. Yeah. And then now more and more, you can just order lab work for yourself. And I think it’s really useful to know what you’re going into before doing something like that. And all these things I’m talking about, you know, it should be for really big like, “I think I might have an STD,” you know, or like, I think, you know, there’s something, something isn’t right with this very specific thing. But a lot of these sort of like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics and things you can actually just go on and order your own tests. It’s not cheap, but…

Margaret 29:52
I went and got a bunch from Let’s Get Checked. And I’m a little bit squeamish around blood and it was like, “Oh, it’s a finger prick and I can handle a finger prick.” What they don’t tell you is that it’s a finger prick and then milk the blood out of your finger.

Max 30:05
Oh, I hate that, the word milking.

Margaret 30:08
Yeah, and I literally couldn’t do it. I like, tried. And then I was like making someone help me. And then they were like getting really stressed out because I was kind of freaking out of them. And I couldn’t do it. So I have like, a fair amount of expensive tests sitting and waiting for me to figure out how to, and then, you know, I like I talked to them, and they’re like, “Oh, you just got to make sure you take a shower first, and that you’re all warmed up so that you can like…” and I’m like, “I will not milk blood from my finger.” So I have…my squeamishness prevents me from accessing certain amongst these tests.

Max 30:48
Well, some of them, you can order yourself and actually just bring to the lab. And they’ll actually do a blood draw for you. So I learned that from…

Margaret 30:57
Okay, okay.

Max 30:58
Yeah. But they’re not always, you know, I think the cost is always kind of an issue at the end of the day with some of these things.

Margaret 31:08
Yeah, I like the idea that someone in like, someone in your crew can have a microscope and at least tell you if you have Tric.

Max 31:15
Yeah, for sure. For sure. Especially if you know, the symptoms, and the and the test match up. Yeah, possibly all labs may be able to be ordered. But the thing is, I’m a big fan of like, not going looking for things unless there’s an actual… I don’t know, unless someone’s having a problem in that they feel like it means that something has changed from their baseline to such a degree that it’s causing them…like, things aren’t going well.

Margaret 31:48

Max 31:48
You know? And if something I always tell people, if something’s been there on your body for a long time, and it’s unchanged, it’s probably not anything. You know, like, it’s probably just a… it’s probably just your variation on a theme, or it’s some kind of weird little cyst that’s just always gonna be there. And if if it’s causing sort of psychological distress, distress, or something, that’s totally fine. Like, we can deal with it. But if it’s not changing or getting worse or anything, it’s probably nothing. That…nothing worrisome. It might be something but it’s not going to be something worrisome.

Margaret 32:23

Max 32:24

Margaret 32:25
You mentioned also in diagnostic tools, like physical exams, like, what are the kinds of physical exams that we should be learning how to administer on ourselves and our friends?

Max 32:35
Well, I think just sort of knowing what your body is like, like know, from the get-go, like not to be totally “to our bodies, ourselves,” but I think there’s something really good about knowing what’s there. You know, and, like self exams are good in terms of people think about, like, you know, chest self exams, testicular self exams, those kinds of things. I think if someone really wants to pursue be… you know, knowing about other people’s bodies, you know, knowing knowing what, what to listen for, would you listen at someone’s heart and things like that are important things, you know, to know. But I think just having kind of a sense of oneself and like, “Oh, something isn’t right. Something really isn’t right,” is is kind of the most important part when it comes to physical exams.

Margaret 33:25
So just knowing your baseline basically, and knowing…

Max 33:27
Knowing your baseline and knowing when something wildly deviates from your baseline.

Margaret 33:33
Okay. Which of course always says the fun, like aging thing where you’re like, Oh, that’s a new spot.

Max 33:38
Oh, yeah, totally. Or that hurts so much.

Margaret 33:41
Oh, actually, okay here’s a diagnostic question: What should I look for? What should ‘one’ look for when they look at moles? To try and figure out whether or not they’re worrisome?

Max 33:52
Is it? Is it new? Is it irregular? Like very irregular. Not like a nice little round, nice, like continuous border, but does it look raggedy? Right? Is it, is it kind of just like a different pigmentation from your skin color? Or is it like, like really black? Or is it like, going to bleed easy? Is it kind of bumpity all over as opposed to kind of a continuous smooth thing? In my experience, things that are worrisome that turn out to be cancer, things look worrisome. They look really different. Usually. Not always, but usually, you know, you see something and you’re like, “What is that?” That’s not something that’s been on your body before. And again, if it’s something that’s unchanged, really, mostly it’s been there for a long time. It’s not doing anything. It’s just chillin with you.

Margaret 34:55
So, one of the things I want to ask about, that you talked about briefly before we before we started recording is, is access to medications. Obviously, medications are something that it’s, you know, there’s there’s probably two types of answers to this question or almost two questions. And one of them would be like, “What can you gain access to in a situation where law is no longer a thing?” Versus “What can you gain access to within the existing society?” Like, how can you gain access to different things? And those are maybe related questions, and maybe not, but I’m curious.

Max 35:31
I think they’re related. I think I need to preface it, okay. Something that’s really important to me is anti-microbial stewardship. And it’s, it’s up there with, you know, all kinds of stewardship, right, like Earth stewardship, meaning like, we have access to drugs that treat microbes. We have overuse to them as a society, right. And now we have these things called multi-drug-resistant organisms. And the way we prevent more of that is not is by not taking medicine that we don’t need. Okay. And by taking medicine, that makes sense for the organism. So that’s my only little caveat that I’m putting out there.

Margaret 36:18
No, that’s interesting. The way of phrasing it as like, part of stewardship makes a lot of sense. Like, so what’s involved in…I mean, like, you know, I remember, was a kid, we’d all be like, “Oh, don’t use antimicrobial soap, or you’ll make everything worse,” you know, and I don’t know, that was us being like, proud about being dirty, or whether that was legitimate and, like, like, so what else is involved? I mean, there’s also the like, you know, always complete your round of antibiotics, so that you like, actually destroy it versus like, you know, almost killing it having come back worse, but like, what are…

Max 36:53
That’s kind of changed a little, they’ve actually shortend a lot of courses.

Margaret 36:55
Oh, interesting.

Max 36:56
Yeah. You know, it used to be these sort of like long drawn out courses. We just want to make sure that someone’s using the right, right drug for the right critter, right. And that we’re not just taking medicine because we don’t feel good. Because, there’s a lot of things that may make people not feel good, that doesn’t even have anti whatever’s towards it, like anti-microbials. Because it might not be bacterial it might be viral, there might not be anything to do for it. You know, like the vast majority of of those, those two, three weeks, sort of sinusitis, doom, “I’m so sick, and I’m never going to be a well person.” That’s all viral illnesses, you know, there’s not anything we can really do for them. If it’s multi-symptom, like that, like runny nose, and yucky eyes, and a cough, and chest, and I mean pre-COVID virus, right? Viruses present a lot similarly to each other. Right. And viral illnesses make us kind of have viral illnesses, which are usually multi-symptom. And a lot of viruses, we just kind of have to suck it up and do the soup and neti pot and be miserable for a while.

Margaret 38:15

Max 38:16
But so that, you know, we can target anti-microbials like anti-biotics like specifically to certain to certain things, because we can diagnose them pretty specifically with certain tools, or, you know, we kind of really know that these symptoms always kind of equal “this” or whatever. But it’s just something good to keep in mind going into things. I mean, everybody does dumb things. And everybody…sometimes I have definitely…many times I’ve written prescriptions for things that I wasn’t 100% sure of, because I want to make someone well, and we don’t have access to all the diagnostics and…

Margaret 38:56
Right. So it’s just your best guess or whatever.

Max 38:59
Yeah. But, not everybody should be taking azithromycin if they feel bad, ya know? But so I think that’s my only thing going into things. It’s just, you know, we should be we should be conscientious of these things. Um, because we only, you know, we have the potential to create total havoc when it comes to critters, right. I mean, yeah. I guess I think about accessing medications or anything. So, where do you get medications in the world, right, if you don’t have like a provider or prescriber? So, most medicines, if they’re like a tablet form, do not readily expire. So most medication…

Margaret 39:50
I’ve heard the efficacy drops a little bit.

Max 39:53
Maybe, maybe a little, but it takes a lot for the efficacy to drop, drop, drop. I mean, I guess Have you opened up an old thing of meds and it just looked very, very strange? Maybe…but if it’s still there, most of the time, most medications, they just don’t have the money to keep studying them out and out and out and out and out expiration wise and they get to the point where they’re like, “It’s probably not expired…” Certain…like tetracycline, maybe it causes a dangerous situation. So, stay away from old tetracycline and Ranitidine.

Margaret 40:32
And that’s an anti-biotic?

Max 40:34
Oh, yeah, so tetracycline is the antibiotic. And that, that could be dangerous if, if it’s old, theoretically, but it’s not prescribed, like all that anymore. And Ranitidine, which is like a stomach med that’s been taken off the market, it’s an antacid style medication, it has some cancer causing compounds that could have occurred, that most things like if they’re a tablet, they don’t expire. Like it’s completely reasonable to hoard medication.

Margaret 41:05
Okay, is there a way to get the doctor to give you like, longer prescriptions? Like I’ve heard that like, sometimes people struggle to be like, I want my ADHD meds more, you know, and people are like, nervous to give larger best perscriptions or whatever.

Max 41:21
That’s tricky because they’re control…sometimes they’re controlled. And I think with controlled meds, providers are super squeamish.

Margaret 41:28
Okay. Okay.

Max 41:29
Which sucks. But, some meds just keeping them you know, just if you have them in your house, and, you know, maybe you didn’t take them, as long as it’s not liquid medicine or emergency medicine. So, if it’s like an epi pen, or insulin, you want those things to stay, obviously, like, you don’t want them to be expired.

Margaret 41:52

Max 41:53
But you know, but inhalers seem to be okay. And I always just say, if you have like old meds, antibiotics, et cetera, keep them. Someone may need them. Right? Do you have a relative that’s passed from this mortal coil or whatever, and you know, you’re cleaning out their space? Maybe there’s something that they might have that someone needs?

Max 42:18
You know, I shouldn’t I mean, this is like that…my pharmacist friend is going to roll over in her not grave, but like, but we’re always told not to tell people this, but we’re talking about, you know, access, if someone doesn’t have access to medicine that they need, you know, how do we get them access to medication. So this is sort of talking about, like, you know, worst case scenario, but, and then I always think about, you know, if someone, if you got a prescription of something, say, and you took it, and it gave you a rash all over, and the doctor said, “Don’t take it anymore, you’re allergic to it,” or you’re like, “Oh, I threw up and I never took that, again,” save it, because that’s almost a full course of the medicine. It’s probably the you know…which is fantastic. You know, if you if you were taking something for something like, like for HIV, and you were on anti-retrovirals, and you switched regimens, because you were cured… like wanted to take something new, save your old meds. So, because as long as you’re not resistant to your old meds, your previous med regimen still works. And you could go back to it, and you could save yourself, like a couple months of heartache if something went down.

Margaret 42:18

Margaret 43:34
Okay. So theoretically. This is okay…Wait, no, I don’t want to give terrible medical advice on this show. Nevermind.

Max 43:44
I’m not trying to either. That’s, why I’m like…”ahhhh!”

Margaret 43:48
Because I’m like, well, how could someone get a backstock of you know, someone who’s HIV positive and wants to have access to their medication, despite disruptions in supply chains, and whatever. I dunno people can figure that out themselves.

Max 43:59
You know, I think about this all the time, I think about this all the time, do you have a friend that would be willing to get meds prescribed for them? Even if they you know, do you have a friend with insurance that would be willing to, to say that they had X, Y and Z in the low stakes way? I mean, it starts to become high stakes if controlled substances are involved. Right? That’s when things become dangerous for everyone involved. And you know, could be…

Max 44:02
And that would be stuff like painkillers, Ritalin. I forget the name of the larger…SSRIs.

Max 44:39
Not SSRIs.

Margaret 44:41
Oh really, okay.

Max 44:42
But benzodiazepines…

Margaret 44:45
Oh, that’s what I was thinking of, benzos. I dont’ take medication.

Max 44:48
Yeah, I think that you know, you have to you have to go and and, you know, get special scripts for and things. Those are the things that they…

Margaret 44:56
The stuff with street value, basically. The stuff that’s fun to take.

Max 44:58
Exactly. Those are the things sprays thick eyebrows. Yeah, yeah. And, and, you know, and there’s a lot of surveillance of, you know, but if if if you’re someone who needs thyroid medication to live, you know, and you have someone, you know, if you have access to other ways of getting your same medication, you know, that’s not a medicine that’s necessarily going to raise eyebrows or some of the medications can be very expensive. Sometimes, you know, people can ask their providers to give them 90 day supplies of things. I…you know, I think we try to do that all the time. And I think a lot of people who do have chronic health conditions are very savvy about pre planning.

Margaret 45:47

Max 45:47
When it comes to medications, otherwise, you can’t go anywhere.

Margaret 45:50
Yeah. So so what else? How else does one access medications?

Max 45:56
I think I talked about partners like if you if you have a partner or a friend who has health insurance, and you don’t. And then if you know, anyone who’s traveling to countries with pharmacies that don’t require prescriptions. So there’s a you know, handfuls of countries where one can just go into a pharmacy and just purchase medication.

Margaret 46:15
And is this something that’s like, like, what’s the legality of taking like, let’s not let’s, let’s pretend like we’re not taking other controlled substances, let’s talk thyroid pills or whatever, right? If I, if I go to a country where I can just get thyroid pills over the counter, I actually don’t know whether you can get thyroid pills over the counter or whether they require Medicare? Is this a good example?

Max 46:34
It’s a great example. Okay, let’s talk about levothyroxine. Can you go in to a pharmacy in some countries and just buy it? Yes. Do you have someone in your life that needs it desperately? Maybe? Go and get it.

Margaret 46:46
What? What’s the law about bringing it back into the country, something that requires a medication [perscription] in another country, and in this country?

Max 46:54
So I can’t speak specifically to any law, but it’s not something that I’ve ever heard of penalized.

Margaret 46:59

Max 47:00
Because again, it’s not, it does…There’s not a control piece there.

Max 47:04
Okay. And again, we’re not telling anyone to break any laws, and people should make their own decisions. And if it turns out that this stuff is illegal, that would also map to being morally wrong, because obviously, the laws of our society are just and worth valuing.

Margaret 47:04

Max 47:04
It’s not a scam. It’s not a, you know, I think if you set up like a capitalist, Super Buyers Club kind of concept thing where, you know, you’re bringing levothyroxine back into the United States and selling it for I don’t know, I would be like, you’re pretty savvy, but you know, that I don’t think it would be…I mean, otherwise, I think if you’re just bringing back amounts, that makes sense for like, a person, a single person to use, I don’t think there would be any surveillance of that at all.

Max 47:50
Especially when it comes to people’s health.

Margaret 47:52
Yeah, totally.

Max 47:54
And you know, some countries, some countries have it more restrictive than we do like, right, like so in Ireland, like, if you go to Ireland bring birth control to Ireland. People can’t get birth control, you know, i was staying in the, I was staying in the Netherlands with some friends years ago, and they had a kid who had pretty severe allergies, like, you know, and you can’t buy over-the-counter Benadryl in in the Netherlands at least when I was visiting. So we would just always bring Benadryl to the Netherlands, especially children’s Benadryl.

Margaret 48:29
Yeah. Yeah, that’s funny. Cuz that’s like, what I mean, people give that for anxiety when they don’t want to give benzos you know, I don’t know about Benadryl, specifically, but things in that catergory.

Max 48:45
Like hydroxyine and things. Yeah, for sure. It’s just wild, though, what is and isn’t sort of acceptable, over the counter and not over the counter and all that in, in different places that you visit and, and we should just, you know, be be trucking things around, because these aren’t things that are they’re not, they’re not controlled medications. They’re not, you know, medications that are necessarily going to get someone in trouble,

Margaret 48:48
Right. So what about um, it’s funny because like, the classic example in a prepper mindset is that preppers are very concerned about the health of their fish. And they’re very concerned about their fish getting diseases. And since they’re so worried about their fish, they stockpile fish anti-biotics for their fish. And with the possible use, if absolutely worse, came to worse of taking them as humans, because theoretically like veterinary medicine isn’t as controlled. But obviously this then gets into like current horse medicine craze with ivermectin,

Max 49:10
Oh, ivermectin.

Margaret 49:16
Or even ketamine. I mean, you know, we’re talking about like, the Right takes ivermectin and the Left takes ketamine where everyone wants horse drugs. Like, how useful is like, how useful are things like fish antibiotics, or even like other veterinary medicines for cross species application in an apocalypse? And that’s not why you bought them. It just happens to be the apocalypse and you happen to have them?

Max 50:21
Well, I mean, so ivermectin has its uses, right? Like we use it in people to treat like, I don’t know, like, Strongyloidiasis. Like it’s an anti parasitic, so it has its uses. I think it’s sometimes about the preparation of things. Like is something, if you’re giving it to your fish? Like, what how would you make it? I think it would be about figuring out how to make it so that it was in people. People form. In terms of dosage.

Margaret 50:57

Max 50:58
Right, and figuring out that kind of thing. And I think it depends on the antibiotic.

Margaret 51:03

Max 51:04

Margaret 51:04
So some of them will actually only be applicable to fish, whereas some of them might actually be applicable across species?

Max 51:10
I think most of them should be applicable cross species, if it’s something that is a drug that both species use.

Margaret 51:18

Max 51:19
Like, so if I don’t know what fish antibiotics are available? I wish I did. Because it I could say, “Oh, this, this amoxicillin could absolutely be used for fish and people. You know, I mean, I think it’s more just about like, how do you figure out… because, you know, it’s probably with the fish, it’s probably like some kind of, like, drops that you put in the water? Or? Because, it can’t imagine how you would give your fish their antibiotics.

Margaret 51:44
I’m a bad prepper I should know this stuff. But I don’t actually know a ton about bunkers, or fish antibiotics, or buying gold.

Margaret 51:47
Is it flakes? Is it in flakes? Yeah.

Max 51:54
But I mean, I think yeah, I mean, I think at the end of the day, we’re going to have to find ways to access these things. You know, I think the big deal is going to be like, how are we going to eventually manufacture things that we… because we are going to need antibiotics, we are going to need anti-parasitics, and all these sorts of things.

Margaret 52:15
Well, my general mindset around that, you know, people have asked me this a long time, people might ask it more about like, “How in an anarchist society, would you X, Y and Z,” right? Like people will be like, well, “I need…” I’m just gonna use thyroid medication forever as my example just because like years ago, like 10 years ago, a friend of mine asked me this question directly, you know, and they were like, “Well, I need a thyroid pill every day. Or I’ll die? How would an anarchist society make it?” And my answer has always been, or I don’t know, however, we do it now, right? Because like, people and physical infrastructure will likely still exist in various ways through various types of crises. And the things that are more disrupted are the, the mechanisms of control and the organizational mechanisms that, you know, distribute these things, or even pay the people to make them, right, that kind of stuff could be disrupted. But by and large, you’re still going to have people who know how to make antibiotics, and you’re still gonna have, you know, the…the supply chain might get disrupted, which is a problem, right? But then even then, it’s like, you know, well, there’s people who know how to grow grain in the West and Midwest. And there’s people who know how to load it onto trains, there’s people who know how to drive those trains to the coasts to feed people, and we probably won’t lose that. But we might lose the system that tells everyone to do those things. And I don’t know whether it’s a cheap out, but…

Max 53:40
it’s obviously like anarchists and BioPharm. Like, it’s not like we’re like in this universe, like where it’s just, you know…there’s all kinds of folks. I just sort of think about it, like, in terms of times of times have like interim times times of like crisis. How do we make sure that people have access to things? Which I think were gonna have to work on.

Margaret 54:02
Yeah, no, that makes sense. Because, it’s like, there is a difference between talking about disaster and talking about like an anarchist society or whatever.

Max 54:09

Margaret 54:10
Okay. So one of the things that you mentioned, kind of related to this, but in an actual like, apocalypse scenario, right every…I’m no longer being euphemistic. Although, of course, I was never been euphemistic. But, I’ll be euphemistic if i includes zombies in this in this disaster, but whenever you watch a zombie movie, they like raid the pharmacy, right?

Max 54:29
Which is such a good idea.

Margaret 54:31
Yeah. So what would you raid like if you’re in the apocalypse and like you are trying to set up your I guess, like clinic or you’re trying to take care of people, while there’s like nuclear fallout and zombies and, I don’t know, roving militias, but different than the current roving militias, what are you looking for?

Max 54:52
When a…you know in an apocalypse situation? I think about this so much I’ve had so many fun conversations with my peers. It’s actually wonderful to work in an infectious diseases practice and ask everybody what they would bring, because it was one of the biggest, like conversations, like arguments that came up about anti-microbials, antibiotics that was just amazing. I don’t think I would be thinking in terms of setting up a clinic, I think it would be very much in terms of like, “What can’t I get?” and I would try to get broad spectrum antibiotics. So if I had to name them, I would get doxycycline, and levofloxacin, and or ciprofloxacin, and or a medication called amoxicillin. amoxicillin, amoxicillin clavulanate, because I can’t talk today, I would get albuterol. And mostly, that’s for selfish reasons, because I’m a little asthmatic. And also, because asthma. I would try to get prednisone, epinephrine, like epi pens, and some…anything for like pain and fever. Those would be like, really, really high up there on my list. But I would, if I had to have pick a single antibiotic, I would choose doxycycline, all the way, which is part of my big arguments with all my coworkers. But you know, everybody has their things.

Margaret 56:26
They’re not big doxy, they’re not big doxy-fans?

Max 56:29
All of them. Everyone is. They would all have it on their list, but everybody had it on different sections of their list.

Margaret 56:36
Yeah, it was an interesting conversation. And then I think if, if things were a little more mellow, and had a little more time in there, I would start to grab stuff that was like, sort of more meaningful for just long term existence. Right? And I think about this in terms of my, my friends and my people and stuff, but um, you know, like queer folks and, and, and PAW’s [Post Acute Withdrawl] folks and stuff, but, so I think, alright, I would, you know, maybe grab…let me see, do I have my list up even?

Margaret 56:36

Margaret 57:13
In your bug-out bag is the like…you keep a laminated, like if you hit the store, this is what you get list.

Max 57:23
Yeah, exactly…if you have 10 more minutes in the store you know…

Margaret 57:27
If you brought the large bag put in….

Max 57:30
So like insulin, you know, requires refrigeration. But if you could get any kind of grab 70/30 cause you can keep the largest number of people, probably. I would grab testosterone and estradiol. Probably morphine, because it’s really useful in a lot of different situations, and in cardiac situations. And then if I had to choose like two HIV meds, I would choose Biktarvy and Prezista, or probably Biktarvy and Prezcobix, cause that combination of medicine covers for a huge number of resistant HIV strains. And also, it’s just, I would just have it and be like, “Here, let’s keep people around for longer.”

Margaret 58:16

Max 58:17
I don’t know. Those are sort of, that’s sort of my short list. I…honestly, if I was if I was raiding, a pharmacy, and…I would just grab everything that I could get my hand on. Seriously, because it all would come in handy at some point, you know, especially if it was antibiotic.

Margaret 58:36

Max 58:37
Or like something for giardiasis , that would also be something I would probably get on there.

Margaret 58:42
I had giardia once, it was not my favorite thing that’s ever happened to me.

Max 58:45
It’s not the…it’s…I had it too. It’s not fun.

Margaret 58:48
Yeah. Which is why I’m such a big like filter water person. Because I definitely got it from unfiltered water at a big gathering once.

Max 58:56
I got it from swimming in, from swimming in the river by my old house.

Margaret 59:02
See, that’s better because that’s like a reasonable thing to do. Whereas, I should have known better, you know?

Max 59:07
It wasn’t…it was not that reasonable. Believe me it’s a filthy river.

Margaret 59:11
I’m Sorry.

Max 59:13
It’s okay, it was a blast, but i was like “Ooooh,”

Margaret 59:18
No pun intended?

Max 59:20
Yeah, that’s true, too.

Margaret 59:24
Okay, but what…it seems like okay, you raid the pharmacy, it would just set up shop in the pharmacy. Just get like, you know, all your friends with rifles, defend the pharmacy and become a pharmacist.

Max 59:35
That’s true. I would be a terrible pharmacist. I have no precision in anything I do.

Margaret 59:41
Yeah, okay.

Max 59:42
I would bring in my pharmacist friends.

Margaret 59:45
Okay. So you’d be the doctor at the pharmacy?

Max 59:48
No, I don’t know what I would do. If I didn’t…I don’t know, healthcare is like it’s a job. But I like doing it also. I don’t know, I’m sort of thinking about your friend who, who we’re talking to, in the interview about working during COVID….

Margaret 1:00:11
Are you having feels about the working during COVID?

Max 1:00:15
Big time. It’s been a wild thing. Everyone’s sad.

Margaret 1:00:22

Max 1:00:23
Yeah. But no, it’s just more just sort of like, would I do health care if it wasn’t my job? And I think I would, but I think I would do it in a totally different capacity.

Margaret 1:00:37
How would you do differently if in a, in an anti-work environment where you didn’t have to?

Max 1:00:43
I would walk in the woods with people and talk about their health in a totally different way.

Margaret 1:00:48

Max 1:00:49
Yeah. You know, and, or visit them in their homes. And I would have a ton of time. And I would like get to know what they were doing in their lives in a way that I can’t in like tiny little weird rooms, with a limited amount of time and that kind of thing.

Margaret 1:01:12
I even just think about one time someone was doing some alternative healing with me, actually helped. I used have a chronic injury in my chest. And it’s, it certainly wasn’t the thing that cured it, but it helped. But as they’re doing this thing, they’re like, playing soft ambient music and like, you know, like, talking softly to me, and like, the lights are dim, and it’s a very calm environment. And I’m like, “Why can’t the dentist be this way?” You know? Like, why do you gotta go to the dentist, and it’s not like, I don’t know, like, someone’s rubbing your feet and like telling you, everything’s gonna be fine. You know?

Max 1:01:55
I can’t go to the dentist until…unless I’m like, high out of my mind on some kind of benzodiazepine. Like I can’t, I have to literally kind of create like a, like a non remembering experience every time I go to the dentist. So like, I go to the dentist, and I’m like, “Do whatever you want.” And then three years later, I go back and have the same experience.

Margaret 1:02:24

Max 1:02:25
Which is probably a self fulfilling prophecy of dentistry.

Margaret 1:02:28

Max 1:02:29
Yeah, but then it’s always like a tooth removal.

Margaret 1:02:32
With what you’re talking about, about, you know, all the medical care providers being so tired. And obviously, this thing that I’m talking about doesn’t solve like, COVID, right? But what you’re talking about about wanting to help people become…gain expertise and control over their own bodies, it seems like that would help, you know, because it’s like, like with the bike repair example, right? Like, I don’t know, when I wrote a bike all the time, like I could, I could swap out the handlebars, I could tighten the brakes, I could patch a tire. Or I could patch a tube. But, I couldn’t. But, I couldn’t align the spokes. I could have learned to align the spokes, but like I, I didn’t, you know, and I certainly wasn’t building bikes. And every time I look at the derailleur, my head would break. And like, and so there’s, there’s always going to be a role for bike shops, even if everyone’s good at bikes. And…

Max 1:03:31

Margaret 1:03:32
And so having, you know, crews of people who are specialized in allopathy, as the thing they do, the thing that they’re most interested in, will always make sense. But like, just having more people able to do more of it on our own seems like it really just helps everyone. It doesn’t help the people who want to make a ton of money off of things, or have a ton of control over how people live and what they do, you know.

Max 1:04:01
Yeah, I think that’s totally real. I think it will also alleviate things on patients. I think that when people know themselves and can come to their provider, with a sense of what’s going on with their bodies and navigate the system in a way that feels a little bit more, I hate to be corny, but like empowered. Like, I think that’s super legitimate. I think that one of the ways that healthcare just screws people over constantly, is that no one knows how to deal with it. They don’t know what to ask for. They just they are in a little room and all of a sudden someone comes in tells them a bunch of stuff they’re supposed to do gives them some papers and shews them out.

Margaret 1:04:42

Max 1:04:43
And it’s there’s nothing in there that that creates a relationship. There’s nothing in there that creates…I don’t know. I don’t know. I think that people being in charge of their own bodies is is awesome.

Margaret 1:05:00
Yeah, and it’s, it’s something that like, I had this realization about school, as well as like doctors or whatever. Like, at some point, especially with like higher education, if you go to college, it doesn’t make any sense to me that the teachers like, are in charge of you. Because they’re, they’re literally people that you’re hiring to teach you. Like, you’re giving them money, and they’re teaching you and that’s cool. That’s great. But they, they act like, “Oh, well, if you miss class, then you’re in trouble.” It’s like, what trouble? Like, why? Why would this institution have any leverage over you?And

Margaret 1:05:39
And that’s kind of how I feel about the medical world is that like, it always helps me, and I’m actually almost lucky in that I’ve been, well, now I have regular insurance, but I was sort of underinsured for most of my adult life. And so I relied heavily on public health and clinics. And I actually found that people on public health they are way more tired, but they’re also working there because they like care. And so they’re like frazzled and annoyed, but they also like, fundamentally care more often, I also am more likely to end up at like LGBTQ clinics and things like that. And that also helps me. But it…the main thing that helps me is that I kind of remember I’m like, in there, and I’m like, the doctor is not in charge of me. Like, either I’m paying or the state is paying or whatever for service. It’s like, it’s like going to the bike repair shop, you know, like, you’re like, if I go into the bike repair shop, and they just yell at me about how I’m riding my bike. I’m like, I mean, you could tell me that if I ride this bike this way, it’s gonna get destroyed. And that makes sense. But you can’t tell me I can’t ride my bike that way. Like, I don’t know.

Max 1:05:39
Always true

Max 1:06:46
Yeah. But like going on that metaphor, right, like, same thing, like, how many times have people gone to the bike shop and been treated shitty, and then left out feeling like, super demoralized? And like, they can’t ride their bike?

Margaret 1:07:02
Yeah, totally.

Max 1:07:03
And Like I think about that too, like, there’s so much of that. I don’t know, it’s that it’s that it’s the realm of expertise. And like, you know, it’s like, once, once someone is like, in this certain space, they get to have all the power and authority. And I always tell people, like, if you’re the doctor, and you don’t like what’s going on, just leave.

Margaret 1:07:25

Max 1:07:26
Just leave, like, unless you like, are in a bad way and are really, really, really sick. Like, if you’re there to get get access to things or something and you’re not being treated well just get out of there if things are not going well.

Margaret 1:07:41

Max 1:07:42
Because that’s going to end up being a squirrely relationship. And there’s some really bad doctors, there’s some really bad nurse practitioners, there’s some really bad everybody, but like, there’s, you know, there’s people that are unkind and not not good, and are just going to tell you what they think, is the matter with you before they’ve even met you.

Margaret 1:08:01
Yeah, and, and, just like this, like sense of that, people thinking that they have power over you, because we have these institutions that sort of claim it, but it’s like, you’re, you’re in charge of yourself. Like, I mean, there’s, there’s institutions that exist to try and stop you from being in charge of yourself, you know, like, there’s a certain things that we could do that would then have other people throw us in prison or whatever, right? But like, that doesn’t mean we’re not in charge of ourselves. It just…Well, it does, but, you know, on this, like pure theoretical level, we can still choose how we act even if there’s consequences. But, but at the end of the day, it’s like, if you’re going to the doctor, I don’t know, you’re, again, not always in all situations and all kinds of things, but it’s like, I don’t know, I I get really annoyed whenever I go to doctors, and they don’t treat me like that. That I’m like, fortunately, I guess also, since I’m usually going as public clinics are kind of trying to get me out. So they’re not like really trying to force me to do one thing or another, I don’t know.

Max 1:09:02
My hope would be that if someone had a health care provider they would guide the ship, and their health care provider, who had access to the resources, and and the access to the you know, things like being able to do the prescribing, and the ordering of the diagnostics, and the access to the expertise in the sense of, of time and, and education, and things would be like, “Alright, you guide the ship. And I’ll tell you where the icebergs are,” kind of concept.

Margaret 1:09:36

Max 1:09:36
You know, like that would be you know, and if you want to hit one just freakin tell me.

Margaret 1:09:42
Yeah, or what port you want to go to.

Max 1:09:44
Yeah, what port you want to go to. Or, or who else you want to hire onto your ship, whatever. I mean, we but but but that it would be a relationship that would be very much completely patient guided And, and that the patient would be the person who has all the say, even if it’s something that, like me as a provider I don’t necessarily agree with.

Margaret 1:10:11

Max 1:10:11
You know?

Margaret 1:10:13
Well, I like to sort of tie it back into preparedness and all of that. Mostly just my favorite image of the whole conversation as the image, we’re talking about what you would do, if you were a medical care provider without the existing messed up system that you have to interface with, with, like, going on walks in the woods with people and talking about them with like, what’s wrong and how they’re feeling. And, you know, that’s like, the kind of almost optimism I don’t see about like, I mean, obviously collapse is largely bad and bad stuff happens and disasters are really rough, you know. But I, on some level, like that’s like maybe something I kind of look forward to, is the sense of like, when your medical care provider comes over to your house, and, you know, and like, and our ability to reimagine structures. It’s like the one optimism. I’m trying to end on this, like, positive note.

Margaret 1:11:10
Yeah, it’s cool.

Max 1:11:10
Totally, I think of it the I saw this David Attenborough thing, where they’re like in Chernobyl, they like visited Chernobyl recently. And it just is the most beautiful thing, because it’s just trees growing out of…. like, it’s the city just with a forest in it. It’s just it’s a, it’s a forested, abandoned space, right?

Max 1:11:13
And all these amazing buildings, and then there’s so many different animals that they haven’t seen, like, there’s just like wild horses and wolves moving through it. And I don’t know, that sort of helps me when I think about collapse in it helps me to think about it in a positive way.

Margaret 1:11:55

Max 1:11:55
I’m just like, “Oh, yeah. The wild horses wandering through the school buildings in Chernobyl.”

Margaret 1:12:00
Yeah. Well, do you have any, like, kind of last thoughts about community or individual preparedness and accessing allopathy, or any of the stuff that we’ve been talking about?

Max 1:12:13
I think that there’s a lot more like rad health care providers out there. And you probably know, some of them, I don’t, I tend to be kind of cut off from people. But if you know, I think talk to people, you know, who are in health care about the access to resources they have, because I think sometimes people in health care don’t even realize, like what we have, that people are outside of health care half, that we can just plug people into. And, you know, educate people about so that we can everybody can be a healthcare provider.

Margaret 1:12:49

Max 1:12:50
Because I think it’s totally possible. Like, I would way rather that than doctors.

Margaret 1:12:59
I mean, I like it, because it’s work that’s been done in herbalism, and other like naturopathic fields for very long time. And, and I’m fully in favor of that. But I’m also just really excited to see sort of allopathy like, jumping on board with that also, you know, like, spreading that information and letting it become more of a somewhere between like a some, like, synthesis between like folk practice and like scientific practice, you know? I don’t know.

Max 1:13:31
Well, my sort of hope is that eventually, it doesn’t have to be this weird thing where we have, you know, allopathic medicine that refers to other kinds of medicine as like complementary and all this. It’s so offensive to me, it’s like what we’re going to eventually come to some holopathic medical model, which will be really, really amazing.

Margaret 1:13:50
That would rule.

Max 1:13:52

Margaret 1:13:53
All right. Well, is there anything that you’d like to shout out? Either something that you do or something that people who are listening that you hope that they learn about or get involved in?

Max 1:14:02
No, I just all the harm reduction people out there that are still doing awesome drug work, I really appreciate them. And I think it’s been really hard for people during COVID.

Margaret 1:14:13

Max 1:14:14
Anybody who’s doing health care work or taking care of people, just, you’re doing good, good work. That’s all.

Margaret 1:14:27

Max 1:14:29
Thank you.

Margaret 1:14:34
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, or enjoy this show in general, please consider telling people about it. The primary way that people hear about the show is through word of mouth or through word of internet mouth. And if you can feed the algorithms that shouldn’t run the world that would do everyone a service. So, if you like, and comment, and subscribe, and don’t think comment is actually one of your options, I’m just used to hearing what people say on YouTube. But, if you rate and review and you do all of the various things, and you post about it to social media, all that’s shit’s so good unfortunately. Unfortunately, it does a lot of things, but make machines tell other people this is content that they might enjoy. But, it is content that they might enjoy. I hope. You can also support this show a little bit more directly by supporting on Patreon, our publisher, which is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. I used to have a personal Patreon that supported the show. But, we’ve transitioned that over to Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And, if you are one of our supporters, thank you so much for making that transition with us. There’s going to be so much good content that’s going to be coming out this year, with your help, and basically it’s no longer about me. And, that’s really exciting. Honestly, it’s a bit of a relief. And so you can support us there, and you get access to content that will go to you before it goes to everyone else. And then if you back us at $10 a month, you’ll get a zine mailed to you every month anywhere in the world. And, if you support us at $20 or more, we’ll say your name right now. So in particular, I would like to thank Nicole and David and Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog. Thank you so much. And I will talk at you, and by you I mean this microphone in a closet. Soon. Be well.

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S1E39 – Jason on Climate Change

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Guest info and links
The guest Jason Sauer can be found on twitter @jasonrsauer. He is involved with another podcast, Future Cities, that you can find wherever you listen to podcasts.

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



Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or their pronouns. And this week I’m talking to Jason about what is involved in building resilient cities, like not just resilient homesteads or whatever, but like what—what are the actual sort of engineering steps that cities can and usually aren’t taking to mitigate the effects of climate change? And we talk a lot more about other things besides and his take on how climate change is going and what we might do about it or not do about it. And I think you’ll get a lot out of it. I really enjoyed this conversation. 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. Hi, could you introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then a little bit of your background in what we’re going to be talking about today?


Sure, so my name is Jason Sauer, pronouns he/him, although I’m not picky, and I—my background is in—it’s like, somewhere between climate change and, like, adaptation research is how I would describe it. So most of my work is focused on adapting cities to extreme weather events, either in the present day context, or looking at the future of the climate for the region. And figuring out how—what we need to change and how best to change it in order to keep places livable.


And I’m so excited to ask you about all that stuff. Because so much of what people talk about preparedness or even, like, mitigation kind of forgets this level of scale. Either people talk about, like, saving the world, like stopping climate change, which I do in the past. Or people talk about, like, how to, you know, either you have your, like, bunker mentality people who are like, oh I’m just gonna hold up the food, or you have even the people who are like, you know, well, me and my 10 friends on the farm are going to somehow ride it all out. And I think that there isn’t enough that talks about this level that you’re talking about on this sort of, like, community or city-wide level. And so, I guess, I think my main question is like, what do you resilient cities look like? How do we build resilient cities?


So, I mean, good question. It’s somewhat like a temporal issue, like thinking about, are we looking for resilient cities for now, given the present conditions, which we’re still not great at managing? Are we looking at it for like 20 years in the future? Are we looking at it, you know, in the more deep, uncertain—or deeply uncertain—like, you know, by 2080 2100, whatever, or even beyond, although I’ve never really heard anyone seriously engage anything sort of growth beyond like 2080. I don’t know why that’s the limit, but that is the limit. So I actually had to pull up the academic definition of resilience. That’s probably that I think it’s probably the most accurate version of what myself and my colleagues are kind of looking at. And since this is behind a paywall anyway, I figured it might be kind of interesting to even bring up what the academic definition is, in this context. And so this comes from a paper by one of my colleagues here at Arizona State University where I’m a PhD candidate, hopefully soon a doctor but we’ll see. So one of my colleagues Sarah Miro and two other authors, Joshua Newell and Melissa Stoltz, wrote this paper on defining urban resilience in particular. So resilience in the city in urban context. And so, the specific definition they use is, like, urban resilience refers to the ability of an urban system and all its constituents socio-ecological and socio-technical networks across temporal and spatial scales to maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of a disturbance, to adapt to change, and to quickly transform systems that limit current or future adaptive capacity. There’s a lot of, I don’t know, generations of resilience thinking that have kind of impact into that sort of definition. But it’s kind of just looking at making cities—or making it so that the people in cities and the systems in cities, once impacted by like an extreme weather event or from climate change, can respond appropriately in terms of, like, the type of response and then also, like, the amount of time it takes for that response to sort of happen. And then also to allow for sort of this concept of, like, transformative change of, like, you can build a city that is relatively resilient now, but it’s not necessarily going to be resilient in the future. So you need to, when you’re building these systems, allow for the possibility of the thinking to change or for climate change, you know, the effects to become more fully realized and be like, okay, so we did not plan for the sort of contingency, we need to be able to adapt to that, basically. And so every city, it looks different, you know. So I live here in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of my research isn’t focused here but, I mean, this is a desert city. And we are kind of juggling the dual problems of extreme heat in the summer and, of course, like major water limitations, which are increasingly becoming a problem. And so resilience here is largely focused on basically counteracting, like, the, the extreme heats that we’re facing. I mean, it gets up to like 120 degrees a couple days, a year, sometimes, and what does it—actually, I can give some quick stats on that.




I think we are currently over 100 days a year where we have have a maximum temperature of above 100 degrees, and then by, like, 2050, 2060, something like that, it’s gonna be 180 days a year of over 100 degrees. Which is like, I mean, we’re already at 100 now, so I guess it’s not like that on the thinkable. But, you know, it’s really tough to imagine, like, what that’s going to be like. And then of course, like, you know, average temperature is going to rise, but then also potentially the extreme temperatures are going to rise. So the city is really concerned about keeping this place viable in many different respects, given our current extreme heat, but then also the projections of extreme future heat. And so, like, you know, for example, I think the city of Phoenix is planning on increasing its tree canopy cover, you know, to like, provide increased shade, particularly in like critical areas, by which I mean, like, public transportation network—so like, you know, there’s not a whole lot of structures for shade out here. And so, you know, like, a job of someone like me working in resilience would be, like, okay, so you want to increase shade, like, here’s where you need to do it. And that’s along like public transportation networks, things like that, where people are relatively exposed to, like, this extreme heat and sunlight during the worst months. And you can either do that through like built structures, or you can do it through tree shade. And if the city of Phoenix wants to pursue tree shade, then they also need to balance that with their, like, water needs. So more trees means more water. And so then you start getting into this discussion about, like, well, which trees provide the most shade and the least amount of water? You know, this is the sort of, like, nuanced discussion that the city and people in the academy are kind of having about this sort of issue.


This is kind of an aside, but if you read The Water Knife, this novel about Phoenix?


It’s on my shelf. Yeah, the author, what is it, Paolo Bacigalupi, I think?


I don’t know how to pronounce his last name, unfortunately. Yeah. So I— what was his previous one? He had this one that was like— The Wind Up Girl.


Yes. Yeah, yeah. Sorry, that was a dodge of saying no, I haven’t read it. It’s on my shelf. I haven’t actually looked at it.


Okay, well, there’s a book in it that it references all the time. It’s about Phoenix becoming unlivable due to heat. And I mean, it’s also about like assassins and like water mafias and stuff, right? But it’s, it’s about a society collapsing because of lack of water. And the people who go around and basically, like, enforce water law and things like that. But there’s a book in it that everyone references called Cadillac Desert.


Yes, yeah. Okay.


So I don’t know anything about this book. But all of the characters in this other book are obsessed with this book, Cadillac Desert, basically being like, this is the writing on the wall. This is how we all should have known that Phoenix needs to be abandoned.




But your job is to make sure that people don’t have to abandon Phoenix. Well, I’m—yeah, I mean, I have I have more complicated feelings on that, you know, like, there’s a term in like resilience and resiliency like adjacent fields called “managed retreats.” And that’s like also just an accepted term in a lot of, like, disaster management and so forth. Like, I think it’s mostly surrounding. I mean, I think, I don’t remember exactly where the origins are. But I used to see it mostly applied to like flooding from, like, rivers that are getting, like, extremely flooded because of weird precipitation, and because of processes of development and urbanization or whatever. But you just have, like, these homes that are too close to the rivers that are like behaving pretty erratically or flooding more often than the city, you know, wants to provide aid for. And so they’re just like, we got to move these people back away from the river. But I mean, it’s also something that’s happening in coastal areas like Miami, where you have people trying to move a little farther back onto higher elevation. But in a place like Phoenix where you just, it’s hot everywhere, you know. Like, there’s parts of the city that are hotter than others, and we have some controls over it. But yeah, I mean, it’s tough to really figure out what the long-term plan is here. And water being, you know, correctly identified in those books as being such a major limiting factor here. I mean, what are we—what’s the long-term plan? Like, I’ve read strategies that include canal systems from like the Mississippi, you know. Like this—which would be a scale of engineering and water delivery, that would just be, you know, enormous. We already get water from the southern Colorado River, which we shouldn’t be getting water from, in terms of its natural flow. But, you know, we’re doing that anyway. Right.


Yeah. So I guess, short-term I’m certainly focused on that. But, you know, I’m sort of agnostic as to whether or not it’s going to keep people here or keep things viable. But it’s just like, well, what are the problems that we have? What can we do about, you know, this situation, given our current limitations and so forth, and trying to square the circle, basically.


My own, um, before I lived—I moved to a house in the mountains. But before that, I was living in a cabin in the woods. And one of the main reasons that we all moved off of the property that we were living on is that we are next to this creek. And it was 100-year floodplain. And it became a five times a year floodplain. We’d have engineers come out and they’d be like, well, it’s not supposed to do this. And then we’d be like, what do we do? And they’re like, well, it’s just gonna get worse. Climate change is just going to make it worse. And, basically, I mean, I had one of the only houses that was physically safe from it up on the up on the hill but then, like, you know, my driveway, and, you know, my access in and out would be waist-deep and water sometimes, and all kinds of stuff coming down the creek that turns into this massive river several times a year. That’s not supposed to. So I the managed retreat, that’s what, you know, 10 of us just did so. Yeah, I mean, it can happen at the individual scale, it can happen at like the city planning scale, you know, there’s there’s a bunch of different ways. “Coerced retreat,” you know, maybe another description. I don’t know that that exists in like the literature but, you know, like, there’s good argumentation for moving because it’s physically becoming too difficult to live in this area. Yeah, I mean, to be clear, I’m not from Phoenix, I’m originally from, like, the—I’m from a suburb of Kansas City, Johnson County, which is like a, you know, wealthy, middle class neighborhood. So I’m, you know, not even from this area, I came here for graduate school. And I mostly came here for graduate school because there was an opportunity to work abroad in southern Chile. So, you know, my relationship with Phoenix is like, yeah, I don’t know what you’re gonna do here. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to be here under normal circumstances, I’ve come to like it, you know, in some ways, and can certainly, you know, empathize with my neighbors and so forth down here. But my stance on Phoenix is a little more complicated because just like, yeah, you’ve got some problems. And I don’t know what to tell you about 120 degree weather and, like, the number of 100 degree days that are increasing, and you’re—this place has already like an engineering, like, it’s only possible because of extreme hydrological engineering. And now there’s no additional water sources to pull from so, you know, what are you—what are you really trying to do here? Yeah, no, there’s like a—there’s like moral questions. I don’t quite know how to untangle about like, you know, I’m not trying to judge anyone, but I don’t think I would move to Phoenix. I don’t think I would move to a city that probably certainly shouldn’t exist at the scale that it’s at currently. But I, you know, I understand that—but that’s—then you get into this idea of, like, why everyone has different reasons to be different places. And it’s really easy to be like, oh, you can’t go do that. And you’re like, well, I’m from here, or this is where the school is that I need to go access or, you know, there’s a million reasons why someone may need to go somewhere, so. Yeah, I mean, the majority of people moving here is probably just because real estate in California got too expensive and cost of living in Phoenix which is also like a right to work state, you know, so there’s cheap and unprotected labor here. You know, there’s a lot of less noble reasons or less understandable reasons for, like, why the city is growing. And you look at how like water usage is, you know—currently, what water usage looks like here on the grounds. And there’s definitely, you know, like, some movements toward like, get all the grass out of your lawn, like, plant species—it’s called xeroscaping here, where you actually just like plant cacti and brittle bush and, you know, various species that are actually native to the region, or do really well with very little or no water input and can handle the heat. But, I mean, there’s pools, and fountains, and golf courses, and all these other things where you’re like, yeah, I mean, I don’t know how long this is gonna go. And there’s a lot of people who live here because they can golf, like, year round. So, you know, is that the worst thing to get rid of? No. So resiliency means get rid of the golf course. Well, you know, this—if I say yes to that I can guarantee I won’t get a job here. Okay. Okay, so—but to move away from from heat stuff, some of your work has been around flooding, right, which obviously is an interest of mine, for some strange reason. It’s absolutely part of why I picked a house on the top of the hill. Like, I bought a house on top of a mountain, because I’m like, no, I’m good. This is where—Maybe, I mean, I’m sure there’s all kinds of other problems like wind or something that I just—and there’s like no soil here, it’s all rock. There’s a reason it was cheap, you know. But so, some of your work, let’s see, you talk about how you use natural landscape features to make cities more resilient to flooding. I’m really interested in that, like, what does that look like? How do—like, what are the practical steps that communities and cities are taking to protect themselves from climate change?


Yeah. And I’m glad that you kind of divided that into two potential sources for that. There’s, you know, like individual preparation, and then there’s like city-wide, you know, or city-sponsored preparation. And so there’s been a movement in the, like, engineering and urban planning spheres toward what’s known as green infrastructure. And there’s a bunch of different terms for it. But green infrastructure is basically, like, either designed, adapted, or incorporated natural landscape features, or natural-esque landscape features that can do many of the same jobs that more traditional, like, constructed infrastructure would do. Plus, it looks nice and provides habitat and potentially has all these other sort of, like, co-benefits to it that, you know—like, the LA canal is kind of like a good example of a traditional infrastructure sort of approach toward dealing with flooding issues. And so it’s this huge canal where you can dump all this water, and it moves water through the system really quickly. But of course, it’s like this giant chunk of concrete that’s dry most of the year and, number one, it’s not aesthetically that attractive. Number two, it’s also like a major source of heat, you kind of get all this concrete in urban areas and it absorbs sunlight during the day, admits it at night, and contributes to, I mean, high heat during the day, but especially heats a major issue in cities across the country because of night temperatures in particular have increased. And it’s basically because you have all this, you know, concrete infrastructure that’s free radiating the heat, you know, for hours and hours and hours. So nights just become like more uncomfortable, and there’s a lot of morbidity and mortality stuff associated with that. But then, like here in Phoenix, and there’s a funny example, there’s this area called Indian Bend Wash. And so something like Scottsdale to Tempe was having like major flooding issues, particularly during the monsoon season. Yeah, we get monsoons out here that come up from like the Sea of Cortez or the Gulf of Mexico. And so during the summer months, which is when we get the majority of our rainfall, it just comes in these like huge sheets and these, like, you know, burst events of extreme precipitation that totally overwhelm the ability of, like, soils to allow for infiltration and for the, like, drainage system at the city to deal with it. And so they were like, we got to put this water somewhere and it’s kind of got to be a zone that can regularly flood or whatever. And the Scottsdale-ites, you know, who have some amount of wealth and therefore power in the city were just like, no, we’re not going to build a canal like LA. It’s really ugly and unattractive. And so designers came back with this idea called Indian Bend Wash which is this sort of multi-use, like, greenway, I think is how it be described. So it’s like in parts it’s like a golf course, but then in other parts it’s just, like, straight up a park. And, like, place where you can take your dogs, do picnics or whatever. And then just, you know, for a couple of weeks out of the year, it’s flooded. That’s just how it is. And but at least it’s like multi-use The community really likes it. And it’s green, you know, which is nice in a sort of desert city. I’m holding any judgment on green versus not green out here, of course, but yeah.


So it’s gonna keep it watered when it’s not monsoon season.


Yeah, I mean, yeah, exactly. And so that’s kind of an example of more of an engineered or sort of created green infrastructure practice, but at least it provides aesthetic, you know, aspects to it that the sort of other infrastructure doesn’t. I primarily work on like wetlands and other things that are—there’s like a whole bunch of other structures designed to deal with flooding that also potentially increase, like, biodiversity in cities, that can remove pollutants through natural processes, provide habitats, and things like that. So the majority of my research is actually focused on wetlands in particular, and I was looking at this city in southern Chile that has just—they had an earthquake in 1960. It’s the greatest magnitude earthquake ever recorded. The city is called Valdivia, if anyone wants to look it up. And so like portions of the city just sunk, like, several meters, I think like 10 meters in some portions. And so just—and, like, they’re on the coast, they get like 98 inches of rain per year. They’re at like the confluence of these like three rivers. So those things just filled up with water and became this wetland system. And so instead of just like paving over the wetlands and pretending like everything was going to be normal forever after that, once they rebuild, they just decided to keep the wetlands around in most cases. There’s been some wetland loss, but not a whole lot. And it actually serves as a natural drainage system for the city. So a lot of just, like, the urban areas, and the suburban areas drain into these wetlands. And the wetlands have definitely been affected by it. And we’re still studying, like, the effects of doing something like that to a wetland system. But they certainly provide a lot more biodiversity and kind of keep this sort of endangered habitat, a wetlands, alive in the city. So I’ve studied the utility of constructed and natural wetlands and modified wetlands toward increasing flood resilience and cities, basically.


And it works.


Yeah, yeah. They’re wetlands work incredibly well. I mean, probably in part because they’re not engineered. So like, if you have a city that’s, like, thinking about building a wetland or something like that, then they have a budget, and they—and the budget is going to require some, like, design constraints and stuff like that. But these like natural wetlands are just, you know, whatever size they were naturally. And they themselves, like, just don’t really flood under even like 100-year return period storm event, which is just like a storm that’s so large that you only get one of them, like, once every 100 years or something like that. And they work great. And the wetlands are like part of the urban identity as well. Like they support a lot of charismatic species, like swans and these like particular kinds of birds. Theoretically they support otters, but I’ve never seen an otter like that far into the city. Maybe they exist. I don’t know. But, yeah, so they do all these things that like traditional infrastructure that we, you know, started doing since, like, the 1940s, just doesn’t do well at all.


I mean, it’s funny because it’s like, there’s a move within scientific fictions—I have to think about everything point of view of fiction—but there’s like a movement within science fiction right now to move towards, like, solar punk, and towards these ideas of—I guess, I would say that, like, in many ways, science fiction got everything backwards and wrong, right? It was imagined these, like, positive societies where we, like, control everything.




But it sounds like from what you’re saying, and from everything else I’ve, like, read across things, the secret is to instead, like, integrate the things that we make into the natural systems, rather than, like, go out and like recreate all of the systems ourselves.




But then it does lead to the logical conclusion that the best way to be resilient against climate change is to not have already destroyed everything.


Yeah, and cities definitely struggle with that.


Yeah. Because most have already destroyed everything.


Yeah, I mean, particularly with wetlands too. I—the estimate keeps changing, so forgive me, you know, I think it’s like safe to say we’ve destroyed like 70% of wetlands in the US since, like, the mid-1800s. And those are industrial processes, those are agricultural processes, which are all, you know, ultimately, you know, issues of urbanization, and meeting urban needs and so forth—in a lot of cases, not necessarily all of them. But yeah, I mean, so like, you’re telling like a city, hey, just have some wetlands, you know. Like, historically it’s like, you mean the thing that they drained in order to, like, build the city in the first place? Like, that’s? And it’s just kind of silly being like, well, step one is don’t do everything you’ve done for the past, like, 150 years and you’re gonna be spending a lot of money reversing that, actually.




Yeah, there’s a concept in infrastructure called, like, safe to fail. And I don’t want to, like, get too much into it, because I don’t have the definition on hand for me, but it’s basically the idea of, like, this sort of, like command to control concept of like infrastructure and, like, perfect knowledge and so forth, just doesn’t work. It’s not true in the present day, there’s always, like, you know, freak storm events and things like that. But it’s certainly not going to be true in the future where the climate is changing and models are so uncertain about it. So the best thing you can do is allow for a lot of flexibility with your design, and to figure out, you know, like, areas where, like, this sort of like quote/unquote failure, or like flooding in particular, like with Indian Bend Wash, is totally acceptable. Like society’s just like, yeah, you can’t use that area a couple of times a week, but like, no one’s really being impacted by it in any sort of, like, major way. You’re just, like, yeah, that’s just, that’s just how it goes.


So is there, like, because this—this concept really excites me, right, because like a lot of my, you know, political understanding, a lot of my understanding philosophically and all these other ways, is based on this idea that, like, trying to have absolute control as a losing game, and probably one that we should just admit we’re losing, and instead find ways to, like—I’m going to use words that have scientific meaningss that I’m not using correctly—more chaotically. Like, accept that all of this natural, organic, or chaotic processes are going to happen, and take those into account in our engineering, like, in how we build cities and things like that. For me, this also applies, like, socially. Like recognizing that we can never have a system of complete control of people, and instead—so it’s not, like, let everyone go do whatever they want, therefore. But instead this, like, way of engineering, or structuring things, that takes that into account is, like, something that I’m very excited about. So I’m really excited about this the safe to fail concept, then.


Yeah, it’s something that’s definitely taking hold in engineering, and actually seems to be getting through to a lot of design people. So engineers—or at least in the world of academia—certainly get the idea of it. And you can get—you can convince cities also to adopt it, but it’s sometimes an uphill struggle. And then also you just have, like, competing construction interests, like maybe there’s been a design firm or something like that, that hasn’t adopted it, but like gets the majority of contracts in a city or something like that, that they’ve already got a relationship with. So there’s like some amount of inertia on that point. But it certainly has hold within academia and research, and my experience working with some cities has been, they’re certainly open to it and thinking about it more. Because they’re certainly paying a lot for disaster relief and disaster, like, repairs and so forth every year, and they’re, frankly, you know, like desperate to lower that part of their budget. So, you know.


Yeah. So besides planting trees for heat and increasing wetlands for flooding, what are other simple steps? “These five simple tricks to make your city immune to climate change!” Like, what else are people doing or thinking about to respond to crisis?


So like, I’m trying to think of how to answer this question. So there’s—like, I could go into, like, other engineering structures and so forth that we’re kind of using to do a lot of this sort of management, like, more locally and through like natural systems—like bioswales, I don’t don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.


So a swale is like a thing that moves water in a field, right?


Yeah. And so, like, a bioswale, like an urban area it’s just, like, so you have water that’s on the street or whatever, and then you just kind of like divert it to the side area, basically, that’s usually like soil and some plants and maybe there’s a tree in there too. And the soils and the plants and so forth filter the nutrients out of that storm water before it hits—by nutrients I mean pollutants too—I come from a background where everything is like a nutrient, not necessarily like a pollutants—but I mean, stuff like nitrogen—


That’s kind of awesome.


Yeah, I mean, yeah, I can maybe go into that in a second. But like, so you have all these things that are flowing off of yards and off streets. And if you try to treat that before it gets to the water system, or like the canals, or whatever that you’re using to evacuate water from the city, that’s a lot of stuff to have to filter out. And so, but if you build these things kind of around the city, these like bioswales, they do a lot of the filtering, like, on site. And so, you know, over time, they sequester a lot of like nitrogen, phosphorus, organic carbons, whatever, heavy metals too also can get filtered out of that. And then, you know, like, I don’t know, I don’t know what the repair system is like for that. But I mean, you just swap those soils out eventually, like, because bacteria and so forth can treat some of that locally. And plants can also, you know, use some of that locally, too. But then you just have like soils or something like that, that you’re kind of like swapping out because maybe they’re too heavy in metal support the plant life or something like that. But that ends up being like a cheaper and sort of, like, more innovative solution then, you know, send it all to a central processing plant, and then spend all this money like filtering out through chemical and mechanical processes. Yeah. And then also, you get some like green stuff in your neighborhood. In terms of, like, things that individuals are doing, a lot of it is just, like, swapping out—I mean, like, here in Phoenix, I talked about the sort of xeroscaping process by which people are replacing, like their grass lawns, you know, which they were used to in the, you know, like, northern Michigan or something like that, you know, wherever they move to escape the cold that was, you know, the reason they left in the first place, but they still want some of, like, the feel of where they lived, they’ll plant grass or whatever. And then, you know, there are now—there’s movements across the city, at least in the less extremely wealthy places to do this sort of xeroscaping process where you take out your lawns and replace it with, like, either like gravel or something like that and then plants, like, naturally come up through that, or I mean, just literally leave it as the normal dirt surface here—that promotes like, infiltration locally as well, dirt ends up being, you know, or at least the natural soil here—I should use proper terms—ends up, you know, allowing a lot of infiltration that would otherwise just like go to runoff or things like that, basically, are what people are kind of doing locally. And but, I mean, a lot of these issues, like flooding in particular, is—it’s like a city-wide sort of issue. And a lot of it just has to be treated kind of in a centralized way because there’s, they own most of the substances—I mean, you know, there’s buildings and roofs and stuff like that, that cause runoff, and, you know, houses are on top of soil. And so, because they’re on top of soil, they’re blocking infiltration that would naturally happen in the region. So homes are contributors to flooding in cities, but, you know, there’s not much you can do about that.


Are there like ways to, like, encourage infiltration into the soil? Like, I’m imagining little like, little holes you dig, like, almost like that holes or something to, like, allow more percolation or something?


You know, I’ve never actually thought about, like, local retention, you know, like, if we just built divots in everyone’s like front yard for, like, you know, like a small pond that’s dry most of the year, I wonder how much that would actually do it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a study that’s even considered that. That would be interesting as like a thought experiments. And I’m sure, you know, like a modeling experiment.


Well, thank me in the acknowledgments when this study—


Yeah yeah. Green roofs are kind of another way that this stuff is being retained and dealt with locally. And that also has impacts on, like, the amount of heat that your home absorbs from the sun. And so that’s, you know, if you own your house, or if you have like a tenants association with enough power to, like, pressure your building owner to install these sorts of things, those are certainly things that will benefit the flood risk in your city and also potentially deal with heat too. But the majority of places that are contributing to, like, extreme heat and flooding, it’s like parking lots, roads, all this sort of like hard infrastructure that businesses and development practices and cities themselves have to kind of manage. So the pressure ends up being with them in a lot of ways.


I mean, that makes sense. Like, that’s like one of—I feel like the current sort of generation of, like, people maybe under 40 or so, like, one of the things we’re railing against—I say as someone who’s barely under 40—is this idea that we were told we could stop climate change by like changing our lightbulbs while, you know, while being forced into car culture and while watching the US military, like, pollute more than anyone and, you know. So it—I get excited about individuals—they’re not even like solutions, right—but like individual approaches to like mitigate certain effects?




But I think you’re right that, like, the larger infrastructure is something that needs to be controlled in a way that actually is useful for mitigating climate change.


Yeah, I mean, I’m with you. I’ve also—we’re probably same generation—so I, like, I just grew up with the whole idea and, like, the, like, the needs for, like, personal lifestyle change and so forth, in order to effect these sorts of, like, change. And of course, you know, like, I’ve been doing this for, you know, since I was like 17 or 18. And so I’ve got a lot of years into this sort of individual, like, behavioral change and, you know, emissions are up, like, what do you—what else am I supposed to do at this point, you know. I ride my bike most places but, like, there’s got to be this sort of, like, systematic sort of change to it. And like, I say that but I’m also—so I’m also a vegan and so, like, my—


Me too.


Oh, cool. My general thought with it is just like, I know it’s not a systemic change, but like, the amount of suffering that I’m causing through my actions is less, you know, as a result of it. And ultimately that is important to me, at least for, like, living with myself, you know.


Yeah, totally.


Like, maybe it’s not having this sort of large structural change. But also, you know, theoretically I’m, you know, some extremely small decimal point of less meat consumption in the US. And that, you know, that’s—


Which affects water. It’s not just an animal issue.


Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there’s many, many, many reasons to go vegan for—but I mean, it’s the same thing with, like, carbon emissions and so forth too, where I still, even though I’m like, it’s a systemic thing. I’m like, well, yes. But, I mean, if I get in my car and drive, that’s carbon that’s in the atmosphere. And it’s going to be there, you know, as part of the collective problem to eventually have to deal with in the future. And so, like, I still feel like I got to do something, in spite of the fact that I don’t—I in no way think that I’m solving the problem.


No, that’s such an interesting perspective towards it. Like, I think about it a lot of, like—like, I drive a giant pickup truck, and I defend it out of, well, I used to live in a cabin built myself, and, you know, I live really rurally. And like, I use my giant pickup truck for giant pickup truck stuff all the time, right? But I also get 14 miles to the gallon. And like, that doesn’t feel good, right? And I mean, I would love to have an all-electric one. But you know, I also have, like, you know, don’t love coal or all these other things, right? But it does, it seems like it’s less about, like, beating up on people to, like, make individual changes as much as, like, maybe like everyone kind of looking at their own circumstances and saying, like, what can they pull off? Like, if you’re in a good place where you can just mostly ride a bike, mostly ride a bike. If you’re, like, in a place where like—like, I don’t know, I spend all my time thinking about, like, whether I’m going to start DIY turning plastic into diesel fuel. Because because it can be done and recycling seems to be fake right now since COVID hit. It was always a little bit fake, but like, it seems extra fake right now. And I’m like, well that’s sucks. I still want to recycle, even though I know it doesn’t save the world, you know. So I guess it takes both.


I’m totally with you. And recycling was like another huge blow, like, you know, it was just like, I trusted that the system was like doing this well. And then, you know, probably along with a lot of people in the last like, two years or whatever there’s been, you know, more writing and probably documentaries about it. And you’re just like, come on, like, that was, that was the thing that I was like really good at and I made a point to, like, rinse my stuff out. And it’s just a lie. You know? Like, it’s in the clothes, it’s getting in through, you know, like, my washing machine and my dryer, like, decomposing the plastics out of there. You know, it’s just like, okay, if it’s not—if it’s not a systemic change, when, or how is it going to happen? You know, like, I was doing the thing that I was supposed to do, and it’s still, you know. Yeah.


I mean, that brings us back to the resiliency stuff, right? Because like there’s—we’re not going to win. Like, I mean, we should keep trying to stop the worst effects of climate change. And like, there’s probably a difference—we’re probably facing a tipping point between like, you know, life on earth and no life on earth at some point. Well, okay, actually—that is actually one of my main questions for you. It’s actually how I first ran across you is I basically asked the internet being like, who can I ask about climate change? Like, I mean, obviously, everyone’s thinking about it right now. But who can I ask who thinks about it in ways that are useful for this show in this audience? And I know you don’t specifically—you’re not like whole thing is not studying climate change and its effects in a grand scale. But I think you have more of a sense of the grand scale of climate change than, say, I do, or most people who are listening to this might. So, the fuck is about to happen? What’s the—even if it’s not your research, like what are people say? Like what? You know, is it, like—there’s a version of the world that, like—I’ve always been a little bit doom and gloom—I see a version of the world by like 2045 where we’re living underground and growing food in controlled environments because the earth is uninhabitable. And I don’t think that that’s, like, the thing that’s going to happen. But that’s like at one end, right? Then there’s the, like, oh, well, just there’s gonna be, you know, some coastal cities are in trouble and we’ll have a little bit more hurricanes and flooding than we used to, but overall, the, you know, everything will keep on going on. Like, what do you think is about to happen? Or what do people think is gonna happen?


Yeah, I mean, the—so I mean, just to be clear about this, so, you know, of course, these are my views and certainly not the views of Arizona State University or any of my, like, colleagues or whatever. Because, I mean, there’s a lot of variation, even within the community that, you know, does climate change studies, or that works with climate change data. And what I was going to be clear about was that I am someone who works with climate data, I’m not like a climate change expert. I don’t know all the models that get used for atmospheric circulation, or oceanic circulation, or whatever. So I’m the person who like looks at the data and then, like, looks at the city, and tries to, you know, figure out what can we do to match the goals of the city with the reality of potentially what we’re going to be facing. And so, I mean, but even then, you know, I’m probably less gloom and doom than I think some people that I’ve run into who are more lay on the subject, like, but there’s so many caveats to say with this one. So my life personally, you know, like, if things probably are going to get weird in terms of how the climates going to look, and how we end up having to respond or whatever, but I perhaps, you know, incorrectly feel like I’m going to be somewhat more insulated from the effects than some other individuals or whatever, you know. Like, have money? Then you can throw it out the problem and it won’t necessarily, like, fix it, but it will make your life potentially a little more comfortable than it would be for people with less money. And that’s how the—that’s how it works. You know, like, that’s just how the country and capitalism and so forth have worked. So, like, it’s really the marginalized communities that are gonna, you know, really be facing the brunt of it. So I mean, like, Phoenix is a perfect example of this where, like, extreme heat, you know, who is it a problem for? And what are we defining as problem? So in a future where we’re getting like 180 days a year where it’s like over 100 degrees, the majority of people in the city have AC and the majority of deaths from extreme heat and dehydration and so forth, are usually from marginalized communities, particularly homeless people. And so, like, what a city is going to look like when it’s over 100 degrees for 180 days a year for, like, the homeless population is absolutely devastating. And it’s already hard enough to live here. Like, the relative dryness of everything, like, you’re constantly drinking water and, like, Arizona is not a kind place if you don’t have—I mean, it’s not kind in general, like, if you don’t have money, like, and it’s, I don’t know, this sort of conservative ideology here, it just really promotes, I don’t know, like absolute amounts of—like, if you’re having a problem then you’re kind of the person who has to get you out of it, or like the immediate people around you are responsible for getting you out of it. And there’s not necessarily this sort of, like, societal connection. So—sorry, this is a long way of saying, like, I don’t know. It’s gonna be weird for a lot of people. But in terms of, like, my faith and our ability to manage it is maybe the better question, because I don’t think there’s gonna be, you know, in some places with, like, ocean level rise and extreme heat or whatever, it’s just going to be unlivable and unsustainable for some populations of people. But like, say you’re living in a place that doesn’t face one of the imminent, like, climate threats, like sea level rise or whatever that’s just going to physically displace you, there’s a lot to manage in terms of agriculture, in terms of people’s daily lives, you know. Like, if we’re pushing public transportation as a way to, like, cut emissions and so forth, then here in a place like Phoenix, where it’s this hot all the time, then you also need to pair that with, you know, measures to make public transportation more usable and more accessible. So a lot of my answer is just, like, how much faith do I have in the systems to get us there, as opposed to like, is the planet just going to become like poisonous and ruinous, and, you know, unlivable? Because I don’t necessarily think that’s what’s gonna happen. I’m more just like, well, you know, is the city going to step up? Is the country going to step up? Is, you know, as an international collective, is that going to step up? Or whatever, in order to make things more manageable. And I think my answer pre-COVID would have been different than than post-COVID where—


I’m guessing you’re more cynical now?


Oh, my God. Yes. Yeah. I mean, it’s so cynical that, you know, me complaining about this administration. My parents are like, I didn’t know you’d like Trump. And I’m like, I don’t like Trump. I’m just this disappointed with like the Biden administration handling of it. Like, it’s one of those things where I’m like, well, okay, like, these were the adults in the room. And like the best and brightest, this is what like the meritocratic neoliberal system has produced as, like, the people who should be running the disaster response, and who spent the Trump administration, you know, dunking on social media and whatever, and on television, and through all media accessible, and then just step up to the plate and it’s like, what, what are you doing? Like, you’re not even consistent with—I mean, like, it’s just incredible. Like, I’m now just, like, I’m not listening to anything the CDC says ever again. Like, it’s—I’m just so amazed that the CDC was, like, turned into the propaganda wing for the administration in power, you know, like, what does the administration want to do? It wants to reopen schools, it wants to get people back in the workplace, and the CDC is gonna say whatever the hell it is that’s gonna, like, be necessary to get people in there. And it’s not going to be scientifically informed. So like, you know—


So what’s the point of having this institution if it’s not scientifically informed?


Yeah, that’s—those are the professionals. Those are the public health officials, and like Fauci is being like, we got to consider the economic impact of having a 10-day quarantine. And it’s like, that’s not your job, that’s somebody else’s job on the economy side to, like, combat what you’re saying about it. And so, like, you know, I can just imagine a climate person in the same position as like—you know, Miami is flooding and, like, New York City’s getting battered by hurricanes or whatever—and being like, just like, you know, climate change is not a big deal and it’s, like, personal responsibility, and so forth. And if you adopt—if you get your electric cars and change your personal lives and so forth, it’s not going to be that bad or whatever. And, you know, it’s just not. It’s going to require sort of coordination and so forth. And I would say there’s a lot of good research happening, and there’s plenty of good stuff, you know, from academia, and from scientists and so forth coming out about, like, strategies, it’s just like, are we going to pick them up? Are we actually going to follow through with them? Is there going to be money, you know, to actually, to do any of this?


Have you seen—it’s as pop culture thing—have you seen? Don’t Look Up on Netflix?


It’s on my list! I really want to.


Well, one of the things that happens in it is you have this—because people have always used—well, you know, I mean, like Watchmen use this, a bunch of other things have used this—like, we’d all come together if we were facing this apocalyptic threat from outside, you know?




That would be what finally brings everyone together is banding together for our own mutual interest or whatever, right? And then like—and what climate change and COVID show is that that’s just not something we can count on reliably. And I think there would be ways to shift public discourse in ways that do have it. I mean, you have some countries where the vaccination rate is substantially higher without necessarily having, like, a higher, like, enforcement or whatever of it. To my understanding, I could be wrong with this. And yeah, I don’t know, it just the sense of like, at the beginning of COVID it really felt like, oh, we’re all coming together, and like, you know, mutual aid organizations are everywhere, and then instead all the sudden people decided to just become Nazis and then run around and, like, yell at everyone and—I don’t know, and then it all just disintegrated from there. And then, yeah, watching the Democrats fail at the one thing that theoretically they were going to do. I mean, the main thing that they were going to do is, like, not be literal fascists, and I guess they successfully accomplished that. But the other thing that they were supposed to do is be, like, the adults in the room. Yeah, like you’re talking about. Because like Trump and his are like petulant crying children and—actually, no offense to children—children have much better excuses.


I’ve known less spiteful children, certainly.


Yeah. No, I don’t know it. I don’t know. Okay.


Yeah. So I haven’t seen the movie. Sorry. I was gonna comment on. Yeah. And like—but I mean, I know what it’s about. I read like the criticism, I follow David Sirota on Twitter, and have certainly read a lot of criticism. And I’ve certainly seen a lot of stuff about the presentation of the material. And like, maybe the metaphor being a little heavy-handed or whatever. But-and like maybe, yeah, it’s not, it’s literally like a meteor about to hit earth or comet or whatever. And, you know, it’s the news being like, well, whatever, it’s a bunch of different institutions coming together to tell you that it’s not something you really need to worry about, or, you know, like, mobilize over, I guess, I haven’t seen it, again.


It’s not a complex movie. You basically got it.


Yeah. And so, I mean, I can—certainly I won’t claim, like, I’m above aesthetics of a film or whatever, a good film, you know, should accomplish that. But it’s one of, like, the most wide-reaching climate change parables, you know, currently in existence. And I have to say, from what I’ve heard about a lot of it, it’s certainly not too far off from what we’re experiencing. And like, in a pre-COVID world, maybe it would have like, felt a little heavy-handed or something like that. But I, you know, I get the gist of it. I’m like, yeah, that’s kind of what we’re doing. Like, what do you—like, you know, they’re not even telling us to turn the fountains off or like, you know, or anything like that around here into Phoenix, and we’re literally in the middle of establishing water shortage measures. Like agriculture, out, you’re done here in Phoenix. I think we are—we just upgraded this—


No one needs that stuff.


Yeah, exactly. We don’t need this local stuff. That’s now Mexico is problem. Also, we’re not delivering water to Mexico anymore. So, you know, like, there’s so many things, we’re just like, okay, so you’re not handling this at all. And we’re not supposed to be concerned about it, for some reason


To go back to something you brought up at the very beginning. You know, you’re talking about how climate change models don’t really go past 2080 right now. Or like, you know, it’s talking about what’s going to happen best 2080. And you’re like, I have no idea why. And I have two answers to that, and one is more cynical than the other. And one, the—I mean, the most cynical one is, like, that’s because like, who knows if humanity is going to be around after 2080, certainly in a meaningful way. And then, but the other is, like, the just the, you know, everyone who’s thinking about it assumes there’ll be dead by 2080, even naturally. So why would we care about, like, what our children have to deal with, you know?




Like, I was born in the early 80s. So I assume I’ll be dead by around 2080. If I’m lucky. So, who cares about after that? I mean—actually, it’s funny, one of the most cynical things my dad says on a regular basis—my dad has four kids and none of us have kids—and he’s like, he actually does care about climate change—but he’s like, I don’t care about climate change. I don’t have any skin in the game. I don’t have any grandchildren. Family line’s over whatever.


Yeah, exactly. Like, you’re literally telling this to your children, being like, I’m not here.


I’m gonna be dead before it’s a problem. I’m like, I’m not. Actually, you’re not either.


Yeah. Yeah, I mean, number one, he gave up already on living forever. And that’s, you know, just—I’m not, I don’t think I’m ever gonna do that. So, you know, I’ve got skin in the game, you know, as long as the planets around.


Yeah, fair enough.


Yeah, I mean, that’s literally the reason that people give on some of this investment stuff into, like, green infrastructure into, you know, dealing with climate change. It’s just like, I mean, sure, that’s like a theoretical thing that we, like, could have to deal with it. But like number one, I’m not even going to be here. And number two, you know, whatever goes in the other reasoning. But it’s not an uncommon thing for someone to be like, mortality, I’m dead, like, what do you want me to do? So, yeah. And like, part of it is, you know, just the limits of modeling. Like, they’re uncertain even as, like, 10 years ahead. And so you kind of like increase the amount of uncertainty, like, as you expand that time out. But like, honestly, I just think it’s so horrifying to, like, look at it, and we’re just like, okay, well, we used to think that population was going to peak, you know, by like, 2040 or 2060. I forget, like, what the actual peak date was going to be. And then like, you know, suddenly the models are just like, yeah, we don’t really see a stop to that. And so it’s like, okay, so we’ve got a changing climate, and we have a population that’s going to keep increasing indefinitely, and no one’s got a plan for like resource usage, for anything along those lines. And, you know, to be clear, this is not me being like, overpopulation is a problem. It’s more like we need to plan, you know, like, there’s not—we’re not doing a good job with the number of people we have on the planet currently and, you know, management or not, people and our, you know, resource usage put major pressures on systems. And because I, you know, mostly think in terms of ecology and, like, natural systems, even though I’m in an urban area, I’m always thinking about, like, you know, regardless—I could do a million things in a given day—I’m already a vegan, I already tried to ride my bike as much as I can, I try to do all these things, but like, I’m still impacting the environments. And, you know, like, at the end of the day, me being here is impacting natural systems. And so now I’m always thinking about, like, biodiversity loss and the things that we’re, you know, also contributing to just in, you know, even though I’m a relatively low hum of activity, compared to some people, but, you know, we got to really be thinking about that, because otherwise, you know, it’s not going to resolve itself. It’s not just going to be like, oh, it turned out to not be a problem.


Right? Well, that’s what I feel like some people are sitting around waiting for the, you know—I think it might almost help for them to realize that scientists at this point, engineers at this point, are less thinking, how do we stop climate change and instead how do we mitigate its effects? You know, I mean, I guess people thinking about how to, like, stop the worsening of it, right? But it’s like, you know, people who are waiting around for this sort of magic bullet of, like, cold fusion power mixed with carbon capture or whatever, mixed with Mars colonization or, you know, whatever various things, like—


We’ll mine comets. Greenly.


Yeah, totally. Yeah.


Yeah, no. There’s just a lot of things that need to be wrangled. And we need to actually, like, do planning for it. And, like, I—as someone who’s done a lot of stuff in my personal life to really try to manage some of this stuff, I mean, I work on—I’m a systems thinker and I work on this as, like, a system whole. And it’s like, I mean, what—how are we going to get people to, like, change behavior. Advertising, things like that? I mean, that’ll get some people, but then, you know, like, it’ll get perverted and politicized and whatever. So this sort of individual approach to dealing with everything is not going to be the case. And, I mean, the term “transformation” was in that definition of resilience, and I think a lot of transformation just needs to happen. And, you know, like, I’m anticapitalist and so, you know, my version of transformation is like, you know, what’s a major problem for resiliency for a lot of people? It’s money and not having enough of it, or not having a society that values them because they don’t have enough of it. So we need to get rid of that. Because all these studies that talk about, like, who are the most vulnerable populations, all this stuff is tied to poverty. It’s in poverty directly, or it’s all tied to poverty. And so if I’m talking to a city person about, like, well, you know, what you can do is like add some wetlands to your city or whatever, you also have to, like, realize that’s not going to be everything. Like, you’ve—there’s going to be flooding, there’s gonna be some amount of, like, unmanageability unpredictability to these systems. And the best way that you can deal with a lot of this is just deal with, like, inequality and this, you know, insane system of creating classes and things like that, and reinforcing them in subtle and less subtle ways. And until you deal with that, you know, you’re—it’s totally incomplete. The picture that you’re, I don’t know, the picture that you’re seeing and that you’re actually engaging with, like, you cannot leave out a lot of these issues of inequality in the way we consume things and everything.


No, I really like that way of tying class and all of that into this as, like, all part of it. I don’t know. One of the things that I think about, one of my better friends and engineer, whenever I talked to her about these issues, one of the things that always comes up is that I think about like—like when you talk about the concrete canal in Los Angeles, which of course makes for dramatic movie sets—I had no idea what that thing was, it’s just in every movie and eventually figured it out it’s a canal. But it’s just bad engineering if you don’t take into account all of the context that the thing that you’re creating sits within. And so like, that’s always been like my argument against a lot of the, like, quick fix technological stuff coming from engineers—and I say this as a lay person—but I’m like, it’s just badly engineered. It does not work. It solves an immediate problem, but it doesn’t work in the larger context. So it doesn’t work. And the stuff that you’re talking about, about like—so a resilient city is one that’s, like, interfaced with nature, interfaced into its local context, and not just like assuming that the style of building that you use in the north is the style of building you should use in the south, and the style of greenery you have in Michigan should be what you have in Phoenix. But then also one that fights inequality, and that’s how you build a resilient city. I like that.


Yeah, no. And that’s a critical message that I’ve, like, tried to put into like book chapters and so forth, where it’s like, look, we have a good idea of, like, what causes, you know, people to be vulnerable to climate change, and to extreme weather events. It’s the same thing that’s made them vulnerable for the last, you know, like, you know, since the 1800s, and like, you know, the major rise of capitalism and industry and so forth. Like, you have all these engineering and tech solutions to things, but, you know, at the end of the day—I mean, so I also do surveys and stuff like that, about flooding and communities too. And so I have some idea of how people are actually adapting and preparing to this sort of stuff. And, you know, it’s a n- brainer. You get a wealthy person who has like flooding in their house, like, yeah, I paid a guy to pump it all out. And then I had, you know, my walls redone or whatever to deal with the flood damage. I replaced all the furniture that got damaged by the flood. Then you have like a person who doesn’t even own the home that they live in, they’re like a renter on top of it, and they could be facing eviction, you know, during the, the flood repairs, if it gets repaired, you know. And, like, it’s—there are so many things where it’s like, okay, so this person’s like a temporary refugee within their own city because, you know, their home flooded, and there’s like renovations or whatever. And that’s not going to be solved, you know, necessarily by a tech solution. You might get statistically less flooding, either in terms of like depth or frequency. But like, it’s gonna happen, like, there’s just failures in these systems and people living, you know, hand to mouth, they’re not going to be able to recover in the same way as, you know, wealthier people are, or people who have—who live in like a city or in a social governance system that actually cares about helping people recover, like, on an individual basis. Like, you just can’t ignore that. I mean, certainly install more wetlands. I’m not going to tell you not to do that, but…


Right, totally. It’s like, it’s good to ride your bike, it’s good to eat less meat, it’s good to you know, and increasing biodiversity is a very valuable thing. Like, it’s a more valuable thing than riding a bike. But like, what, um—okay, well we’re coming up on time. And I’m wondering if you have any final rousing thoughts or something that you wish I had asked, or any final thoughts. Uh, yeah, I mean, it’s really tough, because I don’t want to just be like, the problems are systemic, and the system sucks. It’s not doing its job. So there’s nothing you can do about it up until it happens.


Yeah. I mean, like, there’s really good work at the community level, and, you know, tenant organizations and so forth, that have kind of like, pushed toward organizing and improving their own resiliency. And so I always, you know, try to remember those sorts of movements. And the fact that, like, academia is pretty responsive to that. Like, if nothing else, like the the push for novelty in academia, like, has kind of been like, oh, well, this is like another form of resilience. It’s like understudied or whatever. And so it gets, like, proper attention and study and appreciation in academia. And then like, you know, the pipeline from there as we talk to city officials or whatever who we’re partnered with, and then get them thinking about this sort of stuff. But it’s like, it’s kind of, it’s not a definite sort of thing. It’s like a tenuous relationship. It’s not successful all the time. But like, it is cool that it exists sometimes and in some places, you know, like, there’s work that I’ve done where I, you know, I can go point to an individual wetland that I’m personally responsible for, like, telling the city something about and they’re like, I guess we got to protect it then. It’s like, wow, cool. And, you know, I can go back and it will still be there, but it was already, like, getting zoned for housing and so forth. So like, stuff does happen, and there is good work on it. And you should do these sorts of, like, personal measures toward, like, reducing carbon footprint and all of that. But like, I don’t know, I think you described it as, like, climate nihilism in a in a previous podcast episode, I think with a restoration ecologist maybe.


That part’s not true. Yeah, that sounds right. I have a terrible memory. But that sounds right.


Where, you know, it’s kind of about a, you know, nihilism is a bad thing in that you’re just like, everything’s fucked, or whatever. But like, for me, it kind of takes the form of just, like, accepting that stuff is going to change and figuring out, like, what you can do about it in the immediate term, you know. Like, if we’re able to stop climate change to some degree, great, awesome. And I’m trying to do what I can to support that effort. But I think also it felt really good to kind of let go of that expectation, because that allowed me to think about, we can actually do a lot of stuff, you know, societally, individually, to make things more livable, even if climate change didn’t, you know, isn’t real, you know, for that matter, or, you know, didn’t happen in the way we see it or to the degree that we were seeing it. There’s, there’s a lot you can do that we are capable of doing. It’s, you know, a matter of creating the will and having the imagination to actually do it. And that’s, you know, that’s how I go back to work every day and look at climate projections and so forth. And like, oof, looks pretty difficult out there. But, you know, there’s stuff you can do.


Yeah. Okay, well, is there a way that people can either—can engage with your work, or follow you on the internet, or how would you like people to engage with you if they like what you’re saying?


Hire me. That’s the number one thing I would like them to do. Because I’m graduating this semester, theoretically, so please hire me. But otherwise, so my Twitter handle is @jasonrsauer, that’s S-A-U-E-R, you know, on Twitter. And that’s the only social media I’ve got going for me right now. Otherwise—oh, I’m sorry, I also have a—alright, so my research network runs a podcast as well called Future Cities.


Oh cool.


Where we talk with professionals and other researchers about urban resilience and so forth, and do deeper dives into particular subjects like green gentrification and, you know, engineering, resilience, and so forth. So they can certainly check that if they want to. It’s pretty nerdy stuff.


Okay. Well, thank you so much.


Yeah, thank you. I really had a lot of fun.


Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this conversation, you should tell people about it. You should tell people about it on the internet, or in person. I say the same thing every week. I try to come up with new ways to say the same thing every week. Isn’t that fun? It’s fun for everyone. It’s fun for you. It’s fun for me. Hurray. But it really does mean a lot for the show when you tell people about it, it’s pretty much the only way that people hear about it. And you can also support the show by supporting our publisher, which is Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is supportable at There’s not a lot of stuff behind a paywall, but if you pay a certain amount a month, you’ll get a mailed print zine every month. And either way, you’re helping support a whole bunch of different read projects that are going to be coming out this year. I’m really excited to show you all what we’ll be doing. And in particular, I would like to thank Nicole and David, Dana, Chelsea, Starro, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog for your support. You make this show possible. And so just everyone for listening because if no one listened, I probably wouldn’t do the show, which is maybe terrible. Maybe I should be willing to scream into a void. But I’m not. I prefer talking to an audience. Even though I’m actually just talking to a microphone in a closet. It’s somehow the same, or different? I don’t know. I hope you’re doing well and I hope you continue to do well.

Find out more at

S1E38 – Gregg on Suburban Organizing

Episode Notes

The guest Gregg can be found on twitter at @greggawatt.

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


Live Like The World is Dying: Suburban Organizing

Hello and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Margaret Kiljoy, and I use she or they pronouns and this week I’ll be talking to a friend of mine named Gregg about suburban organizing and suburban preparedness because we’ve had a bunch of episodes on urban stuff and we’ve had some episodes on rural stuff and those aren’t the only places that people live. Some people live in the intersection between the rural and the urban or the sub-urban as it is sometimes referred to. In fact, a lot of people live there. I grew up there. Which, I guess I should just own. I think I say that in the episode, so you know it’s like supposed to be this like dirty secret, but the suburbs are are far more interesting and complex than people give them credit for in media. And so here is going to be Gregg talking about that, and I think you’ll get a lot out of it, even if it’s not where you live. 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 duh duuuh.

Okay if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of a little bit about your story. How did you come into suburban organizing?

Yeah, my name’s Gregg. I go by Greggawatt on the internet, most places. My pronouns are he/him, and yeah, I have been a lifelong anarchist. I don’t want to call myself an organizer, but I have been somebody who is always…I cannot stand still and I always have to be doing something and getting involved in some project, and during the pandemic I decided to move out to a little bit further out from the the city and move into the suburbs, mainly to get more space, to garden, and of course it didn’t last long until I was trying to figure out like, “Okay, how do I find people I can connect with to work on stuff.”

Yeah, and and I mean it’s it’s funny because one of the main questions I get asked all the time at my show I’m always talking about the importance of community and and for the most part I mean my neighbors know who I am, but I don’t like hang out with them all that much. You know, I’m sort of a shy, introverted transgirl in a rural environment personally, and and so people always ask “How do you talk to the people around you?” and there’s it’s sort of an implied difference between the sort of the political radical and then the people around you. And, everyone no matter your environment, you always think it’s sort of unique to your environment. You know the, the main concern people have in rural environments is, you know the Trump supporters who live around you or something like that and and my rude assumption is that what you have around you would be like sort of do-good-er liberals who are on like Next Door too much or something, and so I guess I’m wondering, what is the political environment that you’re around and and how does that influence talking to people and how do you deal with that?

Yeah, so I’m in the Bay area so that makes the the conversation a little bit different than it might be in in some other areas, but it’s it’s definitely it’s a mix. So, there is your Liberals. The mayor of the the city that I’m in is a Progressive. And you know, advocates for affordable housing. That’s his, has been his whole job, his whole life. He’s working in affordable housing. So you have like a mayor who’s very progressive. Um, and then you have liberals. You have Biden supporters, and then you also have your Blue Lives Matter types.


They have….There’s Blue Lives Matter flags in my neighborhood. You know and they, and and there’s a lot of American flags, more American flags than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, but you know, especially around the fourth of July, and you know then every once in a while there’ll be a gay flag. You know, a rainbow flag, or there’s, there was a lot of Black Lives Matter signs last year when in 2020, Summer 2020, when we first moved here. Um, and that I think was just like the whole country was sort of getting, getting on board with that.
But, there is also a good contingent of like your anti-vaxer Q’anon Trump supporter types, who you know, for example…so one of, one of the things that I’ve gotten involved in doing organizing out here is there is a Black Lives Matter group that is local. One of the projects that they’ve taken on is trying to get the 1619 Project to be taught in the schools. Well, if you know anything about the current environment of like school board politics, the Right is crying about teaching kids critical race theory, which the 1619 Project is not critical race theory. Critical race theory isn’t even taught in in schools in any form, but it raises this this tension now like where you know, one of the main organizing tools right now is to go to school board meetings, and make sure that you have a voice there every single meeting, to have somebody there who’s like “Yes, you should still be doing this this project. Yes, you should still be looking at the curriculum, and making it more true to the American history.” And then you have people on the Right who are against masks who ah, who use the the the keywords of like critical race theory and what-not. So yeah, it’s kind of a wild ah mix of of people,and so like you have to deal with with people who are never going to be on your side, and that’s a difficult thing to deal with coming from like a more urban center where like the worst you would have to deal with is like a Democrat who’s a little bit too much into Hillary.

Yeah, yeah, I think suburban Blue Lives Matter people are like scarier to me than rural ones and I…you know, it’s like I’ve had these conversations with like my neighbors where like, I’m wearing a dress and they have a gun on their hip, and I’m like “Ahh, this is fine,” but I feel like in my head the suburban ones, and maybe this is, I don’t know, I have this presumption that they would be… uhhh… that I would have less class alignment with them or that, you know like, like people talk about Trump’s base as the rural white poor, and my impression is that Trump’s base, like in terms of actually who got him elected is the upper middle class rural and suburban white you know folks. Is that, is that accurate? I mean am I completely off… Ah, like the idea of suburban Blue Lives Matter people just actually are way scarier to me.

Yeah, when you’re in the suburbs you’re going to be coming across people who are more affluent and so yeah, you had, you would hit the nail on the head there. There is, there’s like much less, you would have much less in common with somebody who is a a suburban Blue Lives Matter type. Because they they are well off, they, you know, they have they have a house, and they pay their taxes, and they you know support their police, and like it’s it’s a little scarier I would say. And I think that you get less of that feeling of like, and I’m talking out of never been living in in rural America, but like I get this feeling, more feeling, of like there’s a self, there’s a self-reliance aspect that I as an Anarchist can like vibe with.


I can be like “Yeah, you just want people to leave you alone and like do your own thing.” That’s cool, but I get like in the suburbs, there’s like a feeling that everything should cater to you and that’s from the schools, to the city, to the police, to all of these city services that like you… It’s very individualistic. Like to get anywhere you have to get in a car and drive


Unless you just want to walk around your neighborhood. And that I think really changes your outlook in some ways. Yeah.

Yeah, that ah, that entitlement, the ‘entitled to everything working for you,’ I think that’s what makes it scary is because like, someone who is in the process of losing power is at their most volatile in a way where, I don’t know, people who are sort of used to not really having power over the people around them probably are less interested in wielding power over the people around them. You know, as compared to I mean homeowners associations. I think my my first inkling of like Libertarianism as a kid… Definitely went through a teenage Libertarian phase until I found out what a horrible thing Capitalism was. It was the 90’s. Whatever. And and the first thing that ever made me aware of it was homeowners associations, because when I was a kid I grew up in the suburbs and I was like, “Well what do you mean we can’t paint our house like pink with purple polka dots. It’s our, it’s our house. Like why would that be anyone else’s business?” And the idea of living somewhere where your business is everyone’s business seems really weird to me. But…

Yeah, luck, Yeah luckily I don’t have an HOA near me because I probably would have already pissed them off by by tearing up my lawn. But yeah, I mean, there’s there’s HOAs around here and so to go into some of the the organizing that I’ve been able to do is that there is a measure in the city to put up license plate readers and I am somebody who has been anti-surveillance for ever–


–And this was something that the local Black Lives Matter group was against. The Progressive groups saw a problem with it as well, and it was something that I was like “Okay I mean.
I need to figure this out a little bit and see what what’s going on,” and so I just, I emailed the police department I was like “Hey, what’s up with these cameras.” And, um, it was a startup that they went with, and they answered some of my questions. But, then I like did a follow up of like “Hey, did you have a, uh, request for proposals? Did you talk to any other companies? And then he just stopped talking to me. I was like “Well guess what, I have the government on my side.” So I did a Freedom Of Information Act request for this information and was able to get a lot of good data about the the relationship between the company and the, and the, and the City. And, uhm, the proposal still went through, sadly, but it was able to get people together, and posting about it online. You could see people in the city being like, “Yeah, I don’t want these cameras around. Why do we even need these?” And, the HOAs actually were the ones to push for the cameras first, because the HOAs bought these cameras from this particular company.


And got them set up. And then the company used these HOAs as an example of like “Hey, we’ve already deployed these in your city in these HOAs. It’s not that much more to do a few more around the city. So yeah, the surveillance company was able to actually, you know, win that contract with some of those arguments. Sadly.

But, it just shows that like HOAs are are sort of these entities that that can be testing grounds for increased policing and increased surveillance that is later going to be used as examples of like, “Hey this is something that works,” especially in a suburban context where HOAs do have political power, and are able to kind of control space in that way. Yeah, that was interesting.

Yeah, that I guess that doesn’t surprise me that they they tie in together like that. But, with the organizing you did against it, I mean one of the things I think about as you say that it’s like…like organizing isn’t necessarily about winning. Winning is really nice, and we should always try to win. But, usually it seems to be about like bringing people together and sort of gathering power and recognizing the ways in which…so the fact that you can use that to make in-roads with different uhh parts of your community seems like, you know, “the real treasure was the friends we met along the way,” or whatever is absolutely true with organizing.

Definitely, yeah, like, and again, I hate…I don’t consider myself an activist. I don’t. I have criticisms of of Activism, but I am like a Do-ist. Like, I want to be doing the work that I want to see in the world.


I Think like, 1) if if you’re somebody who like finds yourself in an area where you have no people with your political affinity. I think part of it is just like finding people who are doing the thing. Like you don’t necessarily need to find everybody who’s like a Leftist or an Anarchist, but you know there are groups in my city who do, you know, sustainability gardening. So they go to people’s houses and they rip up their lawns. That’s extremely–

That’s cool.

–Yeah. That’s extremely in my…in my interests. And when I first moved here I was like “Yes, that’s something that I want to do. I want to learn about it,” and so I did I went to one of their sessions and like ripped up somebody’s lawn and spread mulch and that was like really satisfying and then like making those connections with people of just like yeah this is… we’re building the world. We want to live in. We’re planting fruit trees. We’re, you know, bringing back the pollinators and whatnot. And like, it’s also a two-edged situation that like this group doing this work is actually really important because the city itself raises their water rates, and is going to raise them again, and so people are now thinking about like “Oh crap. Like, I can’t actually sustain the kind of water usage that I need. I need to actually change my…what I’m doing.”

Because like lawns are one of the biggest water sinks, right?

Yeah, and they’re just useless, but like you know, and so like doing that work and connecting with those people I think is, is, was really important. And like it was also you know around the cameras . It was finding like, of course, like the the groups that cared about racial justice, of course they were going to be against this, because they don’t want police to be able to harass people even though there’s like stories in the New York Times about this particular camera company being used to harass people, Ah um, you know, um and get their data. But, and that’s fine, and I was able to meet a lot of people through that process. And, it’s like building those relationships with people who aren’t like, they probably have never read Emma Goldman, and that’s fine, but we’re all we’re all doing the same sort of work.


And they, and, when, when things get bad, which they will, having those connections I think is is really important. Like, I’ve been able to meet people around my neighborhood and and it’s really important to just like we… I’ve just been like, “Hey, let’s hang out.” And, so we’ll bring over food. We’ll bri– we’ll, we’ll bring over like you know some drink, and we’ll just chat and be very cordial. But now it’s like, “Okay I know you. I know where you’re at we know each other. We recognize each other when we see each other we wave.”

Like yeah, I’ve been able to meet like most of the the houses around me and especially like my next door neighbors, and be like “Hey, if you need anything, let me know. Hey are you doing okay? Oh, hey, you have fig trees or you have apple trees. Well, I have a fruit picker. Let me come over and pick some fruit for you and–

Wait, what’s a fruit picker? is it like a like a low robo arm thing that you like reach up and grab things with?

Oh, I wish. It’s just a long pole with a basket on the end.

Oh, cool.

And like, I, I bought one years ago just because I would… in my old neighborhood, I would just walk around and and find fruit trees and if anything was hanging off the edge I’d pick it.


But like you know tool offering. You’re creating that like, “Oh yeah, we have, we have things we can trade.” And just the other week, a woman who is like, “Oh, I Love your garden out front. You should come over and see my garden,” and she had I want to say fifteen fruit trees in her backyard.


And like, she’s like, “Oh yeah, my husband’s a master gardener,” and like she’s a pastor. Like she’s, she’s you know, she’s, in in the religious realm, but like she’s liberal. She’s like….she cares about helping people, of course, and like it was like, ‘Oh yeah, we have this shared interest.’ We both really like gardening. We we want…we could talk about like similar foods we wanted to plant or do, and now like okay now we have that connection. So if things are bad, we can interact in that way.


Like, I think that suburban life wants you to be isolated. It, It thrives in isolation. That’s why it was created. But, I think that there are ways to break that isolation. I think it’s just as simple as just like making yourself more available. And it’s hard. We, You know, we all have lives. I have a full time job, and you know, I’m raising a family and all that stuff. So, it is hard to make the time. But yeah, I feel better when I when I do make that time.

No, this is really interesting to me because one of the things that I always present or that I think about a lot is like one of the things I think this sort of the Anarchist role is sort of the the anti-organizer or something, the… Okay people always say when the apocalypse comes like some you know strong man will take over, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that when you have a power vacuum, kind of the first person to present an organizing model that sounds halfway reasonable like people tend to go with.


And I’ve seen this in small scales where I’m aro–You know, hanging out with like 20 people or something and none of us know each other, the first person to be like, “Hey this is what we should do,” kind of wins, right?


And, and what anarchists I’ve always felt should do is, and even those of us who hate organizing like me, is present present an organizational model that is non-hierarchical, basically like being like, “Oh, well, this is what we should do not like ‘I’m in charge.’ But here’s a means by which we can make decisions. Here’s a means by which we can come up with what we want to do collectively, like you know, and it’s interesting to me because I hadn’t quite thought about this but one of the big things about the white American settler project is to create these like unmarked spaces, you know–


–this like place that is devoid of culture and devoid of interpersonal relations and things like that and the so the suburbs sort of exemplify that, so it actually sort of makes sense ah in some ways that’s an organizational void that if you step in and say like, “Oh, well we can…we can share tools,” You know it’s like, where I grew up, you know when I was younger, there would be block parties because someone on the block organized a block party, right?


And then I don’t know what happened maybe that person stopped or moved or I’m I’m not sure, and we just stopped having block parties, and, and so the barriers come back up between people. But, they, but they can go away. I don’t know this is just… sorry I’m almost like I’m not nostalgic, but it’s like it’s just really interesting to think about the suburbs as this void that therefore is like fertile ground in a way that I hadn’t really thought before we started this conversation.

Yeah, I’m not convinced that it necessarily is–

Mmm, okay.

–but I think it is an area that is ignored often.


You never hear the cool kids saying, “Let’s go move to the burbs!” But like people live here.
And actually a lot of people that you may want to be around live in the suburbs.


Like, I feel I feel like as white people overwhelmingly re-enter like urban spaces there are are families who you know who are pushed out to the suburbs and that’s where they’re living and it’s like if you want to actually be around people who aren’t just like rich white people who are… who want you know coffee shops up and down everywhere, like that’s one place you can find it. There’s something, I think there’s something to that and, you brought up block parties and it got me thinking about like, there’s this, there’s this, so there’s this phenomenon that’s like the National Night Out. Do you know about this?

No, I don’t.

So, there’s… it’s a pro cop thing. It’s like the National Night Out where they throw block parties all over the neighborhood to essentially like, they bring the police, and they bring the fire truck out and they they have like you know, ah somebody dressed in a furry suit that has like you know a fireman outfit on or whatever, and it’s like trying to get like the community out to, so you can meet your neighbors, but it’s like it’s still is mediated by the State because it’s like used as this way to like promote, you know, either fire safety, or public safety, or all these myriad of things, or like community or Neighborhood Watch type things. Um, and I was talking with another person I know in town who who does organizing and I was like, “We need to have something that’s not this. Like we need to have a counter for next year,” and and she was like, “Yeah, definitely.” So, I think that like block parties are definitely a way, and like if you already know people who are like, “Yeah, I don’t really like the cops,” having something that’s like counter to that, that’s just like, “This is, this is our community. This is our way how we keep our say… ourselves safe,” like and, kind of have the anti-
Neighborhood Watch contingent–

Have you done that? Have you gone to do that yet, or is that that this year, next year or something?

Not Yet, it will probably be next year–


–because the the day’s already passed for that one and so we’d probably do something you know along that lines. But yeah, like yeah, I don’t know. Um, yeah I think that there’s there’s also like a fertileness of like there is, there’s more space that you can kind of um, like there’s more physical space.


I think out here. When you’re in an urban environment, everything is, is definitely overwhelmingly like built up, but like where I’m at I have very quick access to like pretty intense nature. Like there’s coyotes who come into the neighborhood, and deer who regularly walk around, and um I don’t know, that kind of access is nice.

Yeah I actually see more wildlife on a regular basis when I visit my parents, even though I literally live in the woods.


When I see deer near my house I get really excited. I mean, I see them once a week or something like that, But you can, but the…the wildlife, there’s some word for this that I don’t remember right now, the like where the wild and the suburban encroachment overlap is a place that wildlife is very visible I think partly because the habitat has been cut away but also because there’s all that physical space.


I Guess I do want to walk back like what I was saying earlier about like, “Oh the suburbs is this like white void.” I Definitely don’t mean to like paint all suburbs like that and I actually um, certainly the, the one where I grew up, was fairly racially diverse and actually fairly class diverse. And, it’s incr… well’s not increasingly class diverse. It’s increasingly lower class as working class, as people move out of the city because of displacement because of rich white people who want to move into the city. So, so, I wonder whether we have like more… There’s like the suburban ideal, the sort of like 1950 s you know, housewife vibe whiteness, no culture thing, and then there’s the actual lived experience of the suburbs which I guess is is fairly different from that for.

Yeah. Yeah, I mean I grew up kind of in the suburbs like part of my growing up was in, was in the suburbs as well. It was, ah it was a place as a child to get bored, umm.


And like I, there’s a lot of opportunity in boredom.


And, and, and, I think that even as an adult like there is opportunities in boredom that, you know it’s like, “Oh, today I’m going to find out like what this weird plant I came across was.”
Instead of like constantly being inundated with like activities or social engagements like there was, there is some advantage to being like more alone and I guess you, you get this being in a cabin in the in the wilderness, but like there’s being in a more Urban center, you’re so busy.
And now I feel, I feel very un busy now in a way that’s like, “Oh, I can get into the more deep work that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” but also just like exploring these spaces that I just didn’t have access to. I don’t know what I’m saying there exactly, but like it. Yeah.

No no, that’s it, it’s slower I mean and that is like part of what appeals about… I think one of the things That’s so annoying about the American myth of the suburb is that like the way the American suburbs were largely constructed as as far as I understand them, I mean 1) There’s a lot of racism built into it and specifically like, “We Don’t want to pay taxes but we want access to the city,” You know, and like the wealth fleeing the city or whatever you know and all this terrible stuff. But, the the actual physical infrastructure of the suburb, of like having homes and yards and parks and you know there’s a lot to recommend about living in some kind of population density, and being able to share and centralize some types of you know, power systems and and sewer systems and things like that, while at the same time… I don’t know, I mean like honestly just like straight up if someone was like, “Where, where would I, where is like the easiest place to survive the apocalypse?” Besides the people, and actually depending on the suburb maybe including the people, I’d probably pick the suburbs, because in you’re like well I I have all of the space to grow food. But I also have access to people who are one of the other main resources. People are not resources, but you know one of the main other advantages that we could have in any kind of bad situation. A completely different structure. I mean, I guess the actual better structure is the sort of village thing. Of course then you run into the weird the way the suburbs are being redeveloped into these like corporate villages or whatever is also kind of gross. So I don’t know there’s nothing that can’t be made gross. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

So, I feel like in the suburbs. There’s a lot of opportunities for like…that that have been taken, of course this is by, not by by organizers or radicals, but like there’s like different ways of living and that have been tested in the suburbs and one example is like the Eusonian model that Frank Lloyd Wright built where he attempted to, he made these very pretty houses, being an architect, but they had a model of like how a space should be designed like it was very open styles. It was like this. The kitchen was de-emphasized because they didn’t think that the kitchen mattered that much. I’m not saying that these these were good, but I think that we’re heading into a new era that like we’re going to have to start rethinking how houses actually exist. And, like these suburban houses that exist right? now are extremely inefficient. Like my house right now is a two-story home and the top half gets hot, while the bottom stays very cool and it’s like well great good job there thinking of that thirty years ago.


You know, and like being somewhere where it’s going to get affected by global warming. If we’re, if we’re all thinking about like, “Okay we all have these same homes,” like when you’re in a suburb, at Least mine, there’s only like 5 different homes that exist. So like if you can connect with your with your neighbors and in a way and they’re like, “Hey, you have the same home I do. I do. What modifications have you made to make it more energy efficient? What things have you done?” Because you have these templates that you can go like okay like,”These are exactly the same,” and I think that like maybe there’s a way that we could start experimenting just because there’s more similarity and I’ve thought about that a lot I haven’t done any like major renovations yet. But, we have these buildings. We’re not turning them down anytime soon. How can we make them more efficient. I Think that what most people do is they just slap solar panels on top and and some batteries, and call it a day. But, yeah.

Yeah, the the mass-produced house thing. It’s interesting to find an advantage to that right? Because I mostly see this as this like major disadvantage. I remember when I moved into a barn that my friends built, where the the top half was finished. And had like a proper attic and everything I was like, “This building regulates temperature better than the house I grew up in,” you know, and this was just like built by my friends, and because it…and it was built cheaply, but it was built cheaply through like DIY scrappiness, not. “How can I maximize my profit extraction of building this structure,” you know and um, like no one’s going to accuse these suburban homes of being overbuilt anytime soon, you know, and I read all of these construction forums all the time and you can tell who’s like the homeowner versus who’s the the contractor because the…or the ‘home builder’, because the home builder is like, “Oh yeah and in this place, in this place you can get away by using with 2x3s, and you know or whatever possible cost savings that they can build into it versus the like you know here’s how to put hurricane ties on everything, and you know versus, as compared to people like, “Oh, you have to put hurricane ties on if you’re below the such and such latitude line,” or whatever. Um, so it’s it’s interesting to me to see these advantages, because yeah I wouldn’t think throwing solar panels on it is the way to go, and I mean I guess you could put a battery on it. But, it’s like grid tie solar to me makes more sense anyway, because from my point of view battery storage is the big ecological downside of Solar. But okay, so so what would you do? What would you do to this kind of house? I assume like blow in more insulation in the attic or like what what can you do to a house?

Yeah, yeah, I think the first thing that I that I would…big project that I’d like to take care of is like water reclamation, and figuring out like where, how things go because all the all the down spouts are have to get into the weeds, but like having downspouts on every single corner of your of your property, it’s like, “Oh yeah, how do we, how do we pipe this all together?

Oh yeah, totally.

Instead of just like gathering things in a bucket. But like yeah, the heat, the heat situation I haven’t really figured out too well, and it’s something that I just need to do more research on,
along with all the other projects that I have, so I don’t have anything specific yet. But it’s something that I think about, and like as I get to know more people around me and be like, “Oh…” like I for, okay so here’s ah, here’s a good example. So I went into a a a friend’s house down the street, they have the exact same house, and I’m like, “Oh, your house is a lot…brings in a lot more light than mine.” All they had is different paint and different paint on their walls I was like, “Of course, we need to paint the walls, so we can bring in more in natural light. And it’s just like stuff like that that makes you think of like other things that like, you could get this from just like going to random people’s houses and be like, “Oh yeah, that, you’re doing this this way I’m doing this this way.” Then I can get ideas off of it. But, I don’t know, it just interesting to see like the exact same house and like see okay here’s the different ways you can make it work for you.

Yeah, no, I was interested because I have a feeling that people in the city can do kind of similar things with apartments and I know that, you know, where I live, it’s like all of our houses are totally, all the cabins and stuff that people I know build are all pretty different from each other in a lot of ways. But then we all are constantly like learning from each other about like how to wire solar, or what kinds of insulation actually work, or which natural building methods are total garbage, and which ones actually make sense in our climate and, it’s cool. I Don’t know I I kind of have this like happy little vision of like a permacultured suburb as like ah you know all the lawns ripped up, and fruit trees everywhere, and water reclamation, and all this stuff that HOAs always would you know absolutely despise.


It’s a little like dystopian versus utopian conflict within this ah very separated space and again I don’t know, I don’t spend much time in suburbs anymore, so it’s it’s hard for me to totally conceptualize.

Yeah, and along with that like the the place where I’m in, the having the water situation makes everybody thinking thinking about like, “Oh, I’m going to turn up my lawn,” and like that, having that shared narrative of like, “There used to be lawns. There are no longer lawns, because it is financially not feasible anymore, because water is costing more and we’re in global, global warming times,” makes everybody start being like, “Oh, what are you doing with your yard? What kind of trees are you putting in?” You can kind of get ideas off of people and like some people are like, “Oh yeah I really like cactuses,” or I personally I like doing fruit trees and and native pollinators if I can do it. So yeah, yeah, so like that idea of like the permaculture suburban life, I think that it’s going to have to happen out of necessity when like this the suburb becomes unsustainable as it is. Like the suburbs are, as they were built they’re pretty unsustainable. You need a vehicle to get into them. That like every house was given a tree that like was not a native tree, lots of lawns, no real good ways to reclaim the water. A lot of the water just goes right into the sewer. I was talking about water reclamation earlier and to do one of the pipes I would have to dig up the ground. Like the people who built these houses were not thinking about like, “Oh we need to collect this water someday.” Yeah, but I think that that’s… especially here that’s going to change and as that changes we’re going to have to come up with with more and better ideas about how to, how to reconfigure these houses so we can survive here for the long term.

Yeah. What do people make of you, like when you’re coming around and and trying to organize with people. Yeah, what do people make of you?

Ah, I don’t know, I don’t really ask people what they make of me, but I but I get the I like I’ve I’ve just been able to connect with other people working on on organizing projects, and I think people are appreciative that they, that somebody is around who kind of gets it. I don’t need to be told that you know white supremacy exists. I’m not in there trying to be like, “Oh yeah, some cops are our friends,” and so that I think that like is refreshing for people who are normally working with people who are like not not even day one type of stuff. And, I feel like currently though, it’s like I’m still getting my footing. I’ve only been here a year. I’m still kind of gaining, I feel like a lot of it is still like gaining trust and the pandemic has made it super hard to just like… you just want to be in the same room as people, and like interact and like have a potluck or like you know, share food or share ideas and like that’s been a lot more difficult. It’s going to get easier as we hopefully get out of this. But, yeah, I get the feeling that that people are appreciative of the work that I’ve done and of my contributions, because like again talking about the FOIA thing, that has gotten me to get in contact with like reporters who are reporting on like the city and the police departments that are in the city and county that I’m in, which have some pretty corrupt stuff coming out, and so like having that ability to to network with not only reporters who have been doing this work forever and exposing some of the the injustices here, but like organizers and activists who have been on the ground doing that work as well. I think it shows that like you can find a way to do, to fit in with whatever skills that you have, and people are going to be appreciative of you. Like one of the big things about like being in an area where you’re relatively new is like, and especially during a pandemic, it’s like how do you find the people who who are like working on the stuff that you want to work on. They exist. Every city is going to have somebody who has been trying for years to get some project off the ground, or stop something that’s going on in their city, or either, even like get the ear of city council, and if you can be that extra voice, or that extra person to call in and be like, “Hey, stop this,” that can be worth a lot especially in a city where maybe the population is not so engaged.


Even, even if the population is like engaged in the opposite direction, if there’s somebody else saying that, you’re gonna find those people I think. Yeah, and like I hate to say it but like one of the, one of the places I’ve been able to gauge like where people’s energies are is actually through Facebook. Like there’s multiple different Facebook groups that are focused in the city, and like that’s where most people do their organizing work.


Like Facebook and like Next Door. And I’m not just talking like organizing from like a Leftist or a radical perspective. But I’m talking more like even the Right wingers, and so it… joining these different groups, you get…ah you get a taste of like, “Okay, who are these people? What are they working towards? What do you need to be paying attention to? What are people angry about?” You know you can figure out that’s like, “Oh people don’t like that their their roads are taking forever to get fixed,” which is like you know, typical weird suburban like complaint is like okay, but like, also you go, “Oh there, there was a school board recall this past year that failed miraculously, like very badly failed, but there was um connection between one of the school board people and one of the organizers of the recall, and you know like you could get from Facebook of like them… how that connection worked and so you were able to see, “Oh, actually this person who’s on the school board is is related to somebody who’s actually running the recall.”

Ah, so there’s a very like transparent organizing happening from probably both the Right and the Left.

Yeah, exactly and so like you can kind of see it’s like, “Okay, what are… where are people at?” and like you don’t even have to participate. I don’t suggest that people participate in Facebook. I loathe it as a platform. But, it is wherever the people are, so it’s like you’re trying to find like friends and enemies, that’s the place to do it, and you know I would also suggest getting on Next Door. I… it is a terrible platform as well, but I think it also is another one of those things that like gives you an idea of like, “Okay, where are people at? What are the issues that matter in this city, and where are people doing the work that I want to be involved in?” And people respond really well to just reaching out. Like I do… I Just like email people and like, “Hey, what are you doing? And this is who I am, and like that’s…I admit that that’s kind of a unique thing of of mine, like I don’t mind making making a fool of myself, but like that is a way to to get involved to just like emailing people who you see are doing this kind of organizing, and like some people might be be trepidatcious of you and so there may be a, a period of time where you have to prove yourself–


–Of like not being you know a a bad person, and that’s totally fine, and I get that from doing Anarchist organizing where we can be paranoid about every…any new person who comes in.

Yeah, I was about to say we have that problem as a specific major problem in the Anarchist Movement, so.

Yeah, so when people like you know email me back and then, and don’t touch base for months I’m like, “Okay that’s fine, I get it,” or and also like there’s a real problem of like everybody also has their whole lives going on. This isn’t like organizing when you know I was 20 and like that’s all we did. We went to the Food Not Bombs, and then we went to the info shop, and then we went to the Critical Mass. Like it’s much more. There’s much more things that have to happen on a daily basis, so things move a lot slower. And I think they would move a lot slower than they would in an urban environment too, because there’s just like people are busy. There’s less people working on things as well.

And it might be like a less of a sense of… precarity tends to cause people to act much more quickly sometimes right, like I imagine suburban organizing as it being like, “Oh, we should stop this thing,” but it’s a little bit less like, “I’m a starve to death if we don’t stop this thing.”

Yeah, yeah.

I have a question about Next Door. So I only know of Next Door is this like panopticon.. decentralized panopticon, where it just encourages neighbors to snitch on each other and be racist and stuff, right. And the closest I’ve ever experienced is like you know in Asheville there’s a Facebook group that’s like basically just nosy neighbors, and but, it turns into this like argument where you know, for example, someone will like make fun of a person who doesn’t know house right? And then a lot of people will be like, “What are you doing? Like stop taking a picture of someone’s tent and putting it on here. That’s like where they live. You’re endangering them,” and the the push back seems to work a little bit. Not always, but. Can you can you push back on Next Door? And, if so does it look like, “Hey. Ah. I Appreciate you’re concerned about your safety, but maybe don’t report every single person you see to the police,” or whatever. Like, like what is the culture of resisting a Right-wing echo chamber on a social media platform like that?

Yeah, good question. I think that it’s difficult, but it’s, but it’s, but it’s possible like I think that like um, being on these platforms, and like this is totally like not a ‘have to’, you have to have the energy for this sort of thing. I Think it can be, especially if you’re in an area that’s like extremely like always talking down about houseless people, or like always being racist and What not, it’s like sometimes removing yourself from the platform is totally fine.


But if you have the energy for it, I think that it’s useful to not only like for information gathering, which is like, “seeing where people are at. What are what are people mad about?” But then like yeah, being that voice of like, “Hey this sucks.” And like, there was, there’s a situation in town with the kids on bicycles, and it’s like very, it’s a very you know Suburban concern. It’s like, “These kids are riding their bikes, and they’re riding them recklessly up and down the main street,

God forbid.

And like, you have you have, like you know people being like, “They just need a spanking.”

Oh my God.

And I like you know, I Just like couldn’t help myself. I was just like, “Do you just… you think that hitting kids is okay?” and and they’re like, “Well no, and like maybe you can go talk to them because you’re a man,” because whatever. And it’s just like weird. Yeah, it was gross. Um, but it’s like getting it out there just to be like, “No, actually like leave these kids alone. And like you don’t need to be like this,” and having that that voice. And like maybe it’s doing nothing and the the most effective thing is that the kids are still out there and they don’t care.

Like they don’t care about the online conversations. And like maybe we should care less about the online conversations. But I think that like there there is this sense of like… there can be like this like… there’s a complaint and then the complaint happens again, and then people get into the complaint, and the complaint becomes this like fuel, and then that fuel can lead to something in the real world. And, I think being somebody who couldn’t be there and just be the water to just be like, “I’m going to put this out,” or I’m going at least like tell people to like take take it down the notch is maybe effective. I don’t know. But, it’s something that I that I try to do. But, I also don’t want to waste my time online and I’d rather be outside. So.

Right. Also with those kids fortunately, and not to be like, “Kids are too online,” I’m just very excited about the kids on bicycles because that was that was me. I wonder, I mean because the other advantage of doing what you’re talking about doing is that there’s a certain amount of…There’s that bystander syndrome where when you see something bad happening, it’s hard to be the first person to do something about it. And, I think that happens a lot on social media. I mean ironically, because and the other problem with social media is everyone feels very entitled to tell people exactly what they think. But, especially in a social media that’s like ‘place’ specific or you know there’s sort of an implication of non-anonymity if you see someone say something messed up. Or I mean I don’t know I’ve had this up in social situations where someone says something kind of messed up, and no one wants to engage because it seems like a lot of work. And so the moment someone finally is like, “Hey, that’s racist. Maybe don’t talk like that or think like that.” You know, it it allows other people to speak up, or even in this case as you as you mentioned it you know it got the person to change from saying, “Oh we should just you know beat these children,” to, “Okay, maybe I don’t think the solution is to beat these children.” So, that’s cool.

Yeah, yeah I mean we could We could talk all day about how the what the internet does to people. But, I think it it it affords people to like put their worst ideas out there because it’s like it’s reaction…I Think the internet is great for reactionary talk, you know? From from all sides. And then like having something that’s place specific, and also non-anonymous, and also like you utilizing it for just like where you live. It’s like, “Yeah. No, these people don’t get to talk like that, and they don’t get to be like that, and if they do like can go do it somewhere else on the internet.” But, like, focusing on like your physical space is just like, “Yeah, stop.” I don’t know, you know?

Yeah. Sorry, as a total tangential question: at the very beginning, you talked a little bit about preparedness in terms of how making these connections with other people is a very useful preparedness step, and I actually really appreciate that. Most most… obviously most conversations about preparedness don’t talk enough about community and relationships, and talk too much about stuff. But I am curious what you have done from a preparedness point of view or what you would advocate is useful to do from a preparedness point of view in a suburban environment.

I think it’s building the friendly relationships first before you need them. I think that’s key, and because like even if you’re not on the same page with all of your neighbors if you can have that sense of like, “I know you. I know your name. We see each other. I know your dogs. Whatever.” I feel like you’ve mentioned this on the podcast a lot, but like when there’s a disaster, we’re not going to pick… We’re not going to be able to pick who we’re prepared with.


Like I can’t like pick my five best friends to be the ones that are going to come, and we’re going to do everything perfect, and like we’re going to have all the right gear, and all the right ideas and be able to get it…out alive. You’re probably going to have to work with people who you don’t like, who you don’t agree with politically.

And at least like if you’re in… if you’re living around people who you know are probably not Anarchists, are maybe not even Leftists, but they are nice to you. That’s gonna that’s gonna matter. So I think that’s… like there’s there’s a limit I mean you can’t…In my opinion, if you have a Blue Lives Matter flag up like, we’re we’re probably… we have irreconcilable differences.

Yeah, you picked your team at that point.

Yeah like that… and okay, great. But like you know this person who puts their American flag out all the time. Okay. Maybe there’s something there, you know? Like whatever. Like I think that there’s like–

God Someone invented a worse flag than the American flag I’m really impressed by that. Yeah.

I can’t wait I can’t wait till what what comes next. I mean there’s yeah, the whole striping thing is so like the red, the green, blue… What are they yellow?

I like the the fake Landlord one, the like beige one. Anyway, I didn’t I didn’t mean to derail you.

Yeah, that’s fine. But yeah like, I think yeah, the stuff doesn’t matter. It’s the people, and it’s like knowing the people around you that like when disaster strikes. And yep.

I do amateur radio as well, and that is, that is my community of people who I’m probably going to get on the radio with, and be like, “Hey, what needs to happen? What are we doing when when there’s a disaster?” So yeah, I guess my my advice is just like build those friendly relationships now. Figure out where people are at, figure out who has the cool fruit trees, and like offer to help them out. And, like if your neighbors need things like be be there to support now.
Because we are in a disaster situation. Like it, it is happening now. Like the past few days have been extremely smoky here, and like that’s… you know… just checking in with the air. And I also live in a neighborhood that’s like… it’s generationally transitioning.


So meaning that like there were a lot of people who bought their houses when they were first built, and they are older now. They don’t have children, or they’re just like alone, and I think that like making sure that your older neighbors are like… know that you’re around, know that you know that you care is like important.

And, I think that like a lot of times in our organizing or disaster preparedness, we don’t really think about that. Like there are people who are going to need our help that are not you know, young able-bodied. Like you know, and like us.


And how do, how do we better support that? And like, and disaster could not even be like a big situation, but it could be enough where like maybe they don’t have medicine. Maybe they don’t have the things that they normally need.


So figuring that out, and like just…Yeah, like, my neighbor is like… has the ah…
she has the squirrel feeding on lock. So I think we’ll be good for for rations if we need that.

Yeah, the making friends with, or at least getting to know your neighbors, especially folks who are yeah maybe older folks who live alone or something like that has been…it’s so important because there’s so many places… I mean there’s this pandemic of loneliness. Obviously, we’re in another pandemic right now, but one that clearly ties into loneliness. But, you know as a major problem in U.S. society as as I understand it, is is loneliness of people of all ages. But, but especially to my knowledge of older folks. And I don’t know, I mean we have this like positive, this positive story about how there’s a terrible flood on my land and my solar panels all washed away, and water got into a bunch of houses and I watched hundreds of dollars of my stuff float down the river…and but whatever. Um, this happened recently where I live, and yeah, we still had it better than many other people in our area who lost their entire homes and things like that. But when that was happening most of our neighbors are up on higher ground than us and you know our neighbors were like, “Cool, what do you need?” and all of our neighbors know we’re weird queer people, you know? My name is Margaret and if you hear my voice you don’t believe me that I was born with that name. You know? And you know, and realizing that like one of our neighbors who we had to like talk out of voting for Trump, you know?

But you were successful.

Yeah, successfully, yes.

That’s amazing.

Yeah, and just because it was like…well he doesn’t have…I’m not trying to you know talk so much about this particular person’s business, but you know he has a hard life right? And he lives alone. He’s a bit older, and and… but he’s also like… it’s really good that we know him. You know? And it’s really good that we’re able to be neighborly with him. So I, yeah, I don’t know. I just, I can’t emphasize what you just said enough basically. Getting to know… well it gets into that thing too where if people…if people’s needs are not being met by the system, which regardless of all the climate change apocalypses is an increasing problem anyway, is that when we organize to meet our needs collectively we just get stronger. And that absolutely needs to apply to people of different generations and things.

Yeah, definitely. But I…yeah and I will say I do not have the answers yet about you know, being in the ‘burbs, like I’m still learning and this—

Wait, that’s why are you on the podcast. I thought you had all the answers.

Exactly. And,like I think that that’s another big thing is just like there’s a learning curve for learning how to operate in a different way, that I think like that if if people are listening to this trying to find all the answers to like, “Oh, I either am currently in the suburbs and stuck, or, and want to find other people, or like 1) just moved there because of different reasons and I’m trying to find other people. It’s just like… different things are going to work for you. And like ah… it’s a different way of of operating your life. You know?

Yeah, what’s what’s changed? I’m I’m assuming you’re coming out of a more urban environment.

Yeah, just having access to…to people. I think that’s the big thing, is like there’s no…I mean there’s a downtown area, you know you can go hang out there, but there’s no like very local coffee shop where you ran into…and you don’t have that feeling of like constantly running into people you know. At least I don’t yet. And that…that feels a little bit different when you’re like…you feel more alone.


And like, meeting… but meeting people and like trying to find people who are doing the same kinds of work that I want to be doing alleviates that a little bit. But yeah.

Okay. Which, is I think what works for people in cities too, and I know a lot of people in cities also feel really isolated.

Yeah, yeah.

Alright, well we’re coming up on on on an hour and I I’m I’m wondering, do you have any any last thoughts, things that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you about suburban preparedness or organizing or life?

Um. Yeah I mean I would just, I would just reiterate: find the things you want to do, not necessarily the people yet. The people will come with the with the activities, and I think that that’s like a big thing. It’s like…and if you like gardening find the gardening organization in your town. If you like feeding people there are, there is probably an org around you that that likes to feed people. There is one here. I mean there is in this town. There is, there was an organization that got started during the pandemic that started free food shelves in people’s yards. So, like there is I think there is opportunities for whatever the kind of work that you think is important is, and finding that first is gonna…the people will follow. And I think also don’t be afraid to be the weirdo. I mean I put a “Nobody For President” sign in my yard last year, and you know I dug up my lawn and in in the middle of the night, and like, with a pic-axe, and like stuff like that. And I think that like people appreciate seeing somebody who is like being being their genuine selves. And like don’t feel like you have to conform just because you moved somewhere that looks more conformed.

People are like 1) like way more appreciative of a weirdo than we all think right, and 2) the myth of people who aren’t weirdos is a myth, you know?


And so just like when you wear that on on your sleeve…like one of the reasons I kind of like about being you know, visibly strange or whatever is that it kind of like sorts people out. I don’t have to judge anyone based on how they look because like people who want to judge me on how they look will do so.


And I can write them off. You know So someone who like looks normal, if they’re willing to treat me like I’m a perfectly normal…if if they treat me like a peer, we’re good. You know? And so it doesn’t surprise me that you’re “Nobody For President” sign and ripping up your lawn didn’t like make you the pariah of the neighborhood. You know? Instead it was like…it gives something people to talk to you about, and I don’t know I’m projecting here, but.


Okay, well, um, I don’t know, thanks so much for for coming on, and maybe next year after you have your block party we should ah we should talk about how that goes.

Definitely. Yeah and yes, anybody wants to hit me up on Twitter I’m Gregawatt and yeah, that’s it.

How do you spell that? Because, I’m under the impression there’s a lot of G’s

Oh yeah, G-R-E-G-G-A-W-A-T-T yeah.
Also it was a good source to learn more about radio stuff, is following you on Twitter and and I actually that was my first thought is that we’re gonna do a follow up radio episode. But then you, you pitched this, so I’m excited about this so.

Well, we can always talk about radio another time.



Thanks so much.

Thank you have a good day.

Thanks so much for listening if you enjoyed this podcast something is wrong with you… No wait. No if you enjoyed this podcast. You should tell people about it. You should tell people about it in person and on the internet and other places. I’m not sure what there is between In-person and in the internet. Sky writing? You should tell about people about it through skywriting. You probably shouldn’t. I haven’t really looked into this much. You can support this podcast by supporting our publisher Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness on Patreon which is and if you do so you’ll get access to some stuff earlier than other people. Not the podcast. Everyone gets at the same time. We don’t really love paywalls. Paywalls aren’t like the best thing that’s ever happened to content or the world. So, there’s not like a ton of pay walled stuff. But sometimes we communicate with people a little bit more on Patreon and we also have eternal gratitude for all the things that you all are are bringing to life including this podcast. And in particular I would love to thank: Nicole, and David, Dana, Chelsea, Starrow, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog for making this podcast and so many other projects possible. Alright. That’s it. Thanks so much and I hope you do well.

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S1E37 – Yellow Peril Tactical on Starting Firearms Training

Episode Notes

Yellow Peril Tactical can be found on Instagram @yellow_peril_tactical, Twitter @YPTActual, and Patreon @yellow_peril_tactical. You can listen to their podcast The Tiger Bloc Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

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


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 I use she or they pronouns. And this week I’m talking to 3 people from Yellow Peril Tactical. Yellow Peril Tactical is a group of Asian I guess firearms enthusiasts? That’s probably not the proper way to say it. They’ll explain themselves a little bit better in a moment. But they are a group of people who organize different shooting clubs and different tactical training. as well as putting out a lot of content online. They’re actually one of the more interesting sources of non-right-wing gun stuff on the internet. And so I was very excited to sit down and talk to them about what is involved in starting your own firearms club and what is involved in organizing as marginalized people. And I also talk to him about guns, you’ll be shocked to know, so there’ll be some geeking out about guns. But a lot of it is about how to organize stuff and make things happen. 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 1
Hello! If you are listening, then you are here on purpose. This is Twin Trouble, the podcast about fighting the system and staying rebellious while incarcerated. The show takes the form of a recorded phone call between my twin brother, currently locked up in a federal transfer overflow jail in Grady County, and myself in the “free” world of Chicago. Why are we talking about prison abolition?

Jingle 2
The reason I wanted to do this whole prison thing is they keep people’s voices down. They want to shield the public from the day-to-day experiences of the [inaudible] who are incarcerated are going through. I’m not gonna take this sitting down or bent over, I’m standing up and I’m gonna continue to speak my mind about what’s going on. So I would hope [inaudible] the podcast we could get [inaudible], we could set it up

Okay, if you all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then I guess what brings you to Yellow Peril Tactical.

Hi I’m Snow, she/they pronouns, I was invited to Yellow Peril Tactical by John Chinaman and another contributor. And I had been following their/our work for a little bit. And the posts that I actually have in mind is the one with the squid sauce and the handgun. And that just really, like, I felt so seen just by that one picture. And I just really felt like—I don’t know, it was a very pivotal moment for me and a moment where I really felt like a sense of community around meeting other fellow leftist Asian folks who are also into firearms and self-defense, community defense, and also shared like an intention to get better for themselves, for their community, and I think just the camaraderie, so to speak, among the other YPT tigers (dare I say) has been really nice actually. We shoot the shit a lot but we also have a lot of, like, encouragement towards each other and give each other advice as well as folks that reach out to us. So that’s kind of what keeps me in it. It’s a fun time so far.

What was the post?

It was one of our earliest posts and it was, like, this pretty well-known, like, bottle of squid sauce. I use it all the time. And it’s a handgun propped up by a chopstick and I just, like, I saw that and was just, like, what the fuck like this is me.


I’m Camilla. I use she/her pronouns. I found out about YPT through the internet/someone told me about it. About a year and a half ago almost I started taking up firearms as a training and self-defense tool, and started getting really into community defense, and have just been using it as something to get me out of the house and into the woods for the past year. I’ve been getting into doing the beginners/intermediate people teaching other beginners thing. And actually the first time I ever heard that was on your show, so I heard that and I was like, yeah, that’s totally what I’m about to start doing, that’s wild, that’s cool that other people are talking about it. So thank you for that and I’ll pass it to John.

That’s cool.

Hey y’all, I’m a John Chinaman, he/him pronounce. I am actually one of the original Yellow Peril people. But I’ll say before, like, that doesn’t fucking matter. Like, it doesn’t matter when you join. It holds no specialness being one of the original people. But I only say that to just explain that I was—I was around the beginning. And basically what happened was me and some people that I shoot with in real life, we heard about this guy. His name is Austin Tong. And he was a Fordham student and he got in trouble by his university because he had posed on Instagram with a firearm. And, well we were like, that’s bad. And then we checked his Instagram and it was all just like pro-NRA bullshit, pro-Donald Trump bullshit, I own a gun because, you know, I’m afraid of anti-Asian violence. Oh, me too. But, I mean, oh damn, I wonder who’s trying to stoke all that anti-Asian violence, you know. Think about it there. And so we were just pissed off. We were just pissed off. And we were just, like, we’d like toyed around this before. We were like, hey, when you go start that Yellow Peril Instagram account. And so I was in like—I was in a freaking parking lot I just started it. And I was like, ah shit, like, we actually have to like post things. Shit. I don’t want to reiterate too much what Snow and Camilla said, but honestly one of the most special parts about this has been honestly learning about more of my own heritage. Like, talking to other people, you know, obviously—obviously I’m a firearm enthusiast, but really talking to other people who are going through or have gone through similar things as me and learning about, like, what it means to be Asian American in these United States, so-called United States, and the grappling with that has honestly been the most special part for someone who didn’t actually kind of grow up with that community.

Yeah. Could one of you all explain a little bit more—just kind of an overview of what Yellow Peril Tactical is to our listeners?

Yeah, I can do that. We are a collection—collective of leftist east and southeast Asians that do a lot of firearms education. But we also do political education, the occasional shit post, which the internet seems to really like. It seems like the memes, actually, that we put the least amount of effort in get the most likes. It’s kind of wild, like we’ll just throw something together and it’ll just get like a thousand likes and just makes no sense but, you know, it’s cool. We also do fundraisers. I think last year we raised like $5600, something around there, to various fundraisers. We also post a lot of infographics geared towards new shooters, like we’ve done a couple like how to shop for a firearm like a handgun and a rifle, and like we did a glock guide recently. And we also do we peer pressure people into posting their groups and splits because we like seeing people get better, including ourselves. And we recently started doing like a drill of the month thing just to kind of give new shooters something to go on when they’re at the range instead of just mag-dumping with their friends. So yeah, we do all sorts of shit. But that’s kind of like the main hustle.

And it’s definitely geared towards, like, newer shooters, people who are newer to firearms. Second everything that Snow said, it’s very easy to just go to the range and be like, okay, cool, what do I do? Like just shoot a bunch of rounds into a microwave or something, and then you’re like, oh no, this like a skill. You can build and learn from others and teach others as well.

But shooting a microwave sounds really fun though.

I have been to a range area—like a public land—and there was like this random thing in the middle and I got a closer look at it, somewhere about a fucking TV. Like a flat screen. And it was just like in pieces. Like the screen was shattered and then like the frame was all fucked up and, like, whatever layers in between those two was just, like, perforated, and it was just so confusing to me because I’m just like, why? Who brings a TV out to the range and just shoots at it. That’s so bizarre.

I mean it sounds like it would be a perfect like 90s anti-capitalist video, you know?

Instead of Office Space where it’s like a printer, it’s just a fucking TV.

Yeah. Kill your television. Okay, so there’s a bunch of stuff I want to ask you about and some of it is a little bit more like theoretical, and I kind of want to ask you a bit about your experiences. But I think I want to start a little bit with some of the practical stuff. Like you all are—I mean, one of the things that I find so interesting about you all is that you’re one of the best resources for new shooters on the left—or probably just new shooters in general—to gain firearms information that is, like, practical instead of, I don’t know, shrouded. You all have this whole thing where you attack Red Fudds all the time and I want to ask you about that and a little bit. But one of the things I want to ask you about is what are some of these basic drills that new people can—or possibly intermediate people, but especially new people—can be doing. Like, what are groups and splits, for example?

To start off, groups and splits is essentially taking metrics and applying it to how you’re training. So that involves having a timer of some sort. You can do it the hard way, or you can go in with a bunch of friends to get a shot timer. And you essentially put up a fresh target, you have your shot timer, you press the button—usually have a delay set, at least that’s how I prefer to do it—it goes beep, and then it from that beep onward it’s counting the amount of time between your shots. And the groups part is how far away your rounds are hitting on the target, and the splits is the amount of time in between your shots. Usually you pay most attention to the first shot and the last shot, but it totally depends on what the drill is. When it comes to drills, there’s a lot of different things you can do. It entirely depends on where you’re at in your journey. If it’s your first day shooting, the drills are going to look really different than if you’re going to the range to work on your draw from concealment or something in an ongoing kind of practice way.

One of the things we talk about a lot is that, when you’re at the range, like, not going to lie, like, shooting is expensive. Ammunition is expensive, guns are expensive, right? So when you’re at the range with live ammunition, it’s good to show up with a plan. You may not stick to it, but show up for a skill like you want to work on. Whether that’s, like, getting rounds on target fast from your holster, from concealment or whatever, or being able to hit fast follow-up shots, or being able to transition between targets quickly. There’s a lot you can do at your house in dry fire— for those who don’t know, dry fire is making sure your gun is unloaded, pointing in a safe direction, and practicing it. Just pulling the trigger. And you can do a lot of that at home and when you’re on the range, you know, practicing the stuff that you can’t do at home. You need live ammunition for, like, recoil management. One of the things that we did our December—someone correct me if I’m wrong here—drill of the month was like putting four rounds on a 3×5 index card. Actually quite difficult. January—I see Snow nodding at me because, actually and Camilla too because we’ve all been having trouble with this. Literally draw—put two rounds on a 3×5 index card, rehoster, draw, put two more rounds on. And it is very very hard. It took me a week to do this by the way.

It is unforgiving. Yeah. 

It is extremely unforgiving. I finally did it today. 

What kind of range is that?

Five yards. Really not that far. Um I but there’s.

I mean, I don’t think I could do it, like…

It’s one of those things where it’s like, it just sounds, like, very doable—well, because it is. But when you’re there and you’re timing yourself and someone’s filming you. 

All your friends are watching. 

Yeah, you just kind of like revert to your worst fucking version of yourself, you know. You’re just, all your training goes out, you’re at your most, like primal, like nerves. Just yeah.

One of the things I actually really appreciate about the content you all put up is I feel like you encourage people to post not just their like coolest sexiest stuff, you know, like I think it was even today that you all posted, like, I failed at the thing I was trying to do. And it was like someone like sitting there sad, you know. And like, you know, and I actually think that that’s an important part of making people feel welcome into a sport like this because it’s so buried in machismo and it’s not just—in my experience it’s not just about the gender or the gender presentation of the people that you’re shooting with, but it’s stuff like that. It’s the, like, making sure you can do like the coolest thing and then only posting your like super coolest—also one of the reasons I appreciate it is that, frankly across the board when I watched watch right-wing or left-wing or centrist whatever, like, guntube people, they always look like they think they’re really badass looking. And it never looks like smooth or good. And I’m always like, huh, okay. It’s all like slow motion with dramatic music and stuff as they, like, kind of like jiggle with this thing and there’s lots of—I don’t know, this is completely meaningless to anyone who doesn’t spend all their time watching dumb videos about new calibers and shit. But so that’s something I really appreciate about you all is the way that you break down some of that machismo just by actually being honest about what the journey looks like. That’s not really a question. Sorry.

No,  I’m glad that you brought that up because, like, we teach like 101s to folks in the area and something that I always incorporate into when I’m teaching is just, like, telling folks, one, marksmanship is like not the goal of the 101 class. And when I first started shooting, I was fucking horrible. Awful. And I probably say it like two to three times within like the first hour. And I do it in a way to be like, yeah, like a lot of people aren’t fucking good. Most people aren’t good at shooting for a very long time, even if they’ve been shooting for years. But I think bringing that, like, honesty and like humility means a lot to folks because like guns are intimidating. And like, it’s already hard enough to learn a new skill let alone one that’s fucking firearms and.


Yeah, and it’s intimidating because, like, we’re presented with this message in this worldview—or at least I was growing up in liberalism—that the only legitimate and skilled people with firearms are law enforcement and military and that those skills, like, reside squarely in their domain. And I think like the demystification process of, like, going out to the range, having someone show you who feels like from your community—like your friend, your family member, chosen or otherwise, or your comrade—like having them really like spend some time with you and, like, show and put some care into how the stuff is presented really just kind of, like, cuts through a lot of the misogyny and like the militaristic machismo culture like y’all were talking about. And shooting guns isn’t actually that hard, it’s just there’s so much mental shit attached to it. It’s really hard to shoot with, like, you know, whatever hair’s breadth precision. But I don’t know if there’s—I don’t know if that’s real, to be honest. Like I know there’s people that drill that and—but like 99% of the people out there are relying on a veneer of, like, machismo to really get the point across. But yeah. It’s all bullshit. Just need to find people that are willing to like sit down with you. And I think maybe that’s one of the goals of our page and our collective is just, like, to be a virtual friend or something.

We answer all of those to DMs. Every—basically every single one gets answered. And just so listeners who, like, don’t know a lot about guns know, like, if you’re going to the range like once a month with some buddies and, like, trying to just, you know, just do your best—like I’m not even saying you have to be good—just like do your best. Put rounds on target. See if you can learn from your mistakes. You’re already shooting more than the law enforcement officer on the beat. Like you’re already doing more than those people, like not even joking.

I’ve had vets who have been part of different shooting groups who I’ve been around—I used to live somewhere with access to a shooting range—and the vets didn’t know better than other people. I don’t know how to say this politely. And also the number of times I had to insist that, yes, actually people should wear ear protection. And it’s always vets who are like, we don’t need ear protection or whatever. Okay, so one of my questions—we talked a little bit about the like misogyny and bravado, but I’d love to talk about guns in the United States traditionally white supremacist—or at least primarily white space. Gun culture—and obviously you all are an intervention into that. And I’d like to kind of ask you more about ways in which racial dynamics come up and how you all handle them and what especially listeners of color or, you know, people can take away from what you all have learned.

Yeah, I could take the first stab at that. I think growing up that was definitely my understanding of it, that it’s mostly white cis dudes that go shooting and go hunting and posts unsolicited pictures of their hunts on social media—and I get to look at them. And, you know, I grew up in like an anti-gun household, like my parents are Vietnamese refugees and so their relationship to guns and war is just that it’s bad, right? Like they endured a lot of trauma. Like my mom hid under a table until like the 90s whenever she even heard like a helicopter fly over the house. And this is when she was living in the states. Like, they got here in the 80s, right. And so that’s how deep like that warfare trauma was for my family and, you know, my mom side the family lives in East Bay California, and so, you know, they are familiar with guns. And I knew that, but I never really interacted with it because it was, like, it’s my male cousins, you know, and so getting into it more in the last like year and a half has been like a wholly new endeavor in a lot of ways. Being a part of YPT makes that a lot easier and more navigable. But overall, like, the majority of the people I see at the range like whether or not I know them were still, like, white people. And a lot of chuds. And it’s intimidating, not just because of them being men, but also because they’re like politically opposed to people like me—that look like me—taking the means necessary to, like, defend ourselves in our community. And it motivates me in a lot of ways to be the best that I can be, but ultimately, like, it doesn’t take away that, like, stress that I feel, like the anxiety I feel around who else has guns. But I find that the more folks—like-minded folks that I’ve met shooting and going to range days, like, we need more—well maybe not we need—but like, there ought to be more BIPOC folks and femme/nonbinary-presenting people, identifying people in these spaces if they want to be. And from the conversations that I have, like, they want to be there. Like we have so many people reaching out to us via DMs or like, how do I get involved in a group, like do you know anybody in this area. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t, but we’ve seen a trend of like more and more people, like, reaching out and asking for those kinds of resources. And I think given, you know—especially since 2017 after Charlottesville, like it’s becoming much much more apparent how brazen a lot of these armed right-wing militias are going to be. I think January 6th 2021 was a lot—a wake up call for a lot of people. I was horrified but not surprised. I was a bit entertained to be honest. I was like, he he he. But at the same time I was just like, you know, we warned y’all. We have been saying this and y’all think we’re not based in reality when we say these things, but yet here we are. And, you know, Asian people—I’ve mentioned this on like one of our previous podcasts, but just like, my aunt and grandma were mugged a couple summers ago. And, like, my aunt was knocked unconscious and like spent a couple days in the hospital. And this was like during the wave of like anti-Asian hate crimes, and then actually like kind of validated my, like, inner stress and anxiety of, like, this kind of thing. And that I think it’s a far-fetched reality to think that like hate will go away as long as we just keep organizing. The right is always going to be there. Fascism is always going to be there.


And the only way we can endure is by being resilient and continuously adapting. And so firearms and firearms education, for myself and others, is like one of the tangible ways that I feel like I can move towards that resiliency. I just talked a lot. But yeah.

No no, that’s all really useful.

I mean, I’ll say it, like I got my first gun—I think it was like 20? I think it was 2018. I mean it wasn’t very good or practicing a lot., but that’s when I got mine. So it was in the wake of Charlottesville and seeing some of that stuff happen, and I want to second what Snow said about finding a group, finding a crew not only to keep you like sort of motivated—it’s obviously more fun when you do with others than I suppose just like going to the ridge and just blasting around by yourself. But in some cases it can honestly be—it can honestly be related to your own physical safety—and I hate saying this, especially if there’s people out there who are new to firearms or thinking about getting into firearms—but I mean, like me and people I shoot with, like we’ll go to ranges and we’ll see like 3% militia there. You know what I mean? Like see like dudes who—and they’re all dudes obviously, like people who given the chance, if they knew what we believed or even, yeah, some people’s, you know, racial makeup or, you know, or sexuality, like people could get hurt. Like, you know, one time people started pulling tags like at a like at a range once where I as at. Like having people to not only keep you motivated but to help keep you safe is honestly very important in a space where it’s a lot of armed reactionary white dudes. I gotta let this dog out. Sorry.

Yeah, where I live currently I’m back undercover, like I’m back in the closet essentially in a lot of the and situations I find myself in just because I’m now in a sort of deeper rural situation than I was previously. And it, you know I have the like—well I have white privilege and then I have, like, the capacity to put on—well, no one ever reads me a straight no matter how hard I try. But I, you know, I can put up enough of a front that people can ignore my bangs and my braid or something like that and it’s a—sometimes just a matter of safety. But that’s something I can do because I’m white. I don’t know. I have no grand statement out of that, actually.

Yeah, and I mean it’s because it’s different for everyone. Everyone negotiation of like arming up and what that means and the things that that confronts you with is really different. But it’s—I don’t want to say always, but a lot of the time it’s really intense and you’re kind of like navigating your own, like, mortality. I don’t want to be too philosophical and heavy about it. But like, yeah, you don’t want to downplay the fact that you have like a machine on you, or that you’re training with it at the very least, or owning it, that is designed expressly for killing. And there’s no way to dilute that, and it’s dangerous too. So yeah, I don’t know about other folks but I have a really fragmented consciousness around it. I can’t forget that I have these things, especially if they’re on your person, but you also can’t be thinking about it constantly, at least in a way that gets your nervous system going into fight/flight/freeze. Yeah, a level of normalization and, like, taking it kind of slow and maybe figuring out what sort of increments you can dip your toes and your ankles and your calves and your quads, you know, like you don’t jump in, you don’t cannonball into like having a gun, hopefully. I mean sometimes there’s like intense situations, right? But you navigate those as they come up. But yeah, otherwise you like to have bite-size chunks. Otherwise it can be like too much and you maybe overlook something, and doing it with a crew—doing it with at least one other person means that someone is watching your back and bringing things to your attention that we sometimes overlook.

Well, that actually leads me to one of the main questions I have for you all, you know, similar to you all saying in your DMs you constantly have people asking basically, how do I get started? And I think that’s actually one of the biggest questions facing the anti-authoritarian left in general right now is like, literally, like people want to join us and don’t know how, and especially right now in these times of like pretty intense isolation, people don’t know how. And so I’m hoping that you all will just magically solve this in the next short bit of time by answering the following question, which is: how do people—how can people get started—how can people start their own shooting groups? Like, how do you—not necessarily like how do you find a crew, but maybe how do you, like, make the crew a crew. How do you—how do you get going?

Well you’ve got a complete Prestige and Call of Duty first. That’s the first step. I’m sorry.

Oh my God. 

That’s actually a reference that goes over my head. I’m aware that there’s a video game called Call of Duty but I don’t know what Prestigge is.

It was like an answer antithetical to the one that I want to give.

I picked up that part but now I’m curious, what is Prestige and Call of Duty.

Yeah, tell us Camilla.

Ah, Prestige mode is when you max out on your level—I think it’s like 55 or something—and then you go through again and you just keep doing it. That’s like the almost violent level of, like, never ending-ness of these types of like games where you’re just, like, you’re just putting a different patina on your gun and spending 8 hours to get there, you know? Yeah, stupid reference aside, let’s see I’d say that there’s no cut and dry way to get there, but there is a way for pretty much every single person to get there. So I don’t have like a road map necessarily, but maybe me and Snow can tag team this because I don’t know if my brain alone is up for the task of, like, responding to this and it’s a very important question. I did it by just watching Youtube, honestly. That’s me being a millennial. Just watching Youtube trying to find some like good introductory, like, safety videos. And videos about philosophy of keeping a gun—not like deep like treatises on owning guns, that’s not what I mean. I mean like philosophy as in how do you—how do you do this rightly, you know? How do you protect yourself, protect everyone around you, not expose, anyone to danger? What are all the things to think about in your life? And then there’s like political things. I would say some of those things are like, are you dealing with like multiple voices in your head saying like you don’t need a gun, like, because those types of voices are generally like the liberal in your head gaslighting you and, like, downplaying the realness of your life. So I would say that, you know, that’s a thing to reckon with. That’s a thing I’ve reckoned with personally. And you just kind of, like, have to do it out of love sometimes. That’s where I’m going to leave this thought for right now and I’ll pass it off to someone else.

So yeah I think that’s—I mean, that’s a good start to the answer. I think, like, to add on, it’s just like, what are your goals? Like what is it that you intend to do with these firearms? Hopefully it’s self-defense and community defense. And starting out with just one friend, you know, that constitutes a shooting group. But I think, you know, I was going to say SRA. but I’ve heard very mixed reviews about so those locals. I think some are good. Um, but I can’t—

SRA is the socialist rifle association? 

Yes, thank you. My bad.

No, it’s all good.

And maybe starting there, you could also always send us a DM on YPT. But, you know, I think with all the different leftist gun-stograms that have popped up over the last like year, like it might be worth a start like seeing if any of them, you know, kind of look like they live in your area. Or if not, just like asking them for advice. Because most of the people that are on leftist gun-stagram—I want to say most, not all—are pretty nice. Um, and pretty humble. And I think it’s really hard when, like, you live in an area where there’s not a lot of like identifiable leftists. And so that can be very hard. Or if you live in an area where guns are hard to access, like that brings a whole other set of obstacles that you have to go through in order to acquire fire arms or the knowledge. But. you know, like Camilla said, like Youtube is a really good place to start. Our page is a really good place to start. If you’re aware of even just, like, any mutual aid groups in your area that just do like self-defense classes, like hand-to-hand self-defense kind of stuff might be a good place to start. Like, zine fests. You never know who’s going to be at the zine fest. Could be some cool people there. So I think it’s just like trying to find community first might be a good idea, especially among leftists. You know, out in the Pacific Northwest we have quite a few zine fests and you never know what you’re going to find.

Starting with people in the community, like, that’s legit. 
Like I know—and they’re not in my area—but there is a group of Food Not Bombs people that we know that basically just doubles as a shooting group. They feed homeless people and they’re doing a ton of great work, and they double as a shooting group. It’s pretty freaking awesome. They do a ton of self-defense stuff as well. I know you mentioned SRA, Socialist Rifle Association earlier. Seems like it’s very heavily chapter-dependent. Some chapters are just like—just balling out, like just wonderful people, like lots of resources, people who are very skilled, eager to teach, lots of new people who are eager to learn. Some chapters seem to exist only on paper. It’s always worth reaching out if there’s one in your area, to reach out and see, like, what they do and who’s around, basically.

There’s also—that reminded me of like Arm Your Friends, they’re are relatively new Ongram and they’re a great place to start also.


There’s—like, having trouble with this kind of like implies that there’s a challenge or a barrier, right, to like getting into this. I think some of those common barriers that we hear about/have encountered ourselves are: your friends are libs, or your friends, like, don’t just agree with your decision and your analysis conclusion that, like, hey I want to be armed now,—regardless of what the reason is, regardless of what the goals are, like if you have lib friends, they’re going to push back on that probably. And that is something you can, you know, work in those relationships around or you can try to develop some new relationships. And I think, like, the latter is really like the best way to go about getting some people to shoot with on like a quicker timeline, because you don’t know where your friends are gonna move. Do you even want to be learning in the context of like more liberal folks who aren’t necessarily like ready politically, etc. to to start shooting? So like ways to do that are DMing people and like trying to set a meetup time, like the old fashioned like hit people up cold or, you know, kind of just like plumbing your social connections and trying to figure out like who knows who and, you know, it can be hard and intimidating as fuck to reach out to people because people are like, are you an op? You must be an op. And there’s a lot of that parannoia and that’s very real and that’s not going to go anywhere. But the more you can, like, create like authentic genuine connection with people who are already doing this or have voiced being interested in it, the better time you’re going to have so just look for those moments and opportunities I guess.

I went shooting today with someone I met at DSA of all places. Like people always trash DSA or whatever, yeah—

Democratic Socialist America? 

Democratic Socialists of American, people as trash them like, oh yeah, they’re are a bunch of libs, blah blah blah. Dude’s a really good shooter, eager to like share knowledge and whatnot, like you just meet people.

I think that we have these assumptions about how people, like when you live in an echo chamber—I lived in an echo chamber for a very long time. Now I don’t live in an echo chamber because I live—the echo chamber’s me and my dog. So I’m not trying to bash that, but when we live in these echo chambers we can start thinking to ourselves like, ah, DSA is all liberals, or all liberals hate guns, or in, you know, all of these things. That don’t really hold up necessarily to closer analysis, and also things are changing dramatically and quickly, you know. A lot of people who were liberals a few years ago aren’t anymore. Shout out to the more than one liberal financial building accounts that I know—like, the people who, like, tell you what to do with money—that are now like going anarchist because of the times and because of just actually more availability of an understanding of—I mean these are clearly people who understand capitalism, right? And it used to be they were all about helping poor people navigate capitalism, to to work through it, to come out ahead. And now they’re a little bit more, like, actually this whole system—Anyway, so I guess I’m—I would say I’m not surprised by, you know, finding comrades in all kinds of places. And I know my own experience is that—it’s kind of actually not necessarily the best thing. I’m usually the most experienced firearms person around when I’m shooting, just literally because I’m at the low end of intermediate but I work with new people a lot. And that’s actually has worked really well for me, it’s just a lot of people coming forward and just being like—I mean some of it is like, yo, I’m kind of sick of all these dudes who are like trying to teach me it. Like more than once people have been, like, my boyfriend really wants to go shooting and I want to go shooting. but honestly I don’t want to learn from him, you know. And like that’s actually the thing I would say to like someone who’s considering learning to shoot, like maybe don’t learn from your significant other, especially if there’s like kind of a traditional gender relationship going on in your relationship, you know? Anyway, that’s a tangent but… Okay, well now that we’ve solved that and everyone will feel perfectly free to start doing this, which is great, I’ve been trying to solve this for a long time. I want to talk about the kinds of people you don’t want to go shooting with, and I want to talk about the Mosin Nagantvwhich is the best rifle ever made, and the 1911, the best handgun ever made. And I want to talk to you all about why you agree that we should look for the firearms that wars a hundred years ago instead of the firearms that are currently in use by militaries, and how we should value aesthetics over function. Is that correct? That’s ya’lls line with Yellow Peril Tactical, right?

Yeah, I could tell you’ve been—you’ve been studying up on our Instagram bio—

Go ahead Camilla.

1911 is a Colt 45 handgun that chuds’ll often cite—

What’s a thud in this context?

A chud in this context is a tending toward violent, like, right wing conservative authoritarian person, very broadly speaking. 


They often say that two world wars! It won two world wars! So that’s, like, that’s the joke of the 1911. The history behind that weapon is interesting and horrific, as is the interest—as is the history behind, like, literally every gun that was involved in conflict. But have an interesting story. The reason I chimed in so quickly is because I have an uncle who has been a cop—has been a retired cop for almost my whole life because, so he’s like pretty old, but he still every day carries. He, like, his thing is like carrying a 1911 in his fanny pack. And like, you know, I grew up with this person, like, almost my entire life. So finally I’m like, hey, what’s up uncle. Like, I’m into guns now, like, what’s up. Let’s talk. And so the next time I see him he takes me outside into the backyard where we can have like a second of privacy, and he’s like, yeah, let me show this thing to you—Really quick, flagging. Flagging is when someone swings the muzzle of the gun across your body or holds it on you unintentionally, usually. So then you say, hey, you flagged me. It means someone pointed a gun at you which means that they’re violating one of the most basic, like, safety principles of like having firearms—So he he flags me multiple times with it and I’m just, like, astounded because like it confirms everything that I think I know about police officers, which is that they’re incompetent and aren’t good at shooting and aren’t safe. But it was just, like, such a rich moment for me. And I said something both times and he just kind of, like, waved it off and was like, it’s a sick gun though, right? I mean, like he’s in his eighties so he’s not saying “sick,” but that was his equivalent. And yeah, that’s maybe all you need to know about people who really love 1911s. I mean, like, collectors and stuff, there’s exceptions to everything that I’m saying, that’s like a generalization. And the Mosin is a Russian rifle that someone else can talk about right.

The 1911, right, like it’s a classic, yeah, but it should be left as a classic. It holds 7 rounds of .45 which is a slow round, it’s not really as good as 9mm which, if you’re not into guns, like every—guns you think of generally like shoot nine millimeters. It’s not as good. They have a tendency to jam. They’re not very good. But yes, old heads like them. But again, I agree with Margaret here, if you’re gonna get an old gun you have to get a gun that was designed in 1891 by Sergey Mosin that symbolizes an authoritarian Stalinist regime, because that’s what makes it good. The optics make it good.


Not, you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s bolt action and fires extremely slow and only holds five shots, because back in the 40s some conscripts carried it once upon a time and killed some fascists with it and that’s why it’s still relevant in 2022. You heard it here first.

The reason I love everyone being obsessed with Mosin-Nagants is that, before I really knew much about guns and my friends would take me shooting, my friend took me shooting actually on the Pacific Northwest—and we were shooting one of his guns which is a Mosin-Nagant—and it fired without the trigger being touched. Twice. 


And because we’ve practiced all of the other rules of firearm safety, nothing bad happened. The gun was always pointed down range and so when it went off on its own, it did so down range so I’ve never really trusted Mosin-Nagants.

Margaret, who doesn’t love surprises? We all love surprises.

You know, maybe this is too soon, but Alec Baldwin sure doesn’t like surprises, you know?

Oh my goodness. 

Oh my god. Oh, rim shot.

But in all seriousness, if you have a Mosin, I’m pretty agnostic about whether you hold onto it or get rid of It. Don’t shoot someone or yourself with it, please? They’re like kind of affectionately and pejoratively referred to as Garbage Rods. And that’s kind of like what their value is. Obviously they’re bullets. It’s a gun. You could really fuck someone up with it. Yeah, if you want to talk about good firearms to get into here and now, we can talk briefly about that because that might be helpful for some people. But it’s definitely going to be a more modern thing where you can like pull the trigger more than once without having to like, you know, pull a bolt back.

I think we should talk about that, Camilla, but it’s probably worth saying that or a while there you would see it online all the time—still do—someone being like, you know, ready to bash the fash, right? And it’s a firearm designed in 1891 that was just a a crap-tier rifle back in 1891. And you’re like, why—you know, you can get—you know, you can get other stuff. And maybe it made sense when that firearm was $100 in a crate in your local sporting goods store. But, you know, we regularly post links to AR rifles that are like $430–440. Like good quality, like, Soviet military surplus. Like, the Mosin was a 5 shot bolt action rifle, so you have to like cycle a bolt—work a bolt back and forth to shoot it. Or the SKS rifle, a firearm that was obsolete 2 years after was introduced, holds 10, incredibly heavy. Like, those guns are now going for $500–700, so you can get a better gun for cheaper. And yet still we see to this day people proudly posting pictures of Soviet Military surplus, you know, “We’re ready. We’re ready, boys.” Like, you know, but let’s get into more what Camilla said because that was just depressing.

I mean, just to like wrap it up though. Like I think just to clarify for folks that like aren’t super gun nerds like we all are is that—to pull out further what John was saying—is just, like, a lot of people out there are saying these kinds of dare I say antiquated firearms are not up to like the performance that more modern guns are. And so for them to say it’s “just as good” is actually quite reckless and dangerous. And so that’s why we’re so against it as being your, like, primary firearm, right? Like I have a lever-action. Is that my primary carbine? Fuck no. But it is it one of my favorite guns? Yes. So it’s just like, you know, like we say, mission drives gear and.

Like, you don’t have to have that many guns. 
Like I have a shotgun which I use for hunting, and then a carbine, and a handgun, right? Like no one’s saying you got to get a crapload of guns, and like maybe buying one of those guns back in the day, yeah, it made sense when it was a $100. But now that you can get better stuff for cheaper—for cheaper!—there’s no reason you should buy one with your hard-earned money. And advocating that new firearm owners go buy those is frankly—is reckless—is negligent reckless, honestly.

I mean, I want one. But I want one in the context that bolt action is my favorite action to shoot.

It’s fun.

My current favorite rifle is my dad’s 1972 .22 mag bolt action rifle that’s meant for shooting groundhogs, and it’s my favorite gun. And it annoys me because .22 magnum is the same price as, like, large—same price as a center fire ammunition. But it’s, like, not particularly more effective than .22 LR, which is the cheapest ammunition. But it’s my favorite gun and so I completely feel you on the lever action. And I would totally have a Mosin-Nagant. I like history and there’s like something like kind of—I mean, it’s funny because I spend most of my time—my waking hours trying to figure out how to be mean to authoritarian communism. That’s like, you know, what drives my life. But I still kind of am like, ah, that’s cool gun. I don’t know. So—but the thing I wanted to point out really quickly for yeah—saying—I wanted to kind of geek out about guns with you all because I don’t get a chance too much in my day-to-day life. But I think it was you all who brought to my attention this term Red Fudd. And would one of you be able to briefly explain what a Red Fudd is and what a Fudd is so to sort of tie up this before we talk about good guns.

Ah, it’s a reference to Elmer Fudd, I believe. Red meaning communist, Fudd—affectionately, of course—Fudd is Elmer Fudd. So like, the caricature is someone who believes and is a proponent of what we call Fuddlore which is the comment—you know, it’s like summed up in comments like, “the SKS is just as good as the AK47” or “SKS is just as good as an AR15” from wherever. Give me some, give me some other ones.

I guarantee you that — guarantee you that everyone in here has heard the Fuddlore that on the news when Joe Biden said all you need is two shotgun blasts. If someone’s coming to your house just fire in the air. They’ll run away. Yeah, that’s massive Fuddlore. Do not fire your gun into the air aimlessly and hoping the other person will run away, like—

It’s also a crime. Warning shots are completely illegal. The president is telling you to do something that is a crime. 

I don’t want to opine on any every jurisdiction. But yeah, usually you don’t do that.

Yeah, it’s not going to save you either.

Camilla’s colt story, right? It’s like, “Why would you want to buy one of them plastic glocks. I got one of these all-metal Colt 45, Two world wars.” Fuddlore

Yeah, like racking the shotgun being the defense enough to save you from someone breaking in your home trying to harm you. That’s another Fuddlore piece. Yeah, I mean, so there’s like—there’s Fudds that are like more authoritarian right, and then there’s just like Red Fudds. So you make a distinction sometimes. But when you want to talk about Fuddlore, you don’t need to make the distinction.

Okay, so if someone listening to this is like, I don’t know how this particular episode will convince people that they need to get a gun, but let’s say it did. And people want to get involved in shooting for self and community defense purposes. What would be good introductory firearms?

Glock 19, you know. It’s—you know, there’s three categories of handguns, right? There’s full size, compact, and subcompact. Typically you see most people, like, conceal carry subcompact and compacts. But for smaller-framed people, even a Glock 19 can be hard to conceal. But generally speaking, if you only want to buy one handgun, a Glock 19 is like what we’d recommend—or at least what I’d recommend. 

That’s a that’s like an in-between size?

Yeah, and it holds 15 rounds stock, but you can buy extendos that—that’s slang for extended magazine, or “stendo” even for shorter slang—and that could hold up to like 30 rounds if you want to be ridiculous at the range. But that’s a very common handgun. It’s also usually standard issue for a lot of law enforcement. So there’s just like a lot of aftermarket parts that you can buy to add on to the Glock 19 if you want, But it’s also just, like, very common to have it. Even for smaller-handed folks like myself can handle it fairly well for the most most part. I think I’ve known a couple people that have had trouble handling it, but I mean that’s the handgun that I would recommend. Anyone else? Camilla, John? Free handguns?

I have one handgun. It’s a Glock 19. Like, I second everything, what Snow said, and it has a lot of magazines out there because your gun doesn’t work if it doesn’t have magazines. So, for example, CZ—I don’t know what stands for, some Czech manufacturer technology, like to call it. During the pandemic you, like, couldn’t get CZ mags because like they had all dried out, like, they were nowhere to be found. You still get Glock mags though. So. Camilla?

Yeah, I’m big into Glocks too. I don’t know if anyone was like holding out hope that we’d say something different, but I would say categorically polymer—meaning plastic—striker fired—as opposed to hammer operated—handgun. Like, so polymer striker fired guns are the easiest to use. They’re reliable. If you get one from a brand like Glock, you’re going to have a lot of parts everywhere. If you get it in a common caliber like 9mm, there’s going to be ammo everywhere when there’s not a general ammo shortage. That’s a different story though. But yeah, I don’t know, that’s what was important to me on top of the reliability, on top of like the usability for me and my body. Which, ultimately, that’s what this is all about, right? It’s a tool. So you don’t want to get a screwdriver or a saw that sucks to use, you want to get one that molds to your body and that you can like use exactly how you want to use it. And I think the same goes for a gun. You can hold guns at gun stores. That can really suck though. I mean, not a fun, like, situation when someone you don’t know hands you a gun and expects you to act in a way that you might not understand yet. So I’d say if you know anyone that has one that you know is—or that you have some level of trust is going to be safe with it, or if you’ve had some conversations already, then you can ask them if you can like hold it. Or, you know, if the priority isn’t buying the gun but just kind of, like, trying to figure out which one you ultimately, like, someday maybe soon want to buy, then maybe just start doing some research and try to figure out like what size you’re going for, what your application is. What’s your goal. Yeah.

I’m going to make a suggestion other than Glock just to be conflictual, and I do this on ya’lls Instagram all the time and you all are very polite and don’t argue with me and just ignore it. Which is that I really like—it’s still a polymer frame striker fired 9mm handgun—but I really like the M&P series from Smith and Wesson. And frankly I like them because I think they’re prettier. I think Glocks are ugly, and I don’t like that because I’m vain. 

They are prettier.

And one of my favorite experiences—and this actually has nothing to do with the quality of Glock, I think it has to do with the hand grip—but I was shooting once with someone who was just being really really dismissive of my M&P and was just singing the praises of Glocks, and then his Glock kept misfiring and my M&P didn’t misfire during that, and so I was very vindicated and was winning people over. And so this is the kind of thing that you can look forward to doing is having meaningless opinions about minutiae. And that’s the main reason to get involved with gun culture is to have large disagreements about minutia, at least that’s the main thing I would argue.

I mean no, you’re right Margaret. The whole point of gun culture is to pick a brand and then saddle yourself and hitch your wagon to that brand for the rest of your life until your’re dying days. I mean, you know, that’s it. Why else get into guns, you know?

That that’s why I got into it, personally. I’ll just, you heard it here first folks.

This is my nightmare.


For the record, we do like the M&P, especially the 2.0, Margaret great. That’s why we don’t argue with you and, yeah, so.

Good. Thanks. Especially now that the the Shield Plus is double stack now, and so you can get a reasonable number of bullets into a semi—a subcompact, and that’s why my concealed carry gun is a Shield Plus.

It’s probably worth mentioning, just very quickly, like a lot of us like Glocks. But ultimately what Camilla said is really what hits the heart of it. I mean, you’re really looking for something polymer striker fired in 9mm. So striker as opposed to hammer. You get the most bang for your buck. That was terrible. I didn’t even mean to do that. 

You’re fired.

You get the most like value ad per dollar up to around, like, probably like 600 or so dollars. And then after that you’re really having diminishing returns there. I mean we had a post that people actually got really mad at us for about a Soviet surplus gun called the Makarov. And we told people to buy a Hi-Point instead, which is $150 polymer striker fired 9mm and it’ll shoot quality defensive ammunition, unlike some sort of crappy Soviet surplus weapon. And you’re probably going to get hate mail now, Margaret, for publishing this opinion.

And if you want to get a rifle, get an AR platform or an AK platform. We can go into more depth if you if we have time right now, but don’t don’t get old, needlessly specific guns from history unless you already have guns that accomplish all your core needs.

Also, like, don’t buy a Scar as your first rifle. 

Oh, what’s a Scar?

Ah, it’s a french—it’s funny, when I was first getting into firearms, the French abbreviation is FN, and I’m like, what the fuck is that? Fucking Nice? And so now whenever I see it I’m like “fucking nice.” 

Fabric national.

But it’s a fucking like $5000 starting rifle that looks cool, shoots well, eats through optics, but it’s kind of like—it’s like quite the undertaking if you’re new to shooting rifles. And, like Camilla said, you know, AR or AKs—like AsK used to be popular in the way—oh well, “used to be,” excuse me—they still are popular. They used to be more affordable compared to like AR platforms. Now, not so much. You know, they range in like the $900 plus now, whereas before you get a quality AK for like $500 give or take. But I think for folks that are new to rifles, like, ARs tend to be more modular, meaning that you can add more easily different accessories on your carbine. So you can add a flashlight, an optic, a little, you know self open charm maybe. But you can just have more rail options for the AR and it’s much easier to just, like, do it yourself versus, like, the AK which has a different structure. So it’s a little bit harder. Like some come with like a side mount. Sometimes you have to install that yourself. And so it’s just more steps and oftentimes you need like gunsmithing tools to get that kind of stuff done. And so that can be a barrier for folks. So I mean, the AK looks fucking cool, you know. I have one. What can I say. But like, it just depends. Like AK reloads look cooler, you know, because you got that bolt that’s just—that click is just so good. But it’s a lot harder sometimes to add on stuff, especially if you want to keep the wood furniture that looks just like so good. But it’s a compromise to either have the aesthetics of the wood furniture or getting, like, a rail installed.

One of the YPT homies ended up having to take an angle grinder to I think a handguard so would fit on his AK because it was the wrong type of AK. ARs, like, just get parts, put them on. If you like angle grinding stuff, yeah, knock yourself out. I don’t—I’m not handy like that. Also, yeah, second what Snow said about the Scar. It’s nice. It is not $5000 nice. Nope.

Well clearly this would never apply to guns, because of course there’s different laws about the transfer of guns and you by and large can’t buy people guns legally, and so—but there’s always the kind of, like, once you hit the level of diminishing returns of a survival tool, I find that it’s better, rather than getting the like super fancy version of the thing, is to just get another one and give it to someone else. Because I’d rather the person walking next to me having a good enough first aid kit instead of me having like the super best one, you know. And again, obviously this gets very complicated with guns. But there are parts that are not the gun that you can buy for people and might be worth spending money on instead, you know. Okay, well we’ve been talking for a while and I guess like I kind of have one final ambiguous question that you can kind of reframe however, you would like, and I—it’s a little bit of a, like, “why guns?” What does community defense look like to you? What is the—what are you going for here. Sell me on it. Or talk about something completely different. Do a final thoughts thing. Totally up to you.

And I could take a stab at it. This is, yeah, another thing that I’ve mentioned in some of our previous podcasts. But essentially, like, I could be a rainbow belt in unnamed martial arts, but ultimately, like, if some 6’7” motherfucker wants to harm me like, you know, I’m kind of fucked. And so in some ways like it’s an equalizer, right? And that’s not to say that, like. my firearm is my first line of defense. Of course I’m going to do all of the verbal de-escalation, prioritize escape, whip out my pepper spray, you know. But ultimately, like, it’s something that I feel like I would need for my own safety. And also community safety, like, we’ve seen chuds, right-wingers, what have you, like, attack people just like marching in the streets, exercising their first amendment rights. And we’ve seen them pull guns on people, right? We’ve seen them murder people. And it’s just kind of like, if they got them, like, I think it behooves us to also consider getting them, right. Because, as cliche as it says, like, you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, right? Like, if they see that you have one, they’re going to think twice. And if they don’t think twice, then you have at least the means to defend yourself and whoever else that you’re with. And I think the time or the argument for, like, “Well we just need to get rid of guns” is like fucking so done. Like, it’s too late for that. We’re so far removed from that reality that to say that is just, like, it’s just—I mean, it’s just that, it’s not based in reality. Like, that’s the life that we live in. And it’s like, you know, did Vietnamese people during the American war in Vietnam, like, have a strong opinion on guns? No. But did they also pick up guns? Yes. Right? Like, at that point in time it wasn’t about a matter of opinion, it was about a matter of survival. And that is kind of—that is how I see it is that it’s, you know, I’m not here to philosophize, you know, all day long. It’s, you know, understanding and being aware of the situation and like the climate around me and taking the means that I feel like I need to defend myself and those I love.

I think about it and have like rationalized it to people in my life to help them understand that I’m not necessarily out here training for today or tomorrow. I have, like, an informed realist kind of like perspective on what might lie ahead, and so I’m kind of like trying to get myself to somewhere other than behind the eight ball when it comes time to use those skills. I don’t necessarily walk around thinking about the imminence of, like, collapse, civil conflict. But I do want to be prepared for that like when/if it happens. I know it’s, like, a very blunt way of talking about it. But it’s very real, right? And it becomes a thing where it’s just like, there’s such an overwhelming amount of people on like the authoritarian right that have access to these tools and know how to use them, and I just want to help, like, hyper-local communities near me, and wherever else listeners might be, and people who aren’t even listeners, to like—whatever, I want people to be able to defend themselves, and that’s fundamentally what it’s about for me.

For me, I want to second everything Camilla and Snow said. I actually like it when they speak before me because they are more eloquent than me and say things that I wanted to say. Just to add on to that: for me, why do I want to own a firearm? It’s the utter failure of the state. And I’m not even sure it’s correct to call it a failure, because it never, like—the state is—the state never protects people like us, right? The state exists for the benefit of the ownership class, white men, and it doesn’t—it’s not a failure to protect us. It never was designed to do that in the first place. So when you’re talking about community defense, Snow’s right. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. You get the best tools for the job. I hope I never have to use a firearm in self-defense. Community defense to me, like, you know, I’m not even say—no one’s got to go—I’m not saying that anyone’s got to go Antifa super soldier and, you know, go march around out there. Although some people do that. But community defense to me can be as simple as, you know, giving someone like pepper spray, right? Which is an extremely effective deterrent. Go on our Instagram, see us blasting one of our homies in the face with it. It—I almost puked and I was, like, I was there. I almost puked. You know, it can be just teaching someone who is interested in guns like how to, you know, how to use a gun. Like, you know, maybe they want to get into guns and like learn how to use them themselves, or worst case scenario, at least they know you know gun safety. But you can’t rely on a government or the state to protect you, and in many cases you can rely on them to probably harm you. So you just gotta do it, you just gotta do yourself, rely on yourself and the people in your community, and the people that you trust, and your friends.

Yeah, and—to interject my own answer to question I asked you—like, just thinking from what you are talking about, one of the things that I think about a lot is that, like, because people—you know, I think sometimes people don’t arm up because they’re like, well, I would lose a gun fight. And right—well, like, maybe—like, probably—like, you don’t really win gun fights, you survive them. And for me a lot of it is just about like—people say like, oh, not being a statistic, right? Because, like, I don’t want to get murdered like sometimes people look at me like they want to murder me when they realize I’m a man or whatever, you know. After they’re, like, they’re checking me out in the dress or whatever. And I don’t want to get murdered, but I also just like don’t want to passively get murdered. Like, for me, I don’t know if this resonates but, like, it’s not that I think I’ll win. It’s that I get to, like, shoot them also. Like, it becomes fair. And so then I’m like, all right, well I fucking lost. Okay. Like, I mean, I don’t want to lose. I don’t even want to play, I don’t want fight, but… I don’t know.

No, I think that’s super valid. I think that’s very real. Like—and I don’t know—especially for us trans folks, like, it’s a different thing for me politically. It’s just like, it’s resistance to like a type of genocide—genocidal conditions that exist in our country towards gender deviance. So—and sexuality. But like, I’m thinking specifically about, like, the obvious violence that’s directed towards trans people. And yeah, fuck yeah, if that continues being the case, I’m going to carry something to defend myself with the same lethal means that will be used against me if someone just, you know, whimsically decides they want to—which kind of feels like it’s the score out there sometimes.


Yeah. I don’t know about y’all, but that’s kind of my thing.

Snow, you made this point I think on a previous podcast. It was just like, did y’all learn nothing from summer 2020? Did ya’ll learn nothing from that whole experience? Joe Biden gets elected and we’re like, all right, cool. It’s all good, yo. The same people that were talking about ACAB or whatever. It’s like, well you can’t be ACAB and be gun control. Like, who do you think is going to take your guns? Who do you think is going to do that, you know. You can’t. I think you made that point, Snow, and it’s correct.

Yeah and I think too it’s just, like, I’m not fucking going down without a fight. Like it’s, you know, I’ve fucking come too far. You know? Lincoln Park is playing in my head right now. And it’s like, I have so much to fight for, not just for myself but for my loved ones and my community. And like, it’s that drive and like will to live that I’ve, , had to cultivate for some time. It’s not something that has come naturally to me. And I’ve, like, struggled with my mental health a lot. And so to finally get where I’m at, I’m like, you’re not fucking taking that away from me. And if like you’re gonna fucking come up on me like that, like, it’s gonna be a problem for you and me. And I really like what you said Margaret around, like, you don’t when gun fights, you survive, right? And like, I am fucking trying to survive out here, you know, just a ho trying to make it out here. And like, I want that to be a choice that I don’t have to defend all the time. You know? 


I feel like I have to like have a like dissertation for a PhD on like why deserve to live and I’m just tired of it. Like, I’m tired of it.

Oh my god, that’s such a fucking good point. Like I finally just, like, my like stock line is, like, self-defense is a right. The current most effective form of self-defense in modern society against lethal force is a striker fired 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

I’m dying. I’m dying over here Margaret, sorry. 



And then, you know, on a community level, it’s a semiautomatic rifle—or carbine, which is a shorter rifle, for people who don’t keep up with—I don’t actually remember where the barrel lengths change between the definitions. But okay, well, you know, there’s so much more that I want to talk to you all about and I’d love to have you all on again, but it’s definitely running long and then, I guess I wonder if you have any, like, final thoughts about any of the stuff we’ve been talking about.

[Jeopardy music]

I got something. I don’t know, maybe this is like too big or something, but I don’t know. Like, I think the people in Yellow Peril, they know me as like just a sort doomer person. And I am like, that’s completely true. But honestly, like, one of the funnest things and one of the most, like, empowering things is like when I’m out there like with my friends and I’m, like, shooting. And a lot of times, like, I fucking suck. Doesn’t matter. Like, it’s fun, and I I feel better about life. I mean, it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

All right. Well, where can people find you? I know you’re not really online or anything like that but—you know, it’s funny, people—I get in trouble for my dry sense of sarcasm a lot, and it’s been really kicking in really hard the past couple months. But where can people find you online or find out more about what you do?

We are on a few platforms. Our main platform is Instagram @yellow_peril_tactical and we’re also on the Twitter, regrettably. But our Twitter is @yptactual. And if you ever want to send us an email. We’re at, and we also have a website but we don’t really do anything with the website. I think it’s just But that’s where to find us send us a DM.

We got it because we didn’t want anyone else taking the website.

True Domain wars.

And if you’re on Instagram, keep typing it in because we’re sort of like shadow banned. You have to typing it in, like, yellow_peril_tac and then it usually shows up.

And you all have a podcast. What’s it called? How can people find that?

So yeah, our podcast is Yellow Peril Tactical Tiger Bloc podcast, and we’re on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. And you can also find us on Patreon. I say Paaaatreon because I want to be British sometimes. But we’re on Patreon, give us a follow. It’s just to help us cover our costs. We don’t make any profits off of it. But this is something we do in our free time. And John Chinaman, what’s our Patreon.

Ah, you can find it, the best way to find it is actually like going to like our Instagram or Twitter and looking in the Linktree and just click on it. It’s there.

Okay, and it looks like yawls Patreon is

Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. Tell them on the internet or tell them about it in person while wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask depending on your risk analysis and how well you know the person. You should tell people about the show if you liked it—which you probably didn’t hate it because you made it this far, and you can also do all of the internet things as well. You can subscribe and rate and review and do all of those things that make machines tell other people to listen to this podcast. You can also support this podcast by supporting Strangers in the Tangled Wilderness, our publisher, on Patreon which is And we are publishers of radical culture. We’ll be putting out zines, and podcasts, and pop culture reviews, and fiction, and poetry even maybe, and a whole bunch of other stuff, and you all are going to help make it happen. Well, some of you all are. The people who support us on Patreon are making it happen, and I’m very excited. There’s nothing more amazing than watching a project be able to come forth and do so much stuff. Because Strangers in a Tangle Wilderness has been around for almost twenty years but it’s been on and off, and watching it get reinvented anew like a phoenix from the flames. Yeah, I’m going to leave in that terrible metaphor and you can help and you can help by supporting us on Patreon. And in particular I would love to thank Hoss and Chris, Sam, Nora, Hugh, Kirk, Natalie, Eleanor, Jennifer, Starro, Chelsea, Dana, David, and Nicole for making this possible. And well, that’s all for me, and I hope you’re doing as well as as you can in everything that’s happening.

Find out more at

S1E36 – Summer on Frontline Nursing in a Rural Area

Episode Notes

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


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 also welcome back to the show. It’s been several months since I put out the last episode and you’ll be shocked to know that’s because a bunch of stuff happened in my life which is, you know, everything to do with everything that’s going on in the world. Um, maybe most importantly I moved and I now live on-grid in Appalachia instead of off-grid and Appalachia, and I’m very happy for the transition. It’s pretty cool to have enough electricity to make this show. And also have an oven that works. I really like having an oven. And I also got a puppy, and I got a puppy who is rescued, so I’ve not—I spent several months where instead of sleeping or getting anything done, I had a puppy. I still have the puppy but now I get to sleep because the puppy is like five months old. So that’s where I’ve been. And, yeah, welcome back to the show. This week I’ll be talking with Summer who is my friend who is an ICU nurse in a rural area in in rural Oregon, which is not the most lefty area, and we’re going to be talking about pretty much the—the politics of vaccination and some of what they’ve dealt with during the pandemic. And I think you’ll enjoy it. And 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. Duh da duh da da daaaaa.

Jingle 1
The Final Straw is a weekly anarchist radio show. It’s fucking awesome, and you’re never gonna hear me say fucking awesome on our show because we’re FCC regulated.

Jingle 2
There’s a black part of my heart that just flutters when you talk like that.

Jingle 1
[Inaudible] talk than more yelling.

Jingle 3
It’s a weird sort of like nice thing, in a way, that also can get kind of frightening at times.

Jingle 1

Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with like your name, your pronouns, and then I guess a little bit about what it is that you do that is the reason I invited you to talk on the show today.

My name’s Summer. I’m a nurse, I live in Rural Oregon. I use they/them pronouns and I’ve been working in an ICU and have experienced now working in a Covid ICU—full Covid ICU. And I come from a background of radical politics and we’re here today to talk about some of that.

Yeah I guess I wanted to have you on because I’ve seen some of your social media posts about the hate that you’ve gotten at the—at the ICU that you work at and I know there’s a lot of conversation right now about what do we do about the unvaccinated people who end up in hospital, and you know, combined with the—there’s a lot of like news stories about, you know, the ungratitude of the unvaccinated folks and things like that. And I guess I just wanted to talk to you to get more of a firsthand idea of what it’s like working at an ICU during Covid in a pandemic. I already set the Covid part.

Sure, um, so to give a little context: like I said, I live in a rural area of Organ. It’s predominantly conservative, a lot of libertarian bent, um, included in the state of Jefferson—if you’re familiar with that as a concept. And we experienced a huge Covid surge in our ICUs August through October of this last fall—or summer into fall. Maybe even into November really. And so rural area with low vaccination rates. Like I said, a lot of libertarian politics. And during that surge we were experiencing some of the worst numbers in the country in terms of infection rates and it hit our hospital pretty hard. We serve, uh, like very wide rural area. We’re, um, the highest level trauma center within hundreds of miles. And so we get people from a really wide region of the state and even from Northern California. And our ICU just got flooded with very, very sick Covid patients. It’s a fifteen-bed ICU and as soon as that filled up, you know, it really impacted the entire hospital system. And it ended up that our ICU and our step down unit were both full of critically ill Covid patients during that time frame, and we ended up having the National Guard and FEMA nurses present at the hospital to just help it continue to function and help it serve the Covid patients and the rest of the patients in the hospital who needed care. So that’s the larger context of what was going on. And then more specifically in my experience, you know, the politics around the pandemic not only impacted, like, who’s getting vaccinated and who’s not and the numbers and how they grew so rapidly, but really, they impact and trust in the medical system. And there’s already a lot of reasons for a lot of different demographics and populations to have distrust in the medical system. But right now we’re experiencing that kind of expanding into different demographics and different populations. And the things that I think you’re referring to that I’ve experienced was, you know, there was a day during our surge where the national news actually came into our ICU to report on what was happening in this rural area. And, you know, at that time the vast majority of patients we were seeing were unvaccinated. And that very same day there was a protest outside the hospital against the state vaccine mandate that had not been enacted but was upcoming, that would require all health care workers to be vaccinated, um, barring a religious exemption. So we left a shift where the national news was present, high Intensity, we lost like 3 patients that day in our small ICU I think, um, to walk out of the hospital to hundreds of people across the street protesting the vaccine mandate. And then, you know, of course mixed in there are antivaxxers are—you know, generally antivaxxers— more far-right folks mixed in. It was a pretty tough day, a pretty emotional day for a lot of us walking out from some really intense cases in the ICU to a public that is completely undermining your lived reality, you know, just on the other side of these doors, right? And I think that that’s, you know, that’s a thing that’s been seen at different areas across the country, that tension that’s escalated between healthcare and the public. And I think there’s so many things that we can say about that. But really, I—you know, this question of like vaxx versus antivaxx, um, it’s something I’ve thought out about quite a lot, obviously. And I actually had a friend somewhat recently who, um—a mutual friend I believe—asked me whether I still have compassion for unvaccinated patients. You know, going off of his experience of having healthcare worker friends who are kind of just totally disillusioned around vaccination rates and taking care of these patients who didn’t take what seems like the obvious step to take care of themselves.


And the answer to that is like, yes, I definitely still do have compassion for these people, and um I can understand not—I can understand the frustration. I’m still frustrated, right. It’s still easy to get really angry. But for me it’s the same as any other patients that I treat, whether it’s an OD, or a DUI, or people coming in with exacerbations of chronic illness. It’s not really my job to judge why someone’s in the hospital. It’s not my job to moralize their suffering. And if you’re in a Covid ICU, that is like a hellhole of suffering, let me tell you. These people are suffering in a major way and experiencing a huge trauma. Not just the patients, but families as well.


I also, you know, have to contextualize it in this much larger situation where we have a government that is, like, face planting, a public healthcare system that is face planting on managing a global pandemic in our country, and this huge amount of misinformation that’s out, both about, you know, a vaccine, but also about a virus and what that is, and about a pandemic and what that is, and what it takes to protect yourself from one another. And so I have a lot of compassion for people who, their world is just a different reality. It’s a reality where the facts don’t line up, right?


And a lot of us experience that now, right? Like, what is reality? Sometimes you can’t even have a conversation with someone about facts, about what’s real and what’s not, and I experience that a lot talking to family members in healthcare at this point.

Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting comparing it—kind of, like, subtly comparing it to harm reduction, right? I feel like that was actually one of the most, you know, that was like the way of putting it that really got to me, like, when you just set that just now is because I—yeah, I do think of the like, well obviously these people are making decisions that I don’t, right? Um, and yet that’s a decision we’ve made at least in terms of the opioid crisis to just not have any judgment towards, and it’s kind of interesting. Also because when you talk about the suffering that people are facing, right? Like, it comes up every now and then that someone who is kind of terrible dies, right?


And then, in some ways, especially if they have a lot of like political power or whatever, everyone talking shit on that person who’s died. Whatever, I don’t I don’t care. But on some level there’s a certain amount of, like, well can’t ask accountability of the dead. You know, like, um, like say—so for example, someone dies doing something very like heroic and good that we all agree is a good thing, but they have a long history of doing bad things. There’s kind of a like, well, but they can’t do anything about that now, right? There’s no way for us to ask for them to do anything about that. And so, maybe even the people who survive who aren’t vaccinated who end up in the hospital—I mean I guess what we’re kind of saying is, like, get vaccinated or face the consequences. And they were like, “consequences, please.” And then they face the consequences. So on some level—


—like what more can you ask? They’re suffering, you know.

Yeah. But even in in my regards, some people don’t really understand—many people don’t really understand the consequences. Not only have many people not really seen what an ICU is, what a ventilator is, what someone’s body looks like after weeks on a ventilator. Um, but in their version of reality, the truth that they’ve been presented, this whole thing isn’t real for some of these people. And I’m not exaggerating. Like I have met—I have talked to family members at the bedside of their loved one who has an 80–90% chance of dying—because those were the rates we were seeing in our ICU during that surge—80–90% of our intubated patients were dying of Covid—who says, “I just didn’t know. I just didn’t think this was real. I didn’t think this could happen.”


“If you were going to get a vaccine, which one would you get.” Like, those are conversations I’ve had with people, you know, and it’s—that’s what really for me is so heart-wrenching is, like, the dawning of knowledge upon these people in the worst way possible. Like, that shouldn’t be the way people have to understand the truth is by watching their family member die because of what they’ve all believed. Um, and I mean, I’ve witnessed that regret from family members for sure, and I—this isn’t to, you know, I’m not like a flawless person or something. I also get super fucking frustrated and I’ve had family members yell at me on the phone about Ivermectin, um, when I’m like, that’s not—there’s no evidence to support that as a treatment in severe Covid cases. Like that’s, like, become this, like, this sentence I’ve repeated so many times. And it’s—that’s super challenging when you’re working with a team around the clock that is like monitoring literally everything that this person’s body is doing, from like every milliliter of urine they’re producing, to all their blood work, to the pressure that’s programmed into the ventilator to keep their lungs open, and then you walk out of the room and there’s a family member on the phone yelling at you about how, well there’s no evidence to support vaccination, and you’re staring at their loved one unvaccinated on a ventilator. You know, it’s like this this dissonance.


Um, like I—it’s like you’re reaching across a span that’s really great in those instances, you know, because you don’t have a common understanding of what the world is right now.

Right. It’s funny because I kept waiting, you know, like hearing stories about that—obviously I don’t experience them—but hearing those stories, I keep kind of waiting for it to, like, break through and for people to be like, oh okay, like, my cousin died and now all of my other cousins are getting vaccinated and I’m going to and, you know what, I’m going to actually tell my friends at the bar that we should get vaccinated, especially if we keep hanging out at a bar. And like, I kept like waiting for that to happen. And at this point I’ve completely given up on that ever happening because of—

Well it does—it does happen sometimes. And I’m not trying to be, like, a blasting ray of hope, because it doesn’t happen a lot, too. You know, but I have seen—like I have cared for a patient who was on a ventilator for over 60 days and then you know, was brought—like he’s, the patient’s awake now and can talk and whatnot. And any team member, any—whether it’s a physical therapist or a nurse or anyone who walks in the room, the patient immediately now asks, “do you have the vaccine.” And because of the experience that this person has had, they’ve completely changed their mind about vaccination, of course. And at our at our hospital you have to be vaccinated to work there at this point, so it’s kind of a like moot question, but I do see people turn around in a really big way. But it’s just so unfortunate that they have to have what to me looks like one of the worst experiences I could possibly imagine in order to come to terms with the reality that we’re living under, you know?


And I get it, you know? I get the root of where people are coming from is distrust of the government, distrust of the media, distrust of healthcare. Like, uh, relatable? Like yeah, I get that. I also don’t trust those things, you know?


And, you know, depending on what background you come from, you have even more reason. not to distrust those things, especially healthcare. And so I can’t, you know, stand on my moral high ground and pretend that I get it and I’m right and they’re wrong and I’m smart and they’re dumb, you know. Like that doesn’t really get us anywhere when the actual reality that I’m faced with is a person in front of me who is deeply suffering, who we’re going to try our best to take care of.

Yeah. I, you know, I’m sure you get this daily and maybe it’s annoying, but it’s like, I can’t imagine being able to do what you do, you know, and then, like, maintain enough, um—yeah, okay, like how do you maintain enough faith in humanity to go to work? Is that too blunt of a question?

You know, I go to work. I don’t know if I maintain faith in humanity.

Ah, okay.

But I keep going back somehow. And it’s been Hard. It’s been really fucking hard. And if anyone’s listening and you are close to anyone who’s working in healthcare, especially if they’re working and an ICU, like, I can’t emphasize enough just taking care of your friends, and even just asking, hey man, shit sounds rough. How are you doing? Like, that goes a long way, you know? And yeah, how do I keep doing it? Honestly it’s like—and I guess this ties into some of the topics you kind of mentioned talking about today—um, it’s the team that I work with that really does make a big difference. And, you know, going into nursing as like a queer person with this radical background, I felt really alienated from my co-workers. I kind of had this, like, mindset that I was like an alien walking into a foreign land and I didn’t want anyone to know I was an alien, you know. And I still feel that like every day of my life everywhere I go but—

This is unrelatable. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Yeah, you have no idea what I mean. Um, but over time I’ve developed relationships with people who I probably would never have five years ago, and, um, the type of solidarity that I experienced in the workplace might not be like #radical or something, or #anarchy, but um, those bonds are really important and really powerful, and I know that my co-workers would show up for one another in so many big ways, you know, like, it’s not called mutual aid there, but it sure as fuck is. The way that I’ve seen people show up for one another, especially in these crises. And, yeah, it’s—that bleeds into so many other things about nursing and mental health and the crisis that’s happening in nursing right now.

I mean, we could talk about that. I’m curious about that.

Yeah, I think that you know some people are kind of—who aren’t in healthcare are kind of aware of what’s happening, but I think a large number of people aren’t really aware of—

Which is that everyone’s rushing to join the field because you all are well-respectcted, well-paid, and taken care of? Loved by society?

Yeah—and yeah, not facing these like ruptures of, like, what is real on a daily basis.

Yeah, that’s right.

Yeah, exactly it’s going great.

It’s utopian.

Become a nurse, everyone. Um, no, but there is a—there’s a huge crisis happening right now in nursing and there already was this like nursing shortage, right? Like when I was in nursing school they would talk about the nursing shortage. And really what it was was, like, a lot of nurses were retiring at retirement age, and what I see as the biggest barrier wasn’t that no one wanted to be a nurse, it’s that—it’s twofold. It’s like we have an aging population with complex chronic health conditions, so more patients, right? And then we have people who want to be nurses, but we have educational institutions that are trying to make as money as much money as possible, and limiting the number of people who can access degrees in nursing. And we maybe don’t have enough educators. Maybe, you know, probably a lot of stuff that I don’t know about or not qualified to talk about. But and that was already the baseline when I entered the field of nursing, and then you lay on top of that this huge pandemic that is just totally changed everything, changed what nursing looks like. And like, side note, also a lot of healthcare workers have died of Covid. And it’s not like an extreme number, but I think the number from the World Health Organization last October was between like 80- and 180,000. I believe that’s worldwide. So—and I don’t know what percentage of those are nurses—but like, you know, that does play a role, fear of that probably plays a role, and then it’s extreme burnout and trauma. Like, you know, I mentioned earlier that during these surges—and probably these numbers differ from hospital to hospital—80–90% of our patients who were put on ventilators for Covid were dying. And, you know, we’re pretty used to dealing with people dying in the ICU. It’s kind of, like, what we do is try to prevent people from dying. But inevitably people die. Um, but when you have 80–90% of the people that you’re taking care of dying no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, no matter what interventions you try, it is demoralizing to say the least. You know it’s awful.


It’s truly awful. Um, and it’s like an already high-stress job that then you add that on top of, you add the public discourse on top of that, you add the politics, you add the family’s yelling at you about whatever treatment they heard about from Joe Rogan or, you know, whatever. It just creates this stress level that’s, I think, unprecedented and really difficult to manage. Um, and there’s that narrative of, like, the public not caring about nurses, or the public not understanding what they’re going through, but even bigger is like policies that reflect a lack of care for human life in this country, which, you know, our job as nurses is to preserve human life. And then we’re faced with the government, healthcare—or public health policies that don’t value human life. So there’s like that dissonance going on.

You talking about the, like, the way the CDC keeps changing, like, what’s being valued or whatever?

Yeah, I mean just all of it. The way that, um, both presidents who have been elected or serving—or whatever the fuck you call what they do during this pandemic. The way that it’s been managed, the way the way capitalism manages this pandemic does not reflect a care for human life, right? It reflects the care for capital. And that just—when your job is to preserve human life and you see all these policies coming down that you’re like, what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck? Like, this doesn’t line up with what we’re supposed to do. Like, this doesn’t line up at all. And then you have, you know, places that lack appropriate PPE for nurses, like, these policies that don’t reflect I care for healthcare workers. It is, like, the whole picture is a big labor crisis, because people of course are going to be like, the fuck am I doing here when I could do x, y, z thing, right? And, like—

You should try podcasting. You don’t have to leave the house.

I know, I’m thinking about it actually.

Okay, cool.

And I am lucky in a lot of ways. Like, I live on the West Coast, I am unionized, my pay proportionally is a lot greater than some parts of the country, like some parts would rule south where nurses are getting paid garbage, right? And don’t have a lot of the protections that I do. And, I mean, I can keep listing all these things. Like you mentioned the CDC, like, growing lack of trust in the CDC as an institution, as a healthcare worker, because they just say garbage that is not evidence-based. They tell you you’re supposed to, like, work your job based on policies that have no evidence behind it. There’s just—everything’s starting to feel more and more arbitrary, right. Um, and it’s gotten to a point where, like, I hear my coworkers in the break room talking about the different psych meds that they’re trying. Or like, the different anti-anxiety pills that they’re trying, and the different dosages that they’re trying, just to manage, like, their job. Now, off course, that’s not everyone. I’m not trying to be like overly-dramatic. But it’s definitely a trend. And then the—you know, the other side of that is, like, you have people just leaving the field entirely. But you have a shit ton of people who are going to be travel nurses and, like—a travel nurse, for people who don’t know, it’s an RN who can pick up a contract. Hospitals around the country do this, and have done it since before the pandemic. You pick up a contract for a certain number of weeks for a certain pay. You work that contract, you move on. Um, people do this for short periods of time, for long periods of time, but during the pandemic it’s been totally amplified, because you started having these crisis contracts, some of which were funded by the government, to send nurses to places that were really impacted by the pandemic and lacking staff. And you had these huge, huge incentives—like huge pay bonuses—for working in these extreme conditions. And at first you saw that, you know, in places like New York and whatnot with big surges. But now pretty much everywhere is hurting for nurses, and they will hire travel nurses for up to, you know, 4 or 5 times what staff nurses are making at that same institution. So you work under these conditions for long enough, your management tells you for long enough that they can’t do—they can’t give you PPE or they can’t give you a retention bonus, or they just can’t, they can’t, they can’t. Of course eventually people are going to be like, well fuck this place, I’m going to go make 4 times as much 2 hours away or next state over. And so it’s turning into a situation where we have more and more travel nurses in hospitals, and less and less staff nurses. And like, that in itself doesn’t sound that problematic until you think about, like, what’s the difference between a nurse who’s been at the same institution for 10 years and one who’s been there for 3 days. It’s like a commitment to that institution in a certain sense, right? At least a commitment to the community that they’re serving in maybe some way, and knowledge of the way things work there because every hospital is going to be a little different. So it does, you know, in some senses pose a safety concern. Um, and in some cases people who are getting travel contracts are maybe not necessarily qualified to work in the positions that they’re getting hired to. And I’ve seen that happen before. People are chasing the money, and I don’t blame them right? So anyway, that’s like a lot of talk. The whole crisis. But it really is becoming a crisis. At our hospital I see people who I don’t think of as, like, labor organize-y or, like, radical by any means, who would describe themselves as moderate talking about this stuff in terms that are getting more and more pressured. And I see people who are talking about leaving who I would have never imagined would leave. And we have management telling us, we can’t pay you more because we have to pay all these travel nurses. Well, if you paid us more we might stay and not become travel nurses, right?

Can I just become a travel nurse and stay here? Actually, do people do that?

Yeah, um, no, they try to prevent you from doing that.

Oh, okay.

But I have people that I work with who even took travel gigs north like 2 hours, and so they’re still living where we live, they just drive 2 hours to work and make 4 times as much.

Yeah, yeah. One of the things you were talking about earlier, you know, watching the nurses like trust the CDC and the government stuff less and less. And it ties into that thing that you were talking about earlier about how a lot of people have good reasons not to trust the government, and so that’s like something that we can all—I think anyone who’s thought through most things would have reason to distrust the government, right? Any analysis of history, almost regardless of your background, but obviously some backgrounds more than others. There’s good reasons to not trust the government.

I can think of like 5 reasons not to trust.

Like a little list?

Top 5 reasons not to trust them.

Yeah, totally. No, this is good. You’re going to be a good podcaster. Better than me. But the thing that works—that it comes down to for me—and it helps that I know people like you. I know medical professionals. You know, my joke for a long time is that the way to get health care in this country is to date a doctor and then stay friends with him. Um, because that’s how I had my health care for a very long time, is that my ex is a doctor now. Um you date one boy, you pick the right one. Anyway. Um, and yeah. But the thing is this like—okay, so I don’t trust the government. What I trust is people. And so, like, people are like, well why do you trust the government telling you what’s good for your health? And I’m like, no, I trust my friends who are doctors. And it’s not even like I trust doctors as a category at large, because I also understand why people are nervous around that. And it is this position of privilege where I am around people who have made those choices or have access to those choices to become medical professionals. But it’s like, no, I trust you, like I trust you—it’s just interesting to me. I don’t know like how to—this is my solution. This is how we get, um, you know, all the nurses just go to the people and you’d be like, look hey, don’t listen to the government, listen to me. I don’t know.

A flawless plan.

Maybe, everyone to listening, trust us! What could go wrong? Trust the voices and the headphones. Unlike Joe Rogan, don’t trust Joe Rogan.

Yeah, don’t trust that voice in your headphone. Yeah I really get it. Why not to trust institutions, why not to trust, uh, what feels like big government saying, now do this to your body. You know, it’s the good thing to do. But, and before the vaccine came out, you know, I had my own, I’ll be honest, I had my own hesitations about whether or not I would get it. But the moment that it was made accessible to me I was at work and I got an email that said, hey, you can make appointment. I picked up the phone immediately and made an appointment. I kind of surprised myself with how, like, my response to it. Like how ready I was to get the vaccine. It was pretty early on, it was last December, um, but part of what really changed it for me is kind of what you’re talking about. Like not thinking about it as, like, the government made a vaccine or, you know, Pfizer made a vaccine, but thinking about the individual people who worked on producing that vaccine and, like, you know, we’ve all met science nerds, right? That’s like, they’re passionate about their nerd-dom around science and I was just imagining people like in these labs working their fucking tails off to produce something. And, you know, whether they do it for money, or glory, or fame, or out of, like, a care for people, who knows? But, I don’t know, for some reason that comforted me, thinking about people like pouring their hearts and their minds into this project. But, I mean, that kind of like brings us back to talking about vaccines, right?

Which vaccine did you get?

Um and I have Pfizer. Yeah. Does that mean—is this like a horoscope reading? Does that mean something about me?

Yeah, probably. We need to come up with that.

My sun and moon are and Pfizer. Um I just—I’ve been thinking a lot about this like vaxxed versus unvaxxed thing. And especially in the Biden administration, and how so many liberals—probably more or less well-meaning liberals—thought that, like, Joe Biden was going to turn us around in terms of the pandemic. And what we’ve seen is, like, definitely not. We have not turned this thing around, you know? Like not even close. By no means have we turned it around.

Well, I mean, you know, there’s like a million people a day getting Covid. Oh yeah, nope. I see what you mean.

Yeah, yeah. And ultimately it’s like, I just take issue with this really neoliberal response where this control of a global pandemic is being placed on the actions of the individual, right? Whether or not the individual makes the like “good” or “moral” choice to get vaccinated, and ultimately to me it feels like this fascist tendency. Like we’ve, like, identified an internal enemy which is the unvaccinated, right? And like those are the people responsible for all of this, for the economy failing for—like what does that narrative sound like, you know? And like this is all to say, like, yeah, I’m provaxx. I’m vaxxed. Like, I think it’s a good Idea. You should probably get vaccinated. But I don’t, you know, we’re talking about like a global issue here and whether or not your neighbor’s vaccinated, ultimately like there’s bigger fucking questions of like why there’s been such a failure in public health to manage this pandemic. There are countries where this isn’t the reality, you know?


Their numbers right now are like in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. Like, that could have been our reality if this had been managed differently on a policy level, and I’m not even like a fucking policy nerd, you know? I’m just like, wow y’ all did bad. Like this has not worked out. And the hyper-focus on the, like, choice of the individual, just like it does with green capitalism, it pulls our attention away from these larger structural issues and institutional responses to the pandemic. Like, are we really—like, don’t question Joe Biden, question your neighbor, you know. Don’t be mad at like the CDC, be mad at like the guy out on the street. Like, it’s just a really ineffectual way to manage this. And it also—like the narrative around, like, well if only they’d get vaccinated. It’s just like writing off the deaths of these people as inevitable and as, like, not worth our care, or our time, or our thought. And I don’t think—I mean, maybe I can think of some people who like “deserve” to die of Covid, but I don’t think the vast majority of people who are dying deserve it by any means, you know.


And um—and we’re at a point too where like even vaccinated people are getting sick, so it becomes, like, this really big question, right?

Yeah, and I guess—I guess it’s like people are putting their faith—even if they’re not putting their faith in government, they’re putting their faith in like Fox News or whoever it is who’s, you know, telling them not to get vaccinated.

Right, yeah.

Instead of putting their faith in themselves and their own decision making. Yeah, no, that’s interesting. You know, okay, so like one of the reasons that, like, you know, green capitalism—it’s like the—well, if you’d only change your light bulbs to LEDs a little bit earlier, we wouldn’t have climate change, everyone knows that. If you, Summer, hadn’t changed—had changed your light bulbs, still hold you responsible for this. And, you know, and so it’s like we all see how that’s bullshit, and I can see how that that makes sense about this. But it is interesting because some of the—some of the ways it seems like that countries are handling it successfully do challenge some of my anti-authoritarianism on some level.


And so it would be less about giving your neighbor the choice, and in some ways it is about like vaccine mandates. It’s like, well, if you want to keep working at this thing that you do, you need a vaccine. And I actually don’t have—like people ask me a fair amount as, like, a sort of public-facing anarchist or something, people be like, well what is the, you know, anti-authoritarian response about vaccines and stuff. And for me, it’s like fairly easy. It’s like, well, I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want to get other people sick, so obviously I take the thing that’s available to me that can minimize my chances of that and, you know. But if you’re talking about on a policy level, like what does that look like? What does that mean?

Yeah, I don’t—honestly, I don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot too because I don’t want to come across as, like, everyone should do what they want, because I obviously don’t feel that way. Like, that’s not limiting—that’s what we’re doing and it’s not limiting suffering. It’s not preventing people from dying. It’s not preventing people who are medically fragile and don’t deserve this from dying, you know? Not that—I don’t want to come across that way at all and, like, have you have you read Climate Leviathan”

I have not, but I once listened to a podcast where they discuss the basic concept. So I basically have read it.

Well, it just it creates this like interesting…w hat would you call it… like, this categorization of different ways that governments could respond to the ongoing climate crisis, right. And there’s like climate Mao, which is kind of—resembles like the way a country like China might respond to the climate—or is responding to the climate crisis. And I’ve been thinking about that in terms of, like, the pandemic.

So using, like, top-down authoritarian control.

Yeah, yeah. But like left-wing authoritarian, I guess. And in China the way that they’re dealing with pandemic right now from some of the stories I’ve read is, like, people who have tried to travel there and you test positive and you are forcibly put into isolation, you know.


You know, you’re given treatment and you don’t really have a choice. Is that good? Ugh, you know, doesn’t make me feel good. And then you have a country like ours which is more of, like, neoliberal, that, you know, we’re seeing what that response looks like. Like, freedom to the individual and then like what fuck happens then? It’s a shit show in its own way, and all the policies are geared towards, you know, maximizing capital instead of valuing humans or human life.


And then there would be like a right-wing authoritarian response, which I don’t know what kind of example to give for that. But then there’s the, like, what is the response that you’re talking about? What do we come up with that’s like an antiauthoritarian leftist response to a global pandemic, and I don’t know, really. But I do know that, like, things that come to mind are like, we talk a lot about informed consent in medicine and I don’t think that people have the right education and right information to make informed decisions around a lot of this. That’s like a huge issue, right? Like, our education system, our public health system, our media and the way that—you know, back to what we were talking about earlier, the way that like there’s this split in reality, the reality that people are experiencing. Like, people are not making informed choices about their health when they choose not to vaccinate—often. Sometimes they are, but often they aren’t, right. Because they don’t have access to all the information—or not being given all the information in unbiased manner. So that’s one of the things I think about. And then, like, global vaccine equity is huge, right? Because we can’t pretend this is just a national issue, like that’s absurd, viruses do not, like, acknowledge borders. Like, why we treat this as if it’s, like, in an enclosed space ,right, that is called the United States when, um, the border is, like—yeah, it has like very real and fucked up implications in the world. But it’s also a concept, right? And like, we need to acknowledge this as a global problem, or else, you know, we’re going to keep getting these variants, we’re going to keep getting more waves of Covid. So, yeah, I don’t really have like a solid answer of, like, how do we deal with this in an antiauthoritarian way. But there’s things we can do better, that’s for sure.

I had this like huge moment of, somewhere between disappointment and fear, like I think there was, like, a news story that broke about, like, Russia, like, hacked some of the people researching a vaccine and stole their research or whatever. And everyone’s like, oh, damn you Russia. And I’m like, wait, what? It wasn’t freely available? Like, you like to imagine that when there’s a global pandemic all of the smart people who specifically study that get together and say, like, okay, what’s the best plan? And then they all figure it out together and we can have our Star Trek moment where we realize we’re all going to fucking die unless we do it, right? And something about, like, climate change and carbon emissions and stuff, I see how that like screws the economy—I’m completely in favor of this approach to climate change, mind you—but like I could see the argument for it’s really more complex than that and it has all these implications. But I just like can’t see a defense of intellectual property for vaccines and for medical care. You know, I just, I cannot fathom— especially, even from a self-interest point of view of like as you said, the, you know, vaccine does not respect borders. And so, like, I’m glad I have my like third shot—my booster shot—but it like kind of irritates me that there’s, you know, plenty of people who’ve never had access to it at all, you know, elsewhere in the world.


I mean, I think that would be part of anti-authoritarianism, right? Is that you have this like, well obviously we don’t respect these like borders or capitalism enough to say that, like, you all can, you know, hide the intellectual property of how we take care of ourselves. But it does get into interesting questions around, like, when you when you bring up informed consent, right. Because you’re like, okay, well—I’m almost afraid to get into these kinds of—it’s such a murky territory. But it’s like, okay, if you have a community of people where they’re like, oh, we all agree we’re not vaccinated and it might fucking kill us and whatever, you know? But in some ways the consent—like, do I consent to allowing people who have not chose to be vaccinated get near me, you know? Like, what direction does the consent go? Like, I don’t know the answer to that, but part of me thinks that the, you know, in the same way that we use informed consent with sex around STIs, right? And like, it’s not to say that someone who has STIs like shouldn’t have sex, it’s just that you just need to have an informed, consensual sex. And like all sex, you know, because it’s not like it’s like a binary where some people have STIs and some people don’t. I’m not trying to like, you know—people don’t always know and then there’s all these things that people have that—this is why it’s so messy. And like, so, I’m not trying to be like, oh, if you want to hang out in Plague Village in Plague Town you can, right? I don’t know, it gets—it’s really complex and I just—like, I actually almost appreciate but mostly begrudge how much all of this challenges, I think not just like my ideological position, but like all the ideological positions that anyone who’s actually thinking clearly comes into this with. If you came into the pandemic with a clear ideological position and it hasn’t been challenged at all by the pandemic or climate change, I think you’re lying to yourself.

Yeah, or you’ve just like—maybe if you’re a capitalist you’re still just like, yay capitalism, you know.

I’m going to Mars, fuck all you!

Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean there is a lot of nuance and I think it’s made a lot of us pretty uncomfortable, right, to be like, should the government tell us not to leave our houses? Like maybe, is that a—maybe that’s a good idea? That can’t be a good idea. You know, like, it is really uncomfortable.


And it’s uncomfortable to be an anarchist or an anti-authoritarian and be like, well, the government should definitely just give me money to stay home. Because then it’s like, oh, like—well, you know what—I don’t have to explain it. But like, I think there is a lot of discomfort. There’s a lot of weird ground here and like, it’s—I think that, ultimately, it’s just hard to imagine a widespread anti-authoritarian response to something when we live under capital and we live under this extreme—in this extreme situation, in extreme circumstances where we have very little control over something That’s so widespread and overarching.

I think that is the answer.

Yeah. That’s not just you like no control, right? Like, we do have some control over our day-to-day lives, over what risks we’re willing to accept, how we share information and resources and all that. Yeah, but some of it just feels very, oh yeah, so icky.

Yeah I mean but it also gets to the level of, like, well, for example, something someone could do is stay being a nurse in the ICU. You know? I’m not trying to convince you to stay your job, you do whatever you want. But like, you know, I feel like that is a—you know, because so much of the response—or like, all the mutual aid organizations that popped up, you know, is like, in some ways that is our response. Because we don’t control society, but we do control ourselves and we do control, you know, collectively control smaller organizations and things. Which might be too Pat of an answer.

I’m sure I’m sure there’s like people more creative or smarter or something than I am who have a really great response to, like, what could that look like. But if—I know in my life for me right now it’s just become—like my circle’s gotten smaller in a lot of ways and I just try my best to take really good care of the people that are closest to me, you know. When my friends get sick with Covid I, like, bring them food, and I bring them care boxes and whatnot. And that seems kind of like mundane or simple. But for me, coming from my like ICU nursing position, that’s kind of the best I can do. And help people understand what’s going on, too, people who I’m close to who are like, wait, what the fuck does this—wait, what’s happening with this thing? Like, not that I’m an authority, but I do have some room to speak from here. So.

Well, is that no okay question to ask you? This will probably come out maybe a week from when we record it, so maybe everything will have changed. But like, what the fuck is happening right now? Is that something I can ask you>

Oh god. You mean with like Omicron, or?

Yeah, and like, you know, there’s a lot of discussion right now about, like, do we throw our hands up in the air and say, everyone’s going to get it anyway?

Oh god.

You know, both like in terms of, like, what kind of response is like appropriate—or even like what response like you take in your personal life, or like the people around you take in your personal lives that you respect, you know?—Whose choices around it you respect. Everyone listening do exactly what Summer is about to say and don’t think for yourself.

Oh my god. Everyone who’s listening, do not do as I say. But I think I have a couple of responses to that in terms of, like, what’s going on right now with Omicron and, you know, we’re seeing a ton of breakthrough infections. We probably all know people who are getting Covid right now. Do we just, yeah, throw our hands up in, like, let nihilism take over and let everyone get sick? No, that is a horrible strategy for managing a pandemic. That’s a terrible—

Oh, interesting.

A terrible strategy and, you know, it does kind of bring me back to policy because so much of Biden’s campaign or whatever, the dialogue around it has been about vaccination. And vaccination, yes, that’s a tool. But that’s not—I guess what I’m thinking of is there was like a statement that Biden made at some point that was like, we have such a great vaccine program and rollout and we’re, rah rah, we’re doing the best. It’s just those damn unvaccinated people. And it’s like, if we have this many unvaccinated people, is our vaccine campaign really that good? No, it’s not. It’s not good. It’s not going well, you know, we could do better.

We’re doing great in the war except for the enemy that keeps winning.

Exactly. Yeah, it’s like, what the hell? And I, you know, I think that like just throwing our hands up and saying, well everyone’s going to get sick, it just fucking sucks because I think people are riding on this notion that, like, well, Omicron seems to confer less severe disease. Which, yeah, that’s great, right? But if more people are getting infected—we’re playing a statistics game, right? If more people are getting infected, then a smaller percentage can still be a bigger number of people who have severe disease, you know what I’m saying? And in like a place that’s, like, where I live, where our resources aren’t extensive in terms of like ICU medicine, our ICU is 15 beds. It only takes 15 people with severe Covid for us to be completely overwhelmed in a hospital that’s already completely overwhelmed, in a hospital system that’s overwhelmed, in a health care system that’s overwhelmed. And so even if people—even in another situation where the people coming into the hospital don’t have severe disease, they just have bad enough disease to come to the hospital, you’re still dealing with a healthcare system that is, like, teetering—and I mean it, like really teetering. So everyone getting sick is not a great solution. I think that like, I can’t tell anyone—

But what if we do it all at once?

I can’t tell anyone what to do, but in terms of what I do in my life is like, you know, I’ve all along assessed what risk feels appropriate for me and it’s a harm reduction thing, right? It’s like, we can’t expect people to make the decisions that we would make for ourselves. We can give them the best information possible and the resources and hope for the best, you know, hope for the best outcomes. And I’m not going into indoor dining. I have friends that I see, a lot of them are nurses. I do a lot of outdoor activities so I’m able to see people outdoors a lot. I’m still having some dinners with friends, but I live—I also live in a rural area where, like, transmission isn’t quite the same as it is in like big cities, right? So probably some people would take issue with some of the activities I participate in. But that’s why I’m saying, like, not everyone should do what I do. But, I don’t know, you just, you really need to think about the impact, right? Like, it’s not not a big deal if you get sick, and I’m saying that with this assumption that whoever’s hearing this has, like, a level of health and immune function that I do, and a lot of people don’t, you know. Like I think we, like—“we” being, you know, maybe me—not trying to make assumptions about you—but a lot of us think, oh, this this isn’t conferring severe disease, and we’re not thinking about our friends, our community members who are really compromised at baseline, who are disabled at baseline, who are chronically ill at baseline, and who maybe aren’t “useful” to capitalism at baseline. So it’s easy to write off their illness and their deaths as insignificant. It’s only affecting people who have chronic illness, you know, like we hear this narrative a lot. Like, 40% of Americans have chronic illnesses. 40%!

Oh, that’s a high number, yeah.

Yeah, and not all of those are gonna, you know, make it so you get severe Covid. But I’ve treated patients who their, you know, their chronic illness was hypertension. That’s what they came in with, and they’re intubated now, you know. And I’m not saying this to like fear-monger but just to, like, there isn’t some “other” that is the chronically ill that is the immunocompromised, like, people all around us have these things that they’re managing at baseline. So all of us getting sick: bad plan, was the summary of what I just said.

Yeah, yeah. Well no, it’s—I mean, it’s interesting because it talks about the—when you’re talking about, like, okay because people hear, okay, Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness. But as you pointed out, more people are still ending up, you know, we’re still seeing a spike in severe illness like hospitalizations and death right now as a result of it. And it is—I think it’s because, on an individual level, every individual is safer getting Omicron than Delta, potentially, right?

Yeah, potentially yeah.

And so, any individual, especially probably those who kind of had in the back of their heads like, well, I’m healthy, I’ll probably survive, you know, anyway, going on. Then hear this like reassurance. But yeah, we don’t—we don’t tend to think of ourselves at scale. We tend to think of ourselves as us, or at least I do way more than I would like to, you know?


No, it’s interesting. [Laughs] “Interesting.” What a wonderful word for what we’re dealing with. Okay, well we’re—we’re kind of—we’re coming up near an hour, but I guess I wanted to ask,
do you have any final thoughts about Covid pandemic, you know, why people should go become nurses, or not become nurses, or anything to impart upon our listeners?

Um, I guess one thought that I have is, you know, I know a lot of us come from communities like DIY communities or communities that really value that ethic, and I also value that. But I just, like, want to remind people that, who are treating symptoms at home if they do get Covid or whatever they’re treating at home, that if you’re going to, you know, use herbal, or nontraditional, or traditional remedies to treat things like this, you just also have to have—you have to be judicious, you know. A lot of us have laughed a lot about people using Ivermectin or something like that. But I’ve treated a patient who was treating Covid at home with tonic water and homeopathic remedies, and I think it’s easy to scoff at that, but like, one person’s tonic water and homeopathic remedies is another person’s, like, tinctures, right?


Like these just are coming from different cultural backgrounds and situations. And that’s not me writing off herbalism by any means, I just want to remind people that, like, in any situation, whether it’s first aid, whether it’s—we’re talking about Covid. There’s a point at which we can’t DIY anymore, you know. And I just want to like throw that out there because, um, it’s unfortunate, right, that we have to rely on institutions, but they’re there for a reason. The ICU is there for a reason, and we can’t DIY the ICU. So um, yeah, and just to have compassion for people who are trying those other remedies that seem absurd to you, because your remedies seem absurd to somebody else, you know.

Yeah. Well, join us next week when we talk about how to set up a DIY ICU. No, no, no, that makes so much sense. And one of the things that I feel like I’ve learned a lot by talking to people for this show is kind of this, um, like, the institutions that run society are bad, but society is good—or like, the concept of having a society is good. Like DIY is great, but not everything should fall on you, or even the do it ourselves. Like, you know, we actually do need to learn to expand the “ourselves” in do it ourselves. And like, I don’t know, I think one of the things that gave me the most hope that you said during all of this is talking about coming into the hospital system, you know, as a, like a queer weirdo, and then being like, oh, I’m not going to get along with anyone, and then like having these deep connections with people outside your usual bubble. I think that that’s, like, so important and one of the things that gives me hope is that, you know, there’s actually this like—these larger structures that are still just made of people that we can all work together and figure things out.

And, I mean, a lot of those people— I get why we should be skeptical of anyone in a lab coat or whatnot. But a lot of those people really do fucking care, and they really want to do their best even if they fuck up sometimes. So, I’m not trying to be like, woohoo, trust all nurses. But like, some of us are, you know, we’re doing all right.

Yeah. Okay, well do you have any either, like, personal or like any projects that you want to shout out to draw attention to while you have the moment?

I wish I did. I was for a while working on a project around here called Rogue Harm Reduction providing Narcan and STI testing for free, and Narcan training and whatnot. I haven’t worked on that project in a while. I got pretty burned out at work, as you can imagine, so I took a step back. But that’s a project I’ll shout out to, you can look them up on social media. They’re great people doing great stuff.

So they do still exist and people can go support them?

Awesome, well thank you so much. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. It’s the main way that people hear about it is word of mouth or, I guess mostly word of internet mouth at the moment. And, you know, you can feed all the algorithms that run the world that probably shouldn’t by commenting, and posting about it to all the social medias, and doing all of those things—they have kind of a vastly disproportionate effect compared to what you might think. Every comment and every thumbs up and every subscription and all of that means that more people will run across this content. And if you want to support the show more directly, you can do so by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is the publishing collective that publishes this show which I’m part of. And you can do that by going to I used to be supported by a personal Patreon, but owing to various things in my life, specifically that I have a nonprofit job now, I no longer am supported by that I’m supported by my nonprofit job. So instead the Patreon supports a bunch of different people who are making all kinds of awesome content and I’m very excited for people to check out Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness and all the stuff that we’re going to be doing in 2022? Yes, that’s the year it is. It’s a new year. I’m still not very good at that. And I want to thank all the people who support the show, but in particular I want to thank Nicole and James and David and Justine [inaudible], Sean, Hugh, Dana, Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, and Nora for making this show possible. All right, that’s it and I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s going on, and take care of yourself and take care of each other.

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S1E35 – Casandra on Food Preserveration

Episode Notes

Margaret talks to Casandra about canning, drying, and other means by which to preserve food.

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


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 episode we’re going to be talking about food preservation and specifically canning and dried food storage and some other things. 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. Duh daaaaa.

One two, one two. Tune in for another episode of MaroonCast. MaroonCast is a down to earth Black radical podcast for the people. Our hosts, hip hop anarchist Sima Lee, the RBG and sex educator and crochet artists KLC, share their reflections on Maroons, rebellion, womanism, life, culture, community, trapped liberation, and everyday ratchet. They deliver fresh commentary with the queer, transgender, non-conforming, fierce, funny, Southern guls, anti-imperialist, anti-oppression approach. Poly ad and bullshit. Check out episodes of MaroonCast on Channel Zero National, Buzzsprout, SoundCloud, Google, Apple, and Spotify. All power to the people, all pleasure.

Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe a little bit about your experience with prepping, like, I don’t know, if you like work for any prepping podcasts that people might like, if you want to shout them out, but also your experience a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about today.

Yeah, my name is Casandra and I use they or she pronouns. Um, I don’t know, I’ve always been interested in foraging and gardening and preserving food and I happen to work for this really cool prepping podcast called Live Like the World is Dying.

Casandra is our transcriptionist and we’ve been talking—I’ve been bugging them more and more about food preservation. And finally I was like, can I just have you on the podcast? And then you have to listen to the sound of your own voice as you transcribe it. And they said yes, which was nice of them. So okay, so most of your experience in terms of food preservation is canning, is that right?

Salem Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s—I think the two things that I do most are drying and canning, but I also do some fermenting and, like, salt preserving.

Cool. Okay, well, let’s talk about all of it. Do you want to talk about the different methods of food preservation and which ones are appropriate for which foods and what you like the most?

Yes, I think there, there are two things that I think about when I’m deciding how to preserve something and one is, drying, for instance, is good for like really long-term storage. But—and it’s also good because the food is lightweight, right? So it’s very portable. But in my day to day life, I’m much more likely to use like canned food. So ease of use is another consideration when I’m deciding how to preserve something. And different food is best preserved in different ways. And that’s something we can talk about when we get into canning especially a little bit later. Like acidity, how juicy something is, those things all come into play.

Okay. Why preserve food? I mean, like, obviously, you could just go to the supermarket and buy the food instead of canning it or preserving in other ways. Like, I mean, that sort of—that part’s sort of a joke. But what is it that appeals to you about DIY preservation of food, like what got you into it?

Um, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and there are certain times of year where food is really abundant and accessible. And it just at a certain point seems silly to me to not take advantage of that if I could. You know, so if I have access to, you know, dozens of pounds of green beans once a year, why not can it instead of going out and buying it in the winter?

Okay, so what are the methods of preserving food? You’ve mentioned some of them, but is it possible that we could get a list of just, like, what—there’s canning, salting, pickling, drying, what am I missing? Smoking? Curing? Is that what you would call that?

Yeah, I guess smoking and curing could—smoking is like a form of curing I think. Freezing. What else? Did we say fermenting already?

No, we haven’t put that one yet.


Okay, should we just go through them and talk about why each one’s great?

Yes, yeah, we can definitely do that. It’s hard to like, it’s hard to talk about them all at once because they’re all so different so…



Well, so if possible, I mean, like—one of the things I’m really curious about is that, like, when you look at green beans, you’re like, okay, green beans belong in a can. And then when you look at something else, you’re like, oh, that belongs fermented. You know, hops, obviously. But what, um—is it just the different methods just work for different foods, if you like are working with meats you’re mostly interested in curing them or freezing them or something? Like, how does all this work? How do you how do you decide?

I decide based on what I like to eat most. So like, which preservation method I’m most likely to use because I’m not interested in wasting food. And then also just like, which is the most accessible to me. So for something like green beans, I don’t know, I guess you could dry them, but I don’t think that would taste particularly. good. So I want to preserve them in a way that tastes really good that I’m actually likely to use throughout the year. And then also space, I think space is a huge issue. So my pantry is only so large so there are certain things that it makes more sense for me to dry like nuts, right? I’m not going to can walnuts, though I suppose you could. I’m just going to dry them and store them in a bin.

Does it just take up less space because there’s like fewer individual jars taking up space.

Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

Okay. What, um, what’s like the easiest to get into and/or what’s cheapest?

Probably drying? Drying probably or salt curing because, you know, all you need to salt preserve something is salt.


Um, but the drying as well. You know, you can sun dry or you can, like, create some trays for yourself and some airflow, you don’t need a particular tool to dry something effectively.

Okay, what, uh—you said that drying tends to make things last longest. Like, what’s the kind of like, scale there? Okay, so like, because you were saying how, okay, so you’re saying how it’s hard to talk about all of them at once because each one has like all these different pros and cons. So I’m trying to, like get you to talk about the pros and cons of different ones. But so like, what’s the, like, you know, hierarchy of how long food can last. Like I know, for example, in my own limited research into this, I’m like, oh, I can store dried beans, dried rice, etc., for like, 30 years, right? But I’m under the impression that canning has a shorter shelf life than that. And in my head, of course, like it would be, like, freezing, there’s a long shelf life as long as you have electricity, and then like cured food, it’s like maybe not as lonh. But this might be my, like, my my weird, like, obviously, like, storing meat isn’t as good or something. You know, my own non-meat-eating bias which I will attempt to not bring into this particular episode of the show because everyone’s gonna make up their own minds about what they want to eat. But so what, um, so if drying last longest, what last least long and what—where is everything else in the middle?

Um, yes. I don’t even know if drying last longest, honestly, because you hear about like, fermented or cured eggs that are found that are, you know, hundreds of years old and stuff—or like kimchi, like jars of kimchi that are still good after hundreds of years. So.

Oh lord, okay.

Yeah, yeah, so, you know, fermenting can be very long lived as well. But, but yeah, drying, as long as the thing stays dry and like bugs and mice don’t get to it, as long as it’s properly sealed, that’s probably the longest—longest-term. And then the shortest—what would be the shortest? I think it’s probably either canned or frozen. Like, food can be frozen for a long time—sorry—food can’t be frozen for a long time but, like, it starts to taste like freezer at a certain point. So that’s like my least favorite method, personally.

What does that mean? Is that, like, I’ve heard that like if you store things in the freezer for a long time it starts to like take on the taste of everything around it. Or is there like a specific, like, just as the cell walls burst of frozenness and whatever—I don’t know anything about the science of any of this.

I don’t know about the science of freezing. I’m not sure. I just know that, like, you know, if I lose a bag of green beans in the back of the freezer, a year and a half later the green beans don’t really taste like green beans anymore. They kind of tastes like freezer.


Which is gross. I don’t want freezer beans. I’m also very anti-freezer just because we had—we had a, I guess a climate event here in February that knocked out power at my house for about 10 days. And so everything in the fridge in the freezer was compromised. And it sucked, and I lost a lot of food, and it was very stressful. But all of my canned goods and all of my dry goods were perfectly fine.

That’s a really important point.


I know that’s, like, classic prepper style is to have the deep freeze in your garage full of, like, you know, ideally some deer or something like that. But it always seems like it just requires so much electricity to maintain.

Yeah, and if, yeah. It’s also—I mean, I think when we’re talking about preparing for disasters, there’s the preparing in place versus preparing to move. Um, and so something like freezing makes sense for preparing in place, but—and canning as well. But if you’re preparing to move, then something like dried or cured makes more sense.


But even with freezing, like, when our power was out, I didn’t thaw out frozen food and try to cook it over my wood stove, you know. It was much easier for me to just like open a can of soup that I had canned from the year before and warm it up. So even if I’m thinking about preparing in place, things like canning make more sense to me.

Yeah. No, such a—being in place versus going—I don’t really have anything deep to say about that, I just, I think about that a lot. And there’s a reason that all the, like, food you put in your, like, go bag is usually, you know, dried backpacker meals where you add water or whatever, you know.

Yeah. Which is good, in an emergency, but it’s not super sustainable. So yeah.

Yeah. At the beginning of the COVID crisis when I was, like, alone all the time and I didn’t know what’s happening so I just didn’t go into town and I just, like, ate through my—ate through my own food stores. You know, I definitely was very reliant on canned goods, canned soups in particular. And then also, like, when I lived out of a backpack and traveled I did rely on cans then but I relied on cans, like, you know, I don’t like carry two or three or something like cans of chili or something. This wasn’t a DIY canning. This was, you know, Amy’s chili.

Right. And that’s the other thing too is, like, Amy’s chili in a tin can is—it’s heavier than dried food, but it’s sturdy. But I’m not gonna, like, put glass jars of food in a go bag, right?


That would be catastrophe waiting to happen.

Yeah, I learned the hard way that, like, several times I tried, when I lived out of a backpack I always like want it to travel with, like, this jar of almond butter, but it was glass. Or for a while I decided I was gonna be that asshole who lived out of a backpack and had a brandy snifter. And when I say for a while I mean, like, 24 hours?

‘Til it broke?

Yeah. The jar of almond butter didn’t last as long as that, and that was a little bit more of a desperate thing, because when I dropped it I was like, that’s all the calories that I have on me.

Oh, God. Yeah.

And I genuinely don’t remember—I remember looking at it and staring at it and being like, do I pull out shards of glass? Or do I just not eat? Oh, yeah, I’m just I don’t remember which one I picked.

Oh no.

I’m alive so I probably picked not eating the almond butter. Okay, so that’s a good point. So is it possible to can and non-glass jars? Like okay, my head like canning requires mason jars. Which people buy in bulk. And they’re, like, not crazy cheap, but I haven’t looked in a long time.

I know that historically people have used tin cans, but maybe this is a conversation we could get into right now. But, like, modern food safety guidelines, everything I’ve read is glass jars. But the good news is, once you purchase the jar, this isn’t—this isn’t prepping like, you know, storing something away for 30 years and like stocking in bulk. This is, like, something that you do yearly and you’re rotating through your food so you’re reusing your supplies.



Which actually, probably—and now I’m just purely conjecturing—is like a better way to do any kind of prepping anyways, like, it’s like reminding yourself that it’s very rarely for the long haul. It’s usually for situations like what you had happen where, you know, you lost power for 10 days.

I mean even just part of your daily life. Like I’m—the main purpose of me doing things like canning and saving dry food is to eat throughout the year, not to prepare for disaster. But, you know, when there is a disaster I’m already prepared so, because it’s just part of my daily life.

Well and I guess that’s like the yearly cycle that I mean, I grew up completely alienated from, you know, I ate the same things every season of the year. But that’s not really the way that humanity evolved.

Yeah. I mean, the nice thing about preserving food is that you don’t have to eat the same things because you’ve preserved them for a different season. But it is cyclical, because, like, right now it’s green bean season. So my weekends are canning green beans or tomatoes. And in a few months, it’ll be nut season, so that’s what I’m focusing on. But it gives me what I need for the rest of the year.

Okay, so I’m going to try and make this a pun but it’s not going to work very well. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts—but there’s no bolts and food—of this. And let’s talk about canning. Let’s talk about, like, how do you get started canning? What is canning? Like, you know, I mean, if—clearly it’s not just the can of Amy’s chili, it’s something else.

Yeah, so canning is preserving food in a glass jar, in liquid. And you’re doing that by using heat and pressure to cook the food inside of it. Like, you’re raising it to a particular temperature to destroy microbes and bacteria and things like that. And then it’s also creating a vacuum seal. And that’s what makes it shelf-stable.

Okay. How do you do it?

Hooray for shelf-stable food. There are different ways. So um, let’s see. I think maybe I want to give my food safety spiel first before—

Yeah. Okay, cool.

So, yeah, so I worked in the food industry for a long time and I feel really comfortable with food safety. But I think that it’s wise, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable with food safety to, you know, do some research or learn from someone or take a class or something because botulism is fatal. However, canning is really safe if it’s done properly. And so as long as you understand what properly mean, you’re gonna be fine. And then the anecdote I like to give is that—Let’s see—my my grandpa’s mom—when I was learning to cat I was really nervous about food safety. And my grandpa was, like, don’t worry about it because his mom used to can everything they ate in a two-tiered steam canter, which is just, like, outlandish. And she would do it on a wood stove, like, manually regulating the heat. And she would can everything from like meat to vegetables to fruit, which we’ll learn in a second why that’s absolutely insane. And, you know, she had 18 kids and none of them died of botulism. So—

That’s—I mean, by that number, one of them would have died of botulism. Even if someone—anyway, yeah.

So I’m not saying like not to be safe, but just to know that, like, statistically you’ll be okay, especially if you do what you’re supposed to do. So.

Okay, so take the warning seriously, is what your—

Yeah, I think it was important for me to hear that like, no, really, you’re gonna be okay. Because if you look at like the USDA website, or the like national—what’s it called?—National Center for Home Food Preservation website. I swear, it’s like every other paragraph, they’re trying to scare you about botulism. Anyway, it feels like every other paragraph they’re trying to warn you about botulism. And it feels really, like, anxiety-inducing. So it’s something to be aware of but not to be afraid of, if that makes sense.

What is botulism actually, do you know?

Um, let’s see. I think it’s it’s a bacteria that produces a toxin that is fatal. And the reason it’s so scary is because most food spoilage you can see or smell, but botulism, you can’t.


Um, and it can even be fatal just with, like, skin contact.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, so it’s it’s very scary, but it—I don’t know. I don’t want to terrify people.

Well, how do you not make it?


I was reading something that’s like has something to do with, like, whether or not there’s oxygen or something?

Yep, yep. So it—botulism grows in an anaerobic environment, which means no oxygen. I think that’s correct. I—so I learned from my grandma. That’s the other part of the disclaimer. So the science is not something that I know a ton of out, which is fine. But the point is that if you follow proper, like, sterilization and follow recipes that are approved, you’ll be fine. So you asked like three times what canning is and how to do it. So maybe—

Yeah yeah yeah.

Okay, so there are two different—there are three different types of canners. And they’re used are different acidities. So the acidity of a food is important because the microorganisms in acidic food are killed at a lower temperature than non-acidic food. So for acidic food—and that means, like, fruits, pickled things that have like a vinegar brine—those are canned in a water bath canner or a steam canner. And then non-acidic foods like vegetables, meats, things like that are canned in a pressure canner because it helps them get to higher heat.

Where do tomatoes fall in, are they acidic are they—

So tomatoes are tricky because you—they’re right on the edge of acidic and non-acidic. So if you add an acid to them, like lemon juice or citric acid, you can can them as if they’re acidic, but if you don’t, you have to put them in a pressure canner. And for a long time, whoever regulates canning shit, said that steam canning was not safe.


But recently—I think it was Wisconsin University—some school in Wisconsin did a study and found that it is safe, which is great because I prefer it to waterbath canning, and it’s how I learned to can.

And it also, I mean was this, was the test subjects just all 18 of your great grandmother’s children, or? Because I think that’s a large enough sample size.

I think so too. They also used the wood stove. No, so the difference between water bath canning and steam canning is water bath canning, you’re just taking a big ass pot, and you’re submerging your jars and water, and that’s what creates the heat and the pressure and the vacuum seal. But it’s really unwieldly because you’re having to, like, deal with a big ass pot of boiling water. So steam canning is creating the same effect, but just with steam, so the amount of water you need is much smaller. So that’s how I learned and that’s what I prefer. It’s very quick. And then pressure canning takes a special tool called a pressure canner.

You can’t just put it in a pressure cooker.

No, but you can use your pressure canner for pressure cooking, if that makes sense.


But pressure canners have—there are two different types, and don’t ask me to explain the difference in detail because I won’t be able to—but there’s a weighted gauge canner and a dial gauge canner. And I believe what I use is a dial gauge. So it has this special gauge on top that tells you how much pressure you’re creating within the canner.

So is the basic idea that all this food goes into a jar, the lid goes on the jar, and then you’re trying to create enough pressure and heat to both cook the food and seal it? How does it seal it? Like is it, like, creating like a pressure difference inside and outside? That’s like sucking the lid down onto it, or?

Yeah, yeah, that’s my understanding. And it gets sciency especially with pressure canning because altitude impacts—

Of course it does.

Impacts the pressure in canning time. But that’s why it’s—so that’s one of the benefits of following—let’s talk about this actually, this will be useful. So, what makes a good canning recipe? Because it’s important to follow good canning recipes. And they’ll include things like how to make sure your food is acidic enough. They’ll included chart based on altitude telling you what pressure you need, and also how long to can things. They’ll tell you how and whether that changes depending on your jar size. So they’ll outline everything like that in the recipe. So it’s not, like, an equation you have to figure out every time you can a thing—unless you’re changing altitude constantly, which would be, I don’t know, adventurous.

Would you say it would be jarring?

Yes. Yes, it would be jarring. Yeah, once you know your altitude, it’s very easy. And they’re, like, companies like Bell jars put out entire books full of charts and recipes and things like that.

Okay, is there something special about like—like, I’ve never canned anything, but at various points I’ve looked at how to do basically everything. And I remember when I was looking at canning and a long time ago, I think I got shy—I think I got scared away by the botulism thing, honestly. And it was like something about, like, if you use the spatula—you use like a rubber spatula when you put the food in the jar, and if you don’t do it right then you like murder everyone you know.

Yeah, so there are some basic safety considerations. So maybe let’s, like, pretend we’re canning something.

Okay. Is it green beans?

Yeah, let’s can some green beans and we’ll walk through the steps. So. So we’re just canning plain green beans, which means that they’re not acidic. So we’re doing them in a pressure canner. So first you prep your food. So if we’re prepping green beans, that means I’m snapping all the ends off. And I’m washing them and I’m, you know, I’m making sure none of them are, like, moldy or anything like that. And then I’m getting a pot going to prep my jars and my lids. The thing about jars is that they’re glass. And the thing about glass is that if you put a hot thing into a cold glass thing, the glass thing will shatter, right?

Yeah. Which is why you don’t drink coffee out of mason jars. Well, people do, but why?

But then they make the ones with the handles as if you’re supposed to, you know?

Yeah, that’s a good point.

Yeah, that’s sketchy. Anyway, so sterilizing your jars and heating them up is sort of all done in the same step, you just toss everything in a big pot and put water in it, and you boil it for 10 minutes.

Okay, and that’s not the pressure canner, that’s just a pot of water on the stove.

Yep. And, you know, if you were to read like a canning website or something, they—people have all different methods for heating up and sterilizing their jars. I just think that that’s like the quickest and the thing that I do because then they’re both warm and sterile. So we’re doing green beans. So, let’s see, what I’m going to do next is take the jars out of the sterilized water. And I’m going to pack them full of these green beans. So we’re putting all of our green beans in a jar, and we’re doing something called raw packing, which means that the green beans are raw when I put them in the jar as opposed to cooked. And differrent recipes will tell you, you know what you should be doing. And then I pour warm liquid over them—in this case, it’s just water—because if there are air gaps in the jar, that means that there’s a chance air will get trapped, which you know, botulism and spoilage and things like that. But it also means there’s a chance that the jars won’t seal properly.


Recipes, use something called headspace. So your recipe will specify how much headspace to leave in a jar. And that means the space between the top of your food and liquid and the top of the jar. And so they’ve timed their recipe based on the headspace. So if the recipe says 1/2in headspace but I leave, you know, an inch and a half, it probably won’t seal because it’s not in the canner long enough to like vacuum all have that air out. Does that make sense?

Yeah. And then you murder everyone, you know?

Hopefully they just won’t seal and you try again. Botulism comes after the jar has sealed, and that’s when things go poorly. Yeah, so anyway, so we’ve got our beans and our liquid in a jar. We wipe the rims of the jar because that’s where the seal happens. So we want to make sure there’s nothing like impeding that.

Okay. Oh, like a little piece of dirt or something that would keep it from—or like a green bean stem.

Yes, exactly. For things that are, like, chunkier, that’s when your spatula technique comes in because you want to make sure there’s there aren’t any air pockets. Then you put your lids and your rings on. And then everything’s really hot, so you make sure you use gloves and appropriate tools and load everything into your pressure canner with, I don’t know, I think it’s an inch of water. It depends on your canner. And then you seal it up and you start your canning.

Are those, like, electric systems or they like stovetop,

Stovetop, I’ve never seen an electric one, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that existed.

No I just didn’t—I’ve never seen one of these things, so I struggle to visualize it. Okay, so it’s in the pressure canner and we start, and then you leave it for some length of time that is specified in the recipe?

Yep, yep. And, you know, different canners come with specific instructions to make sure that your weight is correct and your pressure is correct and things like that. So I won’t, like, try to detail that out because it depends on the tool you’re using. But assuming your weight and your pressure are correct, then you just set your timer once it’s up to pressure and leave it in.

Okay. Is this, like, are they usually like around an hour, or is this like three days? Or what’s—

It depends on the food and how acidic it is. So something like meat takes, let’s see, like the the bone broth recipe I use—the canning recipe—takes like an hour and a half in the pressure. But something like tomato sauce takes 15 minutes.

Oh, because it’s so acidic?


Okay. Cool.

You know, that means that, like, on tomato day, I can get through a bunch of batches but on broth canning day I can’t, so.

Yeah. What about tomato bone broth canning? Nevermind. Okay.

The lesson is not to—not to combine recipes.

See, I think that this is, like—you know, I’ve never been like a baker. I’ve technically baked things, but I’m not very good at following directions specifically. My mom isn’t any good at this either. I hope my mom isn’t—I have no idea if my mom’s listening to the podcast. You know, it’s like, I’ll start a recipe and then somewhere along the way, maybe halfway, three quarters of the way through, I’m just going to do something different. I don’t know why. And so I’ve always been a terrible baker. So maybe canning isn’t the food preservation method that I’m specifically going to get into.

I’m in the same way though.

Okay. Okay.

And here’s the thing. So like, with—there are so many fancy canning recipes. Like bourbon peach preserves, and—you know, like, people get ridiculously fancy. And those are never the recipes I use because I would be tempted to experiment. So when I—personally when I’m canning, I’m just canning, like, the most basic ingredients so that—like plain, just in water, I don’t even use salt. So when it’s time for me to cook later in the year, I can experiment because I haven’t, you know, I haven’t, like, made all of my beans into different like fancy bean recipes already. They’re just plain beans. I don’t know if that makes sense, but…

No, no, no, that makes sense. Okay, I think you’ve sold me on canning—this is—I mean, clearly our job is to sell me on each of these things, one after the other. Okay, so canning is good for something that you’re going to cycle through at home. And so that’s something that you grow or get access to at one time of year, so you can have access to it at another time of year. And you said you can also, like, can soups—is like the next level up of like the classic bachelor thing where you make a whole bunch of soup on Sunday and put it in the freezer and then just, like, eat that soup all week.

I mean, I do that. So I—soup is why I can, because my kid loves soup and that’s just like what we eat during the winter. So I’ll get off work and forget to have planned anything. So I’ll just open a jar of broth and a jar of stew meat and a jar of potato—you know, I just throw it all into a pot. But that’s like seven quarts of food into a single pot, so I think I’m doing both.


So we have soup for a week, but it’s from pre-canned food.

There’s—I really wish I was on my puns and jokes better today. But somewhere there’s a soup for our family joke.

I’m sure there is.

Hopefully someone will just tell it to me later on Twitter in a way that is either very charming or very annoying.

You’ll have to send it to me.

Okay, so that kind of covers canning. Now everyone who’s listened is capable of making up their own recipes and so let’s move on from there to—what’s next? What do you like the most after canning?


Drying. Okay.

What do you want to know about drying, Margaret?

Well, I mean, okay, so like, I feel like there’s two parts to it. And maybe I’m totally wrong about this, but there’s both the, like, drying of the food and then the storing of the dried food. Does that seem like?

And then the preparing of the dried food.

Oh, yeah, no cooking is totally beyond anything.

It’s not like a can where you can just open it and heat it up.

Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, I mean, it’s like—oh, so that means I should probably just make canned beans. I’ve always felt like a terrible prepper because I’m, like, I have all these like dried beans. Then I’m like, I hate soaking beans. I definitely just eat canned beans.

See, that’s why I do both. So I get my, like, 50 pound bags of black beans, right? And I keep them in five gallon buckets. But then I rotate through them. So I will can large batches of them. So I’m only having to think about soaking them once, right? And then the cans and then I buy more dry beans to replace the ones I used, and then I have cans. Does that make sense?

Yeah. So you can soaked beans, not dried beans, right?

Yeah, well, they’re dried and then you soak them so—and it’s actually, going through the soaking process and then pressure cooking, essentially, makes them more digestible. So, I don’t know. It’s my favorite.

Okay. Yeah. Cuz like, it’s like, one of the reasons I’ve given—it’s really, I mean, people have probably noticed that I haven’t done a lot of episodes about food. And it’s not because I, like, think that like this other stuff is cooler. It’s because, like, food growing, preservation, and preparation, like, intimidate the hell out of me. And, you know, I’m convinced that I can’t grow anything because—I said this in like one of the last episodes—because I tried to plant a pine tree when I was a kid and I failed or whatever, you know. And I’m really excited to get to talk about this, basically, even though it’s very embarrassing that I’m, like, in my mind I’m like, oh, yeah, when you soak beans overnight they always—you soak them forever and they always end up still just a little bit, a little bit crunchy.

Because you still have to cook them.

Well, yeah. But—ah, and then the pressure cooker being the way to—okay.

But we were talking about drying food.

Yes. Right. Okay, so yeah, so okay. So there’s three different parts to it, there’s the drying of the food, the storing of the dried food, and the the preparation of the dried food. Let’s not too much get into the preparation of the dried food today. But let’s talk about the, like, the drying and the storing. And I’m really sad about this storing because it’s the only thing that I’ve, like, done any of at all and done some research about. So.

You probably know much more than me about the storage, but—

Only in that I took a lot of notes like last week.

Oh Good!

But okay, how do you dry food?

Um, so I use just a really cheap food dehydrator, like the cheapest one I could find on Amazon. There are really fancy dehydrators you can get. You don’t have to buy a dehydrator at all, you can just, you know, set things out on trays and rotate them and, like, put a fan near them so there’s airflow.

When you say set things out, you mean like in the sun?

Um, I guess if you want it sun dried, but I—in general, if I’m preserving food, I try to keep it out of sunlight.

Okay, that makes sense.

That’s maybe—we didn’t talk about canning and how long things are shelf stable, but generally, if food is exposed to sunlight, it affects its shelf stability. So.


Um, but yeah, airflow is the—temperature and airflow are the major factors for drying food. So, especially if something’s very juicy, you want it to be lower temperature with lots of airflow because if the outside of it dries before the inside, it’s bad news. I guess it can cause mold for whatever’s on the inside if it doesn’t fully dry, but if it does fully dry, it means that like, say you’re drying cranberries or something, they’re rockhard instead of that, like, nice, tender, dryness. I can speak. So yeah, most of hydrators will come with like settings for different types of food. And you can look those up online as well. Like which foods need more heat, which foods want less heat.

How much does humidity affect this? Like I—where I live it’s basically I live inside a cloud. All of the South is just a cloud for all of the summer and so, like, I can’t even dry clothes on the line unless they’re in the direct sunlight. So I assume I would have to use—I would have to use one of these, like, what are they, electric? The ones that you’re talking about?

Yeah, I imagine so. I live in a not humid place. So I haven’t had to think about that. Also storage, I imagine that you probably have more trouble with food storage.

I do.

Yeah. But, you know, then there are things that apparently great if you have a higher humidity, like—what I’m sure you’re super interested in—salt curing meat is, apparently a higher humidity is better so—

Oh, really?

There’s that.

I wonder what I can salt cure.


Just slabs of seitan. It sounds terrible. Okay.

The things that that I mostly dry are nuts and seeds because I grow a lot of sunflowers and also I live in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s, like, filbert and walnut territory, acorn territory.

Do you have to prepare—the only one of these things I know anything about is acorns. And I know that you have to do a lot of work to get the tannins out of acorns. You do that before you drive them in this case?

You know, I’ve actually heard—and I’m planning to try this this year—but I’ve heard that it’s actually quicker to get the tannins out if you dry them first because then, when you introduce water to flush the tannins out, it can, like, fully saturate the nut meat.


Does that make sense? So you’re getting rid of all the moisture first, and then when you introduce fresh water to the nuts, it can penetrate into the like flesh.

Okay. Because yeah, it takes forever to flush acorns.

It does. If you—I mean, you have a stream, so that would be much, much less time intensive. For folks who don’t know, acorns are delicious, but only if they’re not full of tannins.

Which is like, what, a natural preservative or something that’s in them that, in order to human edible, you have to get rid of.

Yeah, I mean, there are tannins and lots of food. It’s the thing that makes sour food sour or like astringent food astringent, but, you know, the amount that’s in the average acorn can give you a tummy ache.

Okay, so is this, like, is this one of the ways that you would—because I assume basically all the nuts I eat in my life are, like, dried nuts, right? Because I’m not going around eating fresh nuts. So this is like one of the main ways, if you wanted to make the nuts that you grow taste like the nuts people are used to eating, you would dry them first in this way, right?

Like acorns or just?

Oh sorry. I was going back to like, you know, the other nuts?

Yeah, yeah.

Cashews. I don’t know. You didn’t say cashews, I was just thinking about cashews. Because I like cashews.

I think cashews are actually way different. Have you seen a cashew plant?

All of the nuts look really weird in the wild. I struggle to understand them. This is the most embarrassing episode I’ll ever put out. It’s just like, I’m this crazy person who lives in the woods. And I don’t know anything about plants.

Because cashew is part of a fruit, right? It’s not, like, in a hard shell like a walnut. Anyway. Let’s not talk about cashews.

Let’s not talk about cashews. I’ll pretend like I know what filberts are and talk about them.

A filter is just—I think it’s actually a different species than a hazelnut, but it’s what we call hazelnuts here.

Okay, cool.

So like filberts and walnuts, things that have a hard shell that you crack the shell open, and then—you can eat it fresh. It’s delicious, fresh. But if you want to store it, you just dry it.


And some nuts you dry in the shell like walnuts, but some you don’t have to.

Okay. And so drying is like a little bit simpler. It’s like—


If you’re drying walnuts, you look at the article that says “this is how you dry walnuts,” and you put them in your dryer and you dry them.

I mean, I don’t even put nuts in a dryer, because they’re already so dry.

You just leave them out.

Yeah, I just—like, I put a blanket on the floor in front of my fireplace in the winter and just have a, like, mound of nuts that I—


Like, rotate. So, but if you’re doing something that’s, like, quicker to spoil, I guess, like fruit or vegetables, than a dehydrator might be the solution for you.

Okay, how long—like, what are some of the advantages of drying food? I mean, obviously, like, certain foods, like nuts and things, like that’s like almost, like, the way that you you store them, right? But it’s like, I don’t know a ton about, like, dried fruits—I suppose I know fruits a bit—but like dried vegetables, and, you know, is this, uh, like, how long do they last? Like, what is good about this method?

I think it’s good because it’s smaller so it’s easier to store, right? It’s also lighter. So that goes back to our conversation about, you know, preparing to be on the move as opposed to being stationary. For things that are snackable it’s nice to have snacks, so like dried fruits, dried seeds, things like that. Um, I—there are a few vegetables that I routinely dry because I routinely use them. Garlic is one. I guess alliums. Can we call the allium family of vegetable? Garlic and onions are two of them because I don’t really can them. You could ferment them, especially fermented garlic is really popular, I just don’t do it. Um, but, like, the number of times I’ve gone to make soup in the winter and not had garlic or onions is embarrassing. But if I have them dried, I can just toss in a handful and it’s delicious.

Okay, but like, so if you dry—how long does dried fruit last? How long do dried vegetables last? Like, is it, like, good enough to last you—kike most of these food preservation methods are sort of, like, meant to kind of get you until—set you up so that the next time—until the next harvest of the same thing. Is that kind of the general idea, like, so that you have this thing that lasts, like, hopefully almost a year, or?

Oh, they can last—I mean, I have like dried onions, dried plums in my pantry that have been there for two years and are perfectly good. The thing about, like, everything other than canning, is that if something goes bad, you can see it or smell it. So it’s good until it, you know, it’s good until you can see or smell that it isn’t good anymore. And that depends on, you know, how you’ve stored it. Do you put—is it in direct sunlight? Is it totally dry? Is it in a hot place? A cool place? Things like that. But it lasts a long time. That’s a really vague answer. I think you were looking for something more specific.

I mean, it’s fine. We don’t have to have, like, a chart—an audio chart of, like, you know, column A, the fruit, column B, how long it lasts with each different method. Okay, that’s how you would organize the data anyway.

It seems like there should be more to it, right? Like, there should be more to talk about with dried food. But it’s so simple. You just—


But storage you wanted to talk about and I feel like you probably know more about storage can I do.

Well, only because, like, I came into this with this “I don’t know how to make food” thing, right? And, you know, I just remember a couple years ago a food scientist friend of mine was like—this was maybe like four or five years ago—was like, hey, I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but the supply chain on food is looking a little bit precarious this year, or whatever. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna just start having some, like, five gallon buckets of like beans and rice around. And that was probably what started me on the journey that you’re all along for with me today. And so I just would go and buy, you know, basically prepper food, right? Ideally, the ones with like the least markup or whatever, but just, you know, five gallon buckets or huge cans of stuff that’s like freeze dried or whatever and it’s like meant to last 30 to 50 years on a shelf. And so I was doing that. And—but then I realized as I started to kind of, like, scale this, and more people are asking me for my recommendation. And I don’t want to just be like, oh, go to Amazon, because that’s the main place to buy Augason Farm stuff, you know—ans go for this company I don’t know anything about. And instead realized, was like, well, there has to be a way to just, like, put rice in a five gallon bucket. It’s like not quite as easy as that. You can do that and that’ll last for a fairly long time, again, depending on your conditions, especially humidity and sunlight, as you mentioned, and oxygen is actually one of the biggest ways that, like, long shelf life foods go bad. And so the thing I’ve been researching, and I’ll probably make a YouTube video about in the next week or so, is how to store dried goods for like long term storage, which is less the like—I feel like, in my head, there’s like two tiers of food storage. And there’s the more important one, which is what you’re talking about and the, like, the things that you can cycle through and to get you through any given interruption. And then there’s the sort of deep storage stuff where, I don’t know, I don’t see a reason for most people not to have, like, a month or two of food sitting in five gallon buckets in their basement, you know, that just sit there and you can pass them on to your kids. And—who will be like, really? Why are you giving this to me? But—actually, that’s very optimistic to think that they won’t immediately understand the need for such things.


And I like to imagine that will be around for 30 to 50 years from now. That seems optimistic, but I like it. So long term food storage, you can make beans and rice and many other things last 30-50 years. And the main way going at the moment—there’s a lot of different ways to do it—but basically it’s like the main way that people are doing right now and in prepper world, and it’s mostly, I think pioneered by the Mormons. A lot of the information you can get about this—and if you live in Utah, apparently there’re these stores will they’ll just sell you really cheap beans and rice, and some of them are open to people who aren’t in the church. But you basically, you put them into mylar bags, which are plastic bags with like an aluminum layer—which isn’t technically the definition of mylar but, like, when you say mylar bag, it’s what you mean—and you heat seal the bags. You put in the dried food, and then you put in oxygen absorbers. I always thought you put in desiccant because I think that humidity all of the time. The instruments that I built last year, some of them aren’t even playable right now because the warping because the stupid humidity. I don’t understand how a mountain dulcimer was invented in Appalachia and has such a thin soundboard. Anyway. So, but you don’t put in desiccants necessarily—actually, in general, you don’t. It actually seems to be contraindicated. But instead you put in oxygen absorbers that are sized to the size of bag, and you got to do it kind of quick, because obviously when you open up the oxygen absorber starts absorbing oxygen. And what it is is like little iron fillings that are absorbing that are oxidizing and making rust, I think, and they’re in little sealed packets that air can go in, but rust pellets can’t come out. You drop it in, you heat seal the bag, you can either get like a little flash sealer for like 25 bucks, or you can use a household iron, or you can use a hair—you know, it’s like, I have a feeling that people making these things don’t actually do this because I’ve seen people say straightening iron or curling iron. But um, you can seal it with heat. And then it is sealed. And then that doesn’t keep like animals and stuff out, so then you put it in a bucket. So really, long story short, you take a mylar bag, at least five mil thick—mil is not millimeter, it’s, I don’t know, .001 or something, I don’t remember. Millionth of an inch or 1,000th of an inch or something. You put in the oxygen absorber, you heat seal it, you put it in the bucket, and you’re good. And it seems kind of simple. And it’s a lot cheaper per five gallon bucket of beans and rice then going and getting the pre made stuff.


But being able to do it with stuff that you dry yourself—again, like, different things are gonna last different lengths of time. And oh, and you can only do this with stuff that’s, like, less than 10% water content. You know, it has to be like way more dried. So you can’t just like put in your, like, dried fruit and stuff. It’s like almost all like rice and beans and oats and other things. And then there’s like weird stuff where like brown rice is actually harder to preserve than white rice because brown rice has, like—which is much better, of course, in general—has more stuff, like more oils in it that can go bad. That’s what I’ve learned, but you should correct me if that’s what you’re about to do.

No, no, I was just gonna say I’ve heard of people—or I’ve seen something called dry canning. I haven’t actually tried it. But it’s something similar, except you’re using jars and you’re using an oven to, yeah, create a seal—a hot seal on the jars. And it’s supposed to make dried food last longer. I’ve never personally understood the purpose of things like that just because I rotate. So it’s just like a part of my life and routine. But yeah.

Just having some deep storage, you know, like—but okay, this actually makes me—why are mason jars clear? Because isn’t sunlight the enemy of, like, all food preservation?

Yeah, I guess so I honestly—I have no idea. They make fancy, like, tinted jars, but they’re much more expensive. I imagine it’s just because it’s more expensive to make tinted glass. But like traditionally you’re not keeping your jars on a shelf in direct sunlight. You’re keeping them, like, in your basement or your root cellar or something like that.

Okay, so we’ve been talking almost an hour, and obviously there’s still several methods of food preservation left, but maybe we won’t go into the details about any of the other ones—unless, is, like, is there like one more that you want to like quick like shout out? Like hey, look how great salting is, or pickling, or, I don’t know.

Yeah. I mean, fermenting and pickling is amazing. And that’s, like, an episode in and of itself. And I think that it’s really like trendy right now, so probably accessible for people to find information on. And then salt preserving and sugar—I can’t eat sugar, so I don’t do sugar preserving. But those two methods are surprisingly simple. And I’m just beginning to experiment with salt preserving, but I love it. So, I dunno. Check it out.

Is it just like you take the thing and you pack it in salt and then you’re like, it’s good.

Kinda, yeah. Kinda, yeah.

That’s cool.

I mean, there’s more to it than that, but basically.

Okay, well, I don’t know. You’ve sold me on far more food preservation instead of just looking at it from this, like—you know, as much as I want to like try and sell you on deep storage, I think that that’s like the far and away least useful aspect and like the one that ties most into, like, the bunker mentality that I supposedly shit talk all the time. You know, and so this, like, this—these methods of cycling through appeal quite a bit to me. Is there any—are there any like last thoughts on food preservation or anything else about any of this that you want to you want to bring up?

Just that once you start digging into it, you’ll probably be shocked by how many things you can can from, you know, butter to water. So.

Wait, really?

To whole chickens. So it’s pretty flexible and pretty fun once you get the basic down. Canned water.

I’m laughing about the canned chicken because I’m imagining, like, the chicken like coming out and running away when you opening up the can 15 years later. Alright, well, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. And also, you know, thanks for helping make the show accessible. And, I don’t know, I really appreciate that, and I appreciate all the work that you’ve done with that.

You’re welcome. I’m dreading transcribing this, but I will do it. So.

I appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you got out of this as much as I did. I didn’t know anything. I mean, well I didn’t know anything compared to what I now know. And I’m excited to eat green beans, I mean, prepare green beans. No, I’m mostly just excited to eat green beans. I really like green beans. I’m really glad that was the example food we used. If you liked this episode or this podcast, you should tell people about it and tell people about it on the internet. Well, tell about it in real life. But if you tell people about it on the internet, all the like weird algorithms will like make other people know about it if you like, and comment, and subscribe, and do all the stuff. And you can also support me directly on Patreon. My Patreon is And there’s a bunch of like zines and other things up there. And they’re behind a paywall, but if you live off of less money than we make off of the Patreon, then you should just message us and—or me, I guess, on any social media platform, and I will give you access to all the content for free because the main point is to put out content and I really just appreciate everyone’s support helps me do that. And in particular, I want to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana, Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, the Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, and Nora. And also I would be remiss not to tell you that I have a book available for pre-order. AK Press is republishing a new edition of my book, A Country of Ghosts, which is an anarchist utopian book. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably have like a vague idea of what I’m talking about when I talk about anarchy like that. But if you don’t, or if you do, you might like this book, A Country of Ghosts. And if you hate the government and capitalism, you might like it. And if you hate the government but like capitalism, or if you like capitalism but hate the government, then I would challenge you to read this book anyway, because you might learn that both of those are very interrelated things and you’re kind of only doing it halfway and you have to destroy the Ring of Power and it must be—don’t be a Boromir. You should throw the Ring of Power into the—into the fires of Mount Doom. Anyway, you should tell me about the fun foods that you all prepare, because I will be jealous. Or I’ll start canning my own foods and I’ll talk to you all soon.

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