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S1E57 – Nadia on Harm Reduction

Episode Summary

Margaret and Nadia talk about harm reduction, what it is, how it relates to community preparedness, strategies for including harm reduction in your preparedness routines, and a little bit of history and legality as relates to different kinds of drug use.

Guest Info

Nadia works with Next Distro and can be found at https://nextdistro.org/

Host Info

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

Publisher Info

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

Transcript

LLWD: Nadia on Harm Reduction

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 today, Margaret killjoy. And today, I am really excited about this episode, I think you’ll all get a lot out of it. I guess I say that every time but I wouldn’t record these episodes, if I didn’t think you would get a lot out of them. Today, we are talking about harm reduction. And we were talking about preparedness that includes drug users. Because, if you think you don’t know any drug users, you just don’t know anyone who is willing to tell you that they’re a drug user. And we will talk about that and a lot more. But first, 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 01:01
Okay, we’re back. And if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns. And then kind of a little bit about your background about the kind of stuff that we’re gonna be talking about today.

Nadia 01:52
Yeah, sure, hey, Margaret. My name is Nadia, I use they or she pronouns. And I am a harm reductionist, a drug user. And I have both worked at in-person syringe service programs, and currently work for an online meal based program, where we ship safer drinking supplies to folks all over the country.

Margaret 02:16
That’s cool. So we talked about having you on, because we wanted to talk about preparedness that includes the drug users in your community, whether the person listening to this as drug user, or whether they care about drug users in their community. And I know it’s a big open question, but I kind of wanted to ask you that. How prepare that?

Nadia 02:45
Well, you know, I think that when we talk about prepping, disaster prepping and harm reduction, they’re really similar, because it’s really boils down to a risk assessment and thinking critically, right? The world isn’t black and white, it’s not really an easy question to answer, for example, should I evacuate or not in a disaster? Similarly, how do I protect myself as a drug user, in a world that isn’t concerned about my health or safety? And you know, for people who historically lack access to resources, and healthcare, I think talking about how to prepare or what readiness looks like, is especially important.

Margaret 03:28
So, I guess I kind of want to start with some of the practical questions. It’s like, what are the things that one should do that are different from what one would otherwise do? Like I’m like thinking about like, even for my own sake, right. Like, I’m like, like people say, like, carry Narcan, for example, like, how does one access that? What is the shelf life on that? Is that a thing that if community like mutual aid groups or individuals who have like large stashes of things or whatever? Is it like worth having a bunch of. Is it depend on community access? Is it better to just like, specifically coordinate with existing harm reduction and like needle exchange groups in your area? Like, it seems to me that like, like, one of the prepper mindset things is like, “Oh, there’s a thing I need, I should go out and get a bunch of it”. Right? And my instinct here is that maybe that rather than run out and get a bunch of say, Narcan, it would be more about like, be aware of how people can access that and which groups do distribute that and then maybe have like enough for me to carry around? I don’t know. Yeah, like, I guess let’s start with Narcan. What’s What’s the Narcan?

Nadia 04:40
Sure. Um, so for folks that are listening that don’t know, Narcan or naloxone is a medication that will reverse an opioid overdose. And you know, it, it should be kept in a relatively temperature stable area, but there’s there’s been a lot of studies on it. And they have shown that it maintains its efficacy, much past expiration dates and the kind of temperature parameters. So you don’t want to keep it somewhere freezing or super hot, but it is more resilient than you think. And having some naloxone is better than having none. And you mentioned, you know, going out and sort of stocking up. And I think that this is a broader conversation about prepping too, the difference between being ready and hoarding, right, yeah, and sometimes that line definitely gets blurry. Do you really need 100 pounds of rice? Are you going to go through it before it gets bad? Do you have a proper place to store it? I mean, you can talk about naloxone in the same way. And you know, just like you can keep Narcan in your bag. If you’re going to a show going to a bar, you can also keep some in your gobag, if you have one, to evacuate, for example.

Margaret 06:06
What’s the….you know, I usually present myself as sort of the the person who pretends like she doesn’t know what she’s asking in these episodes, but I actually don’t know as much about this as I would like. Alot of my friends are way more knowledgeable about this stuff. Like what is the difference between Narcan and naloxone? And how would I go about getting some to carry around with me?

Nadia 06:29
Sure. So Narcan is really just a brand name, that’s the the nasal spray. Naloxone is the actual medication. You can pick it up from certain service programs in your area. If you don’t have a needle exchange in your area, you can go just Google Next Distro. We mail Naloxone to folks, so just check the website, see if you live in a state or an area where we do that. But we do try to encourage people to sort of seek out resources where they live. But yeah, there’s there’s a lot of different organizations, everything from sort of anarchist collectives, running needle exchanges to health departments that are, you know, offering trainings and providing Narcan.

Margaret 07:19
What’s the legality of it?

Nadia 07:21
So, as far as you know, carrying it with you, there is what is called a standing order. It’s basically a sort of blanket prescription. You can go to the pharmacy, purchase Naloxone, it can be prohibitively expensive, especially if you don’t have insurance, which is why I kind of mentioned, you know, needle exchanges and health departments first. But I think, you know, as far as having it on your person, it’s not going to be a situation where it’s illegal. However, we know that cops like to fuck with people. So if you do happen to have Naloxone, and you have syringes on you, I’m not going to say you’ll be fine. However, the law is on your side in that regard. And another piece of that, too, is different states have different Good Samaritan laws. So if you are with someone that is experiencing an overdose, in many states, not all, you can call 911, without the fear or threat of potentially being arrested for small possession, or things like that. They are very narrow in a lot of places. But that’s something that you’re going to want to look into for your state.

Margaret 08:37
So it’s like, this makes sense, like so probably, if I have some drugs on me and my friend has some drugs on me and my friend overdoses. There’s a fear of involving the medical establishment because there’s a fear of me or the person who’s overdosing getting arrested for what we have on them. Is that what you’re saying that this law protects? Like, yeah, in some states protects people about?

Nadia 09:00
So you know, there’s, there’s a lot of stigma, right? And you know, just the the illegality piece. And at the end of the day there, there is an overdose crisis in the United States, in many places. And so these laws are designed to sort of take some of that fear away. And if you are responding to someone who’s experiencing an overdose, you don’t have to tell 911 when you call that this person is on drugs or that they are overdosing. You can just merely describe the symptoms and what is happening to them. For example, this person is not breathing, they’re turning blue. I can’t hear a heartbeat, whatever it might be. And you know, if you do have to leave and you have given them Naloxone, you can just leave the vials or or the package next to the person that way when EMS does arrive, they do know “Okay, this person has been given Narcan, “and they can kind of go from there,

Margaret 09:59
Right. Okay, so like if you have reasons that you don’t want to interact with emergency personnel and need to leave the scene, okay.

Nadia 10:07
Yeah, and you have options. And that’s kind of the whole thing about harm reduction, right? It’s a pragmatic approach to drug use and a realistic one. And so, you know, that’s why there, there are no hard and fast rules of do this, or don’t do this, but, you know, sort of a continuum of human behavior. And, you know, acknowledging the risks at any point of it.

Margaret 10:30
I want to come back to that in a little bit, because I want to have this whole conversation about what harm reduction…like why the work that y’all do is so like, philosophically important, to like disaster preparedness, and probably life in general. But first, I want to, I want to keep talking about some of this stuff, like with, like, you’re talking about the, you know, there’s an overdose crisis in the United States, I feel like everyone, on some level knows that. And one of the things that’s so interesting to me, I would think I was thinking about before we did this episode is that it’s like, you know, this is all about like, disaster preparedness, right? The whole show. And it feels like a lot of communities and certainly including drug communities. I don’t know the way phrase that…..

Nadia 11:18
You can say, “people who use drugs.”

Margaret 11:20
Okay. But so there is a disaster happening right now. Like, there is a crisis. Like there’s a reason we call it crisis, you know, it’s like a really fucking bad thing. And I’m wondering if, without necessarily going into it, like, too great, but I’m curious, like, what is happening? Like, what is what’s happening right now? Why is everyone OD’ing? ,

Nadia 11:44
Well, you know, there’s a lot of different facets to the overdose crisis and a lot of different solutions. Some of them sort of more triage, you know, we were just talking about Naloxone, and, and it’s a great medication, it saves lives. But ultimately, what we really need is a safe supply of drugs. If people are aware and knowledgeable of what they’re taking, how potent it is, if there are any adulterants in it, you know, that’s where we would like to go. Obviously, drugs are illegal. Most drugs are illegal in most places in the United States. And, you know, there there has been pushes for access to safe supply in places like Canada in, you know, I believe Oregon has, has I think, legalized some drugs, right? You can purchase I think mushrooms now. Don’t quote me on that. I’m not actually familiar with Oregon law.

Margaret 12:46
Anyone listening this, you can go out and buy mushrooms legally. And if the police stop you, you can say “it”s okay. It’s not a crime.” Don’t do that. Okay. Anyway. Yeah.

Nadia 12:57
I mean, you know, philosophically, it’s not a crime. It’s not a crime to do drugs. And, you know, the, the idea that some of these drugs are illegal, and some of them aren’t, really, is sort of goes back to like this puritanical history of our country. You know, why is alcohol legal when we know that drunk driving rates are through the roof, and you know, it can cause incredible damage to your body over time. But then, you know, smoking marijuana is, is still illegal in a lot of places. where I live, for sure, especially in the south. So, you know, I think that there’s there’s that moral component

Margaret 13:38
So we should bring back prohibition?

Nadia 13:40
Yeah, exactly. And so I think, you know, as far as having access to drugs that are safe, drugs, that that you know, what you’re getting, you know, I think that we don’t want to short….when I say ‘we,’ I mean people who use drugs, I mean, people in the harm reduction community. We don’t want to shortchange ourselves. I don’t want to say, “Oh, well, the overdose crisis would be so much better if everyone had not Narcan.” Yes, that’s true. But that’s a temporary fix,

Margaret 14:11
Right. It’s…no, that’s such a good point. Because I feel like that’s like the…I know I owe came out the gate with like that as the first thing that was on my mind. And I, and I’m, like, kind of embarrassed about that because it’s such the like, it’s the band aid we always keep getting presented. And it’s like a real good band aid. It’s more like the tourniquet we keep getting presented. But, it does seem like yeah, what you’re talking about decriminalization, it’s almost like when you make things illegal, it doesn’t make the problem go away.

Nadia 14:40
Yeah, and you know, I think about it in terms of living under capitalism for so long our entire lives, right. And you get to a point where it’s hard to think about solutions outside of the current system. We’re so focused on kind of again, that that triage, right, how do we make things better within this oppressive state that we live in? But really, ultimately, the goal should be moving past that and moving beyond it, right?

Margaret 15:11
Yeah. Yeah. So to go back with preparedness, I know that you do a little bit of preparedness yourself. We talked before we started recording about, you know, canned vegetables and things like that. How does it impact your preparedness, both that you are a drug user, and also that you, like, care about and take drug users into consideration in your preparedness?

Nadia 15:40
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of it is planning, right? I’m gonna use the example of of evacuating, I lived in the Gulf South for a very long time. Hurricanes were a yearly occurrence. And so I had to think about it a lot. But, you know, just in terms of what your risk is, and making a decision based on that, for example, if you are evacuating, do you bring drugs with you and sort of chance getting pulled over? Or do you try and score in a new place? And you have to decide what the bigger risk is for you. For example, if I’m driving with five of my friends in an unregistered van with acab stickers all over it, I might not want to be riding dirty, I might not want to have drugs on me. Versus, you know, if I am going somewhere completely unfamiliar to me, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to score when I get there. It might be worth the risk, right? And so thinking of those things in advance is really important. And the longer you wait in an emergency situation, the longer it’s going to take you to get out of that cone of impact, right? If you wait to the last minute, there’s going to be you know, traffic on the road, it’s harder to to get out, it’s harder to find a hotel room, for example. So really, that thinking of it in advance, you know, I think can save you a lot of critical time when you need to act.

Margaret 17:10
Yeah. Yeah, like, I don’t envy a lot of my friends who live in the Gulf South, are like, “What do I need?” And I’m like, I don’t know, a house in the mountains somewhere. And then I’m like, No, that doesn’t. That doesn’t help. You know, I can’t just tell people that.

Nadia 17:26
Well, and I mean, you know, we’re talking about preparedness, we’re talking about disaster prep. And, you know, a lot of places that haven’t had to deal with disasters, like hurricanes or flooding, or wildfires are seeing more and more of that now. And there’s a greater impact on bipoc, queer and trans folks, disabled people, you know, marginalized groups whose access to resources is already more limited. And, you know, I think we really need to look towards communities that have been repeatedly harmed, especially by structural and environmental racism, I think they’re best informed as to how to survive and how to support each other. And I don’t want to say just in the Gulf south, but I’m talking about Flint, Michigan, I’m talking about, you know, Jackson, Mississippi, there’s a lot of places where, you know, people are painfully aware that no one is coming to save you. It could be weeks or months for FEMA to arrive. In many places, local governments rely on mutual aid networks and charity groups to provide support. And so that kind of vacuum speaks to the importance of building dual power. Because it leaves the field open, I think for kind of any group that wants to become entrenched or inevitability, to sort of step up, right, whether that’s a homophobic church group, right wing militias, especially in rural or remote areas, because, people remember who took care of them. You know, that’s one of the reasons why the Black Panthers were such a threat with free breakfast programs and community care, is why Food Not Bombs is illegal in some places. There’s just there’s a lot of power in community sufficiency.

Margaret 19:23
Yeah. I mean, and so you, you mentioned that there’s like lessons that you draw from these specific places, especially bipoc. communities that are under like constant threat. What are some of the lessons that you feel like you draw from that? I mean, besides the one that you just pointed out, maybe that’s the answer to the question, what you point out that like, building mutual aid networks and stuff like that, but….

Nadia 19:45
Yeah, absolutely, figuring out who is in your support network. Also in a disaster or crisis situation, how will you communicate with that network is really important. You know, do folks know where you’re staying and vice versa? Yeah. Also, you know, we’re talking right now and 2022, almost 2023, the COVID pandemic isn’t over. So figuring out how you can shelter places safely, you know, do you have masks on hand? That sort of thing. And then going back to prepping for people who use drugs, stocking up on drugs, you know, you might be thinking, “Oh, well, after the fact, I can just XYZ,” whatever your plan is, but what if your dealer evacuated? You know? And, you know, the, as far as staying with other people, how do they feel about drug use? Does everyone know where the naloxone is and how to use it, you know, disasters are stressful, you might be dealing with extreme temperatures, hunkering down with people and their different temperaments, and, you know, for most of us to, stress impacts drug use, and it’s important to keep that in mind. If you’re, you know, for example, trying to cut back or regulate your use. I think all of these things, you know, are useful for people who use drugs, but ultimately, I think they’re all skills or at least, you know, aspects of preparing that are beneficial for anyone.

Margaret 21:14
Yeah. Well, so interesting, because it you know, normally we think of like, okay, if you can get more of a medication that you need ahead of time, right? That’s great. And, you know, there’s this limitation, it’s actually very similar limitation, the limitation is legality. In this case of like, you know, it’s, it’s sometimes very hard for people who even have a prescription to get more than, you know, a month’s worth of supply or whatever, at a time of any given prescription. And it’s, it’s something that people run up against a lot. And then obviously, with, I don’t know, whether the way to phrase it as street drugs or not, or like drugs that are not being bought through the pharmaceutical networks or whatever, you know, there’s an accessibility that is hit and miss. And then there’s also an increased danger of stockpiling, because it seems like the the level of risk that you’re carrying for getting busted changes a lot based on how much of any given drug you have on you.

Nadia 22:11
Yeah, definitely. And I do want to kind of speak to one of the pieces you talked about, as far as having medications, you know, if you’re on prescription medications, you know, you can check in with your provider, see, if you can get a larger refill than normal say, you know, instead of 30 days, can you get a 60 day supply, especially for people who use drugs, who might be on, you know, medication assisted treatment, they might be taking methadone, naltrexone, and, you know, these are highly effective in terms of either regulating your use, or perhaps, you know, not using it all. But they can be difficult to access. And in some places, it’s harder to pick up the prescription for Vivitrol or suboxone because of stigma, because pharmacists, you know, have this idea of, of drug users, or they just might not know the the regulations and laws in their area. And you might not know them either, because you’re new. So, I think that checking in, like I said, with providers ahead of time, if that’s possible, and you know, doing what you can in terms of stocking up, but this, that whole plan needs the assistance of people in the medical field. And even they have, you know, that kind of stigma, unfortunately,

Margaret 23:33
Yeah, yeah. To self insert this, I got refused a COVID shot because I was wearing a harm reduction shirt once.

Nadia 23:41
Wait, why what was the excuse that they gave you?

Margaret 23:45
I went in, I was like this dirty punk wearing a Steady Collective shirt, which is the harm reduction group in Asheville, North Carolina. And I, it’s funny, I feel like it’s like Stolen Valor that I wear this shirt. Because people like when I wore in Asheville people were like, I love what you do. And “I’m like, thanks. What I do is I designed the logo.” And the reason I wear the shirt is because I designed the logo for it. So I’m very proud of…and it’s just crossed hypodermic needles. And

Nadia 24:13
It’s a cool logo.

Margaret 24:14
Thanks. Thanks. And I was in like, rural fucking right wing California. And I wanted a COVID booster. And so I went into the pharmacy. I found out ahead of time that this particular pharmacy did walk ins. And I walked in, and the the pharmacist at the counter was talking to a doctor who was in line in front of me. And they were both just complaining about drug users. And they were just both sitting there being like, “Oh, these damned, you know, junkies,” or whatever. I don’t remember how they phrased it, but it wasn’t polite. And then like the person finally leaves and I walk up and I’m like, Yall take walk ins? and she’s like, “No.” And I’m like, “Can I make an appointment? And she’s like, “Not for today.”

Nadia 24:59
That is wild. I mean, also you have a lot of people in the medical community that don’t really believe that COVID is a thing or that vaccines are effective. I mean, you can have an anti Vaxxer pharmacist, which is, yeah, I mean,

Margaret 25:16
And, like, this is such a, like, I face stigma once….I so it’s like, it’s really easy for me to imagine after that, that like, of course, people face stigma coming in and picking up their fucking medications, if they’re like, the kinds of medications that are, like methadone and stuff like that. That’s fucked up. I don’t know, that sucks.

Nadia 25:40
Yeah, and I mean, you know, we’re talking about COVID. And I think harm reduction is a huge piece of you know, how we can kind of move through the world right now. People are continuing to die and be disabled by COVID. And, you know, we were talking a little bit before, before we started about, you know, kind of the beginning of COVID. And I was really optimistic at first kind of seeing mutual aid networks spring up and more people coming to the realization that the government will kill us for the sake of the economy. But you know, now I think even in radical spaces, that sort of care and community level protection has given way to the more mainstream sentiment or desire to return to normalcy. And that’s just something that isn’t possible. And it’s not desirable to many, many people for whom normalcy was oppressive and a danger. Yeah, you know, I think that, especially as anarchists or folks that consider themselves radical, preppers, as well, we know that we keep us safe, right? That’s kind of the tagline. But, that should also apply to immunocompromised people as well, and disabled folks. And, you know, now, I think it’s a really great time to take stock of your existing protocols, and safety measures and sort of ask if those things that you’re doing or not doing are still in line with what our current risk is. And right now, going into winter, you know, nationally, over 10% of tests are coming back positive. And we know that we’re severely under testing, and we know that COVID reinfections, wear down your immunity. That increases your risk for long COVID or kind of lingering COVID symptoms, and, you know, makes people more susceptible to things like the flu, RSV, or Strep A, all three of which we’re seeing a surge of in this winter.

Margaret 27:43
Yay. Yeah. I think about it, like the fact that…I don’t know how to put this. Like, I wear a mask for the same reason I carry a gun. And it…and not that I want everyone to carry guns, that is a very personal decision based on the legality and the threat models that you’re facing. Bu,t I carry a gun, so that it is harder for someone to murder me and it is harder for someone to murder the people I care about who are near me, right? I wear a mask, so that I am less likely to die, and other people around me are less likely to die. This seems like such a, like the idea that there’s people who are like preppers or prepper adjacent, who are anti mask, and then anti vaccine is just so nonsensical to me. And I mean, I do think that like protocols do like, they do need to shift, we do need to realize it as we realize that this is endemic, and you know, we can’t…like we probably can’t just say no more live music in the course of human history. Right?

Nadia 28:58
I would hope not.

Margaret 29:00
But I especially like, when I walk into the grocery store, there is literally no cost to me to wear a mask. There is just, there’s only positive effects of me wearing a mask minus social stigma.

Nadia 29:17
You know, I think that we need, if we’re going to survive, care, kindness, and a lot of grace. Which requires us to acknowledge that there’s a huge cognitive dissonance people are dealing with right now. We’re three years into a global pandemic that’s killed six and a half million people around the world, the rise of fascism, I mean, there’s a lot and people’s responses are going to vary wildly. Kind of the metaphor I like to use is, it sort of feels like a house fire. And we’ve all just gone through this traumatic experience, and we’ve run out of the house in the middle of the night, and everyone is sort of behaving in a trauma informed way, some people are trying to run back into the house, some people are claiming that there was never a fire. And, you know, it’s, it’s trying to take care of each other, and hold ourselves accountable to being, you know, I think responsible for our communities, but while also acknowledging, you know, this is a weird fucking time. You know, I think too, this kind of goes back a little bit to our Naloxone conversation. You know, when we talk about masks, when we talk about boosters, these are sort of individual steps we can take, right? But ultimately, that’s, that’s only a piece of it, right? We need a societal shift. We need proper air filtration in schools, we need access to rapid testing, we need the working class to have the money and ability to take time off of work when they’re sick. I mean, all of these things are sort of interconnected to this larger struggle. And one way that capitalism and our sort of overlords here and Imperial core, are able to shift blame is by you know, kind of making everything this individual choice and individual responsibility when it’s not at all.

Margaret 31:33
No, that’s such a good point. And there’s it, it shows that there’s even like, some of those things are small scale community, things can be done as well, like, it would be a shame for a small scale community to have to suddenly like come up with the resources to provide rapid testing to everyone constantly or whatever, right. But like, I don’t know, like, helping your local venues get real good air filtration systems, you know, or like, expanding outside infrastructure in climates that allow it, and like, there are the steps that we can take that are sort of medium. They’re not….And I think that’s actually where anarchists and radicals actually do best is not at the individual level. And frankly, if I if I’m being honest, not necessarily at the systemic level, but like this sort of in between level, this community based this community size level of like, how do we? Yeah, I mean, we can’t….the punks or the anarchists, or whatever is can’t pass a mask mandate, but like, we can create, like, cultures where, when there’s no reason not to, we wear masks, and we work on our air filtration. And this is really just me thinking about COVID instead of the whole point of this conversation was drug use stuff, but…

Nadia 32:54
Well I mean, they’re, I think they’re interrelated. You know, if you are putting on a punk show, is it accessible, right? Does that mean, you know, for folks in wheelchairs, folks with, you know, mobility aids, as well as immunocompromised people, and ensuring that you know, this is a place that they have access to? Or if it’s not, saying that. I at least want you to say, “Hey, this is a dangerous place for you. And, making it accessible is not our priority or isn’t possible in this situation. Therefore, you can make your own decision about whether or not you want to attend.”

Margaret 33:36
I’ve been in like, an now I can’t remember if it was France or Montreal, somewhere where people spoke French. I’ve been in places where like any anarchist event will put on the fliers the accessibility or lack of accessibility for wheelchair access. And that’s such an interesting, good point, right? Because if you have to flag on it, “This is not wheelchair accessible.” It means you have to think about it when you do it, right. And like, Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t…I don’t know one way or the other about what I’m about to say, which doesn’t mean like you can’t put on an event if you can’t find it, accessible space, but you should have to own it, and you should have to be working on making the space more accessible. Is that, uh??? I’m really talking about my ass here. I haven’t I haven’t been part of these conversations. But.

Nadia 34:21
I mean, as someone who is struggling with long COVID still a year in, you know, I am also new to the disability conversation. And I definitely feel grateful for the folks who have been activists and have been organizing around these issues for you know, forever, honestly. And it really was shocking to me, even though I’m fairly realistic about how our society treats folks they deem unworthy or undesirable, but it was really shocking the level to which you become invisible. All. And you know, I think, to sort of shoehorn a little segue back to our orginal conversation, people who use drugs also live in that sort of liminal space, right? There’s so much that is invisible about drug use. But also, this kind of caricature of drug users is sort of trotted out anytime people want to talk about society’s ills, right? When people are talking about folks without homes, inevitably drug use comes up as if people aren’t sitting in their houses doing drugs. They just have walls and you can’t see them.

Margaret 35:38
Yeah, well, and then one of the things that I really appreciate about this conversation with you is that you’re talking about the implication, or the the inference that I’m picking up on, is that basically saying, It’s okay, if people use drugs, that is their choice, it seems to be like, like a lot of the conversation that I’ve feel like I’m exposed to is this, like, we should have pity for these poor drug users, and everyone is trying to stop using drugs. Whereas, it seems like you’re trying to present an alternate case where people can choose whether or not they want to engage with drugs in different ways?

Nadia 36:17
Yeah, I mean, you know, harm reduction is the sort of set of principles or tenants that allows for autonomy and allows for people to make informed decisions about what they do. You know, abstinence doesn’t necessarily work or isn’t feasible for everyone. And so, you know, giving people the space and acknowledging that there’s always going to be some risk in the things that we do, you know, helps us kind of approach it with clear eyes. But the I think the moral question around using drugs really does us a disservice. Doing drugs is fun, and cool. And that is, I think, an important message to have out there because, you know, so often, we’re just inundated with all of the terrible things that can happen to you. And again, this is normal human behavior. This is normal behavior in other other species, you’ve got monkeys eating, you know, fruit that’s gone, gone bad and getting drunk, you’ve got bears eating psychedelic honey. We do this because it’s enjoyable. And to deny it that, I think, sort of leaves us on our back foot in terms of “Okay, well, how do we do this safely?”

Margaret 37:41
Yeah, presenting as this is a bad thing that someone shouldn’t have done and now we have to deal with the bad parts, as compared to being like, every animal on the planet wants to do this, we should figure out ways that people can have freedom to do it as safely as they want or to not do it, if they don’t want.

Nadia 38:07
Right, and you know, both are fine. It’s also cool to not do drugs. I do want to put that out there. But as a drug user, you know, this touches on our conversation about safe supply, right? When you’re buying and you don’t know the quality or if there’s cross contamination, obviously, a lot of folks are very concerned about things like fentanyl right now. There’s also you know, other sort of fillers or things people can use. Xylazine is something that is sort of making the rounds right now that can have potential, like negative health impacts. So yeah, I think this, this goes back to sort of those bigger picture solutions as opposed to the band aids.

Margaret 38:55
Okay. And then, how useful is it? You know, like, as you pointed out earlier, right….Again, before, we had a long pre conversation. We knew each other back in the day for, now, people can know that about us, I guess. You know, pointing out because like, I mostly don’t do drugs, but I do drink sometimes, right, and that is a drug and alcohol is absolutely a drug. It’s a very dangerous drug. And it’s one that I engage with very rarely, but I do engage with, and it does seem like a fairly useful comparison for talking about other drugs. Like cause there’s this drug that is socially acceptable while also being massively destructive, right? And it seems like that actually maps fairly well to most of the other drugs that are like, problems for people. I don’t know is that too simplistic?

Nadia 39:51
No, I don’t think so. You know, and that’s also not to say that people don’t struggle with their drug use that people you You know, might be really unhappy with their relationship to drugs. And, you know, the more openly we can talk about it and the more access to different options people have, that sort of allows them to, you know, find the most comfortable place for them. Right, there is this, you know, kind of individual piece to it, even though we’re talking a lot about sort of community care,

Margaret 40:24
Right. No, that’s what I mean, that, in some ways, is part of why alcohol feels like such a good comparison. It’s not even a comparison, it’s literally a drug. It’s a drug that is somehow held into a different class than the others, is that I think we all know people who….for whom alcohol is a problem. And we all know people for whom alcohol is not a problem. And then we all know, people who completely abstain from alcohol, who are in one of those two camps, if they weren’t abstaining, you know? Hmm. I don’t know, I’m having this like, epiphany, that should have been obvious a long time ago, I think about this.

Nadia 41:02
Well, and, you know, thinking in terms of alcohol, and using that as an example of how constrained we are in terms of our choices, you know, if if you are someone that struggles with drinking, really the the options that are given to you are abstinence, right? 12 steps, complete sobriety, and the message that that is the only way that you will be able to, you know, become a functioning member of society. And the fact is that that’s simply not true.You know, abstinence really doesn’t work for many, many people. You know, I think most of us can remember the “Just Say No,” campaigns of the 90s, or maybe the 80s, depending on how old you are. And we know those didn’t work. It don’t work for children, it doesn’t work for adults. And, you know, I think I don’t want to get too far down the rabbit hole. But I think it would be important for folks to sort of think about, “Well, why is alcohol illegal? And all these other drugs aren’t?”And I think it all goes back to capitalism. It goes back to money. It goes back to social control.

Margaret 42:22
Yeah. Well, ironically, one of the reasons that alcohol is legal, is that a bunch of people fought the KKK to the death to make alcohol legal. I only learned as kind of more recently when I did a bunch of….one of my other podcasts is a history podcast. And I didn’t realize that the second incarnation of the KKK was like, one of their main things is that they were the foot soldiers of prohibition. They were like the Proud Boys of the prohibition era. And it was this whole thing where it was like Protestants versus everyone else, including reasonable Protestants. It was white Protestants against Irish Catholics, Italians, all of the people who were, you know, bootlegging, and all of that other stuff. And there were these like massive violent street fights. And I mean, mostly, it was massive violence, street fights about fuck you, you’re the KKK, we want to…you can’t run our town. But, what they wanted to do was run the town on a prohibition model. And there’s this like, really interesting tie between white supremacy and prohibition. And it? I don’t know, I mean, like, I know, I know how to immediately draw the same thing between the outline of weed and anti blackness. And I’m suspecting that if I dug very hard, I would find similar things with like, drugs, period. I don’t know. I just got really excited about people beating up the KKK and that’s why we’re allowed to drink.

Nadia 43:59
Yeah, that’s always a win, both of those things.

Margaret 44:06
But, what anyway, sorry, I got lost in rabbit hole thinking about that. Okay, so you’ve brought up this topic a couple times: harm reduction. And I suspect most people have at least an idea of what harm reduction is, but I’m wondering if you could kind of introduce it because, one, it feels very relevant to this specific conversation. But it also feels very relevant to conversations around disaster preparedness in general, because it seems to be implying that there is no perfect and that in some ways perfect is the enemy of good. And that we should just like, figure out what can go wrong and do the best we can rather than expect to succeed in everything. Maybe that’s a misunderstanding.

Nadia 44:51
That’s, that is I think, a really core piece of it, you know, and I don’t want to belie the the history behind harm reduction too, you know, this was a movement that was created in platformed by people who use drugs, by sex workers, especially during the HIV AIDS crisis. And again, you know, from groups of marginalized people that realize that they are the only ones looking out for each other. And you know, that many behaviors carry some form of risk. And so talking about that honestly, and figuring out how to mitigate that risk is far more helpful than shaming people and that is connected, you know, directly to the criminalization of HIV and AIDS too, you know, there’s the sort of moralizing, right, when folks become sick. There’s this idea, I think, that is rooted in very, like old school, Brimstone Christianity, that, you know, it’s some form of punishment. And I think that the way our society looks at people who use drugs, and the potential risks are viewed as appropriate punishment for the behavior, which is wrong and fucked up.

Margaret 46:06
Yeah. Okay, so. So what is harm reduction?

Nadia 46:12
So, you know, I think that if we’re specifically talking about drug use, that can be, you know, practical tips, anything from making sure that you’re using sterile supplies, making sure that you have syringes, and you don’t have to share them, to prevent the transmission of diseases, you know, that can be, you know, figuring out different routes of administration. So for example, if you’re someone that likes to snort a lot of drugs, maybe you want to give your nostrils a break, and, you know, smoke or boof. There are a lot of things that you can kind of adjust, right? You don’t even have to necessarily be adhering to this strict set of rules as far as your drug use, but really being sort of flexible based on your own needs.

Margaret 47:09
Okay. And then, what are some of the ways that harm reduction either applies to other things besides drug use, or like has been successfully applied, or like some of the ways that like harm reduction, as jargon, has been, like, kind of co-opted by other things?

Nadia 47:32
Yeah, I mean, I feel like especially after 2016, the the idea that voting is harm reduction really picked up speed. And I personally disagree.

Margaret 47:47
Okay.

Nadia 47:48
For the most part, because harm reduction is something that you know, you can use for yourself, for your drug use, and so when we say voting is harm reduction, my question is, “Whose harm is being lessened?” You know, we currently have a Democratic president, and there’s still concentration camps on our southern border, you still have Democratic mayors and city council’s introducing regressive anti homelessness laws, throwing more money at more cops. And so I just think the notion that we can affect the kind of change necessary to liberate us by voting is….it’s short sighted. And I think it can be an excuse for people to not have to invest so much in their allyship. Yeah, I think at its very base, most like literal definition, voting potentially reduces harm, but most of that is going to be in the immediate or short term.

Margaret 48:50
Well, so that’s really interesting to me, right? Because I think that I had a kind of misunderstanding of harm reduction in some ways, because from my point of view, I mean…voting as harm reduction just seemed to be the rephrasing of vote for the lesser evil. Because in my mind, voting for the lesser evil is acknowledging an evil, right, it is acknowledging like Like, like, Biden is an evil, the Democratic Party is an evil, that does evil things in the world. And so for me, there’s a there’s a sensibility to the argument of thinking that voting is how we make systemic change is terrible. And I actually thought that the kind of concept of, but they always lose their meaning, right, in the 80s. and 90s It was vote for the lesser evil and people were like, yeah, that’s how we make things better. It’s like, no, it’s clearly not how to make things better. It’s how you make things evil. You’re just controlling the amount of evil. And then with harm reduction argument, the reason I bought it at first was because it was like, “Oh, yes, because it’s, it’s saying there is going to be harm, but we want to do less of it.” But, with what you’re talking about, about how drug use or sex as two of the spaces that we talk about harm reduction a lot, right? Like those things can rule, right? Like sex and drugs, there’s a reason that people talk about them positively. They’re very dangerous activities sometimes, right. And people should go into them as clear headed as…well, maybe not clear headed depending on their preferences, but you know, people should should be aware of the risks, but then go and have all the sex and drugs and rock and roll or whatever that they want, as compared to… and so this is where the metaphor to the political system seems to fall apart to me is because like, well, the existing political system that we have is just doing bad. And it’s really about what tiny little bits of mitigation or picking, something’s going to kill. It’s the trolley problem, right? You’re still killing people. And that’s not fun and cool. That’s not sex, drugs and rock and roll. I don’t know. That’s what I got.

Nadia 51:01
Yeah. And, you know, I think that you really laid it out very well there. You know, yes, I can reduce the harm to myself if I am using drugs or having sex, but I can’t get these politicians that I voted in to reduce the harm that they are causing. Because, you know, if you’re voting for one of the two dominant political parties in the United States, I think you’re just asking yourself, if you want to get to fascism, the short way or the long way, because I think, you know, voting in Democrats does make a material difference when it comes to some social services, and some environmental protections. But ultimately, both of these parties work at the behest of the ruling class. And capitalism requires ceaseless consumption and growth. And neither of those are sustainable. And they require the subjugation of working class people. So I think, you know, if, you know, it’s, it’s a question of capacity, if you and the people in your community that you organize with have the time and resources to engage in electoral politics, while simultaneously building dual power, and fighting encroaching fascism, like, go with God. There’s space for a lot of tactics, and you gotta find where your skill set is and where your comfort lies. And I do just want to say this one last piece, too, when we talk about voting as harm reduction in the United States, that often I think tends to overlook the international implications of maintaining the current political system here,

Margaret 52:36
Right, which is, that’s where it becomes even more of the same as like, yeah, it’s never…the solutions don’t lie in the ballot box, and like, Oh, whatever. I’m just like, speaking cliches or whatever. But it’s like, even if we can make things like slightly better, like, because like, literally, if someone was like, “Well, do you want fascism tomorrow? Do you want fascism in five years,” I’d be like, “Five years, please, that gives me a little bit more time to try to fight it.” But of course, the problem, obviously, we’re way off topic, but the problem is, of course, then people think that like, oh, that’s the solution. The solution is engaging with this political system that has no fucking reason for existing besides driving us closer to Ecocide and fascism.

Nadia 53:21
Right. That’s, that’s the band aid. That’s the triage. You know, there are so many different things that I think harm reduction principles can be applied to whether that’s sex work, you know, mental health issues, eating disorders, tobacco use, I think there’s a really natural evolution of the harm reduction philosophy to extend it to other health risk behaviors and to a broader audience in that way. I just, I think that, again, using harm reduction to sort of Pantious Pilate wash your hands of a lot of things and just say,”I voted and that’s enough,” is it’s not going to work. It’s not.

Margaret 54:00
Okay. No, and now I’m thinking, I’m like, Oh, shit, is my like, I just carry around naloxone. Is that my, like, wash my hands of addressing the larger systemic things and like, well, it doesn’t affect me, it clearly affects me because it affects people I care about and it like, I don’t know, is the takeaways. Okay, wait, I’m gonna try and some of the takeaways I’ve gotten from you, is that carry Naloxone, but it’s a band aid. And it is a useful one, but the larger systemic problems have to do with criminalization and they have to do with access to safe supply. And so working on the kind of pressure involved to fight for that is good having mutual aid networks….Oh, okay. One of the questions that kind of had actually is, in your experience existing mutual aid networks, how well do they get along with existing harm reduction networks? Does it tend to be the same players and everyone’s excited, or do you run across some mutual aid networks do they kind of like to step up their game about actually care about, you know, drug users? Or like, How’s that look right now,

Nadia 55:09
In my personal experience, and I can’t really speak to, you know, places I haven’t lived or, you know, different communities that I’m not a part of. But there is a great deal of overlap. You know, a lot of folks that are working in harm reduction, people who use drugs and sex workers are sort of use to you know, fending for ourselves, we’re used to creating these these networks of care that exist outside of the current system. And, you know, that’s not to say that, when disaster strikes, it can sort of hit some folks harder than others. If the needle exchange in your town closes down, because there was a disaster. You know, there, there might be some time before they opened back up. And that’s not going to stop people from using drugs. It will just create a situation where people have to use drugs more dangerously. And so, you know, yes, I think that there’s a lot of overlap. But also, it shouldn’t be this sort of jerry rigged, you know, last line of defense, the folks that have just experienced a disaster now having to turn around and all care for each other. Because again, no one is coming to save you.

Margaret 56:28
Yeah. Yay. That’s

Nadia 56:32
that’s the real point of it. Yes.

Margaret 56:35
But I mean it’s really liberating. I think that like, I’m not super into political nihilism, personally, a lot of my friends are and I don’t mean to slight it. But, the thing that reminds me of what like my like nihilist friends get out of like hopelessness, not hopeless, whatever, out of nihilism is comparable to the like, I find something joyous and liberating about the realization that no one’s coming to save us. Because it’s this like concept, one of my favorite cliches from like, when I was a baby anarchist was just like, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Because it’s less about, no one is coming to save us, we’re doomed. And it’s more about like, it is up to us to build the power and capacity necessary to bring about the changes that we need to see in this world. And there’s a lot of us, and there’s a lot more of us all the time, and the problems we’re facing, seem to be getting bigger and bigger, depending on the position you’re coming from, right, the problems facing me have gotten bigger and bigger as all the anti trans stuff comes through, or whatever, you know, but there’s also more of us. Even to just continue the trans thing as a metaphor. It’s like, the reason there’s all this anti trans shit is that we all came out of the fucking closet. Like, there’s a ton of us. And like, there always were a ton of us, but we were all fucking scared. And like, and what they want to do is make us afraid and get back in the closet. And so I get a lot out of, ‘no one is coming to save us.’ Because of the flip side being. We’re going to save us.

Nadia 58:16
Yeah, I mean, I think it’s really liberatory. That’s something that I love about anarchism, too, you know, yes, that means that, you know, the system isn’t here for us, because it’s never been here for us. But ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our lives, for our communities, and for the future that we want, as opposed to sort of being handed these these goals and expectations, the rules that were supposed to have, the lives were supposed to lead. And you know, it can be scary to not have that safety net, but I think through, you know, both political discourse, but also just, you know, having lived a life, you quickly become aware that that safety net never actually existed in the first place.

Margaret 59:05
Yeah. Well, are there any last words on preparedness that you want to, you want to shout out? Everyone should fill their basement with needles? I don’t know.

Nadia 59:22
Well, I mean, don’t do that. Or if you do that, make sure that they are, you know, safely kept somwhere that only you have access to, or the folks that need them. You know, I know I’ve kind of hammered this home a lot. But, it really, when I say ‘it,’ I mean harm reduction. And I think what we’re trying to do for ourselves really comes down to community and it comes down to having these bigger goals and not taking, ‘no,’ for an answer or taking, you know, half measures for an answer. The overdose crisis is very real. And there are pharmaceutical companies and families that have directly caused a lot of pain and death, and they should be held accountable. And that is slowly happening over time. But, I just want to keep clear, you know, who are the folks in our community who are doing the work? And who are maybe the people that are sort of preventing us from living our best lives?

Margaret 1:00:34
Yeah. All right. Well, is there anything you want to shout out here at the end of like, what people…I don’t know it was anything you want to draw attention to any projects? Any of your work?

1:00:47
You know, support your local needle exchange, support your local sex workers. You know, if there is a call to fight back against fascists, or show up at your local library, because people are doing some fuck shit against trans people, you should be there. That’s my shout out. Yeah.

Margaret 1:01:05
That’s a good shout out. Well, thanks for being on…it’s funny as like, every now and then I do these episodes where I’m like, it like challenges my own like weird….I don’t want to say puritanical upbringing, I didn’t have a puritanical upbringing. I was around a lot of people, you know, all my friends did a lot of drugs when I was in….whatever. And it’s just like, interesting to every now and I’d have these episodes like, it’s like the first couple times I did firearms episodes. I was like, It’s not that I was like, Oh, I’m being so edgy. It was just being like, Oh, right. Information is dangerous because I and then I’m like, that’s true about everything. I don’t know where I’m going with this. Basically, thanks for coming on to talk about something that I feel like doesn’t get talked about because people are afraid to acknowledge it, because we all walk around with this, like, ‘drugs are bad,’ and then we just secretly all do drugs. And so it’s just better to just actually be like, drugs are complicated.

Nadia 1:02:03
Yeah, and people are complicated.

Margaret 1:02:05
What? Not me. I’m a paladin. I adhere to my moral code. That doesn’t sound great. Okay. Yep. All right. Well, thank you for coming on this episode.

Nadia 1:02:15
Thanks for having me.

Margaret 1:02:17
All right. Bye.

Margaret 1:02:25
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it by whatever means that you prefer to tell people about things, like skywriting, please sky write Live Like the World is Dying above a beach. Ooh, get one of those banners that goes behind the like little plane that flies by the beach and usually advertises auto insurance. And instead it should just say, “Live Like the World is Dying.” Don’t tell people it’s a podcast. Just tell people to live like the world is dying and become a cool, no future punk or a only a future if we imagine it….Okay, I’m off track. So, yeah, you can tell people about it. You can also support us. This podcast is published by pa…not by Patreon, it’s supported by Patreon. It’s published by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is a publishing collective that I’m part of along with a bunch of other people. We put out books we recently put out Cindy, Barukh’s Milstein’s “Try Anarchism for Life” and soon possibly, actually, I don’t know when this episode is gonna be released. February 1st, 2023, we are releasing my book, “Escape from Incel Island.” If you’re listening to this before February 1st, 2023, you can pre order it at tangledwilderness.org. If you’re listening to it after February 1st, 2023, you can buy it wherever books are sold, or go to the library, or steal a copy from Barnes and Noble. I don’t care. And but, don’t steal it from an info shop. That’s just, it’s just mean. Why would you do that? Get a library to carry it and then get it, or steal it from a big corporate place. Whatever. You can support us on patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and your donations, go to pay the transcriptionist and pay the audio editor to keep all of this stuff happening. And in particular, I want to thank Aly, and Paparouna, and Milica, and Boise Mutual Aid, Theo, Hunter, Shawn, SJ, Paige, Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Kat J, Staro, Jenipher, Eleanor, Kirk, Sam, Michaiah, Chris, and Hoss the dog. I really appreciate all of you and I really appreciate that there’s enough of you that I read your names fast and maybe that’s like really rude. But, I just like I don’t know, I’m kind of like humbled by the support that Strangers gets and I hope that you who are listening well I only hope you support us if you can afford it. If you can’t afford it, just continue to get our shit for free. And that’s the whole point of supporting, is it helps other people get our shit for free. Anyway I’ll talk to you all soon be as well as you can

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E56 – This Year in the Apocalypse 2022

Episode Summary

Brooke and Margaret recap the passed year of horrifying events, from climate collapse, to inflation economics, to developments with Covid, mass shooting, why the police continue to suck, culture wars, bodily autonomy, why capitalism ruins everything, as well as a glimpse of what could be coming this next year both hopeful and dreadful in This Year in the Apocalypse.

Host Info

Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. Brooke is just great and can be found at Strangers helping up keep our finances intact and on Twitter or Mastodon @ogemakweBrooke

Publisher Info

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

Next Episode

Hopefully will come out Friday, Jan. 31st.

Transcript

This Year in the Apocalypse 2022

Brooke 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, your co-host for this episode, along with the indomitable Margaret killjoy.

Margaret 00:27
Hiiii

Brooke 00:28
We have something extra special for you. Hi, Margaret. You might be familiar with the monthly segment we started in 2022: This Month in the Apocalypse, and today we will take that into a sub segment: This Year in the Apocalypse. But, first we have to shout out to another member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts, but playing a little jingle from one of our comrades, Boo doo doo doo, doo doo.

Brooke 01:18
And we’re back. So, before I tell people about this extra special episode, I want to officially say “Hello,” to my co host, Margaret. Hi, Margaret.

Margaret 01:36
Hello, how are you?

Brooke 01:38
I’m doing okay. How are you doing?

Margaret 01:42
I’m doing terrible, and I’m not going to talk about it.

Brooke 01:45
Okay, that’s fair. That sounds like me most of the time. Okay, well, speaking of terrible, how did the last year treat you now that we’ve flipped the calendar? Is there anything you would like to say to the year 2022?

Margaret 01:59
You know, it’s fine. It’s just the year 2020 part three. As far as the other parts of the year 2020, it’s been…it was chiller, then parts one and two. Not from a climate point of view, but from a fascism point of view.

Brooke 02:21
Oh, okay. That’s a good point. Well, I feel like 2022 as with most years….Sorry. What, Margaret?

Margaret 02:30
Everything’s fine. Nothing bad happened. That’s the end of the episode.

Brooke 02:33
Always.

Margaret 02:34
Everything’s good.

Brooke 02:35
Okay, cool. Well, this has been a fun recording. Yeah. Well, as with most years, in the last decade, I say, “Fuck you to 2022,” and would like to burn it all down. So, we have that going for us.

Margaret 02:51
Alright, fuck you, 2022. I do that when I leave a state.

Brooke 02:58
You say, “Fuck you,” to the State behind you?

Margaret 02:59
Yeah, yeah.

Brooke 03:01
Even even Oregon, even when you came to visit us out here?

Margaret 03:05
Why would I? Why would Oregon be any different?

Brooke 03:08
Because some of the people you love are in Oregon.

Margaret 03:16
Whatever, fuck you too….I mean, many of the people I love were also in the year 2022.

Brooke 03:21
Okay, all right. You got me.

Margaret 03:24
Okay.

Brooke 03:24
One point: Margaret , zero points: Brooke.

Margaret 03:26
Yep, that’s what I was saying.

Brooke 03:27
Yeah. So. So, I was thinking about how we do this extra fun, special episode of This Year in the Apocalypse. And being typical Brooke, I was like, let’s come up with a very orderly fashion in which to do this. I shall take all of the months and pick one thing per month, and we shall be organized. And spoiler alert for the audience. Margaret and I came up with separate lists. We haven’t seen each other’s lists. We don’t know what each other shittiest things are.

Margaret 03:53
Wait, I didn’t pick the shittiest things. I just picked stuff.

Brooke 03:56
Oh, damn, I pick the shitty stuff.

Margaret 04:00
Okay, well, I tried to go with a little bit of, there’s not a lot of hope in here. There’s a little bit of hope in here.

Brooke 04:08
It’s funny, because when I was thinking about this, I was like, oh, Margaret should do the happy stuff, because Margaret does Cool People. And I can be the the Roberts Evans, everything’s bastards side of the simulation.

Margaret 04:20
Okay, well, it’s a good thing we’re figuring this out right now, on air.

Brooke 04:23
Right?

Margaret 04:24
Okay. So, we’ll start with your month by month and then I’ll interject?

Margaret 04:28
That’s fine.

Brooke 04:28
Super fun. Yeah. And like a disclaimer on the month by month is that not all months were created equal. So, it’s like, whatever the shittiest thing in one month, maybe, you know, way shittier than next month. That’s annoying to like, try and compare them in that way. It was a silly way for me to do it, but.. here we are.

Brooke 04:30
All right. flashing back 12 months to January, 2022: America hit a million COVID cases with Omicron surging, so Good job America. COVID ongoing and bad.

Margaret 05:04
We’re number one.

Brooke 05:06
Yeah. The other the other real shitty, horrible thing in January was inflation, which technically was pretty crappy in 2021, as well. But we started feeling it more in January like that’s when it started hitting and then was kind of ongoing throughout this year as businesses responded to the inflation, had to start raising prices and stuff. Well, had to…some had to, some chose to because they could get away with it.

Margaret 05:34
Should I? I wrote down all the inflation numbers for the end of the year.

Brooke 05:39
Yeah, baby.

Margaret 05:41
The OECD, which stands for something something something, it’s a group of 38 countries that sit around and talk about how great they are, or whatever economic something, something. You think I would have written it down. They do. They calculate inflation for their member countries, based on the Consumer Price index. It averaged. This is as of October, the report in December, talks about it as of October, it averaged about 10.7% overall inflation across these 38 countries in the last year. Food averaged at…I wrote down 6.1%. But, I actually think it was slightly higher than that. I think I typo-ed that.

Brooke 06:22
In the US was closer to 8%.

Margaret 06:26
Yeah, and then, okay. More developed nations saw this all a little bit lower the G7, which is the Group of Seven, it’s the seven countries who have the elite cool kids club, and try and tell everyone what to do. Their overall inflation was 7.8%, as compared to the 10.7%. Inflation in the US actually tapered off most than most other countries, probably because we fuck everyone else over, but I couldn’t specifically tell you. Inflation is a bit of a black box that even the people who know what inflation is don’t really understand. And, energy inflation in general was the most brutal. Italy saw 70% energy inflation in the last year. It was 58%. In the UK, it was 17% in the US. So energy, inflation is actually outpacing even food inflation. And most of the food inflation, as we’ve talked about, at different times on this is caused by rising costs of fertilizer and like diesel and things like that. Yeah, that’s what I got about inflation. There was a lot of it. It’s technically tapering off a little bit in the United States. Just this moment.

Brooke 07:41
Yeah, I was actually listening to a economics report about that yesterday about how it’s tapering off a little bit. The extra shitty thing that happened in February, which added to the drastically increasing fuel prices and food prices, was that fucking Russia invaded Ukraine,and started bombing shit there.

Margaret 08:04
Boo.

Brooke 08:06
And that that might win as…if we’re taking a poll here of all of the worst things that happened in the last year, I kind of feel like that, you know, that’s got to be one of the top three.

Margaret 08:16
It’s, it’s up there. Yeah. Even in terms of its effects on the rest of the world, even like, if you’re like, on a, well, what do I care about what two European countries are doing? Because, but it affects the shit out of the global south. Ukraine in particular, and also Russia providing a very large percentage of the grain and wheat that goes to, especially Africa. So, yeah, a lot of the energy inflation in the rest of Europe is also a direct result of Russian imperialism.

Brooke 08:47
Yeah, it’s pretty…it’s fucked up a lot of stuff. There was another shitty thing that happened before that happened in February, which is what the Olympics began. And you know, Boo the Olympics. Yeah. So then we then we moved into March and there was this thing called COVID. And then there was this bad inflation happening and then this war over in Ukraine, but then we also, in Florida decided to pass a bill, the nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

Margaret 09:18
Yeah. I can’t believe that was less than a year ago. That was like eight culture wars ago.

Brooke 09:26
I know, because I got some of the other ones coming up here. And it was like, oh, fuck, that’s still a thing. And then moving into April, so, there was like this war going on, and inflation was bad, and people were dying of this pandemic that we were living in, and then also, the Johnny Depp vs Amber Heard trial began. And that might not seem like one of the shittiest things, but for like anyone who’s been a survivor of domestic violence, and the way that trial it seemed like you know, every social media platform like you were getting like ads for it. Right? I know, other people talked about this, like everyone was seeing all these ads for news reports on it. It was like way at the top of the list. And, you know, again, domestic abuse survivor, like, I don’t, I don’t need to be reminded about, you know, this awful ongoing domestic abuse trial.

Margaret 10:19
Yeah, yeah, that was, um, I like try to avoid everything that has to do with celebrities, but realizing how much that that like, ties into, I don’t know, how we all talk about all of this shit. I have nothing really clever to say besides like, oh, my God, it’s so fucked up. And I don’t trust mainstream discourse around any of it. Yeah,

Brooke 10:39
For sure. We also saw because of climate issues, Lake Mead was dropping to dangerously low levels, starting all the way in April. And I feel like we could have done this whole episode on climate catastrophes that happened in the last year, like This Year in the Apocalypse could have just been climate change. It was a lot.

Margaret 11:00
Yes, well, fortunately that will start overriding everything else over the next couple of years. So, you know….One or the other just to Lake thing on my note, Lake Powell, which provides power to 4.5 million people could reach minimum power pool status by July [2023]. So that’s a that’s an upcoming thing to look forward to.

Brooke 11:29
Yay, for the year ahead. Yeah, I don’t even know what the status of Lake Mead is right now. I’m sure it’s not doing great. And we’ll probably start hearing about it again in the spring as it’s at dangerously low levels, find more bodies and boats and whatever else.

Margaret 11:46
And they’re both. Both are on the Colorado River. Yeah, they’re both on the Colorado River.

Brooke 11:51
Yeah. And if you’re not familiar with why Lake Mead matters, John Oliver actually did a really good piece on it on his show that talks about the water rights and stuff. I think it was John Oliver. Maybe it was John Stewart.

Margaret 12:07
And if you want to read a terrible…a very good, although misogynist dystopia about what’s coming in terms of water rights, there’s a book called “The Water Knife” by Paulo [Bacigalupi], whose name last name I don’t know how to pronounce. It’s an Italian name. I think yeah,

Brooke 12:21
I actually have that on my to-read-shelf.

Margaret 12:23
Yeah, it’s, um, that man should not be allowed to write sex worker characters ever again.

Brooke 12:29
Thank you for the notice there on what to expect on that aspect.

Margaret 12:34
But other than that, other than that, it’s very interesting book.

Brooke 12:40
Okay. May brought us a couple of big bad shootings, which is, you know, not again, not to diminish any other school shootings or shootings that happened or the fact that they’re going on, you know, all the time in schools, but they were the ones that like, hit the news, really big. There was the Buffalo, New York supermarket shooting that happened. And then the towards the end of the month was that just God awful Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas, that I don’t know how everyone else experienced it. But I, as a parent, you know, whose child who’s only slightly older than that. It was absolutely horrifying for me and enraging, and I had a lot of feelings about it. And you know, school shootings are always hard to see, but that one in particular…

Margaret 13:29
This is the coward cops one, where they kept parents out who were the parents who were trying to like save kids?

Brooke 13:33
Yeah, for like 72 minutes or something like that, more than that they were outside the door where the guy was actively shooting on children.

Margaret 13:41
This is…the character of American law enforcement was laid bare on that day, is how I feel. I mean, I have many feelings on all of it, but…

Brooke 13:53
And that was in Uvalde, Texas, where they have two separate police systems. There is a police system just for the schools there in addition to the town’s police.

Margaret 14:07
There was that, uh, there was that lawsuit 10,15,20 years ago, something, where a man who was like, I think it was someone who’s like stabbing people on the train, you know, just like, just just doing that thing. And, and a man stopped him, stopped the stabby guy while the cops cowered in behind, like they went into, like the driver’s compartment of the train, and they just hid from the stabby guy. And the the guy stopped the stabby guy sued…I might have the details of this wrong. Sued and was like, the police have a duty to protect people. And it came back, the judge is like, “Actually they don’t, it is literally not the jobs. The police’s job is not to protect you. That is not their job.” And, the sooner we all realize that the safer we’ll be, because the more people will realize that safety is something that we’re going to have to build without the infrastructure that pretends to offer a safety, but absolutely does not. And legally is not required to.

Brooke 14:21
Yeah, I didn’t know all the backstory of that. But, I know that that one went to the Supreme Court. And that became, you know, the national standard, because I remember reading about that part of it that, yeah, they don’t, they don’t have they don’t have a duty to protect.

Margaret 15:27
I think it was the stabby guy on the train. But I, you know, I’m not like a classic thing rememberer, it’s not like my skill set. I didn’t put my points in character creation in memory.

Brooke 15:41
Well important thing there is was the the outcome of that. The other big bad shooting I remember making the news pretty loudly this year was also the Highland Park Parade shooting that actually happened in July. So that was a couple of months later. But yeah, good times. Guns.

Margaret 15:58
Hurray. [sadly]

Brooke 15:59
All right. So, we moved into June. And a couple of things are going on, on the global stage. Flooding began in Pakistan. And that flooding continued for a couple of months. We talked about this on one of our This Month, episodes, and even to right now, there is still flooding. And that flooding that did occur, you know, has displaced 1000s, if not millions of people. And it’s really, really fucked things up and continues to fuck things up in Pakistan.

Margaret 16:25
And I would say that flooding in general, is one of the things that we’re seeing more and more of all over the world. And it’s one of the things that like…I think a lot of people and maybe I’m just projecting, but you know, I grew up thinking of floods as sort of a distant thing. And then actually where I lived, most recently, we all had to leave because of constant flooding as climate changed. And I think that floods need to be something….It’s the opposite of quicksand. When you’re a kid you think about quicksand is like this thing to like, worry about, and then you grow up and realize that like quicksand is like not…don’t worry about quicksand. That’s not part of your threat modeling. And, so I think that flooding is something that whether or not it was on something that you were really worried about, wherever you live, it is something that you should pay attention to. It’s not like, a run out and worry, right. But, it’s a thing to be like more aware of, you know, there was recent…New Years in San Francisco and Oakland, there was really bad flooding. And then again, a couple of days later, might still be going on by the time people listen to this, but I’m not actually sure. And you know, there’s the footage of people running out with like boogie boards or surfboards or whatever into the streets and, and playing in the flood. And, I’m not actually going to sit here on my high horse and tell people to never go into floodwater, you shouldn’t, it is not a thing you should do, but it is a thing that people do. But I think people don’t recognize fast moving currents, how dangerous they are, just how dangerous floods are, no matter how they look. And, if there’s more than a foot of water, don’t drive through it.

Brooke 17:58
Yeah, if you’re not experienced with floods, those are things you wouldn’t know. So I have, you know, you said, that wasn’t a big thing in your childhood, but because of where I live, it you know, I don’t know if this is true of all the Pacific Northwest, but certainly, in my town, flooding is a big concern, we”re right on a river, and when there was bad rainstorms back in 96′, like most of downtown got flooded. I mean, I was I was a kid then. I was I was a youth. And that experience, you know, kind of informed some of my youth, you know, we had a lot of lessons learned about how to manage flooding, what you do and don’t do inflooding. So that’s something that’s been in the forefront of my mind. And yeah, as I see other people dealing with flooding for the first time in the news, it’s like, oh, no, no, you don’t. No. That’s bad. Don’t do that. Don’t go in those waters. But it’s their first time. They wouldn’t know.

Margaret 18:53
Yeah. Unless you were like, directly saving something or someone, especially someone, and then even then you have to know what you’re doing. You know, they’re a bigger deal, even smaller ones are a bigger deal than you realize, I guess is the thing to say about floods. Anyway, so Okay, so where are we at?

Brooke 19:10
We’re still in June, because there was, you know, in addition to the inflation, and the flooding, and the heat waves, and the war going on, and people dying of a pandemic, this little thing happened in the US where the Supreme Court’s overturned a little a little old law called Roe v. Wade.

Margaret 19:29
That was about two different ways of interacting with water? [joking]

Brooke 19:33
Yes, exactly. Ties, ties, right and flooding there. Yeah. It was just a minor…

Margaret 19:39
Yeah, that’s my joke about people losing their capacity to control their own bodies. Just a little light hearted joke. Very appropriate.

Brooke 19:48
As a person with a uterus, I genuinely can’t…i can’t joke about that one. Like, it’s just too close to home.

Margaret 19:54
Yeah, fair enough. I’m sorry.

Brooke 19:57
No, it’s I’m glad that you are, because it is good to laugh about these things that are actually very upsetting. It’s how, it’s part of our, you know, grieving process, how we deal with it as being able to laugh a little bit.

Margaret 20:08
Yeah. Yeah, although and then, you know, okay, so we’ve had this like, fight, you know, America’s polarizing really hard about a lot of very specific issues: people’s ability to control the reproductive systems being a very major, one people’s ability to control their hormonal systems and the way they present being another one, I’m sure I’ll talk about that more. And, you know, the, the weirdly positive thing that happened this week that I started writing notes about, but didn’t finish, is about how there’s now…they’re changing the laws about how the accessibility of abortion pills and so that they’re going to be available in more types of stores for more people in the near future. This will not affect people who are in abortion ban states. So it’s this polarization, it’s becoming easier to access reproductive health and control in some states, and it’s becoming harder and illegal to access it in other states. My other like, positive…It’s not even a positive spin. It’s the glint of light in the darkness is that abortion was illegal for a very long time in the United States, and people did it, and had access to it and not as well, and it is better when it is legal. Absolutely. But underground clinics existed. And people did a lot of work to maintain reproductive health. And now we have access to such better and safer tools for reproductive health, whether you know, it’s access to abortion pills, or just everything about reproductive health has…we know a lot more about it as a society than at least medical and Western, you know, methods of abortion. We know a lot more about than we did a couple decades ago. And then, the other big thing that I keep thinking about…so there was the Jane Collective, right, in the US is I’m just like moving into history mode. Is that annoying?

Brooke 22:06
Go for it.

Margaret 22:07
Teah. It’s my other fucking podcast, all history and so like there’s the Jane Collective in the US. And they were really fucking cool. And they provided all these abortions to people in Chicago, and they actually pioneered a lot of methods of abortion and pushed forward a lot of important shit, right? In the 1920s, in Germany, anarchists ran more than 200 abortion clinics. Basically, if you wanted an abortion in 1920s, Germany, you went to the syndicalists, you went to the anarcho syndicalists. And because they sat there, and they were like, “Oh, a large amount of crime needs to be done on an organized fashion. And what is anarcho syndicalism? But a way to organize crime?” In this case, usually it’s like class war against bosses and illegal strikes and stuff. But, “How do we organize that on a large scale?” And the anarchists were the ones who had the answer answers to, ‘How do you organize crime on a large scale,’ and I want to know more about that information. I haven’t found that much about it in English yet. But, that kind of thing gives me hope. It gives me hope that we can, it’s better when it is legal, I’m not being like, this is great, you know, it’s fucked up, but we can do this. And, you know, on this very podcast, if you listen to one of the Three Thieves, Four Thieves? Some Number of Thieves Vinegar Collective, Margaret, famous remember of details, they they talk about their work, developing reverse engineering or making accessible, different abortion drugs and how to basically like, create them, and get them to where they need to be, regardless of the legality of those things. But, you might have more to say about this, too. I just wanted to go into history mode.

Brooke 23:50
No, I I liked that. And yeah, you did those episodes in a few different ways about it that are super important. I mean, I don’t think I need to rehash why Roe is so important. We we know that, you know, and it’s not just about reproductive rights for people with uteruses, either. It’s about the trends towards you know, bodily autonomy and regulation of bodies. And you know, what that signals as well, it’s an issue for everybody.

Margaret 24:17
Yeah. And remember, like at the very beginning, some people were like, they might be coming for birth control next, and everyone’s like, Nah, they’re not coming for birth control. And now you can see the same, the same right wing people who are like, “We should probably just kill the gay people.” They like say it and city council meetings. They’re also being like, “And birth control on my right, like, fuck that thing?”

Brooke 24:36
Yeah. Frustrating.

Margaret 24:39
Yeah. Get it out of someone’s cold dead hands.

Brooke 24:45
Yeah, this is one of those things where the months don’t necessarily compare. Yeah.

Margaret 24:49
There’s that meme….Go ahead. I’m sorry. No, go.

Brooke 24:52
We…you know there were historic heat waves going on. Continued flooding and droughts. And all kinds of climate nastiness. And then in, in Tariff Island, we saw a whole bunch of British officials resign, and then Boris Johnson resigning, which, you know, fuck the government and all of those kinds of things, and fuck that guy. But, it did also lead into this, what has been kind of a lot of turmoil in the UK as they’ve gone through now a couple of different prime ministers and just like, you know, just the the, the sign of the crumbles of how just overwhelmingly corrupt political leaders are, you know, at this point in so called, you know, democratic and stable democracies, that, you know, they’re falling apart too.

Margaret 25:39
Now, that’s a good point. Um, what year did that lady I didn’t like die? What day? What month? Queen?

Brooke 25:48
I didn’t put down the month because that’s a happy thing that happened, not a shitty thing.

Margaret 25:51
I know. Remember positive things about 2022. And like, stadiums full of like, Irish folks being like, “Lizzie’s in a box. Lizzie’s in a box.” There’s like some positive things.

Brooke 26:08
I might rewatch some of those after this, just for a little pick me up.

Margaret 26:11
Yeah. The people dancing in front of the palace, anyway. Yeah. I don’t like colonialism or monarchy. I don’t know if anyone knew this about me.

Brooke 26:20
Yeah. No, same. I’ve been trying to explain to my kid about why Queen Elizabeth was bad. And she’s having a hard time. Because, you know, children and fantasies and stories and kings and queens, and blah, blah, blah.

Margaret 26:32
Yeah. Which is the fucking problem.

Brooke 26:34
Yeah, a similar kind of thing happened in August in terms of like, you know, unstable, so supposedly stable governments, in that the the FBI had to raid Mar-a-Lago and Trump which, again, fuck Trump and the FBI and the federal government and all of that, but as a sign of, you know, our democracies actually not being very sound, and how just grossly corrupt politicians are and stuff, the only way they could get back a bunch of confidential documents and like, nuclear related stuff was to fucking invade a former president. Yeah. Also in August Yeah. monkeypox started hitting the news, which of course, speaking of culture was, right, that led into a whole bunch of stuff about, you know, a bunch of anti-gay stuff and reminders of what the AIDS epidemic was like, and just a whole bunch of fucking nonsense up in the news because of that.

Margaret 27:32
God, I barely remember that.

Brooke 27:34
Right, I think we did it on an episode, a This Month episode.

Margaret 27:38
I mean, I remember it now. It’s just there’s so much. There’s so much. Yeah. Yeah.

Brooke 27:44
So September brought us protests starting to erupt in Iran. Finally. There was a woman, Masha Amini, who was arrested, you know, they had been doing caravans, were doing these crackdowns and the morality police and stuff. And so that was the start of a bunch of turmoil there that went on for at least three months. It’s finally settled down some last month. But that was going on, and then also towards the end of the month hurricane Ian hit in Florida. So, not to make it all about the climate. But again, historic hurricanes and flooding and stuff.

Margaret 28:19
Yeah. And these things are related to each other. I mean, like, as you have global insecurity caused by climate, it’s going to show all of the cracks in the systems and like, it’s hard, because it’s like, overall, you know, I see the the attempted revolution, the uprising in Iran is an incredibly positive thing and like reminder of the beauty of the human spirit. And also, like, what happened, the end result of that, that, I don’t even want to say, ‘end result,’ though, right? Because like, every social struggle is going to ebb and flow. And, our action is going to cause reaction. And you know, and whenever people have uprisings, they remember power. They also remember fear, right? And the system is hoping that people remember fear. And the people are hoping that they remember power, you know, and, and it seems impossible to predict which uprisings will lead to fear and which ones will lead to power in terms of even when they’re crushed, right? Whether that is the fertile soil for the next rising or whether it you know, has salted the earth to try and keep my metaphor consistent.

Brooke 29:43
Nah, mixed metaphors the best. Okay, yeah, it’s not a bad thing that people were protesting against what was going on there. It’s it’s awful that they had to get to that point that the morality police were so bad that they had to start protesting and ongoing conflict and unrest in the Middle East, never ending.

Margaret 30:06
And I want to know more. I haven’t done enough research on this yet, but another like hopeful thing about, you know, sort of global feminist, radical politics, there’s been a recent movement of men in Afghanistan, who are walking out of exams and walking out of different positions that only men are allowed to hold, you know, in schools and things like that, in protest of the fact that of women’s disinclusion.

Brooke 30:33
Okay, I hadn’t heard anything about that. So that’s, yeah, We’ll have to add that to a This Month, because I want to know more about that too. That sounds really positive.

Margaret 30:40
Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t know whether it’s, you know, happened three times, and it’s caught headlines each time or I don’t know enough about it to talk about it as a movement. But it matters. That kind of stuff matters. And yeah, it’s hopeful.

Brooke 30:57
Well, we moved into October and the fall season, and y’all might remember this little one, some South African asshole named Elon Musk, Mosh, Mosk, whatever that guy’s name is,

Margaret 31:10
He’s named after the rodent, the muskrat.

Brooke 31:13
Okay, that’ll be easy to remember. That guy officially took over at the only social media platform that I don’t mostly hate, which is Twitter. A lot of his fucked-up-ness…Nah, he did some of that the first week, that was still in October. And then definitely more came after that. But, he’s destroying the microblogging site that we all love so much.

Margaret 31:36
Yeah, I will say, my favorite meme that come out of that was basically like, you know what, I’ve decided that I am okay with Elon Musk being in charge of the exodus of all the rich people to Mars. [Laughs]

Brooke 31:50
Yes, winning. Do that quickly.

Margaret 31:53
Yeah. He’ll fuck it up. Like he fucks everything up. You’ve seen Glass Onion?

Brooke 31:58
Yes, I did.

Margaret 32:00
I don’t want to like spoil it for people. But, I’ll just say that movie did a really good job of pointing out that Elon Musk is just a fucking…is not an intelligent person, is not doing genius things. And it was pointed out really well.

Brooke 32:15
Can I point out something embarrassing?

Margaret 32:17
Absolutely, it’s just you and I here.

Brooke 32:21
No one will ever know. I didn’t realize when I watched it that that guy was supposed to be a parody of like Elon Musk specifically. I thought it was just like generic, you know, rich people are terrible. And then it wasn’t till like after I watched it, and everyone else started watching it and commenting that it was Musk and I was like, “Oh, damn, obviously it is.”

Margaret 32:42
Yeah, it’s the like, the car thing and the space thing are the main nods. I mean, it’s at the same time. It could be Bezos it could be any fucking, like tech billionaire asshole. But I think it was, I think it was intentionally Musk.

Brooke 32:56
Yeah, I’ve got to rewatch it with that in mind. I was too busy going, “Oh, it’s that guy. It’s that actor or actress. Someone I know that person. Enjoy the characters. Yeah. That was a thing that happened in December, but we haven’t done November, so November, Powerball made some poor asshole into a billionaire. So I feel bad for that guy. Yeah. So the Powerball, nobody had won it for like three months, and the pot got up to like $2 billion. And a single a single person had the winning ticket when it was finally pulled. Which, if they take the cash payout, which I think most people do, it’s actually only $1 billion. And then, probably the government takes that. So you’re only half a billionaire, probably by the time all is said and done. But still, that’s, you know, what a way to fuck up the rest of your existence by suddenly having that much money.

Margaret 33:51
I’m like, I’d take a shot.

Brooke 33:56
I like to think, you know, I have this list of all these nice things that I would do and people I would support and love, but the evidence bears out that anyone who’s ever won something like that doesn’t make all the great choices.

Margaret 34:09
No, no. Okay. Yeah, I think you need to have a council of people who direct…I think that any anarchist who’s like, possibly going to end up rich, like, whether through inheritance or becoming the next Stephen King or whatever needs to, like, seriously consider how the dealing with that money should be a collective effort and not an individual effort. Anyway.

Brooke 34:35
I agree. Yeah.

Margaret 34:36
I went through this when, at one point, I did not get…I did not become a millionaire. But, at one point, Hollywood was interested in one of my my books, and we had long conversations about it. I had conversations with the Hollywood director around it, about whether or not they would adapt a certain book of mine into a TV show. And it didn’t work out in the end. But, I like sat there and mathed it out and was like, oh, if they make it TV show out of my book, I will become a millionaire. And like, what would that mean? And, and so that’s when I started having these, like, which just totally the same as winning the Powerball and having a billion dollars, and also not just not my weird…I don’t know, whatever. Now everyone knows this.

Brooke 35:16
I don’t think that’s a unique thing. Yeah, so that happened in November. And that sucks. And it didn’t make the news the way it should have. So I just wanted to highlight that horribleness. And then, also that orange clown douchebag potato that lives in Florida, said that he’s going to run for president again. So, we have that to look forward to. But, then the third thing that happened, which isn’t just isolated to November, but the World Cup started, and I have nothing against football, love football, the World Cup as a concept. Fine, but there are so many problems, much like the Olympics, with the way they do it. And what happens around all that.

Margaret 36:00
Yeah, yeah, I love…I love that I should be able to like a lot of things. And then the way that they’re done by our society precludes me from really deeply enjoying them.

Brooke 36:10
Why do you have to take such a nice thing and ruing it.

Margaret 36:13
All things. All things. You could name anything, and we could talk about how capitalism and fucking imperialism ruined it.

Brooke 36:20
Yeah, pretty much. Down with those systems. Alright, so now we’re finally getting into the end. You’ll remember this one, because it was only like a month ago that there were some targeted attacks in North Carolina on power stations. 40,000 people without power for several days, in fact, it wasn’t like a quick fix thing. They really fucked some shit up there. One that I didn’t hear about, but that has some pretty big implications is that the country of Indonesia banned sex outside of marriage, even for foreigners living in their country, and stuff.

Brooke 36:54
Yeah. So, I don’t know if the ramifications for that are. I didn’t dig deeper into like, what is the consequence of you doing that. But you know, Indonesia’s massive. I mean, that populations huge.

Margaret 36:54
I had no idea.

Margaret 37:05
Yeah, Lousiana just banned, as of I think January 1, you’re not allowed to access porn on the internet from Louisiana without showing a government ID to the website. Which, means that now everyone, basically they passed a law saying you have to install a VPN in order to access porn in Louisiana.

Brooke 37:27
That’s madness.

Margaret 37:29
Yeah, and it fucks up sex workers, right? Like any of this stuff, any of this bullshit, it always just fucks sex workers.

Brooke 37:39
Yeah, they become the victims of the law, even though they’re not, they’re not the bad guys here. And in porn, they’re never the bad guys, Pro sex workers. My last horrible thing that happened in December was that China decided to just completely give up on all of its COVID protocols that it spent the whole year continuing to be super restrictive, and have lock downs and all of that. And then all of a sudden, it’s just like, “No, we’re not gonna do any of that anymore.” Oh, just a great way to change policy is just to stop completely all of a sudden. Yeah.

Margaret 38:15
I just think it’s really funny, because it’s like, what? Sometimes people like really talk about how they want like a multipolar world where there’s like, it’s like what people use to defend the USSR, right, is that they’re like, well, at least, there was someone competing with the US or whatever. But, when I think about COVID response, there was always like the US response, which was absolute dogshit. And then there was the Chinese response, which was like, too authoritarian and caused a lot of suffering and all of these things, but, was not a non response. And now, that one has fallen as well. And there’s just like, I mean, there’s more countries than the US and China. I’m reasonably sure. I couldn’t promise. So, hurray, we’re in it. We’re just in it. That’s…this is just COVID world now. It’s COVID’s world. We just live in it.

Brooke 39:13
Yeah, exactly. So I think you had some, like bigger overarching trends of things that happened in 2022.

Margaret 39:21
A lot of the stuff I have is a little bit like what we have to look forward to.

Brooke 39:26
Oh, nice.

Margaret 39:27
Just some like nice, light stuff. The National Farmers Union in the UK says that the UK is on the verge of a food crisis.

Brooke 39:35
Great.

Margaret 39:36
Yields of tomatoes and other crops, especially energy intensive ones like cucumbers and pears are at record lows. And there’s already an egg shortage in the UK, and a lot of places where there were stores are rationing sales of eggs, you can only buy so many eggs at any given time. And, it’s not because there’s no chickens. It’s that rising costs of production have convinced more and more farmers…it’s a capitalism thing in this like really brutal way. It’s the markets logic, right? If it costs too much to produce a thing, don’t produce it. But, when the thing you do is produce food, there’s some problems here.

Brooke 40:13
Are there?

Margaret 40:14
And I mean, I’m a vegan. And I got to admit, when I hear things like, they’re cutting back beef production, because it costs too much. I’m like, that’s good. That is good for animals. And that is good for the climate. However, that’s not being replaced with more of other types of foods. So it’s not necessarily good.

Brooke 40:33
And if Casandra were here, and she has very restrictive things on what she can eat, because of her health, she would be jumping in to say, “But protein!” because she needs to be able to have access to that.

Margaret 40:45
No, totally. And I’m not trying to, I’m not like specifically pushing for a vegan world. And I recognize that everyone’s bodies are different, and have different needs around a lot of things. But, I do think that data shows fairly clearly that the level of animal agriculture that we do, especially in centralized ways, across the world is a major driver of climate change. And, it is a major driving of a lot of really bad stuff. It’s just a very inefficient way to produce food for a large number of people. This is different at different scales. And I am not, I’m not specifically trying to advocate for…Yeah, I don’t think a vegan world is a good or just idea. I think it is perfectly natural for people to eat animals. However, I think that there’s both needless suffering that can be cut back and as well as like, just specifically from a climate change point of view. So…

Brooke 41:39
I hear you.

Margaret 41:39
That said, UK, dealing with egg shortage. Basically, farmers might stop selling milk because of production…that it cost so much to produce the milk. Not like, I’m sure there’s still farmers who are going to produce milk. But, more and more farmers are stopping. Beet farmers are considering the same. There’s also just literally about 7000 fewer registered food production companies in the UK than three years ago.

Brooke 42:04
Wow.

Margaret 42:05
Because at least in the UK, fertilizer costs have tripled since 2019. And diesel costs are up at about…both feed and diesel costs are up about 75% from what they were before. Shortages. The infant formula shortage might last until Spring according to one major formula producer. We very narrowly avoided a major disruption as a result of a diesel shortage in the United States recently. Basically, they like brought more diesel plants…I don’t know the word here, refineries? Refineries, like online kind of at the last minute, like because there was going to be like really major disruptions in the way that we move food and other things around the United States because of diesel shortages. Let’s see what else…

Brooke 43:00
Have…I’m super curious here, have food shortages in the UK ever caused problems of any kind? It seems like that’s not a big deal. Like they’re…they can deal with that. Right? That hasn’t killed anyone, right?

Margaret 43:10
Ireland’s not part of the United Kingdom. [laughs] Yeah, yeah. No, it’s okay. I mean, it’s interesting, because like, modern farming has really changed the face of famine. Famine used to be a very common part of…I can actually only speak to this in a very limited context, it’s like something that came up in my history research, like Napoleon, the middle one, or whatever. I can’t remember. Probably the second, maybe the third I’m not sure. The Napoleon who like took over and like 1840…8? Someone is mad at me right now. In France, who modernized Paris and made it like, impossible to build barricades and shit.

Brooke 43:52
We can FaceTime, Robert, real quick and find out.

Margaret 43:55
Yeah, yeah, totally. And, but one of the things that he did, or rather, that happened under his reign as a part of 19th century development, is that famine had been a very major common regular part of French life. And it ceased to be, and famine is something that the modern world, developed parts of the modern world, have been better at minimizing as compared to like, some historical stuff. Obviously, a lot of this just gets pushed out into the developing world. And you know, famine is a very major part of a great number of other countries’ existence. But, I think that people get really used to the idea that famine doesn’t really happen. And it does, and it can again, and it’s similar what you’re talking about, like we have this like, kind of unshakable faith in our democracies. But, they are shakable they, they they shake.

Brooke 43:56
They’ve been shooked.

Margaret 44:48
Yeah, they’re They are not stirred. They’re shaken. Okay. Okay, so other stuff: Pfizer’s currently working on an RSV vaccine. I consider that positive news. My news here is about a month old. It’s been given the like, go ahead for further studies and shit and, and that’s very promising because we’re in the middle of a triple-demic or whatever. But there’s actually been as a weird positive thing. I mean, obviously, we’ve learned that society does not know how to cope with pandemics. But, one thing is we have learned a lot more about a lot of health stuff as a result of this, you know, and the types of new vaccines that people are able to come up with now are very, they’re very promising. And a fun news, as relates to the climate change thing that’s happening, more and more Americans are moving to climate at risk areas. Specifically, people are leaving the Midwest. And they’re moving to the Pacific Northwest and Florida. And these are two of the least climatically stable from a disaster point of view areas in the United States.

Brooke 46:04
Okay.

Margaret 46:05
Specifically, specifically because of wildfire in the Pacific Northwest, and hurricanes in Florida. Also earthquakes on the West Coast and things like that, but specifically wildfire. And also within those areas, a thing that causes…humans have been encroaching into less developed areas at a greater rate. And this is part of what causes, obviously the fires are getting worse out west as a result of climate change, but it’s also the way in which new communities are developed out west that is causing some of the worst damages from fires. So yeah, everyone’s moving to those places. That’s not a good idea in mass. I’m not telling individuals who live in those places to leave. And there’s actually, you know, the Pacific Northwest has some like stuff going on about fairly stable temperature wise, and for most climate models, but this is part of why disasters are impacting more and more Americans as people are leaving the places to move to places where it’s greater risk. Yeah, there’s this map, just showing where people are leaving and where people are going to. And it’s actually, there are other places that people are going to that would have surprised me like, Georgia, North Carolina, parts of Tennessee, like kind of like Southern Appalachian kind of areas, like more and more people are moving towards, and more and more people are leaving upstate New York, which really surprised me. But, and more people are leaving North Texas and moving to Southeast Texas, or like the general eastern part of Texas is growing very rapidly. Okay, what else have I got? Taiwan has set up a set group called the Doomsday Preppers Association, which is just sick, because it’s called the Doomsday Preppers Association. And it’s like, not a wing nut thing. And they have a wing nut name which rules, I’m all for it. There’s about 10,000 people or so who are organizing together to prepare for natural disasters, and also to prepare for the potential invasion from China. Which, China’s back to threatening to, to do that. And it’s but, it’s like people just like getting together to like, build networks, learn radios, and just like, be preppers, but in a, like, normalized way, and it’s fucking cool. And, I’d love to see it here. Okay. What else? I don’t have too many notes left. Florida, is expected to have major wildfires starting in 2023 according to the National Interagency Fire Center report, as well as Georgia, New Mexico and Texas. I’m willing to bet that New Mexico and Texas in particular, and probably Georgia, that’s probably…those are very big states with very different bio regions within them. And, so I couldn’t point you, if you live in one of those places, you might want to look for the National Interagency Fire Center Report, and read more about it.

Brooke 48:56
Speaking of moving, it’s a great time to get the fuck out of Florida. With like, I could have done almost every month something just atrocious happened in Florida.

Margaret 49:06
Yeah. And one of the things that, you know, we talked a little bit about the culture war stuff. One of the things that’s happened in 2023, overall, is that we’ve started to see more political refugees from within the United States to the United States. We have seen a lot of trans families, or families of trans children, have had to leave states where their providing medical care for their children has become criminal. Obviously also with the end of Roe v. Wade, a lot of people have had to change which state they live in. Although, I don’t like doing this like comparison thing, because it’s just fucked for everyone, but you can you can vacation your way out of pregnancy. You know?

Brooke 49:50
I don’t know that I’ve heard it described that way, but…

Margaret 49:54
But if you want to be a 13 year old on hormone blockers, or whatever that you need in order to stay safe, a lot of people are moving, and a lot of people can’t move. And there’s really complicated questions that we all have to ask ourselves right now about like, stay and go. And like, like stay and fight, versus get the fuck out. And everyone’s gonna have to make those questions differently. Okay, another positive thing a weird, like positive tech thing…

Brooke 50:20
Yay positive.

Margaret 50:22
So like I own, and I recommend it to people who spend a lot of time off grid or out outside the range of cell service. I own like a Garmin satellite communicator, it’s a little tiny device, it looks like a tiny walkie talkie. And it can talk to satellites. And I can like text from anywhere in the world, I can see the sky, whether or not I have cell service. And more importantly than that, I can send an SOS. And these are fairly expensive things, they cost a couple hundred dollars. And then you have to sign up for service. And they make sense for people who are like backpacking a lot or driving in areas where there’s no, you know, service or whatever, right? New new phones, specifically the iPhone 14, I hate to be like, I’m not telling everyone to run out get new phone, but as a trend is very positive, that some new phones have this already built in. So you won’t need to have a separate device. And I think that is a very positive thing from a prepper point of view, to have access to a way to communicate when cell service is not there. Yeah, that is really important. And I have one final thing and it’s very positive.

Brooke 51:29
Okay, I’m ready.

Margaret 51:30
It’s actually a double edged sword. On January 5, I’m cheating. This was in 2023. On January 5, 2023, this current year, like last week, yesterday, as we record this, two assholes in Bakersfield, California tried to set an Immigration Services Center on fire, like it was a center that like, um, I mean, ironically, it helped undocumented folks or like immigrant folks pay income taxes, and like helped people navigate the paperwork of being immigrants, you know, because there’s actually something that people don’t know, all these like, right wing pieces of shit, is that like, undocumented people, like, many of them pay taxes. I don’t know. Whereas a lot of the people who like to talk all kinds of shit about undocumented people, don’t pay taxes. Anyway, whatever. What were you gonna say? Sorry.

Brooke 52:16
Oh, just this, that as an economist, as a group, undocumented people pay more into the system than they as a group take out of the system.

Margaret 52:25
That makes a lot of sense. So, there’s an Immigration Services Center. Two assholes, tried to set it on fire. They set themselves on fire, fled the scene on fire and left their cell phone at the scene. The reason it’s double edged is, because one it sucks that people attack this and they actually did do damage to the center as well, mostly to some equipment used by someone who ran I believe a carwash out of that shared some space or whatever. But yeah, they like poured accelerant everywhere. And then a guy just like, knelt down over the pool of accelerant and like, lit it. And then just like, his, like, his leg was on fire. So, his friend ran over to help and like got caught on fire too. And then, they just both like, ran out of range of, because it’s all caught on camera, you know? And fuck them. And I hope that their fucking wounds are horrible. And by the time you listen to this, they were probably caught because they left their fucking phone there. And fuck them. That’s my light news.

Brooke 53:36
I’ll take it.

Margaret 53:37
Okay, what are you excited for, looking forward? Go ahead. Sorry.

Brooke 53:40
Well, hopefully more fascists are gonna light themselves on fire and other types of right wing assholes. I mean, I would be very happy about that happening in 2023

Margaret 53:48
Yeah. May this be the year of Nazis on fire.

Brooke 53:54
Yes. Agreed. That would be lovely. I don’t know about…I don’t know if I have a lot of global stuff that I thought about being positive. I have. I have like personal stuff, like I am going to be doing…hosting more these podcast episodes. I’ve got one coming up. Maybe this month, we’re releasing it? But I did it all by myself. Yeah, more lined up to come out in the next couple of months and some really cool topics and people that I get to chat with. So I’m stoked about that.

Margaret 54:21
That is also something I’m excited about for 2023 is that this podcast is increasingly regular and it is because of the hard work of me…No, everyone else. Is the hard work of everyone else who works on this show are like really kind of taking the reins more and more and it is no longer, it’s no longer the Margaret Killjoy Show and I’m very grateful and I believe you all will too. And if you’re not grateful yet, you will be, because there’ll be actual other voices, like ways of looking at things and and more of it because, you know, one person can only do so much. So I’m really grateful for that.

Brooke 55:03
I’m excited about this book that’s coming out next month, that…

Margaret 55:06
Oh, yeah?

Brooke 55:07
Some lady I know, wrote it. And, and I got to do some editing work on it. And, it’s hilarious and the cover is gorgeous.

Margaret 55:17
Is it called “Escape from Incel Island”?

Brooke 55:19
Yeah, that one.

Margaret 55:22
Is this my plugs moment?

Brooke 55:24
Did you know If you preorder it right now, you can get a poster of that gorgeous cover that comes comes with the preordered one?

Margaret 55:31
And, did you know that if you preorder it, I get a cut of the royalties when the book is released for all the preorders, which means that I can eat food.

Brooke 55:43
Oh, we like it when you get food.

Margaret 55:44
And I like having food. Yeah. So, if you go to tangledwilderness.org, you can preorder “Escape from Incel Island” and get a poster. And it’s a fun adventure book. You can literally read it in a couple hours. It’s very short. It’s a novella. It’s, to be frank, it’s at the short end of novella. But that makes it good for short attention spans like mine.

Brooke 56:08
Yeah, that’s dope. I’m looking forward to that. And there’ll be some other books coming out from that Strangers Collective one, one that I just started editing, that I don’t know how much we’re talking about it yet or not.

Margaret 56:20
It’s really cool.

Brooke 56:20
So, I won’t give too much away here, but just sucked me right in as I was editing, and it’s cool. I’m so excited to read the rest of it. And then for us to release it.

Margaret 56:29
Yeah. All right. Well, that’s our Year in the Apocalypse, 2022 edition. And I know…wait, you’re doing the closing part.

Brooke 56:40
Yeah, sure.

Margaret 56:41
I’m just the guest.

Brooke 56:43
No, you’re my co host.

Margaret 56:45
Oh, I’m just the co host. Okay.

Brooke 56:47
Yeah. Yeah. So I’m curious what other people think the worst things are that happened in 2022, if it’s something that was on one of our lists, or something else that you know of, and reach out to us like on Twitter at tangledwild or Instagram, or you can reach out to me personally on Mastodon @ogemakwebrooke, if you can find me there. And the Collectiva Social, I think is my whatever, I don’t remember how it works. But I’m yeah, I’m curious what other people would have to say is the worst which thing they want to vote for, if they have their own. So hit us up? Let us know.

Margaret 57:22
Yeah, do it.

Brooke 57:29
So, our listeners, we thank, we appreciate you listening. And if you enjoy this podcast, we would love it if you could give it a like or drop a comment or review or subscribe to us if you haven’t already, because these things make the algorithms that rule our world offer our show to more people. The podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. Like I said, you can connect with us on Twitter, Instagram, or me personally on Mastodon, or through our website tangledwilderness.org. The work of Strangers is made possible by our Patreon supporters. Honestly, we couldn’t do any of it without your help. If you want to become a supporter, check us out patreon.com/strangersInatangledwilderness. There are cool benefits for different support tiers. For instance, if you support the collective at $10 a month, one of your benefits is a 40% off coupon for everything we sell on our website, which includes the preorders for Margaret’s new book, we’d like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive patreon supporters including Hoss dog, Miciaah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Eleanor, Jenipher, Staro, Cat J., Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, Theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milica, paparouna, and Aly. Thanks so much.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E55 – Cindy Barukh Milstein on Trying Anarchism for Life

Episode Summary

Margaret and Casandra talk with Cindy Milstein about what anarchism actually is, why you should try it, possibly for life, the many horrors of fascism, and once again why community is all too important. They also talk about Milstein’s new book from Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, “Try Anarchism for Life.”

Guest Info

The guest is Cindy Barukh Milstein (they/them). Milstein can be found on Instagram @CindyMilstein on Twitter @CindyMilstein, on WordPress at CBMilstein.wordpress.com on on Mastodon @CBMilstein. Their new book, “Try Anarchism for Life” can be purchased from our publisher at TangledWilderness.org

Host Info

Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. Casandra can be found doing our layout at Strangers.

Publisher Info

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

Transcript

Margaret 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m one of your hosts today. Margaret Killjoy. And also with me is Casandra. How are you doing, Casandra?

Casandra 00:24
Pretty good.

Margaret 00:26
Today’s episode is an episode that a lot of people have been requesting, which is, ‘what is anarchism?’ This thing that we keep talking about on this show. And how should you talk about it with other people? Or I don’t know, whatever. It’s what isn’t anarchism, and with us today as a guest is the author of Cindy Milstein. And I think that you all will hopefully get a lot out of this conversation. But first, 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.

Casandra 01:05
Hi, Milstein. If you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns. And just a little bit of background about why you’re talking with us today.

Milstein 02:05
Yeah. Hi, to both of you. My name is Cindy Barukh Milstein and I use ‘they’ and I’m talking to you two, who are both part of Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness publishing collective. And you are about to put out my…your first book, and my somewhere in a bunch of books I’ve done called, “Try Anarchism for Life.” Yeah, so I’m super excited to think it’s actually in the mail to me now the real copy. Very excited to see it.

Casandra 02:45
That’s handy that you authored a book about anarchism, and we want to talk about….anarchism.

Milstein 02:53
Wow, coincidence. Good coincidence.

Margaret 02:57
Wait, are you an anarchist?

Milstein 03:01
Time will tell.

Margaret 03:06
Is that like a ‘we all aspire to this,’ thing?

Milstein 03:08
Yeah, that was gonna be one of my answers to what anarchism is. Or like that, you know, a friend of mine was talking about recently how they’re from Greece, and how people don’t actually, they….I forget the whole anecdote, but anyway, that you can’t say your something until after your life is over, then people can say it about you. So,

Casandra 03:33
Oh, interesting.

Milstein 03:34
You know, because we’re all,we all really are aspiring to be an anarchist. I hope. And, and, yeah, I guess I do use that label. And it’s on the title of some of my books so…

Margaret 03:45
Okay, well, that leads us into the first question, which is a question that I get a lot, that you might get a lot, which a lot of listeners of the show have. Milstein, what is anarchism?

Milstein 03:59
Oh, okay. Joking ahead of time, that if I am Jewish, yes, one Jew, they have two opinions. But if you ask anarchists, we probably have even more, and if you’re Jewish anarchists, thousands. So I guess I was thinking about this, there’s so many ways to describe anarchism, but lately I’ve really been thinking about it as like life, how we make life in common life and care. And do that in collective ways through self determination, self organization, self governance, because most of what we’re facing that is not anarchism are different forms of deaths machines. So yeah, lately I’ve been thinking about what is that? You know, what does that mean to be staunchly in not just an advocate out but like actually, actively engaging in forms of bringing in essentially life? But yeah, I guess the other ways people…or I describe anarchism often is a compass, or sort of horizon made up of a bunch of ethics, which you often highlight on this show through various practices of like mutual aid and solidarity and collective care and all sorts of other nice warm and fuzzy ways we do good in this world or try to create better worlds. But yeah, I guess the nutshell other version, I would say is, to me, anarchism is both the absence and presence, and the absence of all forms of hierarchy and domination or striving to lessen them as much as possible. But, it’s no good unless there’s a presence of something to fill in those absences. Like, I don’t know, anarchism isn’t just like, we hate everything, let’s like, you know, hate capitalism, patriarchy, chaos, whatever. But what is the presence of what we want and that’s actually for me, where anarchism really shines, as a philosophy and practice of freedom, and liberation and liberatory practices of all sorts. So, I really like to think about that part of anarchism. And, and so therefore, the, that means that anarchism as a practice, which to me embodies the whole of your life every second of the day, is constantly juggling tensions, and between, you know, what we don’t like and what we do and what we want to destroy, and what we want to create, or in a way, the core tension in anarchism is how do you create these beautiful societies and worlds based upon kind of balancing out freedom for each of ourselves and freedom, collectively? And, and that’s hard. That isn’t easy. But like, that’s what anarchism is and is not. Like, we just want people to be free and do their own thing, which to me is capitalism or liberalism, or all these other things, like, “Fuck you, I’m gonna do my own thing.” But anarchism is like, “No, you know, I should be able to become who I want to be. But I can only do that if you can do that too. And how we do that together is where it gets fun.” And to me, that’s what enter you know, a lot of what anarchism is about, that presence of all we do. So I don’t know, what do you two think?

Margaret 07:04
I mean, okay, one of the things that you touched on….I actually do I would define anarchism as this like striving for freedom, but I would I define freedom a little bit differently than, well, certainly liberalism or capitalism would. You know, my argument being we’re not free if we like live alone in the woods, I tried it, actually, I still had a society to fall back on. But, you know, freedom is like, not just the individual in a state of nature, or whatever. Freedom is, is something that we create, and build cooperatively with each other, because if freedom is the ability to like, maximize my own agency and act in the ways that I would like to the most or whatever, right? We can create that with each other. And I basically, I make the argument that freedom is a relationship between people rather than a static state for an individual. And so, I do you believe in maximizing freedom, in that I believe in creating relationships of freedom between people. And I really like, and I don’t remember who said it, I think I’m kind of paraphrasing it from Ursula Le Guin, is that anarchism is about the marriage of freedom and responsibility, that basically we need to all be as responsible to each other as possible so that we can maximize all of our, our freedom. And so that’s like, kind of what I set out to do as an anarchist, is create these relationships of freedom. But, I guess I would say like, if I’m talking to someone who is like, “Well, what is anarchism?” I think at its like, core, it’s like, simplest is, you know, yeah, like, as you said, you know, are like people trying to live in a world without oppressive hierarchies, right? You know, traditionally, in the sort of Western philosophical tradition that anarchism is most often reflected through, you have basically the idea of like, it comes out of an anti capitalist movement, it comes out of a movement against capitalism, and they said, “Well, also the state,” you know, they were like, “The state and capitalism are intrinsically linked, we are opposed to all of them, or both of these constructs.” And then people very quickly took it from there to be like, “and also patriarchy, and also white supremacy and also all of these, like systemic institutions of oppression.” And, you know, anarchism is the movement against those things, but has, as you talked about, always been tied into, for most people also a sort of positive vision, the creation of a society without these things as a, as a desired thing to move towards.

Milstein 09:39
Yeah, no, thanks for filling. I was I was thinking when you were speaking, it’s like, so much of anarchism to me is it’s like isn’t a fixed thing. To me. That’s why I like the idea of a horizon, your always kind of walking towards this beautiful thing, but you’re never actually going to quite get there. But you know, like, you’re never…you can see it but you can never fully, but so it’s this process. And yeah, one other thing When you were speaking, I was reminded of as often I talked about anarchism is, like us together, figuring out different forms of social organization and different forms of social relationships that emphasize, you know, freedom and liberation and that it’s impossible without the social, you know, like we we, we are social creatures. We can’t possibly do this alone.

Casandra 10:20
But I thought anarchism was about chaos. You mean anarchists are organized?

Margaret 10:31
Sometimes we spend too much of our time on organization.

Milstein 10:34
Or trying to organize. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, another way, another way. I think that’s why I like tensions, because another tension to me is the tension between sort of, you know, freedom and spontaneity or how do you know, like, in a way, maybe it’s playfully in the, in the, like, the word anarchism and anarchy, you know, you can’t…anarchism is like we can make, we can try to figure out ways to like, create, you know, neighborhood assemblies and info shops, and mutual aid societies and all these other things. And then there’s all this fun, spontaneous, spontaneous chaos and play and joy that happens that we never even thought of, and that we actually balance both those things we’re not you know, just…Yeah, anarchism is like, I also think of anarchism is like being really dynamic and flexible and open, and kind of like, “Oh, that’s a cool new idea. Let’s try that.” Versus like a lot of things like borders: “No, this was the line in the sand.” or state: “No, you have to do that.” You know, that’s really different.

Casandra 11:35
I feel like one of my favorite things about anarchism is that there are different ways to do anarchism. And that seems like counter intuitive still, even to a lot of anarchists. I’m thinking about like, I don’t know, Twitter anarchists: “No, there’s only one way to do this.”

Margaret 11:57
Yeah, the idea that we’re like, gonna find the the one right way is inherently broken. And I really liked the, you know, the quote from the anarchists adjacent, but not anarchistic or not not anarchist Zapatista is that, you know, “A world in which many worlds are possible is the goal.” Yeah, and I like that it’s, it’s not about coming up with easy answers, or providing easy answers to people, which is actually I mean, it certainly limits our recruitment, because we’re, we can’t just be like, “Oh, well, here we have the answer. Anarchism is the answer.” Anarchism, it’s said is like a system by which to come up with answers collectively, amongst people, you know, it’s like a, it’s much easier to tell people what to do than to tell people to become free thinking individuals who work things out with each other, you know?

Milstein 12:51
Yeah, yeah. No, like, maybe the emphasis on like experiments and processes and us together. And the way you use the answers as plural is, you know, most other sort of forms of…yeah, like, politically engaging, first of all, are limited to like, one sphere of your life. But you know, anarchism is like, “How can we make the whole of our, of our lives feel whole,” and, but to do that, there isn’t like, one way to do things. And so you know, actually, when people get…the more, I just find this time and time again, to always is so beautiful, it’s like, the more people you get together, the more incredibly beautiful creative solutions you have, or ideas or experiments. And, you can actually try multiple ones of them at once. And that makes for this kind of beautiful ecosystem, which is maybe another thing we didn’t talk about anarchism, I think it’s very, like, ecological in, not in the sense of necessarily like, you know, environmentalism, or making things, you know, but, like, very holistic, and understands things in ways like complicated ecosystems where it’s okay for difference to coexist in an ecosystem, and actually, that makes us more resilient and stronger, is like some of the most, like, I love walking, you know, and observing the world. And when you walk around and just see some of the most like, you know, sort of ecosystems that are thriving, they’re thriving, because there’s multiple different types of plants and animals and species, and, you know, engagements and interactions and experiments going on. And they all shift and change through that. So, how can we think of that? So? I mean, often when people think about anarchists, and you’re like, “Oh, and what kind of anarchists are you?” and you know, “I’m a feminist, anarchist, or queer anarchist, or Jewish anarchist, or, you know, et cetera, et cetera,” and like that’s like, some sort of problem and anarchism, and I think we’re just actually trying to articulate that freedom and that ecosystem has to bring in the fullness of who we are. And the fullness of who we are isn’t always the same. And it’s that beautiful kind of interplay between what we care about in our own lives and our own, you know, experiences and identities and yeah. So, I’m just kind of rambling, but I don’t know, lately, I’ve just been thinking a lot about the anarchist ecosystem. And that’s actually, you know, I mean, so much of, you know, like white Christian supremacy homogenizes everything from calendars to, you know, time, to how we make decisions, to, you know, capitalism gives you the same, you know, type of, you know, hamburger or coffee no matter where you are in the world if you know if it’s trying to like flatten out everything or actually destroy all sorts of foods so all we think of this certain foods, you know. And most like large scale forms of hierarchy and domination to succeed, they they flattened, I mean, we’re looking at fascism, unfortunately, appearing in a lot of parts of the globe right now. And it’s all about an essence creating this, like, pure identity, that’s homogeneous identity, that should be able to survive while the rest of us should be killed off. And I mean, ultimately, fascism. If it ever fully succeeded in instituting itself would die because there’s no possible way any kind of ecosystem can exist if it has only has one pure sort of being, right?

Margaret 16:13
Yeah, I think about the anarchist comicbook author, Alan Moore, makes this argument that the primary axis of politics in this world is not communism versus capitalism. It’s not left versus right. It’s, it’s fascism versus anarchism as you know, these two opposing concepts and what you’re talking about, but fascism is the making everything the same, in order to be strong. And then anarchism is about like, celebrating difference and creating….diversity as strength, you know, rather than, like, just unity as strength in this sort of fascistic context.

Milstein 16:58
Or, again, life. I mean, fascism, it has to engage in genocide, because there’s no other way to get rid of all those things that aren’t the one pure right, you know, sort of body you’re, and, and, and we’re like, you know, okay, we have to try to, like, bring forward life, and in a sense, and I guess one thing, when you’re speaking, I was also thinking about with anarchism, it’s always hard to sort of explain well what is anarchism is like, sure, some people came up with the, like, a word and applied it to, you know, a specific political philosophy at a specific time period in history. And those people that became anarchist love to travel and they wandered around the world, they, you know, convinced other, you know, through inspiring other people, a lot of people became anarchists. But anarchism is, is, is really this tendency of life unfolding. And when you get to the social realm, it’s of people together, unfolding that life together, to create different forms of social relationships that allow people to live in more cooperative, mutualistic mutually interdependent and co-responsible ways. And all the things, you know, solidaristic, carrying all the many ethics we can throw in, but humans have been doing that, since the beginning of time, and continue to do that. And when we look at, you know, uprisings that have happened recently, whether it’s, you know, in Iran or the George Floyd uprising, or we can name hundreds and hundreds of others, small scale and large scale. During the pandemic, which is still ongoing when, you know, people formed all sorts of projects in small scale and larger scale forms of solidarity and mutual aid to take care of each other. It’s it’s like that’s anarchistic and I particularly don’t really care to turn everybody into an anarchist, or to have everybody even say, “Well, this is about anarchism.” This like, we, I think that’s why Zapatistas are also super influential to me. And they, they also were like, No, we look for all the places in which we can listen to each other and hear the way we’re all engaging. And watch each other and share with each other and borrow from each other and all the ways that we’re engaging in creating that life and not worry about the labels. Worry about, and celebrate those places where people are like, throwing off hierarchy and domination, but not just throwing that off, but making their own lives together and going, “This is what we want our lives to be.” I really think that’s what’s so powerful about these moments. It’s like, you know, the uprisings, you know, the, all the hierarchical structures will say, “Oh, they don’t know what they want. They’re just angry. They’re just ripping things down. They’re just destroying things.” And any of us who’ve been in these moments, or have done a mutual aid project with anyone, or done anything large or small, you know, that’s not…sure we’re like, you know, a window gets broken or, you know, someone takes the food out of a little library and instead puts some…or books out a little library instead of puts you know masks or food during a pandemic. We, but what you realize is people are creating different forms of social relationships that are around love, and care, and beauty, and they’re sharing with each other, and they’re acting in profound forms of solidarity. I listened to this beautiful piece recently that was talking about the George Floyd uprising and how, in the first especially few days is like, it was the most like counter to all this sort of conquer divide around race politics in the United States moment. Because suddenly, people…and all sorts of other things class, gender, age, all these people were acting in this beautiful concert, sharing, and helping each other get away from cops, but also sharing food, and knowledge, and joy, and painting murals. And, you know, when…I really remember Unicorn Riot, which is a great like anarchistic news media project, when they were up close filming the precinct being burned down, they walked in and go, “Oh these people are destroying the third precinct, police station,” and then they walked in with their camera, and you’re inside watching people trash the place, and it being set on fire. And then people’s faces were joyous. And people walked outside and had a party basically. And I was like, watching that live. And going, this is why we revolt, we revolt….Why we just, quote, destroy things, destroy police stations that kill people, you know, status structures that are all these things, we’re not destroying the…our lives, and we’re actually…but that we do it so we can have that joy with each other. I’m rambling now. But I just I feel like that’s the thing that gets so lost, but all of us that are part of these moments know it, and we have to….like anarchism asks you, this is a really, I think, a really powerful thing to trust in yourself and those around you to know we can do this. And, you know, there’s nothing we have except sort of the trust of the things we promise each other in anarchism, because there’s no you know, police force or bureaucracy or anything else. There’s just this profound, deep promise and trust in each other. And we actually know that when we do it, we feel it, it feels different. It feels like life. It feels like love.

Casandra 22:05
We’ve talked about that some in terms of community preparedness, when we’re talking about things like natural disasters. And my understanding is that they’re realizing that when these giant catastrophes happen, whether it’s like a social catastrophe, or natural disaster, or something, people tend to band together, and work together,r and help each other in larger degree. It’s almost like, it’s like a natural way for us to be or something.

Margaret 22:33
With the exception of the elites, right, you get that elite panic thing, if you have…I hate using the word elites, but it’s, no, it’s in the name of the like, the people who have power within a society are the people who don’t band together in times of crisis, and instead try to like violently enforce the status quo. And, disaster studies stuff talks about that. That’s the name they use.

Casandra 22:58
Of course they do.

Milstein 22:59
I feel like what’s so sad is that we have you know, like, I hope that as an anarchist, I really hope we don’t like be like, “Oh, romanticize disaster,” as the places that this happens. You know, disasters are happening to us. We are… we want to create a society where, yeah, those moments show us that. But then we’re like, “Wow, we can do this all the time. We don’t have to just do this in disasters.” Although we’re pretty much in disaster constantly. We’re in disaster always. I don’t know, I don’t also want to romanticize, Oh, I feel so great that we have this horrible, you know…fascism is getting worse. We’re actually helping each other like, you know, provide community self defense in these wonderful ways. You know, it’s like, all that does is point to I mean, you know, the point to the sort of, anarchistic dream of you know, autonomous communities or liberated zones, or all these places, in which we would still have arguments and we would still, you know, have behaviors that would harm us and antisocial behaviors, but they would be, I guess, I guess the other thing I want is you know is whenever you do these experiments that are anarchistic things still happen that don’t feel great, but they happen to such a lesser degree, and we have so many more beautiful ways of dealing with them that aren’t about prisons and police. And…or we try to at least, you know, we aspire to that, again, like going back to the beginning is like, everyone’s like, “You know, you have all these, like, abolitionist ways of dealing with conflict, but yet we’re not good at it.” And I was like, “Well, how would we be, we’ve been raised in this culture for, you know, hundreds of years now, at this point, sadly, of, you know, police and until we’re a few generations, which, again we have the Zapitistas to show us, because I think they’ve been around long enough to begin to be able to show us this is that, you know, their children and their children’s children, I think they’re now probably have grandchildren that have come out of them that have lived in autonomous communities, is each new generation is more able to do it better, you know, which is why in a lot of diasporic and long long time traditions that way, precede, you know, states and capitalism and a whole bunch of things. A lot of times the numbers, like seven is really prominent. And we think of, you know, some indigenous cultures talk about seven generations. Jewish, you know a lot of looking back to seven, like cycles of seven, and that it may take, you know, seven generations to be able to actually forget, like, sort of erase the socialization of how you know, and learn better ways to do this. So we’re not instantly gonna have…I just want to emphasize you know anarchism is not, “Oh, great, everything’s wonderful now,” it’s just about, we’re gonna do things a lot better and more and better and better still, the longer we can hold and sustain these spaces of possibility.

Margaret 23:00
Yeah, I want to ask a question for each of us, which is, how did you become an anarchist? Or how did you realize you’re an anarchist? Or however you choose to define that? I don’t know who wants to go first? It looks like Milstein…

Milstein 25:49
Or one of you two?

Margaret 25:58
Alright, I’ll go first. Can’t see, but Casandra opted out by putting their finger on their nose. My story is very, like pithy, but also true, which was that, you know, when I was like, when I was a teenager, I was not excited about any of the political options that were presented to me. I had this like, brief moment where I was a libertarian, because I took a quiz online, and it said, and it had been made by the Libertarian Party. And it was like, “Well, do you like freedom? You must be a libertarian.” And my, like, communist girlfriend was like, “No corporations would run everything.” And I was like, “Okay, well, that’s true.” But, I don’t want to be a communist, as I understood it, at that time, meaning like, state communist or whatever, right? And still don’t. And, so I just kind of didn’t care about politics. I was like, vaguely social democrat. And then I went to this protest in New York City on February 2, 2002, it’s part of the, you know, gets called the ultra globalization movement, or whatever. And, and the anarchists were like wearing masks despite a mask ban in New York City. And I was like, “That’s cool,” right. And I didn’t know anything about the anarchists, except that they were willing to wear masks, despite being told they weren’t allowed. And that was like “That rules.” So, I went up to this kid wearing a mask. And I was like, “Hey,” and I’m 19, or something…well not ‘or’ something. I was 19. I said,” Hey, what’s this anarchism thing?” And he’s like, “Well, we hate the state, and capitalism.” And I was like, “Well, what are you gonna do about it?” And he’s like, “Well, we’re gonna build up alternative institutions while attacking the ones that are destroying the world.” And I was like, “Well, do you have an extra mask?” And he was like, “Yeah.” And he gave me a black bandana and I tied it around my face. And I became an anarchist. And I’ve not really looked back.

Casandra 27:53
That’s the initiation, is donning a black bandana.

Margaret 27:56
Yeah. And like, you know, that day, I got, like, rounded, I got kettled. And I spent like, I don’t know, five hours or something with like, 10 of us surrounded by like, fucking 20 cops or whatever. And, you know, then it was like, this very powerful moment in my life. And then it, it took me a long time to sort of like, become part of the sort of anarchist scene or milieu or whatever. But from that day forth, it was I called myself an anarchist.

Casandra 28:30
My story is less exciting. I had a really conservative, really religious upbringing, to the extent that I like, went to seminary and stuff. And when I turned 18, it was the first time I could vote. And, the discrepancies I was seeing between how we were told to vote and what we were taught was theologically sound was too much for me. So, I left, and, like the deconstruction of like, those things I was raised with and my concept of authority, the natural progression was just becoming an anarchist. It also helped that Crimethinc was based out of my hometown. So, I like lived and worked at the Crimethinc house for a while and got you know, exposed to all sorts of baby anarchist ideas through that.

Milstein 29:26
Oh, I love you’re an anarchist. I love hearing stories because they’re all different and great. Yeah, yeah. They’re never isn’t a form…Yeah, for a while I was there must be a formula to this. But, there are no which is actually yeah, no, it’s great.

Casandra 29:42
How about you?

Milstein 29:44
Yeah, I feel like there was preconditions that made me like sort of like what you’re talking about, Margaret that made me like, kind of looking for anarchism for most of my life, including like, my parents were like overgrown kids because of their own trauma. And so they made me their parent from the very beginning. And so they really let me like self determined with me and my friends. And we were always creating our own self organized spaces or going off on adventures. But, so were my parents. And so I also had to be…learn a lot of responsibility and how to take care of people, because otherwise no one else would. So in a way, it’s like a traumatic responses, as like, you know, and I think from ancestors, I don’t know. I more and more believe that there’s, like, ancestral, both trauma and joy that has, like, made me understand that like, to sort of be diasporic, to be not…you know, do you make community where you are with those who are with you, and you take care of each other. And this vague notion of like, our goal, or sort of our aim as humans is to, you know, be as good as we can and try to create as good a world as we can, that just, there’s all these preconditions that so I was kind of always looking around going, Oh, maybe this political orientation, or this group or that group? And I was like, nope, nope, nope. And then, you know, and then I met some anarchists in Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, where I was living, and they were like, “Hey, why don’t you read this?” And they kept handing me free articles and books. And then they were like, “Hey, why don’t you come to this self organized cafe where, you know, everyday, things are mostly free, but you can throw in money in a jar, if you want on, there’s events going on.” Or, “Hey, why don’t you come join us in some of the organizing we’re doing.” And I just, I, they were just so generous, they kept just gifting me. And it wasn’t like they were asking me to be them or to change or they weren’t even, you know, they were just like, this kind of like, I guess that’s right, come back to the sort of, like trust and faith in anarchism is like, you don’t have to like sell it to people, you can gift it, you know, and share it and and then they’re like, “Hey, do you want to come here, Murray Bookchin speak at something called the Institute for Social Ecology that was happening then and Murray would, you know, I went to hear him speak and 12 hours later, after his first talk, he because he would just talk during this program. And people came from all over the world, so there were anarchists from all over the world sitting in this room, and it was like, wow, they’re anarchists, and multi generational, all different ages listening, you know, and asking him questions and engaging. And I was like, whoa. And then as he came up to afterward, my friends introduced me and they go, “Hey, this is our friend, Cindy, Murray,” and Murray’s like, you know, “Where do you live?” I go, “Burlington” and he was like, “What’s your last name?” And then he goes, “You need to study with me.”

Margaret 32:25
That’s amazing.

Milstein 32:26
And then he like, really, like, as he did for many, many people, he’s just like, “Come to my house.” And we would like, you know, he lived very, very modestly often in like, a studio, and we just, like, would crowd around this room and just read and, you know, so I just started with him and anarchists in that community doing organizing and reading and studying. And, yeah, and also, I never looked back from there, too. And I think it’s because Murray, you know, maybe because we had affinity, because we’re both like, culturally, really similar. And, but he’s, like, you know, “I want to give you, you know, you have to, like, think and act for yourself,” and I’m so shaped by him in a way, you know, he was like, he was so interested in what we would do to…what we would, how we would replace the state with what. What would we replace capitalism? You know, what would we, you know, and it’s like, and maybe that just, you know, felt like…I felt at home, I guess that’s why we know, for the first time, like, “Oh, this is where I should be,” you know, so. And that it wasn’t, I guess, less than want to say is like that, that group and Murray…yeah. And then I start doing the same thing. There’s a, you know, gigantic, you know, movements going on and, you know, I was in at that time period, then started you know, going to New York, Montreal, all these other places, because I love wandering around and there was all sorts of incredible anarchist organizing, and then big movements started, you know, similar the alt globalization, movement and movements were constantly people were like, hey, read my scene. Hey, do you want this Hey, do you want that? Hey, do you need water? Hey, do you need a mask? And that’s just generosity of spirit like why would you not want that. I just feel like it’s like I just feel like more and more I just into this kind of big social fabric of…which doesn’t mean all anarchists have been nice to me or great to each other. It’s just yeah, it’s just overall it’s like far more generous of spirit and yeah. So.

Margaret 34:17
Well that that…one of the things that you brought up during that you know, going into this like multi generational meeting and seeing that there’s like anarchists from all over the world. I think one of the things you know if the primary target of this particular episode Oh, I guess try and do it with every episode of Live Like the World is Dying is people who are may not know, the things that we’re coming into it knowing right like so someone who’s listening to this might have only barely heard of anarchists, or only seen I guess what I would kind of say is sort of the tip of the anarchist iceberg, like the most commonly seen or known elements of anarchism change over time. I would actually say I wonder right now if it’s not the mutual aid projects,

Casandra 34:57
Oh, I was gonna say that crappy documentary.

Margaret 35:01
Oh god, I wasn’t even trying to think of…we could talk about An-caps [anarcho-capitalists] later, but ya know, like, okay, but of the actual anarchist iceberg…because there’s a very…I hate gatekeeping but there’s a certain….anyway you know, when I was coming up, the tip of the anarchist iceberg was like the black bloc, you know, people wearing all black and matte…I’m literally wearing a black hoodie as I say this, but but I don’t have a bandana over my face. But, that was part of me becoming an anarchist, I guess. But, you know, this, this idea of the people who wear all black and break things, right, is like the tip of the anarchist iceberg. And there’s this like presumption that people have that is incorrect about all of those people being young, able bodied, like cis white men, right? It’s probably changed enough that some people think that it might, there might be some queer folks in there too, right. But this, like, youthful anger movement, is what people know about. And I think that that’s, well, that’s what, you know, the media presents us as, and all of these things, but actually finding out that it’s this like multi generational movement, and this like multi like, like literally multicultural movement, like different people coming from very different, like cultural ideas of how they want to live, and like how they express themselves, you know, within that is actually the kind of more beautiful part of it. I have nothing against the people….I have nothing against the black bloc, but it is like, only some tiny portion of what anarchists do. I don’t know, I don’t know why I’m going on that rant.

Milstein 36:35
I mean, in a way, I think what like when people go, Oh, anarchists, you know, I wear black bloc and I wear a black mask constantly, every day now. Because, the whole time since the pandemics been going on, it’s like how do we be collectively carrying is we wear masks, and which is what the point of the mask were in the first place, which is like a black bloc was a way to take care of each other in moments when the police and the state are trying to target you. And all sorts of social movements around the world have…mask their face to protect each other, in moments of danger from the structures that are trying to kill us and do kill us. So, I think that’s what gets lost is like that it’s just black bloc is one tactic, you know, wearing masks for variety of reasons in a pandemic, is the similar tactic. And the underlying again, that ethic below it is, you know, you just have to push a little bit, but with anarchism it’s about we try generally a lot harder to try to balance like how can we have social relationships structured around taking care of each other when there’s like perfect moments of profound abandonment. And so like a lot of people coming into anarchism right now, a lot of the younger folks that I’ve met lately, and that’s why I think multi generational spaces are important is the caveat is like, it’s not because Oh, the older you get, the more you know, it’s like no, if we’re in multi generational spaces, we all…in all sorts of different directions learn from each other. Because I don’t know what it’s like to be 12 right now. But if I hear a 12 year olds telling me their experience, I’ll better understand the world and better understand how they understand, you know, it’s like we need each other in these multi generational spaces. So, I would like…folks that have been coming into anarchists in the last couple of years, it’s either, you know, been because of the George Floyd…in North American continent at least, the George Floyd uprising, or mutual aid projects and solidarity, you know, disaster relief projects that are kind of structured in anarchistic ways. And, and, yeah, so there’s just a different…like what values do people come in at anarchism at different moments to understand and so, you know, I, I think if people at these moments are there in person versus on, you know, Twitter or social media, which sadly, more and more has become, you know, a default, which is another way, you know, sure people find anarchism, but I still don’t really think that’s anarchism, you know, it’s like a flat version, because you’d have to practice it in ways, in embodied ways face to face makes a big difference. But oftentimes, when people are in their spaces, they realize, wow, there’s lots of anarchists here, and they don’t even like tell me, they’re anarchists, but I can kind of, if you’re, you kind of look around and start asking people, you know, get to know them or start asking then people go, Yeah, I kind of been doing this for a long time. But you know, I can’t run as much now. So like, Yeah, I’m like, I cook food and I bring that or I’m, you know, a legal observer, or, you know, I’m what, you know, I, I can move fast, but I don’t want to run right now. So I medic, or all of these different, all these different roles is like, oftentimes, I kind of like think of anarchism now too, is like, we’re not huge in number oftentimes, but we’re so damned dedicated to being this like infrastructure of self organized, you know, mutual aid and care and solidarity and life making that we’re almost always like, there are all sorts of these pivotal moments to be like, Hey, we don’t have to, you know, control or tell everybody how to do mutual aid, but if people have questions about kind of how to do it, you know, we can kind of like offer some advice, or we can show you how some like, you know, decentralized yet federated structures worked in the past. And often, if you look around there actually is sort of multi generational anarchism, but sadly, sadly, I think, especially in in the US context, you know, I really, really encourage you, you know, this is another caveat, is like anarchism is this profound, profound, difficult duty, and really think of it as a duty. And it’s hard, really hard to stay an anarchist, to continually make the spaces you want, even if it’s difficult, and it gets more and more difficult over time. So, you know, I really committed to making all sorts of different kinds of spaces where we experience what it feels like to be the people we want to be for in a in a space we want and that doesn’t always end up looking pretty or great sometimes. But often, it’s pretty magical. But part of that commitment is bringing together, you know, different genders, and different cultures, and different skin colors, and different bodies of all sorts, and different ages and being really committed as an anarchist, the older I get to not be like I’ve been there before, it’s really boring. I don’t want to go to that thing. I don’t want to be around young people, blah, blah. Yeah, sure, you know, but I get so tired of “Oh, no, this thing again.” Can we learn to at least make better mistakes?

Casandra 41:43
Oh, God. I feel that.

Milstein 41:45
Yeah, but I don’t know. I’m also really committed to that like, creating and being in multi generational spaces. And when I’m in those spaces, myself, and others, encouraging us to all listen to each other, and all tell our stories, and all be curious ,and not think we know everything you know, and like that, to me is part of an anarchist practice. Maybe that’s why I say ‘aspiring always,’ you know, is like, how do we create those spaces where…Yeah, where we see the anarchism isn’t the stereotype. We…Yeah, I should go back to like Murray. I was like, when I first met him, he’s like, so so well read, like he never went to barely…I mean, he was like, a radical, and he was like, a baby. He was like, never had a childhood. And so but, you know, we moved from, like, sort of Marxism and to anarchism. And then he was just super, super, super well read. And for the first year, he was like, just, you know, never asked for anything, just would like spend hours and hours teaching, engaging conversation. The first year I go, his ideas are just so big and so expansive, and brings into so much beautiful things from all sorts of different historical movements, and philosophies, and tendencies, and logics that you should think of that, you know, are dangerous, like fascism, and all these other things. But also, I know, there’s things that don’t sit with me, right, but I couldn’t, I didn’t feel like I could feel my brain like stretching these beautiful growth ways. But I couldn’t figure out how to argue with him, like, argue in the sense of like, not angrily, but like wrestle with ideas with him. And even other things I don’t think I agree with him points, but I don’t know how to articulate it yet. And I was like, I have to just let my brain keep expanding and keep, you know, and he kept saying, “I want you to learn to think for yourself.” That’s why I’m like, expose, you know, all these ideas, all these different tendencies. And then at one point, I was like, hey, whoa, and then like, you know, and then you reach this point where we could have these, we became good friends, and I could wrestle together with him with things I agreed with or disagreed with, or, you know, or things we both didn’t know the answer to, which is even more interesting. And, and how do you how do we create spaces as anarchists that allow for I feel like that was such a gift, you know, to allow for that, that growth and to allow for us to see that there’s so many different ways of doing things in the world. And we have to give ourselves the patience, and the time, and the space with each other to do that. And otherwise, it’s just going to remain….I mean, there’s lots of reasons but you know, I don’t want to anarchism just to be you know, 18 year olds who stay anarchists for two years, and then it’s, you know, it has to be grounded and so on. Yeah. Yeah. You know, more reasons to stay an anarchist. Well, that I’m kind of all over the place there.

Milstein 42:33
But that does tie well into the next question that I have, which is, the title of your book is “Try Anarchism for Life,” seems to be addressing that sort of thing. Do you want to talk about your new book?

Milstein 44:41
Um, yeah, I mean, I kind of came out as I used to hate hashtags. I used to hate social media. I still I still do. But anyway, I used to roast hash tags…because I really like how can we boil down our ideas to two words or three words in a hashtag? But anyway, I started using “Try Anarchism for Life” at one point, but I was like, Oh, how do I fill that out? Because I guess for me, it was kind of this playful hashtag, but then I really meant like, anarchism has to be something once you embrace it that you you want to act anarchitically for the whole of your life and I don’t understand how you can’t once you embrace it, because I don’t understand. Although I’ve known plenty of people who have, you know, but how once you’ve eyes widened to see hierarchy, domination, you kind of go What, whoa, wait, I don’t believe that anymore. I just don’t understand that. But ,once you know, once, you’re sort of like, in anarchism and anarchistic, how, how do you do that for the whole of your life, but in service of life? So, that is kind of like puns play on or like word plays, like, try and anarchism for the whole of your life and for the life of all the ancestors that came before you, and the life of those will come after you, but also in service of life. And that it’s trying because we’re never actually going to all have to keep experimenting. So yeah, so I whatever, I kept playing with it and writing little little things about it on my plate to do sort of picture posted on Instagram. And then I don’t know last winter, especially this time period has been incredibly bleak and traumatizing and horrific, horrifying, depressing. And, I’m not making light of it, it’s just been a hellish, hellish, a lot of hellish time periods in history, but there are some that are particularly, yeah, horrific. And this is one of them. Fascism. Ecocide. You know, collapse of all sorts of any kinds of supports systems. Yeah, it’s a really horrific time. And so yeah, I don’t know, last year, especially last winter, I was like, what if I wrote little prose that really kind of tried to figure out, to kind of answer the thought experiment what are some of the many beautiful dimensions of anarchism? And it came about to talk about this in a little prologue to the book, but it came up on me posting things on Instagram originally, I don’t know when I started doing that with the scriptwriter because I’m for life. But I take a lot of pictures of graffiti and street art and write little stories about some. I have thousands I have not yet written stories about on my camera. But uh, but I started just thinking, why is it that we like, mostly, you see a lot of spray painted Circle A’s, but they’re kind of haphazard? And just what does it say? When someone just the random person looks at a circle, like they might not know what it is. Or they might think oh, those anarchists things, people that break windows or black bloc, you know, like, it’s this, we’re not, again, doing justice to the beauty of the beauty of activism with Circle A’s even though I love to see Circle A’s everywhere. So then I, on Instagram was like, hey, who could? Who? What artists, friends of mine can draw Circle A’s that, like, embody within the drawing the values and the beauty they find in anarchism. And yeah, I was so struck by how hard it was for so many folks would kept sharing things with me. And a lot of them were just things being set on fire, which is great, you know, police cars, fine, you know, but, you know, hey, we can maybe use those cars and buildings later, maybe, you know, the point is to tear down that world. Who cares? You know, what would we put in the place of others. And so, but then people started drawing them. And I started going, Okay, I’ll do a little book of these things, just for fun. And so this book is 24 or 26 of these little stories. They’re all very short and compact. They’re kind of playful, poetic, lots of sort of puns, there’s, they’re kind of poignant in places, but they’re very compact. I was like how can I say a lot in a small space. So I hope you look, there’s a lot of little things in there that if whether you already know about anarchism, or you don’t that kind of gesturing toward a bunch of wider things, but I love that forum, and I used 26 of the different drawings that people started creating all over the place. And since then, a lot of artists have been creating a lot more. So, it feels really exciting to see a lot more beautiful Circle A’s out in the world. And yeah, I want to inspire people to, you know, I really think part of, you know, we as anarchists were like, Oh, this is this cool club, and we know how great it is, well, you know, we’re just going to do Circle A’s, you know, scrawl Circle A’s, but we’re not going to….. I don’t know, I’ve been accused of being a friendly, welcoming anarchist. And I think that’s a good thing. So, this book is, is also like, I also want people to act more anarchistically, and I don’t want it for I want it because seriously this world, if we don’t do that we are it really is a choice between anarchism, fascism or ecocide. And so I hope this book contributes in a small way to encourage all of you who read it or even think about any of the circle’s in it, to think about how you can portray the beauty of anarchism more and more through your life, through your practices, through modeling it, through the projects, you do, the art you do, so that other people can find it and embrace it, because sometimes it’s really damn hard to find anarchism and it shouldn’t be, or to find that beauty and it shouldn’t be, you know, and in this moment, we need it and I don’t know I was really struck last winter, which was, you know, absurdly bleek, I started writing these prose and was, you know, like, feeling so crappy before I was doing it. And then the more I just was like, I’m just gonna get obsessed in writing these, that’s all I’m going to do right now, because the world’s going to hell, just I could focus on this for the next couple months. And I was like, it was like, this good medicine from my brain. Like, the more I just was, like, just focus on what’s beautiful in anarchism, and try to write about some little practices, and not pie in the sky. Some of them are playful and fanciful, but most of them are things we really do. Also, the more I did it more as like, whoa, wow, I start my brain started remembering that it’s not just all fascism and ecocide, and tragedy and depression, despair or death. I like remembered that, that tension that, you know, there is always trauma and joy, there is sorrow and joy there is we’re never wholly in collapse or, you know, we’re never wholly in disaster. We have. Yeah, so I don’t know, I think, even on that level, for us to really stretch our brains to think about and practice that beauty, you know, I don’t know, I’ve, I’ve done different, like, hospice care and other forms of care around death and grief. And, you know, people think, Oh, this is hard to deal with death. And I don’t know something about like, being really open to these moments, when people are experiencing most sort of profound transitions in life, you know, going from this life to whatever after you believe happens. It’s a pretty profound, intimate moment that only happens once in your life for each of us. And to accompany someone through that….Wow. It’s, I think the sort of, you know, if we’re able to do those things well, to take care of each other well, to really intimate moments of grief and or dying, and death is, is we find out all the people that are like, “Oh my god, I should have been living my life, I should have been telling people I love them, I should have been telling people I don’t love them,” you know, like people become genuine and like actually, strive, oftentimes people become, not everybody, but a lot of people like it calls into question your mortality an you try to be suddenly like recommit to life, which a lot of people I’ve heard, say, during the pandemic, too, this is just telling me what’s important in life, you know, we show the world is in hospice right now, you know, and we don’t know if there’s going to be a future in the next 10 years, or what humans if humans as a species will survive this time period. And, but we do know, we can treat each other as good as possible and alleviate as much suffering as we can, and make every moment until that last moment, as beautiful as it can be, which is what hospice is, in the best of scenario’s goal is, is to alleviate unnecessary suffering, and to accentuate as much beauty and collected care as you can. And so I don’t know, I’m not it, I hope this book says, please, you know, all of us can’t give up. Too many of us have lost friends to them killing themselves or taking too many substances intentionally or unintentionally, or depression, or, you know, all sorts of other reasons. And, you know, that’s, that’s there, that’s real, right? And I want more of us to be here, you know, and so how can we be there to help alleviate as much suffering as we can and accentuate forms of collective care, even if we only think we have another six months or 10 years, or whatever it is we have, and not give up? Don’t give up? Because that’s, we might, you know, I don’t know, to me as an anarchist, that’s always like, I don’t know how they always stay an anarchist. Because, you know, that’s like a question we could talk about. But part of it is just this belief is like, I don’t know what else I’m like, This is what I want to my last breath is to try really hard to be encircled by solidarity and care and love. And, you know, in ways that we do it non hierarchically, you know, in ways that we do together. That’s all one sort of can ask for, but one also can try to do. Long winded version of, “Why you’re doing this,” but the last thing I want to say or not, the last thing cause I can say many things, cause I’m so grateful to all the 26 people who do this incredible beautiful Circle A’s and the many other people sent me one that I didn’t include because I was like, I can only write so many pieces. And, but, and they’ve all been really generous with the Circle A’s and they’re all in the same thought about if people use them for all sorts of things. And again, anarchists we’re like cool, take it and turn it into a t shirt, or stencil, or spray paint it, or make a poster. And same with my words. I really love that we give those things to each other. But, I also really want to thank you two, and your whole collective of Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You’ve also just really embodied like anarchistic values and how like we collaborate, and you treated me and the whole process. It’s been like, you know, learning together, experimenting together. It’s been like a really beautiful experience. So, for me books aren’t this like thing, this commodity which unfortunately we have to charge for because capitalism, you know, someday and hopefully we won’t have to that’s the irony, you know? Like, you know, not irony, just the sorrow, right? You know, we can’t do the things we love as anarchists completely in ways we would want to. But we can do them as much as we can in the ways we want to. And so everything about this book, for me books are I do them as labors of love. The funds are going back to you all to support your publishing project. But I, I for me, it’s the process of them that’s anarchistic, like how do we? How do we think through doing them? Why are we doing them? Who are we doing them with? And for? And how do we treat each other while we’re doing them? And once it’s out in the world, how do others use it? And how do we engage with it? Right? I put books out in the world not to be a commodity and sit on someone’s shelf or whatever. I do it because I want people to, to think and engage and transform the world. So, it’s part of my way of inspiring and intervening in that, trying to push proof prefigurative politics, which is always my underlying agenda. Come on, we can do this.

Margaret 55:55
Well, I like it that you picked 26, because in my mind, it’s an alphabet book. It’s just you know, a, a, a, a, a, a,a ,a…..

Casandra 56:05
There’s an alef in there.

Milstein 56:07
Oh, I never even thought of that. There’s an alef, an alef is the first letter in many different Jewish alphabets and probably other alphabets, too. And so there’s a Circle Alef in there. So you have to get the book and read the story.

Casandra 56:24
Yeah. And my my plug for it is that I think it was a perfect first book for our collective to tack and I’m just so grateful that you came to us and that this all worked out. And but what…is it really…today’s release day? I just realized we’re recording this on release day. Is that true? That’s true.

Margaret 56:42
And people might not be listening for a couple months? We don’t know yet.

Casandra 56:46
Yeah. But now they know, we’re recording this on November 15th. I really appreciate that it’s like an intro to anarchism in practice. I think that theory can be really intimidating for people. But, I just find your work immensely approachable. And, I think that’s something that’ll be really beneficial to people.

Milstein 57:11
Yeah, I hope so. I also hope, I feel like I’ve sent it out to a lot of different folks to read it, like, well, some who are longtime anarchists, and I don’t know, I also they’re like, Oh, I also really hope that it lends like, you know, love and solidarity. People have been anarchists for a long time. Or it just reminds them why they’re anarchists or think through different things, you know? Yeah, it’s, I hope it’s accessible for folks that don’t know about anarchism, which I think it is, and also just like a gift to people who already are, because we also have to keep each other anarchists for life. Because, you can’t do that alone. You have to keep reminding each other. Yeah, yeah. We’re not just you know, So well, but anyway, you know, I’m really, really grateful to Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness collective.. So if folks listening to this have not checked out their website, and their growing list of projects,they don’t just do books, they do all sorts of wacky things.

Casandra 58:00
Like podcasts, like this podcast. Fancy that.

Milstein 58:06
Baked goods, I don’t know. Oh, one stop shop.

Margaret 58:13
Well, is there is there any last word on on “What is anarchism?” or anything like that, that anyone wants to touch on?

Casandra 58:23
I mean, I feel like we could talk about it forever. But I also feel good about what we’ve talked about today.

Margaret 58:29
Yeah, fair enough.

Milstein 58:31
Yeah, yeah. How about you, Margaret, what do you think anything else you want to?

Margaret 58:35
I’m willing to give it a shot, I’ll try some anarchism.

Casandra 58:40
Will you try it for life?

Margaret 58:42
So far, so good. I’ve been an anarchist more than half my life. And nothing’s really shaken that, which is funny, because I go through these intentional kind of crises of faith with anarchism every now and then, where I’m like, Wait, really, and I kind of try and like break down the whole thing and like, come to a new conclusion. And the conclusion I keep coming to, I do this every couple of years, usually, because someone in the anarchist scene annoys me so much that I’m like, how am I in the same movement as that person? And then I like go through and I’m like, oh, because I hate the state and capitalism, and like, white supremacy, and you know, all that stuff. And so then I like, come back to it again. But, so yeah, I’m willing, at this point. I’m pretty sure I’m willing to try it for life. I mean, who knows? I’m not, you know, maybe…

Casandra 59:27
That’s very anarchistic of you to interrogate your anarchism.

Margaret 59:31
Thank thanks.

Milstein 59:32
Yeah. Which, we actually feel like we need to. I feel like that’s a profound anarchist value, like, I don’t know, I feel like one reason I’ve stayed an anarchists for a long time is often because of that, like one of those personal…I really felt them or like going through sort of like I hate all anarchists, but I’m still an anarchist. I don’t like…okay. I have to figure out how to keep going in those moments. And…but I don’t know like, I think that’s the real value of some of the my favorite like projects and collectives, like, oh, we have to, every six months, stop and actually reevaluate if this project makes sense anymore if we, you know, and then end it well, when it doesn’t, that was some of my favorite things. Yeah, like, continually reevaluate and reassess. But yeah, I don’t know, how do you stay? I’d love to hear how do you think you stay a anarchists for life? Like, as long as you have so far, because I think that’s really, it is a challenge when society, everything in the world…it’s like right now wearing an N95 or KN95 mask, which I hope most people are doing, or everyone is doing, you know, you walk into spaces, and you can literally be the only one for days on end in public places. And you know, it’s a good exercise in building up one’s…. Yeah. How do you do things when the whole of society reflects back to you that you shouldn’t be doing that? And you’re like, “No, I know. This is right. I know this is the ethical thing to do. I know it’s the kind of practice I want.”

Margaret 1:00:57
Go ahead, Casandra.

Casandra 1:00:59
I was just ascentinthat is difficult. I was thinking about my child, actually, my kid who’s eight and the only one wearing a mask. Which is not related to anarchism, but it’s hard to be different.

Milstein 1:01:12
Yeah. How do we do…but how? Yeah, so how does, as anarchist, does one you know, to sign up sort of anarchists for life is to sign up for a lot of like, grief and a lot of not seeing the world reflected that you want to see, and knowing that there’s a far better world, you know, that dissonance…I always been like, you know, I get depressed a lot. And then I’m like, Why do I get depressed? It’s because of that gap between the world that I want to see and the world that I live in. I know where that depression got strong. It’s not a mystery, you know? So. Yeah. So, how do you…I was just curious, like, either you how you stay the older and older you get this? How do you stay an anarchist?

Casandra 1:01:45
Community, I think. Not being anarcho individualists.

Margaret 1:01:51
I, it’s funny, because some of my answer is like, kind of, like, I’m used to being the weird one in the room, like, you know, like, like, if I walk into a grocery store, the weird thing about me isn’t that I’m wearing a mask. The weird thing about me is that I’m a trans girl, and I exist, you know, and so I’m like, the mask is like, Yeah, whatever. And then, like, in some ways, the anarchism or like, you know, the way that that’s like, sort of visually expressed for me, because I still sort of well I dress sub culturally, but that really kind of predates my anarchism, actually, I was just always a goth kid. But like, I’m sort of used to being the weird one in the room. And I’m kind of used to having the ideas that are like, a little bit more out there. But, honestly, in a lot of ways, I actually feel easier and more comfortable about being an anarchist now than I did when I was younger. One, because it’s, it’s reflexive for me, right? Like, it’s, you know, people always say, you’re gonna get, you know, you’re gonna calm down as you get older. Right? And in some ways, I have calmed down. But, but I’ve settled into the, the ideological positions that I hold, and they feel more and more concrete to me, like, the idea that capitalism could possibly make sense or that authoritarianism could possibly make sense just completely disagree with everything that I learn and everything that I experience. So, I don’t know. And then also, there’s just, frankly, more of us than there were 10 years ago. And, the thing that I have more interest in and excitement about is the breaking out of it from subculture. I say this as someone who’s sub culturally, I’m involved in music subcultures, and I’m also sort of sub culturally anarchist in terms of that has been like my primary, like friend groups and things like that over the past, like maybe 20 years. But, more and more anarchism is a more mainstream position. And that is what gives me hope, way more than anything that happens kind of within subcultures. The fact that increasingly, because we’ve been saying, like, “Hey, here’s the stuff that’s wrong,” and people been like, “I don’t know about that.” And then all this stuff happens. And people are like, “Oh, I think this is what’s wrong.” And we have to be over here. We, we can’t be like political hipsters about it. We can’t be like, well, “I liked it before it was cool.” But, people are more and more aware of that. And I’m, I’m very excited about that.

Milstein 1:04:08
Yeah, I think that’s really true. That’s great. Yeah. I mean, before the pandemic, I spent, like, not as much time as I wanted to, I wanted to spend more time but who knows if I ever will. But in, in Greece, or I spent a lot of time in Montreal, and those places, there’s like, large multi generational incredibly multi generational, you know, like kids to 90 year olds, actively engaged in anarchism, you know, and it’s, it is like a public thing, like people….It isn’t something like people are scared to say oftentimes or that, you know, it just feels like it’s a, you know, anarchism is part of the, yeah, the ecosystem, you know, and the antagonisms are at least clear, but the social integrity between the fascists and police or things like that, but I don’t know what space is. I always feel it feels so different. Like it’s maybe that’s what one thing that keeps me is like, like wow, this is possible to sustain this and to build to build this and to grow it and to see it widen out beyond anarchist milieus, to be something that you know people like, consider in in, you know, engaging in in their life whether they become anarchists or not, you know, they’ll engage in solidaristic practices, even if they don’t become an anarchist, because they’re like, “Oh, the anarchists are doing this really well.” Yeah, I was just thinking, like some of the things in we were talking about like that, instead of my grumpy like, oh, it’s really hard to stay an anarchist. Because it also is, it is so hard to stay an anarchist longer. It just feels, dispiriting in a lot of ways, but I don’t know, I just also feel like, it’s beautiful. Because you just, the world becomes more and more….I like less and less binary and more and more nuance, and open and beautiful. And, like I was thinking about, like, things, you know, I just more and more things come into my like, framework, and anarchism just seems to become so much more like, you know, I don’t think it’s become more…it has become more feminist and queer and trans, it needs to become more like still, but I, that’s because a lot of us can put a lot of hard work into making it. So it’s been a ton more aware of like, you know, race, and colonialism, and spirituality, and a whole bunch of other things because a lot of us have said, Hey, these are parts that anarchism needs to sustain itself for a long time. And it feels really beautiful to have more brought into anarchism to make it possible to bring the whole of ourselves into anarchism and not have to choose between, you know, being a queer and an anarchist, or being, you know, having some sort of spirituality and being an anarchist. Even if I don’t believe in God. Yeah, but, but I also think..I was just thinking when you’re talking, it’s like, funny, it’s not funny. Maybe that’s the wrong word. In this odd way, it feels like the longer I’m an anarchist, the more kind of…I mean, it feels kind of intense, because, you know, years ago, I’m like, wait, fascism is coming. And you kind of feel like you’re screaming it, nobody’s listening, you know, and then, but I don’t know, it also feels grounding, to not be surprised by what’s happening in the world, and to be able to be calm about and say, Hey, no, we kind of, you know, we’ve been thinking about this for a while. Hey, we already have.

Casandra 1:07:02
We’ve already accounted for that.

Milstein 1:07:04
Yeah, I think it’s really calming and grounding to not, not like there’s many other emotions that we might have. But, we’re not necessarily surprised that everything is falling apart. You know, we’re like, “Hey, we already knew that. We’ve already been like, engaging in all sorts of like imaginative, creative, solidaristic, mutually responsible projects and practices.” And yeah, I don’t know, that keeps me going as an anarchist in this weird way that’s kind of grounding. So yeah, I don’t really appreciate…I just hope folks listening too, like, really try to think of all the different practices that can keep you there for, you know, the whole of your lives in whatever ways that is, because, yeah, I just, I don’t know, I, I can’t, none of us can fix things. But we can be there to support each other through things. And I really want to give a shout out to the last couple, few years during the pandemic, growing giant, bigger and bigger circles of queer, trans and Jewish anarchist circles that I feel really grateful to be part of, and those circles have like, long, long time, you know, and people who are diasporic, I’m gonna widen that circle. So people who are diasporic, have long, long, long practices of how you get through moments of fascism, or, you know, aloneness, or loss, or life transitions, or, you know, which anarchism by itself doesn’t necessarily have and needs to to more. And so, I don’t know, I just feel like the more we bring, we expand the ecosystem of anarchism and bring in more the whole of ourselves. We’ll have all these different kinds of things we can draw on to help us get through things, you know, yeah. Yeah, that’s an actually yeah, so anyway, just want to my pitch is like, No, like, we all need to be there for each other. So to end on, like, Casandra’s thing is like, community, community, community, community community.

Casandra 1:08:53
Yeah, for sure.

Margaret 1:08:55
Right, well, that does seem like a good note to end on. Thank you so much for coming. And if people wanted to check out your work on social media, what are your social media handles?

Milstein 1:09:06
Oh, I love using Instagram, although, yeah, sure. I don’t like the ownership. And I just started to experiment with Mastodon. We’ll see. And I’m pretty easy to find in other ways. So, and I love when people get in touch.

Casandra 1:09:21
I think use or you see CBMilstein, is that right?

Milstein 1:09:26
Yeah, I think I’m CBMilstein. Yeah. And I’m also have a blog that I sometimes use, I think, at CBMilstein at WordPress.com

Casandra 1:09:36
And you can find “Try Anarchism for Life” through AK press and on the Strangers site.

Margaret 1:09:43
Yay.

Margaret 1:09:52
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, you can support it by telling people about it. Tell people about it in person ideally, but also mess with the algorithms that run the world by rating and reviewing and it’s not really messing. It’s really playing into their systems, but it still allows this kind of content to get put in front of more people’s eyes. So, and you can also support this podcast by supporting us directly or rather supporting the publisher, which is Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which you’ve heard a bit about during this episode. You can support us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersInatangledwilderness, we send out a monthly zine we also have another podcast called Strangers in the Tangled Wilderness that includes the content from that monthly zine that is available to all people. And in particular, we would like to thank Hoss the dog, Micaiah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Eleanor Jenipher, Staro, Kat J, Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, Theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milica, and paparouna. Thank you so much. And thanks, everyone for listening, and I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s happening.

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S1E54 – Shane Burley on Conspiracy Theories

Episode Summary

Brooke and Casandra talk with Why We Fight author, Shane Burley about conspiracy theories, false consciousness amongst the right, how mythos get built to influence how people think, and how the root of a lot of conspiracy theories is anti-semitism.

Guest Info

Shane Burley can be found on Twitter @Shane_Burley1, on Instagram @ShaneBurley, on Mastodon @Shane_Burley, and on Patreon at www.patreon.com/ShaneBurley

Host Info

Casandra rocks. Brooke can be found at Strangers helping up keep our finances intact and on Twitter @ogemakweBrooke

Publisher Info

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

Next Episode

This Year in the Apocalypse on 12/30/22 and every two weeks there after.

Transcript

Live Like the World is Dying: Shane Burley on Conspiracy Theories

Brooke 00:18
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcasts for what feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, one of your hosts today, along with Casandra. Today we have the honor of talking with the author, researcher, and journalist Shane Burley. We’re going to discuss conspiracy theories or whatever rabbit holes that topic takes us into. But first we’d like to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero network of anarchist podcasts by playing a little jingle for one of the other podcasts on the network. Here it goes.

Brooke 01:29
And we’re back. Shane, thanks for joining us today to talk about conspiracy theories. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, including sharing your pronouns?

Shane Burley 01:36
Sure. Thanks so much for having me on. My name is Shane Burley, my pronouns are he/him or they/them. I research the far right amongst other things. I’ve written a few books on it, Why We Fight from back in 2021 and Fascism Today from 2017. And most recently edited this big anti fascism anthology called an No Pasaran: Anti Fascist Dispatches From a World in Crisis. And right now I am working on a book with my co-author Ben Lorber for Melville House books, on anti semitism.

Brooke 02:06
Nice, thank you. Yeah, the one you wrote back in 2017 – Casandra has a copy of that book. And when I realized that my beliefs align with anarchism, I was like, I should learn about what this is. And, you know, learn more about fascism, too. And I was like, Casandra, do you have a good, like, primer book on this for me? And she just went to the bookshelf and pulled that one out. It was yours! Handed it over.

Shane Burley 02:33
Oh, awesome. That’s what I was hoping for, when we wrote it because there wasn’t a lot that was good and straightforward at the time, at least from our side.

Casandra 02:40
Spreading the good news about anti-fascism.

Brooke 02:46
That was, it was a good piece for, for getting started and learning there. So thank you for writing that. And for your continued work.

Shane Burley 02:53
Yeah, thanks so much for saying that, it’s really kind.

Brooke 02:56
So we wanted to talk today about conspiracy theories, and I’m just gonna start with a real basic question just to make sure we’re all kind of on the same page as we’re having this conversation, of what is a conspiracy theory?

Shane Burley 03:08
And conspiracy theory is a theory about a conspiracy that is not true. More appropriately, it’s one that could not be true. So I think it’s distinguishing from actual conspiracies because there are conspiracies in the world. So, you know, a good comparison about this would be the killing of JFK. There’s conspiracy theories that range from three people did it to 10,000 people did it. But no matter what one person had to engage in some kind of collaboration, so some kind of conspiracy is possible, which is separate from conspiracy theory. So I think we separate it from like the various kind of quote unquote “conspiracies” that lots of organizations and governments engage in just in day to day work, versus ones that basically come up against the basic laws of physics and how we understand the world to work, and specifically divert our understanding of how complex issues work by sort-of putting an element of fantasy into them.

Brooke 04:03
So that kind of answers one of the questions that I’ve been pondering, maybe we can talk about it more? Casandra has been wondering about, you know, why conspiracy theories have become so mainstream. And my sort of corollary thought was, it seems like they’re so appealing to people, you know? Those two things are kind of tied together – the mainstreaming and the fact that they seem to really appeal to people for some reason.

Casandra 04:28
Not even just mainstream, as in the rest of society mainstream, but mainstream on the Left.

Shane Burley 04:37
I was interviewing a friend, Brendan O’Connor, who wrote a book, Blood Red Lines, about anti-immigrant kind of nativism and border politics. And he made a comment that I thought a lot about which was that he’s kind of unsure about where the line between conspiracy theories and quote unquote, “false consciousness” lies. What’s the difference between conspiracy theory, and what’s the differencce between misunderstanding sources of oppression and how systems work, which is a common thing?

Shane Burley 05:06
I think one of the realities about a conspiracy theory is that it is an attempt to liberate oneself; it is actually an attempt to do that. It’s an attempt to explain people in power and explain your own disempowerment. And so in situations in which lots of instability or feelings of loss of status – whatever they are, real and imagined – when those things start to sort of percolate, conspiracy theories are the easier answer. They don’t require a ton of political education they don’t depend on a lot of shared reality, even. And our society depends really heavily both on false consciousness and conspiracy theories. Depending on how you put those lines.

Shane Burley 05:48
Take the entire Republican Party: [it] has built a mythos on working class people, specifically, not elites, right? That’s the language used. And their policy is entirely based around basically inculcating the rich and the people who own capital. So how do you explain both of those things? It has to be institutionalized false consciousness, which in itself engages a certain amount of conspiracy theories. How can you understand empowering the rich and empowering the working class at the same time? Those things don’t comiserate. Except millions and of millions of people assume that they can. And so I think there’s an institutionalization of that kind of thinking. Conspirarcy theories, the wild ones, actually aren’t that far afield from that, you know? Because if you think about the way that things – just basic [things], like taxes and social services – versus the kind of benefits of the rich, it seems pretty obvious that when those who own capital are enriched that that money comes from us. I mean, it doesn’t require a master’s thesis to explain that. So you have to get millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people to basically avoid thinking about that, or to believe it’s untrue. And so that, I think, is foundational to the way that we think about conspiracy theories because we all – not all of us, hopefully – but huge portions of us engage in some level of conspiracy thinking,

Casandra 07:03
You can tell me if you think this is accurate: it seems like conspiracy theories often try to blame individuals, rather than looking at systems for instance, it sort of frustrates me when people are like, you know, eat the rich. Which yeah, eat the rich. But like, “If Jeff Bezos would just, you know, redistribute his wealth, everything would be fine.” But it wouldn’t be because capitalism would still exist, and there would just be someone else super rich. You know what I mean?

Shane Burley 07:32
Yeah, I think the kind of classic line on this is that conspiracy theories – and particularly anti semitic conspiracy theories, just as like the archetype for it – are one of the most effective defenders of capital because what it does is divert your attention away from a system and places it on supposedly corrupt individuals. And there’s a couple of reasons I think this is really attractive to people. I think one is that it actually plays on bigotries really well, and validates them in a certain sense. So there’s certain stories that people tell right? So one is that they’re aggrieved and legitimately so. I would say that most members of the working class are having a problem, right? They’re being exploited at work. They’re not being paid, obviously, what they’re worth; paying bills is hard. It’s miserable. It’s very upsetting, the things that we go through, even people who are reasonably affluent but not ruling class, it’s actually quite difficult. And so that’s a legitimate grievance. And I think that grievance has a lot of anger built up with it. And that anger inside people’s bodies and minds is often indistinguishable from bigotry. I think it’s actually those things intermix a lot. So it’s the impulse that if someone is actually legitimately your oppresser in a dynamic, you know, your boss, there’s an impulse to actually want to say something bigger to them.

Shane Burley 08:45
There’s a lot of research about people being pushed, and saying things and doing things they never thought they would in the direction of bigotry, simply as a way of harming those they think are harming them. And so what a lot of these conspiracy theories do – and populists conspiracy theories in general – is allow you to sort of indulge in that a bit. So it’s not uncommon to focus on the effeminacy of the ruling class. So you’ll see this a lot: “Jeff Bezos, look at his soft hands. He can never do the hard work like us.” There’s a certain kind of ‘let’s make them look effeminate. Let’s make them look queer, code them as queer.’

Casandra 09:18
Also, the lizard thing, like talking about how they look like lizards

Shane Burley 09:24
Very much about their appearance. I mean, if you look at… early 20th century socialist literature, the inordinate focus on making the capitalist class look fat, just absolutely rotund, as if they’re consuming things that, you know, they’re eating so much that you can’t eat. You become small and they become big. So I think that allows, it gives us a twofer, right? That says, okay, yeah, they’re the capitalist class, they’re oppressing in that way. And also that discomfort you feel of fat people, those are now one and the same, and one actually mobilizes the other, like one becomes a weapon for the other. So I think that’s an easy way to focus on that personalization.

Shane Burley 10:01
And the other thing is, if getting rid of Jeff Bezos doesn’t solve the problem, what the fuck would solve the problem? That’s really scary. I think this idea that there are certainly targets in terms of the kind of super rich and stuff. But it’s not, that’s not enough. Like, what does it mean to go after a system of capital? What does that even mean? I think that’s a really confusing prospect. And it’s one that is really emotionally unsatisfying, when it gets right down to it.

Casandra 10:30
Yeah, cuz we haven’t. We haven’t imagined alternatives. Or, you know, the average person hasn’t imagined alternatives to that.

Shane Burley 10:37
Or how will you even get there? Like, what’s the pathway to alternative? I think the idea of getting rid of Jeff Bezos, whether or not it’s realistic, at least you kind of understand the physicality of what that would be. But what does it mean to communize the entire economy? I mean, what does it mean to actually look at your life and say, “How can I fix these really deeply laid traumas and undo them, and replace it?” That is just such a mammoth task that it’s, I think, it’s hard to build up a consciousness that’s really easy, has a quick fix mentality that’s easy to communicate to another person. It’s a lot easier to say, you know – I’ve worked for unions, I’ve been a union organizer – to say like, “It’s that boss, look what he’s doing, look at what the car is driving, he couldn’t do your job.” Those things are easy. And they are true in most of those cases, but they’re not the end of the story. And so I think we end up with that really foreshortened perspective because the other stuff is just so big.

Casandra 11:32
Yeah. And I wonder if… when we explore the big stuff we also have to look at the ways that we participated, which is difficult. Yeah.

Shane Burley 11:42
Yeah. I mean… capital’s really complicated now. And the way we, our lives, are intertwined in it is really difficult. Huge portions of the economy are made up of people that would have previously been considered petty bourgeois: freelancers, contract workers, you know. Is an Uber driver a business owner? I mean, there’s these things that don’t really make sense in the traditional kind of Marxist sense, are the ways we talk about activism and capitalism and wealth. And so it ends up being really complicated. And then when you add the dimensions of being, you know, white folks or in the Global North, that’s sort of hyper exploited, under other countries, it’s like, well, how does that relationship work? You know, does it? Do I see, am I doing that? Do I benefit from it? What does it mean to benefit from it? You know, I think that actually adds those layers of complexity to it. I think that’s why this is the new story. I mean, that’s why conspiracy theories are the story that we tell – it’s a really important story. And like you said, it’s not just the Right, it’s the Left, too.

Brooke 12:44
So why do you think that they have become so much more mainstream? Because they’ve always had that quality of being simpler explanation or an easy thing to point to, but now we’re seeing them becoming more common. And as Casandra said, you know, more common on the Left as well. Like, what’s the rise about? Why is that happening?

Shane Burley 13:07
I think that it comes partially from the destabilization of kind of Western economies. The the center has collapsed out, so you’re not having as much as moderate politics in general. The radical version of right wing politics is conspiratorial, it’s necessarily conspiratorial, so the more radical it gets, the more conspiratorial it’s gonna get. That’s really, really important for how it builds up sort of an enthusiastic base of supporters, is built on conspiracy theories.

Shane Burley 13:36
Again, the Left and the Right will build their energy on similar impulses, right? The impulse to liberate oneself. Well, if we’re talking about, quote, unquote, “white working class” – which is a kind of an artificial category – but if we’re going to talk about that in the kind of MAGA/Trump sense, they are people, like all people, who have diminishing 401ks and have, you know, rent they can’t afford and stuff. Even though they’re not disproportionately poor or anything, it’s a general feeling of decline, right? So there is decline generally happening. And so that radicalization is going to be in the direction of conspiracy theories because if you were straightforward about right wing politics, no working class person would ever accept such a thing. I say, “So you’re going to keep taxing me and then and then give tax breaks to rich people?” Which makes no sense when you think about it. “You’re going to bust my union, I won’t have as good of a pension?” You have to have conspiracy theories, and bigotries underlying that. So those simply just radicalized more. And they give a narrative, a mythology, to the real emotional turmoil people are living with. Stop the Steal makes a lot of sense if you feel like everyone’s stealing everything from you. Like, you’re always being stolen from, of course they can steal this election; “This election told me they were gonna fix problems and they stole it from me, just like they stole my pension, just like they stole my home in foreclosure.” So I think those things are transpiring.

Shane Burley 14:50
I think on the Left there is an increase in conspiracy theories because of the decline in political education and us talking things out. There’s not a really good sense about systems. And there’s also just a rapidly increasing sort of social network of sharing information that shortens it a lot. So instead of sort of talking about complex issues, it’s a lot easier to package them in bite-sized bits. And those things become a lot more viral.

Shane Burley 15:13
People also really enjoy thinking that they are participating in secret knowledge of some kind. Like they’ve been smart. They’re ahead of the curve, they’re ahead of the official information. I mean, Google search, you know, “Epstein didn’t kill himself,” and see all the people that have decided that they know something that the rest – everyone else – doesn’t know… There’s an effort to step past uncertainty, and confusion and complexity, and just kind of claim knowledge. And so that’s, I think, an important part of how those discourses happen, and then they just happen so rapidly. Now, they just they progress so quickly.

Casandra 15:46
Yeah. I know deep down that conspiracy theories on the Right are ultimately more dangerous. But I get so much more frustrated when I see it on the Left because I feel like we should know better. You know, I was thinking about the, like, to the Right, Jews are dirty communists, and to the Left Jews are dirty capitalists. And one makes me more angry than the other.

Shane Burley 16:14
It’s interesting because we associate the Jew as the communist with the Right, and actually the Right use the “Jew as the capitalist” more. So for example, the second generation Klan would focus on Jewish capitalists. Part of it is that most likely a lot of the people in the Klan base hadn’t met Jewish communists, and people in other countries might have met Jewish communists, you know? But this is one of the things I think is interesting is that there is just a rhetorical crossover that happens here, and actually, when you see – and this does happen, it’s not it’s not nearly the level that the Right or liberals want to make it sound – but there is moments of crossover when people from the Left take on really far-right ideas or can move to the far right, it has happened. And anti-semitic conspiracy theories is one of the primary ways that happens.

Shane Burley 17:04
This sort of anti capitalism – I use the term fetishized anti capitalism, but you know, basically any enemies of capitalism are therefore my friends. And so even these kind of radical traditionalist forms of anti capitalism – these ultra conservative, nationalistic or fascistic forms anti capitalism – sort of start to feel like, well, they’re opposed to the same systems, they must be the same thing. And that happens with with anti semitism. And I think we allow for this in all kinds of ways on the Left.

Shane Burley 17:32
I mean, the amount of times I’ve been at international solidarity rallies where really despotic regimes are being – kind of like with signs and flags – simply because they’re enemies of our enemy, either the US or the West, or Israel or something, or far right groups, are propped up because they supposedly are against the banksters… Their theory about it involves all kinds of like Rothschild conspiracy theories, and you know, they want a certain kind of Christian nationalism. So we overlook those really commonly when they are our enemies, or when they are ourselves. People are very soft on each other’s conspiracy theories.

Shane Burley 18:11
I mean, how many 911 Truth folks have you known in your life, you know? And those are fundamentally anti-semitic conspiracy theories, they depend on them. That’s how they function. And this is true in the environmental movement. This is true, obviously, in feminist circles. It has different targets, different constituencies, but it’s what we see with the kind of growth of turf-ism and that, these use of conspiracy theories to explain. So it’s something that we’re not prepared to sort of deal with. And we don’t, I think, always communicate why it’s a problem. I don’t think there’s a general consensus on the Left that it really is a problem.

Shane Burley 18:51
I’ll go back to the Epstein thing, you know, the Epstein case. It’s really suspicious. People should probably look at that, but I don’t know what happened. And I have no reason to believe it was conspiracy. I just don’t, and the assumption by everyone jumping immediately into it sort of communicates to me that people feel totally fine, and engage in conspiracy theories when they have gaps of information, and everyone’s pretty gentle on this. And that’s not the most serious conspiracy theory. I’m not gonna put my stake in the wall in that. But I think we need to start talking to each other about that.

Shane Burley 19:19
The other thing about this is that it’s a losing strategy. You know, this, it’s one of the worst ways of liberating yourself is to do it in accordance with a conspiracy theory because you will necessarily lose. We will always necessarily lose. There is no conspiracy theory that has ever led someone to an effective social movement to change anything.

Casandra 19:39
Ugh. Yeah. That’s all I have to say. Amen.

Brooke 19:49
Yeah, so you guys started getting into the the ties between conspiracy theories and anti-semitism. And there was a whole bunch that went on in that conversation that was just over my head here, that I did not pick up on.

Casandra 20:02
You can ask for clarifying statements.

Brooke 20:08
I know, but you’re on a roll, I don’t want to interrupt.

Casandra 20:12
We try to make this digestible to someone who’s not familiar with the topic. So you know.

Brooke 20:22
But I am definitely curious to talk more about the ties between conspiracy theories and anti-semitism. I brought that up the other day and Casandra made the point of, I think you said something like, “All conspiracy theories eventually lead back to anti semitism” or something like that? If I’m totally misquoting you, please correct me. It is not a thing I’ve ever heard before. And I wanted to dive into that statement that you made and understand it. So I want to talk more about the links between conspiracy theories and anti semitism.

Shane Burley 21:00
Anti-semitism has always held a conspiratorial element – a conspiratorial core even – before it engaged in what we would know as conspiracy theories today. So anti semitism, historic anti Judaism in Christianity – and when we say anti semitism, we’re specifically talking about the type that was formed in Christianity, we’re not talking about broad xenophobia against Jews. So for example, in the classical Muslim world, Jews were far from equal in Muslim dominated countries, but they [Muslims] didn’t engage in the kind of like vicious, conspiratorial, genocidal anti semitism that you see in Europe. That’s very much a European-Christian invention. But what they essentially did was, in the development of their theological differentiation they had to build on earlier libels around Jews as a sort of conspiratorial cabal of people that engage in really nefarious practices for misanthropic or even demonic reasons. And part of this has to do with the Jews’ resistance to assimilation. Jews of 3000 years ago are not the same as Jews today, but there is a certain amount of, like, “We don’t change according to societies that we’re enbetted in or engaged with.” There’s a certain amount, for example, with Holika Jewish law things do have a certain continuity to them. And that’s sort of threatening to people who want to remake entire populations of people. It’s kind of inherently anti assimilationist. And it’s very easy then to paint them as an outsider, ones who aren’t playing by our rules and not part of our society. Christianity, in an effort to differentiate itself as a breakaway religion from the Jews, and focus really heavily on Jews sort of failing to understand the real spiritual message of their own scriptures, failing to live up to the promise that their religion. Like, “Christians are the new Israel” right? Then eventually develop that into open hostility, and then the suspicion that Jews are engaged in something really nefarious.

Shane Burley 23:00
So the blood libel is an example of this: the idea that Jews are secretly kidnapping and killing Christian children to use their blood in different rituals. “Host desecration” is one; after the Catholic church decided that the the wafer – the host – is literally the body of Christ, they then started accusing Jews of stealing that host and stabbing it because they’re so cruel. They have, you know, accused them of having pacts with the devil, engaging in all kinds of horrific things. And then at the same time: Jews, they weren’t disproportionately moneylenders, but a number of Jews were involved in money lending because of their prohibitions in other industries. And then, of course, Christians used that as a propaganda tool, and basically kind of trumped up the charge. And so that populist anger was starting to intermix with the stories about Jews, and you get incredibly violent hostility.

Shane Burley 23:46
I was talking with my co-author, Ben: I don’t think at this point in history it’s good to luxuriate in all the terrible stories of things that happened to Jews, I think that’s almost, like, pornographic in a sense. But if you read pogroms that are kind of a mix of this theological anti Judaism and the reaction to the monarch, basically, they’re targeting the Jews, instead of targeting the people who actually hold power. There’s this kind of guttural rage, and the kind of cruelty that they’re engaged in is totally off the map, it has no productive function other than just as much kind of creative violence as possible. And that’s kind of a very particular impulse. And this is one, I think, is the flip side of the impulse to liberate yourself: to engage in oppression of others has some of that element to it. And it’s very ephemeral. It’s very kind of gut driven.

Shane Burley 24:37
But those stories about Jews went through a lot of versions. A lot of ideas about Jews – Jews as moneylenders, Jews as people who steal from Christians, inherently dishonest people – those were secularized into what became known as anti semitism, opposition to Semitism. It was a kind of pseudo scientific idea that Jews had a particular ideology almost in their genes, and they were affecting society in particular ways. So the movement against them, the movement against semetic influence, was sort of productive movement to stop them from kind of degenerating society. The idea of how they’re influencing society is that they’re engaged in these cabals, either banking cabals, cabals involved in the media, you know, they’re changing public perception, they’re involved in legal professions, obviously, again, money lending, all forms of like banking and finance, in particular, all these kind of new industries and early capitalist environment. And so these are what we know as the most popular conspiracy theories – about secret societies, about Rothschild bankers, things like that – emerge out of that period. And that’s the beginning of what we know today as a conspiracy theory.

Shane Burley 25:39
A really coherent secular conspiracy theory, you know, it might have some religious overtones, certainly, but it doesn’t argue itself necessarily in purely religious terms. All conspiracies that come later basically have the same format that was developed around this. They all have the same basic structure. And most conspiracy theories have lineages that you can trace back – one came from another one which came from an earlier one, and so on and so forth. They always come back to Jews. And most conspiracy theorists today hold that same anti semitic structure. So Q-Anon is a really great example of this. You know, Q-Anon rarely, quote unquote, “names the Jew.” Names the Jew is something that open white nationalists do, right? They’ll say, “Okay, this is typically the Jews.” But instead, what Q-Anon does, is they’ll use the figures of the cabal, they’ll take all the structures of this earlier anti semitic conspiracy theory, they’ll use verifiably Jewish names, or stereotypes associated with Jews, they’ll take older pieces of those conspiracy theories, theologic pieces, and secularize them. So for example, they believe that a cabal of satanic Democrats with curious R last names are taking children and sacrificing their adrenal glands to extract this substance that they use then in rituals to intoxicate themselves. Right? It’s familiar, uses a lot of sciency sounding words – Adrenochrome, which is not a real thing – but it sounds like…

Casandra 27:01
They were making the forbidden matzah or whatever, right?

Shane Burley 27:04
Exactly. What they’re doing is basically capturing Christian children and using them for their evil Hebraic rituals. But again, they don’t always say – some of them do, increasingly, they do say Jews, but it takes just a tiny scratch on this. 911 Truth is a really good example, you know, where cabals of bankers – or you know, Israel, whatever it is, that’s verifiably not involved – are accused of being involved. And the pattern for how this works has an earlier anti semitic conspiracy theory to it. So these are generally how those kinds of work.

Casandra 27:06
Can you can you really quickly explain what you mean by “ur” something?

Shane Burley 28:40
Ur would mean the kind of universal base form. So the most origin point. So it’s saying that ur conspiracy theory maybe means like the first conspiracy theory, or the kind of conspiracy theory that established the format for it, so you can look back and say, okay, it started here. What’s the thing that these all hold in common? Then I think you’ll see that in the blood libel is that they all hold those basic structural points in common layer.

Shane Burley 28:48
In my book I interviewed David Newark, who wrote Alt America and other books about the far right and conspiracy theories. And he, you know, says that basically, the blood libel is the “ur” conspiracy theory. It’s like the basic source of all conspiracy theories because the idea that small cabal of people are engaged in this really nefarious work of extracting goodness and turning it into something evil. So anytime you have a conspiracy theory, it’s going to have this DNA. Is there any conspiracy theory that engages in a way that’s not anti semitic? I think part of the problem is that we live in a globalized world. So other cultures have had conspiracy thinking in them, but the West has really exported anti semitism as a subtle cultural code.

Shane Burley 28:48
So I mentioned earlier Muslim anti-semitism, obviously, there is anti semitism in Muslim-majority countries and some Muslim communities, but when you look at it, it actually looks much more like exported Christian anti semitism with some Islamic kind of branding, or like some opportunistic use of Muslim sources. It very much looks like a Western export. And I think that’s what we’re seeing now globally on conspiracy theories is that even if there was versions of these – and other cultures had conspiracy theories against diasporic people, you know, there’s conspiracy theories about Chinese immigrants in Malaysia and there’s conspiracy theories about Koreans in Japan, there are those – nowadays, the exporting and universalization of the anti semitic conspiracy theorists, the”ur” conspiracy theory, has affected all peoples sense of how they build those. So you’re gonna find spray paint in Japan, that says, “The Jews did 911” in a place where those people likely had never met a Jew, and maybe no one in their ancestry line has ever met a Jew, right? So this isn’t about Jews. So in that way, we globalized so effectively and exported our own bigotry so much that there is really no place in this conspiracy thinking that doesn’t involve Jews.

Brooke 30:06
You might say the genesis of conspiracy theories? (Laughter.) I learned so much in the last 10 minutes. I feel like when I go back and listen to this episode, I’m gonna play it at three-quarters speed and pause to ponder things. No, seriously, I really did. Thank you for the deep historical context there because a lot of that that was unknown to me, that I went, you know, “What, what?”

Shane Burley 30:36
I also know it’s a lot, too. And I think this is part of the problem is that in any given situation, particularly in situations of anger, how useful is it for me to explain to them what host desecration is, you know? I think it’s actually hard to intervene in these spaces. And it’s especially hard to intervene when there’s really contentious stuff, like Israeli colonization of Palestine and stuff. So it’s actually really hard with this very justified anger. And the targets of those angers are actually are coded as Jews. I think it’s actually really hard to then intervene and say, “Hey, hold up, you’re actually doing a thing. And it has a history and it’s a problem.”

Casandra 31:15
It also makes it difficult to talk about anti semitism in simple terms. I feel like sometimes when people ask me questions about it, that should be simple questions, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of information I’d have to transmit to give them proper context. You know what I mean?

Brooke 31:32
I have literally been that person to Casandra.

Casandra 31:37
I was interviewing him and I was like, we should do an interview about this.

Shane Burley 31:41
We transmute American racial taxonomies on to anti semitism that don’t really fit, you know. The couple of interviewees that I had for the book that made this interesting point, they phrased it in an interesting way. And I think JFRCJ, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, had framed it this way, as well: Only sometimes does anti semitism make Jews poor. It doesn’t make us poor all the time. And in fact sometimes it stabilizes Jewish income. So for example, in areas when Jews would have been a hyper exploited population, they’re allowed to have certain amounts of wealth as a way of defecting anger from peasant classes away from the actual rich people and onto the Jews. So they might not actually interact with a noble person, but they would interact with a Jew, and they might see the Jew having stable money, and there might be nice things in their home, and that would communicate to them: “This is the person that’s exploiting me, rather than the Noble who I’ve never come across.” And there’s a certain kind of positioning of Jews in a lot of those situations.

Shane Burley 32:40
You know, one thing we talk about in the book is this phenomenon of Jews, and the relationship of white Jews to whiteness, is that when white Jews were very openly accepted as white folks in the US, particularly after the Second World War, there was a kind of class jumping that took place. But what happened was that a lot of Jews – particularly what we call a kind of second wave Jews moving here in the 1920s – were very poor, a lot of them socialists, a lot of working in garment factories, union organizers. But basically, in these dense urban areas, they started to leave those urban areas as they were kind of coded as white, became middle class, and in a lot of ways conservatized, right? Israel was formed in 1948. There’s other things that kind of made more conservative. And who moved into those areas? It was a lot of black folks, it’s a lot of Puerto Rican folks, lots of communities of color, where Jews now might be the business owner. They might be the landlord because they kind of class jump. They might own the grocery store that all the folks in the community use, and have maybe jacked up prices, or they work and they’re not being treated really well. And so again, that dynamic is continued of them being sort of the middle agent, you know? The Jewish shop owner does not control capitalism, but they are the person you might see. And so again, you kind of repeat that dynamic.

Shane Burley 33:55
So it’s not always that Jews are going to experience anti semitism in the way that black folks experience anti blackness in the same kind of structural way. And also the US is not foundationally built on anti semitism in the way that it’s built on anti blackness and colonialism. So it works fundamentally differently. There are some cases in which it looks more similar. So for the Orthodox Jews, they are more likely to be, you know, hurt by police, they are more likely to be poor. There’s a recent study that came out that if someone is coded as Jewish in employment, they’re much, much less likely to hire them. There’s usually other things that kind of go along with it… There’s limited data on this, but it’s not with someone who’s coded as a secular Jew, it’s more like if they’re coded as Orthodox, where someone’s different, seems like it might cause you a problem, or it might make you uncomfortable. Or if it feels like they hold Jewish qualities that are associated with unsavory-ness, you know, like large noses or weird ways of speaking. Or maybe they bring weird food into the office, stuff like that. So those things do actually happen, but in general, it works differently.

Shane Burley 35:04
And so there’s a certain kind of structural unsafety for Jews, they’re always kind of worrying about whether the other shoe was going to drop because anytime there’s instability Jews often get targeted in that. But that doesn’t mean in the day to day they usually, you know, can’t find a job, or [get] pulled over at disproportionate rates. So it works differently. It’s hard for people to identify that.

Shane Burley 35:24
This is kind of true in general when we’re talking about oppression outside of really narrow terms, people generally have learned to understand things in a certain way, and dominant hegemonic discourses, and then learning new ways is really, really tough. I think it really, it’s really clear, for example, in the way that the Left just seemed totally unwilling to understand trends and issues for decades, just totally looked like they couldn’t compute how little they understand sex work issues, or body issues, fat issues. It’s an unwillingness to see that oppression is actually different for different folks, either individually or as groups, and to sort of accommodate for that, and to think through how these things are complicated. And so we can’t assume that one thing tracks with another, that you can talk about oppression in one situation and have it be the same for another. So I think that creates that problem you’re talking about. So what are you going to do, you know? Sit down and say, “Look, we need to have a conversation about, you know, second century Egypt, BC, and how Jews are coded as this.” I mean, it’s, it’s a hard proposition.

Casandra 36:32
We have to talk, we have to go back to 1905. Talk about Czarist Russia. (laughter.) Yeah. I’m wondering, so I’m trying to remember exactly how you phrased it. But when there’s, when there’s instability, that’s when people tend to target Jews. And when there’s instability, that’s when conspiracy theories also seem to, like, foment as well as fascism. And I’m wondering if you can talk about how those things are related, especially because you write books about fascism and anti semitism.

Shane Burley 37:07
I mean, fascism is also an attempt to liberate oneself, right? It’s to liberate oneself by inculcating more oppression, like an auto immune response, right? We’re gonna attack the immune system, as if that’s actually what’s harming us. We’re gonna attack, you know, the movement to undo white supremacy because that may be what’s harming us, rather than, obviously, the reverse. So it’s tenfold by two things: One is a sort of a centralized identity, and one is a sort of social stratification. So the idea is that your identity is fixed and must be preserved. And that’s an essential piece, usually racial identity, but sometimes it’s others. And then the other thing is that all of humanity has to be stratified in this hierarchy, you… are white, because you are not black, and that whiteness is above blackness, for example. And this is a way of taking a privileged part of the class and telling them that their oppression is the cause of the progress of other parts of the class. So it’s specifically about splitting the class. So in a way, it’s very clear what it’s doing, it’s disallowing you the ability to organize amongst working people or non-rich people, to change the society that is better for all of you. Right? So it’s very specific in that way.

Shane Burley 37:42
Anti semitism and conspiracy theories are a story about your oppression that never get to the structural roots, that are usually factually untrue, and are able to kind of break potential solidarity. So I think where the immediate hardships of actual organizing are onerous, confusing, and frightening: conspiracy theories actually disallow that. So for example, if I really want to change the world, it’s going to require things of me, right? I’m going to need to figure out how I’m participating in white supremacy so that I can actually collaborate with non white folks. And once we do that, it actually changes the world for all of us, right? This makes it much better for us, like I personally benefit from that. But getting there, it’s a little bit hard sometimes. It’s also confusing, I don’t quite see it, I’ve never seen it before, right? And I’m actually running into this movement. It’s telling me that my whiteness is actually the thing that would make me happy, that whiteness is actually the thing that historically kept me safe, that whiteness is actually what I’m trying to protect. It’s not all this class conflict stuff. That’s the lies that they tell you, you know, those cabals that actually want to take from you, they’re all socialist movements. And I think, so, people are out there and confused.

Shane Burley 38:19
And remember, bigotry, it’s really interesting because it speaks to people almost like their conscience, it’s impulsive. It felt really emotionally… it feels true to people. I can tell you what doesn’t feel true is Marxist jargon… That’s what feels true. A lot of times when someone speaks of it they’re trying, you’re searching for a way to liberate yourself. You’re looking for a revolutionary story about it. And then someone comes in and tells you something that actually tracks with a lot of the impulses you felt historically because being raised in the society we are that teaches people to understand the world in a certain way. So I think those movements come up in that way.

Shane Burley 40:12
You know, fascism is just a particularly modern and revolutionary version of something that happens all the time. It has historically happened for centuries, you know, this kind of impulse to actually, to barrel down into a hierarchy, to basically reestablish tradition and immobile social roles, and to focus on identity at the cost of all others. So, instability simply radicalized this people to change their lot. And that is what’s happening at such a systemic level. Now, because capitalism is imploding, the environment is collapsing, the stasis of the 20th century cannot continue any longer. And so that necessitates radicalism of all types. Which is also why, in a sense, stay anti fascism, because if you want any kind of revolutionary movement that’s positive, you’re gonna have to reckon with the revolutionary movement that’s not positive.

Casandra 40:58
Right? Seems simple enough.

Brooke 41:06
So you’re working in some real toxic material, they’re dealing with fascism with anti semitism with conspiracy theories, and that’s got to, you know, take a toll on you on your mental health and well being. And I’m wondering what you do for yourself to help take care of yourself? And spoiler: this leads into, you know, a deeper question, which is what we always try to get to in Live Like the World is Dying, is talking about how we help others, and then we help our communities with this. But what do you do for yourself?

Shane Burley 41:38
Having Andy Ngo sub tweet you, or whatever.

Shane Burley 41:38
I don’t, I think the reality is that I don’t have a good, solid answer to that question. I don’t, think that I formed health in my life in a very perfect way. But there’s a couple of things I kind of thought about. I mean, I think one is that I think researching the far right is actually sort of empowering to people. I think, you know, if I kind of tried to figure out what it is I’m doing here, like, why am I here, it’s not just for productive work, it’s not just that I want to produce something that will stop it, I think, is productive. I mean, that’s certainly a part of it. But there’s also a certain part of it about looking at something that seems frightening and confusing, and sort of under the illusion that if I keep listening, and I keep reading it, it will somehow make sense to me. And that gives me sort of control over my life in a way. And I feel like I can sort of manage it, even though it actually brings instability into my life, you know, putting my name on an article about it, and you know, get threats from proud boys or white nationalists, that brings instability and –

Shane Burley 41:49
Totally, I mean, that is actually unstable. But there is a sense that looking at stuff, I think, brings a certain stability. You know, in doing this book, I was interviewing a rabbi from Chabad-Lubavitch which is like a Hasidic. He’s kind of particularly like, left leaning. Hot Seat. But, you know, I was talking to him about anti semitism, particularly in Orthodox communities, which often gets discussed as being the more, sort of facing it more frequently because of their visibility, you know, an Orthodox Jew is very visible. And a Herati, or ultra-orthodox view is even more visible than that, you know, black hats, suits, people kind of know what they’re looking at. And he was telling me about, you know, “I don’t really concern myself much with anti semitism.” And I was like, “Well why not?” He’s like, “Well, it’s not very Jewish.” And he was like, “I actually fill my life with Jewish things. And this is particularly not Jewish.” And so, you know, part of me is sort of like, the opposite to this is to engage, is to deny engage with things that aren’t Jewish, is to basically say, “Actually, I am going to be really purposely involved in the antithesis to these.” You know?

Casandra 43:58
There’s also something very Jewish about deconstructing something like down into its tiniest parts.

Shane Burley 44:07
No, yeah, they had all the quotes from from the rabbi about this, which I thought was great… We forget, I think, what we’re doing here all the time, being involved in organizing, being involved in work of any kind is meant to create a joyous life. It’s meant to actually do something, perform something in your life. And I think we get so obsessed with functionality, and we don’t actually live those lives. And the answer to that is actually living those lives. It’s building strong relationships with other people. It’s engauging art and spiritual life, the things that give your life meaning. I think engaging in that as openly and sort of like flagrantly as possible is is what you do there. And it’s interesting because what the far right does is it sort of shows you the vulnerable empathetic parts of yourself, right? Because it it appears in those cracks, it appears in the things that they target. So those in a way are how you come to learn about what’s meaningful about yourself, you know. Jewishness is targeted. That’s exactly what I find meaningful. Those are the things that I bond with other people about. That’s how I find a path forward in my life. And so I think all those sorts of things, engaging as much as possible with that. And I think it’s perhaps on us to think less about what we can produce and give to people, as much as we can be with them. I mean, this happens all the time in organizing spaces. I used to be the worst offender about this, you know? “No, that’s bad organizing. No, that’s just cultural production. No, that’s navel gazing.” No, I think we should engage in cultural production and navel gazing, like, we should make us happy. I think that there needs to be a lot more of that. And any kind of organizing work that people are engaged in, or when any kind of work needs to be in the service of that, and that’s how it should be measured. And not like reproducing the same metrics or bosses do about how productive we should be and what that’s about.

Casandra 46:03
We shouldn’t just reproduce capitalism in our anarchist spaces?

Shane Burley 46:07
I mean, this happens all the time, right? It happens all the time. We are ritually unkind with each other, unloving, unwelcoming. It’s the absolute worst. And I think it’s interesting because we used to talk about, statistically for example, abuse, domestic abuse, and sexual assault are commiserate in activist spaces as they are in the rest of the world. There’s no actual difference. So like, all the people that are doing these workshops on consent, and addressing abuse and stuff, tend to reproduce those dynamics as much as anywhere else. I would say that unkindness and a lack of community is even worse in active spaces; they are not particularly joyous places to be. I find them very hard in a lot of ways to be in those anymore. And I think that’s sort of what we have to do, we have to look really carefully about how we build those relationships in authentic ways. That’s how I think you survived doing hard, kind of trying work, putting yourself in vulnerability. Vulnerable spaces only works if you can live in a comfortable, vulnerable way. So I think when I say I’m not really there yet, I feel like I that’s the direction I would like to go. That’s how I would stay sort of healthy in a way, if that makes sense.

Brooke 47:27
Yeah, so part of our community response to conspiracy theories and conspiracy theory thinking, and fascism and anti semitism, is kindness and compassion for others. And when they show up with their vulnerabilities, accepting those?

Shane Burley 47:44
Absolutely. I mean, there’s this old IWW poster, it says something like, “If you’re not talking to your co workers, somebody else is,” and it has a picture of the Klan.

Brooke 47:57
Hardcore.

Shane Burley 47:58
You know, like, if you’re in rural America, we aren’t talking to folks, but someone is talking to them. And they are validating their experiences. And they’re saying, “Yeah, that’s really fucking hard.” They’re not going to someone who’s losing their farm and a foreclosure and saying, like, “Just to be real, have you checked your privilege, and like, you’re not the most marginalized person in this situation.” That’s a hard thing to throw at people, people are actually having a really tough time most of the time. And we have to find a way to connect with them, and also not put up with their bullshit and actually talk to them about conditions of settler colonialism, white supremacy, but we need to actually invest in people. They will not care about us unless we care about them. And conspiracy theories very much are people’s attempt to make sense of their lives. And so participating with them and making that sense, I think, is useful. You know, I’m Anti Fascist first, which means I’m defense first, defense always comes first. We protect communities before we do anything else. I don’t think that’s the same though is addressing cconspiracy theories all over the place, and figuring out how we address them with compassion with people. We care about how we address them institutionally. How we stop them when they need to be stopped, like how do we create barriers and borders, all those things are important. But I think in our communities, in general, a lot of conspiracy theories emerge out of dispossession. And we have to choose whether or not to possess those people basically, do we want to create that? Margaret says this too. I mean, the best way to confront conspiracy theories is to give someone a life that matters. I mean, that’s what we’re actually doing here. So I think focusing on that underlying fertile soil, figuring out how to change that dynamic, give people real tools, give them real relationships and friendship. I think that’s really important.

Casandra 49:42
Do you have any favorite tools or resources? So my preface to this is that I’ve had people ask me this question and the reality is that my favorite resources on anti semitism and conspiracy theories are really dense, and most people will not read them. So I’m wondering if you have any favorite tools or resources that are more digestible?

Shane Burley 50:03
Yeah, I think there’s a few good pamphlets right now that exist that are useful on this. Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, which has been around for decades, it’s this progressive left-leaning Jewish group, has a pamphlet on anti semitism that’s particularly good. April Rosenbloom has a pamphlet called The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere. That’s also really good on this. There’s a pamphlet put out by, I think it was a group called Unity and Struggle, called How to Overthrow the Illuminati. It’s specifically about conspiracy theories and black communities. That’s a really good resource. And there’s a few others. Again, I think what, you know, one thing you’re pointing out is that one of the issues around anti semitism is that the Right has sort of captured the rhetoric on it because they use it to defend Israel. They use accusations of anti semitism to defend Israel. And they over shoot the claims that the Left is anti semitic. So a lot of these groups just simply don’t share a worldview with us enough that their analysis I find particularly compelling. But there are some versions of the Left that have done it, and they tend to be particularly academic. So Critical Theory, and Frankfurt School of Marxism, you know, there’s a lot of that stuff, right. And that’s good, but gobbly gook most of the time. There’s a basically lost, forgotten world of Jewish feminism from the 70s and 80s that is actually quite interesting. But it’s like next to impossible to find. So the anti fascist stuff, because anti fascists are kind of ahead of the curve on the anti semitism question. But I think those pamphlets are particularly good to hand someone, and hopefully Ben and my book will be will be like that. I’m hoping it will be.

Casandra 51:45
Yeah. Yeah. Maybe this is just part of anti semitism, and also conspiracy theorism, because critical thinking is difficult and can’t always be, you know, handed to someone in a tiny package. But it just feels someone has to actually be invested in learning about it. It’s difficult to explain.

Shane Burley 52:13
David Renton, who’s he’s this great author and an attorney in Britain – and he writes a lot about the history of anti fascism – he wrote this book on the Labour Party’s anti semitism, controversy. So people who don’t know: the Labour Party in Britain has been embroiled in this big anti semitism controversy for the past several years. It has been cynically employed by the Tories as a way of attacking the party. And it’s pretty obvious that that’s what’s happening. But it’s also obvious that there has been some instances of anti semitism in the party. It’s not nearly what the Right says of this, but it does happen. And, you know, David’s sort of relitigated this and kind of pointed out that it’s, you know, the party is turned towards populism and everyone’s turned towards populism. A few years ago, populism became kind of the thing that had a weak point, and basically kind of didn’t call out conspiracy theories, so they started making their way in, or kind of crude anti semitic ideas. And it’s like the answer to that is actually if you look at the what works for the Labour Party, it’s actually class war is the answer to that, actually talking to people about class ends up being the antidote to that and having political education. Daniel Randall, another friend of mine, from Britain, had talked about, wrote about this. And I get political education is something that feels really dorky, and not fun to do, and not what people want to do in a lot of spaces, but it was an essential piece of radical movements that aren’t there anymore. So actually talking to people about these things, and getting involved people to read some things. I think, you know, people do this in really overblown ways. Lord knows there’s a million Marxist groups that make you sit in reading groups all day, and no one wants to be a part of that. But like having some progress on stuff and explaining what kind of anti capitalism we actually mean, I think is a useful thing. And it’s one of the better ways intervene on that.

Casandra 54:01
That book, Daniel’s book, what is it? Confronting Anti Semitism on the Left? He’s the one who wrote that, right?

Shane Burley 54:10
Yeah, yeah.

Casandra 54:11
That sounds right? That book was incredible.

Shane Burley 54:14
Yeah. He’s really incredible. Yeah, I think I think, you know, one thing is when it comes to anti semitism, specifically, most people don’t know Jews and don’t know much about Judaism. So I think just letting people know. I mean, the amount of times I’ve heard things repeated that are just bombastically untrue – like, for example, I was a Student for Justice in Palestine, and we had this event and someone asked the speaker where Zionism came from, and he said, “It’s in the Talmud.” Just like bonkers stuff, you know?

Casandra 54:52
Which is a think that, like, a Zionist might say. Ironically.

Shane Burley 54:58
I interviewed Sean Magee when doing my book, and he made a point that a lot of the worst corners of anti Zionism tend to agree with the settlers. And so I think it’s just getting people that kind of understanding. I think if people understand conspiracy theories and why they’re toxic and what the consequences of them are, I think that’s more useful. And then again, getting people in verifiable forms of community that actually meet their needs, I think that actually is more useful. I think when people get involved, for example, in the labor union, that tends to actually decline because they’re like, “Okay, I could actually do this thing, I improve my wages this way, I actually have all this tactile control over my life.” And then when people are in community with others they have these vulnerable, caring relationships, and they don’t… have the same impulse to build the kind of alienating, almost cosmic-level, theories about the world. You know, believing in Q Anon is a really lonely thing, breaks up families or breaks up relationships. So I think all that kind of stuff is really alienating for people.

Shane Burley 56:02
But you know, there’s this thing called the wave, and SEIU – SEIU is a big labor union – and they have this model of what they call a union conversation, they call it the wave. It’s eight steps of how to have a conversation. It’s very dorky. But in the conversation, you do a few things, right? You introduce yourself. You listen to what people are saying, you agitate on their issues, you call questions, you know, you do a number of stages to get someone thinking about their issue, why it upsets them and what they can do about it. But you do two things: One, you always plan that when you talk to them, how can we win on this issue? How can we fix it? Is it possible? And then you inoculate them against what the boss will say. What will the boss say when you try and do that? What do they say to you? How is that bullshit? And we don’t ‘plan the win’ with people. And we certainly don’t inoculate them. People need to see how they can win. They have to know how it’s possible. If someone’s having issues in their lives, they have to see how it can win. And if we don’t have a sense of that, we’re not gonna be able to help with that. And we need to work that out with folks.

Shane Burley 57:08
And also talk to them about, like, people are gonna give you other messages about this. Like, what do you think about that? What would you say back to that? Because I think particularly conspiracy thinking, a lot of people get trapped in not understanding the systems and saying, “Well, fuck, I guess that’s the deal. I guess the Rothschilds do own it, I don’t know.” And so I think planning the win and inoculation are really important in that. And that’s true in general. There’s this assumption that if such a situation gets so bad, that the working class will rise up and overthrow it, but there’s no evidence to suggest that. None. What does statistically show people, or what simply pushes people to taking that kind of action, is seeing that they can win. So small victories in their life or in organizing leads to big victories. You have to show people they can win. The pathway to winning using multiracial, you know, community organizing of whatever it is that base building that’s, I think, the most important piece because that will then totally push away the sort of false answers.

Casandra 58:08
That seems important in terms of motivating people to care as well. You know, like, no, strategically, this is very important in all of our best interests.

Shane Burley 58:18
I had this conversation with a member of the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee, which is an anti-fascist group from the 80s, and I was talking to them – I’ll just withhold their name for the sake of this conversation – but I was asking him like, how do you commute? Because, you know, John Brown was essentially a white organization, it recruited white leftist folks in support of a kind of anti-white supremacy platform in support of black nationalism and some other things. In a lot of ways kind of divisive, a kind of divisive organization, their politics are a little divisive. And asked, like, “Well, how do you communicate to white working class people why eradicating white supremacy is in their interest?” And she said, she kind of paused and said, “I don’t know that it is in their interest.” She’s like, “I don’t communicate with him on that. I communicate with them about what kind of world do you want to live with?” And I told her, I was like, I just disagree with that entirely. I think it is in their interest, and you have to tell them why it’s in their interest. And you have to plan out why it’s in their interest. I do believe it’s in my interest. And when it comes to conspiracy, there’s anti semitism, it’s super clear why it’s in their interest because anti semitism will stop you from winning. It’s just so point blank, right? Like George Soros is not the reason you can’t pay your mortgage, it’s simply not that…

Casandra 59:34
Anti semitism, however.

Brooke 59:36
Is also not the reason, just to be clear. Not the reason.

Shane Burley 59:40
Yeah, that’s really great. So Shane, you’ve mentioned your books, you’ve got one that just came out right? No Pasaran.

Shane Burley 59:40
There are people doing this and they have names and addresses, but… what you’re saying is a false pathway. It’s totally to direct you the wrong way. And we should talk to people about what happens when they don’t just double down on privilege. They don’t just double down on those sorts of things. What happens when they reach across communities and build large committees? They become infinitely more powerful. I mean, it’s just so overwhelming the kind of change that you can have and not just in the long term, in the immediate term. You can see that with a labor movement. You see that with any social movemnet, that’s one serious gain that happened by doing that. It never happened by doubling down on their privilege. So I think talking to people about their interests is essential. And that also shows that you actually give a shit about them because of their interests are your interests, that shows that there’s an actual shared bond there, and you can build something.

Shane Burley 1:00:38
It was a phrase used particularly during the Spanish Civil War, about blocking fascist access to space and movement into communities. So it’s about blocking them, their ability to, to arrive.

Brooke 1:00:51
Nice. Okay, so No Pasaran, that just came out. I’ve got a friend who picked it up at Powell’s when you were there doing a book event or reading recently. He said it’s really good, and is gonna loan me his copy. So I’m excited to get to read that too. I know you’re working on another one – we’ve talked about it here – on anti semitism. Does that one have a name yet? Do you know when it’s coming out?

Shane Burley 1:01:11
Yeah, it’s called Safety Through Solidarity.

Casandra 1:01:15
Nice.

Brooke 1:01:15
Beautiful.

Shane Burley 1:01:16
Yeah. And I think it’ll come out like this time next year. I think that’s what it is. So we’re sort ofstarting to wrap it up now, like in the writing of it.

Brooke 1:01:27
So in the meantime, people can pick up No Pasaran, and then look forward to that. Anything else that you want to plug today, Shane?

Shane Burley 1:01:36
Actually, yes, I will be doing more book events in January and February in New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Spokane, and Corvallis.

Casandra 1:01:49
Those all made sense until you got to Spokane and Corvallis

Shane Burley 1:01:54
So I am I am there for it. I will hang out.

Casandra 1:02:00
I love it. Thanks for being here and answering all of our questions.

Shane Burley 1:02:06
Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Brooke 1:02:08
Yeah, really appreciate it. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation, you know, ever since we started trying to schedule it. I was really excited to talk to you.

Casandra 1:02:16
Oh, we’re supposed to ask about where people can find you.

Shane Burley 1:02:21
Yes, you can find me on Twitter, the doomed Twitter, at Shane_Burley1. Instagram at Shane Burley. I am on Mastodon, everyone’s excited about Mastodon, at Shane_Burley, I think. I’m still figuring out my Mastodon life. So yeah, you can find me those places. I’m usually on –

Casandra 1:02:43
How about Patreon?

Shane Burley 1:02:45
I am on Patreon. Yeah, Patreon slash Shane Burley, all one word. You can check me out there. I actually do a lot on Patreon. So Iyou can check me out there. I post constantly, I inundate people with things. I also have a newsletter called The Messiah Review, which is sort of like a Jewish review of books, I write about various Jewish things, interview authors, talk about lit and stuff like that. I’m starting a series on Jewish horror books. It’ll be on there.

Brooke 1:03:16
Awesome. Cool. Well, I didn’t know about all those other ways to connect with you. So I’m gonna go check those ones out.

Brooke 1:03:26
And to our listeners, we want to say thanks so much for listening. If you enjoy our podcast, you can please give it a like or drop a comment or review, or subscribe to us if you haven’t already. These things make the algorithms that rule our world offer our show to more people. This podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. You can connect with us on Twitter at Tangled Wild and also on Instagram. If you check out our website, tangledwilderness.org, you’ll discover that we have a new book available for pre order, it’s called Escape from Incel Island, written by the one and only Margaret Killjoy. And if you preorder it now you’re going to receive a color poster with your copy when they ship in February.

Brooke 1:04:07
Much like Shane’s work, our work here at Strangers is made possible in part by our Patreon supporters. Actually, honestly, we couldn’t do any of this work without our Patreon support. So if you want to join and be a supporter, you can check out patreon.com slash strangers in a tangled wilderness. There are some cool benefits at various support tiers. For instance, if you support the collective at $10 a month one of your benefits is 40% off of everything on our website, including preordering Margaret’s new book. We’d also like to give a specific shout out to some of our most supportive Patreon supporters. These include Hoss the dog, Micaiah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Eleanor, Jennifer, Staro, Cat J, Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, Theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milicia, Paparouna, and Ali. Thanks so much

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E53 – Ellie on A Better Gun Culture

Episode Summary

Margaret and Ellie talk about building a better culture around guns, the importance of gun ownership for community and self defense, some basic tenets of firearm safety, ideas around conflict deterrence, some problems with our current gun culture, consent and guns, mental health and guns, and unsurprisingly how community might be a big piece of the answer to maintaining better gun culture.

Guest Info

The Guest is Ellie Picard and she is a hand gun instructor with Arm Trans Women. The group can be found at https://linktr.ee/atw.firearms.inst or on Instgram @ATW.firearms.inst or @Codename_Ellie.

Host Info

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

Publisher Info

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

Next Episode

Hopefully will come out Friday, December, 16th.

Transcript

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 we are going to be talking about what it takes to build a better gun culture, a gun culture that keeps people safe instead of not safe. And, with me to talk about that I’m going to have on an instructor named Ellie Picard. And, I think that you all get a lot out of hearing what she has to say. But first, 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 01:36
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then kind of your background with the stuff that we’re going to be talking about today?

Ellie 01:46
Yeah, for sure. My name is Ellie Picard, and I use she/her pronouns. Currently living in Charlottesville, Virginia, I’m originally from the District of Columbia. And, I’ve been interested in firearms for most of my life, I’ve only been actively shooting and training with guns for the last three or four years. I became a certified handgun instructor a few months ago, and I work with another trans instructor. Here in Virginia, we have a company called Arm Trans Women. And we offer classes, not just for trans folks, but for literally anyone who signs up. But, we particularly enjoy and emphasize the importance of teaching queer folks, people of color, other marginalized people, because we’re the ones who really need to know how to defend ourselves in our communities and our families, because no one else is going to. And I’m also a doctoral candidate, a researcher in political science, and my research focuses on radical queer militancy. And so studying and paying attention to radical gun culture, or queer gun culture has been a big part of my research life as well as my personal life. So, I’m not just actively, personally involved in these things. It’s something that I dedicate a lot of intellectual, you know, resources to thinking through and dealing with as well.

Margaret 02:07
Yeah, I get really excited when I have on a guest and I didn’t even realize they’re even more qualified than I originally thought.

Ellie 03:09
I’m not qualified, but whatever.

Margaret 03:18
I didn’t know about the the academic work. Well, the main thing that I want to talk to you about, yeah, is this idea of building a better gun culture. But ,before we get into that, do you want to talk a little bit about the the trainings that you do? Like, what does it mean? Are you teaching to a certification? Are you helping people get, you know, concealed carry permits? Or is it more of like a self defense class? Or what kind of work are you doing there?

Ellie 03:44
So, most of what we do is we teach heavily modified versions of the NRA basic pistol course and the NRA concealed carry course, because that’s what most states require people to take in order to get a concealed carry permit. Here in Virginia, folks need to take the basic pistol course. And then they can go and qualify for a license to carry. So, we do that we also are certified to qualify people for Maryland carry permits. And so, that’s mostly what we do is basic pistol classes and CCW classes, we also do some one-on-one instruction that can range from sort of basic to more advanced defensive shooting. And, if anyone listening has sort of taken one of these basic NRA courses, they are full of a lot of stuff that that is oriented toward the NRA’s ideology and projects. So, obviously we have sort of cut out a lot of that stuff. We emphasize why self defense and why gun ownership is potentially so important for marginalized people, and why we are sort of why it’s harder for us to engage with both firearms culture and the sort of infrastructure around learning how to to use and acquire guns, and all of the other ways that sort of traditional and well established firearms training, leave a lot of people out or sort of perpetuate a lot of the issues that exist in society, a lot of this sort of ingrained racism, and sexism, and other sort of things that are that are baked into our…a lot of our sort of firearms, infrastructure and commerce in this country.

Margaret 05:27
Yeah. What are some of the things that you end up kind of taking away from the NRA’s version? Like, what are some of the things that are in the NRA’s training that are a little bit more ideologically focused?

Ellie 05:37
A lot of their basic slide deck that they give instructors is…it’s just, it’s sort of steeped in this Second Amendment worship and basic sort of, you know, reverence for America and for our rights and freedoms of gun ownership, and for the political aspect of gun ownership, as the NRA understands it, which essentially, you know, protecting the rights of people, predominantly white men, because that’s the majority of their membership, to own guns. And, we take a lot of that inflected language out…well, we also take a lot of their you know, they’re also just the NRA materials aren’t very good at teaching what they’re supposed to teach, in some ways. They are very clunky. They haven’t been edited in a long time, they’ve a lot of extraneous material in there, the way that they phrase and talk about the rules of handgun safety is very different from the ways that we often talk about it in other gun communities online, so we sort of adjust that to make it more accessible and more consistent with the what we’re used to seeing and thinking about when it comes to gun safety. And we’ve also actually changed, taken out a lot of the actual, like, practical and technical stuff that’s in the NRA instruction materials, like the stances for handgun shooting that they teach, which are pretty outdated, and in our opinion, not as effective or preferable as, as as other stances and styles. So, we teach our own sort of version of what we call a natural fighting stance, rather than the NRA’s approved, like isosceles stance. So, things like that ranging from, from practical aspects to that sort of political inflection. And, we do, I mean, we certainly replace some of that with our own ideological inflections in our teaching, and emphasize the fact that not just American society, but also gun control laws and gun control efforts are often harmful to marginalized populations, and to folks like us and the people who we’re trying to train and arm. And, you know, the ways that this country has chosen to restrict access to guns, as well as the way that it promotes access to guns and sort of promote the proliferation of guns. These are all things that end up being harmful to minorities and marginalized people. And we sort of try to emphasize that and highlight that. I also make a point of doing things that I don’t…that are not in the NRA trainings, like talking about mental health and the importance of, you know, what do we do with all of these guns that we’re encouraging you to buy and carry, if we’re suicidal, and if we have people in our homes who can’t be sort of trusted or shouldn’t be allowed to, or able to access guns, stuff like that, that that’s often, you know, stigmatized or just ignored in other areas of gun discourse are things that we try to focus on and normalize and bring into the conversation as well.

Margaret 08:42
Okay. Well, I guess to start out, then, why carry? Why is it worth…you know, as you pointed out, we have this like, massive proliferation of guns in our our society, right? What is it…And the answer is sort of self evident in some ways, but I’d love to hear…I’d love to talk about it. Why push for more people being armed? And why push for specifically, trans women to be armed or other marginalized folks?

Ellie 09:09
So first, I mean, if we just look at the distribution of guns in this country, we have more firearms than humans in the United States currently, but they are overwhelmingly concentrated in certain among certain demographics. White men, conservative white men still make up a majority of gun owners. That’s starting to change, but it’s but not, not quickly. We’ve seen surges in the last few years of both people of color, women, queer folks, and liberals, and leftists buying guns at increasing rates, but that doesn’t mean that you know, white conservative men have stopped buying guns, and we’re not going to sort of catch up to them. And so I guess like that’s the first part of my answer is we a lot of the firepower in this country is concentrated, in what in my perspective is sort of dangerous hands, and in order to counteract that it makes sense to arm the folks who are generally disadvantaged by conservative, white male society. And the other thing is that, you know, we see that marginalized communities, queer communities, trans people, black people in this country are overwhelming are the targets of violence more often than white folks, statistically, proportionally, and yet less likely to be able to defend themselves with firearms, less likely to carry and be trained on how to use them. So, there’s that sort of aspect of it, where just sort of one can, I guess, think of that as trying to level the playing field. But, more I think, it’s not just about leveling the playing field, from my perspective, I also kind of have a deterrence mindset here on a larger scale than the personal. By which, I mean that, you know, it’s not just about, you know, broadcasting the fact that I as an individual transfem, I’m able to defend myself and own a gun, but trying to I guess, or I guess, I sort of would like to see the day where, where folks assume that if they see a transfem walking down the street, there’s a fairly good chance that she is armed, and she would, you know, she’ll use her gun to defend herself. If you fuck with her, the more that that kind of idea becomes ingraine, you know, the less…the more chance there is of sort of pre emptive deterrence of violence against marginalized people. That’s, I guess, the hope anyway. So yeah, I would like…

Margaret 11:45
…Like becoming spiky.

Ellie 11:46
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I would like people to be afraid of me. I honestly would. I’m not a very scary person, but I do things to make myself more intimidating in the street, and I do things to make myself less desirable or appealing to normies and cis folks, and you know, arming queers and arming other marginalized people is part of that, sort of broadcasting or contributing to this broader understanding that oh, yeah, you, you can’t actually just fuck with those people. They’re not soft targets, and you’re likely to get hurt if you try.

Margaret 12:19
Yeah. Well, okay. So I mean, the main reason that I carry or when I carry is, yeah, out of like, well, I mean, self defense, and I carry when I’m more concerned about my personal safety. But, you know, I like this idea of like, being spikier, be known to be spiky, right? Like, if you fuck with people, then it might go really badly.

Ellie 12:44
Yeah.

Margaret 12:46
But, the thing that you’re talking about earlier about, okay, kind of the leveling the playing field argument, it is a, it’s a different argument than the primary liberal argument in which, which has some validity from a higher level, but it’s like, counteracting by arming, or counteracting a right wing threat, by arming ourselves rather than trying to disarm the population. And it seems like, if you were a dictator, and wanted everyone to be safe, like when guns are not in the equation, people are generally safer. I believe that statistics sort of bear this out as, as at least as far as I’ve seen. And so in some ways, arguing that, well, they’re armed, so I should be too is, is escalatory, right? It is more likely to put ourselves in a position of conflict. And yet it still, to me feels like the appropriate approach to our current context. It feels like, I mean, one, we can’t disarm them.

Ellie 13:51
Right.

Margaret 13:52
The ‘We’ is not in power. And even if it was in power, then you’re just creating the systems by which people can make that kind of decision for other people. And that always goes very badly. Well, actually, not even ‘one,’ that’s just my main point, right, is that like…

Ellie 14:07
I mean, I think, you know, it’s sort of a matter of basic physics, we can’t make all the guns in this country disappear. We can’t unarm the folks that I see is as primarily dangerous to us. That’s not possible. So, and you’re right, in doing so we’re sort of hand more power to people who we also also are likely to do us harm. But so I think, ya know, yeah, well, you could potentially see it as escalatory. But, absent that escalation, you’re not eliminating the potential for conflict. You’re eliminating the potential for us to win the conflict.

Margaret 14:43
Right.

Ellie 14:44
I guess like, that’s, you know, the other part of that that I didn’t really mentioned before, is you know, there’s a significant self defense aspect to why I carry it as as an individual, but there’s more of a community defense or collective defense aspect to it, honestly. I…if I’m just out by myself running errands and stuff, I’m nine times out of 10 not going to have a pistol on me, honestly. I have other things, I’m a knife slut, and I’ve got all sorts of other weapons. But, I don’t always carry a gun. When I do almost certainly carry a gun is when I know I’m going to be around other queer people, with other queer people in public and I know that I won’t be prohibited from it. Because that’s, you know, we’re more, we’re often you know, I’m not gonna say we’re more often targeted in groups than individually, that’s not true, but that’s where I really want that deterrent message to be clear as that, you know, is that queers collectively, are likely to be armed, not just me as an individual person. So, it’s being able to and prepared to defend our community, not just to defend my person, and to defend political existence, not just sort of physical existence, that I see as particularly important.

Margaret 16:05
Yeah. Okay, so if…this is this is my logical thinking coming into this, and part of why I wanted to have you on is, if we are choosing to overall arm ourselves, right, and overall, try and create a, a spiky culture or position, a culture in which like, if large scale conflict or even small scale scale conflict happens, we’re capable of winning. If we choose to do that, it seems like there’s a lot of traps that we could fall into, that…because some of the problems of gun culture are not just the problems of right wing gun culture, because I do believe that there is a sort of center gun culture, or an apolitical gun culture in this country as well. It’s not as large maybe, but there are a lot of dangers involved in in gun culture, right. And this is something that I think about a lot as someone who, you know, promotes the idea that certain people should choose to be armed if their mental health and their community situation, you know, makes that make sense. How do we create a culture that doesn’t fall into some of these traps? Or minimizes the risks that…because there, it seems like a risk management rather than risk elimination, right…

Ellie 16:09
Mhmm.

Margaret 16:23
…when you’re introducing firearms into a situation, there’s no way to, to make that completely safe. But, it seems like there’s ways that we can stay safer while doing that. And I’m wondering, you kind of hinted at some of those things earlier. And I’m wondering if you want to talk about those things?

Ellie 17:37
Yeah, for sure, and there are a few different sort of, I guess, like scales, we can think about that at. But, one thing that I see that I think is very encouraging to me is is that thus far, if we look at discourse within leftist gun culture, and you know, I can get into this, you know, it’s it is worth sort of figuring out or specifying like, what the ‘we’ is that we’re talking here. But, leftist gun culture is extremely queer, it turns out already. We don’t have to make that happen. It’s just the way it has happened so far. And that sort of queer leftist gun culture idea’s….discourse about safety is really prominent, and I’m not sure exactly why that came to be the case. I think partially it came to be the case in response to or a sort of a, you know, a conscious way of differentiating this culture and these discourses from a lot of the ways that we see guns talked about in right wing gun culture, and maybe even in this sort of the more centrist gun discourse, but very basic stuff, like you know, the the four universal rules of firearm safety are things that if you’re in a leftist gun forum online, or somewhere, you’re gonna see this stuff constantly, like it’s over emphasized, it’s constantly there.

Margaret 19:07
You can…go ahead and emphasize them.

Ellie 19:09
Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, assume that every gun you encounter is loaded, and/or some people prefer to phrase that as, make sure you know the condition of any gun you encounter. And never point a gun at anything or anybody that you’re not willing to destroy. Always know your target, and what’s beyond it. And, when you are shooting or holding a gun, keep your finger off the trigger unless you’re on target and ready to shoot something. So, this is sort of four basic rules that we encounter every day that we’re sort of interacting with radical gun core, gun discourse, or leftist or queer gun discourse. And what I see a lot of also is, you know, in these online spaces or real world spaces, just a lot of critique, whether it’s like sort of humerous and making fun of people or more seriously criticizing folks for dangerous practices for, you know, unsafe gun handling, for unsafe attitudes, for bringing guns into places where they’re just don’t reasonably seem to make sense. These types of things.

Margaret 20:18
Like where?

Ellie 20:19
Well, so I’ve, I’ve noticed a lot, or a fair amount of, of discourse and sort of debate about gun ownership among unhoused people and in, you know, in encampments and places like that, where most folks who are living on the street or living in tents or something aren’t going to be able to have a safe in their tent or with them as they’re moving around the world. They’re not gonna have a lockbox or something heavy like that. So is it responsible to have a gun in a situation like that? Even you know, we know that situations like that put people at more risk for violent crime and for being victimized, but is having a gun something that’s actually feasible and safe in that context? That’s the type of question that I that I see discussed a lot in the spaces that doesn’t, I don’t think come up to the same extent in in other areas of gun culture, sort of the more right leaning gun discourses out there. So yeah, discussions about whether or not it’s actually always a good idea or always safe or reasonable to have guns in certain contexts. Conversations about the logic and the suitability or appropriateness of open carrying and various public contexts, these are things that I think, receive a lot more attention and debate in our area of the gun world than in others. Not that everybody’s always on the same page, or always agrees, but that there’s discourse and debate about these things, I think is telling. And it seems like, no, I mean, I’ve seen queer online celebrities in the sort of online gun world get, you know, criticized or canceled for doing dumb shit with guns on Instagram or whatever, just being unsafe and not sort of upholding what this community has decided its values around gun safety are. That’s that I mean, it is becoming more common in centrist and right wing gun discourse to talk about certain things like mental illness. We see more and more programs, like Hold My Guns at, you know, mainstream, right wing gun shops and stuff where people are able to store their guns for free if they’re in a dangerous situation. So that’s, it’s not entirely absent. But, I think it’s something that we embrace and sort of emphasize more. It’s not just this thing, that’s never…that’s available, but not mentioned, or that sort of, you know, stigmatized, it’s understood that this is part of part of our lives, you know, as queer people tend to be very open about mental health, open about issues of safety and comfort, stuff that we talk about all the time in various contexts. And so adding that, you know, adding this sort of gun safety dimension to that is not difficult or uncomfortable for us as it is for some other folks.

Margaret 23:11
To talk about some of the specific practices, I’m glad if gun stores are starting to do that. Because one of the one of the complicating factors in any kind of…I probably said this on the show before, but in general, I believe a thing that communities should consider adopting, and I’ve been part of communities that adopt this is that if you get broken up with, it doesn’t matter whether or not you personally think your mental health is doing just fine. Right? But at that point, your risk model has changed to self harm is more…is a higher threat than external harm in most situations. So like, I’ve been in parts of communities where it’s like, it’s not a question. So you’re no longer analyzing, “Oh, how am I feeling today? Should I give up my guns today,” but instead of just like no, if you get dumped, or you go through a bad breakup, or you know, a bunch of other different types of things, like, you know, one of your friends will come, and since the transfer of firearms is very complicated, legally, usually take the bolt out of any kind of rifle or take the, the barrel out of any kind of handgun, and just hold on to them until, you know, a little bit of time has passed and you can start having conversations. And I’ve been really proud to be part of communities that do that. And I don’t know I….that’s one that I like, I’m wondering, I’m curious if there’s examples of things that you’ve been around or things that you’ve seen have worked that are very, like concrete?

Ellie 24:36
Yeah, I mean, that’s a that’s such a good example. I mean, I you know, I’m a firearms instructor and make a big deal about the importance of being armed. But, you know, I went through a thing a couple of months ago, and I gave a friend of mine the keys to my gun safe for several weeks. So, I think that it’s great to have norms and to have that as sort of like an accepted thing that we do. Other sort of concrete stuff, I think, like, as I was kind of hinting at earlier, one concrete practice that I see in leftist and queer gun communities is the willingness to just shame people with a pretty low bar for shaming for any sort of perceived unsafe practices. And beyond that, you know, we…I’ve been part of conversations about, you know, whether it’s appropriate or acceptable to, you know, have a have an occasion where we’re drinking and shooting guns, because drinking is fun and shooting guns is fun, so we can do these things together. And that’s something that that has been sort of an idea that’s been shut down pretty quickly. Obviously, this is not a universally agreed upon concept that you shouldn’t shoot while you’re drunk. But, it’s something that that I see a lot of people talk about and agree with.

Margaret 25:53
I think you shouldn’t shoot while drunk. I’m just gonna go on the record here.

Ellie 25:57
I’m gonna endorese that as well. In my professional capacity, I highly endorse that position. Also, you know, I see folks who do, you know, instructional content online, stuff like that, really emphasizing pretty mundane safety concerns around stuff like dry fire practice, you know, we make a big deal out of rules, like if you’re going to do dry fire practice, which everyone should be doing every day, by the way, you have all live ammunition in a completely different room of your house. You just have no proximity between ammunition and firearms when you’re not trying to have loaded guns for a particular reason. So, there’s that sort of thing. And it’s, I guess, like, what I mean by that is, if we, if we look at all of this sort of online gun content that’s created by leftists and queer leftists, I rarely see the importance of dry fire practice mentioned without also in the same breath, mentioning, make sure there’s no live ammo here. So things like that there’s sort of constant emphasizing of safety at every different sort of stage or aspect of gun ownership is definitely a thing.

Margaret 27:10
Okay, well, beyond gun safety, right? Gun Safety is like kind of one element of it. But, I think that some of the negative feedback I’ve heard, and honestly, some that I share about the gun culture that we’re building, or things that we could be doing better, one of them for me is that I…I see, and I’m curious, your thought about this, like, a balance between people starting to go kind of macho, and then people kind of trying to rein that in. And I don’t necessarily mean macho, and I like masculine way, it’s a very complicated word. But, you know, this idea of like, Hmm…I think that sometimes people get excited around the concepts of conflict, and they get excited by having the means to deadly force on their person. And personally, and I, you know, say this, as someone who’s, you know, roughly 40, or whatever, it’s easier for me to say, in some ways, I think that that is a terrible, a grave mistake. I think that carrying is this very serious and weighty thing that changes the way that you interact with space, it changes the way you interact with people, both strangers, and your friends. And, it should be felt as a burden in the same way that any, like heavy responsibility should be felt as a burden. If I am carrying I have accepted the responsibility of staying sober. I’ve accepted the responsibility of defending other people. I’ve also accepted the responsibility of like not being able to talk shit, which is like really frustrating. This is kind of a tangent, but like, one of the…one of the most annoying things for me about carrying is that you just gotta let shit go.

Ellie 28:56
Yeah.

Margaret 28:57
And, and sometimes that’s not how you want to be. But I worry about an excitement around guns, turning into an excitement around conflict, rather than being a prepared for conflict. And I’m curious, your thoughts on that. This is me sticking a question mark at the end of my own statement.

Ellie 29:17
Yeah, I mean, I think that the way you’ve just sort of talked about the the weightiness of carrying and carrying a gun as a responsibility, I really see those same ideas very prominent in the discourse. Basically, like I would say that most people I talked to explicitly about, you know, gun…about carrying guns and about self and community defense have said similar things to me. And I’ve also I’ve heard from a number of, of, of radical gun owners, you know, not just that sentiment that you’ve expressed, but also this, and I don’t know how, you know, valid and true it is, but this idea that well, the other folks, you know, focus on the right conservative gun owners, they don’t have this mindset of responsibility and of avoiding conflict. In fact, you’ll often you’ll often sort of see or perceive this, this eagerness for conflict. You can go into right wing forums and hear people talking about how excited they are to, to have an opportunity to be a good guy with a gun, to use that gun. That’s an idea that a lot of folks on the left have expressed to me and these conversations like, and I, I have never sort of tried to do a quantitative study of whether or not that that’s the case. But, I certainly see, even if there’s not this eagerness for armed conflict among the people we envision as our opponents or as, or as our threats, there is this ingrained and very vocal idea in queer and leftist gun culture that eagerness for conflict is wrong, that, you know, we’re not carrying because we want to find an opportunity to use these things. We’re carrying with the steadfast hope that we never will, and that, and the sort of commitment to minimizing occasions for having to use these tools of force. And I think, you know, I see a lot of folks, you know, talking about all of the other things that one has to know how to do if one’s going to carry a gun. And this is something that I talk about when I’m teaching as well, you know, if you’re going to carry a gun, you had better also be carrying something less lethal, you would also better be confident in your skills to at least try to de-escalate a situation, and to try to escape a situation. You know, the way the way that I sort of think about it, and that I I see a lot of other people talk about it is, you know, the first best option, if you’re in a threatening situation is to leave it. And if, or only when you cannot escape that situation, you should be prepared to fight. And if you’re going to be prepared to fight, you need to be prepared to win. And that’s particularly important when other people are involved when talking about a sort of community defense situation, rather than than an individual personal defense situation. It’s not about courting violence, but it’s about you know, understanding that when you are at that last recourse, that you have that recourse and you’re prepared to use it. But I do see that this idea emphasized pretty frequently and pretty prominently in the discourse that you know, that we have this responsibility to know how to avoid, to know how to minimize or de-escalate conflict, and that we cannot ever sort of go around looking for it.

Margaret 32:48
Yeah.

Ellie 32:49
Whether or not that really ends up being the case in practice is a little bit harder to say, I mean, you know, we’re seeing a lot more leftists and queers bringing arms to public demos and protests and stuff like that. That’s not a bad thing. Because a lot of the time that people who are threatening these public events and demos or whatever, are doing so with arms. And I think, as I said earlier, like armed deterrence is crucial for our community. So, I’m not opposed to people making a show of arms in public. But we have to make sure and, you know, I can’t sort of say without a lot more data, that when we’re doing that, we’re not doing it provocatively. And there’s sort of, you know, I, I have seen, I’ve seen in some contexts, some discourse around defending…for instance, there, in certain parts of the country, there have been a lot of attacks or threats against drag queen story hours, or other sort of queer events in various places and armed defensive operations to protect those events. When we’re doing that, are the people who are showing up to defend or who are talking online about those defensive actions, are they talking shit? Are they, you know, flaunting this ability to use armed force? Are they sort of going out and and thumping their chestat the adversary or the imagined adversary? If they are, that’s highly problematic, and I’m not gonna say it doesn’t happen. I think sometimes it does. I do think that, that our discourses tend to stress the responsibility and the necessity of avoiding that, but I don’t know that it actually happens less frequently than with other, you know, with folks on the right. I hoped that it does, but…

Margaret 34:48
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s why I was wanted to frame it at the beginning. It’s like talking about minimizing the problems that are going to be involved when you introduce guns, because I think it’s on some level impossible to introduce firearms into a situation and not have people feel….Some people feel some level of excitement around that, right? And, and I don’t think that’s inherently wrong, I think it’s just something that we need to be like really cognizant of. And I do wonder, you know, this idea that the right wing, you know, is chomping at the bit…champing at the bit, whatever, you know, in order to cause violence or whatever, I suspect that it’s at a higher rate. But I also suspect, the sort of center right, or the more like, just excited about guns and just excited about comu….well, they probably wouldn’t phrase it community defense, but just excited about like, the concept of being a, you know, protective person or self defense or whatever. You know, when I personally interact in a gun space with someone who probably isn’t ideologically aligned with me, they take that weight very seriously. But, as compared to…I don’t, I probably don’t interact with the far right, you know, on purpose ever and so it’s hard to know, but I think that another thing that I worry about, especially in a situation, it’s basically it’s like, everything is a lot more serious when there’s a fucking gun on the table.

Ellie 36:16
For sure.

Margaret 36:17
You know, I worry about anything that we do to dehumanize our enemies, while still recognizing that they’re…I mean, they’re enemies, there’s increasing section of the US population that would like to see me dead, that believes I am a like crime against the Bible or something for existing, you know. And I seek to be prepared for those people coming to power, those people individually trying to harm me or my community. But I worry about…a lot of rhetoric that I think the left used before everything was armed, probably can’t really keep going now that everyone is armed around this kind of like, oh, well, fuck all of these people who are outside my own ideological framework or whatever. I think we have to be like way more specific about who…I’m trying to be really careful about my words here, because I can kind of see both sides of the same of the thing that I’m saying here. But I think we have to be really careful about who we declare an enemy. You know?

Ellie 37:21
I think that’s fair. Yeah. I mean, that that makes a lot of sensee. Absolutely. I and it is definitely, there are definitely tendencies on the left to adopt a kind of, you know, if you’re, if you’re not with us, you’re against us mindset towards society at large and toward, you know, the political realm, especially. You know, we often as leftists, and as as queer people, you know, talk shit about liberals and talk shit about centrists. I mean, this idea that literally everybody out there wants to hurt us, and is part of the problem. Yeah, it does. That can certainly translate into sort of a not just a factionalization, or a hardening of social identities, but to a dehumanization, I think. I think it’s absolutely right to call out that risk. One thing that that sort of made me think of, though, it’s kind of a separate, it’s a distinct issue, but I think it’s relevant in some ways is whether or not we dehumanize the people who are on quote, unquote, “our side” as well. And I think one really important difference between between radical gun culture, and both centrist and sort of state friendly gun culture and far right gun culture is whether or not armed people are distinguished from everybody else. And I think, you know, one of the most common catchphrases in leftist politics and street organizing and direct action, all sorts of stuff is you know, “We keep us safe.” And that’s a phrase that actually really encapsulates an important concept that it’s not about…carrying a gun for most of us, I think is not about being that good guy with a gun, like yes, you’re equipping yourself to be able to use armed defense, but you are not separating yourself from the people you’re defending. Whereas I think, on the right and and traditional or or sort of mainstream hegemonic gun culture, there is this distinction, it’s, you know, one takes on the role of the protector of the family, of women folk, of whatever, of people who aren’t able to are capable of protecting themselves and sort of separates themselves from the rest of the group from society, whereas I think that, or I see that on the left there’s any sort of distinction between, you know, armed protectors and everybody else is frowned upon, is often countered sharply, rhetorically, and the ideal instead is that we all of us collectively participate in our own defense and in our mutual defense. And if we do so with arms, that doesn’t sort of make us different, it doesn’t put us in a different caste than everyone else who isn’t armed. It’s just sort of, that’s our capacity that we’re able to take on. It’s what we choose. And we all have different roles to play in defending the collective. Some people do that through arms, but they’re not sort of, you know, the assigned defenders. And this comes up a lot in street action contexts where, you know, you have people, you know, throughout 2020, we saw folks doing protest defense and stuff like that. And there was often a lot of debate or argument about, you know, the, the concept of people providing security or people sort of taking on the role of being part of a security team. And that’s been heavily criticized in a lot of quarters. It’s like the idea of, of sort of separating yourself out like that, it just makes you a makes you a leftist cop. It doesn’t make you…it takes you out of the collective. So, that’s a, that’s an aspect that I think is extremely valuable in our gun culture.

Margaret 41:21
And both things are related to the same thing about how guns escalate problems of power and authority, right? And so we have to be more on top of our shit, in terms of avoiding any sort of authoritarianism, avoiding any sort of, yeah, leftist cops or whatever. No, that’s such…I remember, the first time I heard about this sheepdog concept I was doing…I was sitting by the side of the road at a forest defense camp like 20 years ago in the land far, far away. And a cop drives by and I, you know, radio it in, and he’s like, “Hey, you’re on channel four, aren’t you?” And I’m like, “Yeah, whatever.” And I was like, “Hey, I got a question for you.” And he’s like, “What?” I was like, “Why did you decide to become a cop? It’s like, the most hated job in the world. Like, why would you do that?” Which I do not advocate this as a way to interact with police. But it was what I chose to do. And, and he was like, “Well, that’s not the way I see it.” And I was like, “Well, how do you see it?” And he’s like, “There’s three kinds of people in this world. There’s, there’s wolves, and there’s sheep.” And I was like, “Okay, that’s, that’s two kinds of people.” And he was like, “And then there’s me, I’m a sheepdog.” And I thought about it for a minute. And I was like, “Are you calling me a wolf?” And then he like kind of couldn’t justify that because I was literally just some fucking hippie punk by the side of the road and trying to stop some logging. And so he like rolled up his window and drove away. And, and it was the first time I heard of this concept that’s very common in police circles. And, I don’t know if it’s common in right wing militia circles, but it’s common in a lot of like right wing gun culture, at least center right gun culture, this idea that the world is sheep and wolves, and you are the Sheepdog, the other dangerous creature, you know, the good guy with the gun. And it’s always rubbed me the wrong way. And you articulated it better than that. I just want to tell the story about yelling at a cop, which no one should do.

Ellie 43:12
Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. Yeah, that’s sort of, you know, I see a lot more calling out of that kind of mindset than I see a repetition of that kind of mindset in leftist gun culture.

Margaret 43:25
Yeah. No, this is actually very exciting, because I am not deeply involved in…well I live alone on a mountain. And so hearing you talk about the way that these things are developing and stuff feels very optimistic to me, not in a like blind optimism, like just like, literally, like, it seems like these are the conversations that are happening and that need to keep happening. I’m wondering if there are other, you know, weaknesses that we need to shore up or like things that you think that we should be doing better? Or things that you’re really proud of that we do? I mean, I guess you’ve talked about some of the things that we should be proud of, that we take these things into consideration, but…

Ellie 44:07
Yeah, and maybe I’ll start with another one of those sort of, ‘Yay for us angles,’ which is the you know, gun ownership and, and the capacity or skill for armed defense in queer and leftist gun culture is…has been strongly or been pretty decisively detached from any version of masculinity that exists in our world. And what we see a lot of is sort of celebrations of or acknowledgement of this link between both queerness broadly and queer femininity and guns. There’s been a lot of sort of, I see a lot of reclaiming of, of sexuality, of links between sexuality or sexual expression and gun ownership, but done in ways that are extremely positive and empowering and self determined rather than sort of ex….rather than based on an external male gaze, but based on the sort of like, “No, I am a sexy queer femme, and I’m gonna pose naked with my rifle, because I fucking feel like it.” There’s a lot of that, you know, very conscious and overt queering, and regendering and resexualizing of guns and of competence, you know, of gun skill that goes on in this discourse in these communities, which I think is really cool and really healthy. Things that that we’re…that we’re not great at, or that we need to be careful of. I think that you know, that sort of sheepdog concept that we were just talking about, it’s what…that’s an ever present threat, and it’s something that’s going to wax and wane based on context. When we had, you know, in 2020, when we had shit going on in the street all the time, and so many more people getting armed and so many people, both participating in street protests and direct actions, and people engaged in defense of those actions, the more of that we saw, the more slippage there was in this sort of, you know, dedication to a pure and unadulterated, you know, collectivity and non differentiation of protectors and protected. So, that’s always going to be a significant pitfall when things get hotter, and when things get more active, and, and arms are needed more prominently and more frequently. It’s something that’s always…it’s a battle that always has to be fought both sort of in one’s own psyche and in the community. That one’s not going to go away. I also sort of…I wonder about the, I mean, I think I’ve sort of talked about regendering and I think that that’s happening in a way that that makes a lot of sense. And that is very positive as I’ve said, but there are also pockets of leftist gun world where armed defense is mostly being done by white cis men, or even, God forbid straight men. And there does seem to be this sort of, not necessarily a conscious or deliberate division of labor. But, you know, in this society, boys grew up playing with guns, and men are still more likely to own guns and be comfortable around guns than women are. And I think it may be the case, it may, it may be the case, in fact, that the reverse is true among trans people for that obvious reason of socialization. But either way, those gender divisions still do exist. And it has to be a conscious and deliberate process of undoing them, otherwise, they’re going to just stay there. So assuming that you know, that queers are going to automatically queer gun culture is overly simplistic. We won’t. We have to really want to, and we have to be always trying to complicate, and queerl and question gun ownership and everything about owning and using guns, and not just assume that we’re going to do it better than they do, because we’re better people, because we’re more evolved people, because we’re, you know, leftists and we don’t want to hurt people. So there is that, for sure. I think also, you know, I mean, I guess the sort of biggest pitfalls are the ones we’ve already talked about that one, and then also the problem of whether or not people are going to be seeking out or, or might be more likely to get into conflict. Other than that, I mean, one thing that is always going to be an issue with guns is access, and particularly access in terms of affordability, monetary access, like, it’s still the case that, that guns cost a lot of money, and certain of us are going to be more able to buy them than others and certain of us are gonna going to be, you know, more likely to prioritize that in our budgets than other people. And I think that working a lot more, to bring access to guns and to defensive skills in line with our leftist sensibilities and values is really important. It’s not enough to just, you know, want everybody on the left to get armed. What are we doing to make sure that people who can’t afford a gun still get one and know how to and are trained and using it, people who can’t afford to take classes are able to do that. We have to be taking really deliberate and conscious steps and building a sort of infrastructure in order for that to happen.

Margaret 49:55
Yeah.

Ellie 49:55
And we still don’t see anything, you know, like large scale efforts to manufacture and distribute guns among queers and leftists, which is totally feasible, it’s something that can be done, but we’re not doing it. And it’s still, you know, it’s still cost a lot of money to do something like take my basic pistol class, and we can sort of put aside free seats or have sliding scales for stuff like that. But if we’re not actively doing that, then we’re not making things more accessible for everybody, we’re still sort of following the same lines of access and division and distinction that already exist. So that, you know, yeah, so that’s a big one to me.

Margaret 50:32
Well it’s interesting, because one of the things you brought up earlier about how, in some ways within a queer gun culture, trans femmes probably have, like, it’s possible that we are the more armed, contingent or whatever. And, you know, and I think that, you know, the point you brought up about, like, growing up playing with guns and things like that, and just like, the socialization we receive, based on, you know, the sex we’ve been assigned to birth or whatever, seems to play a big part in it. And it also, I think it does position us in this, in this way to be good at bringing these skills into femme spaces. And maybe that’s like a little bit too, I don’t know, it’s the kind of conversation it’s like, sometimes hard to have, because I think people have a lot of, for very good reason, very intense feelings about, you know, what it means to be trans feminine, what socialization looks like, all of these different things. But I have found that not universally, whatever, I’ll just my…Twitter brain is on. So I keep thinking about everything I’m saying, and how could possibly be considered wrong. But I have had experiences where I often learn better from women, and other women I know often learn better from women. And so I’ve been able to use that in positive ways, as a woman teaching other women, or as someone who isn’t a cis man teaching other people who aren’t cis men. And I think that is something that, you know, we can really break down and a lot of my friends who are, you know, cis men or, you know, straight cis men or whatever, you know, are wondering how to put their skills that they’ve carefully cultivated to use and training and stuff like that. And I think that that is very useful and very important. But I personally would say, and you might have, you’ve probably done more thinking about this, teaching trainers, you know, teaching other people who can then go out and be trainers, rather than necessarily being the end…the person who teaches all of the students is a good way to then actually distribute power and break down a lot of siloing of information. I don’t know.

Ellie 52:48
Yeah, no, I mean, I think that’s, that’s a really good point. And just generally speaking, anytime we can take whatever privilege we find and distribute it, and thus undo it, it’s always a positive thing. But I think you’re right. I mean, I definitely, throughout my life always avoided whenever possible male teachers and male instructors or male authority figures at all in preference for female ones. And that still remains the case. And I think that that is, that’s pretty common, for sure. So it’s, it is important, we need to be conscious of that. And I think, you know, making sure that men with particular skills don’t just sort of automatically appoint themselves as the the teachers of these skills is a great point. Yeah.

Margaret 53:37
So I’ve one final question. And it’s like many of my questions today, not incredibly well formed. But we talked earlier about self harm, and how communities need to, you know, stay aware of everyone’s kind of risk model and things like that as relates to self harm. But, there’s also intimate partner violence. And one of the things, one of the push backs I’ve gotten from, you know, a queer anarchist friend of mine, who I had a conversation with this about recently, is sort of part of the mourning of the army of the left is even while accepting on some level, the necessity of it based on what’s happening in the world and what’s, you know, the increased likelihood and increased presence of the need not just for self defense, but community defense. Is that…Well, basically that it statistically, historically makes a lot of people less safe, in terms of intimate partner partner violence, and specifically like…I should have looked up the studies before I started recording, but I’ve, you know, I’ve read some articles about some studies that talk about how a cis woman who lives with a man with a gun is just less safe on a like statistical level. And it opens up a lot of questions. And one of the questions for me, is how does a community decide, you know, decide who has guns at any given moment? You know, how does…How do we minimize the danger of not just self harm, but of like, you know, people getting mad about some bullshit?

Ellie 55:30
Yeah. That is such a tough question. I think that…

Margaret 55:36
Yeah, I saved the easy one for the end.

Ellie 55:40
I mean, and I guess, you know, I’ll admit, first of all that, you know, this is not an area that I particularly specialize in is sort of thinking about domestic partner violence and intimate violence, but it’s something that matters a great deal, obviously. I think that clearly having guns in the house, as you say, is, is going to make people less safe who were in abusive relationships or violent relationships. But I do think, you know, again, it’s not gonna be blind optimism at all, but we do think a lot more in queer communities and in leftist communities about all of the ways that people need to be able to access safety and able to escape dangerous situations, and, and also the ways that, you know, danger and and sort of harm and in the domestic environment hide from public view and from the community. We think about these things more than other…that doesn’t immunize us to these dangers, obviously. And I don’t know how to really ensure that we’re…I don’t know how to minimize this threat effectively, other than to probably I think, normalize and really spread the idea that what’s going on in each other’s relationships, and homes, and families, actually is the business of the community. And I think that that’s, you know, that opposes a lot of thinking that, you know, exists in mainstream society, and especially in like, sort of nuclear family based society, where in the house and the household is sovereign and sacred. I think that leftists in particular, and queers in particular, because we have different understandings of what society is supposed to be. And we, particularly queers, have different understandings of what family is supposed to be and can be, there’s a better…we have an opportunity to sort of establish norms of maybe one way to think about is domestic transparency, you know, it’s not just my business how I treat my spouse, or my partner, or my kids, it is, in fact the business of my comrades in my community, the business of, you know, my buddy on the community defense team, my, you know, my friends and sort of comrades at the mutual aid project or whatever. It’s all of our business whether or not I’m in an abusive situation, whether or not I am an abuser, whether or not you know, somebody in my life is dangerous to me, or is at risk. I guess making these things our business and normalizing some level of that transparency in that in the household and sort of making more porous, those boundaries of domesticity and of intimate relationships may be part of the solution here, or part of the way that we mitigate that danger more effectively than society has done thus far.

Margaret 59:03
No, that, that makes a lot of sense, it does feel like almost every time there’s a problem, the answer is community. You know, and it keeps coming. It’s a recurring theme on the show, and not even necessarily on purpose, you know, just as you think through various types of problems. I do think that there’s something that I wish…well, I’m opinionated about, which doesn’t make me right, but I’ve seen some discourse around and I’ve not been totally pleased by what I’ve seen, personally, which is that like, around consent and guns, around the idea that like, like…if I’m going to have someone over to my house, I want them to know the situation of the guns in the house and I want them to have a say in that, you know? There’s like a would…is it okay if someone brings a gun on a date discourse, right, that I’ve I’ve seen a bit of, and like, you know, there’s sort of a, “It’s nobody’s business if I’m carrying,” and I don’t believe that. I believe that it would be a perfectly reasonable position to be like, I’m going on a date with someone and I don’t know them very well.I don’t want them to have a gun on them. I think that that is a, a reasonable thing that someone could want or a thing that might be worth clearing with people, you know, if that is like, a thing you do regularly, for a lot of reasons. And, you know, a lot of people need guns to be unavailable in certain ways for a lot of different reasons.

Ellie 1:00:41
Yeah.

Margaret 1:00:41
I don’t know. That’s really more of a…I keep doing this statement instead of question thing in this conversation.

Ellie 1:00:46
No, I’m super glad that you brought that up. I think that’s really important. And I’ve sort of…since I started carrying, I have myself, made that a practice, essentially, I don’t carry a gun on a first date. And thus far, it’s been my practice to make it a second date conversation. “Hey, I sometimes carry a pistol.”

Ellie 1:01:10
“Does that make you uncomfortable?” And if it does, like, that’s okay. I don’t always…I don’t have to carry it when we’re together. And so far, the people I’ve done that with have told me “No, I’m feeling much more comfortable knowing that you’re caring. I like that. And I think that’s good.” So I think that is a conversation that really, it’s definitely no harder or no more awkward to have than all of the other things we have to be talking about on first and second dates, like, you know, or, our STI status and all of that sort of stuff. And, and yeah, being conscious of that. And, you know, for instance, are you going to see a friend who who has kids living with them? Are you going on a date with somebody who has a family? Like…Are there people involved in the situation who do not have the opportunity to consent to me being armed? And if so, I…It’s probably best that I’m not until I can, you know, change that dynamic. I think that that’s a great way to think about it is connecting it to that consent conversation. Absolutely.

Margaret 1:01:10
Yeah.

Margaret 1:02:11
Yeah. Yeah. Well, maybe that’s a good note to end on. Unless you have additional things that you really feel like we should have covered or….

Ellie 1:02:21
No, I think I thought of something really brilliant a little while ago, and then it went away. So I think I’m happy there. Thank you.

Margaret 1:02:29
Yeah, well, okay, if people are interested in knowing more about you, or your classes, or any of the stuff that you do, is that something that you want people to know about?

Ellie 1:02:39
Yeah, for sure. We, my co instructor and I, have a an active Instagram presence that people can check out that’s a somewhat clunky username but if you’re on Instagram, it’s “ATW” as in arm trans women, “dot firearms dot INST” (ATW.Firearms.Inst). And It’s not a good handle, but it’s the one we have my own handle on Instagram is “Codename_Ellie” and people can very easily connect to my all of my gun work through that personal account as well. In addition to some other cool stuff that I do, so yeah.

Margaret 1:03:15
Cool. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on.

Ellie 1:03:19
Thank you, Margaret.

Margaret 1:03:19
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please tell people about it. Tell people about it in person, and you’ve heard me if you’ve ever listened this podcast, you’ve heard me make this Schpeel many times before, but tell the internet, tell your friends. Word of mouth is the main way that people know about this podcast. And so really appreciate any word of mouth that you feel like doing. You can also support this podcast more directly by supporting it financially, by supporting our publisher, which is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness, which is a super cool collective of anarchist publishing that does podcasts, and zines, and books, and stuff, including our latest book, which is called “Try Anarchism for Life” by Cindy Milstein that is really worth checking out and that’s at “Tangledwilderness.org” But if you want to support the podcast, you end up supporting the people who, at the moment I don’t take any money from hosting this, I’m not opposed to it, but you know, we don’t make enough just yet because more importantly, the transcriptionist and the audioeditor and the producer, some of which overlap, other people who work on this podcast get paid for their work and I think that that’s like a really fucking important thing. Because it’s a lot of work. And so if you want to support us go to “patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness“. And in particular, I would like to thank paparouna, Milica, Boise mutual aid, Theo, Hunter, Shawn, S.J., Paige, Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Cat J, Staro, Jenipher, Eleanor, Kirk, Sam, Chris, Miciaiah, and Hoss the Dog, your contributions make this possible. And yeah, everyone else well, and including the people I just mentioned, I hope you’re doing well. And yeah, I don’t know and I hope everything is good and happy and good in the world, even when it’s not.

Ellie 1:03:19
Thank you, Margaret.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E52 – Smokey on Mental First Aid

Episode Notes

Episode Summary

Margaret and Smokey talk about ways to go about mental first aid, how to alter responses to trauma for you self and as a community, different paths to resiliency, and why friendship and community are truly the best medicine.

Host Info

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

Publisher Info

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

Next Episode

Hopefully will come out Friday, December, 2nd and will probably be This Month In the Apocalypse.

Transcript

LLWD:Smokey on Mental First Aid

Margaret 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast are what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret killjoy. And, this week or month…or let’s just go with ‘episode’. This episode is going to be all about mental health and mental health first aid and ways to take care of your mental health and ways to help your community and your friends take care of their mental health, and I think you’ll like it. But first, 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 01:52
Okay, with me today is Smokey. Smokey, could you introduce yourself with your your name, your pronouns, and I guess a little bit about your background about mental health stuff?

Smokey 02:04
Sure, I’m Smokey. I live and work in New York City. My pronouns are ‘he’ and ‘him.’ For 23 years, I’ve been working with people managing serious mental illness in an intentional community, I have a degree in psychology, I have taught psychology at the University level, I have been doing social work for a long time, but I’ve been an anarchist longer.

Margaret 02:43
So so the reason I want to have you on is I want to talk about mental health first aid, or I don’t know if that’s the way it normally gets expressed, but that’s the way I see it in my head. Like how are…I guess it’s a big question, but I’m interested in exploring ways that we can, as bad things happen that we experience, like some of the best practices we can do in order to not have that cause lasting mental harm to us. Which is a big question. But maybe that’s my first question anyway.

Smokey 03:12
I mean, the, the truth is bad things will happen to us. It’s part of living in the world, and if you are a person that is heavily engaged in the world, meaning, you know, you’re involved in politics, or activism, or even just curious about the world, you will probably be exposed on a more regular basis to things that are bad, that can traumatize us. But even if you’re not involved in any of those things, you’re going to go through life and have really difficult things happen to you. Now, the good news is, that’s always been the case for people. We’ve always done this. And the good news is, we actually know a lot about what goes into resilience. So, how do you bounce back quickly and hopefully thrive after these experiences? I think that is an area that’s only now being really examined in depth. But, we have lots of stories and some research to show that actually when bad things happen to us, there is an approach that actually can help catalyst really impressive strength and move…change our life in a really positive direction. We also know that for most people, they have enough reserve of resiliency that….and they can draw upon other resiliency that they’re not chronically affected by it, however, and I would argue how our society is kind of structured, we’re seeing more and more people that are suffering from very serious chronic effects of, what you said, bad things happening, or what is often traumatic things but it’s not just traumatic things that cause chronic problems for us. But, that is the most kind of common understanding so, so while most people with most events will not have a chronic problem, and you can actually really use those problems, those I’m sorry, those events, let’s call them traumatic events, those traumatic events they’ll really actually improve your thriving, improve your life and your relationship to others in the world. The fact is, currently, it’s an ever growing number of people that are having chronic problems. And that’s because of the system.

Margaret 06:19
Yeah, there’s this like, there was an essay a while ago about it, I don’t remember it very well, but it’s called “We Are Also Very Anxious,” and it it was claiming that anxiety is one of the general affects of society today, because of kind of what you’re talking about, about systems that set us up to be anxious all the time and handle things in…

Smokey 06:42
I think what most people don’t understand is, it is consciously, in the sense that it’s not that necessarily it’s the desire to have the end goal of people being anxious, and people being traumatized, but it is conscious in that we know this will be the collateral outcome of how we set up the systems. That I think is fairly unique and and really kind of pernicious.

Margaret 07:17
What are some of the systems that are setting us up to be anxious or traumatized?

Smokey 07:23
Well, I’m gonna reverse it a little bit, Margaret. I’m going to talk about what are the things we need to bounce back or have what has been called ‘resilience,’ and then you and I can explore how our different systems actually make us being able to access that much more difficult.

Margaret 07:47
Okay. Oh, that makes sense.

Smokey 07:49
The hallmark of resiliency, ironically, is that it’s not individual.

Margaret 07:57
Okay.

Smokey 07:57
In fact, if you look at the research, there are very few, there’s going to be a couple, there’s gonna be three of them, but very few qualities of an individual psychology or makeup that is a high predictor of resiliency.

Margaret 08:20
Okay.

Smokey 08:21
And these three are kind of, kind of vague in the sense they’re not, they’re not terribly dramatic, in a sense. One is, people that tend to score higher on appreciation of humor, tends to be a moderate predictor of resiliency.

Margaret 08:46
I like that one.

Smokey 08:47
You don’t have to be funny yourself. But you can appreciate humor. Seems to be a….and this is tends to be a cross cultural thing. It’s pretty low. There are plenty of people that that score very low on that, that also have resiliency. That’s the other thing, I’ll say that these three personality traits are actually low predictors of resiliency.

Margaret 09:13
Compared to the immunity ones that you’re gonna talk about?

Smokey 09:16
So one is appreciation of humor seems to be one. So, these are intrinsic things that, you know, maybe we got from our family, but but we hold them in ourselves, right? The second one is usually kind of put down as ‘education.’ And there tends to be a reverse bell curve. If you’ve had very, very low education, you tend to be more resilient. If you’ve had extreme professionalization, you know, being a doctor, being a lawyer, well, not even being a lawyer, because that’s the only…but many, many years of schooling, PhD things like that, it’s not what you study. There’s something about…

Smokey 10:10
Yeah, or that you didn’t. They’re almost equal predictors of who gets traumatized. And then the the last one is kind of a ‘sense of self’ in that it’s not an ego strength as we kind of understand it, but it is an understanding of yourself. The people that take the surveys, that they score fairly high….So I give you a survey and say, “What do you think about Smokey on these different attributes?” You give me a survey and say, “Smokey, how would you rate yourself on these different attributes?”

Margaret 10:11
It’s that you studied.

Margaret 10:32
Okay.

Smokey 10:59
So, it’s suggesting that I have some self-reflexivity about what my strengths and weaknesses are. I can only know that because they’re married by these also.

Margaret 11:11
Okay. So it’s, it’s not about you rating yourself high that makes you resilient, it’s you rating yourself accurately tohow other people see you.

Smokey 11:18
And again, I want to stress that these are fairly low predictors. Now, you’ll read a million books, kind of pop like, or the, these other ones. But when you actually look at the research, it’s not, you know, it’s not that great. So those..however, the ones that are big are things like ‘robustness of the social network.’ So how many relations and then even more, if you go into depth, ‘what are those relationships’ and quantity does actually create a certain level of quality, interestingly, especially around things called ‘micro-social interactions,’ which are these interactions that we don’t even think of as relationships, maybe with storepersons, how many of these we have, and then certain in depth, having that combined with a ring of kind of meaningful relationships. And meaningful meaning not necessarily who is most important to me, but how I share and, and share my emotions and my thoughts and things like that. So, there’s a lot on that. That is probably the strongest predictor of resilience. Another big predictor of resilience is access to diversity in our social networks. So, having diverse individuals tend to give us more resiliency, and having ‘time,’ processing time, also gives us more…are high predictors of resiliency, the largest is a ‘sense of belonging.’

Margaret 13:14
Okay.

Smokey 13:15
So that trauma…events that affect our sense of belonging, and this is why children who have very limited opportunities to feel a sense of belonging, which are almost always completely limited, especially for very young children to the family, if that is cut off due to the trauma, or it’s already dysfunctional and has nothing to do with the trauma, that sense of belonging, that lack of sense of belonging makes it very difficult to maintain resilience. So. So those are the things that, in a nutshell, we’re going to be talking about later about ‘How do we improve these?’ and ‘How do we maximize?’ And ‘How do we leverage these for Mental Health First Aid?’ We can see how things like the internet, social media, capitalism, you know, kind of nation state building, especially as we understand it today, all these kinds of things errode a lot of those things that we would want to see in building resilient people.

Margaret 14:28
Right.

Smokey 14:28
And, you know, making it more difficult to access those things that we would need.

Margaret 14:34
No, that’s…this…Okay, yeah, that makes it obvious that the answer to my question of “What are the systems that deny us resiliency?” are just all of this. Yeah, because we’re like….most people don’t have…there’s that really depressing statistic or the series of statistics about the number of friends that adults have in our society, and how it keeps going down every couple of decades. Like, adults just have fewer and fewer friends. And that…

Smokey 15:00
The number, the number is the same for children, though too.

Margaret 15:05
Is also going down, is what you’re saying?

Smokey 15:07
Yes. They have more than adults. But compared to earlier times, they have less. So, the trend is not as steep as a trendline. But, but it is still going down. And more importantly, there was a big change with children at one point, and I’m not sure when it historically happened. But, the number of people they interacted with, was much more diverse around age.

Margaret 15:39
Oh, interesting.

Smokey 15:40
So they had access to more diversity.

Margaret 15:43
Yeah, yeah. When you talk about access to diversity, I assume that’s diversity in like a lot of different axis, right? I assume that’s diversity around like people’s like cultural backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, age. Like, but even like…

Smokey 15:56
Modes of thought.

Margaret 15:58
Yeah, well, that’s is my guess, is that if you’re around more people, you have more of an understanding that like, reality is complicated, and like different people see things in different ways. And so therefore, you have a maybe a less rigid idea of what should happen. So, then if something happens outside of that, you’re more able to cope, or is this…does… like, because I look at each of these things and I can say why I assume they affect resiliency, but obviously, that’s not what you’re presenting, you’re not presenting how they affect resiliency, merely that they seem to?

Smokey 16:34
Yeah, and I don’t know, if we know exactly how they affect, and we don’t know how they…the effect of them together, you know, social sciences, still pretty primitive. So they, they need to look at single variables, often. But you know, we know with chemistry and biology and ecology, which I think are a little more sophisticated…and physics, which is more sophisticated. The real interesting stuff is in the combinations.

Margaret 17:09
Yeah. Okay.

Smokey 17:10
So what happens when you have, you know, diversity, but also this diverse and robust social network? Is that really an addition? Or is that a multiplication moment? For resiliency.

Margaret 17:23
Right. And then how does that affect like, if that comes at the expense of…well, it probably wouldn’t, but if it came at the expense of processing time or something.

Smokey 17:33
Exactly.

Margaret 17:35
Or, like, you know, okay, I could see how it would balance with education in that, like, I think for a lot of people the access to diversity that they encounter first is like going off to college, right, like meeting people from like, different parts of the world, or whatever.

Smokey 17:49
I forgot to mention one other one, but it is, ‘meaning.’ Meaning is very important. People that score high, or report, meaning deep, kind of core meaning also tend to have higher resiliency. That being said, they…and don’t, don’t ever confuse resiliency with like, happiness or contentment. It just means that the dysfunction or how far you’re knocked off track due to trauma, and we’re, we’re using trauma in the larger sense of the word, you know, how long it takes you to get back on track, or whether you can even get back on track to where you were prior to the event is what we’re talking about. So it’s not, this is not a guide to happiness or living a fulfilled life. It’s just a guide to avoid the damage.

Margaret 19:01
But if we made one that was a specifically a ‘How to have a happy life,’ I feel like we could sell it and then have a lot of money.Have you considered that? [lauging]

Smokey 19:11
Well one could argue whether that’s even desirable to have a happy life. That’s a whole philosophical thing. That’s well beyond my paygrade

Margaret 19:22
Yeah, every now and then I have this moment, where I realized I’m in this very melancholy mood, and I’m getting kind of kind of happy about it. And I’m like, “Oh, I’m pretty comfortable with this. This is a nice spot for me.” I mean, I also like happiness, too, but you know. Okay, so, this certainly implies that the, the way forward for anyone who’s attempting to build resiliency, the sort of holistic solution is building community. Like in terms of as bad stuff happens. Is that…

Smokey 19:58
Community that’s…and community not being just groups. Okay, so you can, I think, you know, the Internet has become an expert at creating groups. There lots of groups. But community, or communitas or the sense of belonging is more than just a shared interest and a shared knowledge that there’s other like-minded people. You’ll hear the internet was great for like minded people to get together. But, the early internet was really about people that were sharing and creating meaning together. And I think that was very powerful. That, you know, that seems harder to access on today’s Internet, and certainly the large social media platforms are consciously designed to achieve certain modes of experience, which do not lend themselves to that.

Margaret 21:06
Right, because it’s like the…I don’t know the word for this.

Smokey 21:10
It’s Capitalism. Like, yeah, we’re hiding the ball. The ball is Capitalism.

Margaret 21:14
Yeah.

Smokey 21:14
And how they decided to go with an advertising model as opposed to any other model, and that requires attention.

Margaret 21:21
Yeah. Because it seems like when you talk about a robust social network, I mean, you know, theoretically, social network, like social networks, you know, Twitter calls itself a social network, right? And is there anything in the micro social interactions that one has online? Is there value in that? Or do you think that the overall…I mean, okay, because even like looking at…

Smokey 21:46
I think there has to be value, I think, yeah, they did. I was reading just today, actually, about research, it was in England, with…this one hospital decided to send postcards to people who had been hospitalized for suicidal attempts.

Margaret 22:09
Okay.

Smokey 22:10
Most of them ended up in the mental health thing, some of them didn’t, because they they left beyond, you know, against medical advice, or whatever. But, anyone that came in presenting with that a month, and then three months later, they sent another postcard just saying, “You know, we’re all thinking about you, we’re hoping you’re all you’re doing, alright. We have faith in you,” that kind of thing like that, right. Nice postcard, purposely chosen to have a nice scene, sent it out. And they followed up, and they found a significant reduction in further attempts, rehospitalizations of these people, so that’s a very, you know, there’s no, it’s a one way communication, it’s not person-to-person, and it had some impact on I would guess one could argue the resiliency of those people from giving into suicidal ideation. Right.

Margaret 23:13
Yeah.

Smokey 23:14
So I think this is to say that, you know, we’d be…unplugging the internet, you know, that kind of Luddite approach doesn’t make sense. There is a value to answer your question to the the internet’s micro social interactions. It’s just we…it’s complicated, because you can’t just have micro-social interactions unfortunately, but you need them.

Margaret 23:44
Yeah. No, that that’s really interesting to me, because yeah, so there’s, there is a lot of value that is coming from these things, but then the overall effect is this like, like, for example, even like access to diversity, right? In a lot of ways, theoretically, the Internet gives you access to like everything. But then, instead, it’s really designed to create echo chambers in the way that the algorithms and stuff feed people information. And echo chambers of thought is the opposite of diversity, even if the echo chamber of thought is like about diversity.

Smokey 24:16
Yeah, I mean, it’s set up again, almost as if it were to kind of naturally organically grow, we would probably have just as chaotic and and people would still just be as angry at the Internet, but it probably would develop more resilience in people. Because it wouldn’t be stunted by this need to attract attention. The easiest way to do that is through outrage. Easiest way to do that is quickly and fast, so it takes care of your processing time. And relative anonymity is the coin of these kinds of things, you know, that’s why bots and things like that, you know, they’re not even humans, right? You know, they’re just…so all these kinds of things stunt and deform, what could potentially be useful, not a silver bullet, and certainly not necessary to develop resiliency, strong resiliency. You don’t need the internet to do that. And there are certain…using the internet, you know, there’s going to be certain serious limitations because of the design, how it’s designed.

Margaret 25:42
Okay, well, so hear me out. If the internet really started coming in latter half of the 20th century, that kind of lines up to when cloaks went out of style….

Smokey 25:54
Absolutely, that’s our big problem. And they haven’t done any research on cloak and resiliency.

Margaret 26:00
I feel that everyone who wears a cloak either has a sense of belonging, or a distinct lack of a sense of belonging. Probably start off with a lack of sense of belonging, but you end up with a sense of belonging So, okay, okay.

Smokey 26:15
So I want to say that there’s two things that people confuse and a very important. One, is how to prevent chronic effects from traumatic experiences. And then one is how to take care of, if you already have or you you develop a chronic effect of traumatic experiences. Nothing in the psychology literature, sociology literature, anthropology literature, obviously, keeps you from having traumatic experiences.

Margaret 26:52
Right.

Smokey 26:54
So one is how to prevent it from becoming chronic, and one is how to deal with chronic and they’re not the same, they’re quite, quite different. So you know, if you already have a chronic traumatic response of some sort, post traumatic stress syndrome, or any of the other related phenomena, you will approach that quite differently than building resilience, which doesn’t protect you from having trauma, a traumatic experience. It just allows you to frame it, understand it, maybe if you’re lucky, thrive and grow from it. But at worst, get you back on track in not having any chronic problems.

Margaret 27:48
Okay, so it seems like there’s three things, there’s the holistic, building a stronger base of having a community, being more resilient in general. And then there’s the like direct first aid to crisis and trauma, and then there’s the long term care for the impacts of trauma. Okay, so if so, we’ve talked a bit about the holistic part of it, you want to talk about the the crisis, the thing to do in the immediate sense as it’s happening or whatever?

Smokey 28:15
For yourself or for somebody else?

Margaret 28:18
Let’s start with self.

Smokey 28:20
So, self is go out and connect to your social network as much as you can, which is the opposite of what your mind and body is telling you. And that’s why I think so much of the quote unquote, “self-care” movement is so wrong. You kind of retreat from your social network, things are too intense, I’m going to retreat from your social network. The research suggests that’s the opposite of what you should be doing, you should connect. Now, if you find yourself in an unenviable situation where you don’t have a social network, then you need to connect to professionals, because they, they can kind of fill in for that social Network. Therapists, social workers, peer groups, support groups, things like that they can kind of fill in for that. The problem is you don’t have that sense of belonging. Well, with support groups, you might. You see this often in AA groups or other support groups. You don’t really get that in therapy or or group therapy so much. But that is the first thing and so connect to your group. Obviously on the other side, if you’re trying to help your community, your group, you need to actively engage that person who has been traumatized.

Margaret 29:33
Yeah, okay.

Smokey 29:35
And it’s going to be hard. And you need to keep engaging them and engaging them in what? Not distractions: Let’s go to a movie, get some ice cream, let’s have a good time. And not going into the details of the traumatic experience so much as reconnecting them to the belonging, our friendship, if that. Our political movement, if that. Our religious movement, if that. Whatever that…whatever brought you two together. And that could be you being the community in this person, or could be you as Margaret in this person connecting on that, doubling down on that, and often I see people do things like, “Okay, let’s do some self care, or let’s, let’s do the opposite of whatever the traumatic experience was,” if it came from, say oppression, either vicarious or direct through political involvement let’s, let’s really connect on a non-political kind of way.

Margaret 31:19
Ah I see!

Smokey 31:21
And I’m saying, “No, you should double down on the politics,” reminding them of right what you’re doing. Not the trauma necessarily not like, “Oh, remember when you got beaten up, or your, your significant other got arrested or got killed by the police,” but it’s connecting to meaning, and bringing the community together. Showing the resiliency of the community will vicariously and contagiously affect the individual. And again, doesn’t have to be political could be anything.

Margaret 32:01
Yeah. Is that? How does that that feels a little bit like the sort of ‘get right back on the horse kind of thing.’ But then like, in terms of like, socially, rather than, because we ‘get back on the horse,’ might mean might imply, “Oh, you got beat up at a riot. So go out to the next riot.” And that’s what you’re saying instead is so “Involve you in the fundraising drive for the people who are dealing with this including you,” or like…

Smokey 32:28
And allowing an expectation that the individual who’s been traumatized, might be having a crisis of meaning. And allowing that conversation, to flow and helping that person reconnect to what they found meaningful to start with. So getting right back on the horse again, it’s reminding them why they love horses.

Margaret 33:02
Yeah. Okay, that makes sense. Okay, I have another question about the the crisis first aid thing, because there’s something that, you know, something that you talked to me about a long time ago, when I was working on a lot of like reframing. I was working on coping with trauma. And so maybe this actually relates instead to long term care for trauma. And I, I thought of this as a crisis first aid kind of thing, is I’ll use a like, low key example. When I was building my cabin, I’m slightly afraid of heights, not terribly, but slightly. And so I’m on a ladder in the middle of nowhere with no one around and I’m like climbing up the ladder, and I’m nailing in boards. And I found myself saying, “Oh, well, I only have three more boards. And then I’m done. I can get off the ladder. “And then I was like, “No, what I need to do is say, it’s actually fine, I am fine. And I can do this,” rather than like counting down until I can get off the ladder. And so this is like a way that I’ve been working on trying to build resiliency, you can apply this to lots of things like if I’m on an airplane, and I’m afraid of flying or something I can, instead of being like, “Five more hours and then we’re there. Four more hours and then we’re there,” instead of being like, “It’s actually totally chill that I’m on an airplane. This is fine.” And basically like telling myself that to reframe that. Is this….Am I off base with this? Is this tie into this, there’s just a different framework?

Smokey 34:27
That is what the individual should be trying to do is connect the three different things, keeping it simple. One, is to the community which gives them nourishment. On a plane or on your roof, that’s not going to happen.

Margaret 34:44
Yeah.

Smokey 34:45
Though, actually, to be honest. If you’re nervous and you have…go back to your roof example, which I think is a pretty good one. Let’s say that you had more than three boards. Let’s say it was gonna take you a couple hours to do that. But it’s something you’re nervous about, connecting to somebody in your social network, whether you, you have your earphones on, and you’re just talking to them before or during…after doesn’t help. That does one way. Or the other is connecting to what you were doing, which is connecting to kind of reframing or your own internal resilience. I’ve done something similar like this before. This is not something that is going to need to throw me, it is what’s called pocketing the anxiety.

Margaret 35:45
Okay.

Smokey 35:45
Where you’re other-izing it, being like, it’s coming from you too, right? being like, “Hey, you could fall. This plane could go down,” right? That that’s still you, you’re generating that. You’re not hearing that over to, and you’re saying, “Okay, but I’m going to try, you know, give primacy to this other voice in my head. That is saying, “You’ve got this, it’s all right, you’ve done things like this before.”” So that’s the second thing. And that’s what you were doing. So you could connect to your community, you could connect to kind of a reserve of resiliency. And to do that is allow that one to be pocketed. But be like, “Hey, I want to hear from what this core thing has to say. I want to hear from what the positive person on the front row has to say.” You’re not arguing with that one. You’re just listening. You’re changing your, your, what you’re attuned to. And then the third one is, if you can, you connect to the meaning. What is the meaning of building the house for you? Where are you going on your flight? And why is it important?

Margaret 37:03
Yeah. Okay,

Smokey 37:05
And that anxiety and the fact that you’re doing it, you want to give again, the primacy to the importance, that “Yeah, I’m really nervous, I’m really freaked out about this, but this thing is so important, or so good for me, or so healthy for me to do this. This must mean it’s going to be really important. And I’m connecting to why it’s important and focusing on that. So those are the three things that the individual can do. The helping person or community is engagement. The second one is the same, reconnecting to the meaning. Why did you love horses in the first place? Okay, don’t have to get back on the horse. But let’s not forget horses are awesome.

Margaret 37:58
Yeah.

Smokey 37:58
And Horseback riding is awesome.

Margaret 38:01
Yeah.

Smokey 38:01
And you were really good at it before you got thrown. But you know, you don’t have to do it now, but let’s, let’s just let’s just share our love of horses for a moment and see how that makes you feel. And then the third one is that kind of drawing upon, instead of drawing upon the individual resilience, which you were doing, like, “Hey, I got this,” or the plane, you know, you were, you’re hearing from other people, you’re drawing upon their individual resilience. “Smokey, tell me about the time you did this thing that was hard.” And I tell ya, you’re like, “Well, Smokey can fucking do that I can do it. You don’t even think…it doesn’t even work necessarily consciously.

Margaret 38:50
Right.

Smokey 38:51
So you could see that what you’re doing individually, the helper or the community is doing complementary.

Margaret 38:59
Yeah.

Smokey 39:00
And now you can see why a lot of self care narrative, a lot of taking a break a lot of burnout narrative, all these things, at best aren’t going to help you and at worst, in my opinion, are kind of counterproductive.

Margaret 39:17
Well, and that’s the, to go to the, you know, working on my roof thing I think about…because I’ve had some success with this. I’ve had some success where I….there’s certain fears that I have, like, suppressed or something like I’ve stopped being as afraid of…the fear is no longer a deciding factor in my decision making, because of this kind of reframing this kind of like, yeah, pocketing like…And it’s probably always useful to have the like, I don’t want to reframe so completely that I just walk around on a roof all the time, without paying attention to what I’m doing, right?Because people do that and then they fall and the reason that there’s a reason that roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in America. So a, I don’t know I yeah, I, I appreciate that, that you can do that. And then if it’s a thing you’re going to keep doing anyway, it becomes easier if you start handling it like, carefully, you know?

Smokey 40:17
Well, you don’t want to give it too much. So why do we? Why is it natural for us to take anxiety or fear and focus on it? It’s somewhat evolutionary, right? It’s a threat, right? It’s supposed to draw your attention, right? It’s supposed to draw your attention. And if you’re not careful, it will draw your attention away from other things that are quieter that like that resiliency in the front row you need to call on, because they’re not as flashy, right? So I don’t think you have to worry about threat….You’re right. You don’t want to get to the point where you and that’s why I say ‘pocket it,’ as opposed to ‘deny it, suppress it, argue with it. demolish it.’ I think it’s good to have that little, “Beep, beep, beep there’s a threat,” and then being like, “Okay, but I want to continue to do this. Let’s hear from resiliency in the front row. What? What do you have to tell me too?” You have to not…what happens is we go into the weeds of the threat. Oh, so what? “Oh, I fall off and I compound fracture, and I’m way out here in the woods, and no one’s going to get me. My phone isn’t charged.” That’s not what the original beep was. Original beep like, “You’re high up on a ladder, seems unstable. This seems sketchy,” right? Okay. Got that. And then resilience is, “Yeah, you’ve done lots of sketchy stuff. You’ve written in the back of a pickup truck. That’s sketchy, so seatbelt there, nothing, you know, let me remind you that that you can overcome.” And, but by going into the anxiety, going into the fear, you’re forcing yourself to justify the thing. And then it becomes more and more elaborate, and it gets crazier and crazier very quickly. You know, all of sudden, you’re bleeding out and you’re cutting your leg off with a pen knife. It’s like, “Wow, how did all this happen?”

Margaret 42:38
Yeah, well, and that’s actually something that comes up a lot in terms of people interacting with the show and about like preparedness in general. Because in my mind, the point of paying attention to how to deal with forest fire while I live in the woods, is not to then spend all of my time fantasizing and worrying about forest fire. But instead, to compare it to this ladder, if I get this “Beep, beep, the ladder is unstable.” I climb down, I stabilize the ladder as best as I can. And then I climb back up and I do the thing. And then when I think about like, with fire, I’m like, “Okay, I have done the work to minimize the risk of fire. And so now I can stop thinking about it.” Like, I can listen to the little beep, beep noise and do the thing. And now I can ignore the beep beep because just like literally, when you’re backing up a truck and it goes beep, beep, you’re like, yeah, no, I know, I’m backing up. Thanks. You know, like,

Smokey 43:35
Yeah, it’s good to know, it’s good to know, you’re not going forward.

Margaret 43:39
Yeah, no. No, okay. That’s interesting. And then the other thing that’s really interesting about this, the thing that you’re presenting, is it means that in some ways, work that we present as very individual in our society, even in radical society, is actually community based on this idea, like so conquering phobias is something that we help one another do, it seems like,

Smokey 44:02
Absolutely. I mean, the best stuff on all this stuff is that people reverse engineering it to make people do dangerous, bad things. The military.

Margaret 44:18
Yeah, they’re probably pretty good at getting people to conquer phobias. Yep.

Smokey 44:21
They have a great sense of belonging. They have a great sense of pulling in internal resilient, group resilient, connecting to meaning even when it’s absolutely meaningless what you’re doing. It’s all the dark side of what we’re talking about, but it’s quite effective and it literally wins wars.

Margaret 44:47
Yeah, that makes sense. Because you have this whole…

Smokey 44:50
Literally it changes history. And so, the good news is, we can kind of reclaim that for what I think it was originally purposed to do, which is to protect us from the traumas that we had to go through in our evolutionary existence. So we couldn’t afford to have a whole bunch of us chronically disabled. Meaning unable to function, you know, they’ve just taken it and, and bent it a little bit, and learned very deeply about it, how to how to use it for the things that really cause, you know, physical death and injury. And, and, you know, obviously, they’re not perfect, you have a lot of trauma, but not, not as much as you would expect for what they do. And every year they get better and better.

Margaret 45:51
Hooray.

Smokey 45:53
We have to get on top of our game.

Margaret 45:56
Yeah.

Smokey 45:57
And get people not to do what they do. I’m not suggesting reading…well maybe reading military, but not…you can’t use those tools to make people truly free and resilient.

Margaret 46:17
Yeah.

Smokey 46:18
In the healthy kind of way. Yeah.

Margaret 46:22
Okay, so in our three things, there’s the holistic, prepared resiliency thing, then there’s the immediate, the bad thing is happening first aid. Should we talk about what to do when the thing has, when you have the like, the injury, the mental injury of the trauma?

Smokey 46:42
Like with most injuries, it’s rehab, right?

Margaret 46:45
Yeah. No, no, you just keep doing the thing, and then hope it fixes itself. [laughs]

Smokey 46:53
My approach to most medical oddities that happen as I get older, it’s like, “It’ll fix itself, this tooth will grow back, right? The pain will go away, right?” Yeah, just like physical rehab, it does require two important aspects for all physical, what we think of when someone says I have to go to rehab, physical rehab, not not alcohol rehab, or psych rehab, is that there’s two things that are happening. One, is a understanding, a deep understanding of the injury, often not by the person, but by the physical therapist. Right? That if they know, okay, this is torn meniscus, or this is this and I, okay, so I understand the anatomy, I understand the surgery that happened. Okay. And then the second is, short term, not lifelong therapy, not lifelong this or that. Short term techniques to usually strengthen muscles and other joints and things around the injury. Okay. And that’s what, what I would call good recovery after you already have the injury. It’s not after you’ve had the traumatic experience, because traumatic experience doesn’t necessarily cause a chronic injury, and we’re trying to reduce the number of chronic injuries, but chronic injuries are going to happen. chronic injuries already exist today. A lot of the people we know are walking around with chronic injuries that are impacting their ability to do what they want to do and what in my opinion, we need them to do, because there’s so much change that needs to happen. We need everybody as much as possible to be working at their ability. So wherever we can fix injury, we should. So so one is where do I get an understanding of how this injury impacts my life? And I think different cognitive psychology, I think CBT, DBT, these things are very, very good in general.

Margaret 49:22
I know what those are, but can you explain.

Smokey 49:22
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. These all come out of cognitive psychology from the 50s. Our techniques, but most therapists use versions of this anyway. So just going to therapy, what it is doing initially, is trying to, like the physical therapist, tell you, “This is the injury you have. This is why it’s causing you to limp, or why you have weakness in your arm and wrist. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to give you some techniques to build up, usually the muscles, or whatever else needs to be built up around it so that you will be able to get more use out of your hand.” And that is what we need to do with people that have this chronic injury. So, one, is you need to find out how the injury is impacting. So, I’m drinking more, I’m getting angry more, or I’m having trouble making relationships, or I’m having, and there’s a series of, you know, 50 year old techniques to really kind of get down and see, okay, this injury is causing these things, that’s how it’s impacting me, and I don’t want to drink more, or I want to be able to sleep better, or I want to be able to focus, or I want to be able to have meaningful relationship with my partner or my children or whatever, whatever that is, right? And then there are techniques, and they’re developing new techniques, all the time, there’s like EMDR, which is an eye thing that I don’t fully understand. There DBT, dialectical behavioral therapy, has a lot of techniques that you kind of practice in groups. As you know, we have mutual aid cell therapy, MAST, which is also a group where you’re sharing techniques to build up these different things and resilience. So, community, and meaning, and all those…reframing all those kinds of things. So, but they shouldn’t, despite the length of the injury, how long you’ve been injured, how long you’ve been limping, and how much it’s affected other parts of your psychic body in a way. These are things that still should be able to be remediated relatively quickly.

Smokey 49:31
That’s exciting. Yeah.

Smokey 50:10
But this is not a lifelong thing. Now, that doesn’t mean, if you’re traumatized as a child for example, it’s sort of like if you’ve completely shattered your wrist bone, and they’ve put in pins and things like that, that wrist, may never have the flexibility, it did, the actual wrist bone, you know, the bones in the wrist. But by building muscles, and other things around it, you could then theoretically have full flexibility that you had before, right? But it’s not the actual wrist bone, but that that injury is still there. You’ve built up…Sometimes it’s called strength-based approach or model where you’re building up other strengths, you have to relieve the impact that that injury, so like, a common thing with with trauma is trust. My trust is very damaged. My ability to trust others, or trust certain environments, or maybe trust myself, right, is completely damaged. So if, if my…and that may never fully heal, that’s like my shattered wrist bone. So then, by building up, let’s say, I don’t trust myself, I did something, really fucked up myself, you know, psychologically, traumatically, but by building up trust in others, and then in the environment, or other things, that can mediate that damage or vice versa.

Margaret 53:53
You mean vice versa, like if you?

Smokey 53:59
Like, if my problem is a trust of others, or trust with strangers, or trust with friends, you know, I’ve been betrayed in a really traumatic way by my mother, or my father or uncle or something like that then, you know, building up my friendships to a really strong degree will reduce and eventually eliminate, hopefully erase the impact of that injury on the rest of my life. I’m not doomed to have dysfunctional relationships, lack of sleep, alcoholism or whatever are the symptoms of that traumatic event, that chronic traumatic event.

Margaret 54:54
Okay, so my next question is, and it’s sort of a leading question, you mentioned MAST earlier and I kind of want to ask, like, do we need specialists for all of this? Do we have people who both generalize and specialize in this kind of thing? Are there ways that, you know, we as a community can, like, get better at most of this stuff while then some of it like, you know, obviously people specialize in and this remains useful? Like…

Smokey 55:22
You need. I wouldn’t say…You need, you do need specialists, not for their knowledge, per se so much as they’re there for people that the injury has gone on so long that the resiliency, all those other things, they don’t have a social network, they haven’t had time, because the damage happened so early to build up those reserves, that that person in the front row, the front row, the seats are empty. That is, it’s really great we live…Now, in other cultures, the specialists were probably shamans, religious people, mentors, things like that, that said, “Okay, my role is to,” all therapy is self therapy. That was Carl Rogers, he was quite correct about that. The specialist you’re talking about are the kind of stand in for people who don’t have people to do that. I would argue all real therapy is probably community therapy. It’s relational. So if you have friends, if you have community, if you have a place, or places you find belonging, then theoretically, no, I don’t think you need….I think those groups, and I think most specialists would agree to actually, those groups, if they’re doing this can actually do a much better job for that individual. They know that individual and there’s a natural affinity. And there there are other non specifically therapeutic benefits for engaging in re engaging in these things that have nothing to do with the injury that are just healthy, and good to you. So sort of like taking Ensure, Ensure will keep you alive when you’re you’ve had some surgery, you’ve had some really bad injury, or if you need saline solution, right? But we’re not suggesting people walk around with saline bags. There are better ways to get that, more natural ways to get that. I’m not talking alternative, psychiatric or, you know, take herbs instead of psychiatric medication. But there are better ways to do that. And I think, but I’m glad we have saline.

Margaret 58:08
Yeah,

Smokey 58:08
I think it saves a lot of people’s lives. But, we would never give up the other ways to get nutrients because of other benefits to it. You know, sharing a meal with people is also a really good thing.

Margaret 58:21
And then even like from a, you know, the advantages of community, etc. I’m guessing it’s not something that’s like magically imbued in community. It’s like can be something that communities need to actually learn these skills and develop like, I mean, there’s a reason that well, you know, I guess I’m reasonably open about this. I used to have like fairly paralyzing panic attacks, and then it started generalizing. And then, you know, a very good cognitive behavioral therapist gave me the tools with which to start addressing that. And that wasn’t something I was getting from….I didn’t get it from my community in the end, but I got it from a specific person in the community, rather than like, everyone already knows this or something.

Smokey 59:03
Well, I think what we’re doing right here is, is….I mean, people don’t know. So they read….People were trying to help you from your community. Undoubtedly, with the right. intentions, and the right motives, but without the information on what actually works.

Margaret 59:27
Yep.

Smokey 59:28
And that’s all that was happening there.

Margaret 59:30
Yeah, totally.

Smokey 59:31
So, it’s really, you know, as cliche as it sound. It’s really about just giving people some basic tools that we already had at one time.

Margaret 59:44
Yeah.

Smokey 59:45
Forgot, became specialized. So you know, I’m throwing around CBT, DBT, EMDR. None of that people can keep in their head. They will….The audience listening today are not going to remember all those things. And nor do they have to. But they have to know that, you know, reconnecting to the horse, but not telling people to get back on the horse, that kind of tough love kind of thing isn’t going to work, but neither is the self care, take a bubble bath…

Margaret 1:00:19
Never see a horse again, run from a horse.

Smokey 1:00:21
Never see a horse, again, we’re not even going to talk about horses, let’s go do something else, isn’t going to work either. And I think once we…you know, it’s not brain science…Though it is. [laughs] It is pretty, you know, these are, and you look at how religions do this, you know, you look at how the military does this, you look at how like, fascists do this, you know, all sorts of groups, communities can do this fairly effectively. And it doesn’t cost money. It’s not expensive. You don’t have to be highly educated or read all the science to be able to do that. And people naturally try, but I think a lot of the self help kind of gets in the way. And some people think they know. “Okay, well, this is what needs to happen, because I saw on Oprah.” That kind of thing. “

Margaret 1:01:26
Yeah, Well, I mean, actually, that’s one of the main takeaways that’s coming from me is I’ve been, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own mental health first aid on a fairly individual basis, right? You know, even though it was community, that helped me find the means by which to pull myself out of a very bad mental space in that I was in for a lot of years. But I still, in the end was kind of viewing it as, like, “Ah, someone else gave me the tools. And now it’s on me.” It’s like this individual responsibility to take care of myself. And, and so that’s like, one of the things that I’m taking as a takeaway from this is learning to be inter-reliant.

Smokey 1:02:06
There isn’t enough research on it, again, because of our individualistic nature, and probably because of variables. But there’s certainly tons of anecdotal evidence, and having done this for a long time talking to people and how the place I work is particularly set up, helping others is a really great way to help yourself.

Margaret 1:02:30
Yeah.

Smokey 1:02:31
it really works. It’s very, I mean, obviously, in the Greeks, you know, you have the ‘wounded healer,’ kind of concept. Many indigenous traditions have said this much better than the Western. And I believe they have…and they needed to, but they had a much better kind of understanding of these things that we’re we’re talking about. You know, it. So, where people can…and I’ve heard this podcast, your podcast too, talking about this ability to be, you know, have self efficacy. But it’s more than self efficacy. It’s really helping others.

Margaret 1:03:22
Yeah.

Smokey 1:03:23
And that, that is really powerful. And there’s not enough research on that. And I think that’s why support groups, I think that’s why, you know, AA, despite all its problems, has spread all over the world and has been around for, you know, 75 years, and is not going to go away anytime soon. Despite some obvious problems, is there’s that there’s that… they hit upon that they they re discovered something that we always kind of knew.

Margaret 1:03:59
Yeah. Okay, well, we’re coming out of time. We’re running out of time. Are there any last thoughts, things that I should have asked you? I mean, there’s a ton we can talk about this, and I’ll probably try and have you on to talk about more specifics in the near future. But, is there anything anything I’m missing?

Smokey 1:04:15
No, I think I think just re emphasizing the end piece that you know, for people that have resources, communities, meaning, social network, you know, that is worth investing your time and your energy into because that’s going to build your…if you want to get psychologically strong, that is the easiest and the best investment, Put down the self help book. Call your friend. You know, don’t search Google for the symptoms of this, that, or the other thing. Connect to what’s important to you. And then lastly, try to help others or help the world in some way. And those are going to be profound and effective ways to build long lasting resilience as an individual. As a community, we should design our communities around that.

Margaret 1:05:35
Yeah. All right. Well, that seems like a good thing to end on. Do you have anything that you want to plug like, I don’t know books about mutual aid self therapy or anything like that?

Smokey 1:05:46
I want to plug community. That’s all I want to plug.

Margaret 1:05:50
Cool. All right. Well, it’s nice talking to you, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Smokey 1:05:54
Yep.

Margaret 1:06:00
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. Actually, I mean, honestly, if you enjoyed this episode, in particular, like think about it, and think about reaching out to people, and who needs to be reached out to and who you need to reach out to, and how to build stronger communities. But if you want to support this podcast, you can tell people about it. And you can tell the internet about it. And you can tell the algorithms about it. But, you can also tell people about it in person. And you can also support it by supporting the, by supporting Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness, which is the people who produce this podcast. It’s an anarchist publishing collective that I’m part of, and you can support it on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And if you support at pretty much any level, you get access to some stuff, and if you support a $10 you’ll get a zine in the mail. And if you support at $20, you’ll get your name read at the end of episodes. Like for example, Hoss the dog, and Micahiah, and Chris, and Sam, and Kirk, Eleanor, Jennifer, Staro, Cat J, Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, Theo, Boise Mutual Aid, Milica, and paparouna. And that’s all, and we will talk to you soon, and I don’t know, I hope you all are doing as well as you can.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E51 – This Month In the Apocalypse: October

Episode Notes

Episode Summary
For this episode of This Month in the Apocalypse, Brooke, Margaret, and Casandra chat about more horrible things and some ways to work through some of these problems. They talk about supply chain shortages, corn, ways to keep your house warmer without using a ton of energy or resources, dubious debunked how warming myths that also might burn it down, and a thorough introduction to hurricane preparedness.

Host Info

Casandra can be found on Twitter @hey_casandra. Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy. Brooke is just great and can be found at Strangers helping up keep our finances intact and on Twitter @ogemakweBrooke

Publisher Info

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

Next Episode

Hopefully will come out Friday, October 4th, and every two weeks there after.

Transcript

An easier to read version is available on our website TangledWilderness.org.

This Month In the Apocalypse: October

Brooke
Hello and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m Brooke Jackson, one of your hosts today, along with the brilliant Margaret Killjoy and the iridescent Casandra. This is October 2022 installment of your most favorite Live Like The World Is Dying sub-segment, This Month In The Apocalypse. Today, we’re going to talk about the latest shortages, the looming crisis in energy, fuel sources and what can be done about the crisis, war, climate disasters and probably some shit about the economy. But first, we’d like to celebrate being a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts by playing a little jingle from one of the other luminous podcasts on our network. Doo doo doo.

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

Margaret
Behind the prison walls, a message is called a kite, whispered words, a note passed hand to hand, a request submitted the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a kite means trusting that other people will bare it farther along until it reaches its destination. Here on Kiteline, we hope to share these words across the prison walls.

Jingle Speaker 1
You can hear us on the Channel Zero Network and find out more at Kiteline radio.no blogs.org.

Brooke
And we’re back. Quick introductions for those of you who might not remember each of us or might be listening for the first time. I’m Brooke an indigenous, baby anarchist woman who loves spreadsheets home remodeling and connecting with the land. And I’m going to toss to Margaret.

Margaret
I’m Margaret, and I am someone who writes a lot and is on podcasts a lot. And does useful stuff too. But, those are some of the things I do. And I will pass it to Casandra.

Casandra
I wasn’t prepared for an introduction.

Margaret
Neither was I.

Casandra
My name is Cassandra. I garden and weave. Check!

Margaret
Yay.

Brooke
And do amazing art.

Casandra
Yeah, I make books. And drink tea. Okay.

Margaret
That’s good tea.

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
Back to you, Brooke.

Casandra
Oh, yeah, we’re supposed to remember to plug things. Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness is putting out our…Well, it’s not really technically our first book is it, Margaret?

Brooke
Speaking of books, I feel like there’s a book that you’ve been working on lately. I know we’re supposed to plug things at the end. But this sounds great to mention it now.

Margaret
No, but it’s our first book is a new collective.

Casandra
Okay, we’re putting out our first book as the new collective. And also, first book in a long time, called “Try Anarchism For Life: The Beauty Of Our Circle” by Cindy Barukh Milstein. And I think I sent it to the printer yesterday. So fingers crossed.

Brooke
If people want to preorder that, Casandra, where can they do that?

Casandra
On the Stranger’s site. And if you preorder it, you’ll get some cute little book plates, which I didn’t realize other people didn’t know what book plates are. But, they’re like the little stamps or stickers, you can put at the beginning of books. And it says “ex libris,” which means ‘from the library of,’ and you can write your name so everyone knows it’s your book.

Brooke
Nice. So check out our website for that awesome book, which is beautifully designed, and actually a really, really good read. I really enjoyed it. All right, in our very first episode of This Month In The Apocalypse, one of the things we talked about was things that were in shortage, and surprise, surprise, we are continuing to have supply chain shortages. The thing that made me recall this and want to bring it up, again, is that I saw an NPR article in the last week about the fact that Adderall is facing a shortage, which is interesting, and did a little more digging on what’s going on there. And part of it is that they had labor shortages. So, they fell behind in their production. And then the part that was super interesting to me that I’ve never thought about, Adderall is a highly controlled substance. It’s probably a well known fact, part of the part of the highly controlled portion of it is that manufacturers are regulated in how much of it they can produce. So, if they fall behind their schedule, it’s not as easy as just like, “Oh, we’re gonna do a double shift and make extra this month,” they have to get like, special dispensation to be able to make more. So they can make the amount that they’re allowed to, but not more than that without special permission.

Margaret
So they can’t catch up?

Brooke
They can if like they apply for FDA approval and get, you know, temporary approval or whatever to make extra, assuming they can get the ingredients they need and workers to actually make the extra. But yeah, it’s not as easy as just like, “Oh, we need to make extra.” There’s a whole bunch of extra stuff going on that they have to do to do that.

Casandra
Yay, bureaucracy.

Brooke
Yeah, totally. So ration your Adderall? That’s probably probably not how that works. There are other medical supplies that are still in shortage too. This, I also found interesting because we haven’t seen it in the headlines as much, or at least I haven’t, right.? Like, it hasn’t been in the news. But, there have been things that have continued to be in short supply of the throughout the whole pandemic. One of the items is gloves. There’s lots of different kinds of gloves that medical providers use, you know, you’ve got vinyl gloves, and nitrile gloves, and powdered, and non powdered, and the thicker and thinner, and all of that kind of stuff. And so there’s like several different types of specific gloves that are in short supply that….

Casandra
When you said gloves, I was picturing like knitted gloves. Like why?

Brooke
Sorry, no, like medical gloves.

Casandra
That makes much more sense.

Brooke
Just get your grandma’s to start knitting, and it’ll be okay.

Casandra
Yep.

Brooke
Also, testing supplies are in short supply for medical providers. And specifically, it was like the equipment used to collect samples, store samples, transport samples, for medical tests, that portion of it. And then I guess, ventilator parts are still in short supply, as well.

Margaret
I guess that makes sense, since everyone wants that.

Brooke
Yeah. So that’s the medical side of things. And then other things out in the real world, this is one I hadn’t heard about, but tampons, I guess I’ve been in short supply. So it’s good time to learn menstrual extraction. If you know somebody that can teach you that if you want to learn, or looking for other options, if you haven’t previously been open to trying things like menstrual cups, might be a time to do that. Margaret, this is a fun throwback to our first one, there was this thing that was in short supply that you mentioned, and that each of us have two have on our respective homes.

Margaret
Um, wind…I’m trying to come up with something clever, I know the actual answer, but trying to come up with something funny.

Casandra
Garage doors?

Margaret
Yeah, it’s garage doors.

Brooke
To the point where like, if you’re a contractor, and you’re going to build a house, they’re recommending that before you start with anything related to the building of your house, the very first thing you do is order the garage doors, because it will take basically the whole time for them to get there. Like the last thing that will arrive and that you will install in the house is the garage door because of how long they taking.

Casandra
I knew it!

Casandra
Okay, I feel like every, like it’s a running joke, and you all will always bring up garage doors. And every time I’m like, But, why is there a shortage? And then every time I forget, so I’m gonna ask again. Why?

Brooke
I don’t think we talked about why last time.

Margaret
I don’t think we have a ‘why.’ I think that there’s just a lot of shit that is like, my guess is because it’s so specialized that they make a certain amount. And then I don’t know, but it might be something more about new homes? I don’t know, The answer is I don’t know,

Brooke
Part of it is lumber. Because remember, lumber was in short supply, like lumber mills shut down early in the pandemic. And so there was like a lot of lumber that was not being produced. And then when they started up again, because the price of lumber has gone up the price of garage doors are like two or three times higher, depending on where you live than they were pre pandemic. And part of that’s because the lumber is so much more expensive.

Margaret
Okay, but hear me out. It’d be prettier anyway, it’s instead of having the kind that rolls up above, just have like big old barn doors that swing open, and just make them out of two by fours. And it will totally work. And I’m sure there’s no specific reason that people have developed a much more specialized solution.

Brooke
Yeah, definitely not.

Casandra
And there can just be like a rope from the door to your fence. So when you drive up to your fence, you can just grab the rope and pull it.

Margaret
Yeah, totally.

Casandra
And that will open the garage door.

Margaret
Yeah, or some sort of like system where you like knock something over as you’re driving up towards your house. It like knocks over the ball, that rolls down the hill and it hits the thing and then it does the thing. And then the garage door swings open and then hits something that it shouldn’t have and then starts another chain reaction and then the whole neighborhoods on fire.

Casandra
Yeah, totally secure

Brooke
I was with you till the end. So a real nice Rube Goldberg type of garage door opening.

Margaret
Yeah, I think that is the solution for most of these things that we’re missing. Like for example, lack of gloves. Have doctors considered using knit gloves?

Brooke
Really great point, Margaret. Really great point. Moving on. Computer chips continue to be in short supply.That was an issue like this time last year. It got a little better.

Casandra
Wait, what news?

Brooke
Computer chips,

Casandra
Computer ships? I’m sorry, I…

Brooke
The ones that go into like everything, like not just computers, but like they go into cars now, they go into your television, they go you know…

Casandra
My contribution today is going to be to mishear everything.

Brooke
That’s alright, it’s going to be way more fun that way.

Margaret
Okay, so tortilla chips, also chips conduct electricity, probably if you put enough electricity into them.

Brooke
I don’t know if they have any conductive materials in them, Margaret. Maybe we need to add some metal to our tortilla chips.

Brooke
And then they can do this.

Margaret
Yeah.

Margaret
It’s good for everyone. And just mark it for anyone who has braces that they should avoid them.

Brooke
Okay, yeah. Excellent. Renewable too because corn.

Margaret
That’s not something I’m going to talk about later about. Anyway.

Brooke
Sadly, baby formula continues to be in shortage. Again, that’s not making the headlines like it was when it first started. But, that is still a major issue. So, check on your people. Do what you can to help out there. Unfortunately, that’s ongoing and doesn’t still doesn’t have a solution in sight right now. They’ve been…like they ramped up production on it and stuff, but it’s just still not enough. And then the raw ingredients that go into make it too, of course, have continued to have problems. Here’s a really sad one for you, Margaret. It’s it’s one of your favorite things. And the concept of this item tends to be a sponsor of one of those other podcasts.

Casandra
Guns.

Margaret
Oh no, smiling children?

Brooke
No, there’s plenty of them. You only really need one. So that’s, that’s okay.

Margaret
Don’t tell me that there’s no potatoes.

Brooke
Potatoes are in short supply.

Margaret
This has gone historically badly for my people.

Brooke
There was like a whole famine or something. Except there wasn’t.

Casandra
Something.

Brooke
Yeah, sorry. potatoes, potatoes in short supply. Okay.

Casandra
But it’s like harvest potato season right now? Are they just already anticipating that there won’t be enough potatoes?

Brooke
Yeah, that’s part of it. Again, we’ve talked about in previous episodes, how like, there have been really weird climate shit happening, especially like in the US that’s affected the growth and production of things. Like here where we live, our Spring was way long and cold and wet. And it really fucked up the growing cycles of things. So, loss.

Casandra
Yeah, my potatoes didn’t do great.

Brooke
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So there were losses due to that early in the season of like potato plants. And then they’re not anticipating, you know, what they are getting out of the ground to be, excuse me, as plentiful as it might otherwise be. Or normally be. Yeah, that’s sad. Less sad, Christmas trees are probably going to be in short supply again, this year, they’re not sure. But, they were last year, and the conditions that cause that are looking to be much the same. So yeah, living things that get chopped down in order to decorate your house for a month, fewer of those. Sorry?

Margaret
Alternatives include decorating a living tree, or moving into a house that some old weird person left a fake Christmas tree in the attic. Or using last year’s tree.

Casandra
I’m a big fan of rosemary trees, and then you just plant it.

Brooke
You can also paint a tree on your wall somewhere and then just set out presents. You can make out of cardboard with your children.

Margaret
Or, you can realize its pagan idols idolatry and realize that a true Christian would never celebrate Christmas.

Casandra
Or you can convert, and do Hanukkah, because they overlap this year.

Brooke
Yes, I love it when they overlap.

Casandra
Menorahs are pretty.

Margaret
There’s so many options. Yeah.

Brooke
Okay, cool. And then our last supply chain thing, which will be a nice toss is that energy and fuel are in short supply and expected to be in even shorter supply, which means I can toss this to Margaret to talk more about that issue.

Margaret
Yay, everything’s doomed. I mean, everything’s gonna be fine. Somewhere in between these two extremes is the truth. Okay, so Europe is having a power crisis. And not the old fashioned kind where people decide they don’t want kings anymore, but kinda about natural gas mostly. And, it is the worst energy crisis since World War II. And, there’s a lot of causes of it. The most immediate cause, that is absolutely the most immediate cause, and it’s, it’s not the straw that broke the camel’s back, it’s like the two by four that broke the camel’s back, is the is that Russia has responded…Okay, so no, I’m gonna start at the beginning instead. Okay, so for 20 years or so…

Brooke
No, start in the middle!

Margaret
So for 20 years or so, Euroupe has been trying to use fossil fuels…If I was really starting at the beginning it would be like: the economic project that is Europe was caused by stripping all of the natural resources out of the developing world. But, for the last 26 years, Europe has been like, “We want to be the seen as the people who are really good. And so we’re going to use fewer fossil fuels.” And so, for about 20 years, they’ve been trying to work on that. However, this has basically increased their dependence on other places, like Russia, primarily Russia, in this case, where natural gas imports cheap, natural gas imports from Russia have been absolutely a mainstay. However, this has been crisis for the past two Winters too, even before the Ukrainian war, basically. Because, if you’re going to have renewables as the way that you’re trying to make a sustainable world, it has to be coupled with degrowth, instead of just like continuing to have a growing thing, because like, actually, renewables create less power overall at the moment, right. So, increased dependence on Russia, and then Russia has not officially cut off natural gas exports to Europe, what they did instead is they stopped 89% of their natural gas exports. And, they did it by saying, “Oh, we have a leak, and we can’t fix it because of the sanctions. So, I guess you have to stop the economic sanctions against us, or you don’t get any natural gas.” And so they’re blackmailing the West, and I don’t know, whatever, I mean, I don’t expect better of them. They’re in the middle of fucking fading and genociding Ukraine, so whatever. But, this is a problem. And also increasing drought that’s been hitting Europe really badly, it fucks up a bunch of other things, too. It fucks up their hydroelectric. And then, it even fucks up their coal, because coal is transported by river. And, they can’t if the rivers are too low. And so the Right wing wants to blame a lot of this on Germany’s shutdown of like the completely safe nuclear power plants or whatever. But, I think that that’s worth contrasting with…France is actually at half nuclear power right now, because corrosion, lagging repairs, and general lack of safety have caused the nuclear power plants about to…to have to operate at about half capacity. So nucular, actually, sometimes complicated. And the heatwave has also meant that they can’t use river water to cool the plants, because there’s the nuclear power plants, and the other, I think other power plants too, because they use river water to cool it. But, I think it’s a combination of the river water being much hotter than it usually is. And then also much less of it. Though, the one weird thing that people are like hoping will like pull it through at the last minute is there’s now this new micro nucular reactor that’s supposed to be safe, because it uses molten salts and fuel rods. And it fits onto a tractor trailer and powers 1000 homes, and is not yet being produced commercially. But, it’s like a thing that people say that they’ve developed. So, the UK has seen energy prices, the energy price increase has doubled since last year’s increase. So, it’s not like…energy prices aren’t double, but they have grown at double the rate, protests are breaking out, people are starting to burn their utility bills. And what’s kind of cool is that you’d sort of expect this kind of protest to kind of go in a Right wing direction about like, you know, fuck you, let’s go frack or whatever. But, actually, it’s, at least what I’ve seen is that the protests are mostly coming out of a Left wing and a-political position. And, a lot of is like pushing to nationalize gas, and basically say like, “This is fucked up. This is affecting the poor people more than anyone else.” Gas being, in this case used for heating, but also is used for power generation, and then a lot of industrial manufacturing. And, this is not just a matter of rising costs, it’s literally a potential in the next couple of weeks, there might be blackouts and power rationing. Various places are limiting power use, like businesses are being encouraged to turn off their air conditioners, and all this kind of stuff. And of course, everything happens in a vacuum with this kind of thing. So, there’s no way…wait, no, no, this will cause stagnation economically and could easily trigger a recession.

Margaret
And the other thing that it does, is it creates this awful fucking feedback loop. We talked about last time where like the feedback loop of like, all this flooding, destroying Pakistan, causing them to get IMF loans, which cause more austerity, which cause more, you know, climate change or whatever, you have a very similar feedback cycle, in that it’s the…because of this stuff that’s happening, more fossil fuel production is happening, coal plants are coming back online. Fracking is no longer banned in the UK. And of course, the pipeline attack that didn’t help any of this, that was probably Russia, but Russia blames it on the US, was the largest methane release in documented history. So, even though the pipes weren’t even an active use, the fact that they were ruptured caused the largest methane release in documented history. And of course, it was the heatwave the summer that spiked power usage. And so, climate change causes people to get more desperate for power. So, we enter to a vicious cycle, which will definitely not have any effects anywhere but Europe, and we can probably be done with that issue unless someone else has something to say about it affecting elsewhere.

Casandra
Yeah, I was reading about how the domino effect is impacting the US. It sort of seems self evident, but I’ll talk about it anyway. So it looks like 40% of the US of our electricity is generated by natural gas, which I didn’t realize. So, you know, in the US, we either heat our homes with natural gas or electric, but natural gas prices impact electricity prices, maybe someone else can explain that to me, because I don’t quite get it. But, the moral of the story is that when natural gas prices go up, all of the other prices go up as well. Yeah, they’re expecting anything from a 17% increase to a third increase? I don’t understand. Yeah, thank you. 33%. So that sucks. It’s not as bad as Europe, like I’m looking at…I was looking at Germany in the UK, and it sounds like their prices are way, way, way, way higher, but it’s still not gonna be great here. So, I was hoping we could talk about things that people can do. Like ways they can keep their home warm, and insulated and stuff like that. Brooke and I are both in the Pacific Northwest, which is known for its mild winters, but we also get lots of rain and damp and then Margaret is on the East Coast and has much harsher winters. So maybe between the three of us, we can come up with some good ideas.

Brooke
Let me start with what I tell my kid which is put on some socks and a goddamn sweater.

Casandra
And a hat. Feet and head.

Margaret
And then what I tell your kid which is, “If you if you make a…if you build a fire, if you build a man a fire, he’s warm for a day, but if you set a man on fire, he’s warm for the rest of his life.

Brooke
Well we do like to set men on fire in this house, so that’s that’s perfectly acceptable here. If any men come in, you can be set on fire for our warmth.

Margaret
Yeah, yeah, that’s a renewable resource.

Casandra
Because, I mean, we know that lumber and wood prices have gotten up and you got to use something in your fireplace,

Margaret
And I hear that they’re made out of wood. That’s why we throw them in the lake to find out. Cause men are witches. Wait, hold on. Okay, so sweaters and hats, okay. Okay.

Casandra
Some things I learned. So clothes dryers can be up to 20% of a home’s energy bill. I had no idea. And in my head, a dry…like drying racks aren’t good idea where we live because it’s so damp here. But maybe that’s not the case. So, I’m gonna try that this winter. Checking…I’ve always rented so the the idea of like checking the filters and shit on my whatever way your home is heated has never occurred to me, but apparently that’s super important. Right, Brooke?

Brooke
Absolutely. I’m gonna be totally honest, I don’t know if that has anything to do with the, I guess it probably helps the efficiency of the device. Yeah, I do it every six months, because I know it helps the air quality in my house. And that’s important.

Casandra
I don’t even know how to do that. So you should come over.

Margaret
There’s both filters in the HVAC. Sorry.

Casandra
Let me know, tell me more, I don’t understand.

Margaret
As far as I understand, there’s both the filters that are like the big screen filters that people are like run out and strap to their fans to do air filter cleaning, right? And then there’s like, at least in my house has an oil heater and in an oil heater, there’s a filter, an oil filter, and so my presumption is that it just takes more power to push things through a clogged up filter, both air filter and oil filter. That’s my guess. The main thing I learned the hard way by moving somewhere with harsh winters and an oil furnace is that if you let your furnace run dry, it breaks. And so you actually have to keep it full, which is cool because my gauge is broken, so I just need to every now and then like call and be like, “Hey, can you fill it up?” And they’re like, “How much do you need?” And I’m like, “I don’t know. You fill it up.” I did learn that heating oil and diesel are functionally the same thing, although you’re not allowed to put heating oil in your car, because that they’d like stain it red so that you can get caught if you do that.

Casandra
Weird.

Margaret
Yeah, and there are some diff…please don’t run out and put diesel in your home oil filter because you heard some girl who lives in the mountains tell you to. I haven’t fucking done this. And but, some people I think sometimes like top off, like in a hurry. They’ll do that if they keep diesel around for like their tractor or whatever the fuck.

Brooke
I mean, it’s probably better than…may be….I’m guessing, totally guessing, that it might be better than letting it run dry, because that can be an expensive fuckup.

Margaret
Yeah, if you do that you have to change at very least the oil filter. And then if not the also the fucking spark plugs and all this shit and the parts are cheap, the capacity to do it without exploding things is harder. This is sort of beside the point that only applies to oil. Let’s talk about other ways to heat homes.

Casandra
So, yeah, other ways to heat your homes or more like how to keep heat in. I was researching this anyway, because my house has lots of windows like huge, like walls of windows, which is beautiful, but they’re all single pane and none of them seal. Like literally, there’s no, I don’t even, I still haven’t figured out what this type of window’s called, but it’s like slats of…horizontal slats of glass sort of layered on top of each other, and you can crank it so they tilt open or crank it so they tilt shut, but there’s nothing actually…like air just you know, comes in. So using that fun, classy plastic stuff that’s temporary to cover your windows. That’s one of my plans this year, the few windows that don’t have that tilty glass, that’s an official term, I’m going around the edges and caulking them. I checked on my door seals. I learned that they’re like energy efficient electric blankets.

Casandra
I’m anticipating that if I set my set my thermostat a lot lower and like use those while I’m working during the day or even at night, maybe that will be helpful.

Margaret
Oh, that’s cool.

Brooke
Heavy curtains can help too. With Windows.

Casandra
Yeah! Inulated curtains!

Brooke
That can be a real trade off if you have any like seasonal effective disorder, light issues, but like they can do a lot to keep the cold back if you have a heavy curtain that you hang over the window.

Casandra
Totally, yeah, those are super effective.

Margaret
And then you can play the fun game of opening them when the sun’s out and then closing them when the sun’s gone.

Casandra
Though here when the sun’s out, it’s colder.

Margaret
Oh, okay. Yeah.

Casandra
So, that’s why we’re all sad all winter.

Margaret
Yeah.

Casandra
Let’s see, did I find anything else exciting? People are on social media right now sharing all of these like wild ideas about how to heat your house. And, I haven’t tried these. I’m not going to vouch for them. But some of them are really interesting. So, one is like, when you’re baking, you put very, already dry, that’s important, bricks in the bottom of your oven, because they hold in heat. So, when you’re done baking, you can open your oven and turn your oven off and the bricks will keep your house apparently. People are making a little like tea light and flower pot heaters.

Margaret
Can I talk shit on those really quick?

Casandra
Yeah, please do.

Margaret
They’re bullshit. They’re absolutely bullshit.

Casandra
I kind of figured. Also, like open flames?

Margaret
Yeah, no. And like actually, a lot of them the the actual clay pot can get hot enough to catch the candle wax on fire. And so, there’s been like a bunch of houses, people have like burned down their houses trying to use these fucking things. And it would take like, I think it I looked this up the other day, it would take like hundreds of these to heat a small room. The time in which that this is a reasonably efficient thing to do is an emergency or survival situation. If you make…if you’re in a fucking tent, if you’re in, if you’re in your house, you can do this, you can throw a blanket. If you’re trying to heat up the space hidden under a blanket. A candle can be a meaningful part of that. But, if you’re trying to heat up even a small room, they’re not a meaningful part of it in terms of the trade off, but the stuff about thermal mass like these bricks, sorry, is it okay to just tangent on this?

Casandra
No please do. These are my like things that people are talking about that kind of sketched me out.

Margaret
Yeah, and so it’s like in that I haven’t specifically researched putting the bricks in the oven. What I would probably do, I mean, you want thermal mass thermal mass doesn’t heat things. It’s like a battery. It’s a heat battery, right? And so like for example, what a lot of people do is if you put like…thermal mass is often like clay or something like that. Some people even historically use like stored jugs of water and stuff where the sun comes in and heats it up or wherever your passive heating comes from. Then it radiates out that heat once the heat sources gone. And so, you can keep your house cooler at night by having a lot of thermal mass. This is one reason why cob houses have some advantages in a lot of climates and adobe and all that stuff right. And concrete even, can actually act as thermal mass, although I don’t know as much about the efficiency of that. Brick houses have an advantage for this. But yeah, like a lot of the hacks around like, “Oh, light a candle,” are like just a really good way to burn your house down.

Casandra
Well, it’s not even just a candle. People are like building…like constructing these like…you take a flower pot. You know what I’m talking about?

Margaret
Oh, yeah, totally. Yeah, so and that doesn’t actually amplify…Okay, so this idea where you take the candle and you put the flower pot on top of it and the terracotta flower pot is amplifies the heat, it doesn’t amplify shit, you can’t amplify heat. That’s like one of the laws of thermodynamics. But you can’t store the heat and you can centralize the, so it doesn’t get lost as much, right? So in some weird ways as maybe like a handwarmer, it would like be maybe a little bit more effective, right? Because

Casandra
That’s an expensive handwarmer. I’m gonna knit gloves.

Margaret
Yeah, totally. And so it, the, the flower pot itself does get so hot, and especially if you put enough candles under it to make it useful. And you can see there’s a bunch of like research that people have done, where they’re like, “Oh, the flower pot gets up to 170 degrees with one candle or like 400 something degrees with four candles,” or something roughly like that. I don’t have the numbers in front of me. But, it doesn’t make enough heat to fill a space. It instead is actually specifically preventing that heat from going out into the space, which is…

Casandra
Which is why it gets so hot.

Margaret
Yeah, totally. And again, like I mean, I don’t know, and there’s some advantages to it. But overall, however, I think the alcohol lamps that people make, the like DIY, there’s like, like the heater block, and I think it’s Philly, I can’t remember.

Brooke
Portland has one.

Margaret
They like make…you can make alcohol lamps, as little portable heaters. And, and when you’re talking about like a tent or something in a survival situation, they are fairly effective. I actually don’t know enough about the BTUs that they put out to, to in terms of heating and other spaces. That that’s beyond what I know. That what’s my rant about candles, sorry.

Casandra
No, I appreciate the rant. My contribution was gonna be like, people are talking about sketchy shit that I don’t know about. So confirming that it’s sketchy shit is great. Yeah, I don’t know. Do y’all know any other fun ways? I’m trying to think about like, my grandparents live in a really old house, and they have a wood stove, which heats one room. And the house is very long and thin. So, it heats one room on one end of the house and their bedrooms on the other end. So, all of the weird shit I’ve seen them do over the years to stay warm, like the window plastic, or those like long sock things that you put at the bottom of doors, you know, I’m talking about?

Margaret
Oh, yeah, totally. My house. I mean, I clearly bought my house with like ‘prepper’ in mind, but my house has the two different wood burning stoves, or one’s a pellet stove, which are more like human energy efficient, but they require electricity, so a little bit more complicated. It’s like a wood burning stove, but it’s a little pellets of fuel that you can buy super cheap, but you have to buy them. You can make them yourself, but it’s super labor intensive and complicated. I looked into it for a while. And then I have a regular wood burning stove in the basement and the wood burning stove is actually hooked into the HVAC like vent system in my house. And so that is something you can do is you can put a wood burning stove and hook it up to…this is not a simple retrofit. Installation in general, just fucking add insulation to your house however you can, which sometimes means like, you know, tearing open the walls and putting in more insulation or putting more insulation in your attic. If you have an attic or

Casandra
Covering your fireplace when you’re not using it, that’s one I’m learning.

Margaret
Oh, really? Oh, that makes sense. Because it just goes up out into the…Yeah,

Casandra
Yeah, even when it’s closed, it can still suck heat out. Not using fans for too long, which sucks. I’m thinking about like bathrooms. You know?

Margaret
I see Yeah, yeah.

Casandra
Like, above your kitchen stove.

Margaret
Yeah, hmm, that makes sense.

Brooke
One thing I’ve done for the last several years to conserve energy use is to consolidate where in the house I am located and or with my person, or people are located to a single room or a portion of the house and then closing up the rest of it and closing the vents that go there and all of that and just focusing the heat on wherever I am or I am with my kid or whatever it is.

Casandra
Oh, closing the vents you’re not using as a good idea.

Brooke
Yeah, so like when she’s off at school while I’m working, I close the door to my office, close most of the rest of the house. And then when it’s like the two of us, we’ll hang out in just her room with the vent open, or just our two bedrooms that are next to each other with vents open.

Margaret
And it’s it’s another advantage of people who choose to live communally is that I mean more people in a house is just going to warm things up a lot, like putting a bunch of people into a room with closed…that’s like closed off and insulated is a real good way to stay warm. So like, I don’t know, use this as an opportunity to get close to someone, I mean, very consensually and stuff.

Brooke
I was gonna say cuddling. Cuddling is a good way to provide heat.

Margaret
Get a dog.

Brooke
Or fucking

Margaret
I take back the part about the dog. Okay.

Casandra
They’re also, both in Europe and I know state by state and the US, there’re also energy and utility assistance programs and grants that have always been available, but it’s seems like more are starting to become available. So, if you live somewhere colder than me, it’s a good thing to look into.

Margaret
Well, and then also in Oregon, starting in 2024, Medicaid is going to cover expenses related to climate change in terms of like, generators and air filters and shit like that.

Brooke
That’s amazing. I haven’t heard that.

Margaret
I just read about it while I was getting ready for this episode.

Brooke
If you think you may qualify for one of the energy assistance programs, that’s something to look into sooner rather than later, like, Now, instead of before the colds get real high, or the bills get real high. I know that one of the programs here in our town, for instance, only has a few days a month in which they accept applications. And we’ll even close that, you know, for the next month if they got too many in the previous month kind of a thing.

Casandra
Yeah. Yeah, then, yeah. The The only other thing I wanted to bring up with all of this is that, you know, we’ve talked in past episodes about how expensive food is getting and how expensive everything’s getting, and with rising energy costs, that’s just going to contribute to inflation more because of businesses are having to pay more money to stay open. You know?

Margaret
Yeah.

Brooke
But Biden just passed the Inflation Reduction Act, so everything’s gonna be fine now.

Casandra
Right?

Brooke
He did it.

Casandra
Okay?

Brooke
He solved it.

Margaret
Yeah, thanks, O-Biden.

Casandra
‘O-Biden?’ is that what you said?

Brooke
Haven’t you heard that joke?

Margaret
Usually, it’s because you want to complain about something. The gas prices are high, like, “Thanks, O-Biden,” because people always said, “Thanks, Obama.”

Casandra
Okay. Yeah. Thanks for explaining jokes to me.

Brooke
Well, Biden’s just Obama’s puppet. I mean, haven’t you heard that he’s old and senile, and it’s actually just secretly Obama still running the country through Biden?

Margaret
Who’s totally not old and senile.

Casandra
I mean, according to Tulsi this morning, it’s it’s actually the elite Cabal. So.

Brooke
There’s a whole other conversation I want to have with you about why everyone is so anti–fucking-semetic. But that’s like not on our topic list.

Casandra
Oh, gosh, the French Revolution.

Brooke
If we want to do a segue I really really want to talk about it.

Casandra
Now we’re gonna segue to talk about the French Revolution.

Margaret
Welcome to Mediocre People Who Made Lateral Moves, the new podcast about all the revolutions that have happened

Casandra
and how people blamed it all on the Jews.

Margaret
The only revolutions accepted are the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican Revolution kinda, yeah. Anyway,

Brooke
This is the thing I don’t understand. Like, why why is anti-semitism been such a global thing for fucking ever? Like, I can’t think of another group of people that have had it quite like the Jews.

Casandra
It’s called the coldest hatred for a reason.

Margaret
I mean, everyone has it different. I think anti-blackness is also real fucking old and anti-indigenous as soon as we find y’all.

Casandra
There’s these interesting accounts of of…We should not go on this tangent.

Brooke
But it’s interesting.

Casandra
I could talk for too long.

Brooke
It’s topical.

Casandra
It’s always topical.

Brooke
Exactly.

Casandra
Oh, what were some of our other fun topics?

Margaret
Okay, let’s talk about hurricanes. Can I talk about hurricanes?

Casandra
Hurray!

Margaret
Oh, wait first I wanna talk about about corn really quickly. It’s like a short note. Okay, so by 2053, the Corn Belt won’t be able to grow corn.

Brooke
What?

Casandra
Wow.

Margaret
Because there will be days 125 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. And of course, corn is already having trouble now. It’s not like a switch that will be flipped in 30 years. And also, my cynical ass has been proven right every time someone’s like, “All of the X will happen by 2080.” I’m like, that’s gonna be way sooner. And then like 2020 comes around, they’re like, “Yeah, nevermind this is sooner.” And then so some of the solutions that people are trying to come up with around this, some of them are like make a lot of sense about like, being a little less monocroppy and like, and people are like getting really into perennial grains. But, of course they’re doing it in like weird capitalist ways. So there’s like weird named ways to be less monocrappy. And there’s also this perennial grain that’s like trademarked called Kernza which is a plant name with a little reserved symbol after his name. So that’s how you know, it’s good. And basically, a lot of the existing perennial grains are actually more like hays and things are for foraging. And so intermediate wheat grass is Kernza. It’s a type of intermediate wheat grass, which is not actually wheat, but has a similar grains. However, they’re currently trying to hybridize it with wheat and it’s hard to bake with because it’s not as gluttony. Unfortunately, it still has some gluten, so it’s not the solution for that problem, either. But, people are trying to do some weird shit. Then I could talk about hurricanes unless y’all wanna talk about corn.

Casandra
Most grass seed is edible. That’s my contribution.

Brooke
Also tubers. So plant yourself some day-lilies, dahlias.

Casandra
Turnips.

Brooke
They’re pretty and then you can eat them.

Casandra
We should bring back neeps as a instead of mashed potatoes, mashed neeps.

Margaret
Y’all are just making up things.

Casandra
We’re listening now.

Margaret
Casandra’s always making up plants that don’t exist. There’s only three plants: corn, potato, and grapes.

Casandra
I thought it was wheat.

Margaret
Oh, yeah, and wheat.

Brooke
I know you’ve seen apples. And also, I’ve given you kale. So.

Margaret
That’s just fancy. It’s just different forms of…okay to be fair, broccoli, kale…Can you help me list off all of these things that are the same plant?

Casandra
Brassicas?

Margaret
Yeah.

Brooke
Cauliflower? Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard.

Margaret
Everything is already secretly…the the secret cabal that we should be blaming is the brassicas.

Casandra
Plant families?

Margaret
No, just brassicas, because they’re everything. Everywhere you look, it’s brassicas.

Casandra
Unless it’s a nightshade.

Brooke
I get what you’re looking for. And I’m with you.

Margaret
Okay, so hurricanes. So, there’s two things about hurricane survival. And one is like this, like promising thing, although it ties into some bougie shit is that like….cause obviously, people who are listening this…a lot of people are listening to us have dealt with hurricanes more immediately and recently than any of the three of us have. And so I don’t mean to be light hearted about like, you know, like, whatever I want to say that, like people are dealing with this shit…I, I’m not trying to…It’s a big fucking deal. Okay. One thing is that communities absolutely can be built to survive hurricanes. And it isn’t done because people aren’t rich enough. And because doing so is incentivized, and because people don’t value this, right. It’s like a combination of these things. Have you heard of this small town called Babcock Ranch that survived Hurricane Ian?

Brooke
Nope.

Margaret
Okay, there’s this. It was built in 2015 People started moving into in 2018. It’s a 2000 home community. And it’s, it’s sort of like actually mixed class a little bit. The houses start at 200,000 and go up to a million dollars. And it’s, and they’re like working on building condos and stuff. And it is meant to survive hurricanes. This is in fucking Florida. And it got hit by Ian. And so it makes sense to build things are meant to survive hurricanes. The streets are designed to absorb water. I think that they’re designed to absorb water into like, basically almost a French drain system that runs underneath where there’s like pipes or whatever. I know that they are capable of making this like some kind of concrete that water can just like flow right through. And I think that’s what’s happening. Yeah,

Brooke
Yeah, pervious concrete. yeah.

Casandra
What is that not everywhere?

Brooke
More expensive,

Margaret
Because people don’t value infrastructure in this country. And and then there’s, they use native landscaping everywhere to like limit flooding. They do all this stuff to like, make sure that…because flooding kills more people in hurricanes than wind. And so they do all of this stuff with native landscaping to limit flooding. The power and all the communication lines are buried, which is another thing that should just be happening everywhere, but isn’t. Like where I live, I lose power all the fucking time, because like, “Oh, sorry, a tree fell on a power plant. Power Pole.”

Casandra
Are you laughing at me Brooke?

Brooke
I’m picturing your backyard right now where you could like, garrote yourself with your power lines in your back yard.

Casandra
That my landlord is like, “This is not a problem.” Yeah.

Margaret
Yeah, no, totally. And like, every…where I live like a tree falls on…it’s like, it’s like once a month, I lose power for a day, because I’m in the fucking mountains with really shallow soil, and so the trees fall over every time there’s a windstorm, but we’re in the fucking mountain. So there’s wind storms all the time. Anyway, so they bury their power and internet lines. And the whole town has it’s own solar array that powers like all of it, and 8000 other nearby homes. And so, to that 2.6 million people lost power during Hurricane Ian but not Babcock Ranch. And this was its first like trial by fire. And to be and to be fair to them they weren’t total assholes about it. It wasn’t like “I’ve got mine fuck you.” They turned their school into a shelter for all the nearby folks, because it still had power even though, it like I think I think it couldn’t be registered as an official storm shelter because didn’t have a generator. But, it didn’t need one.

Casandra
Cause it didn’t need one?

Margaret
Because it had its own fucking micro grid.

Casandra
Wow, amazing. Bureaucracy.

Margaret
Yeah. So that’s like, what we could be doing, right? We could have a society that like, prepares for these things, you know, and like there are ways to build things if people are able, if people are able to have the resources or like institutions are willing to give resources to make things that are appropriate to their area you know, you can have fire resistant homes you can have…I mean everything would just be concrete domes if I had my way as of the past six months, but then I’m sure get over this particular infatuation with concrete domes, but they’re like everything proof. Okay, anyway. Except aesthetic proof. Okay, so actually, okay, whatever. The other thing that’s…

Brooke
Also concrete is not great for the environment and climate change. It’s really bad, actually.

Margaret
Yeah, but it has actually weirdly, I haven’t looked in this little while, there’s the embedded greenhouse gases and in terms of how long it lasts are like, compare favorably in a lot of ways. And also in terms of its insulating…Well, its insulating properties because of thickness. The way it’s constructed is…the way it’s made is not nice. You can you can also disagree with me about this.

Brooke
No, that’s fair. And there’s been recent research and work into putting cellulose into concrete mixtures that actually helps. I can’t remember all the beneficial properties of it, but some really cool research that’s out there about about mixing wood fibers.

Margaret
That’s cool. Plus brutalism is way cooler than…anyways Okay, whatever. Now everyone’s gonna hate me if I start talking about liking brutalism. Alright, so hurricanes, I have never survived a hurricane, just to be really clear. And so I’m not trying to tell everyone….okay, but I it’s my disclaimer, I researched…

Brooke
You’ve also never not survived a hurricane.

Margaret
That’s true. Oh, I see what you’re saying. Every time I’m in a hurricane, I die. I’ve been playing this…I want…this video game I’ve been playing called…Okay. So, God, what if I was…the ultimate prepper would be Groundhog Day guy. That’s what he really should have done.

Margaret
You ever seen that movie “Hurricane Day” where the person has no…groundhog, whatever, as a movie,…

Casandra
What?

Casandra
What does Groundhog Day have to do with hurricanes?

Margaret
Okay, but if you died and came back every single day, you could do so much research. The ultimate scientist

Casandra
No one can see me putting my head in my hands.

Brooke
They just heard the thunk of your skull on the table there.

Margaret
Alright, so what to do if you live in the path of a hurricane and you don’t live in a little weird prepper neighborhood. First of all, if you live in a mobile home, I’m sure you already know that life sucks, because classism is real and awful, but mobile homes are in a really bad situation. And I’m sure you already know that. Hurricane timing is forcastable, but its course is less predictable. So, you can start knowing that a hurricane is possible, but you won’t necessarily know where it exactly where it’s going and exactly what kind of power it will have by the time it lands. Flooding kills more people than wind. And basically the best that I’ve been able to read and find different people have researched this is that like overall evacuating if the instructions say you should evacuate is probably the best move. And, voluntary evac happens before mandatory evac. Voluntary often comes earlier to basically give people to get a head start, because when everyone tries to leave an area all at once it fucking sucks. I’d love to at some point, talk to someone who has done more work into evac, and like talk about like what it means to transport oneself over a roads during those kinds of crises. But, and to be clear, mandatory evacuation doesn’t mean they come around at gunpoint to force you out, it means that no one will help you while you stay. At least that’s the official version of it. If you’re going to stay or rather, if you like think that you might be stuck, consider being able to survive two weeks without outside help or without the grid. And the grid in this case means water. And it means probably the ability to heat food if you run on a municipal gas line or power, right. And that also means electricity. And so you want like for example 15 gallons of water per person in storage containers. You want two weeks of non refrigerated food that doesn’t require utility cooking gas, because maybe you have a separate gas stove you know, or you’re planning a cold cans of chili or whatever. You want a battery or hand crank radio, you want to get medical kit. If you’re trained, you want a chainsaw, but one of the main ways that people kill themselves in the wake of disasters is using chainsaws incorrectly to try and like move down trees and stuff. One of the other main ways is like propane and propane accessories, and people trying to use like shit that you shouldn’t use inside inside. Don’t run a fucking generator in your house or your garage. Make sure everyone has a flashlight. When you’re prepping your house. You want to bring in everything in your yard like furniture and tools. You want to get directions to local evacuation shelters and you want to have them printed out and or like saved offline in Google’s maps. You want to prepare your house for internal flooding by moving shit up off the floor, and like getting everything that you don’t want to get wet available. Make sure it’s able to stay dry. You want to know how to shut off your utility gas, water and electric in your house. You do want to fill up your bathtubs for extra water, but don’t fucking rely on this. This isn’t the like “Haha,” everyone’s like , “Oh it’s cool I got like you know this bathtub filled with water.” You usually want to use bathtub water more for sanitation water. You want to turn your fridge and freezer to the coldest settings and make sure they’re packed full of thermal mass like we were talking about. Thermal mass is also a battery for cold as well as heat. So for example, your freezer works way less hard if it’s full of frozen bottles of water. And so, if you feel plastic water bottles like 90% full, and this is true generally speaking, right? A full fridge or freezer works way less hard. And, because you know it’s not stuff that disappears every time you open the fucking door whatever. In general, your fridge or freezer can last about two days without power if they’re like real packed full of thermal mass and set to the coldest. In terms of long term preparation for your house, if you live somewhere and you’re trying to retrofit shit, you kind of want to go through and make sure that there’s hurricane ties attaching your roof to your house. And do the same with your deck and shit, which are just basically these like metal straps that attach one piece of wood to another piece of wood. If you look up hurricane ties, you’ll see pictures of them. And then you can go up to your attic or whatever and look to see if you have them. And you can you can retro actively add this, because what happens, the way that wind destroys a house, first, it like pulls off like shingles and siding and stuff that only sort of matter. And then it starts breaking out windows with debris, and doors flying open because of wind, and stuff like that. But then eventually you get to the point where the fucking roof rips off your house is like one of the main things, and then once the roof rips off your house, then the walls have nothing supporting them, so then they fall over. And so you can do a lot of stuff with your doors also to help protect them, especially if you have like double doors, you can add bolts to the inactive door, the door that doesn’t open, or the door that doesn’t have the handle or whatever, and you had bolts that go up into the ceiling and through the floor. It’s also stuff that makes your house harder to break into, which is like cool bonus, right? And garage doors, our old friend garage doors.

Casandra
Why we’re really talking about this.

Margaret
I know

Margaret
They they can be storm proofed, but it means you buy a new one. And, I have a feeling that they are expensive and hard to get right now. Like old articles are like “Oh, they cost between $1,000 and $5,000 for a storm proof garage door and I assume that that is not easily the case right now. Okay, and in terms of covering your windows, you want to cover all the windows in your house, not just the ones facing the water. And ideally, if you live there like long term, you want to actually get storm shutters, but those can be expensive. Worst case scenario, you can screw plywood or metal roofing over the windows and glass doors. With plywood you want to aim for about a half inch thick at least, half inch to five eighths. And particle board, don’t use particle board or MDF, because probably not strong enough. I don’t know and there’s just like other shit right like you keep your car packed and facing outward with gas in it. However also, you might want to keep it in a garage and or at least next to a solid building, so that it doesn’t fucking blow away or get destroyed by things. Fill up an extra gas can or two because fuck it there’s often gonna be gas shortages after these sorts of things. Don’t fucking drive through floodwater, that is another way that people die all the fucking time. Like it’s about a foot or something of flood that will move a car that will like take a car away. It’s way less than you think. Don’t fucking drink floodwater. Most of the ways that people water filter don’t filter out like gasoline and all kinds of other shit. With a generator, don’t fucking run it inside. During the storm, don’t go outside during the Eye of the Storm, it’ll come back suddenly. Stay away from your windows and glass doors and such. Don’t take a shower or a bath because of electrical risk. Kill the power of the main breaker if flooding is coming. And that is what I learned not through direct experience, because again I’ve died every time I’ve tried these…I’ve never been in a hurricane. I’ve been on the coast rain some storms, right, some tropical storms and shit. But I’ve never personally been through a hurricane.

Brooke
Full circle.

Casandra
We should add like Hurricane Preparedness Guide to our list along with the First Aid Guide. That’d be cool. We should talk to like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief folks or someone.

Margaret
Yeah. Agreed.

Casandra
Cool. But this isn’t a Strangers meeting, so…

Margaret
No. Welcome to our Strangers meeting.

Brooke
You hurri-‘can’ survive.

Margaret
Hurri-‘can’t.’ It’s a hurri-‘can’, not a hurri-‘can’t.’ But, that’s…the hurricane itself can destroy houses. It can’t…It’s a hurri-‘can’ destroy houses not a hurric-‘can’t’ destroy houses. Got it. You see what I’m getting at. It’s a funny joke.

Brooke
You’re hurri-canceled. Love it.

Casandra
When Margaret makes jokes…

Brooke
Margaret makes great dad jokes and I love it. So does my kid.

Casandra
It’s us, not you.

Margaret
I say a few short things with our last five minutes.

Margaret
No, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. I mean, I’m trying to make you laugh, so you all laughing works. Okay, so I don’t know, what other what other shit? I got. I got like some like little short things. Is anyone else have a major topic? We should talk about it? Should we go into short things?

Margaret
Okay, here’s the ones I’ve got. Other people add them at the end. Monkeypox transmission is slowing. There’s a small chance it’s gonna go endemic, but like overall. monkeypox transmission is slowing. And that’s cool. You should still go get fucking vaccinated, though. I should go get vaccinated. LA is installing water restrictors in houses of people who break their water limit, including like including rich people, which is great. Like basically if anyone is using more than 150% of their limit like they’re going around and just like literally being like, “You get less water now.” The Mississippi River is currently so low that grain and fertilizer transports are halted.

Brooke
And that’s contributing to supply chain shortages in all kinds of ways, because they can’t get stuff up here.

Margaret
It also fucks up China. They apparently…a lot of them…They get a lot of soybeans from the US, and 40% of the US soybean export to China comes through the Mississippi River. The Army Corps of Engineers, don’t worry as dredging the river to deepen it.

Brooke
Great.

Margaret
So that they can still ship things there.

Brooke
I’m sure that no part of the Mississippi River is a Superfund site or anything like that, and highly toxic.

Margaret
Nah, it’s fine. I’m sure it’s good. I bet everyone who’s working that job will be treated well. And a British Columbia river has dried up, and I think a bunch of British Columbia rivers have dried up. They’re facing like one of the worst fucking droughts ever, which has killed 65,000 salmon, and has cut spawning by 70%, at least in this area. Bird flu in California is killing a ton of birds. I saw this thing, I was like reading oh, it’s like a bird flu again. Goddamnit. And then I’m like, Oh, it’s just killing birds…Wait, no, birds are good.

Casandra
Yeah, we need birds.

Margaret
Yeah. Oil prices might go up again, because OPEC countries are cutting oil production more. Thanks. O-Biden. Inflation is causing manufacturers to start using cheaper ingredients. That’s like one of the main ways that like manufacturers are getting around this. And so like a lot of shit they’re used to using and trust might now be made like shit.

Casandra
I’ve read about new homes they’re building as well.

Margaret
Oh, great, because that’s what we need is cheaper designed homes.

Casandra
Yeah, they’re like, A) don’t buy a home right now. But B) when you can buy a home in the future, maybe someday don’t buy homes built right now.

Brooke
I hear that.

Margaret
That makes sense.

Brooke
But Biden passed the inflation Reduction Act, you guys, so it’s gonna be fine.

Margaret
Yeah, the fine print is like, “Now use refined,” I don’t know, whatever, “corn syrup instead of…”

Brooke
And the Federal Reserve is raising the target interest rate. So, it’s gonna be fine.

Casandra
Have you all seen the new like COVID antivax study that just came out?

Margaret
No.

Brooke
Nope. Oh, we were supposed to die yesterday.

Casandra
Apparently, I’m using air quotes, a study came out linking the risk of like heart disease with COVID vaccines in ‘men’ in particular, something like that. And so, you know, anti vaxxers are like, “See!”

Margaret
I wonder if it came out because…the the one that I had heard was that there was a study that came out and I don’t have these numbers in front of me, and I’m sorry, audience. I think it’s, I think that the the rate of death among Republicans is 18% higher than the rate of death among Democrats, with all other factors considered, as soon as the vaccine came out. And like, yeah, exactly just the vaccine came out people who didn’t get it just fucking die more.

Brooke
Comparative Study.

Margaret
Conspiracy, to try and kill all the Republicans, by the Republican leaders. No, no, wait, go ahead, Brooke. Sorry.

Brooke
No, I was gonna give more details on the study. But y’all can y’all can look it up. It was definitely aninteresting study. And it’s not like 100% due to COVID for sure. At least they can’t like rule out… because it was like measure of excess deaths. And they don’t have all the specifics on that. But yeah, a large portion of that is due to vaccine versus not vaccine. Than also there was some tweet that made the rounds that that we were all going to die on October 10 because something was gonna get activated in the vaccine. Y’all see this on Twitter at all?

Margaret
That explains why I died in the hurricane.

Casandra
I want to back up to the study I mentioned because I didn’t clarify that there were like major issues with it. That’s all. I didn’t want. I didn’t want to bring up like this study antivaxxers are using without saying like there were major issues with the study.

Margaret
Yeah. That makes sense.

Casandra
Yeah, that tracks.

Margaret
Well, does that do it for us this month?

Casandra
That was a lot. It really was a lot of bad things.

Margaret
Oh, one good final thing. Tankers that go around with like, all the stuff that they ship around, are starting to add sails back, and it saves about 10% of their fuel. This is a really minor thing.

Brooke
Sailing sails?

Margaret
Yeah, yeah.

Brooke
Math. Nice.

Margaret
Like all the container ships and shit. Not all of them, but they’re starting to add sails to container ships to help alleviate the cost of fuel to move everything around. Whatever it is a really minor thing. I just thought was neat. This is my final note.

Casandra
Yay, sailboats.

Margaret
Yeah. The global economy that got us into this mess in the first place trudging along.

Casandra
Ohhhh. Well, stay warm out there, everyone.

Margaret
Brooke, you want to lead us out?

Brooke
Yeah, I do. So, I took your outro from from the last episode and transcribed it. I’m just gonna I’m gonna read it word for word, Margaret.

Margaret
Oh, God.

Brooke
Are you ready for how great this is gonna be?

Margaret
Yeah, let me hold on to something. Alright.

Brooke
And then maybe I’ll do a real one after I do this. Thanks so much for listening. Algorithms suck, but if you like this podcast, please like comment, review, blah, blah, blah. It makes the algorithms give our show to more people. It’s kind of the only way people end up hearing about our shows is word of mouth. All of that stuff’s true. I’m not just saying it cynically, it’s just that I have said it, like, whatever, I’m on Episode 50, or whatever. So I’ve said it like 50 times, and you can support us on Patreon by supporting our publisher, our publisher is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. The three of us are collective members of a collectively run publisher called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. It’s been around for like 20 years, but it’s like getting new mega forces Voltron combines version of itself lately, and it’s primarily supported by Patreon.

Brooke
I think that was perfect. Flawless. And also, that means that Inmn doesn’t have to transcribe it again.

Margaret
Yeah.

Brooke
You’re welcome, Inmn. Just copy/paste. But more seriously, this podcast is produced by the anarchist publishing collective Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And you can connect with us on Twitter at Tangledwild. And I think we have like Instagram and stuff too. But I don’t do Instagram and I think Instagram’s evil. So I don’t know how to plug that. But it’s fine. We’re probably there, you can find us places.

Casandra
How do you think Instagram’s evil but not Twittter?

Brooke
That study that came out about teenage girls and like, I don’t know, image issues and suicide rates and stuff. The work that we do as a publishing collective is made possible by our Patreon supporters. You can check that out patreon.com/strangersInatangledwilderness. And we really appreciate that support that is right now, again our primary source of funding that’s helping out the six of us that are that are running this collective. And then we also have our first book of this new iteration of Strangers coming out, written by Cindy Milstein, the book is “Try Anarchism For Life.” You can preorder that a Tangled wilderness.org. That’s our website. We’ve also got some cool T-shirts there. And there’s a free skill zine that you can download that we’re pretty happy about. And you can learn about upcoming book releases because we do have more in the works. There’s a really cool author who’s got one coming out in February. And you can check out our sister podcast of…I can’t remember who do we call it “Strangers In a Tangled Wilderness?

Margaret
Yeah.

Brooke
The other Yeah, yeah. And then we want to give a special thanks to some of our Patreon supporters. Hoss, the dog. Micaiah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Natalie, Eleanor, Jenipher, Staro. Kat J. Chelsea, Danna, David Nicole, Mikki, Oxalis, Paige, SJ, Shawn, Hunter, and Theo.

Margaret
Thank you, those people and also other people, but especially those people, everyone else is dead to me.

Brooke
So until next time.

Casandra
Goodbye.

Margaret
Bye

Brooke
Bye

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E50 – This Month In The Apocalypse

Episode Notes

Episode Summary
For this This Month in the Apocalypse episode Brooke, Margaret, and Casandra all researched different topics and discuss them. Margaret talks about climate collapse, droughts, floods, wildfires, the cost of wheat, and the dangers of rising humidity for wet bulb temperatures. Casandra talks about Monkey Pox, rises in other viral and vector borne illness, and discovers why rain might actually be a bad thing for your food. Brooke talks about student loan forgiveness and things you, brave listener, might not be aware you are forgiven for. Everyone attempts to get us sponsored by ‘Big’ Rain Barrel. If you’re out there ‘Big’ Rain Barrel. Please sponsor us.

Host Info
Casandra can be found on Twitter @hey_casandra.
Margaret can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.
Brooke is just great and can be found at Strangers helping up keep our finances intact and on Twitter @ogemakweBrooke

Publisher Info
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Next Episode
Come out Friday, September 23rd, and every two weeks there after. Might be about thru-hiking, Parenting, or Archiving.

Transript

An easier to read version is available on our website TangledWilderness.org.

Margaret 00:16
Hello, and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcasts for what feels like the end times. I’m one of your hosts, Margaret killjoy. I have Brooke and Casandra with me as well as cohosts today, because today, you will be very excited to know that the world’s still ending…that we are doing our second monthly This Month in the Apocalypse and we’re going to be talking about basically the last month and the I guess that’s in the name. Okay. So, Brooke, Casandra, do you want to introduce yourselves? Possibly with Brooke going first.

Casandra 00:52
Your name was first.

Brooke 00:53
Yeah. Okay, alphabetically. Hi, everybody, it’s Brooke Jackson again, coming to you live? Oh, wait, no, this will be recorded by the time you hear it. From the sunny lands of the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Casandra Johns 01:11
We’re all in the Willamette Valley right now.

Margaret 01:14
It’s true.

Casandra 01:15
It’s true. This is Casandra. That’s me.

Margaret 01:19
Okay, and so this will be a very short episode, because actually, nothing bad has happened in the world, certainly not nything that feels end times ish, nothing out of the ordinary. I’m under the impression we have reversed most of the major…I mean, I think Biden passed a bill. So, I’m pretty sure climate change is over. And COVID is over. I learned that just the other day walking into a place where I thought everyone would be wearing masks, but it’s over. So that’s cool. Or, alternatively, let’s talk about how China’s in the worst heatwave in human history…in recorded history. We’re gonna cut it up into segments. And I’m gonna go first with my segment.

Casandra Johns 02:06
Do we need to say “Du duh duh duhh, Channel Zero? As part of the intro?

Brooke 02:13
Do a Jingle?

Margaret 02:16
Yes. Okay. You want to do it?

Brooke 02:20
She just did.

Casandra 02:21
Oh, yeah, I did. Duh duh duh duh!

Margaret 03:19
Okay, and we’re back. Okay, so, China…70 Day heatwave as of several days ago, now. And by the time you all are hearing this, I believe we’re recording this about five days before this episode comes out. So, who knows what will have happened? There has been a lot of heat waves and floods all over the world this summer. And so China’s in the middle of a 70 day heatwave. The drought has reduced hydroelectric output, which huge areas were reliant on the electricity because the water levels are so far down. And of course the electricity is what powers the AC. So no air conditioning is really fun as things get really hot. AC has been turned off in a lot of office buildings. It’s cut power to tons of industry, including a bunch of car manufacturers where I’m a little bit like “Eh, whatever. Cars are bad.” I mean, I drive cars so I’m kind of an asshole and hypocrite. Anyway. But also solar panel output and EV battery plants and like lots of stuff that’s like being pitched as the alternative to things…y’all can feel free to cut me off too as I talk about these things. I’m just like going through my notes. And I don’t know, it’s breaking records all over the place by like four degrees in a lot of places. It’s four degrees Fahrenheit.

Brooke 04:44
What is heatwave in this context? Like are they having like, you know, 115 degree temperatures, are they just?

Margaret 04:53
I mean, so. I mean, I believe in localized places. It’s getting like crazy hot but what’s interesting about this is that it’s it’s more the length of it and the abnormality to its usual that is, like, it’s a lot of this stuff is like 106 degrees Fahrenheit and things like that. You know, things that are very not nice, but are…well, human survivable. Although we should probably at some point talk about wet bulb temperatures and how dry places are survivable at substantially higher temperatures than humid places. But yeah, so it’s it’s, it’s an it’s an abnormality causing problems as far as I understand, rather than like, just specifically, if you step outside, you will be scorched by the heatray that is the sun. It’s affecting over a billion people, which is a lot of people. The area of the heatwave is 530,000 square miles, which for context is Texas, Colorado and California combined.

Casandra Johns 05:57
Does that overlap with the area…like, isn’t there like a massive wildfire happening in China right now?

Margaret 06:04
I think you know, more about the wildfires than I do.

Casandra Johns 06:07
I don’t know what region it was in.

Margaret 06:09
Okay.

Casandra 06:09
I guess I’m curious. Of course, they’re related because everything climate-y is related, ultimately.

Margaret 06:16
Yeah.

Casandra 06:19
Yeah, I’m curious how closely they’re tied together. But, if you don’t know, and I don’t know, that’s fine. Because there’s also a massive wildfire. And that sucks.

Margaret 06:27
Yeah. There’s a massive wildfire.

Brooke 06:31
Is that a continuous area, Margaret? That five? Whatever, something miles?

Margaret 06:37
You all are exceeding my level of research that I did, because I did research about the entire world. So I don’t know.

Brooke 06:44
Okay, fair.

Casandra 06:45
Oh, yeah. You have more. This is just like heat waves everywhere. Okay.

Margaret 06:48
Yeah. Okay. And also joining us today on playing the squeaky toy in the background is Rintrah, the best dog in the world.

Brooke 06:59
Can confirm.

Margaret 07:00
The best dog in the world. No complaints? Okay. Yeah, I, you know, there’s a lot more I don’t know about this, right? But this was one that I haven’t even seen really cropping up much in the media at all. And actually, one of the things that’s sort of interesting and terrible and telling is that a lot of the information that I’ve been able to find about climate change disasters comes from the business media, like, a lot of this is about how it will affect stock prices, how it will affect, you know…300 Mines are shut down right now in China, or as of you know, two days ago when I did most of the research for this recording. And so it talks more about the 300 mines that have been shut down instead of the 119,000 people who have been evacuated from their homes. And it’s just, it’s a real problem. There’s a lot of photos of like, low reservoirs that are like 20 meters below what they’re supposed to be and things like that. And, of course, to tie everything into everything else, you know, things that happen in one place don’t only effect that region. The drought is fucking up their harvest, and fertilizer for export has been affected, which will probably fuck up the world’s food supply, which was otherwise very stable. So, I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem.

Casandra Johns 08:16
The world’s been chaos, but at least we know, food is cheap and available.

Margaret 08:20
And will stay that way.

Margaret 08:22
Okay, so then the one that I’m finally starting to see more get talked about in the media, thankfully, although it’s annoying, because it’s only been talked about because now there’s like dramatic photos. But whatever. I mean, I’m not blaming people for not paying attention to everything that’s happening in the world. Pakistan is having flooding, like just absolutely massive flooding. I’ve read reports saying that there’s a half a million people living in refugee camps. It’s taken at least 1000 lives, it’s fucking up food production. Over a million homes have been destroyed. A third of the country is underwater. Have y’all seen the satellite image photos?

Casandra 08:22
Yep

Casandra Johns 08:59
Yeah, and they’re referring to it as a ‘lake.’ Which makes me wonder like, are they anticipating at least some portion of it to remain? Like, “And look at our new lake!”

Margaret 09:10
Yeah.

Casandra 09:12
I heard I heard someone else I heard someone referred to it as a ‘small ocean.’

Margaret 09:18
Yeah.

Margaret 09:19
Yeah. And, and Pakistan is the the fifth most populous country in the world after China, India, U.S., Indonesia, I think. Yeah. And so it’s like, it’s a big fucking deal and a big fucking problem. And one of the other problems because capitalism solves…makes everything worse. Pakistan has taken out a $1.1 billion dollar loan from the IMF, which for anyone following at home, the IMF is a predatory lending organization called the International Monetary Fund, that actually a lot of modern leftist politics, at least in the Western world and actually a lot of the developing world kind of cut its teeth in the…during the, the turn of the millennium fighting against the IMF and the World Bank, specifically because of the stuff that they do, which is that they loan predatory. It’s like a payday loan. You know, it’s like a paycheck loan place, but for entire countries, they loan you $1.1 billion, and then you’re going to be paying off the interest for the rest of your life as a country. And of course, a lot of what’s happening right now is that developing nations as they take out these loans are therefore forced to extract more fossil fuels from their own countries, in order to pay off the interest of their loan, not even touching the principal, trapping us further and further in the cycle of what’s destroying everything. So that’s all really fun. Okay, then, East Africa, particularly Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, are also facing prolonged drought, rising food prices. A lot of this is because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is projected to leave 20 million people hungry with an estimated 3 million potential deaths if aid isn’t delivered, and these three countries represent 2% of the world’s population, but 70% of the extreme food insecurity. And most of…about 90% of the wheat imported by East Africa comes from Russia and Ukraine, which are of course, having some issues right now. They’re not famously friends. But you’re thinking to yourself, “Well, I’m a wheat farmer in the US, and the high prices are good for me.” They are not. Things are not good with domestic wheat production here in the United States, either, which, of course, affects large quantities of the world. Also, the US is a major grain exporter. And so this is things that affect the US do affect everyone else. And not just because we’re the center of Empire. Drought is affecting wheat fields in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska. Kansas is estimating a 30% drop in their harvest. Oklahoma is estimating a 50% drop, in its harvest. And so even though you have these, like record high prices for wheat, farmers are expecting to lose money, because they’re not able to grow enough. You look like you have a question.

Brooke 09:19
Oh wow.

Casandra Johns 12:24
And yeah, so we talked about this a little bit the other day, I think, like I’m not sure if people realize what it means when the wheat crop is devastated. You know, it’s not just like, “Maybe I can’t eat bread.”

Brooke 12:43
There’s more to it than that?

Casandra Johns 12:45
Right! I mean, the next thing I think of is like, who eats the wheat? Not just humans. You know, like, I can’t eat wheat, but like, I eat beef.

Margaret 12:58
Yeah.

Casandra 12:58
And chicken.

Margaret 13:00
Yeah.

Brooke 13:00
Was does that matter, Casandra?

Casandra 13:03
Maybe they eat wheat. Just the like domino effect.

Margaret 13:07
Yeah.

Casandra 13:08
Yeah. When we talk about rising food prices and rising fuel prices, and how those are connected to like rising everything prices.

Margaret 13:15
Yeah. And book prices most famously.

Brooke 13:16
Okay, well, like, I have a solution.

Casandra 13:19
Okay, what’s your solution? Is it Communism?

Brooke 13:19
Cause, we’re all about solutions here. Well, you started talking about Pakistan being all flooded like the country’s a giant lake. And then you said drought in the US and I’m like, “Let’s just pick up some water over there and just put it over here.” And then there won’t be a drought or flood.

Margaret 13:36
So what’s so great and I’m gonna get to in a moment is that drought and flood are entirely related. I think you knew this, and we’re just setting me up to say this, but they’re absolutely related. The more drought you have, the worse flooding you have, which of course, like boggles my immediate science, right? My non science brain is like, “But water is the opposite of drought,” you know, and we’re gonna get to them second. Okay, so also in the US, Lake Mead is drying up. It’s the largest reservoir in the United States, it provides water to 25 million people. It’s possible that soon it won’t have enough water to feed the Hoover Dam, which provides electricity to about a million people. And the one upside of all of this drought..this is really selfish. It’s kind of like interesting the stuff they keep finding in the water. They keep find…

Margaret 14:26
Yeah. They’re like finding like some guys like “Oh, look a barrel,” and he like pops open some barrel from the 1920s. And just like a dead guy with a bullet in his skull, and they’re like, “Oh, the mafia really did just drop people off in barrels,” which led me to the conclusion that apparently leaving dead bodies in large body in large bodies of water is more effective of a strategy than I’ve been led to believe.

Casandra 14:27
Well, they haven’t they also…hasn’t also revealed like Nazi…like sunken Nazi ships and shit. And then they’re like the….

Casandra 14:27
Crime?

Margaret 15:01
Yeah, not in Lake Mead, though.

Casandra Johns 15:04
Right. But then..No, but I’m just saying like everywhere it’s revealing interesting things like in Europe the…what are the stones called?

Margaret 15:12
The Hunger Stones.

Casandra 15:13
Hunger Stones?

Margaret 15:15
Yeah.

Casandra 15:15
So apparently, what’s the context for this? Previously, in history when there were massive droughts and like rivers dwindled down to nothing, people made carvings in the stones at particular water levels with these like really epic, maybe Margaret’s looking at some examples, of these really epic miserable statements about like, “Fear ye, fear ye, if the water gets this low…”

Margaret 15:40
You’re dead.

Casandra 15:40
Yeah, but people are seeing those now, which is terrifying and interesting.

Margaret 15:47
Yeah. Terrified and interesting is a good way to describe the current epoch.

Brooke 15:52
Cool. That’s the silverling, the mud caked lining.

Brooke 15:52
Yeah. There was. It’s not happening right at this moment. But here locally, when the Detroit reservoir got real low a couple of years ago, there was a town that had been flooded when they built the dam there and it was low enough that like, remnants of this town were visible, including like an old wagon, like covered wagon base kind of wagon and other cool artifacts.

Brooke 16:27
See some history before we all die.

Margaret 16:30
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Brooke 16:31
Great.

Margaret 16:32
So, in California, heat and drought are also combining as power usages reaches a five year high power use, because people are running more and more air conditions. I didn’t quite realize exactly how…I don’t I don’t have a percentage in front of me…But like, air conditioning is a really, really big use of electricity. And so in California, the grid is estimated…is expected to become unstable, although that might have already happened. It was supposed to happen like this week. So that might happen by the time y’all hear this. Or maybe it didn’t happen. And I’m here I am chicken littling, all day long. And, of course, Jackson, Mississippi flooding. The capital of Mississippi, which is primarily black city has left 150,000 people without drinking water. Sooo…

Brooke 17:18
I haven’t heard about this at all?

Margaret 17:20
Oh, yeah. And there’s some mutual aid groups on the ground. Cooperation. Jackson is a long standing organization that works to sort of build dual power and do all kinds of awesome stuff in terms of cooperative economics and things like that. And they are doing a lot of mutual aid work. I believe there’s also a group and maybe this is actually not maybe they’re not directly related. I’m not sure there’s a group called Hillbillies Helping Hillbillies that I’ve at least seen talk a lot about this issue. I don’t know if they do most of their work down there or if they’ve been more focused on the Tennessee floods.

Casandra Johns 17:54
I know Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is also doing work there.

Margaret 17:59
Yeah. So “Why does all this stuff happen, Margaret?” you might ask.

Brooke 18:07
Why does all this stuff happen, Margaret?

Margaret 18:09
Well, I am an expert named Jennifer Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodward Climate Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and my quote, that is definitely me is, “As the air and oceans warm under a thicker blanket of greenhouse gases, more water vapor evaporates into the air providing more moisture to fuel thunderstorms, hurricanes, nor’easters and monsoons.” Basically, as the temperature rise of the Earth, the warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, every degree of…every increase of one degree Celsius can boost the capacity for holding water vapor by about 7%. So that’s fun. And also as things get more humid, you’re like, “Okay, well, that’s cool. It’s like more tropical and stuff, right?” Higher humidity is substantially more dangerous, like heat and humidity is what kills people, because of the way that our bodies thermo regulate basically, like, if you’re at 100% humidity, and the temperature goes above your body temperature, you die. Not like instantly, right? But your body loses its ability to thermo regulate. And so that is the wet bulb temperature is the temperature at 100% humidity, and that can be calculated out from there. So, for example, 105 degrees Fahrenheit at 5%. humidity is not that bad. It’s like 61 degrees wet bulb, right? You’re not in danger, I mean, you can be in danger zone from other parts of it, you need to get in shade, right? But like, whereas 105 degrees at 95% humidity is 103 degrees wet bulb. So, and for context, you know, it’s like I used to never really think about the level of humidity that I lived in until I moved to the South and I had to worry about mold and all kinds of other shit. But, much of the South, and San Francisco and also I believe much of Alaska sit at around 80 to 90% humidity, whereas the Southwest might be at around 30% humidity. So, when you hear about temperatures at different levels in different parts of the country, the humidity that they’re facing, like matters in terms of how catastrophic this type of thing is likely to be. And then the “What to do about it section!” Don’t worry, we’re almost done with the terrible climate shit part.

Casandra Johns 20:20
I feel like earlier, you mentioned something about the relationship between flooding and drought. I was hoping you were gonna circle back to that.

Margaret 20:28
Okay. Oh, yeah. So. So basically, the…some atmosphere shit I only half understand. But, as everything gets hotter, more of the air like sits…and more of the water sits in the air and that…it just fucks everything up. So, like, the rain falls off fucked up. I, I kind of like, wrap my head around it. And then I, it unraveled, you ever, like study things that are completely outside your thing? And then you like, you get your takeaway, and then the details like dissolve? That’s what happened to me while I was researching this?

Casandra Johns 21:00
No, that’s I didn’t realize it had I, I thought my assumption was it was going to be that, you know, you can look up videos of this where like, people put a cup of water upside down on like dry soil, you know, partially damp soil and like saturated wet soil. And the cup of water immediately, like seeps into the ground in the saturated soil, but it takes a really long time for the dry soil to absorb the water.

Margaret 21:25
Yeah.

Casandra 21:25
And so my assumption was like, “Oh, if there’s a drought and the soil is bone dry, it can’t absorb moisture very effectively.”

Margaret 21:33
Yeah.

Casandra 21:33
Which is counterintuitive, maybe? But…then it floods.

Margaret 21:36
I think that is a big part of it. Yeah.

Casandra 21:38
Okay.

Margaret 21:39
And then also, I was even just like…go ahead.

Brooke 21:43
I was thinking about how matter can’t be created or destroyed. And so the water still exist somewhere, even though it got sucked up from the dry places. And that might be why it ended up flooding in other places because the water still exists.

Margaret 21:58
Well, a lot of places it’s literally the same place will have droughts and floods. I think Texas was dealing with that I think it was Dallas, was having a record drought and might still be in a record drought and then had like, really fuck off flooding. I think it was about a week or two ago. That was like destroying everything. And, you know, because if the rain patterns are just completely different than Yeah, what the ground is used to absorbing and like, and which ties into what to do about it. A lot of what to do about it needs to happen at the scale that we’re not necessarily going to talk about right now. But, rainwater catchment and drought areas is super important. And, you know, I was looking it up because there’s this like. I’d always been sort of told that rainwater catchment like fucks up the water system of that area, you know, because Colorado has, they have re-legalized it a little bit in 2016. But it’s been illegal for a very long time to catch rainwater in Colorado because they’re like, “Oh, it’s so dry here. We need all the groundwater.” That was what I had always got told. The real reason’s that Colorado made rainwater catchment illegal have a lot more to do with…capitalism, and the way that water rights are, you’re basically stealing from people in entirely different areas if you catch the rainwater at the source or whatever. And, it it can affect things,right, if you like take water that could otherwise have ended up groundwater, but you’re mostly it’s mostly like shit that would have run off anyway. And so rainwater catchment increasingly in a lot of places, I believe Arizona has like new laws that like require new buildings to include rainwater catchment. There’s entire countries who I didn’t write down the names of that require rainwater catchment in all new buildings, especially island nations, I’m under the impression and so rainwater catchment is cool. And then, Arizona you can get rebates if you install rainwater catchment. In Colorado, it is now legal again for like home level and there’s like all these like rules and shit. And you’re, you’re only allowed to store two barrels for a total of 110 gallons and you can only do it at like, home, or whatever. I’m sure there’s ways that people could imagine catching rain water without getting caught. The CDC points out that rainwater is generally not safe to drink without treatment. You can use it to water non food plants without treatment. I say this, I showered with rainwater for the past three years and don’t give a shit. But, maybe I shouldn’t recommend that to other people. But, also filtering rainwater is like not the biggest deal in the world. And then…

Casandra Johns 24:39
Also like, the idea of only using it on non food plants is really funny to me, because like it just rains on my plants, you know? And then I eat them.

Margaret 24:51
Yeah.

Brooke 24:52
You shouldn’t let rain land of your plants.

Margaret 24:54
You shouldn’t be eating food from plants. Plants comes from stores, Casandra.

Casandra Johns 24:59
Uh oh. Okay. And if they get rained on specifically then they’re like poison.

Margaret 25:06
Yeah, me, okay. Like, you walk out of a food store, the main place that people get food, like McDonald’s, and you have your chicken nuggets, or…

Casandra 25:14
And then they get rained on?

Margaret 25:16
You wouldn’t want to eat them now, would you?

Casandra 25:18
Okay, I see what you mean.

Margaret 25:20
Yeah, no, I like that part about the like non food plants or whatever is like to me is like that’s what the CDC says. The CDC has lost a lot of…I don’t trust it as much as I might have used to.

Casandra 25:36
Interesting segue to…

Margaret 25:39
Yeah. Well, there is one more part though that I believe one have you added to the notes about soil remediation and dry gardening? I’m wondering if you want to talk about some of that.

Brooke 25:52
That has to be Casandra, cause it wasn’t me.

Casandra Johns 25:54
Oh, I mean, that was me thinking about like, how the what I was saying before how bone dry soil…the best place to store water is in the soil. Right?

Margaret 26:04
Yeah.

Casandra 26:06
Just like the best place to store nitrogen is in the soil. But, you know, if I lived in a super dry area, and this is only so effective for like the home gardener, this like ideally would happen on a large scale. But, if I lived in a really dry area, I’d be working really hard to like improve my soil health so that it can store more water. So that things like dry gardening are possible. So I can you know, have food even in a drought.

Margaret 26:32
What is dry gardening?

Casandra Johns 26:36
Dry gardening is gardening with little to no, like, manually added water.

Margaret 26:43
Is that where you like mulch the shit out of it all to prevent evaporation?

Casandra Johns 26:46
Yeah, you can do it that way. You can also…there. There’s a…well, it’s on my bookshelf, so I’m not gonna mention it because I can’t remember the title right now. But yeah, mulching, spacing your plants a lot farther out, making sure that your soil can store water so that if you know we live, where I live, it rains a lot in the spring. And if the plants I plant have a room, and the soil is fluffy enough that they can send the roots really deep, then in the summer, when it’s dry, they can still access the water that’s stored in the soil. Does that make sense?

Margaret 27:19
Cool, and then they grow chicken nuggets?

Casandra 27:22
Yep.

Margaret 27:23
Cool. Okay, so back to the clever segue that I broke about not trusting the CDC….

Casandra Johns 27:36
Yeah, yeah, I Okay. So, we realized we should probably say at least something about monkey pox. Because it’s the thing that exists. My notes are titled monkey pox sucks. And…

Brooke 27:52
Correct.

Casandra Johns 27:53
Correct. Yeah. And I realized in researching this that I knew very little, I think I was just like, “We live in a time where there will be epidemic after epidemic,” and I’m, you know, mentally overloaded on this topic. And had a lot of assumptions that were wrong. But, one interesting thing I found out is that the CDC is saying it’s not transmitted….It’s not airborne. Which, you know, they’ve kind of gone back and forth about whether masks are going to help…masks. I can’t enunciate….whether masks are going to help prevent the spread.

Brooke 28:37
If the mask prevents you from licking someone’s open wounds, then then I say that would be helpful. Put your mask on.

Casandra Johns 28:44
But, then there’s there are other recommendations around like, avoiding close face to face contact with people. So that’s all. I think I’m just affirming that I am also skeptical of CDC guidelines at this point, which is a bummer.

Margaret 28:59
Yeah.

Casandra 29:01
Anyway, do you want to hear all about monkeypox?

Margaret 29:04
Yeah. Yay.

Casandra 29:06
Yay.

Margaret 29:06
What a fun show we make.

Brooke 29:10
That’s like a game, right? It’s a children’s game that you play. It’s fun. Spread all over? Isn’t it great?

Casandra 29:18
No.

Margaret 29:19
It’s one of those games with a 1-3% death…. Okay, please continue.

Brooke 29:24
That’s pretty low. It’s fine.

Casandra Johns 29:26
Oh, my God, what a world that we live in. So apparently was discovered in 1958 in laboratory monkeys. So, you know, you can insert something here about blaming capitalism for everything. Because maybe it wouldn’t have been a thing if monkeys were not in laboratories? Anyway, it’s a cousin of smallpox in the first human case was recorded in 1970. When I first heard about monkey pox in May or whatever I was like, “Oh, cool and new disease.” It’s not new. It’s been around for decades. So, it’s really interesting that like, we don’t have a vaccine that can quickly be rolled out. Do you want to guess why that is?

Margaret 30:14
Is it Capitalsim?

Brooke 30:14
I guess ‘racism.’

Casandra 30:15
Racism. Brooke wins with ‘racism.’

Brooke 30:23
Yay?

Casandra 30:26
Yeah, so it was that to be uncommon in humans, but cases started increasing around 1980. And most of the cases have been documented in central and western Africa. That correct? In Africa.

Margaret 30:41
Yeah, you said Nigeria is like one of the main spots of it?

Casandra 30:45
For this outbreak.

Margaret 30:46
Okay.

Casandra 30:48
Yeah. So, and they think that one of the reasons….so there have been multiple outbreaks since it was first recorded in humans in 1970, which I didn’t realize, because we don’t hear about them, because mostly they’ve taken place in Africa. Which is just depressing. And I’ll come back around to that in a minute. But, they think that that the increase in cases might be connected to the fact that it is related to smallpox. The smallpox vaccine, they think gives like, 85% that it is like, 85% effective against monkey pox. But most people don’t get the smallpox vaccine anymore.

Brooke 31:27
Yeah.

Casandra 31:28
And I think that’s related to the increase in monkey pox cases.

Margaret 31:33
People don’t get the smallpox vaccine anymore, because smallpox kind of went away because of vaccines?

Casandra 31:40
Yeah,

Brooke 31:41
No, it just stop being trendy. People were like, “That is not cool anymore. I’m not gonna take that one.”

Casandra Johns 31:48
Yeah, yeah. Which then is like, there’s a whole tangent in here about who and how they decide a disease has been ‘eradicated.’ I’m doing air quotes that you can’t see has been, ‘eradicated.’ Especially when something like monkey pox is trance was initially transmitted from animals to humans. And so, yeah, I don’t know, is smallpox eradicated? I don’t know. I’m not an epidemiologist. But I’m curious. So, let’s see. Okay, so the current outbreak grew from one case in Massachusetts in the US, I’m talking about the US now, May 17. And at this point, you know, however many days it’s been since May, there are almost 20,000 cases in the US, which is a lot of cases.

Brooke 32:40
I mean, it sounds like a big number. But, also I know, there’s a lot of people in the US, but also, I don’t know how much cases of other things that we know about are common. So I don’t have any frame of reference.

Margaret 32:51
Yeah same.

Casandra 32:53
Yeah.

Brooke 32:54
Well, it’s way smaller than Covid.

Casandra Johns 32:57
Right. It is way smaller than Covid. But, you know, and it’s, it’s sort of like Covid, you’re probably not going to die from it. But then there’s the asterisk, ‘unless you’re immunocompromised already,’ you know. So like, who are we? Who are we willing to throw under the bus for this?

Brooke 33:13
So just Casandra.

Casandra 33:13
Yeah, just me. Yeah. But then there’s also public health experts are apparently warning that the virus is on the verge of becoming permanently entrenched here.

Margaret 33:24
Cool.

Casandra 33:25
So maybe 20,000 isn’t, you know, a big chunk of the population, but in terms of like, a virus, it’s bad news, because we don’t really want it to become entrenched here, right?

Brooke 33:38
Yeah, viruses, bad.

Casandra 33:41
Virus equals bad. Okay. Okay, so, so there’s been a lot of criticism about Biden’s administration and their sluggish response to the outbreak. I read a really interesting report. I think WaPo [Washington Post] was the first place to report on this, but they said that, on August 4, US Health and Human Services officials plan to stretch the country’s limited supply, or they announced, that they plan to stretch the country’s limited supply of vaccines by splitting doses to cover five times as many people. This is after saying that they had plenty of doses. So, already sketchy. Yeah, cool, cool. And then the chief executive of Bavarian Nordic who’s the vaccine manufacturer responded by accusing the Biden admin of breaching contract by planning to use them in this like inappropriate way by splitting the doses and then apparently threatened to cancel all future vaccine orders so that….Yeah, I’m not sure how that was resolved.

Brooke 34:45
Capitalism. The other ‘ism’ now at play.

Margaret 34:50
I was right. I was late.

Casandra Johns 34:57
So the big concern for me in researching this was how it spreads, because I have a child who’s about to go back to public school, so apparently animal to human transmission, it’s spread by direct contact with blood, bodily fluids or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. And then human to human transmission is close contact with respiratory secretions, which to me says airborne, right, right? Is that not what that means? Anyway, respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person, or recently contaminated objects. So things like bedding, clothing, stuff like that. Um, but the CDC says it’s not airborne. So, take that, as you will. I don’t know. How are you gonna take that, Brooke?

Brooke 35:41
Right. Well, I mean, respiratory secretions that does sound more significant than just like, you know, air droplets, like we talked about with covid, like, more moist, kind of things coming out of you, like sneezes and coughs and stuff that actually sprays more liquid matter?

Casandra 36:07
So, use your imagination with that.

Margaret 36:08
We could just go through and describe every act that could…

Casandra 36:10
Don’t spit in people’s mouths.

Brooke 36:14
Damn it, there goes half of my kink play.

Margaret 36:18
I mean, it does seem like it’s less contagious than like, because like, okay, right, like, because they said originally COVID wasn’t airborne. And they weren’t always wrong about that, right? But, the fact that it’s been here for months, and is at 20,000 cases, is like, ‘promising,’ in that it seems less contagious than COVID? But that’s, I guess I’m talking about like, the first or second most contagious virus that the world’s ever faced. So, I guess it’s a terrible benchmark to compare it to.

Casandra Johns 36:49
Yeah, I think comparing everything to covid is probably not in our best interest, especially because a lot more people are comparing this to AIDS, in terms of the communities it’s impacting, and how it’s spreading. So it’s, it’s okay, let me go back to my list. Alright, so the incubation period is usually six to thirteen days, it’s thought to be mainly spread through sexual activity, specifically, men who have sex with men and have multiple partners, though now they’ve sort of expanded that to include like queer and trans people, which is good. Not that it’s spreading in queer and trans communities, but that they’re changing language. So then I was like, “Well, is it an STI, right?” And I Googled “Is Monkey pox and STI? And the first two articles that came up, were: Number one, “Monkey pox is an STI and knowing that can help.” And then number two is, “Monkey pox is spreading through sex, but it’s not an STI.” So you know, I’m not a doctor.

Casandra Johns 37:02
It’s not an STI.

Casandra 37:29
Okay.

Brooke 37:31
Because it’s not it’s, yeah, go ahead.

Casandra Johns 37:52
But it seems to mainly be spreading through sex, probably because of the close contact involved.

Margaret 38:02
Yeah, I mean, like, like, scabies is…

Brooke 38:04
Yeah, like not through the sex itself.

Casandra 38:06
Right.

Brooke 38:07
But through the close physical contact of you know, that happens during sex.

Casandra Johns 38:12
I think. I also saw a list. I think it’s LA County. I was reading their like, list of eligibility criteria, and maybe risky behavior to avoid…’in void.’ Would that even? Yeah, thank you. I was just trying to figure out what my made up word means. Risky behavior to avoid and they listed that, like, we’re still learning about how it’s transmitted, right, which is wild for a disease that’s been around since the 70s. But, they listed that it could possibly be transmitted through semen. Like not solely but that could be another way that it’s transmitted.

Brooke 38:53
Sure, transmitted through bodily fluids, but the distinction when it when it’s an STI is something that’s sort of limited to being transmissible through kind of the genital region.

Casandra Johns 39:10
Is that why one type of herpes is considered an STI, and the other isn’t?

Brooke 39:14
Yeah, so you can like can get both of them in both places because of oral sex.

Casandra 39:21
Huh, that’s interesting.

Brooke 39:23
But yeah, technically. That’s why.

Casandra Johns 39:25
Thanks for knowing more about STI classification than me. I appreciate it.

Brooke 39:29
Well, I fuck a lot. So I got to know these kinds of things.

Casandra 39:35
All right, moving on with my notes. My next…

Brooke 39:40
I just made everyone turn a scarlet blushing red color because I have non prude among this collective.

Casandra Johns 39:48
I’m not blushing. I’m not prudish. I’m just Demi. Okay, so my next section is titled “Racism,” which, yeah, so the virus isn’t spreading in this specific outbreak of monkey pox is been spreading in Nigeria since 2017. Yet, somehow there are no clinical…there’s no clinical trial data of the effectiveness of the vaccine or T pox, which is the antiviral they’ve developed. No human studies. I wonder why. Um, well, I as I said it’s understudied because up until now, it’s been isolated to central and west Africa. Yeah. What would have happened if we were vaccinating on a large scale in Nigeria? Would it have spread?

Margaret 40:31
Yeah, I mean, that’s like such a thing that I keep thinking about all this shit, where it’s like, it’s just seemed so obvious to me that, like the solutions to all the major things that we’re dealing with right now, like don’t make any sense in a world full of borders. You know? Being like, like, “We got ours. Fuck you,” doesn’t make any fucking it never made any fucking sense. But, it really doesn’t make any fucking sense now, or it’s like, yeah, if we had, like, I don’t understand, even if I’m like a self interested, rich white American. I don’t understand how I can be like, “Oh, new new disease just dropped and it’s in another country.” Let’s go get rid of it in another country. That makes sense from…it’s cheaper than building spaceships to Mars.

Brooke 41:16
I think it’s people still just not fundamentally understanding how deeply integrated we are now as a global society. Yeah. I mean, we shouldn’t have figured especially in the last couple of years, if you haven’t figured it out before, then like, you should understand that now. I feel like…

Margaret 41:32
Yeah, acids been around for a long time.

Casandra 41:39
Don’t understand the reference?

Margaret 41:43
Just like, oh, no, like, we’re all one consciousness? Whatever.

Casandra 41:52
Okay, my next subsection of notes is titled “Homophobia.”

Margaret 41:55
Hurray.

Casandra 41:56
This is…I’m announcing these by way of a content warning. So yeah, so I read a few different, you know, I’ve seen like on Twitter and stuff, people talking about how homophobia relates to the way the language the government has been using and media outlets have been using around monkeypox, and also the government response to it and didn’t fully understand that other than that it’s mainly spreading in queer networks right now. But, I read an article that talked about how the homophobia they were seeing was mainly around the language that gay sex is quote, unquote, ‘driving’ the epidemic. Yeah, and just like really sex negative advice around how to keep from getting monkey pox. But, in reality, the drivers of the epidemic are the structures globally that have led to like vaccines and tests and treatments all existing for this virus, but not being accessible.

Margaret 42:57
Yeah.

Casandra 42:58
Yeah, I don’t know if y’all have read any of the first person accounts of people trying to find access even to a test. Like I read an account of someone who went to their doctor was like, “I think a monkey pox.” and the doctor, like, had to jump through all of these hoops just to access a test

Margaret 43:14
Fucking hell.

Margaret 43:16
So that’s cool. Let’s see, before I talk about the ‘What we can do,’ I want to circle back to climate change really quickly. Because, I think that in my brain, I know that epidemics and climate change are related, but I hadn’t thought much about how in the particular mechanisms, but I read an interview that, that interested in me a lot. And they talked about how climate change is driving the risk of infectious diseases. I saw a report that 58% of the 375 infectious diseases they examined, have…this is a quote, “have been at some point aggravated by ‘climatic hazards.'” So that’s cool.

Brooke 44:03
I…but how? I don’t understand the connection.

Casandra 44:06
Yeah. So. So one way is that climate change, they were talking about how it brings humans closer to animals, not in the sense that like “We are closer to nature,” but just like, as we encroach on…

Brooke 44:17
oh, sure.

Casandra 44:20
And so, animal to human transmission is a thing. But, also if we’re talking about like climate change and natural disasters, people get very sick of diseases and die after natural disasters. So, I’m sure that’s part of what they mean by ‘aggravated,’ being ‘aggravated by climatic hazards.’ Warmer temperatures also attract insects and carriers of disease to parts of the world that they didn’t used to exist in. Margaret. I feel like you were talking about…we were talking the other night and you mentioned like…no was it you? Maybe I was reading something? I’ve been reading too much lately. I was reading about a type of mosquito that is like, more likely to carry things like Dengue fever, and is now in the US, is now in the northern hemisphere. And.

Margaret 45:08
Oh, that’s exciting.

Casandra 45:10
Yeah, and it has to do with warmer water temperatures where they can hatch their eggs and also with capitalism, because apparently they were transported here in ‘tires.’

Margaret 45:22
Huh?

Casandra 45:23
Like when tires sit, you know outside in a wash, tje water pools? Yeah. Wild.

Margaret 45:33
Which ties back to rain catchment and how don’t do lazy rain catchment where you just put your downspout into the barrel, you should filter it, and you should prevent mosquitoes from breeding in there. Also algae, and all kinds of other stuff.

Casandra 45:47
Yeah, it’s true.

Brooke 45:49
So today’s episode is brought to you by capitalism and racism.

Margaret 45:54
And I was thinking rain barrels. But Sure.

Brooke 45:59
Well, the reason we have to talk about these horrible things is the ‘isms.’

Margaret 46:04
Right? Where as I was thinking about sponsors, Big Rain Barrel. The big sponsor of the show.

Brooke 46:11
That’d be a great sponsor. I hope we get a free barrel.

Casandra 46:14
Yeah.

Brooke 46:14
Free barrel with every Ep [episode]

Margaret 46:16
Yeah. I want to be able to talk about them personally. So, please contact us through the site. The advertisers. I want the I want Big Rain Barrel to…I just want a rain barrel. That’s all. Please continue.

Casandra 46:31
So in 2022, we’re still experiencing the COVID outbreak, right? And now my monkey pox. And also polio.

Margaret 46:40
Cool.

Casandra 46:42
Yeah. Yeah, yes. Polio. Someone Someone got polio. For the second time since they declared polio like a…they don’t use the word eradicated. But they were basically like, “Humans don’t get this anymore.” But two have since then. One was this summer. So that’s…okay.

Brooke 47:06
That’s neat.

Casandra 47:07
Yeah, what can we do about it? We can wash our hands a lot. I’m still gonna wear a mask, even though the CDC says it’s not airborne, because I don’t understand the difference. And also Covid’s still a thing. We can research testing and vaccination in our areas, because it seems to be vastly different in different cities and counties and really confusing. So you can do the research ahead of time and share it through your network so people know where to access information and help. You can also get vaccinated if you qualify. However, I let’s see, I looked at a few different counties and their eligibility criteria. And they all seem to have a few things in common. You have to be gay or bisexual men, or a transgender person who has had either 1) Multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days or 2) Skin to skin, skin to skin or intimate contact with people at large venues or events in the last 14 days. And then they’re also starting to include people of any gender or sexual orientation who have engaged in commercial or [cuts out], so sex workers in the last 14 days. So yeah, if any of those are you, and you have a vaccination place near you, why not get it?

Margaret 48:32
Because Bill Gates will be able to track all the sex you have?

Brooke 48:38
Yeah,

Casandra 48:39
The reason I agreed to research monkey pox for this episode is because, like I said, my kids about to go back to school. And I was really nervous. And I’m feeling a little bit less nervous for the moment about school because of the cases documented in children so far areextremely low. So, that’s some good news for all of the other parents out there.

Margaret 49:02
And the children listening

Casandra 49:05
For any of the children listening.

Margaret 49:06
It just occurred to me that children might listen to this podcast. I’m so sorry, children, about the world. Not about the cussing. I’m sorry about the world.

Casandra 49:18
Speaking of school,

Brooke 49:20
Hey, yo, student loan forgiveness that’s been in the news. Right? And as the person with the background in economics, I feel like I have to talk about that. So, student loans, I’m fairly certain that of the two of you one of you has student loans and one of you does not. And I’m I’m curious how each of you feel about student loan forgiveness without…you can go ahead and not reveal which one of you it is and isn’t for the moment. Just tell me if you like it? Is it good? Or bad?

Casandra 49:56
Fucking-tastic I mean, not this version, this version is just like so. So, but like, should they forgive all of our student loans? Fuck yes, they should.

Margaret 50:04
I agree.

Brooke 50:05
Casandra says yes. Oh, and Margaret agrees Wait, but only one of you has student loans?

Margaret 50:11
So, I don’t have student loans. And…I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t have student loans giving a shit. Like I just like, I struggle so hard. Like, every time someone’s like, “They did this with our taxpayer money,” and I’m like, “Motherfucker, they invaded half the world with our tax money.” Like…

Casandra 50:35
There there other things you should be frustrated about being done with your tax dollars.

Casandra 50:40
And this is not one of them.

Margaret 50:40
Yeah!

Margaret 50:42
Yeah. And then even with my like, even if I was like a self interest capitalist shit, it’s like, I don’t know, healthy economy is not one built on fucking debt. And I don’t know, whatever. I’m just like…

Brooke 51:00
Don’t spoil my ending, Margaret.

Margaret 51:02
Oh, sorry. Right.

Casandra 51:04
But capitalism means that there have to be people who are suffering and poor so that I can feel superior and be stable and have more money.

Margaret 51:13
Oh, that’s a good point.

Casandra 51:14
Yeah.

Margaret 51:15
No, I take it back actually, Brooke. I’d like to change my answer. No one should.

Casandra 51:21
Fuck Casandra.

Margaret 51:26
No one should have the right to have debt forgiven. It should probably be transmitted to children and children’s children. Oh, wait, that already happens. Just okay. Anyway.

Casandra 51:36
What about corporations? Shouldn’t they be able to get their debt forgiven, Margaret?

Margaret 51:40
Oh, yeah. I mean, corporations, obviously should have their debt forgiven. I mean, otherwise, we wouldn’t have an economy.

Brooke 51:46
Like, God. Okay. You two know everything. My work is done here. Throw the topic and walk away. Excellent.

Casandra 51:55
Sorry, Brooke.

Brooke 51:56
No, I’m loving it.

Casandra 51:58
This is how we cope with talking about money.

Margaret 52:01
Yeah.

Brooke 52:04
Oh, it’s so good. No, I have you know, I have a couple of, of friends and or relations that are both on the against it side. Well, neither of whom went to college or have any students debt.

Casandra 52:21
Why are they still your friends?

Brooke 52:22
Well, Facebook friends, let’s say that.

Casandra 52:25
That’s fair.

Brooke 52:25
I think it’s important to listen to what people say on the other side. So, I try and understand the arguments and can have a conversation back and hopefully bring them into the light.

Margaret 52:34
Yeah, that’s legit. But wait, what if we instead created an increasingly more insular and pure subculture?

Brooke 52:44
It seems problematic I’m gonna say, but…

Margaret 52:47
What?

Brooke 52:47
That’s probably for another episode. Okay.

Margaret 52:50
Okay, I’ll stop derailing you,

Casandra Johns 52:52
it would only be the three of us. Everyone else is wrong in some way.

Margaret 52:56
I think that that’s probably true. I’m sorry Bursts, who’s doing our editing, I’m sorry Inmn, who produce the podcast.

Brooke 53:06
You better apologize to all the patrons right now too.

Margaret 53:10
Yeah, if you want to be pure and join our pure culture. A $20 a month level.

Brooke 53:19
No. No cults. No cults.

Margaret 53:22
Everyone keeps saying that to me. Okay.

Brooke 53:26
That’s why I took away that book on cults that I showed you the other day, you don’t need the help.

Margaret 53:32
Please continue.

Brooke 53:33
Oh, God. Right. So so the arguments against it. Like you were saying, you know, one of them’s about the, “I don’t want my tax dollars going to that,” which, like you said, is a pretty wild argument, because we don’t get to decide directly where our tax dollars go. There’s plenty of things that I’m in…None of us like taxes…And amongst us, especially like, abolish the government abolish the taxes, but even people who are okay with taxes as a functioning society, we still, you know, you don’t get to decide where each dollar goes. What’s your question face?

Casandra 54:10
You mean when I vote, it doesn’t directly change things?

Brooke 54:14
Oh, God, another topic for another whole podcast episode about how about how it actually works out there in the world. Yeah, so that argument is kind of wild. And then the other one that I that I have seen is the, you know, “Why should anyone else pay for their choices?” especially if it’s their…other people’s bad choices or whatever. Which again, is wild to me.

Margaret 54:42
You mean the bad choice to loan $60,000 to a 17 year old?

Brooke 54:47
Yeah, seems like maybe that should be not a not a thing.

Margaret 54:51
Well, I just but it’s a bad financial like, like come on. That’s that’s a that’s part of loaning money is you take into account like, there’s risk involved. It is a risky loan to loan a 17 year old money. Anyway, yep. Sorry.

Brooke 55:07
Yeah, I saw one of my, you know, probably Gen X or Boomer aged relatives saying, “Hey, I signed up for the loans at 18. And I read the document, and I knew what I was getting myself into. And it was a choice. And it’s everybody’s choice.” And it’s so many bad takes so many bad takes…

Casandra 55:24
I wonder how much their loan was compared to mine?

Brooke 55:27
Yeah, and there’s that.

Casandra 55:28
I’m gonna guess significantly less.

Brooke 55:30
Yeah, so let me get into a little bit of data here, because I love data. Let’s talk also about what the loans are and aren’t, because if you’re only looking at the headlines there’s a lot that’s not captured in there. The number we see tossed around is the $10,000 of forgiveness. And that’s up to $10,000 of forgiveness. So there’s caveats on that, because there’s a income limitation as to when you can get it. And it decreases a little bit based on what your income is. But also, if you were awarded a Pell Grant, at any point in your college education, you can actually get up to $20,000 in forgiveness, and Pell Grants are a federal grant, not a loan, but a grant, i.e. a gift, basically, that only go out to the lowest income kind of folks. So, if you qualified for a Pell Grant at the time that you also took out loans, then you can get a higher amount of loan forgiveness. And then it also only is it takes effect for people who had taken out a loan prior to June 30th of this year 2020. So if you’re in school, right now, if you’re just starting this fall, it doesn’t apply to you. You had to have taken out a loan prior to that to qualify. Some of the cool things about it, though, are that it helps kind of all kinds of federal loans, which 95% of student loan debt is a federal loan. Only about 5% is private loans. So that’s most people with loans, although it’s only again, those income requirements, but that’s still a large portion of folks. Where’s the other one I was looking at? Oh, there’s a type of loans that parents can take out to help their kids. So most of the federal loans that folks sign up for, they are signing up themselves, right, you’re putting yourself in debt for it, even though you’re only 18, or whatever. But parents can also get a loan, there’s a federal loan called Parent PLUS, that you can take out to help your kids and those loans also qualify for forgiveness. And that is different than the student’s loan. So if you’re a parent who took out one of those loans for your kid, and your kid also took out loans, you both separately qualify for forgiveness.

Casandra 57:48
Is this…Sorry, is this…I hadn’t heard of those parent loans. Is the thought that they’re taking out a loan to help pay for their kids college?

Brooke 57:56
Yeah.

Casandra 57:57
Okay. So, just like, “Look, another loan we can give to someone.”

Brooke 58:02
Yeah. And it’s a federal federal one again, and you know, federal loans overall are, at least compared with like private student loans you can get they’re way more reasonable, super low interest rates, longer repayment periods, you can get restructuring, if you’re having financial issues or get a pause on it, there’s more ways to get them forgiven, like working for a nonprofit or in the private sector, stuff like that. So, these are sort of nicer loans, which is one of the faults that people point out with it is that the the private loans that are the more of the predatory style loans, like we talked about with the IMF earlier, you know, higher interest rates, they don’t care about how much you are or aren’t making necessarily, they just say you have to start paying it at this point, and you have to pay this much and they’ll come after your car or your dog or your firstborn child or whatever in order to get their repayments. And this federal forgiveness doesn’t affect those folks.

Margaret 58:59
Would you say that our listeners should take out predatory loans from payday loan places in order to buy rain barrels?

Brooke 59:08
No. Because you should never support predatory loan places. You can steall from those places.

Margaret 59:16
What if we, what if we start a rain barrel loan fund that offers predatory rates?

Brooke 59:28
Then I would no longer call you an anarchist. You’d be an An-Cap [Anarcho-capitalist] and out of the club.

Casandra 59:33
Is this you? Is this you segwaying into an ad break for our sponsors?

Margaret 59:41
No, i was my brain’s poisoned by how the fact that my other podcast is…has actual ad breaks.

Casandra 59:48
Duh Duh duh duuuuh! I’m rain barrels!

Brooke 59:49
Hey, if rain barrels would give away some, loan some rain barrels, I would let them plug a little ad on this ad-free anarchist podcast network. Yeah.

Margaret 1:00:01
Yeah. Although, I’m holding out for big IBC tote.

Brooke 1:00:05
Yes.

Margaret 1:00:05
Cause IBC totes are 275 gallons, sort of 55 gallons. And that’s what I showered with for the past three years, an IBC tote available from wherever you’re willing to go get a really cheap thing that used to be full of detergent and wash it out vaguely.

Margaret 1:00:11
Half an hour’s drive, we can go grab some.

Casandra 1:00:25
Wait, really?

Margaret 1:00:26
Yeah, yeah.

Casandra 1:00:28
We should talk about that after we’re done doing a podcast which we are in fact doing right now.

Margaret 1:00:32
Oh right, okay.

Brooke 1:00:33
Okay, one of the other things that comes up when folks talk about student loans is you get like the the Boomer types that will say, you know, “I worked a part time job when I was in school and paid off my…paid for my school while I was going to school.” And I think we all know that that’s just not possible to do anymore. And that’s because of the cost of education and how it has skyrocketed. So, if you look at the difference from 70s, 80s, or so, of like median income in the US with the average household makes, versus the average cost of college, the average income has gone up like half again as much since the 80s or so, whereas the cost of college is four times more expensive than it was. And then the other argument that comes up that people make is, well, “Everybody thinks they have to go to college. Now, you know, everybody’s trying to enroll in college, not everyone needs to go to college. But everyone tries to.” And when you look at the numbers of like, the portion of the population that has that’s going to college and how that’s changed in the last like 50 years, it’s been pretty much steady for the last 25 years. It rose in the 60s, late 60s was kind of flat in the 70s then started to rise again through the 80s and the mid 90s. Probably because of the series of recessions that we had that were really severe in some places, like Oregon had a really severe recession. And when there was a recession, more people go back to school, but it hit a peak in the mid 90s And then dropped for a while and then has kind of been staying around that peak, on average, over the last 25 years. That and that’s the number of people has gone up, but the portion of the population, right, so as a percent of the total population has actually been quite stable for a while now.

Margaret 1:02:30
And like, I’m a big fan of having not gotten a degree, right? But, I even had a dream again last night where I like dropped out of school again. And I was like, “Fuck you, I quit.” And it was really, but, but it’s something that I think that a lot of people don’t talk about when they talk about being like, “Oh, well, not everyone needs a college degree,” or whatever it is they they don’t understand that like how important upper higher education is to upward mobility and upward class mobility, especially for like people who are like, marginalized among other identities besides class, like specifically around race, you know, like, there’s…so I think that…I think it’s something that we can accidentally get a little to like, “Yeah!” like, you know, people get very, like “I’m so blue collar, everyone should drive forklifts,” instead of going and studying gender studies or whatever, right? And just like not fucking getting how important class mobility can be for people and how that functions most of the time. And so I get really annoyed when people are like, “No one should ever go to college,” or whatever, because I’m like, that is a really that is a position that comes from a specific place for some people, you know?

Casandra 1:03:44
Yeah.

Brooke 1:03:46
I think people also forget in that the fact that college classes can include courses for some of those types of jobs. So,talking about like the other four year degree, an apprenticeship. You know, if you’re an electrician or a sheetmetal worker, you’re probably you’re going to take some classes and probably through a community college as part of your education to get those kinds of jobs. If you’re doing a forklift or CNC, you have to take a course and they can be three months, six months, twelve months courses, and often again, through community college. So even though you’re not getting a degree, you’re still doing some post secondary education.

Margaret 1:04:29
Yeah.

Casandra 1:04:30
Do you want to know how much debt I have for my community college?

Brooke 1:04:34
Oh, this is gonna hurt.

Casandra 1:04:36
Forty Grand.

Brooke 1:04:38
Shut the front door.

Casandra 1:04:41
And that’s like with grants and shit because like I good grades and all that. I was on the ‘President’s list.’

Brooke 1:04:45
For a frame of reference, listeners, Casandra graduated more recently, like last couple years, or three or whatever it was, but fairly recently. Yeah. When I was looking at the numbers, here’s my personal anecdote. The cost have the four year degree that I got 15 years ago. I’m taking some community college classes now. And if I did an associate’s degree, it would cost me as much for two years of community college today as it did for a four year degree with two majors 15 years ago. Yeah, the cost has has exponentially risen again. Four times. It’s it’s four times higher than it was like 40 years ago. It’s risen more than anything, any other good or commodity. The cost of college has increased.

Margaret 1:05:40
I will say, my, like optimistic, putting on my optimism hat. I don’t like hats. That’s probably why I’m not great. Okay. When I think about like some of the most…the strongest that leftist movements, anarchist movements, I know more about anarchist movements, I do other movements. The strongest they’ve been is like often, while popular education, or the existing educational infrastructure is failing everyone. And, you know, like a lot of work around reframing education in both France and Spain was coming out of anarchists in the late 19th and early 20th century in the modern school movement, all this stuff, and people were getting, like, literally murdered for advocating for things like “What if boys and girls are taught in the same classrooms and shit,” and it’s like awild idea that anarchists came up with. And like not talking about God in the classroom. Oh, my god, we’re actually losing on all of these. Okay, anyway. It’s like, “Remember the fight for an eight hour workday?” And I’m like, “Man, I wish I had eight hour workday right now.” Okay, and but, but so that’s like, my like, my, like, optimism is that like, in a burned for us new weeds grow? You know, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for alternative educational systems, but not in a way where they could like, immediately step in and be like an accredited university that allows the sort of class mobility that we’re talking about, or whatever, right, but like, it does seem like mutual aid schooling and education are like, probably in a better position to take a foothold than they used to be. I hadn’t really…I’d only previously thought about this more for like, grade school type stuff, especially for the whole, like how public school is like also kind of like low key just like childcare. And like, hadn’t quite thought about this in terms of like, how it ties into, you know, continuing education, but it could, we could have Anarchy University, and then everyone could have degrees and okay, I don’t know where I’m going with this.

Brooke 1:07:45
Anarcho-U.

Casandra 1:07:45
You need another project, Margaret. So…

Margaret 1:07:51
No, dear listener, you need a project. At Projects-R-Us, we will give you a project.

Brooke 1:08:00
Wrong podcast. Wrong, wrong podcast.

Margaret 1:08:02
Replace the continuing education system!.

Brooke 1:08:04
Nope, wrong podcast.

Margaret 1:08:04
Okay, fine.

Brooke 1:08:06
Yeah, so,

Casandra 1:08:07
That’d be like your ideal job, I think.

Margaret 1:08:09
it really would be, yes, I have way better at coming up with things that I can dedicate my entire life to than dedicating my entire life to any of the individual things.

Brooke 1:08:22
Oh, maybe, maybe you didn’t need to start the cult just to find leaders for all of these ideas. So students loan forgivness..

Margaret 1:08:27
No, someone else’s to start it. You out there, you can be the one start the cu–… like, okay, sorry. Please continue. I’m sorry.

Brooke 1:08:36
Okay, I’ll try and stay off a tangent because I want to. Student loan forgiveness, generally good. Why? Because college is super expensive. And college is not just going out and getting a four year degree or even a two year degree. It’s, you know, taking some amount of classes. Education is good. And it’s expensive to do so. And we need to make that easier for people and the student loan forgiveness we have will alleviate some pain and suffering. It doesn’t deal with some of the fundamental issues that we have of the fact that college is too expensive right now. So, it’s not, it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not even great, but it is net good and movement in the right direction of things. One more fun note on it in case this affects anybody listening and they don’t know about this. Student loan payments have been on pause since March, 2020, the start of the pandemic. They’re going to end December 31, 2022. So they’ll resume.

Brooke 1:09:36
The pause is going to end. Yeah, thank you. So repayments will resume January. Now, some people may have chosen to still make payments during the pause and those payments that you made, you’ll be eligible, If you meet the other criteria for loan forgiveness, you’ll be eligible for reimbursement. So, let’s say that you made a $100 payment every month for about 30 months now. So, that’s about three grand. So, you can get a reimbursement of, out of your 10, you get three grand reimbursement for payments that you made during the pause, and then you could have the other seven applied to loans that are still outstanding. So, that’s a cool thing to know. And something to watch out for. If you’re someone who’s going to be applying for the loan forgiveness.

Casandra 1:09:36
The pause is going to end?

Casandra Johns 1:10:29
Imagine if they had just forgiven student loans like actually, and fully.

Brooke 1:10:36
Yeah, that would have been a nice thing.

Casandra 1:10:39
It was really hard to be on on social media for a few days with a bunch of people being like, “This is great. Biden has done it.” Like, really?

Margaret 1:10:49
Yeah, no,

Casandra 1:10:50
I mean, am I happier that potentially maybe if I’m lucky, I doubt this will happen. Like I’m still skeptical of the whole thing, but because I had Pell grants and maybe 20 grand will like, be forgiven. I still owe 20 grand.

Brooke 1:11:05
Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Casandra 1:11:06
Cuz I don’t even have that many loans compared to most people because I went to community college. Yep.

Brooke 1:11:18
Okay, anything else?

Casandra 1:11:20
That’s a depressing note to end on.

Margaret 1:11:21
That’s what I was trying to say like Anarchy-U, my positive…We have a whole degree in rainwater catchment.

Brooke 1:11:33
A degree in it or just how about a certification? You can be a certified rainwater catcher?

Margaret 1:11:39
Okay. Yes. I don’t want to micromanage, so whatever you decide since you’re now opening this university.

Brooke 1:11:49
No, no, no, I wasn’t volunterring to take it over!

Margaret 1:11:52
Nose goes. Last listener to touch their nose has to start Anarchist University.

Casandra 1:12:02
But then, but then you could sponsor us and we could promote you.

Margaret 1:12:06
Yeah.

Casandra 1:12:08
Yep.

Margaret 1:12:09
For free.

Brooke 1:12:09
Great.

Casandra 1:12:11
For free? I don’t think that’s how sponsoring works, Margaret.

Margaret 1:12:15
That’s how the Channel Zero sponsor thing works.

Casandra 1:12:17
Oh, that’s true. Okay.

Margaret 1:12:19
Mutual aid networks.

Brooke 1:12:22
Or they could support us on Patreon.

Casandra 1:12:24
Uh, huh.

Margaret 1:12:25
Are you doing an outro?

Casandra 1:12:26
At the university?

Brooke 1:12:28
I was trying to, but I don’t actually know all the words that go before thanking our patrons. So you might, you might need to do that.

Margaret 1:12:39
Thanks so much for listening. Here’s okay. That since since Brooke is going to be coming on as a host, you say “Thanks so much for listening.” You say, “Algorithms suck. But if you like, comment, reviews, blah, blah blah, makes algorithms give our show to more people. It’s kind of the only way that people end up hearing about our show is word of mouth.” All that stuff’s true. I’m not just saying it cynically, it’s just that I have said it like whatever we’re on like episode like 50 or something so so like 50 times, and, “That you can support us on Patreon by supporting our publisher, our publisher is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. The three of us are collective members of a collectively run publisher called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. It’s been around for about 20 years. But it’s like getting new mega forces Voltron combined version of itself lately, and it is primarily supported by Patreon. And if you support us at $1 a month, you have access to all of our content, although also if you just go to “Tangledwilderness.org” you have access to basically all of our content. But it’s still cool to support us. The supporters at $5, you get a discount on everything that we are ever going to make, which is starting to exist. We have t-shirts now including for the show. And then if you support us at $10 you get a zine mailed out to you every single month different fiction, nonfiction….There’s probably other types of things in the world besides fiction and nonfiction…”

Casandra 1:14:04
Poetry!

Margaret 1:14:05
Yeah. And if you support us at $20 a month, I pass it over to Brooke…

Brooke 1:14:13
You get a shout out here on our podcasts and special thanks. In particular we would like to thank Hoss the dog, Micaiah, Chris, Sam, Kirk, Natalie, Eleanor, Jennipher, Staro, Kat J, Chelsea, Dana, David, Nicole, Mikki, Oxalis, Paige, SJ, and Shawn. Thanks for listening. Bye. Yeah,

Margaret 1:14:38
Okay, we did it!

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E49 – Andre on Solar Power, DIY Internet, Mesh Networks, and Solar Punk

Episode Notes

Episode summary
Andre and Margaret talk about a lot of things. They talk about recycling/reusing/remelting plastics, turning them into fuel, setting up solar power systems, setting up DIY internet, intranets and mesh networks as well as some concepts dealing with solar punk and hydroponics, and of course how most things can be easily analogized to baking a cake.

Guest Info
Andre can be found at www.anarchosolarpunk.substack.com, or on Twitter @HydroponicTrash
or on TikTok @HydroponicTrash.

Host Info
Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Transcript

Andre on Solar Power, DIY Internet, Mesh Networks, and Solar Punk

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 I use ‘she’ and ‘they’ pronouns. And I am very excited about this week’s episode, which I guess I probably say, most weeks. But, I’m excited to be talking to Andre, who is someone I first ran across his work because someone was just I think someone sent it to me or was showing me these, these pictures of someone who had ‘hydroponic trash’ as the user name, and was talking about making off grid internet through mesh networking. And I was like, “Yeah, this is up my alley,” but not my alley that I’ve actually explored. It’s a alley that I’m interested in. So I’m very excited. I think you all will be very excited. But first, 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.

01:45
Jingle

Margaret 02:23
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe kind of a little bit about yourself about the kind of stuff that we’re going to be talking about today. Like how you got into it or what you do?

Andre 02:34
Yeah, for sure. My name is Andre, my pronouns are he/him. I go by Hydroponic Trash on Twitter and Tik Tok. I focus a lot on upcycling things that people would normally kind of regard as like trash, like recycling plastic containers to make indoor vertical hydroponic gardens. I’m a hacker, a gardener, a woodworker, I kind of tend to do a lot of random shit. So. I also write speculative solar punk fiction on combining technology, both low and high tech, with social change, and balancing that with the ecosystem. With that being said, I’ve been also kind of focusing in on infrastructure, and how people can build passive and active systems to meet their basic needs like food, water, shelter, communications, electricity. Right now, what that kind of looks like is making off grid intranet networks, off grid solar power, and some other passive projects that kind of deal with DIY off grid stuff.

Margaret 03:47
Yeah! You basically just listed all of my interests. This very exciting to me. I’m going to ask at the end of the episode as well, but do you want to say where people can find like, say, for example, your speculative fiction, like, I know that you write about a lot of the stuff that you do, and you also write fiction. Where can people find that?

Andre 04:03
Yeah, so mainly, I post my long form stuff on anarchosolarpunk.substack.com. So mainly post my like, long form writing on Substack. But, I post a lot of written form content and other stuff to my Twitter, HydroponicTrash and Tik Tok, I posted videos whenever I can make videos about a whole bunch of various different topics or projects that I’m working on.

Margaret 04:29
That’s cool. Okay, so I was gonna start with off grid internet. But first, I want to ask you about recycling plastic trash, because I’m really excited about ways to…recycling is like fake, right, these days, you know, like market based recycling? It seems like most, I don’t have the numbers in front of me or whatever. But it seems like more and more if you put something in the recycling bin, it just gets thrown in the landfill. And so I’m really excited about ways that people can directly recycle. So, what does that look like that you’re recycling plastic trash. Is this like melting it down? Or are you just like repurposing it or what’s happening?

Andre 05:03
So, at the moment, it’s mostly repurposing, but I am going to start doing actual plastic recycling by melting it down and making it into other objects. But um, so right now repurposing plastic, it really started when I, like, just saw how many plastic containers there were just out in the world, I’ve been picking up trash in like my local park for a little bit. So, while picking up trash, it was like, it makes you really, really aware of the type of pollution that’s out there in the world, because you’re picking it up out of like waterways and in parks and stuff. So. it got me thinking of like, okay, well, plastic to-go containers, for instance, how do we actually like reuse these types of things. So, what I started doing was taking old Tupperware, that was just kind of sitting in my cabinet, sitting in my kitchen. And I drilled holes for it to put in net cups, which are usually used for hydroponics, and I just started growing plants in it. So trying to find some creative and different ways to not only like reuse plastic in a safe manner, but not only to reuse the plastic, but to find a new use for it. So that way, it didn’t just end up going into the landfill. And it was also kind of doing something productive as well.

Margaret 06:24
Yeah. Yeah, I, I got really excited when I, I people think people might have already heard me talk about this, but I’m really excited about the idea of basically like, setting up mutual aid recycling in the same way that I think that neighborhoods can compost with each other. Like, some of the infrastructure, it seems like is better put at a neighborhood level, like a small community level than like a, you know, an individual level. But I’m curious when you start repurposing it….Okay, so the things that I’ve come up with for plastic–I haven’t done any of these things.This is all just me falling down rabbit holes on YouTube and stuff.–The main things is people taking certain kinds and making DIY 3D printable plastic. Other ones are like literally just melting it down and putting it into forms and molds. And then the one that I’m like, kind of the most excited about, although it’s sort of terrible is that apparently you can make diesel fuel out of plastic DIY? I don’t know, like, what do you? What are your aspirations? Or what are you thinking on for your DIY recycling?

Andre 07:22
So, all of that pretty much entire, all the stuff that you just said, is pretty much what I want to do. So I’ll go into some more repurposing stuff and talking about specifically about additive manufacturing and recycling inputs into stuff. So yeah, like, recycling, plastics is a really big thing. So recycling PLA plastic or recycling…there’s a whole bunch of plastics that will melt and be able to remelt that you can make in certain different things. And I think that recycling plastics specifically for 3d printing is going to be kind of like the next frontier of additive manufacturing, because not only are you taking plastics…so say, for instance…it’s a full cycle…So, we could be not only cleaning up the environment of plastic waste, but using that plastic and re-melting it down and making it into new objects, when otherwise that plastic would have just been floating in some water in a creek or sitting, you know, not deteriorating in a landfill.

Margaret 08:29
Yeah.

Andre 08:30
And so from there, it kind of opens up a whole new space of thinking about the things that we use and thinking about manufacturing in general, because we’re moving away from mining the earth and using natural resources and exploiting the natural resources to make the inputs for the stuff. And instead, mining the trash and mining the stuff that we’ve that we’ve thrown away and regarded as trash and mining that. So, I kind of think of it as like a closed loop, circular ecosystem of removing trash from the environment, repurposing it. And then not only that, kind of changing our social relations when it comes to how we deal with objects, changing our conceptions of things of like disposability, changing our conceptions of how we treat objects, and moving away from disposal into like modularity or repurposing stuff. So yeah, I think it’s really interesting to think of it in that way of like, instead of making these new things, taking what we’ve already polluted the earth with and making things out of that.

Margaret 09:45
Yeah, no, this is…I’m just gonna basically over and over be like, “Yeah, this is this is my alley. This is the shit that I love.” Yeah, one of the things that I notice is that, you know, from living off–I don’t currently live off grid, but I’ve spent a lot of my time living off grid–is you start noticing every single object that comes into your purview, right? Because ‘what are you going to do with it at the end?’ becomes this very important thing. If you don’t have trash pickup, if you don’t have a way to just easily make the thing go away, then you have to be like, “Okay, I’m going to compost this, I’m going to, you know, compost that.” I was just thinking of cardboard. And I was like, “Oh, I used to burn all my cardboard, but I’m gonna try and move to composting it,” you know. And, you know, just like thinking, “Okay, I’m responsible for all of these objects, I’ve chosen to caretake.” And this isn’t me trying to be like, “Oh, recycling is gonna save the world,” or whatever, because it’s like, but for me, it’s more about when we think about when we start thinking of small scale systems, based on all of the things involved, I think that puts us in a better position to imagine better futures. Because we actually have to think to ourselves like, “Well, if I don’t want, if I want to use plastic, what the fuck am I going to do with it afterwards?” And I mean, I don’t actually particularly, I used to sort of hate plastic. And now I’m kind of like now that I think of mining the trash for plastic. I sort of like it, you know?

Andre 11:05
Yeah, I could talk more about turning plastic into fuel.

Margaret 11:09
Yeah, please, do I only know the like YouTube level of it.

Andre 11:15
Yeah, so another part of that is…okay, so, even if we were to say, for instance, like in the future, get everything that we wanted, have the big ‘R’ Revolution, you know, have the utopic vision that we have come to fruition, there’s still going to be the problem of trash, there’s still going to be the problem of yeah, like, what do we do with plastic, even after it’s like, use has kind of gone through, and we can’t reuse anymore? Like, what do we do with it?Like, another option of that, too, is using the plastic as a fuel source. So you can do stuff like pyrolysis, where basically, you’re heating up plastic, condensing that, and basically making it back into a form of burnable fuel. And like, you know, personally, I absolutely hate combustible fuels, obviously, for their, for their, their impact to the environment. But then again, there are a lot of things that are absolutely necessary to run. So say for instance, you know, if we are using renewables only to power things, one issue is, say, for instance, solar, if you don’t get a lot of sunlight, you don’t get power, pretty much. And you could supplement that with other, you know, renewable energies. But there might be times especially in say, like a natural disaster, when like, you absolutely need power to power like medical equipment to power to power hospitals, or to power equipment that we need up and running. And so that would be a time when, like, using these fuels would really make a lot of sense. On the flip side of that, too, talking about like fuel and stuff like that, there’s also making hydrogen fuel using electrolysis. So, using electricity, to basically separate the hydrogen from water, and then using that hydrogen as a fuel. So, that’s another, you know, way of approaching it and way of approaching energy, not thinking of extracting it from the earth, but trying to figure out new ways and different ways of finding energy that’s really all around us.

Margaret 13:34
Yeah, my, my favorite, I looked into it at the last place I lived because was on enough of a hill, I got really into storing electrical power through gravity. You know, like, you could do this thing where I’ve seen people do it where you like, you set up…okay, you set up a water…a rain barrel at the bottom of your house. And then you also set up a rain barrel at the top of your house. And you use your solar while it’s running, instead of to power a lithium battery, which is obviously not a renewable resource, you know, which is the thing that people often forget. Well, I mean, whatever, it’s better than some things. But, you know, the battery storage is one of the weakest parts of off-grid power, right? And so you put your rain barrel at the top of your house, and then while there’s power, you pump the water up to the roof. And then when there’s not power coming through the solar, then the, the rainwater comes back down and it charges…like I mean this charges like a cell phone, this is not a you know, but people are talking about doing it on these industrial scales where you can do it like water towers, you can do it, you know, dammed areas, whatever.. I’m not presenting it as like the perfect solution, but just like interesting to me that there’s all of these different ways that we can store power that we don’t traditionally think of. I don’t know.

Andre 14:54
Yeah, exactly. And it’s one of those things where like, it isn’t necessarily profitable too, to do stuff like that. So it just isn’t being done right now. But if we were to look at living in a post capitalist world, obviously, we want to pick solutions and pick things that not only like are detrimental socially, but not detrimental ecologically as well. So like stuff like that is just so perfect in taking the energy that we have just all around us and using it in responsible ways. So yeah,

Margaret 15:29
Okay, so this isn’t even what we were going to talk about today. I just got really excited about that. The the main thing I wanted to talk to you about today is, is off-grid internet is mesh networking is DIY internet. And I’m wondering if you could explain what that kind of concept is?

Andre 15:45
Yeah, for sure. So I’ll kind of go into a little bit of background on like, why, or what really got me started in thinking on this train of thought. So like, I live in Texas. And living in Texas has made me very aware of kind of the crumbling infrastructure in this country.

Margaret 16:06
Whaaat?! [Sarcastically]

Andre 16:07
Yeah, I know, “What?” a private grid run by a corporation that seems to fail, even though there’s no regulation, “What?Oh.” And a big wake up call was winter storm Yuri, which like completely, absolutely fucked up Texas. It was a week long ice storm with snow. And, it just like completely destroyed the homes of just thousands of people. Thousands of people lost their lives because of the storm. And it just kind of pointed out the fact that ERCOT’s mismanagement of the power grid and the effects of that were just like, really big. So, it kind of got me thinking of ways to do communication and electricity, that didn’t rely on the crumbling infrastructure around me. So, after thinking about that kind of got me thinking about emergencies and building resilient systems, and communication was like really, really up there. Especially when it comes to communications during natural disasters. There’s, you know, there’s obviously Ham radio and handheld radios that people use during natural disasters. But, when it comes to actually sharing information, say, for instance, sharing books, sharing videos, communicating with a massive amount of people that doesn’t require specialized equipment, like radios, that’s a whole nother realm, you know. So, that’s what kind of got me thinking about making an emergency like community internet was so that way people in my neighborhood could have access to like, a chat server ebooks with like info on surviving different natural disasters, a media server to stream videos, either for educational content, or for just like, if the power’s out, you’re bred you know, you have nothing to do, sooo. And music is another big thing.

Margaret 18:08
That was one of the things that before, before Covid, I was like, running around doing all my preparedness stuff. And I went out and got a hard drive and filled it with movies that I obtained legally. And I was kind of even as I was doing it. I was like, “What the hell disaster am I going to be in? What version of the apocalypse has me like bored watching movies?” And then COVID hit. And I like, and I was off grid, and I like, didn’t have good internet, you know? And I was like, “Oh, this, this is the crisis for which I prepared.” And, you know, whatever public domain television shows got me through, got me through the worst of it. Anyway, I didn’t mean to completely derail you, please continue.

Andre 18:54
No, no, no, that’s completely on topic, you know, especially because like, these kinds of systems allow people to communicate without needing to be face to face. And so what a lot of people don’t like think about are people who are immunodeficient who can’t like, go face to face in front of people or people with disabilities who it would be harder for them to physically go out and get a radio from somebody and start using it. So, you know, resilient systems that like keep everybody in mind that can access it like really big. But yeah, like COVID was a perfect…not really perfect, but you know, it definitely pointed out some some, some stuff that maybe we were all thinking about, but didn’t really want to think about, but…So, from thinking about all this stuff, what I kind of landed on was making a solar powered internet with like a Raspberry Pi as the server that ran all the services and a Raspberry Pi is a single board, like small computer that runs off of USB power. So it requires really, very little power. But, from there, you know, it’s fine to have your own small kind of like local network. But, I really wanted to come up with ways to try and expand that network. So, basically make like beacons to connect back to the main network to spread out the signal.

Margaret 20:25
Cool.

Andre 20:27
So, in a way, this kind of started off as just like a small off-grid, solar powered system. But, now it’s kind of grown out to be more of almost like a community wide Internet where like, we can add more routers to the network and spread the connections out from there.

Margaret 20:44
How…How do? [Pause] How does that happen? Like, like are thre resources that, you know…how complicated is it? How expensive? Is it? How…it seems like it’s scalable, so you can kind of up the complexity and the expense as you want? But yeah, what’s involved?

Andre 21:04
So I, when I wrote the article, and like, was thinking about this, I really wanted to start from like the bare minimum, and try and convey the bare minimum of information that somebody would need to do this. So, starting off, I wanted to make sure to use things that were first of all easy to find, second of all, easy to work on, like the average person with some technical skills could pick it up and like, know what to do with it, and wasn’t something super proprietary, where maybe only a handful of people in a city would even know how to work it. So, it has to be, you know, easily picked up by your average person. So, that’s kind of where I wanted to start from was using the most basic hardware, the most basic software, and from there, you can build up to it. So, for example, like in the article that I wrote, that kind of goes by like step by step on how to make it, it’s more of like a recipe book almost. So, breaking it down into like, its fundamental parts, with core ingredients to make it what it is. So like, you know, a cake has core ingredients that you know, make it a cake, but you can add and subtract on top of it to make it work for whatever you need it to work for.

Margaret 22:34
Well other people can.

Andre 22:35
True

Margaret 22:38
Whenever I try to make a cake…I can make muffins and brownies. Anyways I’m that useful wit cakes yet.

Andre 22:49
Well, yeah, as long as you can find somebody to make it. That’s the biggest thing. Yeah.

Margaret 22:54
Okay, what are some of those core ingredients?

Andre 22:57
So, the core ingredients are basically a client, a router, and a server. So, that’s pretty much it, which sounds really really reductive. But, when you boil it down, and kind of like, look at the core concept, that’s the three things you have. So, a client is a computer. Really, any computer. A router determines like what addresses computers in the network have, and it directs traffic. And a server is basically another computer that hosts the data for your clients to access. So. I’ll kind of walk through some of that stuff, too. So, like I said, A client can be really like literally any computer, it could be like a brand new MacBook, it could be a single board computer, like a Raspberry Pi, you could even use like a smart fridge to do this. It can literally be anything that…it can literally be any computer that can access the internet, you can use as a client to go onto the network, right? Yeah. And so next you have routers, which are basically like little boxes that can direct traffic and determine like, what addresses computers on the network have. So think of it as like mailing addresses almost. So, if I wanted to send information to somebody down the street, I would have an address and they would have an address, and the router is basically like a mailman who delivers that information from me to the address that I wanted to send it off to. And I’m obviously kind of like making this way more simpler than what it is, because in reality there’s like so many networking things in the middle that makes this happen but routers basically do that.

Margaret 24:44
Okay, can this router in this case be like, like I have a router right now I believe that is connecting between my modem and my computer or something, right? Can Can. It sounds like this router is the most custom piece of this whole puzzle or is it something that you can also repurpose out of an existing like Wi-Fi router or something?

Andre 25:06
You can repurpose it out of any Wi-Fi router, which is awesome.

Margaret 25:10
Hell yeah, cause it’s in every house.

Andre 25:12
It’s in every house. Every house has internet access, you have a router. All you have to do is change the networking settings to be able to basically connect back to whatever network you make. So, it doesn’t require you to go out and buy something. You probably already have it in your house already.

Margaret 25:29
Yeah. Okay. I mean, you probably have to destroy the one you have, or you have to reprogram the one you’re having you have so you wouldn’t be able to use it and your regular internet?

Andre 25:42
Excatly.

Margaret 25:43
Yeah, you would need to go find one in an abandoned house.

Andre 25:45
Yeah.

Margaret 25:45
Okay. Cool.

Andre 25:49
You could, you could. Yeah, I mean, like internet squatting is a, I guess, a new thing now so…. But the last kind of part of that is the server. And that’s like, again, really any computer that’s running software to share data. So, with those three pieces, a client, a router, and server, if you scale that up like a million times and add in fiber optic cables from the bottom of the ocean to connect routers and to data centers together, and then boom, you have the ‘Internet,’ right? So, like network engineers are probably going to be listening to this and be really mad about what I’m saying. But, the internet is basically just a giant combination of intranets. It’s a big intranet that’s been connected to other intranets, through a bunch of other networking equipment, protocols, datacenters, all that kind of stuff.

Margaret 26:43
An an intranet is a is an internet, but a local one, a one that exists within like a building or a neighborhood or something is an intranet. It’s a network that is not part of the larger internet. I mean, it can be part of that. You can access it from the larger internet, but it’s sort of walled off. Is that a decent way to explain intranet?

Andre 27:03
Yeah, exactly. So, if you add your client, a router and a server, you basically made an intranet right there because it isn’t connected back to the major, actual internet. But, that’s what the Internet is. It’s this gigantic intranet. So, it kind of takes a lot of the black box magic out of the Internet, because really, you’re just distilling it down to these core pieces and understanding, “Okay, well, if I can do this at like a super small level, and I spread this out, we really could create, you know, a local, a regional, or even a gigantic people own Internet with our own hardware.”

Margaret 27:48
So, basically, if we build this entire shadow internet…Are there other people who have done this? Are there already existing like large networked intranets all networked together? Do they control like, the giant space laser or whatever? Like? I mean, what are the? Yeah, how much is this already done?

Andre 28:08
Yeah, so not exactly when it comes to like making it almost like an alternative internet, it’s mainly done to actually provide internet access to people who can get it. So, a good example of that is NYC Mesh. And they’re are a group in New York City who basically are doing this exact same thing. They’re making an a mesh network to broadcast out a Wi Fi signal. And then they have nodes that pick up that Wi Fi signal and keep basically building out the range that the network can can hit. So, what they’re doing is finding areas that internet service providers won’t bring in the necessary equipment to give people internet access, or people who can’t afford internet access. And so, they’re basically making these mesh networks to get the Wi Fi coverage over to the people who need it. So, we can do basically the same thing with a system like this. So, you can make a network like this that works in tandem with the Internet. So say for instance, if power or Internet access gets shut off, for whatever reason, you have a backup, basically like community internet. But, you can also connect, say, for instance, like your main router that you’re kind of using to run the network or just any router on the network, connect that to the internet, and then you can share Internet access across the secondary internet. So, basically, you can make a mesh intranet network, and you can have it walled off from the wider internet and still have it work without electricity. grid electricity and without internet access, but when you have electricity and internet access, you can actually supply Internet access to the network and give other people access to the internet. So, it kind of serves two purposes too so that way, it’s not just like, “Oh, this is only in an emergency network.” But also, you know, there’s some resilience resiliency built into it.

Margaret 30:25
That’s cool. I like that it has a purpose, sort of during crisis, and also even just like during the crisis that is, you know, poverty and lack of access and stuff like that. The other thing that I like about this, I mean, it’s funny, I don’t like it personally, because I live rurally, but, but one of the things that comes up is that so much of the prepping stuff that gets talked about, especially under the name ‘prepping,’ rather than ‘preparedness’ focuses on rural folks, right? It focuses on access to, if not financial resources, it often focuses on access to space, like physical space to store things, or even kind of what you can do with low population density. Right? It’s a lot easier for someone to have five acres here in West Virginia than it is for some of the five acres in the Bay Area or something, right. And the thing, that’s kind of interesting, because you’re pointed out that the you know, a lot of this work, people have been doing it New York City, and I’m like, h, it the higher population density you have like, the more bang for your buck, it seems like this kind of thing would have. And that’s cool, because I think that we way too often think of high population density as like, ‘bad.’ Whereas actually, in terms of like, efficiency of living, in terms of even like small ecological footprint, higher population densities can be really fucking good. So, I like that. For my for myself, I’m like, oh, well if I set it up, it would just be on my like, you know, like, where I live with some people or whatever and it would just be the like, “Well, if the power goes down, you can access the the movie server and the off-grid, Wikipedia,” or the, you know, I do a download of Wikipedia every, whenever I remember, it’s usually about once a year as like part of my preping is I do the download of Wikipedia or whatever. Without the images. I don’t have enough money to pay for that kind of terabytes of data for the images. But yeah, I don’t know, the larger. I don’t know, I’m just getting lost thinking about the possibilities of something like this. What distinguishes a mesh network from just a simple intranet? Is a mesh network, because it’s all wireless. Like what what makes it a mesh network?

Andre 32:32
Yeah, so mesh network differentiates itself because you’re basically able to connect networking equipment back to each other. So, you can do a mesh network, a quote unquote, ‘mesh network’ with like, hard wired Ethernet cable, but really what network mesh networks do is use certain protocols to connect routers or network equipment together. So, in this case, what we’re doing connecting our main router to our beacon that will, you know, propagate that network is using a protocol called WDS, which is called ‘wireless distribution system.’ And basically, what that lets you do is it lets you connect other routers, as if they were connected with an ethernet cord together, but it’s completely wireless. So, you can get another router, turn on WDS, join in the network, and then this new router that joins in becomes a beacon and extends the range of the network.

Margaret 33:37
Okay. So, you don’t have to, you don’t have to as the alternative internet engineer, you don’t have to walk around and physically set up each and every beacon. It’s a it’s a thing where basically people by joining are making the network better?

Andre 33:53
Exactly.. As long as they can get power. Anybody can turn their home router, and either use WDS to connect their routers together, or basically putting the routers into what’s called AP mode or basically making it an–

34:12
An ‘access point.’ [Not getting the joke] Yeah.

Margaret 34:12
[Interuptting] Advance Placement.

Margaret 34:15
No, I was lying. Sorry, I was trying to make a bad joke.

Andre 34:21
See, I’m not smart enough to have taken an AP classses High School. Yeah, I my terrible ADHD like stopped me from going into AP classes. So.

Margaret 34:32
Yeah, fair enough. I took AP English. Did not did not pass it to the college level. In my defense, the only they only taught, they only taught books written by men in my AP English class. I think all white men. Now there might have been I feel like….

Andre 34:54
Yeah, what English class isn’t just full of just like old white dudes?

Margaret 34:58
Yeah. Although actually, it was before….This is just completely tangential. English class is how I like learned about like Langston Hughes and stuff in 10th grade and like, so that was good. That’s all I remember.

Andre 35:14
My introduction to de-schooling was actually through an English teacher. So I guess, yeah, English teachers, English classes, thumbs up, you know?

Margaret 35:25
Yeah, Totally. Many of them, many of them. Okay, so before we started thinking about our English teachers, okay, you mentioned that if you have power, right? But and I’m I’m under the impression, a lot of what you’ve also done is work on trying to figure out how to make sure that people within this network would have access to power during a crisis or whatever. What does that look like?

Andre 35:54
Yeah, so I mean, obviously, we can’t run electronics without power. So trying to think about, what are some ways that we can generate power locally, and be able to supply power to people who need it. So, getting into talking about power kind of connects it to other areas of infrastructure to, and all those other areas of infrastructure connect into building mutual aid networks, but so we’ll start with power first. So, with powering nodes, basically, what we’re talking about here is creating almost like micro, community micro grids using solar. So, basically making like small power stations that use solar energy to charge batteries and supply power to your neighbors. And so, this can turn into a form of mutual aid, right? So if we’re making these small scale solar power stations that we can attach to like dollies, or attach to wood and like, roll them out when need be. Now we’re talking about giving people the autonomy and giving people the tools to make their own power and help each other survive in a way that’s beneficial to everybody in the community. But also is helping to power, you know, the devices that will connect back to the network, the network itself, but also help power medical devices and stuff like that, that you know, people need to survive and live off of. So, talking about making community micro grids, we’ll start from like, the small scale and then start building up, because again, like, all of this is modular and able to scale with however many resources you have, or however big you need it to be. But, the key part is to understand that like at every level, it’s the same idea, just with, you know, some parts switched out. So. And there’s also two, there’s also different kinds of solar power, too. There’s solar photovoltaics using like traditional solar panels is what we think of, but also passive solar as well, because there’s energy, you know, the sun is fucking hot. The sun rays have a lot of energy. So, there’s other ways to produce energy and talk about that sort of stuff. So, there’s high tech and low tech, solar, but we’ll start in and start small with small scale, kind of micro community micro grids. Right? So by solar in this case, I’m talking about photovoltaic cells to generate electricity from the sun. So you can make stuff like this, or you can buy like premade systems to kind of cut down on the amount of work that you need to do, but there are some like major downsides to getting like a premade solar system kind of like an all in one package, because most of the parts are proprietary. So, in the middle of an emergency, you’re not going to be able to like mail your solar charge station if the power plug breaks. So, a DIY method allows you to kind of have modular off the shelf parts that if something breaks, you can easily fix it. And all of these parts are easy to find too. So once I start talking about the parts that are involved with it, you can think of a whole bunch of places where you can find this stuff that’s just sitting out there.

Margaret 39:32
Just by the side of the road.

Andre 39:35
Yeah, honestly Like literally, I found solar panels in the middle of forests, just kind of like smashed solar panels in the middle of a forest before so like yes search on the side of the roads. You could find some cool shit.

Margaret 39:52
Yeah.

Andre 39:53
But yeah, so like when you start talking about solar power and solar power generation it’s really daunting, because like what we’re used to is seeing solar panels on roofs, or electricians installing this stuff. But, really, it’s really simple once you break it down into the core ingredients, just like before, just like making a cake, once you know the core ingredients, you can scale things up, add, subtract to whatever you need, to whatever scale you need. So.

Margaret 40:21
Yeah, that you have to like…you do when you scale solar power…I don’t know that much about mesh networking. But I’ve installed a bunch of different solar systems and lived off solar systems of different types. And, it’s a really good point about the modularity that can pull pieces out and put them back in. But, it’s annoying that every time you’re like, Oh, I’m going to go from 400 watts of solar power to 800 watts of solar power. Now, I need to change out every piece of the entire thing. Because it’s, it’s like baking, if in order to double the ingredients. You also had to like, buy a different bowl and spoons, you know?

Andre 40:58
Exactly, exactly. You’re like these look exactly the same, but like I have to pay like an extra $500 For this one that can handle like, oh, a little bit more power. What the hell?

Margaret 41:07
Yeah. Yeah. And it is it is more like baking than than cooking. You know? it’s…because it is very like, “Okay, do this. Exactly. And it’ll be great and safe and right.”

Andre 41:24
Yeah, add these ingredients in together in a safe way, and you’ll be good.

Margaret 41:30
Yeah, exactly. Which is not to try and scare people off of it, it really can be done safely. Like, I didn’t know shit about electricity when I first started doing this, I, when I first installed my first 12 volt battery, I was like terrified of it. You know, I was like putting the cables on it. And I was afraid it was gonna like shock me and my friend just like went up and grabbed both terminals and was like, “It’s fine. It’s 12 volts.” And like, and then he was immediately like, “But if you dropped a wrench and connected the two poles, then you might die. But…” Most use case scenario….anyway. Sorry, I have a lot of I have a lot of thoughts about solar. But please, please continue. I’m sorry.

Andre 42:13
No, no, no, no. But like, yeah, like you just said, with anything to do with solar power, obviously, there’s gonna be some safety things to keep in mind. But, you know, if you practice basic electrical safety, you can make these systems pretty well, at least at a small scale. Once you’re talking about like, multiple megawatts of power generation, then we’re talking about kind of things that are kind of outside of this. But, for small scale, like, say, for instance, right now I have 400 watt solar panels charging a battery bank right now, like that’s easy to handle for most people. And for producing power for, say, for instance, like a couple of different families at different houses or different apartments, that, that that’ll work. It sounds small, but like 400 watts of solar power, and like a decent amount of storage will get you really far, especially in emergencies when you’re only powering a couple things at a time, but.

Margaret 43:15
It’s not going to run your AC. And it’s not going to run your electric heater. And it probably it’s not gonna run your fridge. But, it’ll run a tiny electric cooler, it’ll keep your phone’s charged, it’ll keep the lights on, it’ll keep a fan going. Especially if it’s not…box fans use an ungodly amount of power. I mean, that said, I did keep a fan going on 400 Watts, 24 hours a day for like a year once. So, you know,

Andre 43:41
Yeah, I can’t be done. But like, okay, so in terms of like the core ingredients of a solar system, you’ve got really basically four parts, you’ve got your solar panels, a charge controller, batteries for storage, and an inverter if you’re going to be doing specific stuff. So, adding those four things together, you can make either like a super small system more, say for instance, like you’re talking about earlier, running some pretty basic household appliances. But you can also change all this stuff to fit the needs that you have. So, using this as an example, for like a really, really micro community micro grid, we could basically take like furniture dollies, tie some wood to it, put a charge controller, a battery, or two, strap it on to that, and an inverter, and then attach those to a solar panel, and then basically what you’re doing is just generating power on a really small scale. And then, say for instance, you want to make a bigger one well, get more solar panels, add a different charge controller, add more batteries in series to your battery bank, and add a bigger inverter, and then you could power refrigerators and AC units and stuff like that at a bigger scale. But, the key is just knowing kind of the core parts to it. I go through step-by-step on an article on my Substack called “DIY Off Grid Solar Primer.” And it kind of walks through like all of the steps that you go through to make either a really small solar system or a pretty big one, that’ll power a lot of things. And so it’s kind of like, it’s one of those things where it’s, it’s like a black box, and not a lot of people really, like understand the stuff that goes behind it. And not a lot of people understand that it’s not that crazy to do this type of stuff.

Margaret 45:53
Yeah, I guess that is the…you know, when I, I don’t know, the fact that this is actually doable, like, from, you know, I won’t do…I’m not going to do a house level install. I’m not going to do grid tied solar myself. I feel like, that reaches a level where, I mean, you’re actually putting the safety of the like, the electrical workers at risk if you do grid tie stuff, right? So, I understand the need for people with specialty training for that. But yeah, the the actually doable part, I think, is just what people…what I want more people to understand.

Andre 46:34
Yeah, because there’s so much information out there that just seems so out of reach for most people. But it’s really enriched, it’s just the fact of like, knowing what to do, knowing, even knowing what you don’t know, is like the key to really getting started with it.

Margaret 46:49
Yeah, but I will say though, in defense of the, the all-in-one boxes, I’ve used both, and I’ve like talked with a lot of people who are living off grid about which is better in which circumstance. And for people who are like, “I live in this cabin, I want my life in here to be good,” Build it yourself, or work with a friend who knows what they’re doing, but get the actual pieces and build it modularly. But, for people who are kind of like, “This is my truck camper, I sleep in two months of the year,” and like, or, “This is my cabin for now. But I kind of don’t really see myself being living here in a year,” you know, or “I have a really limited budget, and I just need to get my cell phone charged.” There’s like, there’s, I think there’s purposes for the all-in-one boxes there in that you just don’t have to fuck with it. It’s like it takes less specialization, like one of the one of the infrastructures I’ve lived with…sorry, there’s very few topics I get to like be I get to be really excited about and have like more like some experience on compared to, you know, when I talk to someone about. But, one of the ways that I had it going at one point was like I built a solar power setup, and I built it modularly partly actually, because I didn’t have enough money to go out and get the size of box I wanted. On the other hand, in the end, I probably paid more for my system,because I kept upgrading it, because I kept being like…but you can kind of you can kind of do it. 100 bucks here, 100 bucks there as compared to going out and buying this $1,200 all-in-one box or $400 all-in-one box. They come in all different sizes. And, what I found that most people didn’t bother with was using the all-in-one boxes hooked up to solar panels. What I found, what we ended up doing was, you know, the the barn on the property with the solar setup that I built, everyone would just bring their boxes over and charge them. You know, and so it’s not a very proper way to do a grid. But, in some ways, that’s how we did our grid is that there was like a central charging station and everyone would bring their boxes and then go plug their boxes back into their shacks or whatever, you know,

Andre 48:58
That’s really cool. Because like, I mean, that technically is a grid, because I mean, you’re transferring power from one generation into, you know, a place where you’re actually going to use it. So like, but people don’t consider that a grid only because, you know, it’s just kind of so used to just like, oh, the grid is just the shit on the lines that just exists. Yeah, but like there’s so many other ways to think about it.

Margaret 49:23
Yeah, I had another friend who, another off grid project I know of, a friend of mine has a cart, a trailer pulled behind a car, very light, one very small, one size of a teardrop or smaller and it’s just full of old iron, lithium, whatever the cheap old batteries, the car batteries. And well they’re AGM. They’re just not lithium ion. And we just drive them into town like once a week. Just attach it to the car, drive it into town. Charge it at the Anarchist social center in town. And then drive it back out. And then power everything on the land project for like a week or whatever with these, you know, big battery banks.

Andre 50:10
Yeah, I mean, that’s that’s definitely one way to do it. Like I did the same kind of thing where like, I was running a whole bunch of stuff off of this, like little RYOBI portable inverter thing for like my power tools, and like just charge the, the, the batteries and then just like take the batteries with me and then use it like that. So like yeah, it’s same concept.

Margaret 50:37
Yeah, I use my battery tool batteries as my cell phone charger for a long time before I got all the solar stuff set up. Yeah.

Andre 50:45
It works. You have power. So, that like ultimately, that’s what it comes down to is like figuring out ways to take energy, store it and then transport it somewhere else where somebody else can use it. So like, who cares if you’re using like, a drill battery attached to a little inverter to power the router for the network? It’s still powering it. So there you go.

Margaret 51:08
That’s cool. That just makes it cooler. Because then also anyone could just take it and charge it on it. You know, like everyone has a charger for that thing. Well, then you can have the Ryobi versus DeWalt class war, but the person with the Makita will chime in and be like, “No!”

Andre 51:31
But yes, so I mean, like, so we’ve gone from making like small internets into making a larger mesh network. I also want to like, I also wanted to run back and talk about what you brought up earlier, when it came to the differences between kind of urban and suburban areas and doing this in rural areas, or areas that might not like be as accessible. So, when it comes to rural areas, you can do the same thing. So making this mesh network. The biggest thing is going to be actually getting that signal out. So, then we’re talking about like, kind of more high powered antennas, and talking about, like, how to broadcast signals, like a far distance. And there’s some interesting stuff out there. So, I saw this guy on YouTube who made a giant parabola, and made it out of wood and chicken wire, and then put a Wi-Fi card in the middle of that parabola. So, you know, like the curve, almost like a satellite dish, but made out of chicken wire. And, he was able to broadcast Wi-Fi through the jungle for about six miles, just just using chicken wire in a parabola shape. And, you know, a simple like off the shelf network card. So like, line of sight, with some really simple DIY shit like that, like making parabolas out of chicken wire, or even using old satellite dishes to bounce that signal off, And at least get it over to maybe if you, you know, have a neighbor six miles away from you, then they could be the next node in the network. And they could just bounce signal around there. So like, in mountainous regions, it’s really hard to get internet access.

Margaret 53:37
I’m Aware.

Andre 53:42
Mainly because, you know, internet service providers are, you know, they don’t think it’s profitable to spend the money for the infrastructure to bring it out there. But, it’s also really hard to do it period. So, in that case, you know, you could set up a mesh network with your own DIY antennas to basically like bounce up and down mountainsides to supply internet access to other people. So, it works not just from like urban suburban areas, but also rural areas, but it just requires a, again, like a different, like thought process behind it.

Margaret 54:17
Right, but out here, it would be more possible for me to like, you know, talk to the person who does own the next ridge over and be like, “Hey, can I put up like this old satellite dish and some solar panels on your property, you get free internet, and so does everyone on the other side of the hill,” you know? I mean, presuming the friendliness of the person who has the…owns the top of the mountain or whatever, but no, that’s okay. Yeah.

Andre 54:48
And that can be a really good intro point to establish a mutual aid networks in rural areas, because it’s really hard especially like in In rural areas to like, talk to your neighbors if your neighbors are like six miles away, but if you come to the people and say like, “Hey, we can mutually benefit each other,” in a way that like, you know, they can completely understand and like be on board with, then you have, then you’re talking to your neighbors, even though your neighbors live like super far away from you. So yeah, it’s a really good in to like starting to build relationships locally.

Margaret 55:29
Yeah. No, that’s interesting. So one of the things that you talked about, you mentioned earlier about how this all ties into general infrastructure and how infrastructure as a way to build mutual aid networks, is that something that, you know, basically, because most of what I’ve talked to people about mutual aid networks, which is incredibly valuable, but a lot of mutual aid networks are around community health, or food access, or, you know, defense against sweeps of encampments of people who are living out. And, you know, the idea of like, providing internet and power it obviously makes sense, as part of it, it’s just part that doesn’t get talked about as much because I think it probably more of my friends know how to cook than know how to program routers, you know, although then again, 10 years ago, it was probably the opposite. Well, when I was a teenager was definitely the opposite. But yeah, so I’m curious if you have thoughts about sort of general infrastructure, how this ties into infrastructure, mutual aid networks.

Andre 56:32
Yeah. So, when we were talking about like, hierarchical, well, we talked about like, systems like capitalism, hierarchical systems, states, the way that they cement power is basically by controlling our access to like our basic needs. So, if we can build our own infrastructures, either both like within the system, but also alongside and out of the system, then we can much more easily separate from capitalist and hierarchical systems, and create our own networks, and our own infrastructure in our own worlds alongside of things. So, that kind of touches into, you know, ideas of building dual power of like building the systems that we want to use and building the world that we want to see now, not just working within capitalism, sometimes you’ll have to say for like legal issues and stuff like that, but building systems that work outside of capitalist and hierarchical systems. So, taking back control of the infrastructures that really rule our lives. So like, the infrastructures that can underlie everything that we do, you know, we kind of have the main, the big three, food, water shelter. But, I’d include a couple more things in there just because like, you know, our modern times things have like changed, technology has changed. On top of that, I put communications, so that would include like stuff like radio and Internet, electricity, which includes things like air conditioning and a lot of regions that like you will literally die without air conditioning, and care work as the kind of like main parts of infrastructure

Margaret 58:38
That, that tracks. And those do seem to be…I mean, those are the things that we kind of focus on with mutual aid with this special edition of communication and power. I’m into it.

Andre 58:58
But like, so, I’ll go into a scenario of how building community micro grids and building communication networks can like, tie back into mutual aid efforts and like other revolutionary things, so you know, starting out, you decided to do this, you get a foldable solar panel, you use that to make your own small network with your server, you get a Raspberry Pi or like an old laptop and use that as a server. And then use an old router that you have or your the router that you have in your house right now. To just start, to start the network. And from there, you’re like, Okay, well, let me you know, if I want to build this network out, then I’ll start making small micro community micro grids to share with my neighbors. So, let’s say if you live in an apartment building, then you’re like, Okay, I’ll go to the people in my apartment building, make one of these things, you know, make one of these, like solar power carts or something. And then just like talk to my neighbors and say like, “Hey, would this be valuable to us?” And so then like, you’re starting to provide, basically free electricity to your neighbors. And by doing that, you know, you’re starting to build relationships, starting to talk to people, and with talking to people, and kind of showing people what can be done with just like solidarity and working together, then, you know, you start talking some more and some more. And let’s say like, you, through these relationships that you have with the people in your apartment building, you’re like, “Okay, well, what if we like formed a tenant’s union? I don’t know, that might be a good idea?” And in trying to form that, you’ll need some ways of communicating that’s going to be secure. So, you can either meet in person, but not everybody is going to be able to meet in person. So, how do we make secure communications with each other to do stuff like organizing tenant unions are organizing unions within our workplaces. And so, you can do stuff like this, where you’re making the services, the infrastructure available to people to be able to talk to each other in secure ways. So you could on your server, put up like encrypted messaging, and then use that as a method of organizing the tenants union or whatever, you know, use that as a method of organizing. So, you’re going from like, starting out with just kind of like wanting to build your own solar power stuff into now you’re talking to your neighbors, and now you’re organizing stuff. And this kind of snowballs. As you add on to it, as you talk to more people as things kind of, like, move along, there’s a snowball effect and to just like, being able to make the infrastructure for things to happen. And like that’s the big thing.

Margaret 1:02:09
I like it. I am sold. I…there’s that joke, “I would like to subscribe to your newsletter…” But in this case, people should subscribe to your newsletter, or Substack or whatever. Okay, well, we’re kind of coming up on time. There’s a lot of stuff that I want to talk to you about that we didn’t even get into about you know hydroponics. It’s what’s in your username, and I want to turn my basement into a place that produces food, 24 hours, or 12 months, a year, whatever. You know, I live in a climate with a real winter. And I’d like to be able to still have fresh vegetables and hydroponics seem cool. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. But, that might be what I bug you about sometime in the near future. Is there any kind of final thoughts on the stuff that we’ve been talking about today that you want to bring up?

Andre 1:02:50
Yeah, I mean, I guess ultimately, it just comes down to if there are things out there that you want to do, try and figure out like, the core concepts and build on that. And just like just fucking try it. Like there’s, there’s so many things like all this, like building this off grid, internet building, off grid power systems was all just kind of like, I want to do it. I’ll try and find the information and condense it for other people to use and they can build it themselves too. But like, that was the key was just like, fuck it. Let me just get started and try it. So, it’s the same thing with like mutual aid networks. It’s like if there isn’t one around you, fuck it, try building it.

Margaret 1:03:31
Yeah, totally. No, that’s so good. That is…Yeah. The secret is to really begin. I can’t remember what this from, some insurrectionist tract, but I really like it. You know, just the like, well we actually just got to do it. We you know, like, I don’t know, I feel like I would have more clever way to say that, but I don’t

Andre 1:03:54
No. That was good.

Margaret 1:03:57
All right. Well, if people want to subscribe to your newsletter, or follow you on the internet, how should they go about it?

Andre 1:04:03
Yeah, you can find me on Substack. It’s anarchosolarpunk.substack.com. And then I’m active also on Twitter and Tik Tok at ‘hydroponictrash.’

Margaret 1:04:18
Cool. Yeah, we didn’t even talk about solar punk. That was like on the list of things that we should talk about. We will talk again soon, I assume and people will get to hear from you again. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on.

Andre 1:04:30
Awesome. Thanks for having me.

Inmn 1:04:37
Hi, I am not Margaret. But, I am here to thank you for listening, because Margaret forgot to record an outro, which is short for our introduction, in case anyone was wondering. Okay, I stole that joke from Margaret. Sort of. So now it’s kind of like you’re getting her. I’m Inmn, and I do some of the behind the scenes work for Live Like The World is Dying, to make sure that it comes out every two weeks. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go tell someone about it and rate and review and like and subscribe or, you know, whatever the algorithm calls for, feed it like a hungry God. You could also post about it or tell people in person. It’s the main way that people hear about the show and honestly one of the best ways to support it. However, if you want to support us in other sillier ways that don’t involve feeding a nameless and mysterious entity, consider supporting our publisher, Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness, of which I am also a member of. Strangers is a publishing collective committed to producing inclusive and anarchistic radical culture. We currently have one other podcast called simply “Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness,” where you can hear me talk about our monthly featured zine, along with narrated audio versions, the monthly feature and an interview with the author. Speaking of the monthly featured zine, if you subscribe to our Patreon at $10 a month, we will mail to you a zine version of our monthly feature every month, anywhere in the world. But, also you can read it for free on our website. Our monthly feature ranges from fiction to poetry to zines about plants and hopefully soon history and folklore. These features are submitted by listeners like you and we are always looking for more submissions. We’re looking for stories that don’t know where they fit in, for people that don’t know where they fit in. So, if you’d like to write and think your story would find a home in this tangled wilderness, consider submitting it and perhaps we’ll buy it. You can support us for now at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and find more submission info at tangledwilderness.org. Just to plug some other things that Strangers and our members have going on since no one is here to stop me: Margaret’s new short story collection is currently on preorder from AK press. “We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow” comes out September 20th. So, check it out and look for her soon on her book tour. Our first book as the new version of the Strangers Collective will be available for preorder on September 1st. Try anarchism for life by Cindy Barukh Milstein, a thrilling exploration of art and social relationships and worlds soon to emerge, featuring amazing art by 25 incredible artists. Look for it on our website, and also look for Milstein on the Strangers podcast as the September featured zine. A dear friend of the Strangers Collective also has a book out for preorder right now. Nourishing Resistance: stories of food, protest, and mutual aid, edited by Wren Awry along with a foreword by Cindy Milstein. The preorder is currently live at PMpress.org. So please go check it out. Wrenis an incredible writer, editor and archivist. As you heard on our last episode of Live Like The World Is Dying, we are about to start playtesting or TTRPG. Penumbra City. Listen to the last episode on composting to hear more. And check out the next episode of the Strangers podcast where I talk to Margaret and Robin about the game after we listen to Margaret’s new short story, “Welcome to Penumbra City: part one.” Find it wherever you get podcasts on August 31st. One last shameless plug: By the time this episode airs, we should have t shirts live on the Strangers website. You can get both a Strangers’ t shirt and a Live Like The World Is Dying shirt. Both have art created by our art director Robin Savage, and we’re printed by the CREAM print shop and our seriously soft, cozy, and beautiful. That’s all my plugs. Except for a very special plug. A shout out to these wonderful people who have helped make this podcast as well as so many other projects possible. Shawn, SJ, Paige, Oxalis, Mikki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Michaiah, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog. And here’s a special thank you to Bursts, our audio editor who has an incredible anarchist new show called The Final Straw, which is also on the Channel Zero Network. Thanks so much for your support. It means so much to us and us has allowed us to get so much done as a collective. See you next time on August 9th for another roundtable segment of “This Month In The Apocalypse” with Margaret, Casandra and Brooke. Let us know if there’s anything you want them to talk about.

Find out more at https://live-like-the-world-is-dying.pinecast.co

S1E48 – Paige on Composting

Episode Notes

Episode summary
Margaret talks with Paige, who works in composting and humanure systems, about how to set up systems for disposing of food and human waste, different kinds of systems that can be used including worm composting, and the importance of thinking about the scale and purpose of your system.

Guest Info
Paige can be found on Twitter @badcompost

Host Info
Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy or instagram at @margaretkilljoy.

Publisher Info
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Penumbra City Spot
If you would like to play test our Penumbra City TTRPG with your friends, contact us at Penumbra.City.Playtest@gmail.com

Transcript

Paige on Composting

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. Well, I’m one of the hosts, but I’m your host today. But, now there’s new hosts for the show, which is very exciting to me. As much as I love listening to the sound of my own voice all the time, sometimes I like listening to other people talk. And, today we are going to be talking to Paige about composting, we’re going to be talking about what to do with stuff that rots and why it’s so important. And I don’t know, lots of stuff around shit and things like that. I’m really excited about this kind of selfishly, because I have a lot of questions that are for my own personal use as someone who composts, and you know, has lived off grid a lot and stuff like that. So I think, I hope that you will get a lot out of it, and 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.

JINGLE

Margaret 01:49
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of why people should listen to you about compost.

Paige 01:58
Thank you so much for having me. My name is Paige. I use she/her pronouns. I guess I started composting at a pretty young age. We had a pile at my parents house growing up and then more recently, actually worked for Tucson’s city composting program when it was run through their university, so was on like an industrial scale operation for a couple of months. I currently work at the food bank in their farm and garden program. And I have helped them redesign their worm composting system as well as their just general composting system as well as installed composting toilets on site. I’ve also worked with friends of a land project and help them set up a composting system for humanure as well as just like food waste.

Margaret 02:51
Cool. For anyone who’s listening, if you can hear a squeaking in the background is because I gave my dog a toy that I thought didn’t have a squeaker in it. And I was proven mistaken. So, I apologize for that. But okay, so composting, what is composting, that’s where things where you just like throw an apple into the woods, and hope for the best.

Paige 03:12
So composting isn’t just kind of throwing stuff and hoping for the best. It’s usually just taking, like organic material. And there’s different types of composting, there’s different systems, but it’s kind of creating in a controlled environment to process what would be waste products into something that you can use more as a soil amendment, maybe for your garden, and maybe for fruit trees. But it’s just yeah, processing waste into something really valuable and useful.

Margaret 03:40
I get really excited about it. I have this kind of like scavenger mindset leftover from when I was more of like a squatter and traveler. But, I feel like food waste is like the main way I can still really feel that, like scratch that itch, you know? I mean, I guess I do it sometimes with other stuff where I try and scavenge. But like, I get really excited by the idea that you can like not have food waste be waste. And so I don’t know, I’m very excited about this. Okay, so what are some of the basics of you know, okay, so, I mean, I guess the ‘why’ someone would compost is probably sort of implied, like not letting things go to waste. And then also like, not needing to, you know, go and purchase fertilizer and things like that for your garden. But, what are some of the basic ‘Hows’ like, I guess starting at a smaller scale, you know, if someone wants to set up compost at their apartment or at their house or wherever they are.

Paige 04:35
Yeah, so I think it’s really going to depend on like what you have available to you. So, like a backyard system. You could do an outdoor, like hot or thermophilic pile, which I’ve seen systems built out of pallets where you just kind of set up like a three or four sided bin, and then you just throw your food scraps in there along with some sort of cover material which will generally be like a dry carbon based thing, maybe leaves, maybe sawdust. In my house, I use manure I like go pick it up every couple of months if you’re an apartment and don’t….

Margaret 05:09
Manure is the cover?

Paige 05:10
Yeah, I use like, well, so the manure that I find it’s like it’s manure mixed with straw. So it’s like pretty dry.

Margaret 05:18
Oh, okay.

Paige 05:18
And bulky. And I think the thing that I see people doing wrong is just not having enough material to do like a hot compost pile. So, they’re just kind of throwing stuff in a pile, and I live in the desert, so it just kind of dries out. I think it’s probably different and more humid wet places. But yeah, to get like, kind of your traditional hot compost pile, I feel like would be kind of more on the scale of like, a pallet bin at the smallest, like three feet by three feet. Ish.

Margaret 05:48
Okay.

Paige 05:49
But, there’s also you know, there’s other options for like apartments and indoor use, such as like a worm bin, or there’s, there’s also a style of composting called Bokashi. That’s actually more of like a fermentation that people do in buckets that you can also use to process your waste. I’m not as familiar with that. But, you know, not everybody has outdoor space to have a big pile that might be kind of gnarly sometimes.

Margaret 06:14
Yeah. So, you keep talking about hot composting. Is that like, in contrast to cold composting. Is there cold composting that we could be doing? Or? No?

Paige 06:22
There is. Yeah, I mean, if you if you’re just adding material really slowly over time, or you don’t have a lot of material, you’ll probably have like kind of a colder compost and stuff won’t break down as quickly. Generally, like a big hot compost pile is also going to result in like an end product like your compost will be more like bacterially dominant versus like, a long to cold compost where you’re like not trying to get the temperature up, is going to be more conducive to like a fungally based compost. So, there are like there are kind of different end, end goals based on maybe what they use is going to be. A veggie garden that’s going to prefer like a bacterial heavy…a bacteria heavy compost, and like trees are going to prefer like a fungally based, but if you kind of mix and match, like, it kind of doesn’t matter. There’s like, yeah, I feel like you can go really deep into all the science behind it, or you can just kind of like not and still make good compost and like, deal with your food waste accordingly. But, there are like different methods you can do, depending on on what your end goal is if you wanna goo deep into it.

Margaret 07:35
Yeah, I guess that’s something that’s always sort of intimidated me about it is that, you know, before I started composting, I had always been sort of, I’d read all this stuff about it. And it was very, like, “This is the perfect ratio of nitrogen versus carbon material to add,” or I guess, greens versus browns, I think is the way it’s like often phrased or something. “And if you get it wrong, like all hell will break loose and demons will come forth from the seventh seal,” and all of that and, and so it like kind of like, I think it scares a lot of people off, but you’re sort of implying and my understanding is that you can kind of just do it and then like fuck with it to fix it as you go? Is that is that fairly accurate?

Paige 08:13
Yeah, I would definitely say that’s accurate. Yeah, I think like…yeah, definitely people kind of stick to like the greens and browns, but I don’t know, I think it’s kind of tricky. Sometimes if you have material that’s like, drying out or really not drying out, depending on your climate. So, like here out in Tucson, where I live, it’s like you have to water your compost. Otherwise, it just, it’s just a pile of like dried old vegetables or whatever you’re throwing into it so. And yeah. So I mean, it’s like the greens and browns, which are your carbon to nitrogen, but then it’s also you’re looking at like moisture and porosity. So, if you think of like a pile of sticks, like that’s like too porous, there’s too much airflow that’s not going to break down. But if you have like a mucky swamp that’s also not going to have airflow. it’s gonna it’s gonna be really anaerobic and smelly. So yeah, I mean, I think like you kind of just have to see what works for your climate, and I think trial and errors the best way to go and err on the side of maybe a little more of like the browns, the carbon, stuff and add water if need be. And if it’s not breaking down, then you’d want to add more of like the green nitrogen rich stuff, but I don’t know. Yeah, I feel like in the current moments, I’ve tried to like come up with the perfect recipe and it’s just not…it’s just not necessary for like a backyard system.

Margaret 09:41
Yeah. So it’s more cooking than baking?

Paige 09:44
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Yeah. It’s kind of like throwing in the spices….

Margaret 09:48
It gets presented as baking.

Paige 09:49
Yeah, Nah. It’s I mean, yeah, If you’re doing it on like an industrial scale where there’s like regulations and all of these different things that could really go wrong and you’re dealing with like, tons and tons of material I think it’s a bit more of an issue, but for like your average backyard person, I think like, just try to start and see what happens and adjust from there.

Margaret 10:10
Yeah. What about those like roller…I feel like when you look for like compost, backyard composting like products, you have these…And I actually have one in my side yard, but it has yet to produce useful compost, but I think that’s not not the fault of the product. But like, yeah, what do you what do you make of these, you know, it’s like, I have this thing that looks a little bit like a five gallon of sorry, a 50 gallon drum but on a spindle where it can spin and there’s like a…mine has like two compartments. And, I don’t know, I’ve got it a Tractor Supply.

Paige 10:46
Yeah, I’ve never had luck with those. But, I think it’s just being in the desert. I think here inthe desert they just dry out. So, I’ve I’ve never tried those. I kind of tend to think that a lot of I mean, there’s there’s so many like compost products out there that are like try to make it easier. And I…to me, they all feel a little gimmicky. It’s like, okay, you need like, you need to put stuff somewhere. It needs water, air, carbon, nitrogen. And that’s it. And so having all of these like, additional, like tools, I yeah, I haven’t had luck with them. I think the idea is that it gives you more airflow and allows you to like turn and mix the material, which probably helps it break down faster. But, it’s also they’re so small, like 50 gallons…I just, I usually try to start a pile that’s bigger than that if I’m trying to get it hot.

Margaret 11:35
Okay.

Paige 11:35
And then. Yeah, I mean, I try to like I just put stuff in a pile, have enough material, and then I kind of like turn it sometimes. But, I try to kind of more just like let it sit and let like all the microbes and like fungus like do their job because it’s just less work for me to deal with. But, I think they probably worked for some people. I don’t know.

Margaret 11:57
So we shouldn’t do the Live Like The World Is Dying branded backyard compost tumblers? We should find a different gimmick product to sell?

Paige 12:04
Probably. But you know, also if you’re trying to do a brand deal, I think I’m open to discussing it.

Margaret 12:10
I know I was gonna say like what did you get a cut? Does it suddenly…is it a better product at that point?

Paige 12:14
Yeah, well at that point.

Margaret 12:15
Okay. Yeah. Okay, I mean, I, the times I’ve seen them I think that the the primary appeal is almost like the…well it’s like the like, my dogs not gonna get into it because it’s in this thing, you know? It’s like it’s like pre contained, right. But, but yeah, I also have had it for nine months and it is still just sort of full of old leaves rather than full of like good useful dirt, so I can’t really like speak to its efficacy.

Paige 12:47
Yeah.

Margaret 12:49
And I’m, I’m trying to build a system now that is like three bins that are four foot by four foot each each bin with the idea that one bin per year, and then by the time I fill up the third bin the first bend has been sitting for two years is my like, maybe overkill. I have all these like plans to make it rat proof and stuff too. I guess Okay, so I want to talk about some of the like downsides of composting or these sorts of compost like the things that I’ve heard about and worry about, 1) is you know, my dog has gotten into compost before and gotten really sick, right? So, keeping specifically Rintrah, my dog, out of compost is the first most important thing, and then also rats, and then smell, and then okay, what’s the other one? Murdering yourself by putting it on plants, and having the plants that you grow murder you instead of feed you. Those are the four things that I’ve heard as potential downsides.

Paige 13:47
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think all of those can be concerns. I definitely have like my friends dogs come over, and they hop in the compost. We kind of joke that like our house is the fun house for all the dogs, because they get to come and like play in like rotting stuff. But, you know sometimes that’s maybe not ideal for them just because of, yeah, I put chicken bones and stuff in there, which you definitely don’t want dogs getting into. But yeah, I think for to kind of control for for small animals and pets. I think doing pallet bins and then lining that with hardware cloth, kind of like what you were saying or honestly even lining it with cardboard would probably be effective at keeping them out. And not the rats, but at least like dogs. If there’s like wood and then a couple other layers of stuff. As far as the smell, that’s often an indicator of too much nitrogen and too much humidity and liquid. So, to kind of mitigate that you’d want to add more like dry carbon based stuff. And yeah, it’s interesting because it sounds like your pile on the ground might be kind of smelly, but then you’re like tumbler pile might just be dry leaves, so maybe if you just like threw the dry leaves in with the pile thatmight kind of address that. Working with what we got.

Margaret 15:03
Oh, the tumbler pile. The tumbler pile is gross as Hell. That’s why it’s full of dry leaves now.

Paige 15:07
Oh, Okay.

Margaret 15:09
It used to be. There is no ground pile yet. The ground pile is a dream. It’s a 2×4 frame that is currently sitting in the space that used to be a garden from the last person who lived here.

Paige 15:21
Oh okay.

Margaret 15:22
Tut I haven’t…I haven’t done the lining it with hardware cloth and all that stuff yet.

Paige 15:26
Cool. Yeah, yeah. But, I…you know, composting in the desert we’re trying to keep out pets and javalinas, and also squirrels. And yeah, I feel like doing it out of pallets, and then hardware cloth has…I’ve seen be pretty effective in keeping that stuff out. And then yeah, smell is usually it’s too wet. As far as like creating like a dangerous end product, I think for that you can really just think about the time that…how long it takes as well as like the heat of the pile. So if you’re able to get enough material and get it to heat up, it’s gonna kill almost anything that is harmful to humans. The kind of industry standard is getting piles up to 130 degrees for about 15 days. And that’s considered like sufficient to, like, kill pretty much anything like even like human waste. So, you know, and I think letting it sit for longer periods of time is the way to kind of guarantee that, that it’s going to be alright for for food production.

Margaret 16:24
That was kind of my thinking behind the the setup that I’m going to do with the two years instead of like one year is just out of like, well, what if I’m really lazy and do it badly then I’ll just have it have set for two years instead of one year.

Paige 16:33
Totally.

Margaret 16:33
I don’t know. What shouldn’t people compost? I have a feeling that the answer to this is, ‘It depends.’ It depends on like the scale of the compost and things like that. But, to maybe like, I feel like kind of at this beginning, we’re sort of talking about like backyard level compost, like vegetable garden level compost, and then I’d love to from there move into humanure and also like doing it at scale. But, in terms of like a backyard compost. What are things that are like good or bad for compost?

Paige 17:10
Yeah, generally, most like vegetable and like fruit scraps are super great. Some people have trouble with like citrus peels, like they’ll just kind of dry out. People tend to recommend against dairy, meat, and bones as well as really fatty things. If you have something it’s really oily, as well as like often cooked food. But, a lot of that is mostly because of the salt content in the cooked food. Like adding a bunch of salt to your compost isn’t ideal, because you don’t want to be putting like salty, just salty compost on your vegetable garden. That’s going to kind of suck the water away from from the roots of the plants. But, honestly, if you’re doing like even like a four by four backyard, like I put meat, I put cooked food, I put pretty much anything in there, and just kind of…as long as it’s getting hot enough and it’s big enough, it’s probably going to be okay. But, if you’re doing smaller scale, you might want to be a little more choosy. And then if you’re doing like an indoor worm bin, if you don’t have an outdoor space, then you have to be a lot more choosy because you’re not, you’re not just putting stuff together and hoping it works out. You’re kind of like feeding worms and they’re they’re a little pickier than some of the microbes that will be in your big outdoor pile.

Margaret 18:25
Yeah, that makes sense to me. How long does it take to like, if you’re throwing like chicken bones and stuff in that, like, how long is that taking to break down?

Paige 18:33
Um, I feel like it takes like three to six months generally, but that’s if it’s..if you keep the pile hot and big, and there’s like a lot of like, if it’s moist enough, then like stuff will break down pretty quickly.

Margaret 18:45
Okay.

Paige 18:46
The bokashi method I was mentioning earlier, too, that can be used to kind of like ferment and like break stuff down. And, that’s like a couple of weeks, but I haven’t I haven’t actually tried that method. But, I’ve heard that it can be really good for like animal bones.

Margaret 19:00
Yeah, I watched one video. I probably a lot of people listen to this also do the thing where they’re suddenly interested in something to watch all the YouTube videos and listen to all the podcasts about it. That might be why you’re listening to this very podcast right now. Maybe you don’t listen to the show. Maybe you just googled or searched ‘compost.’ One of the things that I watched was just like, “And then you kill the rats, and then you throw the rats in the compost pile.” It was just sort of the the compost pile is like the ‘all devour,’ and it was like clearly he was doing it in this very like, “See. Look. The compost pile is not so fragile as people claim.” I don’t know that kind of impressed me, the idea that you can just throw the rats into…the dead ones into the compost pile. I don’t know.

Paige 19:43
Yeah, totally. No, it’s it’s kind of wild like what a pile will just like totally consume. Yeah, I think also like speaking about rats, like rats aren’t gonna go into a pile if it’s 140 degrees. Like that’s too warm for them. They’re like not gonna fuck with it.

Margaret 19:58
Oh Huh, okay.

Paige 19:59
Yeah. I just like it’s just not…Yeah, if you if you’re keeping it hot, it’s like not a very like, comfortable environment for a lot of like the rodents and things like that. They’ll kind of keep away from from at least the hot parts of it. Yeah, it’s also cool. Like the the heating aspect of it, I’ve seen systems where, you know, it’s like, you’re using the heat to kind of generate all these microbes and break down all the material, but I’ve also seen systems where people are using it to heat water. If you like coil like pipes through it, you can even kind of get a couple of different uses out of that heat, which is pretty cool.

Margaret 20:35
And compost piles generate this heat on their own from like, it’s like a byproduct of the process of breaking down?

Paige 20:42
Yeah, basically, it creates like, it’ll just kind of breed all these microbes. And as these micro populations multiply, they yeah, and they consume food, they just create an like an immense amount of heat. I’ve seen piles that got up to like 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When I was working at the city’s composting site, there was one winter where it snowed in Tucson, which was kind of scary, but there were two inches of snow on the ground everywhere, except for on top of…a lot of industrial scale areas, we’ll use what’s called wind row, which is like a pile, it’s maybe five to six feet tall, and then it’s just elongated it across whatever area they have. And so everywhere there was snow, except for on top of these wind rows that were just steaming and just melting everything that fell on them, which was really cool.

Margaret 21:29
Yeah. Okay, so can you heat a house? By setting up a compost bin in your basement?

Paige 21:36
Oh, I wonder. I mean, I think you could, if you put a compost pile in your basement, and then ran pipes through the pile, and then through your floor, I feel like you could gett some good like, floor warming action. Yeah, or like, some people will pile.. they’ll put their pile against a greenhouse to kind of like, passively have a little like heat source near their greenhouse. But, if you’re trying to…

Margaret 22:01
Oh, that’s interesting.

Paige 22:02
Yeah, if you’re trying to maintain like a pretty consistent amount of heat, though, you kind of need to constantly be adding a good amount of material and turning it because it’ll, it’ll kind of like it’ll get really hot initially, when there’s all this like new new material, microbes, air, water, and then it’ll cool off. And then if you add more, or turn it and add more air, it’ll heat up again, and it kind of will go through these cycles. But, eventually, what you want is an end product that’s not going to reheat. And that’s kind of a sign that the compost is like aged well and is a stable thing that you can put into your garden.

Margaret 22:36
Oh, okay.

Paige 22:36
Yeah, I’ve put in compost to my garden, like mixed it in when it wasn’t fully done. And then like my garden bed, like, reheated and like was up at like 120 degrees, which is like not, yeah, not ideal and not good for growing plants. But if you have like unfinished compost, you can like, put a couple inches on top of your plants. And that’s often going to be all right. But if you’re like really doing like a first amendment of your…of a new garden plot, you want to make sure that you’re working with something that’s not going to reheat.

Margaret 23:10
Okay. So, you know, you kind of know compost is done when it looks like dirt and isn’t hot anymore? Do you like? Do you build up a pile and then just move on to the next pile? Are you kind of always adding to the original pile? Like, what what is to be done? How do you? How do?

Paige 23:27
So there’s a lot of different systems you can do. So there’s, if you start a pile and then move on to the next one, that’s kind of what’s considered a batch system. So, you’re building something up and adding to it and then you’re letting it sit for an amount of time to make sure that stuffs broken down. There’s other systems that are more designed as like a flow through system. So you’re maybe adding to the top of the pile but you’re able to pull stuff off the bottom, a lot of worm composting systems are flow through because you kind of have to, when you’re putting new material and then harvesting old material, you’re also trying to not like remove all the worms from the system. So you’re trying to kind of add often, add material to the top and harvest from the bottom. So there’s, there’s different like commercial or DIY systems that that can be made to accommodate that. So, you can do either. And I think it really depends on like, what your timeline is and what your end goal is. Like, are you just trying to get rid of the waste that you have? And not have it be in your trash? Are you trying to make a soil amendment that’s as good as possible as fast as possible? And so there’s kind of different systems that that make the most sense based on just like what you have on site, what kind of energy you want to put in, and what your goal is. Yeah, but either are options.

Margaret 24:44
Okay. So this kind of brings me…Well, I don’t know if it logically brings me to but the thing that it makes me think of is that okay, so if you’re in an apartment, right, and like I guess you could kind of tiny scale compost and on your porch or something, but it seems like it It makes more sense to have sometimes composting be a sort of shared thing between houses or within a community. Right? Like, you know, I know a lot of cities, and it sounds like this is something that you have been involved with at a municipal level, have like composting where people were able to set aside their food and the city goes and composts it because it’s not trash, right? It should never have been trash, so the idea that we live in a society that’s all organic matters is trash is very bizarre. But, it seems like you could also set that up kind of like smaller scale, right? Like, you know, within any given community, if you don’t live somewhere with municipal composting, or, or is it better to just let it be at municipal level? Like what are the advantages of doing compost at scale, whether it’s a community wide scale or municipal wide scale?

Paige 25:45
Yeah, so I think doing it at a community or at a municipal scale and having it be really official, I think it makes it easier to divert stuff from the landfill. So, when food waste goes into the landfill, it creates methane, which is, you know, more potent than than co2. And, so it’s actually interesting here, and here in southern Arizona, a lot of food comes through the port, that’s like two…an hour south of Tucson through Nogales, and they have…the landfill there is like one of the most methane rich ones in the country, because they don’t have a composting program down there, or like a way to divert food waste besides through like their food bank. And so when trucks come across the border, and food doesn’t pass inspection, it just goes and the semi trucks are just dumping food waste into the landfill. And then it’s creating like methane.

Margaret 25:45
Oh, god.

Paige 25:47
And so, you know, that’s like a huge problem. It probably like deserves like a pretty big solution as far as like, what a system to address that would be. But, I think when I was working at the at Tucson’s program, we had a lot of problems of people putting just garbage and trash into like the food waste bins at different restaurants. And, so it creates this really big problem of contamination, like when you’re doing it on a large scale, like we…I remember seeing like freon tanks and just like constant plastic bags. Yeah. And so we were, it’d be like a huge part of what we did is we would just like kind of like tromp around in these massive piles of rotting food like pulling out plastic and even like the quote unquote, like compostable bags don’t actually break down in some systems, and they would, they would clog up some of our machinery. And so yeah, I think I think large scale, you just have issues of contamination. And you also need a bunch of heavy machinery. Like we were operating, like a water truck and front loaders, we had like this machine that was specifically like a compost turner. It was, it was just like a lot of…it was pretty energy intensive process. It was fun. It was cool. I like you know, got to drive a tractor around. That was fun. But yeah, I think I think having it more be like the community scale where it’s like, either backyard based or neighborhood based, or like community garden based, I think is is a better way to do it and just kind of cutting out like the transportation time and just having it at that scale. But, but again, that’s not going to it’s not going to address, you know, the semi trucks full of rotting food. But right, yeah, so. So there’s, yeah, there’s benefits and drawbacks, but I think I think, you know, with almost anything usually, like a lot of small, decentralized solutions are usually better than the large centralized ones.

Margaret 28:27
I’ve I’ve based most of my political beliefs on this concept. But yeah, but I also believe that sometimes certain things need to be structured at larger levels in order to be effective, you know, or like, I don’t know, accomplish what they need, like what you’re talking about with like the, you know, the trucks or whatever. Well, okay, so then if you do it at the community level, it seems like another advantage right is you probably get less contamination literally because people could be like, “Joe, you can’t keep throwing your Freon tanks in with your compost.” You know, like Joe keeps doing that and, and probably gets shamed enough about it, right.

Paige 29:07
Yeah, definitely.

Margaret 29:09
I literally can’t even imagine what a Freon tank is. I mean, I’m aware that there’s a liquid called Freon…

Paige 29:13
It kind of looked like a propane tank, but it was like blue and like, I was just like, In what world do we think this is gonna break down? Yeah, it was. Yeah, it was just, it was a bit of a mess. But yeah, so I mean, you know, when you’re doing large scale, yeah, it’s like you need to also figure out like how to like educate people versus Yeah, like, the just like community shaming of Joe for his Freon tank is is maybe a little more effective than like a massive scale like, program. Yeah. But yeah, and also, I mean, I think when you’re doing smaller scale it also…people end up talking to each other and, you know, building community Yeah, that they do if they just aren’t interacting. Yeah,

Margaret 29:55
That makes sense. Okay, so But then, in terms of the stuff that…one of the things I got kind of excited about when I started doing…looking more into compost, because I’ve lived in situations that have required relied upon compost at various points in my life, a fair amount, but I’ve never been personally like, directing it the way that I am currently. And one of the things that kind of surprised me to learn about is that, like cardboard and paper and stuff can be composted, but maybe not easily, or it needs to be shredded or like, like it, there were a couple things that in my mind were marked trash, or fake recycling, because one of the biggest problems I think we have in this world is that recycling is a scam, or at least the version of–not the concept of recycling, right–but yeah, you know, the current industrial infrastructure of recycling seems to be largely smoke and mirrors. So, I’m excited by the idea of like, the more DIY recycling type stuff we can do, the more repurposing we can do. So, paper, cardboard: Yes? No? Maybe?

Paige 31:03
Paper, cardboard, yes, under certain circumstances. So yeah, you’re totally right about the shredding. So a lot of what that has to do with is like the surface area to like mass of the item. And so if you think about, like your compost pile is all these little particles, and then the microbes that are breaking stuff down, kind of live on like, the slime level surrounding each little particle. And so all these little microbes are going to have a lot easier time breaking down a bunch of shredded tiny bits of paper than like a full sheet or like a full chunk of cardboard that you’re just creating more areas for them…

Margaret 31:37
Or like an entire Ayn Rand book.

Paige 31:39
Yeah, I mean, that’s a good yeah. Yeah, you might need to rip that up first, which I think people would not be opposed to.

Margaret 31:46
Okay.

Paige 31:47
Might have fun with.

Margaret 31:48
Okay, cool. Yeah.

Paige 31:50
Yeah, I think that would be the ideal. I think also, cardboard and paper, worms really love it. So, you know, you could also set up multiple systems where you put something somewhere in some in another. The system that I have at the food bank demo garden here in Tucson, we have like a hot compost area, but then we also have a big worm area. And what we feed them is we feed them shredded paper, and then unfinished compost. And so we we put like a layer of paper and then we on top of it, we put a bunch of hot compost essentially but because we’re only putting like an inch or two, it’s not gonna stay hot. But we that’s what we feed our worms. And they they love it. And so yeah, cardboard and paper, I would think more of as worm food than then putting it in my in my pile, although you can. But as the more you’re able to break it down, the better.

Margaret 32:44
Are there like–speaking of products and gimmicks–I can imagine a paper shredder, and I can imagine a wood chipper. But, can you just put cardboard into a wood chipper? Or like, like, is there a way to, you know, because I think that a lot of people during the pandemic probably receive more and more things in cardboard boxes at their front porch. And, like, you know, having ways to dispose of that as like bonus besides of course just using it as like sheet mulch or I don’t know if that’s what you call it, but like the gardening purpose of laying out cardboard, you know, any any tips on on breaking down cardboard?

Paige 33:24
Umm, getting it wet and ripping it? But it’s Yeah, I don’t I don’t think you could put it into a shredder. I think it would maybe gum it up. You also have to kind of take off like the plastic tape of that stuff. Because that won’t break down. Some people get really specific and focused on like, “Oh, this is with a like plastic based ink. Like we’re gonna be putting microplastics in like the soil.” And like, there might be some truth to that. And I’m just like, we just live in like an industrial world where there’s microplastics everywhere. And like, you can not put the like plastic based ink into your compost, because of the micro plastics or you can just be like, shrug and throw it in.

Margaret 34:07
We’re all gonna die one day. And yeah, we did this to ourselves. Yeah.

Paige 34:10
I live in a city and I breathed the air here. Like, I think some microplastics in my garden is…we’re already full of microplastics. I think it’s fine. We’re just like, you know, we’re all connected.

Margaret 34:21
I mean, it’s either fine or it’s not right. But it’s like, I don’t think I’m going to dramatically improve my quality of life by avoiding that additional little bit in my cherry tomatoes or whatever.

Paige 34:30
Yeah, totally. Yeah, I guess it’s actually deeply deeply not fine. And we don’t have control over it may be my actual belief but…

Margaret 34:38
Yeah, totally. Okay, well, speaking of the ruins of industrial society, can you can you put ash in compost? Is it depend on what the ash is of

Paige 34:46
No ash and compost. No, don’t do that.

Margaret 34:50
Fuck.

Paige 34:50
Yeah. Well, I mean, like…

Margaret 34:51
What am I supposed to do with ash then?

Paige 34:53
I don’t know. People ask me that sometimes. And people were putting it into like a composting system and like using it in the humanure system, and I was Like, I mean, it’s kind of just like, it’s almost like really fine sand like it’s just not alive. It’s, it’s maybe gonna bulk it and not harm it. It’s not you’re not adding anything that the pile needs. It’s just kind of like fluff and like very dense fluff.

Margaret 35:14
You’re just putting it there to get rid of it.

Paige 35:15
Yeah. And just like based on how dense ash is, especially when it’s wet, you’re probably limiting some of the airflow which is not good. So I yeah, I don’t have a good use for ash besides, I’ve mixed it into like concrete before like when I needed to buy like sand and mix up like Portland cement. I’ve just like thrown ash in and that was fine. But I don’t know how many how many concrete projects you have in your life right now, that might not be a reasonable solution.

Margaret 35:43
I actually have more experience building than growing food so…I’m growing food as the unexplored terrain. Although I kind of hate working with concrete and I’m not very good at it. And I’m terrified of breathing it in. But well, yeah. Okay. Cement, I guess is what I’m terrified of breathing in concrete itself. I’m not particularly worried about chunks of gravel or whatever. Yeah. Okay. Okay. So no ash. Okay. But you mentioned these compostable plastics, aren’t they gonna save us all? And isn’t everything fine and plastic is great now because it’s all compostable? Basically. Okay. So like, I’ve heard this before, right? That you need that, like your plastic spoon that you get at the hippie diner doesn’t actually break down in a home compost. It would only break down on like, municipal level compost. Is that true? Is it like does it just take a lot longer? Or is it about a heat difference? Or is it all scam?

Paige 36:37
Um, it’s yeah, it’s a heat and time thing, but it’s really just a scam. I mean, I just don’t…In what world is a single use item good for the environment at all. Like it’s just greenwashing bullshit scam. Yeah, it’s also there’s interesting things about like what’s biodegradable versus compostable? Like biodegradable just means it’s gonna break down into way smaller pieces and compostable means it’s like made out of a carbon or like quote unquote, natural thing that will eventually become dirt. But,we yeah, even at like an industrial scale, like we would constantly just be pulling plastic out. And so you know, it’s kind of a thing that, you know, people do where it’s like, ‘wish cycling,’ where you like, you’re like, Oh, I’m gonna put this in the recycling bin because I like hope it’s recyclable, but it’s really not.

Margaret 37:27
I did as a kid. Yeah.

Paige 37:29
Yeah. And it’s like, ultimately, proud. Totally. It’s like a weird Yeah, you’re like, you’re like hoping something will break down. But, you’re ultimately like, making it so like, some like worker or machine is gonna have to, like deal with it later down the line. And, you know, it’s like, maybe you feel a little better about yourself, but it’s, it’s ultimately not not making a difference.

Margaret 37:48
It’s like calling the cops instead of handling the problem directly. You’re just putting it on someone else.

Paige 37:53
Yeah, it’s like, yeah, It’s kind of some weird like, Nimmy Nimmy thing. Maybe it would be a way to think about it. But yeah, yeah.

Margaret 38:01
Yeah. Okay, fine.

Paige 38:06
Sorry.

Margaret 38:07
Okay, so I can’t put ash in. All the plastic stuff is a scam. Yeah. I mean, neither of these thing surprise me. The ash thing I’m sad about. It makes a lot of sense. The way you described it makes perfect sense. Basically, because burning cardboard when when recycling is fake is something that people sometimes do.

Paige 38:26
Yeah, totally.

Margaret 38:27
Okay, so let’s talk about…you’ve been bringing up worms a couple of times. My conception of worm composting is fairly simple. It’s like, instead of the food is digested by random bacteria from the air/becomes sort of soil in the classic rot way. Instead, like worms, eat it and then poop it out. And then the worm poop, which we call castings to not sound gross is the like, some of like, the best, most nutrient dense compost in the world or something?

Paige 39:02
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, worms are a little pickier eaters than the microbes. But yeah, they’ll break stuff down really well. It’s not all types of worms. There’s like some specific worms that are better for composting. They have different names. Often people call them Red Wigglers but they’re like scientific name is Eisenia Fetida and that those are yeah they’re good worms for composting.

Margaret 39:23
It’s a prettier word.

Paige 39:23
Yeah, it’s a little prettier. Or fetid, you know, working with rotten stuff, but they, yeah, they’re not good for fishing. They like kind of create like a weird smell that fish don’t like so they’re, they’re very specific for for compost and they kind of only live in like the top three inches of soil, usually like rotting leaves and stuff. Yeah, and so you can you have to, you have to have a little more control over a worm pile because you’re not you’re not it’s not just kind of like set it and leave it. You need to make sure that they have water, that they have fresh food, that they don’t get too hot or too cold. Like there’s a little more care that goes into that.

Margaret 39:58
That they don’t get bored.

Paige 39:59
Yeah. You got it? Yeah. Totally gotta…

Margaret 40:01
Like little worm toys or yeah?

Paige 40:03
Yeah, exactly. Definitely add adding a few toys I haven’t I feel it’s a good idea to see how that affects our our system at the food bank, do some trials see if they’re more productive if we give them some, you know, we give them bread, but not circuses. So we’ll see if they’re a little more productive if we meet their needs.

Margaret 40:24
Flea circuses are the worms.

Paige 40:26
Yeah, we’ll figure it out.

Margaret 40:28
Okay.

Paige 40:30
But yeah, what else can I say about worms? Oh, it’s interesting, because a lot of worms like for compost, as well as worms that like live in our soil are mostly invasive in North America. So kind of similar to honey bees or a lot of honeybees in North America. And they’ve Yeah, they’ve really, you have to actually be kind of careful with what types of worms you’re working with, and where you’re putting the material in certain parts of the country, because there’s been really big problems of invasive earthworms. And they’re, they’re really impacting forest ecology, actually, you know, a lot of forests, maybe had a certain type of worm there, or maybe it didn’t have worms. And so part of the forest ecology is that all of these, like leaves fall on the ground and take a long time to rot. But if you add a bunch of worms to that system, they end up eating all the all the leaves, which it just changes the soil makeup. And and it’s, it’s kind of a big problem. Yeah,

Margaret 41:23
It gets rid of the mulch or whatever, right?

Paige 41:26
Yeah.

Margaret 41:26
Hmm. Okay. And so when you when you do worm composting, and you have a worm bin, you’re basically breeding worms at the same time, right? Like, do you end up with more worms than you started? And you therefore can like, go and start your new worm bin? Because you have like, twice as many worms, or…

Paige 41:46
Yeah.

Margaret 41:46
Like, do…You don’t have to like keep going by and buying worms at the worm store? The wormery?

Paige 41:54
Yeah, ideally, you would not have to make too many trips to the wormery kind of like a one and done scenario would be ideal. But yeah, they’ll double in population every three to six months under ideal conditions. They…eah, it was interesting. Like, you can get worms as like bait worms, where you buy them like 12, in a little cup, but those often aren’t actually composting rooms. And the way that you generally buy composting worms is by the pound. And so when we started our system at the food bank, I bought 25 pounds of worms, which was about 25,000 worms. And the way you kind of calculate how many worms you need is actually based on the surface area of how big your system is. So every square foot, you can do a pound of worms, but….

Margaret 42:38
Cause they only hang out the top three inches?

Paige 42:40
Yeah, yeah, totally. So if you have like, a super deep system, like they’re just not going to go that deep. But yeah, there’s a lot of…Yeah, worms are fun. And again, they they’re creating like, super high quality material. Part of that is because when they, you know, part of what’s good about compost and worm castings is like they will they add a lot of like microbes and bacteria to your soil and kind of help build up your like soil food web. And there’s a lot of like microbes and bacteria that actually breed and reproduce like within the digestive tract of a worm. And so they’ll like they’re basically eating microbes and bacteria, and then shitting out like, way more microbes and bacteria. And that’s like, kind of the thing that you want in your garden. So yeah, worms are fun. They’re cool. And they Yeah, they’ll any worm can like mate with any other worm. And then they they lay like an egg that has like, two to four baby worms in it, and then they hatch.

Margaret 43:34
Okay, because they’re not individually sexed or something like…

Paige 43:37
Yeah, they don’t. Everybody’s got all the junk. Yeah.

Margaret 43:41
Okay, cool. So The Left Hand of Darkness is the worms existence. Can you use other creepy crawlies? Like if you want to have your like goth garden where you only grow black eggplant, and black tomatoes, and black roses, and stuff, can you get like nightcrawlers or like, centipede or something?

Paige 44:01
You can do you can do like nightcrawlers. Yeah, I mean, same as worms, but you can also do people will do black soldier fly larva to break down food and it’s like, they just look like little weird grubs. And you can use those not to I guess that’s not really composting at all. I mean, it’s it’s getting rid of like a waste material and like feeding it to like, little little bugs. But then you would just use those to like feed your chickens or something. So…not really compost, but a way to….

Margaret 44:28
So there’s more steps involved?

Paige 44:29
Yeah, probably. Yeah, yeah.

Margaret 44:32
Okay, so speaking of worm casings, and poop, the–not the final question, but the final like category–we’ll be talking about human casings as part of composting, like, I know that this, you know, one of the reason want to save it for last is almost like the escalating level of like perceived grossness, right? Like I, I think people are like, “Oh, food rots. I understand that. Vegetables and rot. That’s cool.” And then you’re like, “Yeah, but what if there’s a bunch of worms,” and then people get a little bit weird. And then you’re like, “Okay, but what if you do with human shit?”

Paige 45:04
Yeah.

Margaret 45:05
And then that’s where people say that they don’t want to come over anymore. And that they don’t want to eat your vegetables.

Paige 45:11
Yep.

Margaret 45:12
But it’s actually completely fine. Well, it just takes additional safety precautions? I’m asking this is like, it’s funny because I’m like, I try to self insert as the person who doesn’t know anything about this, but I’ve like also lived on in places with humanure systems for a number of years. But,I’m curious your experience or like, how you sell people on humanure, or? I don’t know, can you give an introduction to human casings? Yeah,

Paige 45:38
Totally. Um, yeah, so you a lot of like, what to compost on what not to compost will be like, definitely not human, like poop or pee. And yeah, that’s just totally not true. You can, you know, we’re an animal like any other creating manure, and you can definitely use it. The yeah, there’s a lot of different systems. I mean, there’s commercial composting toilets that you can buy for your home that are like in the 1000s of dollars, but you can also make like DIY systems for like, under $50. Yeah, I’ve, I’ve seen a couple of different systems, I’ve helped set some up. At the garden that I work at, we have like a fully permitted humanure system that I built. And yeah, I’ve helped set up some different ones on like a land project. But yeah, you can definitely do it, the, the differences are, you just want to be really certain that you’re hitting high temperatures, because that’s what’s really going to address like kind of the pathogen problem. But if you’re if you’re getting like a big hot pile of compost, and you’re putting like human waste in it, like it’s, it’s gonna break it down, and it’s going to be safe to use. Yeah, I’m trying to think of the I think the big questions are like, at what scale are you trying to do it? And do you care if it’s like permitted or not? In some states, you can legally compost human waste at your home and some places you can’t. It’s also interesting, the like, a lot of sewage treatment plants end up composting, like their final product, and they refer to it as bio solids. And so actually, a lot of cities are composting human waste, they’re just doing it after it’s gone through like…

Margaret 47:13
That’s good.

Paige 47:14
Yeah, it’s like it’s after it’s gone through like a really like chemical heavy process to like, really ensure that there’s nothing like bad in it. But yeah, ‘bio solids,’ is kind of like the, like industry term that, that they’ve adopted to not say like ‘human shit,’ which, you know is a little more off putting. But ultimately, yeah, yeah.

Margaret 47:34
I mean, it’s interesting to me, right? Because like, I think that this, to me is an example of where sometimes people…I read a book by a purported environmentalist once that was like, “We’re animals, we should just poop on the ground.” It was this big name, author that…whatever it was Derek Jensen, I fucking hate him. I don’t care about name droping him. Fucking transphobe piece of shit. But anyway, you know, he wrote this book called “What We Leave Behind,” that I just like, even back, this is like, back when I like before I learned…I’m not a particular fan of this particular author, but I was when I was younger. And one of the first things that talks about is basically being like, “I just go poop on the ground, because that’s we’re animals and it’s fine.” And I’m like, I also believe that the idea of like, taking our nutrients or whatever, and flushing them into the ocean is a bad idea, right? But, I also believe that we develop that system for a reason, which was that before we used to just poop in the streets, and everyone would get sick and die.

Paige 48:31
Yes.

Margaret 48:32
And so, so something like this is actually really interesting to me, because it seems to be this…you know, both sides are just full of shit…I didn’t even mean to make that pun. Yeah. We’ll be here all day. Okay, and I don’t know. So it’s just like, it’s particular interesting. It’s particularly interesting to me that it’s like, “Okay, well, we actually can just do it right.” We can actually…and it’s not incredibly hard. You just actually have to do it. You just actually have to make sure that your compost pile sits for a really long time and or gets up to the right temperature if you’re not going to be you know, I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going with that rant. But…

Paige 49:18
Derek Jensen sucks. Conclusion.

Margaret 49:20
Yeah, yeah, totally. Don’t just go poop on the ground next to your dog’s shit.

Paige 49:26
Yeah. I yeah, I think it feels really absurd to poop in drinking water, especially in the desert. A lot of like municipal sewage systems were not built to the scale that they’re now operating at. A lot of them were like built to just totally overflow into like, whatever local water source there is. So yeah, I think like not shitting in drinking water and like having smaller scale ways to address like human waste I think is like a way better option and, you know, kind of similar to your other compost pile where you add like your greens and browns. In this case, the poop is actually a green, it’s more of a nitrogen rich thing. It’s not a brown, ironically. But yeah, you can I mean, I think the simplest system is like, it’s called like a ‘bucket to barrel’ system or a ‘bucket to bin.’ And you would just have like a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat and like kind of a bin built around it so it’s comfortable to sit on, and then you just like, go to the bathroom in it, and then cover whatever you leave behind with your dump, I guess, with wood shavings or some kind of carbon source. And then basically like, when that’s filled, you just transfer it out to your bin system or wherever you’re, you’re kind of doing the the secondary processing. And yeah, just like make sure that pile gets hot. The systems that I’ve helped install, and we’re actually trying to get one installed in my house in Tucson right now are either like barrel systems or like larger, I guess, bin or like a tote system. But you. Yeah, so there’s the barrel, the bucket system, or you can also build toilets out of like 55 gallon barrels where you just like put build a toilet seat for the top of it. And then just like use, use that for your waste, and you’re adding sawdust and things. And you just want to make sure that that system has like some ventilation as well as like an insect trap. And…

Margaret 51:28
I was just going to ask, yeah, if you’re doing it. Is that where you like? I’ve seen people do it where they like, take a…I completely cut you off. I’m sorry.

Paige 51:36
Oh, you’re good, go ahead.

Margaret 51:38
People take a tube and like drill holes in it, and then stick it in the middle of the whole thing. So that way, like, even as the compost builds up, there’s always like, a way for air to get in and throughout it all.

Paige 51:48
Yeah, totally. Yeah, that’s, that’s….

Margaret 51:50
I think sometimes people over design these things, too.

Paige 51:53
Yeah, totally. I think that’s, that’s definitely true, I think. I mean, I think it’s helpful to have like more airflow, especially in like a composting toilet scenario. You also like, if you have like that 55 gallon barrel, like you do need to like turn it, which you do with a compost crank, which is kind of like a long, stick with like a coil at the end. And you just kind of like you put that stick in and kind of like crank it down and pull up and just try to get like some some like mixing in there. And that’ll help the material breakdown better.

Margaret 52:22
Oh, I see.

Paige 52:24
Yeah, and then usually those are, those are kind of more of a batch system. So you would have a certain number of barrels, depending on how many people you had using it. And you would essentially use one and once it’s filled, you would cap it, and then like wait four to six months and then empty it eventually. In that four to six month time period, you do want to make sure that you are turning it, and making sure that it’s getting up to temperature to kind of guarantee that any any pathogens are dying in there. Yeah, and the other system that I’ve built is like more of like a larger tote system. So it was built out of cinder blocks. And it was like a two two section toilet. And so it’s a bigger space is going to take longer to fill. But it’s by having kind of like multiple of the same thing, then you have one that’s like aging and resting and one that’s actively being used. The other factor to consider is urine diversion. Different people have different take on it. I think if you’re doing a bigger system, like with barrels or like the bigger bins, it’s helpful to try to divert urine. So having like…

Margaret 53:27
Oh, interesting.

Paige 53:28
Yeah, it kind of depends on where you are and how heavy of use it is. But a system that I helped work on was one that like often would have like a lot of people using it really quickly. And so kind of keeping urine diverted was helpful because otherwise it would just get too moist and bulky. And like in that sense, and in those moments like it actually does get smelly and gross often. If you’re maintaining it well it’s actually not smelly or gross at all. But yeah, if it’s heavier use it’s helpful to like have a urinal or like there’s like urine diverters or funnels that like you can have like in the toilet seat that kind of helps like if people are like sitting and peeing it all kind of separate from the solids. Yeah, so there’s there’s there’s different ways to do it. But I mean, urine also can be composted. So.

Margaret 54:16
Right, yeah. Well, and a lot of people will put it–please don’t listen to me as the expert gardener anyone who’s listening to this–I’m under the impression is about 10 to 1 water to urine and then like apply as fertilizer directly once it’s like watered down that heavily. That’s something that you’ve heard ever?

Paige 54:37
I’ve heard people do that. I feel like I I’ve kind of tended to more just do like, compost everything first and then use it. Yeah, just because yeah, I mean, I think for me, too. It’s just like not It’s not easy for me to like, harvest my own urine. It’s not a thing. I feel super….Like. Yeah, I but I have heard of people doing that.

Margaret 55:00
Yeah, yeah, it just seems like the process of combining the two. 10 to 1 or whatever it just involves, like lots of…I don’t know, stagnant urine is one of the worst punk house smells that’s ever been smelled.

Paige 55:16
Yeah.

Margaret 55:17
And that’s not something that I would try to sell someone on. But, then that is the reason…As I’ve been researching hypothetical humanure systems….I have been interested to see the different ways that people take the different takes that people have on it. It seems like if you’re not diverting it, you’re just you’re ending up with a lot watery buckets, right. And so you just have a lot more. You’re saying it’s bulkier, because you’re just adding so much more sawdust or hay or whatever your carbon is, in order to start absorbing all that?

Paige 55:49
Yeah, you can, you can run through your carbon source a lot faster if you’re trying to add that. I think also like, especially with bucket systems, like if you’re peeing in the buckets, and just like, I’ve carried some buckets that were just like, I was like, This is disgusting. Like, this is just like, piss and shit and like a little bit of sawdust. And I’m not happy about this. I’ve also like, yeah, you know, trained people to use a bucket system and like, don’t ever pee in the bucket. And then the next morning, I’m like, sitting there, and I’m like, Oh, God, I’m peeing. I’m letting everyone down. I’m such a hypocrite. Oh, no. It happens. It’s a shameful thing to do I guess but. But yeah, if you’re, if you’re, especially with a bucket system, if you have to, like move it, I feel like if there’s a lot of people using it, it’s nice to maybe divert the urine just for like it weighs less, it just is less smelly. But you can also just add a lot more carbon. So like, when I’ve done systems that weren’t going to have urine diversion, I’ve actually started whatever like receptacle or container with like, a third full of whatever carbon material I’m going to be using, just to really make sure that there’s like, kind of like just a bunch of dry material that can soak up that excess liquid. And yeah, and I think it’s, you know, a, I’ve worked with systems that are I’ve gotten systems permitted. And I’ve also been around systems that were not permitted. And a lot of like, the permit stuff, like will require urine diversion, just for, like, pathogens and smells and things like that. Yeah. So I think it’s just a thing to consider of how you’re, how you’re gonna manage that, that added, like, moisture and, like, just like dense material.

Margaret 57:33
So what do you…so in terms of carbon to add, I think that this is also another thing that holds people up, right is because, you know, there’s like, oh, just add a lot of sawdust. And most people, I think, think to themselves, I don’t have a lot of sawdust. I don’t produce much sawdust in my life. Even I as someone who like makes her own furniture, sometimes and shit. I don’t produce that much sawdust compared to like what is necessary, right. And, you know, some of the places I’ve lived before will make deals with sawmills where they just basically show up with a truck and are like, “Hey, can I have your sawdust?” And the place is like, “Yeah, whatever, just get rid of the sawdust for me, I don’t care.” But it seems like everyone has different tactics on getting carbon material. And it’s like, it seems like it’s the it’s the one that a lot of people aren’t producing themselves enough and therefore go and get. And that was actually why I was so excited about like cardboard and paper as possible carbon sources. I know that for myself, I fortunately, live somewhere where there’s a lot of land and I can just like, run a push mower with a bag on the back and fill out the bag. And then this is literally my hypothesis. It’s green when it first gets cut, but later it’s brown, and it seems like it when it’s dried out. It’s more of a carbon for compost.

Paige 58:49
Yep.

Margaret 58:51
Okay, so how would you recommend 1) Am I doing it right? And 2) that other people go and find a carbon source?

Paige 58:56
Yeah, I mean, I think the sawmill thing is a great thing to do. That’s what we’re doing. Like with the garden and other projects, like we just have agreements with sawmills, and like, cabinetry places and the only thing we have to keep an eye out for is if they’re working with walnut. That’s a word that has a lot of like antibiotic, antibacterial properties and will like kind of halt the process. And so you don’t want to be adding walnut and I think there’s maybe a few other types of wood that that you wouldn’t want to use.

Margaret 59:24
Like Cedar, maybe?

Paige 59:25
Potentially I’m not, yeah, I’m not totally sure. But yeah, I think dried grass clippings would work great as a cover material. The other thing that we will sometimes do out here in the desert is like sweep under like mesquite trees because there’s just these really fine little leaves that when they’re dried out work really well. But yeah, the other thing is just getting…if it’s like just a system for yourself, and you’re not having to source that much you can also just buy like wood shavings at like a pet store, which is annoying. It’s like annoying to have to buy, buy something that you have to put into your system, but I think it’s better than shiting in water, personally. But…

Margaret 1:00:01
Yeah, well especially in Tucson or something.

Paige 1:00:04
Yeah, totally. Yeah. But it’s, you know, I think it’s up to what you have on site. I don’t know that shredded paper would be…because part of what you want to do is you want to kind of cover your poop so that it’s like not smelly and not like easily accessible to flies and different insects–and so like I’m thinking if you just did like shredded paper, I think it would just be kind of like some fluff on top but still like a lot of access for like smells to pop up and for like insects to get in. That might not work super well, unless it’s like that really finely shredded paper, but I’m not sure.

Margaret 1:00:43
But it’d be really fun for whoever’s job it is to, to steal your shredded paper in order to like, re put together your files and try and prove that you did this or that, you know, yeah, if they had to, like literally go into the compost bin.

Paige 1:00:58
Yeah, that’s a good way. Yeah. Some good security culture, maybe to compost your, your paper and I support that.

Margaret 1:01:10
Okay, well, that’s, that’s the majority of my questions. I was wondering if you had any final words about why this is like, great? And matters? And it’s so interesting? You know, you’ve, you’ve talked about, like, for example, like, like shitting in drinking water is like, not the coolest thing that’s ever happened. But, but yeah, do you have like, or any other final thoughts are things that I should have asked you that I didn’t, or?

Paige 1:01:35
I can’t think of anything right now. But yeah, I mean, I think composting is just like, it’s a way to just like address waste problems on site. It’s like small scale, it’s a way to build up soil and not use fertilizers and inputs. So, I think it’s just a really good thing to do if you’re able, and it’s fun. I think it’s fun.

Margaret 1:01:55
Yeah, I think it’d be a cool way to like, you know, one of the questions I get asked a lot is, like how people can can meet their neighbors? And I mean, obviously, sometimes it’s a very complicated question, you know, if you’re, like, I’m not in a, I’m not in a blue state, let’s say. And, you know, like, like, there’s a lot of like, complications and safety questions about, like, you know, just telling everyone to, like, run out, become friends with everyone who’s physically around them. But, it still seems like kind of an interesting thing that if, because it, it’s like me setting up a compost bin, I could easily also be composting, the five neighbors, the five closest houses, and it wouldn’t, all it would do is give me more fertilizer, it wouldn’t actually add that much more work for me, right, because it’s like one of those systems that…it’s like cooking dinner, like cooking dinner for five people is about as much work as cooking dinner for one person, and it’s just so much more rewarding. And so I’m just like, kind of interested in these these sorts of things. The other thing I want to is not what I want to pick your brain about specifically, but I also want to see more people set up like actual recycling. Like cuz I feel like that’s kind of what composting is on the neighborhood level. It’s like being like, okay, the the infrastructure that we were promised is not working. How can we actually do this? And so it’s like, what would be involved in actually, you know, taking plastics and turning them into 3D printable filament or diesel fuel, or there’s all kinds of ways that you can turn plastic into or plastic. You can make fucking Legos out of them, you know? No, no, this is just, I’m just dreaming of the day that eventually I have enough infrastructure to go run and get all the punk houses bottles and then put them on a conveyor belt and have them pulverized into sand and use that in concrete. Because that’s the only thing I only recycling I’ve come up with. Okay, this is completely tangential. Alright, well…

Paige 1:03:39
Sounds like you have to use up all of your ash first.

Margaret 1:03:43
Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. Well, I won’t make as much of it once I shred the cardboard.

Paige 1:03:48
Oh, that’s true. Yeah. Yeah, no, I think composting is a great thing. I think it is like, Yeah, I think what you’re saying about you know, market based recycling is like very clearly failed. And yeah, breaking down, like, organic matter at local levels is like a really good solution to dealing with less waste, and yeah I just building backup soils, because our, our like, you know, agriculture and food production has become like such an extractive industry, like we’re just like pulling stuff out of the earth and like putting fertilizer and all these chemical inputs and then even like, the final product of that, like our waste, like then also just doesn’t get treated as like a resource. And so trying to like, kind of fix that nutrient cycle and just have it be a lot more integrated for like food production. waste diversion. I think there’s a lot of opportunities for it. Yeah, yeah. I think the community scale is like where it needs to happen at because I think the operating…burning a bunch of diesel and operating a massive scale thing that’s just full of trash is i i feel skeptical about about how those systems are gonna are gonna function well. Oh, but you know, there’s maybe a place for them.

Margaret 1:05:03
Yeah. Yeah. And if you’re listening and your name is Joe, we aren’t trying to call you out specifically unless you are the one who keeps adding the nitrogen, nitrous, fluoride, what was the?

Paige 1:05:18
Freon.

Margaret 1:05:18
Freon to the compost. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming and talking to me about all this stuff.

Paige 1:05:24
Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Margaret 1:05:30
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, you should go compost, or just throw rotten things into the woods. Don’t do that one as much. That one’s not good. I mean, but go compost or find someone else to do the composting and then give them your organic matter. Maybe don’t show up at your friend’s house with a five gallon bucket of shit. Unless you’re like that kind of friend. In which case, congratulations. Okay, so you can also tell people about the show is a really good thing that you can do. That is the main that way that people hear about, Live Like The World is Dying. You can tell people about it on the internet, and you can tell people by rating and reviewing and liking and subscribing and doing all those things that feed the algorithms, and tell people in person. And you can also support us by supporting our publisher. The publisher is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness and Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness is a collectively run publisher of anarchist culture. Basically, at the moment, we have one other podcast which is called Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And we have every month a new feature that gets mailed out as a zine to our Patreon backers, and made available on our website for free to anybody. You can support us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and you can listen to that other podcast the same way that you listen to this podcast. And in particular, I would love to thank Shawn and SJ, Paige, Oxalis, Mickki, Nicole, David, Dana, Chelsea, Kat J, Staro, Jennipher, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, MIchaiah, Sam, Chris and Hoss the dog. Thank you all so much for your support. It means a lot. It means a lot to you know, there’s a whole team of people who have produced this podcast. There’s no…I actually didn’t ask ahead of time about who wants to be named. But there’s a whole bunch of people work on it, including Bursts, who is our audio editor, who has a different podcast that you should check out that’s also on the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. That’s called the Final Straw Radio and it’s basically the best news, Anarchist news podcast that exists. No offense to the other ones. If you’re listening you run another one, I love yours too. But, the Final Straw Radio is my go to and has been my go to for a very long time. And I don’t have any closing words. So I guess I’m done. Take care.

Margaret 00:00
Hi, Margaret here, popping back in to say, we are looking–by we I mean Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. We are looking for gaming groups, tabletop gaming groups, who would like to help us beta test a tabletop role playing game that we’re developing called Penumbra City, which is a secondary world fantasy tabletop role playing game set and kind of a turn of the century jazz and radio and an evil god king who is sending people off to war against giant beasts and all of that kind of stuff. You know, the classic tropes, like people who eat fungus and talk to rats and anarchist paladins and nihilist ex Marines who are trying to blow everything up. And slumming Lordling’s, who come down from the floating city and like basically flash their dad’s name around to hang out with cool adventures and everyone secretly begrudges. It is a class based game, not in the Marxist sense, but in the Dungeons and Dragons sense. And that there are different classes that are more important than any other decision that you make about your character. And it’s fun, I really liked playing this game, I helped design it. And I’ve been playing it in some incarnation or whatever, for fucking 10 years now or something. But it’s finally getting ready to go out into the world. And we just need some help. We need you, not just you alone, unfortunately, we need you and your gaming group who wants to run this game. It is a simplified rules system, but a lore rich world. So, we would send you a rule set and a pre written adventure, you would run that adventure with your gaming group. You could also come up with your own adventure. And then you would participate in a feedback session, which might include a survey or a conversation one on one with game developers. So yeah, please, please reach out to us. How can they do that, Inmn. You’re secretly on the line, you should chime in?

Inmn 02:04
Well, Margaret, they can reach out to us by email at Penumbra.City.playtest@gmail.com. Just shoot us an email and tell us about your gaming group a little bit and we will send you some information and see if it works out for you to help us play test. Thank you so much.

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