Category: Episodes

S1E41 – Casandra on Mediation

Episode Notes

Episode summary

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

Guest Info

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

This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.

Links

Transcript

Margaret 00:14
Hello, and welcome to Live Like The World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret, Kiljoy, and I use ‘she’ or ‘they’ pronouns. And today we’re going to talk about something that everyone has requested. Just kidding, no one actually bothers request this because they don’t know they need it. That’s actually not true. People actually haverequested this. We’re gonna be talking about conflict mediation, and we’re going to be talking about when conflict mediation isn and isn’t the way to handle different types of situations. And when we’ll be talking to Cassandra about that. And I’m very excited to hear what they have to say. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchists podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show in the network.

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

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

Margaret 02:08
It’s 2022, right now,

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

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

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

Margaret 02:39
That’s important.

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

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

Casandra 03:49
Yep. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 07:15
What’s the difference?

Casandra 07:17
Sure. So.

Margaret 07:19
Sorry.

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

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

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

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

Casandra 09:11
Wash your dishes!

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

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

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

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

Margaret 11:13
Just like quietly judging you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casandra 12:53
Yes.

Margaret 12:54
Okay.

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

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

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

Margaret 13:58
Right.

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

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

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

Margaret 16:05
Okay.

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

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

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

Margaret 18:15
That makes sense.

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

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

Casandra 18:32
I mean, we can but…

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

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

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

Casandra 19:31
Cautionary signage.

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

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

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

Casandra 20:33
Yeah. Yeah, totally.

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

Casandra Johns 20:42
Can I first…

Margaret 20:43
Yeah, please do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 23:18
Yeah,

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

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

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

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

Casandra 23:33
It does!

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

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

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

Casandra 24:07
Abolish bedtimes?

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

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

Margaret 24:58
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Casandra 26:03
Yeah, things like that.

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

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

Margaret 26:23
Oh God!

Casandra 26:29
Yeah, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 30:02
Yeah.

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

Margaret 30:43
Yeah. Yeah.

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

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

Casandra 30:53
Kumbaya?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casandra 34:59
Mediation?

Margaret 35:00
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 35:59
Okay.

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

Margaret 36:06
I don’t know.

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

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

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

Margaret 37:00
Right.

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

Margaret 37:21
Yeah, okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 38:49
Okay.

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

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

Casandra 39:19
Chicken, egg?

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

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

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

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

Margaret 40:32
No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casandra 43:27
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

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

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

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

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

Margaret 44:34
Like passive aggressive notes?

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

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

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

Margaret 46:00
Right.

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

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

Casandra 46:19
Such a good anarchist.

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

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

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

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

Margaret 47:53
Yeah.

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

Casandra 47:55
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Casandra 49:09
Oh, this was like 2016.

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

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

Margaret 49:53
Blueberry harvest.

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 52:16
Right.

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

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

52:41
I know what you’re going to say, and yes.

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

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

Margaret 55:17
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 58:07
I don’t know.

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

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

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

Margaret 59:20
Yeah.

Casandra 59:23
Yes, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casandra 1:02:18
Thank you.

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

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

S1E40 – Max on Taking Care of Medical Needs

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Guest info and links

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

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

Referenced Texts:

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

Transcript

Max on Taking Care of Medical Needs

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

Channel Zero Jingle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max 05:47
Everyone has a bicycle. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 18:48
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max 20:43
What’s this rash!

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

Max 20:48
Dirt rash.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 25:14
Yeah.

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

Margaret 26:08
That’s cool.

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

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

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

Margaret 26:46
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 30:57
Okay, okay.

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

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

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

Margaret 31:48
Yeah.

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

Margaret 32:23
Yeah.

Max 32:24
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 36:55
Oh, interesting.

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

Margaret 38:15
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 41:28
Okay. Okay.

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

Margaret 41:52
Okay.

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

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

Margaret 42:18
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

Max 44:39
Not SSRIs.

Margaret 44:41
Oh really, okay.

Max 44:42
But benzodiazepines…

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

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

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

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

Margaret 45:47
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 46:59
Okay.

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

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

Margaret 47:04
Right.

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

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

Margaret 47:52
Yeah, totally.

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

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

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

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

Max 49:10
Oh, ivermectin.

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

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

Margaret 50:57
Right.

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

Margaret 51:03
Okay.

Max 51:04
Yeah.

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

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

Margaret 51:18
Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Max 54:09
Yeah.

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

Max 54:29
Which is such a good idea.

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 56:36
Okay.

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

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

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

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

Margaret 58:16
Yeah.

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

Margaret 58:36
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 59:11
I’m Sorry.

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

Margaret 59:18
No pun intended?

Max 59:20
Yeah, that’s true, too.

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

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

Margaret 59:41
Yeah, okay.

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret 1:00:22
Yeah,

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

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

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

Margaret 1:00:48
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 1:02:24
Yeah.

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

Margaret 1:02:28
Yeah.

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

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

Max 1:03:31
Right.

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

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

Margaret 1:04:42
Yeah.

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

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

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

Max 1:05:39
Always true

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

Margaret 1:07:02
Yeah, totally.

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

Margaret 1:07:25
Yeah.

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

Margaret 1:07:41
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 1:09:36
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 1:10:11
Yeah.

Max 1:10:11
You know?

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

Margaret 1:11:10
Yeah, it’s cool.

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

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

Margaret 1:11:55
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 1:12:49
Yeah.

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

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

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

Margaret 1:13:50
That would rule.

Max 1:13:52
Yeah.

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

Max 1:14:02
No, I just all the harm reduction people out there that are still doing awesome drug work, I really appreciate them. And I think it’s been really hard for people during COVID.

Margaret 1:14:13
Yeah.

Max 1:14:14
Anybody who’s doing health care work or taking care of people, just, you’re doing good, good work. That’s all.

Margaret 1:14:27
Thanks.

Max 1:14:29
Thank you.

Margaret 1:14:34
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, or enjoy this show in general, please consider telling people about it. The primary way that people hear about the show is through word of mouth or through word of internet mouth. And if you can feed the algorithms that shouldn’t run the world that would do everyone a service. So, if you like, and comment, and subscribe, and don’t think comment is actually one of your options, I’m just used to hearing what people say on YouTube. But, if you rate and review and you do all of the various things, and you post about it to social media, all that’s shit’s so good unfortunately. Unfortunately, it does a lot of things, but make machines tell other people this is content that they might enjoy. But, it is content that they might enjoy. I hope. You can also support this show a little bit more directly by supporting on Patreon, our publisher, which is Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. I used to have a personal Patreon that supported the show. But, we’ve transitioned that over to Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness. And, if you are one of our supporters, thank you so much for making that transition with us. There’s going to be so much good content that’s going to be coming out this year, with your help, and basically it’s no longer about me. And, that’s really exciting. Honestly, it’s a bit of a relief. And so you can support us there, and you get access to content that will go to you before it goes to everyone else. And then if you back us at $10 a month, you’ll get a zine mailed to you every month anywhere in the world. And, if you support us at $20 or more, we’ll say your name right now. So in particular, I would like to thank Nicole and David and Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog. Thank you so much. And I will talk at you, and by you I mean this microphone in a closet. Soon. Be well.

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

S1E39 – Jason on Climate Change

Episode Notes

Episode summary

Guest info and links
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The guest Jason Sauer can be found on twitter @jasonrsauer. He is involved with another podcast, Future Cities, that you can find wherever you listen to podcasts.

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

Transcript

Margaret

Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or their pronouns. And this week I’m talking to Jason about what is involved in building resilient cities, like not just resilient homesteads or whatever, but like what—what are the actual sort of engineering steps that cities can and usually aren’t taking to mitigate the effects of climate change? And we talk a lot more about other things besides and his take on how climate change is going and what we might do about it or not do about it. And I think you’ll get a lot out of it. I really enjoyed this conversation. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchist podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Hi, could you introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then a little bit of your background in what we’re going to be talking about today?

Jason

Sure, so my name is Jason Sauer, pronouns he/him, although I’m not picky, and I—my background is in—it’s like, somewhere between climate change and, like, adaptation research is how I would describe it. So most of my work is focused on adapting cities to extreme weather events, either in the present day context, or looking at the future of the climate for the region. And figuring out how—what we need to change and how best to change it in order to keep places livable.

Margaret

And I’m so excited to ask you about all that stuff. Because so much of what people talk about preparedness or even, like, mitigation kind of forgets this level of scale. Either people talk about, like, saving the world, like stopping climate change, which I do in the past. Or people talk about, like, how to, you know, either you have your, like, bunker mentality people who are like, oh I’m just gonna hold up the food, or you have even the people who are like, you know, well, me and my 10 friends on the farm are going to somehow ride it all out. And I think that there isn’t enough that talks about this level that you’re talking about on this sort of, like, community or city-wide level. And so, I guess, I think my main question is like, what do you resilient cities look like? How do we build resilient cities?

Jason

So, I mean, good question. It’s somewhat like a temporal issue, like thinking about, are we looking for resilient cities for now, given the present conditions, which we’re still not great at managing? Are we looking at it for like 20 years in the future? Are we looking at it, you know, in the more deep, uncertain—or deeply uncertain—like, you know, by 2080 2100, whatever, or even beyond, although I’ve never really heard anyone seriously engage anything sort of growth beyond like 2080. I don’t know why that’s the limit, but that is the limit. So I actually had to pull up the academic definition of resilience. That’s probably that I think it’s probably the most accurate version of what myself and my colleagues are kind of looking at. And since this is behind a paywall anyway, I figured it might be kind of interesting to even bring up what the academic definition is, in this context. And so this comes from a paper by one of my colleagues here at Arizona State University where I’m a PhD candidate, hopefully soon a doctor but we’ll see. So one of my colleagues Sarah Miro and two other authors, Joshua Newell and Melissa Stoltz, wrote this paper on defining urban resilience in particular. So resilience in the city in urban context. And so, the specific definition they use is, like, urban resilience refers to the ability of an urban system and all its constituents socio-ecological and socio-technical networks across temporal and spatial scales to maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of a disturbance, to adapt to change, and to quickly transform systems that limit current or future adaptive capacity. There’s a lot of, I don’t know, generations of resilience thinking that have kind of impact into that sort of definition. But it’s kind of just looking at making cities—or making it so that the people in cities and the systems in cities, once impacted by like an extreme weather event or from climate change, can respond appropriately in terms of, like, the type of response and then also, like, the amount of time it takes for that response to sort of happen. And then also to allow for sort of this concept of, like, transformative change of, like, you can build a city that is relatively resilient now, but it’s not necessarily going to be resilient in the future. So you need to, when you’re building these systems, allow for the possibility of the thinking to change or for climate change, you know, the effects to become more fully realized and be like, okay, so we did not plan for the sort of contingency, we need to be able to adapt to that, basically. And so every city, it looks different, you know. So I live here in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of my research isn’t focused here but, I mean, this is a desert city. And we are kind of juggling the dual problems of extreme heat in the summer and, of course, like major water limitations, which are increasingly becoming a problem. And so resilience here is largely focused on basically counteracting, like, the, the extreme heats that we’re facing. I mean, it gets up to like 120 degrees a couple days, a year, sometimes, and what does it—actually, I can give some quick stats on that.

Margaret

Yeah.

Jason

I think we are currently over 100 days a year where we have have a maximum temperature of above 100 degrees, and then by, like, 2050, 2060, something like that, it’s gonna be 180 days a year of over 100 degrees. Which is like, I mean, we’re already at 100 now, so I guess it’s not like that on the thinkable. But, you know, it’s really tough to imagine, like, what that’s going to be like. And then of course, like, you know, average temperature is going to rise, but then also potentially the extreme temperatures are going to rise. So the city is really concerned about keeping this place viable in many different respects, given our current extreme heat, but then also the projections of extreme future heat. And so, like, you know, for example, I think the city of Phoenix is planning on increasing its tree canopy cover, you know, to like, provide increased shade, particularly in like critical areas, by which I mean, like, public transportation network—so like, you know, there’s not a whole lot of structures for shade out here. And so, you know, like, a job of someone like me working in resilience would be, like, okay, so you want to increase shade, like, here’s where you need to do it. And that’s along like public transportation networks, things like that, where people are relatively exposed to, like, this extreme heat and sunlight during the worst months. And you can either do that through like built structures, or you can do it through tree shade. And if the city of Phoenix wants to pursue tree shade, then they also need to balance that with their, like, water needs. So more trees means more water. And so then you start getting into this discussion about, like, well, which trees provide the most shade and the least amount of water? You know, this is the sort of, like, nuanced discussion that the city and people in the academy are kind of having about this sort of issue.

Margaret

This is kind of an aside, but if you read The Water Knife, this novel about Phoenix?

Jason

It’s on my shelf. Yeah, the author, what is it, Paolo Bacigalupi, I think?

Margaret

I don’t know how to pronounce his last name, unfortunately. Yeah. So I— what was his previous one? He had this one that was like— The Wind Up Girl.

Jason

Yes. Yeah, yeah. Sorry, that was a dodge of saying no, I haven’t read it. It’s on my shelf. I haven’t actually looked at it.

Margaret

Okay, well, there’s a book in it that it references all the time. It’s about Phoenix becoming unlivable due to heat. And I mean, it’s also about like assassins and like water mafias and stuff, right? But it’s, it’s about a society collapsing because of lack of water. And the people who go around and basically, like, enforce water law and things like that. But there’s a book in it that everyone references called Cadillac Desert.

Jason

Yes, yeah. Okay.

Margaret

So I don’t know anything about this book. But all of the characters in this other book are obsessed with this book, Cadillac Desert, basically being like, this is the writing on the wall. This is how we all should have known that Phoenix needs to be abandoned.

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

But your job is to make sure that people don’t have to abandon Phoenix. Well, I’m—yeah, I mean, I have I have more complicated feelings on that, you know, like, there’s a term in like resilience and resiliency like adjacent fields called “managed retreats.” And that’s like also just an accepted term in a lot of, like, disaster management and so forth. Like, I think it’s mostly surrounding. I mean, I think, I don’t remember exactly where the origins are. But I used to see it mostly applied to like flooding from, like, rivers that are getting, like, extremely flooded because of weird precipitation, and because of processes of development and urbanization or whatever. But you just have, like, these homes that are too close to the rivers that are like behaving pretty erratically or flooding more often than the city, you know, wants to provide aid for. And so they’re just like, we got to move these people back away from the river. But I mean, it’s also something that’s happening in coastal areas like Miami, where you have people trying to move a little farther back onto higher elevation. But in a place like Phoenix where you just, it’s hot everywhere, you know. Like, there’s parts of the city that are hotter than others, and we have some controls over it. But yeah, I mean, it’s tough to really figure out what the long-term plan is here. And water being, you know, correctly identified in those books as being such a major limiting factor here. I mean, what are we—what’s the long-term plan? Like, I’ve read strategies that include canal systems from like the Mississippi, you know. Like this—which would be a scale of engineering and water delivery, that would just be, you know, enormous. We already get water from the southern Colorado River, which we shouldn’t be getting water from, in terms of its natural flow. But, you know, we’re doing that anyway. Right.

Jason

Yeah. So I guess, short-term I’m certainly focused on that. But, you know, I’m sort of agnostic as to whether or not it’s going to keep people here or keep things viable. But it’s just like, well, what are the problems that we have? What can we do about, you know, this situation, given our current limitations and so forth, and trying to square the circle, basically.

Margaret

My own, um, before I lived—I moved to a house in the mountains. But before that, I was living in a cabin in the woods. And one of the main reasons that we all moved off of the property that we were living on is that we are next to this creek. And it was 100-year floodplain. And it became a five times a year floodplain. We’d have engineers come out and they’d be like, well, it’s not supposed to do this. And then we’d be like, what do we do? And they’re like, well, it’s just gonna get worse. Climate change is just going to make it worse. And, basically, I mean, I had one of the only houses that was physically safe from it up on the up on the hill but then, like, you know, my driveway, and, you know, my access in and out would be waist-deep and water sometimes, and all kinds of stuff coming down the creek that turns into this massive river several times a year. That’s not supposed to. So I the managed retreat, that’s what, you know, 10 of us just did so. Yeah, I mean, it can happen at the individual scale, it can happen at like the city planning scale, you know, there’s there’s a bunch of different ways. “Coerced retreat,” you know, maybe another description. I don’t know that that exists in like the literature but, you know, like, there’s good argumentation for moving because it’s physically becoming too difficult to live in this area. Yeah, I mean, to be clear, I’m not from Phoenix, I’m originally from, like, the—I’m from a suburb of Kansas City, Johnson County, which is like a, you know, wealthy, middle class neighborhood. So I’m, you know, not even from this area, I came here for graduate school. And I mostly came here for graduate school because there was an opportunity to work abroad in southern Chile. So, you know, my relationship with Phoenix is like, yeah, I don’t know what you’re gonna do here. I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to be here under normal circumstances, I’ve come to like it, you know, in some ways, and can certainly, you know, empathize with my neighbors and so forth down here. But my stance on Phoenix is a little more complicated because just like, yeah, you’ve got some problems. And I don’t know what to tell you about 120 degree weather and, like, the number of 100 degree days that are increasing, and you’re—this place has already like an engineering, like, it’s only possible because of extreme hydrological engineering. And now there’s no additional water sources to pull from so, you know, what are you—what are you really trying to do here? Yeah, no, there’s like a—there’s like moral questions. I don’t quite know how to untangle about like, you know, I’m not trying to judge anyone, but I don’t think I would move to Phoenix. I don’t think I would move to a city that probably certainly shouldn’t exist at the scale that it’s at currently. But I, you know, I understand that—but that’s—then you get into this idea of, like, why everyone has different reasons to be different places. And it’s really easy to be like, oh, you can’t go do that. And you’re like, well, I’m from here, or this is where the school is that I need to go access or, you know, there’s a million reasons why someone may need to go somewhere, so. Yeah, I mean, the majority of people moving here is probably just because real estate in California got too expensive and cost of living in Phoenix which is also like a right to work state, you know, so there’s cheap and unprotected labor here. You know, there’s a lot of less noble reasons or less understandable reasons for, like, why the city is growing. And you look at how like water usage is, you know—currently, what water usage looks like here on the grounds. And there’s definitely, you know, like, some movements toward like, get all the grass out of your lawn, like, plant species—it’s called xeroscaping here, where you actually just like plant cacti and brittle bush and, you know, various species that are actually native to the region, or do really well with very little or no water input and can handle the heat. But, I mean, there’s pools, and fountains, and golf courses, and all these other things where you’re like, yeah, I mean, I don’t know how long this is gonna go. And there’s a lot of people who live here because they can golf, like, year round. So, you know, is that the worst thing to get rid of? No. So resiliency means get rid of the golf course. Well, you know, this—if I say yes to that I can guarantee I won’t get a job here. Okay. Okay, so—but to move away from from heat stuff, some of your work has been around flooding, right, which obviously is an interest of mine, for some strange reason. It’s absolutely part of why I picked a house on the top of the hill. Like, I bought a house on top of a mountain, because I’m like, no, I’m good. This is where—Maybe, I mean, I’m sure there’s all kinds of other problems like wind or something that I just—and there’s like no soil here, it’s all rock. There’s a reason it was cheap, you know. But so, some of your work, let’s see, you talk about how you use natural landscape features to make cities more resilient to flooding. I’m really interested in that, like, what does that look like? How do—like, what are the practical steps that communities and cities are taking to protect themselves from climate change?

Jason

Yeah. And I’m glad that you kind of divided that into two potential sources for that. There’s, you know, like individual preparation, and then there’s like city-wide, you know, or city-sponsored preparation. And so there’s been a movement in the, like, engineering and urban planning spheres toward what’s known as green infrastructure. And there’s a bunch of different terms for it. But green infrastructure is basically, like, either designed, adapted, or incorporated natural landscape features, or natural-esque landscape features that can do many of the same jobs that more traditional, like, constructed infrastructure would do. Plus, it looks nice and provides habitat and potentially has all these other sort of, like, co-benefits to it that, you know—like, the LA canal is kind of like a good example of a traditional infrastructure sort of approach toward dealing with flooding issues. And so it’s this huge canal where you can dump all this water, and it moves water through the system really quickly. But of course, it’s like this giant chunk of concrete that’s dry most of the year and, number one, it’s not aesthetically that attractive. Number two, it’s also like a major source of heat, you kind of get all this concrete in urban areas and it absorbs sunlight during the day, admits it at night, and contributes to, I mean, high heat during the day, but especially heats a major issue in cities across the country because of night temperatures in particular have increased. And it’s basically because you have all this, you know, concrete infrastructure that’s free radiating the heat, you know, for hours and hours and hours. So nights just become like more uncomfortable, and there’s a lot of morbidity and mortality stuff associated with that. But then, like here in Phoenix, and there’s a funny example, there’s this area called Indian Bend Wash. And so something like Scottsdale to Tempe was having like major flooding issues, particularly during the monsoon season. Yeah, we get monsoons out here that come up from like the Sea of Cortez or the Gulf of Mexico. And so during the summer months, which is when we get the majority of our rainfall, it just comes in these like huge sheets and these, like, you know, burst events of extreme precipitation that totally overwhelm the ability of, like, soils to allow for infiltration and for the, like, drainage system at the city to deal with it. And so they were like, we got to put this water somewhere and it’s kind of got to be a zone that can regularly flood or whatever. And the Scottsdale-ites, you know, who have some amount of wealth and therefore power in the city were just like, no, we’re not going to build a canal like LA. It’s really ugly and unattractive. And so designers came back with this idea called Indian Bend Wash which is this sort of multi-use, like, greenway, I think is how it be described. So it’s like in parts it’s like a golf course, but then in other parts it’s just, like, straight up a park. And, like, place where you can take your dogs, do picnics or whatever. And then just, you know, for a couple of weeks out of the year, it’s flooded. That’s just how it is. And but at least it’s like multi-use The community really likes it. And it’s green, you know, which is nice in a sort of desert city. I’m holding any judgment on green versus not green out here, of course, but yeah.

Margaret

So it’s gonna keep it watered when it’s not monsoon season.

Jason

Yeah, I mean, yeah, exactly. And so that’s kind of an example of more of an engineered or sort of created green infrastructure practice, but at least it provides aesthetic, you know, aspects to it that the sort of other infrastructure doesn’t. I primarily work on like wetlands and other things that are—there’s like a whole bunch of other structures designed to deal with flooding that also potentially increase, like, biodiversity in cities, that can remove pollutants through natural processes, provide habitats, and things like that. So the majority of my research is actually focused on wetlands in particular, and I was looking at this city in southern Chile that has just—they had an earthquake in 1960. It’s the greatest magnitude earthquake ever recorded. The city is called Valdivia, if anyone wants to look it up. And so like portions of the city just sunk, like, several meters, I think like 10 meters in some portions. And so just—and, like, they’re on the coast, they get like 98 inches of rain per year. They’re at like the confluence of these like three rivers. So those things just filled up with water and became this wetland system. And so instead of just like paving over the wetlands and pretending like everything was going to be normal forever after that, once they rebuild, they just decided to keep the wetlands around in most cases. There’s been some wetland loss, but not a whole lot. And it actually serves as a natural drainage system for the city. So a lot of just, like, the urban areas, and the suburban areas drain into these wetlands. And the wetlands have definitely been affected by it. And we’re still studying, like, the effects of doing something like that to a wetland system. But they certainly provide a lot more biodiversity and kind of keep this sort of endangered habitat, a wetlands, alive in the city. So I’ve studied the utility of constructed and natural wetlands and modified wetlands toward increasing flood resilience and cities, basically.

Margaret

And it works.

Jason

Yeah, yeah. They’re wetlands work incredibly well. I mean, probably in part because they’re not engineered. So like, if you have a city that’s, like, thinking about building a wetland or something like that, then they have a budget, and they—and the budget is going to require some, like, design constraints and stuff like that. But these like natural wetlands are just, you know, whatever size they were naturally. And they themselves, like, just don’t really flood under even like 100-year return period storm event, which is just like a storm that’s so large that you only get one of them, like, once every 100 years or something like that. And they work great. And the wetlands are like part of the urban identity as well. Like they support a lot of charismatic species, like swans and these like particular kinds of birds. Theoretically they support otters, but I’ve never seen an otter like that far into the city. Maybe they exist. I don’t know. But, yeah, so they do all these things that like traditional infrastructure that we, you know, started doing since, like, the 1940s, just doesn’t do well at all.

Margaret

I mean, it’s funny because it’s like, there’s a move within scientific fictions—I have to think about everything point of view of fiction—but there’s like a movement within science fiction right now to move towards, like, solar punk, and towards these ideas of—I guess, I would say that, like, in many ways, science fiction got everything backwards and wrong, right? It was imagined these, like, positive societies where we, like, control everything.

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

But it sounds like from what you’re saying, and from everything else I’ve, like, read across things, the secret is to instead, like, integrate the things that we make into the natural systems, rather than, like, go out and like recreate all of the systems ourselves.

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

But then it does lead to the logical conclusion that the best way to be resilient against climate change is to not have already destroyed everything.

Jason

Yeah, and cities definitely struggle with that.

Margaret

Yeah. Because most have already destroyed everything.

Jason

Yeah, I mean, particularly with wetlands too. I—the estimate keeps changing, so forgive me, you know, I think it’s like safe to say we’ve destroyed like 70% of wetlands in the US since, like, the mid-1800s. And those are industrial processes, those are agricultural processes, which are all, you know, ultimately, you know, issues of urbanization, and meeting urban needs and so forth—in a lot of cases, not necessarily all of them. But yeah, I mean, so like, you’re telling like a city, hey, just have some wetlands, you know. Like, historically it’s like, you mean the thing that they drained in order to, like, build the city in the first place? Like, that’s? And it’s just kind of silly being like, well, step one is don’t do everything you’ve done for the past, like, 150 years and you’re gonna be spending a lot of money reversing that, actually.

Margaret

Yeah.

Jason

Yeah, there’s a concept in infrastructure called, like, safe to fail. And I don’t want to, like, get too much into it, because I don’t have the definition on hand for me, but it’s basically the idea of, like, this sort of, like command to control concept of like infrastructure and, like, perfect knowledge and so forth, just doesn’t work. It’s not true in the present day, there’s always, like, you know, freak storm events and things like that. But it’s certainly not going to be true in the future where the climate is changing and models are so uncertain about it. So the best thing you can do is allow for a lot of flexibility with your design, and to figure out, you know, like, areas where, like, this sort of like quote/unquote failure, or like flooding in particular, like with Indian Bend Wash, is totally acceptable. Like society’s just like, yeah, you can’t use that area a couple of times a week, but like, no one’s really being impacted by it in any sort of, like, major way. You’re just, like, yeah, that’s just, that’s just how it goes.

Margaret

So is there, like, because this—this concept really excites me, right, because like a lot of my, you know, political understanding, a lot of my understanding philosophically and all these other ways, is based on this idea that, like, trying to have absolute control as a losing game, and probably one that we should just admit we’re losing, and instead find ways to, like—I’m going to use words that have scientific meaningss that I’m not using correctly—more chaotically. Like, accept that all of this natural, organic, or chaotic processes are going to happen, and take those into account in our engineering, like, in how we build cities and things like that. For me, this also applies, like, socially. Like recognizing that we can never have a system of complete control of people, and instead—so it’s not, like, let everyone go do whatever they want, therefore. But instead this, like, way of engineering, or structuring things, that takes that into account is, like, something that I’m very excited about. So I’m really excited about this the safe to fail concept, then.

Jason

Yeah, it’s something that’s definitely taking hold in engineering, and actually seems to be getting through to a lot of design people. So engineers—or at least in the world of academia—certainly get the idea of it. And you can get—you can convince cities also to adopt it, but it’s sometimes an uphill struggle. And then also you just have, like, competing construction interests, like maybe there’s been a design firm or something like that, that hasn’t adopted it, but like gets the majority of contracts in a city or something like that, that they’ve already got a relationship with. So there’s like some amount of inertia on that point. But it certainly has hold within academia and research, and my experience working with some cities has been, they’re certainly open to it and thinking about it more. Because they’re certainly paying a lot for disaster relief and disaster, like, repairs and so forth every year, and they’re, frankly, you know, like desperate to lower that part of their budget. So, you know.

Margaret

Yeah. So besides planting trees for heat and increasing wetlands for flooding, what are other simple steps? “These five simple tricks to make your city immune to climate change!” Like, what else are people doing or thinking about to respond to crisis?

Jason

So like, I’m trying to think of how to answer this question. So there’s—like, I could go into, like, other engineering structures and so forth that we’re kind of using to do a lot of this sort of management, like, more locally and through like natural systems—like bioswales, I don’t don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it.

Margaret

So a swale is like a thing that moves water in a field, right?

Jason

Yeah. And so, like, a bioswale, like an urban area it’s just, like, so you have water that’s on the street or whatever, and then you just kind of like divert it to the side area, basically, that’s usually like soil and some plants and maybe there’s a tree in there too. And the soils and the plants and so forth filter the nutrients out of that storm water before it hits—by nutrients I mean pollutants too—I come from a background where everything is like a nutrient, not necessarily like a pollutants—but I mean, stuff like nitrogen—

Margaret

That’s kind of awesome.

Jason

Yeah, I mean, yeah, I can maybe go into that in a second. But like, so you have all these things that are flowing off of yards and off streets. And if you try to treat that before it gets to the water system, or like the canals, or whatever that you’re using to evacuate water from the city, that’s a lot of stuff to have to filter out. And so, but if you build these things kind of around the city, these like bioswales, they do a lot of the filtering, like, on site. And so, you know, over time, they sequester a lot of like nitrogen, phosphorus, organic carbons, whatever, heavy metals too also can get filtered out of that. And then, you know, like, I don’t know, I don’t know what the repair system is like for that. But I mean, you just swap those soils out eventually, like, because bacteria and so forth can treat some of that locally. And plants can also, you know, use some of that locally, too. But then you just have like soils or something like that, that you’re kind of like swapping out because maybe they’re too heavy in metal support the plant life or something like that. But that ends up being like a cheaper and sort of, like, more innovative solution then, you know, send it all to a central processing plant, and then spend all this money like filtering out through chemical and mechanical processes. Yeah. And then also, you get some like green stuff in your neighborhood. In terms of, like, things that individuals are doing, a lot of it is just, like, swapping out—I mean, like, here in Phoenix, I talked about the sort of xeroscaping process by which people are replacing, like their grass lawns, you know, which they were used to in the, you know, like, northern Michigan or something like that, you know, wherever they move to escape the cold that was, you know, the reason they left in the first place, but they still want some of, like, the feel of where they lived, they’ll plant grass or whatever. And then, you know, there are now—there’s movements across the city, at least in the less extremely wealthy places to do this sort of xeroscaping process where you take out your lawns and replace it with, like, either like gravel or something like that and then plants, like, naturally come up through that, or I mean, just literally leave it as the normal dirt surface here—that promotes like, infiltration locally as well, dirt ends up being, you know, or at least the natural soil here—I should use proper terms—ends up, you know, allowing a lot of infiltration that would otherwise just like go to runoff or things like that, basically, are what people are kind of doing locally. And but, I mean, a lot of these issues, like flooding in particular, is—it’s like a city-wide sort of issue. And a lot of it just has to be treated kind of in a centralized way because there’s, they own most of the substances—I mean, you know, there’s buildings and roofs and stuff like that, that cause runoff, and, you know, houses are on top of soil. And so, because they’re on top of soil, they’re blocking infiltration that would naturally happen in the region. So homes are contributors to flooding in cities, but, you know, there’s not much you can do about that.

Margaret

Are there like ways to, like, encourage infiltration into the soil? Like, I’m imagining little like, little holes you dig, like, almost like that holes or something to, like, allow more percolation or something?

Jason

You know, I’ve never actually thought about, like, local retention, you know, like, if we just built divots in everyone’s like front yard for, like, you know, like a small pond that’s dry most of the year, I wonder how much that would actually do it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a study that’s even considered that. That would be interesting as like a thought experiments. And I’m sure, you know, like a modeling experiment.

Margaret

Well, thank me in the acknowledgments when this study—

Jason

Yeah yeah. Green roofs are kind of another way that this stuff is being retained and dealt with locally. And that also has impacts on, like, the amount of heat that your home absorbs from the sun. And so that’s, you know, if you own your house, or if you have like a tenants association with enough power to, like, pressure your building owner to install these sorts of things, those are certainly things that will benefit the flood risk in your city and also potentially deal with heat too. But the majority of places that are contributing to, like, extreme heat and flooding, it’s like parking lots, roads, all this sort of like hard infrastructure that businesses and development practices and cities themselves have to kind of manage. So the pressure ends up being with them in a lot of ways.

Margaret

I mean, that makes sense. Like, that’s like one of—I feel like the current sort of generation of, like, people maybe under 40 or so, like, one of the things we’re railing against—I say as someone who’s barely under 40—is this idea that we were told we could stop climate change by like changing our lightbulbs while, you know, while being forced into car culture and while watching the US military, like, pollute more than anyone and, you know. So it—I get excited about individuals—they’re not even like solutions, right—but like individual approaches to like mitigate certain effects?

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

But I think you’re right that, like, the larger infrastructure is something that needs to be controlled in a way that actually is useful for mitigating climate change.

Jason

Yeah, I mean, I’m with you. I’ve also—we’re probably same generation—so I, like, I just grew up with the whole idea and, like, the, like, the needs for, like, personal lifestyle change and so forth, in order to effect these sorts of, like, change. And of course, you know, like, I’ve been doing this for, you know, since I was like 17 or 18. And so I’ve got a lot of years into this sort of individual, like, behavioral change and, you know, emissions are up, like, what do you—what else am I supposed to do at this point, you know. I ride my bike most places but, like, there’s got to be this sort of, like, systematic sort of change to it. And like, I say that but I’m also—so I’m also a vegan and so, like, my—

Margaret

Me too.

Jason

Oh, cool. My general thought with it is just like, I know it’s not a systemic change, but like, the amount of suffering that I’m causing through my actions is less, you know, as a result of it. And ultimately that is important to me, at least for, like, living with myself, you know.

Margaret

Yeah, totally.

Jason

Like, maybe it’s not having this sort of large structural change. But also, you know, theoretically I’m, you know, some extremely small decimal point of less meat consumption in the US. And that, you know, that’s—

Margaret

Which affects water. It’s not just an animal issue.

Jason

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there’s many, many, many reasons to go vegan for—but I mean, it’s the same thing with, like, carbon emissions and so forth too, where I still, even though I’m like, it’s a systemic thing. I’m like, well, yes. But, I mean, if I get in my car and drive, that’s carbon that’s in the atmosphere. And it’s going to be there, you know, as part of the collective problem to eventually have to deal with in the future. And so, like, I still feel like I got to do something, in spite of the fact that I don’t—I in no way think that I’m solving the problem.

Margaret

No, that’s such an interesting perspective towards it. Like, I think about it a lot of, like—like, I drive a giant pickup truck, and I defend it out of, well, I used to live in a cabin built myself, and, you know, I live really rurally. And like, I use my giant pickup truck for giant pickup truck stuff all the time, right? But I also get 14 miles to the gallon. And like, that doesn’t feel good, right? And I mean, I would love to have an all-electric one. But you know, I also have, like, you know, don’t love coal or all these other things, right? But it does, it seems like it’s less about, like, beating up on people to, like, make individual changes as much as, like, maybe like everyone kind of looking at their own circumstances and saying, like, what can they pull off? Like, if you’re in a good place where you can just mostly ride a bike, mostly ride a bike. If you’re, like, in a place where like—like, I don’t know, I spend all my time thinking about, like, whether I’m going to start DIY turning plastic into diesel fuel. Because because it can be done and recycling seems to be fake right now since COVID hit. It was always a little bit fake, but like, it seems extra fake right now. And I’m like, well that’s sucks. I still want to recycle, even though I know it doesn’t save the world, you know. So I guess it takes both.

Jason

I’m totally with you. And recycling was like another huge blow, like, you know, it was just like, I trusted that the system was like doing this well. And then, you know, probably along with a lot of people in the last like, two years or whatever there’s been, you know, more writing and probably documentaries about it. And you’re just like, come on, like, that was, that was the thing that I was like really good at and I made a point to, like, rinse my stuff out. And it’s just a lie. You know? Like, it’s in the clothes, it’s getting in through, you know, like, my washing machine and my dryer, like, decomposing the plastics out of there. You know, it’s just like, okay, if it’s not—if it’s not a systemic change, when, or how is it going to happen? You know, like, I was doing the thing that I was supposed to do, and it’s still, you know. Yeah.

Margaret

I mean, that brings us back to the resiliency stuff, right? Because like there’s—we’re not going to win. Like, I mean, we should keep trying to stop the worst effects of climate change. And like, there’s probably a difference—we’re probably facing a tipping point between like, you know, life on earth and no life on earth at some point. Well, okay, actually—that is actually one of my main questions for you. It’s actually how I first ran across you is I basically asked the internet being like, who can I ask about climate change? Like, I mean, obviously, everyone’s thinking about it right now. But who can I ask who thinks about it in ways that are useful for this show in this audience? And I know you don’t specifically—you’re not like whole thing is not studying climate change and its effects in a grand scale. But I think you have more of a sense of the grand scale of climate change than, say, I do, or most people who are listening to this might. So, the fuck is about to happen? What’s the—even if it’s not your research, like what are people say? Like what? You know, is it, like—there’s a version of the world that, like—I’ve always been a little bit doom and gloom—I see a version of the world by like 2045 where we’re living underground and growing food in controlled environments because the earth is uninhabitable. And I don’t think that that’s, like, the thing that’s going to happen. But that’s like at one end, right? Then there’s the, like, oh, well, just there’s gonna be, you know, some coastal cities are in trouble and we’ll have a little bit more hurricanes and flooding than we used to, but overall, the, you know, everything will keep on going on. Like, what do you think is about to happen? Or what do people think is gonna happen?

Jason

Yeah, I mean, the—so I mean, just to be clear about this, so, you know, of course, these are my views and certainly not the views of Arizona State University or any of my, like, colleagues or whatever. Because, I mean, there’s a lot of variation, even within the community that, you know, does climate change studies, or that works with climate change data. And what I was going to be clear about was that I am someone who works with climate data, I’m not like a climate change expert. I don’t know all the models that get used for atmospheric circulation, or oceanic circulation, or whatever. So I’m the person who like looks at the data and then, like, looks at the city, and tries to, you know, figure out what can we do to match the goals of the city with the reality of potentially what we’re going to be facing. And so, I mean, but even then, you know, I’m probably less gloom and doom than I think some people that I’ve run into who are more lay on the subject, like, but there’s so many caveats to say with this one. So my life personally, you know, like, if things probably are going to get weird in terms of how the climates going to look, and how we end up having to respond or whatever, but I perhaps, you know, incorrectly feel like I’m going to be somewhat more insulated from the effects than some other individuals or whatever, you know. Like, have money? Then you can throw it out the problem and it won’t necessarily, like, fix it, but it will make your life potentially a little more comfortable than it would be for people with less money. And that’s how the—that’s how it works. You know, like, that’s just how the country and capitalism and so forth have worked. So, like, it’s really the marginalized communities that are gonna, you know, really be facing the brunt of it. So I mean, like, Phoenix is a perfect example of this where, like, extreme heat, you know, who is it a problem for? And what are we defining as problem? So in a future where we’re getting like 180 days a year where it’s like over 100 degrees, the majority of people in the city have AC and the majority of deaths from extreme heat and dehydration and so forth, are usually from marginalized communities, particularly homeless people. And so, like, what a city is going to look like when it’s over 100 degrees for 180 days a year for, like, the homeless population is absolutely devastating. And it’s already hard enough to live here. Like, the relative dryness of everything, like, you’re constantly drinking water and, like, Arizona is not a kind place if you don’t have—I mean, it’s not kind in general, like, if you don’t have money, like, and it’s, I don’t know, this sort of conservative ideology here, it just really promotes, I don’t know, like absolute amounts of—like, if you’re having a problem then you’re kind of the person who has to get you out of it, or like the immediate people around you are responsible for getting you out of it. And there’s not necessarily this sort of, like, societal connection. So—sorry, this is a long way of saying, like, I don’t know. It’s gonna be weird for a lot of people. But in terms of, like, my faith and our ability to manage it is maybe the better question, because I don’t think there’s gonna be, you know, in some places with, like, ocean level rise and extreme heat or whatever, it’s just going to be unlivable and unsustainable for some populations of people. But like, say you’re living in a place that doesn’t face one of the imminent, like, climate threats, like sea level rise or whatever that’s just going to physically displace you, there’s a lot to manage in terms of agriculture, in terms of people’s daily lives, you know. Like, if we’re pushing public transportation as a way to, like, cut emissions and so forth, then here in a place like Phoenix, where it’s this hot all the time, then you also need to pair that with, you know, measures to make public transportation more usable and more accessible. So a lot of my answer is just, like, how much faith do I have in the systems to get us there, as opposed to like, is the planet just going to become like poisonous and ruinous, and, you know, unlivable? Because I don’t necessarily think that’s what’s gonna happen. I’m more just like, well, you know, is the city going to step up? Is the country going to step up? Is, you know, as an international collective, is that going to step up? Or whatever, in order to make things more manageable. And I think my answer pre-COVID would have been different than than post-COVID where—

Margaret

I’m guessing you’re more cynical now?

Jason

Oh, my God. Yes. Yeah. I mean, it’s so cynical that, you know, me complaining about this administration. My parents are like, I didn’t know you’d like Trump. And I’m like, I don’t like Trump. I’m just this disappointed with like the Biden administration handling of it. Like, it’s one of those things where I’m like, well, okay, like, these were the adults in the room. And like the best and brightest, this is what like the meritocratic neoliberal system has produced as, like, the people who should be running the disaster response, and who spent the Trump administration, you know, dunking on social media and whatever, and on television, and through all media accessible, and then just step up to the plate and it’s like, what, what are you doing? Like, you’re not even consistent with—I mean, like, it’s just incredible. Like, I’m now just, like, I’m not listening to anything the CDC says ever again. Like, it’s—I’m just so amazed that the CDC was, like, turned into the propaganda wing for the administration in power, you know, like, what does the administration want to do? It wants to reopen schools, it wants to get people back in the workplace, and the CDC is gonna say whatever the hell it is that’s gonna, like, be necessary to get people in there. And it’s not going to be scientifically informed. So like, you know—

Margaret

So what’s the point of having this institution if it’s not scientifically informed?

Jason

Yeah, that’s—those are the professionals. Those are the public health officials, and like Fauci is being like, we got to consider the economic impact of having a 10-day quarantine. And it’s like, that’s not your job, that’s somebody else’s job on the economy side to, like, combat what you’re saying about it. And so, like, you know, I can just imagine a climate person in the same position as like—you know, Miami is flooding and, like, New York City’s getting battered by hurricanes or whatever—and being like, just like, you know, climate change is not a big deal and it’s, like, personal responsibility, and so forth. And if you adopt—if you get your electric cars and change your personal lives and so forth, it’s not going to be that bad or whatever. And, you know, it’s just not. It’s going to require sort of coordination and so forth. And I would say there’s a lot of good research happening, and there’s plenty of good stuff, you know, from academia, and from scientists and so forth coming out about, like, strategies, it’s just like, are we going to pick them up? Are we actually going to follow through with them? Is there going to be money, you know, to actually, to do any of this?

Margaret

Have you seen—it’s as pop culture thing—have you seen? Don’t Look Up on Netflix?

Jason

It’s on my list! I really want to.

Margaret

Well, one of the things that happens in it is you have this—because people have always used—well, you know, I mean, like Watchmen use this, a bunch of other things have used this—like, we’d all come together if we were facing this apocalyptic threat from outside, you know?

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

That would be what finally brings everyone together is banding together for our own mutual interest or whatever, right? And then like—and what climate change and COVID show is that that’s just not something we can count on reliably. And I think there would be ways to shift public discourse in ways that do have it. I mean, you have some countries where the vaccination rate is substantially higher without necessarily having, like, a higher, like, enforcement or whatever of it. To my understanding, I could be wrong with this. And yeah, I don’t know, it just the sense of like, at the beginning of COVID it really felt like, oh, we’re all coming together, and like, you know, mutual aid organizations are everywhere, and then instead all the sudden people decided to just become Nazis and then run around and, like, yell at everyone and—I don’t know, and then it all just disintegrated from there. And then, yeah, watching the Democrats fail at the one thing that theoretically they were going to do. I mean, the main thing that they were going to do is, like, not be literal fascists, and I guess they successfully accomplished that. But the other thing that they were supposed to do is be, like, the adults in the room. Yeah, like you’re talking about. Because like Trump and his are like petulant crying children and—actually, no offense to children—children have much better excuses.

Jason

I’ve known less spiteful children, certainly.

Margaret

Yeah. No, I don’t know it. I don’t know. Okay.

Jason

Yeah. So I haven’t seen the movie. Sorry. I was gonna comment on. Yeah. And like—but I mean, I know what it’s about. I read like the criticism, I follow David Sirota on Twitter, and have certainly read a lot of criticism. And I’ve certainly seen a lot of stuff about the presentation of the material. And like, maybe the metaphor being a little heavy-handed or whatever. But-and like maybe, yeah, it’s not, it’s literally like a meteor about to hit earth or comet or whatever. And, you know, it’s the news being like, well, whatever, it’s a bunch of different institutions coming together to tell you that it’s not something you really need to worry about, or, you know, like, mobilize over, I guess, I haven’t seen it, again.

Margaret

It’s not a complex movie. You basically got it.

Jason

Yeah. And so, I mean, I can—certainly I won’t claim, like, I’m above aesthetics of a film or whatever, a good film, you know, should accomplish that. But it’s one of, like, the most wide-reaching climate change parables, you know, currently in existence. And I have to say, from what I’ve heard about a lot of it, it’s certainly not too far off from what we’re experiencing. And like, in a pre-COVID world, maybe it would have like, felt a little heavy-handed or something like that. But I, you know, I get the gist of it. I’m like, yeah, that’s kind of what we’re doing. Like, what do you—like, you know, they’re not even telling us to turn the fountains off or like, you know, or anything like that around here into Phoenix, and we’re literally in the middle of establishing water shortage measures. Like agriculture, out, you’re done here in Phoenix. I think we are—we just upgraded this—

Margaret

No one needs that stuff.

Jason

Yeah, exactly. We don’t need this local stuff. That’s now Mexico is problem. Also, we’re not delivering water to Mexico anymore. So, you know, like, there’s so many things, we’re just like, okay, so you’re not handling this at all. And we’re not supposed to be concerned about it, for some reason

Margaret

To go back to something you brought up at the very beginning. You know, you’re talking about how climate change models don’t really go past 2080 right now. Or like, you know, it’s talking about what’s going to happen best 2080. And you’re like, I have no idea why. And I have two answers to that, and one is more cynical than the other. And one, the—I mean, the most cynical one is, like, that’s because like, who knows if humanity is going to be around after 2080, certainly in a meaningful way. And then, but the other is, like, the just the, you know, everyone who’s thinking about it assumes there’ll be dead by 2080, even naturally. So why would we care about, like, what our children have to deal with, you know?

Jason

Yeah.

Margaret

Like, I was born in the early 80s. So I assume I’ll be dead by around 2080. If I’m lucky. So, who cares about after that? I mean—actually, it’s funny, one of the most cynical things my dad says on a regular basis—my dad has four kids and none of us have kids—and he’s like, he actually does care about climate change—but he’s like, I don’t care about climate change. I don’t have any skin in the game. I don’t have any grandchildren. Family line’s over whatever.

Jason

Yeah, exactly. Like, you’re literally telling this to your children, being like, I’m not here.

Margaret

I’m gonna be dead before it’s a problem. I’m like, I’m not. Actually, you’re not either.

Jason

Yeah. Yeah, I mean, number one, he gave up already on living forever. And that’s, you know, just—I’m not, I don’t think I’m ever gonna do that. So, you know, I’ve got skin in the game, you know, as long as the planets around.

Margaret

Yeah, fair enough.

Jason

Yeah, I mean, that’s literally the reason that people give on some of this investment stuff into, like, green infrastructure into, you know, dealing with climate change. It’s just like, I mean, sure, that’s like a theoretical thing that we, like, could have to deal with it. But like number one, I’m not even going to be here. And number two, you know, whatever goes in the other reasoning. But it’s not an uncommon thing for someone to be like, mortality, I’m dead, like, what do you want me to do? So, yeah. And like, part of it is, you know, just the limits of modeling. Like, they’re uncertain even as, like, 10 years ahead. And so you kind of like increase the amount of uncertainty, like, as you expand that time out. But like, honestly, I just think it’s so horrifying to, like, look at it, and we’re just like, okay, well, we used to think that population was going to peak, you know, by like, 2040 or 2060. I forget, like, what the actual peak date was going to be. And then like, you know, suddenly the models are just like, yeah, we don’t really see a stop to that. And so it’s like, okay, so we’ve got a changing climate, and we have a population that’s going to keep increasing indefinitely, and no one’s got a plan for like resource usage, for anything along those lines. And, you know, to be clear, this is not me being like, overpopulation is a problem. It’s more like we need to plan, you know, like, there’s not—we’re not doing a good job with the number of people we have on the planet currently and, you know, management or not, people and our, you know, resource usage put major pressures on systems. And because I, you know, mostly think in terms of ecology and, like, natural systems, even though I’m in an urban area, I’m always thinking about, like, you know, regardless—I could do a million things in a given day—I’m already a vegan, I already tried to ride my bike as much as I can, I try to do all these things, but like, I’m still impacting the environments. And, you know, like, at the end of the day, me being here is impacting natural systems. And so now I’m always thinking about, like, biodiversity loss and the things that we’re, you know, also contributing to just in, you know, even though I’m a relatively low hum of activity, compared to some people, but, you know, we got to really be thinking about that, because otherwise, you know, it’s not going to resolve itself. It’s not just going to be like, oh, it turned out to not be a problem.

Margaret

Right? Well, that’s what I feel like some people are sitting around waiting for the, you know—I think it might almost help for them to realize that scientists at this point, engineers at this point, are less thinking, how do we stop climate change and instead how do we mitigate its effects? You know, I mean, I guess people thinking about how to, like, stop the worsening of it, right? But it’s like, you know, people who are waiting around for this sort of magic bullet of, like, cold fusion power mixed with carbon capture or whatever, mixed with Mars colonization or, you know, whatever various things, like—

Jason

We’ll mine comets. Greenly.

Margaret

Yeah, totally. Yeah.

Jason

Yeah, no. There’s just a lot of things that need to be wrangled. And we need to actually, like, do planning for it. And, like, I—as someone who’s done a lot of stuff in my personal life to really try to manage some of this stuff, I mean, I work on—I’m a systems thinker and I work on this as, like, a system whole. And it’s like, I mean, what—how are we going to get people to, like, change behavior. Advertising, things like that? I mean, that’ll get some people, but then, you know, like, it’ll get perverted and politicized and whatever. So this sort of individual approach to dealing with everything is not going to be the case. And, I mean, the term “transformation” was in that definition of resilience, and I think a lot of transformation just needs to happen. And, you know, like, I’m anticapitalist and so, you know, my version of transformation is like, you know, what’s a major problem for resiliency for a lot of people? It’s money and not having enough of it, or not having a society that values them because they don’t have enough of it. So we need to get rid of that. Because all these studies that talk about, like, who are the most vulnerable populations, all this stuff is tied to poverty. It’s in poverty directly, or it’s all tied to poverty. And so if I’m talking to a city person about, like, well, you know, what you can do is like add some wetlands to your city or whatever, you also have to, like, realize that’s not going to be everything. Like, you’ve—there’s going to be flooding, there’s gonna be some amount of, like, unmanageability unpredictability to these systems. And the best way that you can deal with a lot of this is just deal with, like, inequality and this, you know, insane system of creating classes and things like that, and reinforcing them in subtle and less subtle ways. And until you deal with that, you know, you’re—it’s totally incomplete. The picture that you’re, I don’t know, the picture that you’re seeing and that you’re actually engaging with, like, you cannot leave out a lot of these issues of inequality in the way we consume things and everything.

Margaret

No, I really like that way of tying class and all of that into this as, like, all part of it. I don’t know. One of the things that I think about, one of my better friends and engineer, whenever I talked to her about these issues, one of the things that always comes up is that I think about like—like when you talk about the concrete canal in Los Angeles, which of course makes for dramatic movie sets—I had no idea what that thing was, it’s just in every movie and eventually figured it out it’s a canal. But it’s just bad engineering if you don’t take into account all of the context that the thing that you’re creating sits within. And so like, that’s always been like my argument against a lot of the, like, quick fix technological stuff coming from engineers—and I say this as a lay person—but I’m like, it’s just badly engineered. It does not work. It solves an immediate problem, but it doesn’t work in the larger context. So it doesn’t work. And the stuff that you’re talking about, about like—so a resilient city is one that’s, like, interfaced with nature, interfaced into its local context, and not just like assuming that the style of building that you use in the north is the style of building you should use in the south, and the style of greenery you have in Michigan should be what you have in Phoenix. But then also one that fights inequality, and that’s how you build a resilient city. I like that.

Jason

Yeah, no. And that’s a critical message that I’ve, like, tried to put into like book chapters and so forth, where it’s like, look, we have a good idea of, like, what causes, you know, people to be vulnerable to climate change, and to extreme weather events. It’s the same thing that’s made them vulnerable for the last, you know, like, you know, since the 1800s, and like, you know, the major rise of capitalism and industry and so forth. Like, you have all these engineering and tech solutions to things, but, you know, at the end of the day—I mean, so I also do surveys and stuff like that, about flooding and communities too. And so I have some idea of how people are actually adapting and preparing to this sort of stuff. And, you know, it’s a n- brainer. You get a wealthy person who has like flooding in their house, like, yeah, I paid a guy to pump it all out. And then I had, you know, my walls redone or whatever to deal with the flood damage. I replaced all the furniture that got damaged by the flood. Then you have like a person who doesn’t even own the home that they live in, they’re like a renter on top of it, and they could be facing eviction, you know, during the, the flood repairs, if it gets repaired, you know. And, like, it’s—there are so many things where it’s like, okay, so this person’s like a temporary refugee within their own city because, you know, their home flooded, and there’s like renovations or whatever. And that’s not going to be solved, you know, necessarily by a tech solution. You might get statistically less flooding, either in terms of like depth or frequency. But like, it’s gonna happen, like, there’s just failures in these systems and people living, you know, hand to mouth, they’re not going to be able to recover in the same way as, you know, wealthier people are, or people who have—who live in like a city or in a social governance system that actually cares about helping people recover, like, on an individual basis. Like, you just can’t ignore that. I mean, certainly install more wetlands. I’m not going to tell you not to do that, but…

Margaret

Right, totally. It’s like, it’s good to ride your bike, it’s good to eat less meat, it’s good to you know, and increasing biodiversity is a very valuable thing. Like, it’s a more valuable thing than riding a bike. But like, what, um—okay, well we’re coming up on time. And I’m wondering if you have any final rousing thoughts or something that you wish I had asked, or any final thoughts. Uh, yeah, I mean, it’s really tough, because I don’t want to just be like, the problems are systemic, and the system sucks. It’s not doing its job. So there’s nothing you can do about it up until it happens.

Jason

Yeah. I mean, like, there’s really good work at the community level, and, you know, tenant organizations and so forth, that have kind of like, pushed toward organizing and improving their own resiliency. And so I always, you know, try to remember those sorts of movements. And the fact that, like, academia is pretty responsive to that. Like, if nothing else, like the the push for novelty in academia, like, has kind of been like, oh, well, this is like another form of resilience. It’s like understudied or whatever. And so it gets, like, proper attention and study and appreciation in academia. And then like, you know, the pipeline from there as we talk to city officials or whatever who we’re partnered with, and then get them thinking about this sort of stuff. But it’s like, it’s kind of, it’s not a definite sort of thing. It’s like a tenuous relationship. It’s not successful all the time. But like, it is cool that it exists sometimes and in some places, you know, like, there’s work that I’ve done where I, you know, I can go point to an individual wetland that I’m personally responsible for, like, telling the city something about and they’re like, I guess we got to protect it then. It’s like, wow, cool. And, you know, I can go back and it will still be there, but it was already, like, getting zoned for housing and so forth. So like, stuff does happen, and there is good work on it. And you should do these sorts of, like, personal measures toward, like, reducing carbon footprint and all of that. But like, I don’t know, I think you described it as, like, climate nihilism in a in a previous podcast episode, I think with a restoration ecologist maybe.

Margaret

That part’s not true. Yeah, that sounds right. I have a terrible memory. But that sounds right.

Jason

Where, you know, it’s kind of about a, you know, nihilism is a bad thing in that you’re just like, everything’s fucked, or whatever. But like, for me, it kind of takes the form of just, like, accepting that stuff is going to change and figuring out, like, what you can do about it in the immediate term, you know. Like, if we’re able to stop climate change to some degree, great, awesome. And I’m trying to do what I can to support that effort. But I think also it felt really good to kind of let go of that expectation, because that allowed me to think about, we can actually do a lot of stuff, you know, societally, individually, to make things more livable, even if climate change didn’t, you know, isn’t real, you know, for that matter, or, you know, didn’t happen in the way we see it or to the degree that we were seeing it. There’s, there’s a lot you can do that we are capable of doing. It’s, you know, a matter of creating the will and having the imagination to actually do it. And that’s, you know, that’s how I go back to work every day and look at climate projections and so forth. And like, oof, looks pretty difficult out there. But, you know, there’s stuff you can do.

Margaret

Yeah. Okay, well, is there a way that people can either—can engage with your work, or follow you on the internet, or how would you like people to engage with you if they like what you’re saying?

Jason

Hire me. That’s the number one thing I would like them to do. Because I’m graduating this semester, theoretically, so please hire me. But otherwise, so my Twitter handle is @jasonrsauer, that’s S-A-U-E-R, you know, on Twitter. And that’s the only social media I’ve got going for me right now. Otherwise—oh, I’m sorry, I also have a—alright, so my research network runs a podcast as well called Future Cities.

Margaret

Oh cool.

Jason

Where we talk with professionals and other researchers about urban resilience and so forth, and do deeper dives into particular subjects like green gentrification and, you know, engineering, resilience, and so forth. So they can certainly check that if they want to. It’s pretty nerdy stuff.

Margaret

Okay. Well, thank you so much.

Jason

Yeah, thank you. I really had a lot of fun.

Margaret

Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this conversation, you should tell people about it. You should tell people about it on the internet, or in person. I say the same thing every week. I try to come up with new ways to say the same thing every week. Isn’t that fun? It’s fun for everyone. It’s fun for you. It’s fun for me. Hurray. But it really does mean a lot for the show when you tell people about it, it’s pretty much the only way that people hear about it. And you can also support the show by supporting our publisher, which is Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is supportable at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. There’s not a lot of stuff behind a paywall, but if you pay a certain amount a month, you’ll get a mailed print zine every month. And either way, you’re helping support a whole bunch of different read projects that are going to be coming out this year. I’m really excited to show you all what we’ll be doing. And in particular, I would like to thank Nicole and David, Dana, Chelsea, Starro, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog for your support. You make this show possible. And so just everyone for listening because if no one listened, I probably wouldn’t do the show, which is maybe terrible. Maybe I should be willing to scream into a void. But I’m not. I prefer talking to an audience. Even though I’m actually just talking to a microphone in a closet. It’s somehow the same, or different? I don’t know. I hope you’re doing well and I hope you continue to do well.

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

S1E38 – Gregg on Suburban Organizing

Episode Notes

The guest Gregg can be found on twitter at @greggawatt.

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

Transcript

Live Like The World is Dying: Suburban Organizing

Margaretkilljoy
Hello and welcome to Live Like The World Is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Margaret Kiljoy, and I use she or they pronouns and this week I’ll be talking to a friend of mine named Gregg about suburban organizing and suburban preparedness because we’ve had a bunch of episodes on urban stuff and we’ve had some episodes on rural stuff and those aren’t the only places that people live. Some people live in the intersection between the rural and the urban or the sub-urban as it is sometimes referred to. In fact, a lot of people live there. I grew up there. Which, I guess I should just own. I think I say that in the episode, so you know it’s like supposed to be this like dirty secret, but the suburbs are are far more interesting and complex than people give them credit for in media. And so here is going to be Gregg talking about that, and I think you’ll get a lot out of it, even if it’s not where you live. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Da da duh duuuh.

00:00.00
Margaretkilljoy
Okay if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then I guess kind of a little bit about your story. How did you come into suburban organizing?

00:53.82
Gregg
Yeah, my name’s Gregg. I go by Greggawatt on the internet, most places. My pronouns are he/him, and yeah, I have been a lifelong anarchist. I don’t want to call myself an organizer, but I have been somebody who is always…I cannot stand still and I always have to be doing something and getting involved in some project, and during the pandemic I decided to move out to a little bit further out from the the city and move into the suburbs, mainly to get more space, to garden, and of course it didn’t last long until I was trying to figure out like, “Okay, how do I find people I can connect with to work on stuff.”

01:38.60
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, and and I mean it’s it’s funny because one of the main questions I get asked all the time at my show I’m always talking about the importance of community and and for the most part I mean my neighbors know who I am, but I don’t like hang out with them all that much. You know, I’m sort of a shy, introverted transgirl in a rural environment personally, and and so people always ask “How do you talk to the people around you?” and there’s it’s sort of an implied difference between the sort of the political radical and then the people around you. And, everyone no matter your environment, you always think it’s sort of unique to your environment. You know the, the main concern people have in rural environments is, you know the Trump supporters who live around you or something like that and and my rude assumption is that what you have around you would be like sort of do-good-er liberals who are on like Next Door too much or something, and so I guess I’m wondering, what is the political environment that you’re around and and how does that influence talking to people and how do you deal with that?

02:43.89
Gregg
Yeah, so I’m in the Bay area so that makes the the conversation a little bit different than it might be in in some other areas, but it’s it’s definitely it’s a mix. So, there is your Liberals. The mayor of the the city that I’m in is a Progressive. And you know, advocates for affordable housing. That’s his, has been his whole job, his whole life. He’s working in affordable housing. So you have like a mayor who’s very progressive. Um, and then you have liberals. You have Biden supporters, and then you also have your Blue Lives Matter types.

03:11.72
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

03:22.36
Gregg
They have….There’s Blue Lives Matter flags in my neighborhood. You know and they, and and there’s a lot of American flags, more American flags than I think I’ve ever seen in my life, but you know, especially around the fourth of July, and you know then every once in a while there’ll be a gay flag. You know, a rainbow flag, or there’s, there was a lot of Black Lives Matter signs last year when in 2020, Summer 2020, when we first moved here. Um, and that I think was just like the whole country was sort of getting, getting on board with that.
But, there is also a good contingent of like your anti-vaxer Q’anon Trump supporter types, who you know, for example…so one of, one of the things that I’ve gotten involved in doing organizing out here is there is a Black Lives Matter group that is local. One of the projects that they’ve taken on is trying to get the 1619 Project to be taught in the schools. Well, if you know anything about the current environment of like school board politics, the Right is crying about teaching kids critical race theory, which the 1619 Project is not critical race theory. Critical race theory isn’t even taught in in schools in any form, but it raises this this tension now like where you know, one of the main organizing tools right now is to go to school board meetings, and make sure that you have a voice there every single meeting, to have somebody there who’s like “Yes, you should still be doing this this project. Yes, you should still be looking at the curriculum, and making it more true to the American history.” And then you have people on the Right who are against masks who ah, who use the the the keywords of like critical race theory and what-not. So yeah, it’s kind of a wild ah mix of of people,and so like you have to deal with with people who are never going to be on your side, and that’s a difficult thing to deal with coming from like a more urban center where like the worst you would have to deal with is like a Democrat who’s a little bit too much into Hillary.

05:46.43
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, yeah, I think suburban Blue Lives Matter people are like scarier to me than rural ones and I…you know, it’s like I’ve had these conversations with like my neighbors where like, I’m wearing a dress and they have a gun on their hip, and I’m like “Ahh, this is fine,” but I feel like in my head the suburban ones, and maybe this is, I don’t know, I have this presumption that they would be… uhhh… that I would have less class alignment with them or that, you know like, like people talk about Trump’s base as the rural white poor, and my impression is that Trump’s base, like in terms of actually who got him elected is the upper middle class rural and suburban white you know folks. Is that, is that accurate? I mean am I completely off… Ah, like the idea of suburban Blue Lives Matter people just actually are way scarier to me.

06:42.97
Gregg
Yeah, when you’re in the suburbs you’re going to be coming across people who are more affluent and so yeah, you had, you would hit the nail on the head there. There is, there’s like much less, you would have much less in common with somebody who is a a suburban Blue Lives Matter type. Because they they are well off, they, you know, they have they have a house, and they pay their taxes, and they you know support their police, and like it’s it’s a little scarier I would say. And I think that you get less of that feeling of like, and I’m talking out of never been living in in rural America, but like I get this feeling, more feeling, of like there’s a self, there’s a self-reliance aspect that I as an Anarchist can like vibe with.

07:32.89
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

07:38.50
Gregg
I can be like “Yeah, you just want people to leave you alone and like do your own thing.” That’s cool, but I get like in the suburbs, there’s like a feeling that everything should cater to you and that’s from the schools, to the city, to the police, to all of these city services that like you… It’s very individualistic. Like to get anywhere you have to get in a car and drive

07:58.85
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

07:59.00
Gregg
Unless you just want to walk around your neighborhood. And that I think really changes your outlook in some ways. Yeah.

08:07.67
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, that ah, that entitlement, the ‘entitled to everything working for you,’ I think that’s what makes it scary is because like, someone who is in the process of losing power is at their most volatile in a way where, I don’t know, people who are sort of used to not really having power over the people around them probably are less interested in wielding power over the people around them. You know, as compared to I mean homeowners associations. I think my my first inkling of like Libertarianism as a kid… Definitely went through a teenage Libertarian phase until I found out what a horrible thing Capitalism was. It was the 90’s. Whatever. And and the first thing that ever made me aware of it was homeowners associations, because when I was a kid I grew up in the suburbs and I was like, “Well what do you mean we can’t paint our house like pink with purple polka dots. It’s our, it’s our house. Like why would that be anyone else’s business?” And the idea of living somewhere where your business is everyone’s business seems really weird to me. But…

09:13.86
Gregg
Yeah, luck, Yeah luckily I don’t have an HOA near me because I probably would have already pissed them off by by tearing up my lawn. But yeah, I mean, there’s there’s HOAs around here and so to go into some of the the organizing that I’ve been able to do is that there is a measure in the city to put up license plate readers and I am somebody who has been anti-surveillance for ever–

09:38.66
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

09:51.78
Gregg
–And this was something that the local Black Lives Matter group was against. The Progressive groups saw a problem with it as well, and it was something that I was like “Okay I mean.
I need to figure this out a little bit and see what what’s going on,” and so I just, I emailed the police department I was like “Hey, what’s up with these cameras.” And, um, it was a startup that they went with, and they answered some of my questions. But, then I like did a follow up of like “Hey, did you have a, uh, request for proposals? Did you talk to any other companies? And then he just stopped talking to me. I was like “Well guess what, I have the government on my side.” So I did a Freedom Of Information Act request for this information and was able to get a lot of good data about the the relationship between the company and the, and the, and the City. And, uhm, the proposal still went through, sadly, but it was able to get people together, and posting about it online. You could see people in the city being like, “Yeah, I don’t want these cameras around. Why do we even need these?” And, the HOAs actually were the ones to push for the cameras first, because the HOAs bought these cameras from this particular company.

10:58.14
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

10:59.92
Gregg
And got them set up. And then the company used these HOAs as an example of like “Hey, we’ve already deployed these in your city in these HOAs. It’s not that much more to do a few more around the city. So yeah, the surveillance company was able to actually, you know, win that contract with some of those arguments. Sadly.

But, it just shows that like HOAs are are sort of these entities that that can be testing grounds for increased policing and increased surveillance that is later going to be used as examples of like, “Hey this is something that works,” especially in a suburban context where HOAs do have political power, and are able to kind of control space in that way. Yeah, that was interesting.

11:46.47
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, that I guess that doesn’t surprise me that they they tie in together like that. But, with the organizing you did against it, I mean one of the things I think about as you say that it’s like…like organizing isn’t necessarily about winning. Winning is really nice, and we should always try to win. But, usually it seems to be about like bringing people together and sort of gathering power and recognizing the ways in which…so the fact that you can use that to make in-roads with different uhh parts of your community seems like, you know, “the real treasure was the friends we met along the way,” or whatever is absolutely true with organizing.

12:23.52
Gregg
Definitely, yeah, like, and again, I hate…I don’t consider myself an activist. I don’t. I have criticisms of of Activism, but I am like a Do-ist. Like, I want to be doing the work that I want to see in the world.

12:36.47
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

12:42.55
Gregg
I Think like, 1) if if you’re somebody who like finds yourself in an area where you have no people with your political affinity. I think part of it is just like finding people who are doing the thing. Like you don’t necessarily need to find everybody who’s like a Leftist or an Anarchist, but you know there are groups in my city who do, you know, sustainability gardening. So they go to people’s houses and they rip up their lawns. That’s extremely–

13:14.57
Margaretkilljoy
That’s cool.

13:18.86
Gregg
–Yeah. That’s extremely in my…in my interests. And when I first moved here I was like “Yes, that’s something that I want to do. I want to learn about it,” and so I did I went to one of their sessions and like ripped up somebody’s lawn and spread mulch and that was like really satisfying and then like making those connections with people of just like yeah this is… we’re building the world. We want to live in. We’re planting fruit trees. We’re, you know, bringing back the pollinators and whatnot. And like, it’s also a two-edged situation that like this group doing this work is actually really important because the city itself raises their water rates, and is going to raise them again, and so people are now thinking about like “Oh crap. Like, I can’t actually sustain the kind of water usage that I need. I need to actually change my…what I’m doing.”

14:04.77
Margaretkilljoy
Because like lawns are one of the biggest water sinks, right?

14:16.86
Gregg
Yeah, and they’re just useless, but like you know, and so like doing that work and connecting with those people I think is, is, was really important. And like it was also you know around the cameras . It was finding like, of course, like the the groups that cared about racial justice, of course they were going to be against this, because they don’t want police to be able to harass people even though there’s like stories in the New York Times about this particular camera company being used to harass people, Ah um, you know, um and get their data. But, and that’s fine, and I was able to meet a lot of people through that process. And, it’s like building those relationships with people who aren’t like, they probably have never read Emma Goldman, and that’s fine, but we’re all we’re all doing the same sort of work.

14:50.61
Margaretkilljoy
Hahah

14:56.10
Gregg
And they, and, when, when things get bad, which they will, having those connections I think is is really important. Like, I’ve been able to meet people around my neighborhood and and it’s really important to just like we… I’ve just been like, “Hey, let’s hang out.” And, so we’ll bring over food. We’ll bri– we’ll, we’ll bring over like you know some drink, and we’ll just chat and be very cordial. But now it’s like, “Okay I know you. I know where you’re at we know each other. We recognize each other when we see each other we wave.”

Like yeah, I’ve been able to meet like most of the the houses around me and especially like my next door neighbors, and be like “Hey, if you need anything, let me know. Hey are you doing okay? Oh, hey, you have fig trees or you have apple trees. Well, I have a fruit picker. Let me come over and pick some fruit for you and–

15:49.18
Margaretkilljoy
Wait, what’s a fruit picker? is it like a like a low robo arm thing that you like reach up and grab things with?

15:51.28
Gregg
Oh, I wish. It’s just a long pole with a basket on the end.

16:02.90
Margaretkilljoy
Oh, cool.

16:13.72
Gregg
And like, I, I bought one years ago just because I would… in my old neighborhood, I would just walk around and and find fruit trees and if anything was hanging off the edge I’d pick it.

16:15.00
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

16:15.60
Gregg
But like you know tool offering. You’re creating that like, “Oh yeah, we have, we have things we can trade.” And just the other week, a woman who is like, “Oh, I Love your garden out front. You should come over and see my garden,” and she had I want to say fifteen fruit trees in her backyard.

16:35.73
Margaretkilljoy
Whoa.

16:49.67
Gregg
And like, she’s like, “Oh yeah, my husband’s a master gardener,” and like she’s a pastor. Like she’s, she’s you know, she’s, in in the religious realm, but like she’s liberal. She’s like….she cares about helping people, of course, and like it was like, ‘Oh yeah, we have this shared interest.’ We both really like gardening. We we want…we could talk about like similar foods we wanted to plant or do, and now like okay now we have that connection. So if things are bad, we can interact in that way.

17:07.90
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

17:08.36
Gregg
Like, I think that suburban life wants you to be isolated. It, It thrives in isolation. That’s why it was created. But, I think that there are ways to break that isolation. I think it’s just as simple as just like making yourself more available. And it’s hard. We, You know, we all have lives. I have a full time job, and you know, I’m raising a family and all that stuff. So, it is hard to make the time. But yeah, I feel better when I when I do make that time.

17:38.64
Margaretkilljoy
No, this is really interesting to me because one of the things that I always present or that I think about a lot is like one of the things I think this sort of the Anarchist role is sort of the the anti-organizer or something, the… Okay people always say when the apocalypse comes like some you know strong man will take over, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that when you have a power vacuum, kind of the first person to present an organizing model that sounds halfway reasonable like people tend to go with.

18:10.64
Gregg
Yeah

18:15.70
Margaretkilljoy
And I’ve seen this in small scales where I’m aro–You know, hanging out with like 20 people or something and none of us know each other, the first person to be like, “Hey this is what we should do,” kind of wins, right?

18:19.00
Gregg
Yeah

18:20.00
Margaretkilljoy
And, and what anarchists I’ve always felt should do is, and even those of us who hate organizing like me, is present present an organizational model that is non-hierarchical, basically like being like, “Oh, well, this is what we should do not like ‘I’m in charge.’ But here’s a means by which we can make decisions. Here’s a means by which we can come up with what we want to do collectively, like you know, and it’s interesting to me because I hadn’t quite thought about this but one of the big things about the white American settler project is to create these like unmarked spaces, you know–

18:54.58
Gregg
Yeah

19:11.79
Margaretkilljoy
–this like place that is devoid of culture and devoid of interpersonal relations and things like that and the so the suburbs sort of exemplify that, so it actually sort of makes sense ah in some ways that’s an organizational void that if you step in and say like, “Oh, well we can…we can share tools,” You know it’s like, where I grew up, you know when I was younger, there would be block parties because someone on the block organized a block party, right?

19:55.10
Gregg
Yeah.

20:08.43
Margaretkilljoy
And then I don’t know what happened maybe that person stopped or moved or I’m I’m not sure, and we just stopped having block parties, and, and so the barriers come back up between people. But, they, but they can go away. I don’t know this is just… sorry I’m almost like I’m not nostalgic, but it’s like it’s just really interesting to think about the suburbs as this void that therefore is like fertile ground in a way that I hadn’t really thought before we started this conversation.

20:10.14
Gregg
Yeah, I’m not convinced that it necessarily is–

20:14.91
Margaretkilljoy
Mmm, okay.

20:27.60
Gregg
–but I think it is an area that is ignored often.

20:31.80
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

20:31.5
Gregg
You never hear the cool kids saying, “Let’s go move to the burbs!” But like people live here.
And actually a lot of people that you may want to be around live in the suburbs.

20:42.64
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

20:46.40
Gregg
Like, I feel I feel like as white people overwhelmingly re-enter like urban spaces there are are families who you know who are pushed out to the suburbs and that’s where they’re living and it’s like if you want to actually be around people who aren’t just like rich white people who are… who want you know coffee shops up and down everywhere, like that’s one place you can find it. There’s something, I think there’s something to that and, you brought up block parties and it got me thinking about like, there’s this, there’s this, so there’s this phenomenon that’s like the National Night Out. Do you know about this?

21:15.95
Margaretkilljoy
No, I don’t.

21:23.23
Gregg
So, there’s… it’s a pro cop thing. It’s like the National Night Out where they throw block parties all over the neighborhood to essentially like, they bring the police, and they bring the fire truck out and they they have like you know, ah somebody dressed in a furry suit that has like you know a fireman outfit on or whatever, and it’s like trying to get like the community out to, so you can meet your neighbors, but it’s like it’s still is mediated by the State because it’s like used as this way to like promote, you know, either fire safety, or public safety, or all these myriad of things, or like community or Neighborhood Watch type things. Um, and I was talking with another person I know in town who who does organizing and I was like, “We need to have something that’s not this. Like we need to have a counter for next year,” and and she was like, “Yeah, definitely.” So, I think that like block parties are definitely a way, and like if you already know people who are like, “Yeah, I don’t really like the cops,” having something that’s like counter to that, that’s just like, “This is, this is our community. This is our way how we keep our say… ourselves safe,” like and, kind of have the anti-
Neighborhood Watch contingent–

22:41.97
Margaretkilljoy
Have you done that? Have you gone to do that yet, or is that that this year, next year or something?

Gregg
Not Yet, it will probably be next year–

Margaretkilljoyy
Okay.

Gregg
–because the the day’s already passed for that one and so we’d probably do something you know along that lines. But yeah, like yeah, I don’t know. Um, yeah I think that there’s there’s also like a fertileness of like there is, there’s more space that you can kind of um, like there’s more physical space.

23:08.93
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

23:17.30
Gregg
I think out here. When you’re in an urban environment, everything is, is definitely overwhelmingly like built up, but like where I’m at I have very quick access to like pretty intense nature. Like there’s coyotes who come into the neighborhood, and deer who regularly walk around, and um I don’t know, that kind of access is nice.

23:33.87
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah I actually see more wildlife on a regular basis when I visit my parents, even though I literally live in the woods.

23:42.40
Gregg
Yeah.

23:53.12
Margaretkilljoy
When I see deer near my house I get really excited. I mean, I see them once a week or something like that, But you can, but the…the wildlife, there’s some word for this that I don’t remember right now, the like where the wild and the suburban encroachment overlap is a place that wildlife is very visible I think partly because the habitat has been cut away but also because there’s all that physical space.

24:05.62
Gregg
Yeah.

24:12.73
Margaretkilljoy
I Guess I do want to walk back like what I was saying earlier about like, “Oh the suburbs is this like white void.” I Definitely don’t mean to like paint all suburbs like that and I actually um, certainly the, the one where I grew up, was fairly racially diverse and actually fairly class diverse. And, it’s incr… well’s not increasingly class diverse. It’s increasingly lower class as working class, as people move out of the city because of displacement because of rich white people who want to move into the city. So, so, I wonder whether we have like more… There’s like the suburban ideal, the sort of like 1950 s you know, housewife vibe whiteness, no culture thing, and then there’s the actual lived experience of the suburbs which I guess is is fairly different from that for.

25:04.98
Gregg
Yeah. Yeah, I mean I grew up kind of in the suburbs like part of my growing up was in, was in the suburbs as well. It was, ah it was a place as a child to get bored, umm.

25:21.37
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

25:24.21
Gregg
And like I, there’s a lot of opportunity in boredom.

25:28.31
Margaretkilljoy
Yeeeah.

25:43.73
Gregg
And, and, and, I think that even as an adult like there is opportunities in boredom that, you know it’s like, “Oh, today I’m going to find out like what this weird plant I came across was.”
Instead of like constantly being inundated with like activities or social engagements like there was, there is some advantage to being like more alone and I guess you, you get this being in a cabin in the in the wilderness, but like there’s being in a more Urban center, you’re so busy.
And now I feel, I feel very un busy now in a way that’s like, “Oh, I can get into the more deep work that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time,” but also just like exploring these spaces that I just didn’t have access to. I don’t know what I’m saying there exactly, but like it. Yeah.

26:17.50
Margaretkilljoy
No no, that’s it, it’s slower I mean and that is like part of what appeals about… I think one of the things That’s so annoying about the American myth of the suburb is that like the way the American suburbs were largely constructed as as far as I understand them, I mean 1) There’s a lot of racism built into it and specifically like, “We Don’t want to pay taxes but we want access to the city,” You know, and like the wealth fleeing the city or whatever you know and all this terrible stuff. But, the the actual physical infrastructure of the suburb, of like having homes and yards and parks and you know there’s a lot to recommend about living in some kind of population density, and being able to share and centralize some types of you know, power systems and and sewer systems and things like that, while at the same time… I don’t know, I mean like honestly just like straight up if someone was like, “Where, where would I, where is like the easiest place to survive the apocalypse?” Besides the people, and actually depending on the suburb maybe including the people, I’d probably pick the suburbs, because in you’re like well I I have all of the space to grow food. But I also have access to people who are one of the other main resources. People are not resources, but you know one of the main other advantages that we could have in any kind of bad situation. A completely different structure. I mean, I guess the actual better structure is the sort of village thing. Of course then you run into the weird the way the suburbs are being redeveloped into these like corporate villages or whatever is also kind of gross. So I don’t know there’s nothing that can’t be made gross. I don’t know where I’m going with this.

28:00.63
Gregg
So, I feel like in the suburbs. There’s a lot of opportunities for like…that that have been taken, of course this is by, not by by organizers or radicals, but like there’s like different ways of living and that have been tested in the suburbs and one example is like the Eusonian model that Frank Lloyd Wright built where he attempted to, he made these very pretty houses, being an architect, but they had a model of like how a space should be designed like it was very open styles. It was like this. The kitchen was de-emphasized because they didn’t think that the kitchen mattered that much. I’m not saying that these these were good, but I think that we’re heading into a new era that like we’re going to have to start rethinking how houses actually exist. And, like these suburban houses that exist right? now are extremely inefficient. Like my house right now is a two-story home and the top half gets hot, while the bottom stays very cool and it’s like well great good job there thinking of that thirty years ago.

29:58.72
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

30:13.34
Gregg
You know, and like being somewhere where it’s going to get affected by global warming. If we’re, if we’re all thinking about like, “Okay we all have these same homes,” like when you’re in a suburb, at Least mine, there’s only like 5 different homes that exist. So like if you can connect with your with your neighbors and in a way and they’re like, “Hey, you have the same home I do. I do. What modifications have you made to make it more energy efficient? What things have you done?” Because you have these templates that you can go like okay like,”These are exactly the same,” and I think that like maybe there’s a way that we could start experimenting just because there’s more similarity and I’ve thought about that a lot I haven’t done any like major renovations yet. But, we have these buildings. We’re not turning them down anytime soon. How can we make them more efficient. I Think that what most people do is they just slap solar panels on top and and some batteries, and call it a day. But, yeah.

30:57.86
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, the the mass-produced house thing. It’s interesting to find an advantage to that right? Because I mostly see this as this like major disadvantage. I remember when I moved into a barn that my friends built, where the the top half was finished. And had like a proper attic and everything I was like, “This building regulates temperature better than the house I grew up in,” you know, and this was just like built by my friends, and because it…and it was built cheaply, but it was built cheaply through like DIY scrappiness, not. “How can I maximize my profit extraction of building this structure,” you know and um, like no one’s going to accuse these suburban homes of being overbuilt anytime soon, you know, and I read all of these construction forums all the time and you can tell who’s like the homeowner versus who’s the the contractor because the…or the ‘home builder’, because the home builder is like, “Oh yeah and in this place, in this place you can get away by using with 2x3s, and you know or whatever possible cost savings that they can build into it versus the like you know here’s how to put hurricane ties on everything, and you know versus, as compared to people like, “Oh, you have to put hurricane ties on if you’re below the such and such latitude line,” or whatever. Um, so it’s it’s interesting to me to see these advantages, because yeah I wouldn’t think throwing solar panels on it is the way to go, and I mean I guess you could put a battery on it. But, it’s like grid tie solar to me makes more sense anyway, because from my point of view battery storage is the big ecological downside of Solar. But okay, so so what would you do? What would you do to this kind of house? I assume like blow in more insulation in the attic or like what what can you do to a house?

32:43.41
Gregg
Yeah, yeah, I think the first thing that I that I would…big project that I’d like to take care of is like water reclamation, and figuring out like where, how things go because all the all the down spouts are have to get into the weeds, but like having downspouts on every single corner of your of your property, it’s like, “Oh yeah, how do we, how do we pipe this all together?

33:07.90
Margaretkilljoy
Oh yeah, totally.

33:22.14
Gregg
Instead of just like gathering things in a bucket. But like yeah, the heat, the heat situation I haven’t really figured out too well, and it’s something that I just need to do more research on,
along with all the other projects that I have, so I don’t have anything specific yet. But it’s something that I think about, and like as I get to know more people around me and be like, “Oh…” like I for, okay so here’s ah, here’s a good example. So I went into a a a friend’s house down the street, they have the exact same house, and I’m like, “Oh, your house is a lot…brings in a lot more light than mine.” All they had is different paint and different paint on their walls I was like, “Of course, we need to paint the walls, so we can bring in more in natural light. And it’s just like stuff like that that makes you think of like other things that like, you could get this from just like going to random people’s houses and be like, “Oh yeah, that, you’re doing this this way I’m doing this this way.” Then I can get ideas off of it. But, I don’t know, it just interesting to see like the exact same house and like see okay here’s the different ways you can make it work for you.

34:13.00
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, no, I was interested because I have a feeling that people in the city can do kind of similar things with apartments and I know that, you know, where I live, it’s like all of our houses are totally, all the cabins and stuff that people I know build are all pretty different from each other in a lot of ways. But then we all are constantly like learning from each other about like how to wire solar, or what kinds of insulation actually work, or which natural building methods are total garbage, and which ones actually make sense in our climate and, it’s cool. I Don’t know I I kind of have this like happy little vision of like a permacultured suburb as like ah you know all the lawns ripped up, and fruit trees everywhere, and water reclamation, and all this stuff that HOAs always would you know absolutely despise.

35:03.57
Gregg
Yes.

35:07.74
Margaretkilljoy
It’s a little like dystopian versus utopian conflict within this ah very separated space and again I don’t know, I don’t spend much time in suburbs anymore, so it’s it’s hard for me to totally conceptualize.

35:19.22
Gregg
Yeah, and along with that like the the place where I’m in, the having the water situation makes everybody thinking thinking about like, “Oh, I’m going to turn up my lawn,” and like that, having that shared narrative of like, “There used to be lawns. There are no longer lawns, because it is financially not feasible anymore, because water is costing more and we’re in global, global warming times,” makes everybody start being like, “Oh, what are you doing with your yard? What kind of trees are you putting in?” You can kind of get ideas off of people and like some people are like, “Oh yeah I really like cactuses,” or I personally I like doing fruit trees and and native pollinators if I can do it. So yeah, yeah, so like that idea of like the permaculture suburban life, I think that it’s going to have to happen out of necessity when like this the suburb becomes unsustainable as it is. Like the suburbs are, as they were built they’re pretty unsustainable. You need a vehicle to get into them. That like every house was given a tree that like was not a native tree, lots of lawns, no real good ways to reclaim the water. A lot of the water just goes right into the sewer. I was talking about water reclamation earlier and to do one of the pipes I would have to dig up the ground. Like the people who built these houses were not thinking about like, “Oh we need to collect this water someday.” Yeah, but I think that that’s… especially here that’s going to change and as that changes we’re going to have to come up with with more and better ideas about how to, how to reconfigure these houses so we can survive here for the long term.

37:27.40
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah. What do people make of you, like when you’re coming around and and trying to organize with people. Yeah, what do people make of you?

37:49.23
Gregg
Ah, I don’t know, I don’t really ask people what they make of me, but I but I get the I like I’ve I’ve just been able to connect with other people working on on organizing projects, and I think people are appreciative that they, that somebody is around who kind of gets it. I don’t need to be told that you know white supremacy exists. I’m not in there trying to be like, “Oh yeah, some cops are our friends,” and so that I think that like is refreshing for people who are normally working with people who are like not not even day one type of stuff. And, I feel like currently though, it’s like I’m still getting my footing. I’ve only been here a year. I’m still kind of gaining, I feel like a lot of it is still like gaining trust and the pandemic has made it super hard to just like… you just want to be in the same room as people, and like interact and like have a potluck or like you know, share food or share ideas and like that’s been a lot more difficult. It’s going to get easier as we hopefully get out of this. But, yeah, I get the feeling that that people are appreciative of the work that I’ve done and of my contributions, because like again talking about the FOIA thing, that has gotten me to get in contact with like reporters who are reporting on like the city and the police departments that are in the city and county that I’m in, which have some pretty corrupt stuff coming out, and so like having that ability to to network with not only reporters who have been doing this work forever and exposing some of the the injustices here, but like organizers and activists who have been on the ground doing that work as well. I think it shows that like you can find a way to do, to fit in with whatever skills that you have, and people are going to be appreciative of you. Like one of the big things about like being in an area where you’re relatively new is like, and especially during a pandemic, it’s like how do you find the people who who are like working on the stuff that you want to work on. They exist. Every city is going to have somebody who has been trying for years to get some project off the ground, or stop something that’s going on in their city, or either, even like get the ear of city council, and if you can be that extra voice, or that extra person to call in and be like, “Hey, stop this,” that can be worth a lot especially in a city where maybe the population is not so engaged.

40:39.44
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

40:58.38
Gregg
Even, even if the population is like engaged in the opposite direction, if there’s somebody else saying that, you’re gonna find those people I think. Yeah, and like I hate to say it but like one of the, one of the places I’ve been able to gauge like where people’s energies are is actually through Facebook. Like there’s multiple different Facebook groups that are focused in the city, and like that’s where most people do their organizing work.

41:15.48
Margaretkilljoy
Okay.

41:17.19
Gregg
Like Facebook and like Next Door. And I’m not just talking like organizing from like a Leftist or a radical perspective. But I’m talking more like even the Right wingers, and so it… joining these different groups, you get…ah you get a taste of like, “Okay, who are these people? What are they working towards? What do you need to be paying attention to? What are people angry about?” You know you can figure out that’s like, “Oh people don’t like that their their roads are taking forever to get fixed,” which is like you know, typical weird suburban like complaint is like okay, but like, also you go, “Oh there, there was a school board recall this past year that failed miraculously, like very badly failed, but there was um connection between one of the school board people and one of the organizers of the recall, and you know like you could get from Facebook of like them… how that connection worked and so you were able to see, “Oh, actually this person who’s on the school board is is related to somebody who’s actually running the recall.”

42:34.55
Margaretkilljoy
Ah, so there’s a very like transparent organizing happening from probably both the Right and the Left.

42:40.74
Gregg
Yeah, exactly and so like you can kind of see it’s like, “Okay, what are… where are people at?” and like you don’t even have to participate. I don’t suggest that people participate in Facebook. I loathe it as a platform. But, it is wherever the people are, so it’s like you’re trying to find like friends and enemies, that’s the place to do it, and you know I would also suggest getting on Next Door. I… it is a terrible platform as well, but I think it also is another one of those things that like gives you an idea of like, “Okay, where are people at? What are the issues that matter in this city, and where are people doing the work that I want to be involved in?” And people respond really well to just reaching out. Like I do… I Just like email people and like, “Hey, what are you doing? And this is who I am, and like that’s…I admit that that’s kind of a unique thing of of mine, like I don’t mind making making a fool of myself, but like that is a way to to get involved to just like emailing people who you see are doing this kind of organizing, and like some people might be be trepidatcious of you and so there may be a, a period of time where you have to prove yourself–

43:53.20
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

43:54.92
Gregg
–Of like not being you know a a bad person, and that’s totally fine, and I get that from doing Anarchist organizing where we can be paranoid about every…any new person who comes in.

43:58.74
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, I was about to say we have that problem as a specific major problem in the Anarchist Movement, so.

44:09.72
Gregg
Yeah, so when people like you know email me back and then, and don’t touch base for months I’m like, “Okay that’s fine, I get it,” or and also like there’s a real problem of like everybody also has their whole lives going on. This isn’t like organizing when you know I was 20 and like that’s all we did. We went to the Food Not Bombs, and then we went to the info shop, and then we went to the Critical Mass. Like it’s much more. There’s much more things that have to happen on a daily basis, so things move a lot slower. And I think they would move a lot slower than they would in an urban environment too, because there’s just like people are busy. There’s less people working on things as well.

44:52.18
Margaretkilljoy
And it might be like a less of a sense of… precarity tends to cause people to act much more quickly sometimes right, like I imagine suburban organizing as it being like, “Oh, we should stop this thing,” but it’s a little bit less like, “I’m a starve to death if we don’t stop this thing.”

45:00.00
Gregg
Yeah, yeah.

45:02.00
Margaretkilljoy
I have a question about Next Door. So I only know of Next Door is this like panopticon.. decentralized panopticon, where it just encourages neighbors to snitch on each other and be racist and stuff, right. And the closest I’ve ever experienced is like you know in Asheville there’s a Facebook group that’s like basically just nosy neighbors, and but, it turns into this like argument where you know, for example, someone will like make fun of a person who doesn’t know house right? And then a lot of people will be like, “What are you doing? Like stop taking a picture of someone’s tent and putting it on here. That’s like where they live. You’re endangering them,” and the the push back seems to work a little bit. Not always, but. Can you can you push back on Next Door? And, if so does it look like, “Hey. Ah. I Appreciate you’re concerned about your safety, but maybe don’t report every single person you see to the police,” or whatever. Like, like what is the culture of resisting a Right-wing echo chamber on a social media platform like that?

46:23.63
Gregg
Yeah, good question. I think that it’s difficult, but it’s, but it’s, but it’s possible like I think that like um, being on these platforms, and like this is totally like not a ‘have to’, you have to have the energy for this sort of thing. I Think it can be, especially if you’re in an area that’s like extremely like always talking down about houseless people, or like always being racist and What not, it’s like sometimes removing yourself from the platform is totally fine.

46:58.53
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

47:00.50
Gregg
But if you have the energy for it, I think that it’s useful to not only like for information gathering, which is like, “seeing where people are at. What are what are people mad about?” But then like yeah, being that voice of like, “Hey this sucks.” And like, there was, there’s a situation in town with the kids on bicycles, and it’s like very, it’s a very you know Suburban concern. It’s like, “These kids are riding their bikes, and they’re riding them recklessly up and down the main street,

47:29.72
Margaretkilljoy
God forbid.

47:30.00
Gregg
And like, you have you have, like you know people being like, “They just need a spanking.”

47:20.42
Margaretkilljoy
Oh my God.

47:36.54
Gregg
And I like you know, I Just like couldn’t help myself. I was just like, “Do you just… you think that hitting kids is okay?” and and they’re like, “Well no, and like maybe you can go talk to them because you’re a man,” because whatever. And it’s just like weird. Yeah, it was gross. Um, but it’s like getting it out there just to be like, “No, actually like leave these kids alone. And like you don’t need to be like this,” and having that that voice. And like maybe it’s doing nothing and the the most effective thing is that the kids are still out there and they don’t care.

Like they don’t care about the online conversations. And like maybe we should care less about the online conversations. But I think that like there there is this sense of like… there can be like this like… there’s a complaint and then the complaint happens again, and then people get into the complaint, and the complaint becomes this like fuel, and then that fuel can lead to something in the real world. And, I think being somebody who couldn’t be there and just be the water to just be like, “I’m going to put this out,” or I’m going at least like tell people to like take take it down the notch is maybe effective. I don’t know. But, it’s something that I that I try to do. But, I also don’t want to waste my time online and I’d rather be outside. So.

48:52.80
Margaretkilljoy
Right. Also with those kids fortunately, and not to be like, “Kids are too online,” I’m just very excited about the kids on bicycles because that was that was me. I wonder, I mean because the other advantage of doing what you’re talking about doing is that there’s a certain amount of…There’s that bystander syndrome where when you see something bad happening, it’s hard to be the first person to do something about it. And, I think that happens a lot on social media. I mean ironically, because and the other problem with social media is everyone feels very entitled to tell people exactly what they think. But, especially in a social media that’s like ‘place’ specific or you know there’s sort of an implication of non-anonymity if you see someone say something messed up. Or I mean I don’t know I’ve had this up in social situations where someone says something kind of messed up, and no one wants to engage because it seems like a lot of work. And so the moment someone finally is like, “Hey, that’s racist. Maybe don’t talk like that or think like that.” You know, it it allows other people to speak up, or even in this case as you as you mentioned it you know it got the person to change from saying, “Oh we should just you know beat these children,” to, “Okay, maybe I don’t think the solution is to beat these children.” So, that’s cool.

50:07.75
Gregg
Yeah, yeah I mean we could We could talk all day about how the what the internet does to people. But, I think it it it affords people to like put their worst ideas out there because it’s like it’s reaction…I Think the internet is great for reactionary talk, you know? From from all sides. And then like having something that’s place specific, and also non-anonymous, and also like you utilizing it for just like where you live. It’s like, “Yeah. No, these people don’t get to talk like that, and they don’t get to be like that, and if they do like can go do it somewhere else on the internet.” But, like, focusing on like your physical space is just like, “Yeah, stop.” I don’t know, you know?

50:52.90
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah. Sorry, as a total tangential question: at the very beginning, you talked a little bit about preparedness in terms of how making these connections with other people is a very useful preparedness step, and I actually really appreciate that. Most most… obviously most conversations about preparedness don’t talk enough about community and relationships, and talk too much about stuff. But I am curious what you have done from a preparedness point of view or what you would advocate is useful to do from a preparedness point of view in a suburban environment.

51:29.57
Gregg
I think it’s building the friendly relationships first before you need them. I think that’s key, and because like even if you’re not on the same page with all of your neighbors if you can have that sense of like, “I know you. I know your name. We see each other. I know your dogs. Whatever.” I feel like you’ve mentioned this on the podcast a lot, but like when there’s a disaster, we’re not going to pick… We’re not going to be able to pick who we’re prepared with.

52:05.35
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

52:08.10
Gregg
Like I can’t like pick my five best friends to be the ones that are going to come, and we’re going to do everything perfect, and like we’re going to have all the right gear, and all the right ideas and be able to get it…out alive. You’re probably going to have to work with people who you don’t like, who you don’t agree with politically.

And at least like if you’re in… if you’re living around people who you know are probably not Anarchists, are maybe not even Leftists, but they are nice to you. That’s gonna that’s gonna matter. So I think that’s… like there’s there’s a limit I mean you can’t…In my opinion, if you have a Blue Lives Matter flag up like, we’re we’re probably… we have irreconcilable differences.

52:54.65
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, you picked your team at that point.

53:05.43
Gregg
Yeah like that… and okay, great. But like you know this person who puts their American flag out all the time. Okay. Maybe there’s something there, you know? Like whatever. Like I think that there’s like–

53:10.82
Margaretkilljoy
God Someone invented a worse flag than the American flag I’m really impressed by that. Yeah.

53:25.25
Gregg
I can’t wait I can’t wait till what what comes next. I mean there’s yeah, the whole striping thing is so like the red, the green, blue… What are they yellow?

53:23.50
Margaretkilljoy
I like the the fake Landlord one, the like beige one. Anyway, I didn’t I didn’t mean to derail you.

53:44.56
Gregg
Yeah, that’s fine. But yeah like, I think yeah, the stuff doesn’t matter. It’s the people, and it’s like knowing the people around you that like when disaster strikes. And yep.

I do amateur radio as well, and that is, that is my community of people who I’m probably going to get on the radio with, and be like, “Hey, what needs to happen? What are we doing when when there’s a disaster?” So yeah, I guess my my advice is just like build those friendly relationships now. Figure out where people are at, figure out who has the cool fruit trees, and like offer to help them out. And, like if your neighbors need things like be be there to support now.
Because we are in a disaster situation. Like it, it is happening now. Like the past few days have been extremely smoky here, and like that’s… you know… just checking in with the air. And I also live in a neighborhood that’s like… it’s generationally transitioning.

54:40.65
Margaretkilljoy
Mhmm

54:42.50
Gregg
So meaning that like there were a lot of people who bought their houses when they were first built, and they are older now. They don’t have children, or they’re just like alone, and I think that like making sure that your older neighbors are like… know that you’re around, know that you know that you care is like important.

54:56.48
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.
55:00.63
Gregg
And, I think that like a lot of times in our organizing or disaster preparedness, we don’t really think about that. Like there are people who are going to need our help that are not you know, young able-bodied. Like you know, and like us.

55:10.90
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

55:19.86
Gregg
And how do, how do we better support that? And like, and disaster could not even be like a big situation, but it could be enough where like maybe they don’t have medicine. Maybe they don’t have the things that they normally need.

55:27.25
Margaretkilljoy
Right.

55:38.82
Gregg
So figuring that out, and like just…Yeah, like, my neighbor is like… has the ah…
she has the squirrel feeding on lock. So I think we’ll be good for for rations if we need that.

55:41.34
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, the making friends with, or at least getting to know your neighbors, especially folks who are yeah maybe older folks who live alone or something like that has been…it’s so important because there’s so many places… I mean there’s this pandemic of loneliness. Obviously, we’re in another pandemic right now, but one that clearly ties into loneliness. But, you know as a major problem in U.S. society as as I understand it, is is loneliness of people of all ages. But, but especially to my knowledge of older folks. And I don’t know, I mean we have this like positive, this positive story about how there’s a terrible flood on my land and my solar panels all washed away, and water got into a bunch of houses and I watched hundreds of dollars of my stuff float down the river…and but whatever. Um, this happened recently where I live, and yeah, we still had it better than many other people in our area who lost their entire homes and things like that. But when that was happening most of our neighbors are up on higher ground than us and you know our neighbors were like, “Cool, what do you need?” and all of our neighbors know we’re weird queer people, you know? My name is Margaret and if you hear my voice you don’t believe me that I was born with that name. You know? And you know, and realizing that like one of our neighbors who we had to like talk out of voting for Trump, you know?

57:26.60
Gregg
But you were successful.

Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, successfully, yes.

Gregg
That’s amazing.

57:37.41
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, and just because it was like…well he doesn’t have…I’m not trying to you know talk so much about this particular person’s business, but you know he has a hard life right? And he lives alone. He’s a bit older, and and… but he’s also like… it’s really good that we know him. You know? And it’s really good that we’re able to be neighborly with him. So I, yeah, I don’t know. I just, I can’t emphasize what you just said enough basically. Getting to know… well it gets into that thing too where if people…if people’s needs are not being met by the system, which regardless of all the climate change apocalypses is an increasing problem anyway, is that when we organize to meet our needs collectively we just get stronger. And that absolutely needs to apply to people of different generations and things.

58:28.89
Gregg
Yeah, definitely. But I…yeah and I will say I do not have the answers yet about you know, being in the ‘burbs, like I’m still learning and this—

58:40.78
Margaretkilljoy
Wait, that’s why are you on the podcast. I thought you had all the answers.

58:46.46
Gregg
Exactly. And,like I think that that’s another big thing is just like there’s a learning curve for learning how to operate in a different way, that I think like that if if people are listening to this trying to find all the answers to like, “Oh, I either am currently in the suburbs and stuck, or, and want to find other people, or like 1) just moved there because of different reasons and I’m trying to find other people. It’s just like… different things are going to work for you. And like ah… it’s a different way of of operating your life. You know?

59:22.78
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah, what’s what’s changed? I’m I’m assuming you’re coming out of a more urban environment.

59:27.54
Gregg
Yeah, just having access to…to people. I think that’s the big thing, is like there’s no…I mean there’s a downtown area, you know you can go hang out there, but there’s no like very local coffee shop where you ran into…and you don’t have that feeling of like constantly running into people you know. At least I don’t yet. And that…that feels a little bit different when you’re like…you feel more alone.

59:55.20
Margaretkilljoy
Yeah.

01:00:04.15
Gregg
And like, meeting… but meeting people and like trying to find people who are doing the same kinds of work that I want to be doing alleviates that a little bit. But yeah.

01:00:05.63
Margaretkilljoy
Okay. Which, is I think what works for people in cities too, and I know a lot of people in cities also feel really isolated.

01:00:17.88
Gregg
Yeah, yeah.

01:00:22.86
Margaretkilljoy
Alright, well we’re coming up on on on an hour and I I’m I’m wondering, do you have any any last thoughts, things that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you about suburban preparedness or organizing or life?

01:00:31.43
Gregg
Um. Yeah I mean I would just, I would just reiterate: find the things you want to do, not necessarily the people yet. The people will come with the with the activities, and I think that that’s like a big thing. It’s like…and if you like gardening find the gardening organization in your town. If you like feeding people there are, there is probably an org around you that that likes to feed people. There is one here. I mean there is in this town. There is, there was an organization that got started during the pandemic that started free food shelves in people’s yards. So, like there is I think there is opportunities for whatever the kind of work that you think is important is, and finding that first is gonna…the people will follow. And I think also don’t be afraid to be the weirdo. I mean I put a “Nobody For President” sign in my yard last year, and you know I dug up my lawn and in in the middle of the night, and like, with a pic-axe, and like stuff like that. And I think that like people appreciate seeing somebody who is like being being their genuine selves. And like don’t feel like you have to conform just because you moved somewhere that looks more conformed.

01:01:53.47
Margaretkilljoy
People are like 1) like way more appreciative of a weirdo than we all think right, and 2) the myth of people who aren’t weirdos is a myth, you know?

01:02:08.33
Gregg
Yeah.

01:02:12.40
Margaretkilljoy
And so just like when you wear that on on your sleeve…like one of the reasons I kind of like about being you know, visibly strange or whatever is that it kind of like sorts people out. I don’t have to judge anyone based on how they look because like people who want to judge me on how they look will do so.

01:02:27.83
Gregg
Yeah.

01:02:30.88
Margaretkilljoy
And I can write them off. You know So someone who like looks normal, if they’re willing to treat me like I’m a perfectly normal…if if they treat me like a peer, we’re good. You know? And so it doesn’t surprise me that you’re “Nobody For President” sign and ripping up your lawn didn’t like make you the pariah of the neighborhood. You know? Instead it was like…it gives something people to talk to you about, and I don’t know I’m projecting here, but.

01:02:54.60
Gregg
Yeah.

01:02:58.10
Margaretkilljoy
Okay, well, um, I don’t know, thanks so much for for coming on, and maybe next year after you have your block party we should ah we should talk about how that goes.

01:03:09.48
Gregg
Definitely. Yeah and yes, anybody wants to hit me up on Twitter I’m Gregawatt and yeah, that’s it.

01:03:13.10
Margaretkilljoy
How do you spell that? Because, I’m under the impression there’s a lot of G’s

Gregg
Oh yeah, G-R-E-G-G-A-W-A-T-T yeah.
.
01:03:22.48
margaretkilljoy
Also it was a good source to learn more about radio stuff, is following you on Twitter and and I actually that was my first thought is that we’re gonna do a follow up radio episode. But then you, you pitched this, so I’m excited about this so.

01:03:34.49
Gregg
Well, we can always talk about radio another time.

Margaretkilljoy
Cool.

Gregg
Alright.

Margaretkilljoy
Thanks so much.

Gregg
Thank you have a good day.

01:05.79
Margaretkilljoy
Thanks so much for listening if you enjoyed this podcast something is wrong with you… No wait. No if you enjoyed this podcast. You should tell people about it. You should tell people about it in person and on the internet and other places. I’m not sure what there is between In-person and in the internet. Sky writing? You should tell about people about it through skywriting. You probably shouldn’t. I haven’t really looked into this much. You can support this podcast by supporting our publisher Strangers In A Tangled Wilderness on Patreon which is http://patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness and if you do so you’ll get access to some stuff earlier than other people. Not the podcast. Everyone gets at the same time. We don’t really love paywalls. Paywalls aren’t like the best thing that’s ever happened to content or the world. So, there’s not like a ton of pay walled stuff. But sometimes we communicate with people a little bit more on Patreon and we also have eternal gratitude for all the things that you all are are bringing to life including this podcast. And in particular I would love to thank: Nicole, and David, Dana, Chelsea, Starrow, Jennifer, Eleanor, Natalie, Kirk, Hugh, Nora, Sam, Chris, and Hoss the dog for making this podcast and so many other projects possible. Alright. That’s it. Thanks so much and I hope you do well.

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

S1E37 – Yellow Peril Tactical on Starting Firearms Training

Episode Notes

Yellow Peril Tactical can be found on Instagram @yellow_peril_tactical, Twitter @YPTActual, and Patreon @yellow_peril_tactical. You can listen to their podcast The Tiger Bloc Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts.

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

Transcript

Margaret
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. And this week I’m talking to 3 people from Yellow Peril Tactical. Yellow Peril Tactical is a group of Asian I guess firearms enthusiasts? That’s probably not the proper way to say it. They’ll explain themselves a little bit better in a moment. But they are a group of people who organize different shooting clubs and different tactical training. as well as putting out a lot of content online. They’re actually one of the more interesting sources of non-right-wing gun stuff on the internet. And so I was very excited to sit down and talk to them about what is involved in starting your own firearms club and what is involved in organizing as marginalized people. And I also talk to him about guns, you’ll be shocked to know, so there’ll be some geeking out about guns. But a lot of it is about how to organize stuff and make things happen. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Da-da da-daaaaaa.

Jingle 1
Hello! If you are listening, then you are here on purpose. This is Twin Trouble, the podcast about fighting the system and staying rebellious while incarcerated. The show takes the form of a recorded phone call between my twin brother, currently locked up in a federal transfer overflow jail in Grady County, and myself in the “free” world of Chicago. Why are we talking about prison abolition?

Jingle 2
The reason I wanted to do this whole prison thing is they keep people’s voices down. They want to shield the public from the day-to-day experiences of the [inaudible] who are incarcerated are going through. I’m not gonna take this sitting down or bent over, I’m standing up and I’m gonna continue to speak my mind about what’s going on. So I would hope [inaudible] the podcast we could get [inaudible], we could set it up

Margaret
Okay, if you all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then I guess what brings you to Yellow Peril Tactical.

Snow
Hi I’m Snow, she/they pronouns, I was invited to Yellow Peril Tactical by John Chinaman and another contributor. And I had been following their/our work for a little bit. And the posts that I actually have in mind is the one with the squid sauce and the handgun. And that just really, like, I felt so seen just by that one picture. And I just really felt like—I don’t know, it was a very pivotal moment for me and a moment where I really felt like a sense of community around meeting other fellow leftist Asian folks who are also into firearms and self-defense, community defense, and also shared like an intention to get better for themselves, for their community, and I think just the camaraderie, so to speak, among the other YPT tigers (dare I say) has been really nice actually. We shoot the shit a lot but we also have a lot of, like, encouragement towards each other and give each other advice as well as folks that reach out to us. So that’s kind of what keeps me in it. It’s a fun time so far.

Margaret
What was the post?

Snow
It was one of our earliest posts and it was, like, this pretty well-known, like, bottle of squid sauce. I use it all the time. And it’s a handgun propped up by a chopstick and I just, like, I saw that and was just, like, what the fuck like this is me.

Margaret
Cool.

Camilla 
I’m Camilla. I use she/her pronouns. I found out about YPT through the internet/someone told me about it. About a year and a half ago almost I started taking up firearms as a training and self-defense tool, and started getting really into community defense, and have just been using it as something to get me out of the house and into the woods for the past year. I’ve been getting into doing the beginners/intermediate people teaching other beginners thing. And actually the first time I ever heard that was on your show, so I heard that and I was like, yeah, that’s totally what I’m about to start doing, that’s wild, that’s cool that other people are talking about it. So thank you for that and I’ll pass it to John.

Margaret
That’s cool.

John 
Hey y’all, I’m a John Chinaman, he/him pronounce. I am actually one of the original Yellow Peril people. But I’ll say before, like, that doesn’t fucking matter. Like, it doesn’t matter when you join. It holds no specialness being one of the original people. But I only say that to just explain that I was—I was around the beginning. And basically what happened was me and some people that I shoot with in real life, we heard about this guy. His name is Austin Tong. And he was a Fordham student and he got in trouble by his university because he had posed on Instagram with a firearm. And, well we were like, that’s bad. And then we checked his Instagram and it was all just like pro-NRA bullshit, pro-Donald Trump bullshit, I own a gun because, you know, I’m afraid of anti-Asian violence. Oh, me too. But, I mean, oh damn, I wonder who’s trying to stoke all that anti-Asian violence, you know. Think about it there. And so we were just pissed off. We were just pissed off. And we were just, like, we’d like toyed around this before. We were like, hey, when you go start that Yellow Peril Instagram account. And so I was in like—I was in a freaking parking lot I just started it. And I was like, ah shit, like, we actually have to like post things. Shit. I don’t want to reiterate too much what Snow and Camilla said, but honestly one of the most special parts about this has been honestly learning about more of my own heritage. Like, talking to other people, you know, obviously—obviously I’m a firearm enthusiast, but really talking to other people who are going through or have gone through similar things as me and learning about, like, what it means to be Asian American in these United States, so-called United States, and the grappling with that has honestly been the most special part for someone who didn’t actually kind of grow up with that community.

Margaret
Yeah. Could one of you all explain a little bit more—just kind of an overview of what Yellow Peril Tactical is to our listeners?

Snow
Yeah, I can do that. We are a collection—collective of leftist east and southeast Asians that do a lot of firearms education. But we also do political education, the occasional shit post, which the internet seems to really like. It seems like the memes, actually, that we put the least amount of effort in get the most likes. It’s kind of wild, like we’ll just throw something together and it’ll just get like a thousand likes and just makes no sense but, you know, it’s cool. We also do fundraisers. I think last year we raised like $5600, something around there, to various fundraisers. We also post a lot of infographics geared towards new shooters, like we’ve done a couple like how to shop for a firearm like a handgun and a rifle, and like we did a glock guide recently. And we also do we peer pressure people into posting their groups and splits because we like seeing people get better, including ourselves. And we recently started doing like a drill of the month thing just to kind of give new shooters something to go on when they’re at the range instead of just mag-dumping with their friends. So yeah, we do all sorts of shit. But that’s kind of like the main hustle.

John 
And it’s definitely geared towards, like, newer shooters, people who are newer to firearms. Second everything that Snow said, it’s very easy to just go to the range and be like, okay, cool, what do I do? Like just shoot a bunch of rounds into a microwave or something, and then you’re like, oh no, this like a skill. You can build and learn from others and teach others as well.

Margaret
But shooting a microwave sounds really fun though.

Snow
I have been to a range area—like a public land—and there was like this random thing in the middle and I got a closer look at it, somewhere about a fucking TV. Like a flat screen. And it was just like in pieces. Like the screen was shattered and then like the frame was all fucked up and, like, whatever layers in between those two was just, like, perforated, and it was just so confusing to me because I’m just like, why? Who brings a TV out to the range and just shoots at it. That’s so bizarre.

Margarte
I mean it sounds like it would be a perfect like 90s anti-capitalist video, you know?

Snow
Instead of Office Space where it’s like a printer, it’s just a fucking TV.

Margaret
Yeah. Kill your television. Okay, so there’s a bunch of stuff I want to ask you about and some of it is a little bit more like theoretical, and I kind of want to ask you a bit about your experiences. But I think I want to start a little bit with some of the practical stuff. Like you all are—I mean, one of the things that I find so interesting about you all is that you’re one of the best resources for new shooters on the left—or probably just new shooters in general—to gain firearms information that is, like, practical instead of, I don’t know, shrouded. You all have this whole thing where you attack Red Fudds all the time and I want to ask you about that and a little bit. But one of the things I want to ask you about is what are some of these basic drills that new people can—or possibly intermediate people, but especially new people—can be doing. Like, what are groups and splits, for example?

Camilla 
To start off, groups and splits is essentially taking metrics and applying it to how you’re training. So that involves having a timer of some sort. You can do it the hard way, or you can go in with a bunch of friends to get a shot timer. And you essentially put up a fresh target, you have your shot timer, you press the button—usually have a delay set, at least that’s how I prefer to do it—it goes beep, and then it from that beep onward it’s counting the amount of time between your shots. And the groups part is how far away your rounds are hitting on the target, and the splits is the amount of time in between your shots. Usually you pay most attention to the first shot and the last shot, but it totally depends on what the drill is. When it comes to drills, there’s a lot of different things you can do. It entirely depends on where you’re at in your journey. If it’s your first day shooting, the drills are going to look really different than if you’re going to the range to work on your draw from concealment or something in an ongoing kind of practice way.

John 
One of the things we talk about a lot is that, when you’re at the range, like, not going to lie, like, shooting is expensive. Ammunition is expensive, guns are expensive, right? So when you’re at the range with live ammunition, it’s good to show up with a plan. You may not stick to it, but show up for a skill like you want to work on. Whether that’s, like, getting rounds on target fast from your holster, from concealment or whatever, or being able to hit fast follow-up shots, or being able to transition between targets quickly. There’s a lot you can do at your house in dry fire— for those who don’t know, dry fire is making sure your gun is unloaded, pointing in a safe direction, and practicing it. Just pulling the trigger. And you can do a lot of that at home and when you’re on the range, you know, practicing the stuff that you can’t do at home. You need live ammunition for, like, recoil management. One of the things that we did our December—someone correct me if I’m wrong here—drill of the month was like putting four rounds on a 3×5 index card. Actually quite difficult. January—I see Snow nodding at me because, actually and Camilla too because we’ve all been having trouble with this. Literally draw—put two rounds on a 3×5 index card, rehoster, draw, put two more rounds on. And it is very very hard. It took me a week to do this by the way.

Snow
It is unforgiving. Yeah. 

John 
It is extremely unforgiving. I finally did it today. 

Margaret
What kind of range is that?

John 
Five yards. Really not that far. Um I but there’s.

Margaret 
I mean, I don’t think I could do it, like…

Camilla
It’s one of those things where it’s like, it just sounds, like, very doable—well, because it is. But when you’re there and you’re timing yourself and someone’s filming you. 

Snow
All your friends are watching. 

Camilla
Yeah, you just kind of like revert to your worst fucking version of yourself, you know. You’re just, all your training goes out, you’re at your most, like primal, like nerves. Just yeah.

Margaret
One of the things I actually really appreciate about the content you all put up is I feel like you encourage people to post not just their like coolest sexiest stuff, you know, like I think it was even today that you all posted, like, I failed at the thing I was trying to do. And it was like someone like sitting there sad, you know. And like, you know, and I actually think that that’s an important part of making people feel welcome into a sport like this because it’s so buried in machismo and it’s not just—in my experience it’s not just about the gender or the gender presentation of the people that you’re shooting with, but it’s stuff like that. It’s the, like, making sure you can do like the coolest thing and then only posting your like super coolest—also one of the reasons I appreciate it is that, frankly across the board when I watched watch right-wing or left-wing or centrist whatever, like, guntube people, they always look like they think they’re really badass looking. And it never looks like smooth or good. And I’m always like, huh, okay. It’s all like slow motion with dramatic music and stuff as they, like, kind of like jiggle with this thing and there’s lots of—I don’t know, this is completely meaningless to anyone who doesn’t spend all their time watching dumb videos about new calibers and shit. But so that’s something I really appreciate about you all is the way that you break down some of that machismo just by actually being honest about what the journey looks like. That’s not really a question. Sorry.

Snow
No,  I’m glad that you brought that up because, like, we teach like 101s to folks in the area and something that I always incorporate into when I’m teaching is just, like, telling folks, one, marksmanship is like not the goal of the 101 class. And when I first started shooting, I was fucking horrible. Awful. And I probably say it like two to three times within like the first hour. And I do it in a way to be like, yeah, like a lot of people aren’t fucking good. Most people aren’t good at shooting for a very long time, even if they’ve been shooting for years. But I think bringing that, like, honesty and like humility means a lot to folks because like guns are intimidating. And like, it’s already hard enough to learn a new skill let alone one that’s fucking firearms and.

Margaret
Yeah.

Camilla
Yeah, and it’s intimidating because, like, we’re presented with this message in this worldview—or at least I was growing up in liberalism—that the only legitimate and skilled people with firearms are law enforcement and military and that those skills, like, reside squarely in their domain. And I think like the demystification process of, like, going out to the range, having someone show you who feels like from your community—like your friend, your family member, chosen or otherwise, or your comrade—like having them really like spend some time with you and, like, show and put some care into how the stuff is presented really just kind of, like, cuts through a lot of the misogyny and like the militaristic machismo culture like y’all were talking about. And shooting guns isn’t actually that hard, it’s just there’s so much mental shit attached to it. It’s really hard to shoot with, like, you know, whatever hair’s breadth precision. But I don’t know if there’s—I don’t know if that’s real, to be honest. Like I know there’s people that drill that and—but like 99% of the people out there are relying on a veneer of, like, machismo to really get the point across. But yeah. It’s all bullshit. Just need to find people that are willing to like sit down with you. And I think maybe that’s one of the goals of our page and our collective is just, like, to be a virtual friend or something.

John 
We answer all of those to DMs. Every—basically every single one gets answered. And just so listeners who, like, don’t know a lot about guns know, like, if you’re going to the range like once a month with some buddies and, like, trying to just, you know, just do your best—like I’m not even saying you have to be good—just like do your best. Put rounds on target. See if you can learn from your mistakes. You’re already shooting more than the law enforcement officer on the beat. Like you’re already doing more than those people, like not even joking.

Margaret
I’ve had vets who have been part of different shooting groups who I’ve been around—I used to live somewhere with access to a shooting range—and the vets didn’t know better than other people. I don’t know how to say this politely. And also the number of times I had to insist that, yes, actually people should wear ear protection. And it’s always vets who are like, we don’t need ear protection or whatever. Okay, so one of my questions—we talked a little bit about the like misogyny and bravado, but I’d love to talk about guns in the United States traditionally white supremacist—or at least primarily white space. Gun culture—and obviously you all are an intervention into that. And I’d like to kind of ask you more about ways in which racial dynamics come up and how you all handle them and what especially listeners of color or, you know, people can take away from what you all have learned.

Snow
Yeah, I could take the first stab at that. I think growing up that was definitely my understanding of it, that it’s mostly white cis dudes that go shooting and go hunting and posts unsolicited pictures of their hunts on social media—and I get to look at them. And, you know, I grew up in like an anti-gun household, like my parents are Vietnamese refugees and so their relationship to guns and war is just that it’s bad, right? Like they endured a lot of trauma. Like my mom hid under a table until like the 90s whenever she even heard like a helicopter fly over the house. And this is when she was living in the states. Like, they got here in the 80s, right. And so that’s how deep like that warfare trauma was for my family and, you know, my mom side the family lives in East Bay California, and so, you know, they are familiar with guns. And I knew that, but I never really interacted with it because it was, like, it’s my male cousins, you know, and so getting into it more in the last like year and a half has been like a wholly new endeavor in a lot of ways. Being a part of YPT makes that a lot easier and more navigable. But overall, like, the majority of the people I see at the range like whether or not I know them were still, like, white people. And a lot of chuds. And it’s intimidating, not just because of them being men, but also because they’re like politically opposed to people like me—that look like me—taking the means necessary to, like, defend ourselves in our community. And it motivates me in a lot of ways to be the best that I can be, but ultimately, like, it doesn’t take away that, like, stress that I feel, like the anxiety I feel around who else has guns. But I find that the more folks—like-minded folks that I’ve met shooting and going to range days, like, we need more—well maybe not we need—but like, there ought to be more BIPOC folks and femme/nonbinary-presenting people, identifying people in these spaces if they want to be. And from the conversations that I have, like, they want to be there. Like we have so many people reaching out to us via DMs or like, how do I get involved in a group, like do you know anybody in this area. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t, but we’ve seen a trend of like more and more people, like, reaching out and asking for those kinds of resources. And I think given, you know—especially since 2017 after Charlottesville, like it’s becoming much much more apparent how brazen a lot of these armed right-wing militias are going to be. I think January 6th 2021 was a lot—a wake up call for a lot of people. I was horrified but not surprised. I was a bit entertained to be honest. I was like, he he he. But at the same time I was just like, you know, we warned y’all. We have been saying this and y’all think we’re not based in reality when we say these things, but yet here we are. And, you know, Asian people—I’ve mentioned this on like one of our previous podcasts, but just like, my aunt and grandma were mugged a couple summers ago. And, like, my aunt was knocked unconscious and like spent a couple days in the hospital. And this was like during the wave of like anti-Asian hate crimes, and then actually like kind of validated my, like, inner stress and anxiety of, like, this kind of thing. And that I think it’s a far-fetched reality to think that like hate will go away as long as we just keep organizing. The right is always going to be there. Fascism is always going to be there.

Margaret
Mhmm. 

Snow
And the only way we can endure is by being resilient and continuously adapting. And so firearms and firearms education, for myself and others, is like one of the tangible ways that I feel like I can move towards that resiliency. I just talked a lot. But yeah.

Margaret
No no, that’s all really useful.

John 
I mean, I’ll say it, like I got my first gun—I think it was like 20? I think it was 2018. I mean it wasn’t very good or practicing a lot., but that’s when I got mine. So it was in the wake of Charlottesville and seeing some of that stuff happen, and I want to second what Snow said about finding a group, finding a crew not only to keep you like sort of motivated—it’s obviously more fun when you do with others than I suppose just like going to the ridge and just blasting around by yourself. But in some cases it can honestly be—it can honestly be related to your own physical safety—and I hate saying this, especially if there’s people out there who are new to firearms or thinking about getting into firearms—but I mean, like me and people I shoot with, like we’ll go to ranges and we’ll see like 3% militia there. You know what I mean? Like see like dudes who—and they’re all dudes obviously, like people who given the chance, if they knew what we believed or even, yeah, some people’s, you know, racial makeup or, you know, or sexuality, like people could get hurt. Like, you know, one time people started pulling tags like at a like at a range once where I as at. Like having people to not only keep you motivated but to help keep you safe is honestly very important in a space where it’s a lot of armed reactionary white dudes. I gotta let this dog out. Sorry.

Margaret
Yeah, where I live currently I’m back undercover, like I’m back in the closet essentially in a lot of the and situations I find myself in just because I’m now in a sort of deeper rural situation than I was previously. And it, you know I have the like—well I have white privilege and then I have, like, the capacity to put on—well, no one ever reads me a straight no matter how hard I try. But I, you know, I can put up enough of a front that people can ignore my bangs and my braid or something like that and it’s a—sometimes just a matter of safety. But that’s something I can do because I’m white. I don’t know. I have no grand statement out of that, actually.

Camilla
Yeah, and I mean it’s because it’s different for everyone. Everyone negotiation of like arming up and what that means and the things that that confronts you with is really different. But it’s—I don’t want to say always, but a lot of the time it’s really intense and you’re kind of like navigating your own, like, mortality. I don’t want to be too philosophical and heavy about it. But like, yeah, you don’t want to downplay the fact that you have like a machine on you, or that you’re training with it at the very least, or owning it, that is designed expressly for killing. And there’s no way to dilute that, and it’s dangerous too. So yeah, I don’t know about other folks but I have a really fragmented consciousness around it. I can’t forget that I have these things, especially if they’re on your person, but you also can’t be thinking about it constantly, at least in a way that gets your nervous system going into fight/flight/freeze. Yeah, a level of normalization and, like, taking it kind of slow and maybe figuring out what sort of increments you can dip your toes and your ankles and your calves and your quads, you know, like you don’t jump in, you don’t cannonball into like having a gun, hopefully. I mean sometimes there’s like intense situations, right? But you navigate those as they come up. But yeah, otherwise you like to have bite-size chunks. Otherwise it can be like too much and you maybe overlook something, and doing it with a crew—doing it with at least one other person means that someone is watching your back and bringing things to your attention that we sometimes overlook.

Margaret
Well, that actually leads me to one of the main questions I have for you all, you know, similar to you all saying in your DMs you constantly have people asking basically, how do I get started? And I think that’s actually one of the biggest questions facing the anti-authoritarian left in general right now is like, literally, like people want to join us and don’t know how, and especially right now in these times of like pretty intense isolation, people don’t know how. And so I’m hoping that you all will just magically solve this in the next short bit of time by answering the following question, which is: how do people—how can people get started—how can people start their own shooting groups? Like, how do you—not necessarily like how do you find a crew, but maybe how do you, like, make the crew a crew. How do you—how do you get going?

Camilla
Well you’ve got a complete Prestige and Call of Duty first. That’s the first step. I’m sorry.

Snow
Oh my God. 

Margaret
That’s actually a reference that goes over my head. I’m aware that there’s a video game called Call of Duty but I don’t know what Prestigge is.

Camilla
It was like an answer antithetical to the one that I want to give.

Margaret
I picked up that part but now I’m curious, what is Prestige and Call of Duty.

Snow
Yeah, tell us Camilla.

Camilla
Ah, Prestige mode is when you max out on your level—I think it’s like 55 or something—and then you go through again and you just keep doing it. That’s like the almost violent level of, like, never ending-ness of these types of like games where you’re just, like, you’re just putting a different patina on your gun and spending 8 hours to get there, you know? Yeah, stupid reference aside, let’s see I’d say that there’s no cut and dry way to get there, but there is a way for pretty much every single person to get there. So I don’t have like a road map necessarily, but maybe me and Snow can tag team this because I don’t know if my brain alone is up for the task of, like, responding to this and it’s a very important question. I did it by just watching Youtube, honestly. That’s me being a millennial. Just watching Youtube trying to find some like good introductory, like, safety videos. And videos about philosophy of keeping a gun—not like deep like treatises on owning guns, that’s not what I mean. I mean like philosophy as in how do you—how do you do this rightly, you know? How do you protect yourself, protect everyone around you, not expose, anyone to danger? What are all the things to think about in your life? And then there’s like political things. I would say some of those things are like, are you dealing with like multiple voices in your head saying like you don’t need a gun, like, because those types of voices are generally like the liberal in your head gaslighting you and, like, downplaying the realness of your life. So I would say that, you know, that’s a thing to reckon with. That’s a thing I’ve reckoned with personally. And you just kind of, like, have to do it out of love sometimes. That’s where I’m going to leave this thought for right now and I’ll pass it off to someone else.

Snow
So yeah I think that’s—I mean, that’s a good start to the answer. I think, like, to add on, it’s just like, what are your goals? Like what is it that you intend to do with these firearms? Hopefully it’s self-defense and community defense. And starting out with just one friend, you know, that constitutes a shooting group. But I think, you know, I was going to say SRA. but I’ve heard very mixed reviews about so those locals. I think some are good. Um, but I can’t—

Margaret
SRA is the socialist rifle association? 

Snow
Yes, thank you. My bad.

Margaret
No, it’s all good.

Snow
And maybe starting there, you could also always send us a DM on YPT. But, you know, I think with all the different leftist gun-stograms that have popped up over the last like year, like it might be worth a start like seeing if any of them, you know, kind of look like they live in your area. Or if not, just like asking them for advice. Because most of the people that are on leftist gun-stagram—I want to say most, not all—are pretty nice. Um, and pretty humble. And I think it’s really hard when, like, you live in an area where there’s not a lot of like identifiable leftists. And so that can be very hard. Or if you live in an area where guns are hard to access, like that brings a whole other set of obstacles that you have to go through in order to acquire fire arms or the knowledge. But. you know, like Camilla said, like Youtube is a really good place to start. Our page is a really good place to start. If you’re aware of even just, like, any mutual aid groups in your area that just do like self-defense classes, like hand-to-hand self-defense kind of stuff might be a good place to start. Like, zine fests. You never know who’s going to be at the zine fest. Could be some cool people there. So I think it’s just like trying to find community first might be a good idea, especially among leftists. You know, out in the Pacific Northwest we have quite a few zine fests and you never know what you’re going to find.

John
Starting with people in the community, like, that’s legit. 
Like I know—and they’re not in my area—but there is a group of Food Not Bombs people that we know that basically just doubles as a shooting group. They feed homeless people and they’re doing a ton of great work, and they double as a shooting group. It’s pretty freaking awesome. They do a ton of self-defense stuff as well. I know you mentioned SRA, Socialist Rifle Association earlier. Seems like it’s very heavily chapter-dependent. Some chapters are just like—just balling out, like just wonderful people, like lots of resources, people who are very skilled, eager to teach, lots of new people who are eager to learn. Some chapters seem to exist only on paper. It’s always worth reaching out if there’s one in your area, to reach out and see, like, what they do and who’s around, basically.

Snow
There’s also—that reminded me of like Arm Your Friends, they’re are relatively new Ongram and they’re a great place to start also.

Margaret
Okay.

Camilla
There’s—like, having trouble with this kind of like implies that there’s a challenge or a barrier, right, to like getting into this. I think some of those common barriers that we hear about/have encountered ourselves are: your friends are libs, or your friends, like, don’t just agree with your decision and your analysis conclusion that, like, hey I want to be armed now,—regardless of what the reason is, regardless of what the goals are, like if you have lib friends, they’re going to push back on that probably. And that is something you can, you know, work in those relationships around or you can try to develop some new relationships. And I think, like, the latter is really like the best way to go about getting some people to shoot with on like a quicker timeline, because you don’t know where your friends are gonna move. Do you even want to be learning in the context of like more liberal folks who aren’t necessarily like ready politically, etc. to to start shooting? So like ways to do that are DMing people and like trying to set a meetup time, like the old fashioned like hit people up cold or, you know, kind of just like plumbing your social connections and trying to figure out like who knows who and, you know, it can be hard and intimidating as fuck to reach out to people because people are like, are you an op? You must be an op. And there’s a lot of that parannoia and that’s very real and that’s not going to go anywhere. But the more you can, like, create like authentic genuine connection with people who are already doing this or have voiced being interested in it, the better time you’re going to have so just look for those moments and opportunities I guess.

John
I went shooting today with someone I met at DSA of all places. Like people always trash DSA or whatever, yeah—

Margaret
Democratic Socialist America? 

John
Democratic Socialists of American, people as trash them like, oh yeah, they’re are a bunch of libs, blah blah blah. Dude’s a really good shooter, eager to like share knowledge and whatnot, like you just meet people.

Margaret
I think that we have these assumptions about how people, like when you live in an echo chamber—I lived in an echo chamber for a very long time. Now I don’t live in an echo chamber because I live—the echo chamber’s me and my dog. So I’m not trying to bash that, but when we live in these echo chambers we can start thinking to ourselves like, ah, DSA is all liberals, or all liberals hate guns, or in, you know, all of these things. That don’t really hold up necessarily to closer analysis, and also things are changing dramatically and quickly, you know. A lot of people who were liberals a few years ago aren’t anymore. Shout out to the more than one liberal financial building accounts that I know—like, the people who, like, tell you what to do with money—that are now like going anarchist because of the times and because of just actually more availability of an understanding of—I mean these are clearly people who understand capitalism, right? And it used to be they were all about helping poor people navigate capitalism, to to work through it, to come out ahead. And now they’re a little bit more, like, actually this whole system—Anyway, so I guess I’m—I would say I’m not surprised by, you know, finding comrades in all kinds of places. And I know my own experience is that—it’s kind of actually not necessarily the best thing. I’m usually the most experienced firearms person around when I’m shooting, just literally because I’m at the low end of intermediate but I work with new people a lot. And that’s actually has worked really well for me, it’s just a lot of people coming forward and just being like—I mean some of it is like, yo, I’m kind of sick of all these dudes who are like trying to teach me it. Like more than once people have been, like, my boyfriend really wants to go shooting and I want to go shooting. but honestly I don’t want to learn from him, you know. And like that’s actually the thing I would say to like someone who’s considering learning to shoot, like maybe don’t learn from your significant other, especially if there’s like kind of a traditional gender relationship going on in your relationship, you know? Anyway, that’s a tangent but… Okay, well now that we’ve solved that and everyone will feel perfectly free to start doing this, which is great, I’ve been trying to solve this for a long time. I want to talk about the kinds of people you don’t want to go shooting with, and I want to talk about the Mosin Nagantvwhich is the best rifle ever made, and the 1911, the best handgun ever made. And I want to talk to you all about why you agree that we should look for the firearms that wars a hundred years ago instead of the firearms that are currently in use by militaries, and how we should value aesthetics over function. Is that correct? That’s ya’lls line with Yellow Peril Tactical, right?

Camilla
Yeah, I could tell you’ve been—you’ve been studying up on our Instagram bio—

Johns
Go ahead Camilla.

Camilla
1911 is a Colt 45 handgun that chuds’ll often cite—

Margaret
What’s a thud in this context?

Camilla
A chud in this context is a tending toward violent, like, right wing conservative authoritarian person, very broadly speaking. 

Margaret
Okay.

Camilla
They often say that two world wars! It won two world wars! So that’s, like, that’s the joke of the 1911. The history behind that weapon is interesting and horrific, as is the interest—as is the history behind, like, literally every gun that was involved in conflict. But have an interesting story. The reason I chimed in so quickly is because I have an uncle who has been a cop—has been a retired cop for almost my whole life because, so he’s like pretty old, but he still every day carries. He, like, his thing is like carrying a 1911 in his fanny pack. And like, you know, I grew up with this person, like, almost my entire life. So finally I’m like, hey, what’s up uncle. Like, I’m into guns now, like, what’s up. Let’s talk. And so the next time I see him he takes me outside into the backyard where we can have like a second of privacy, and he’s like, yeah, let me show this thing to you—Really quick, flagging. Flagging is when someone swings the muzzle of the gun across your body or holds it on you unintentionally, usually. So then you say, hey, you flagged me. It means someone pointed a gun at you which means that they’re violating one of the most basic, like, safety principles of like having firearms—So he he flags me multiple times with it and I’m just, like, astounded because like it confirms everything that I think I know about police officers, which is that they’re incompetent and aren’t good at shooting and aren’t safe. But it was just, like, such a rich moment for me. And I said something both times and he just kind of, like, waved it off and was like, it’s a sick gun though, right? I mean, like he’s in his eighties so he’s not saying “sick,” but that was his equivalent. And yeah, that’s maybe all you need to know about people who really love 1911s. I mean, like, collectors and stuff, there’s exceptions to everything that I’m saying, that’s like a generalization. And the Mosin is a Russian rifle that someone else can talk about right.

John
The 1911, right, like it’s a classic, yeah, but it should be left as a classic. It holds 7 rounds of .45 which is a slow round, it’s not really as good as 9mm which, if you’re not into guns, like every—guns you think of generally like shoot nine millimeters. It’s not as good. They have a tendency to jam. They’re not very good. But yes, old heads like them. But again, I agree with Margaret here, if you’re gonna get an old gun you have to get a gun that was designed in 1891 by Sergey Mosin that symbolizes an authoritarian Stalinist regime, because that’s what makes it good. The optics make it good.

Margaret
[Laughing]

John
Not, you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s bolt action and fires extremely slow and only holds five shots, because back in the 40s some conscripts carried it once upon a time and killed some fascists with it and that’s why it’s still relevant in 2022. You heard it here first.

Margaret
The reason I love everyone being obsessed with Mosin-Nagants is that, before I really knew much about guns and my friends would take me shooting, my friend took me shooting actually on the Pacific Northwest—and we were shooting one of his guns which is a Mosin-Nagant—and it fired without the trigger being touched. Twice. 

Snow
Oh.

Margaret
And because we’ve practiced all of the other rules of firearm safety, nothing bad happened. The gun was always pointed down range and so when it went off on its own, it did so down range so I’ve never really trusted Mosin-Nagants.

John
Margaret, who doesn’t love surprises? We all love surprises.

Snow
You know, maybe this is too soon, but Alec Baldwin sure doesn’t like surprises, you know?

Camilla
Oh my goodness. 

John
Oh my god. Oh, rim shot.

Camilla
But in all seriousness, if you have a Mosin, I’m pretty agnostic about whether you hold onto it or get rid of It. Don’t shoot someone or yourself with it, please? They’re like kind of affectionately and pejoratively referred to as Garbage Rods. And that’s kind of like what their value is. Obviously they’re bullets. It’s a gun. You could really fuck someone up with it. Yeah, if you want to talk about good firearms to get into here and now, we can talk briefly about that because that might be helpful for some people. But it’s definitely going to be a more modern thing where you can like pull the trigger more than once without having to like, you know, pull a bolt back.

John
I think we should talk about that, Camilla, but it’s probably worth saying that or a while there you would see it online all the time—still do—someone being like, you know, ready to bash the fash, right? And it’s a firearm designed in 1891 that was just a a crap-tier rifle back in 1891. And you’re like, why—you know, you can get—you know, you can get other stuff. And maybe it made sense when that firearm was $100 in a crate in your local sporting goods store. But, you know, we regularly post links to AR rifles that are like $430–440. Like good quality, like, Soviet military surplus. Like, the Mosin was a 5 shot bolt action rifle, so you have to like cycle a bolt—work a bolt back and forth to shoot it. Or the SKS rifle, a firearm that was obsolete 2 years after was introduced, holds 10, incredibly heavy. Like, those guns are now going for $500–700, so you can get a better gun for cheaper. And yet still we see to this day people proudly posting pictures of Soviet Military surplus, you know, “We’re ready. We’re ready, boys.” Like, you know, but let’s get into more what Camilla said because that was just depressing.

Snow
I mean, just to like wrap it up though. Like I think just to clarify for folks that like aren’t super gun nerds like we all are is that—to pull out further what John was saying—is just, like, a lot of people out there are saying these kinds of dare I say antiquated firearms are not up to like the performance that more modern guns are. And so for them to say it’s “just as good” is actually quite reckless and dangerous. And so that’s why we’re so against it as being your, like, primary firearm, right? Like I have a lever-action. Is that my primary carbine? Fuck no. But it is it one of my favorite guns? Yes. So it’s just like, you know, like we say, mission drives gear and.

John
Like, you don’t have to have that many guns. 
Like I have a shotgun which I use for hunting, and then a carbine, and a handgun, right? Like no one’s saying you got to get a crapload of guns, and like maybe buying one of those guns back in the day, yeah, it made sense when it was a $100. But now that you can get better stuff for cheaper—for cheaper!—there’s no reason you should buy one with your hard-earned money. And advocating that new firearm owners go buy those is frankly—is reckless—is negligent reckless, honestly.

Margaret
I mean, I want one. But I want one in the context that bolt action is my favorite action to shoot.

Snow
It’s fun.

Margaret
My current favorite rifle is my dad’s 1972 .22 mag bolt action rifle that’s meant for shooting groundhogs, and it’s my favorite gun. And it annoys me because .22 magnum is the same price as, like, large—same price as a center fire ammunition. But it’s, like, not particularly more effective than .22 LR, which is the cheapest ammunition. But it’s my favorite gun and so I completely feel you on the lever action. And I would totally have a Mosin-Nagant. I like history and there’s like something like kind of—I mean, it’s funny because I spend most of my time—my waking hours trying to figure out how to be mean to authoritarian communism. That’s like, you know, what drives my life. But I still kind of am like, ah, that’s cool gun. I don’t know. So—but the thing I wanted to point out really quickly for yeah—saying—I wanted to kind of geek out about guns with you all because I don’t get a chance too much in my day-to-day life. But I think it was you all who brought to my attention this term Red Fudd. And would one of you be able to briefly explain what a Red Fudd is and what a Fudd is so to sort of tie up this before we talk about good guns.

Camilla
Ah, it’s a reference to Elmer Fudd, I believe. Red meaning communist, Fudd—affectionately, of course—Fudd is Elmer Fudd. So like, the caricature is someone who believes and is a proponent of what we call Fuddlore which is the comment—you know, it’s like summed up in comments like, “the SKS is just as good as the AK47” or “SKS is just as good as an AR15” from wherever. Give me some, give me some other ones.

John
I guarantee you that — guarantee you that everyone in here has heard the Fuddlore that on the news when Joe Biden said all you need is two shotgun blasts. If someone’s coming to your house just fire in the air. They’ll run away. Yeah, that’s massive Fuddlore. Do not fire your gun into the air aimlessly and hoping the other person will run away, like—

Margaret
It’s also a crime. Warning shots are completely illegal. The president is telling you to do something that is a crime. 

John
I don’t want to opine on any every jurisdiction. But yeah, usually you don’t do that.

Camilla
Yeah, it’s not going to save you either.

John
Camilla’s colt story, right? It’s like, “Why would you want to buy one of them plastic glocks. I got one of these all-metal Colt 45, Two world wars.” Fuddlore

Camilla
Yeah, like racking the shotgun being the defense enough to save you from someone breaking in your home trying to harm you. That’s another Fuddlore piece. Yeah, I mean, so there’s like—there’s Fudds that are like more authoritarian right, and then there’s just like Red Fudds. So you make a distinction sometimes. But when you want to talk about Fuddlore, you don’t need to make the distinction.

Margaret
Okay, so if someone listening to this is like, I don’t know how this particular episode will convince people that they need to get a gun, but let’s say it did. And people want to get involved in shooting for self and community defense purposes. What would be good introductory firearms?

Snow
Glock 19, you know. It’s—you know, there’s three categories of handguns, right? There’s full size, compact, and subcompact. Typically you see most people, like, conceal carry subcompact and compacts. But for smaller-framed people, even a Glock 19 can be hard to conceal. But generally speaking, if you only want to buy one handgun, a Glock 19 is like what we’d recommend—or at least what I’d recommend. 

Margaret
That’s a that’s like an in-between size?

Snow
Yeah, and it holds 15 rounds stock, but you can buy extendos that—that’s slang for extended magazine, or “stendo” even for shorter slang—and that could hold up to like 30 rounds if you want to be ridiculous at the range. But that’s a very common handgun. It’s also usually standard issue for a lot of law enforcement. So there’s just like a lot of aftermarket parts that you can buy to add on to the Glock 19 if you want, But it’s also just, like, very common to have it. Even for smaller-handed folks like myself can handle it fairly well for the most most part. I think I’ve known a couple people that have had trouble handling it, but I mean that’s the handgun that I would recommend. Anyone else? Camilla, John? Free handguns?

John
I have one handgun. It’s a Glock 19. Like, I second everything, what Snow said, and it has a lot of magazines out there because your gun doesn’t work if it doesn’t have magazines. So, for example, CZ—I don’t know what stands for, some Czech manufacturer technology, like to call it. During the pandemic you, like, couldn’t get CZ mags because like they had all dried out, like, they were nowhere to be found. You still get Glock mags though. So. Camilla?

Camilla
Yeah, I’m big into Glocks too. I don’t know if anyone was like holding out hope that we’d say something different, but I would say categorically polymer—meaning plastic—striker fired—as opposed to hammer operated—handgun. Like, so polymer striker fired guns are the easiest to use. They’re reliable. If you get one from a brand like Glock, you’re going to have a lot of parts everywhere. If you get it in a common caliber like 9mm, there’s going to be ammo everywhere when there’s not a general ammo shortage. That’s a different story though. But yeah, I don’t know, that’s what was important to me on top of the reliability, on top of like the usability for me and my body. Which, ultimately, that’s what this is all about, right? It’s a tool. So you don’t want to get a screwdriver or a saw that sucks to use, you want to get one that molds to your body and that you can like use exactly how you want to use it. And I think the same goes for a gun. You can hold guns at gun stores. That can really suck though. I mean, not a fun, like, situation when someone you don’t know hands you a gun and expects you to act in a way that you might not understand yet. So I’d say if you know anyone that has one that you know is—or that you have some level of trust is going to be safe with it, or if you’ve had some conversations already, then you can ask them if you can like hold it. Or, you know, if the priority isn’t buying the gun but just kind of, like, trying to figure out which one you ultimately, like, someday maybe soon want to buy, then maybe just start doing some research and try to figure out like what size you’re going for, what your application is. What’s your goal. Yeah.

Margaret
I’m going to make a suggestion other than Glock just to be conflictual, and I do this on ya’lls Instagram all the time and you all are very polite and don’t argue with me and just ignore it. Which is that I really like—it’s still a polymer frame striker fired 9mm handgun—but I really like the M&P series from Smith and Wesson. And frankly I like them because I think they’re prettier. I think Glocks are ugly, and I don’t like that because I’m vain. 

Camilla
They are prettier.

Margaret
And one of my favorite experiences—and this actually has nothing to do with the quality of Glock, I think it has to do with the hand grip—but I was shooting once with someone who was just being really really dismissive of my M&P and was just singing the praises of Glocks, and then his Glock kept misfiring and my M&P didn’t misfire during that, and so I was very vindicated and was winning people over. And so this is the kind of thing that you can look forward to doing is having meaningless opinions about minutiae. And that’s the main reason to get involved with gun culture is to have large disagreements about minutia, at least that’s the main thing I would argue.

John
I mean no, you’re right Margaret. The whole point of gun culture is to pick a brand and then saddle yourself and hitch your wagon to that brand for the rest of your life until your’re dying days. I mean, you know, that’s it. Why else get into guns, you know?

Snow
That that’s why I got into it, personally. I’ll just, you heard it here first folks.

Camilla
This is my nightmare.

Snow
Yeah.

John
For the record, we do like the M&P, especially the 2.0, Margaret great. That’s why we don’t argue with you and, yeah, so.

Margaret
Good. Thanks. Especially now that the the Shield Plus is double stack now, and so you can get a reasonable number of bullets into a semi—a subcompact, and that’s why my concealed carry gun is a Shield Plus.

John
It’s probably worth mentioning, just very quickly, like a lot of us like Glocks. But ultimately what Camilla said is really what hits the heart of it. I mean, you’re really looking for something polymer striker fired in 9mm. So striker as opposed to hammer. You get the most bang for your buck. That was terrible. I didn’t even mean to do that. 

Margaret
You’re fired.

John
You get the most like value ad per dollar up to around, like, probably like 600 or so dollars. And then after that you’re really having diminishing returns there. I mean we had a post that people actually got really mad at us for about a Soviet surplus gun called the Makarov. And we told people to buy a Hi-Point instead, which is $150 polymer striker fired 9mm and it’ll shoot quality defensive ammunition, unlike some sort of crappy Soviet surplus weapon. And you’re probably going to get hate mail now, Margaret, for publishing this opinion.

Camilla
And if you want to get a rifle, get an AR platform or an AK platform. We can go into more depth if you if we have time right now, but don’t don’t get old, needlessly specific guns from history unless you already have guns that accomplish all your core needs.

Snow
Also, like, don’t buy a Scar as your first rifle. 

Margaret
Oh, what’s a Scar?

Snow
Ah, it’s a french—it’s funny, when I was first getting into firearms, the French abbreviation is FN, and I’m like, what the fuck is that? Fucking Nice? And so now whenever I see it I’m like “fucking nice.” 

John
Fabric national.

01:01:09.89
Snow
But it’s a fucking like $5000 starting rifle that looks cool, shoots well, eats through optics, but it’s kind of like—it’s like quite the undertaking if you’re new to shooting rifles. And, like Camilla said, you know, AR or AKs—like AsK used to be popular in the way—oh well, “used to be,” excuse me—they still are popular. They used to be more affordable compared to like AR platforms. Now, not so much. You know, they range in like the $900 plus now, whereas before you get a quality AK for like $500 give or take. But I think for folks that are new to rifles, like, ARs tend to be more modular, meaning that you can add more easily different accessories on your carbine. So you can add a flashlight, an optic, a little, you know self open charm maybe. But you can just have more rail options for the AR and it’s much easier to just, like, do it yourself versus, like, the AK which has a different structure. So it’s a little bit harder. Like some come with like a side mount. Sometimes you have to install that yourself. And so it’s just more steps and oftentimes you need like gunsmithing tools to get that kind of stuff done. And so that can be a barrier for folks. So I mean, the AK looks fucking cool, you know. I have one. What can I say. But like, it just depends. Like AK reloads look cooler, you know, because you got that bolt that’s just—that click is just so good. But it’s a lot harder sometimes to add on stuff, especially if you want to keep the wood furniture that looks just like so good. But it’s a compromise to either have the aesthetics of the wood furniture or getting, like, a rail installed.

John
One of the YPT homies ended up having to take an angle grinder to I think a handguard so would fit on his AK because it was the wrong type of AK. ARs, like, just get parts, put them on. If you like angle grinding stuff, yeah, knock yourself out. I don’t—I’m not handy like that. Also, yeah, second what Snow said about the Scar. It’s nice. It is not $5000 nice. Nope.

Margaret
Well clearly this would never apply to guns, because of course there’s different laws about the transfer of guns and you by and large can’t buy people guns legally, and so—but there’s always the kind of, like, once you hit the level of diminishing returns of a survival tool, I find that it’s better, rather than getting the like super fancy version of the thing, is to just get another one and give it to someone else. Because I’d rather the person walking next to me having a good enough first aid kit instead of me having like the super best one, you know. And again, obviously this gets very complicated with guns. But there are parts that are not the gun that you can buy for people and might be worth spending money on instead, you know. Okay, well we’ve been talking for a while and I guess like I kind of have one final ambiguous question that you can kind of reframe however, you would like, and I—it’s a little bit of a, like, “why guns?” What does community defense look like to you? What is the—what are you going for here. Sell me on it. Or talk about something completely different. Do a final thoughts thing. Totally up to you.

Snow
And I could take a stab at it. This is, yeah, another thing that I’ve mentioned in some of our previous podcasts. But essentially, like, I could be a rainbow belt in unnamed martial arts, but ultimately, like, if some 6’7” motherfucker wants to harm me like, you know, I’m kind of fucked. And so in some ways like it’s an equalizer, right? And that’s not to say that, like. my firearm is my first line of defense. Of course I’m going to do all of the verbal de-escalation, prioritize escape, whip out my pepper spray, you know. But ultimately, like, it’s something that I feel like I would need for my own safety. And also community safety, like, we’ve seen chuds, right-wingers, what have you, like, attack people just like marching in the streets, exercising their first amendment rights. And we’ve seen them pull guns on people, right? We’ve seen them murder people. And it’s just kind of like, if they got them, like, I think it behooves us to also consider getting them, right. Because, as cliche as it says, like, you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight, right? Like, if they see that you have one, they’re going to think twice. And if they don’t think twice, then you have at least the means to defend yourself and whoever else that you’re with. And I think the time or the argument for, like, “Well we just need to get rid of guns” is like fucking so done. Like, it’s too late for that. We’re so far removed from that reality that to say that is just, like, it’s just—I mean, it’s just that, it’s not based in reality. Like, that’s the life that we live in. And it’s like, you know, did Vietnamese people during the American war in Vietnam, like, have a strong opinion on guns? No. But did they also pick up guns? Yes. Right? Like, at that point in time it wasn’t about a matter of opinion, it was about a matter of survival. And that is kind of—that is how I see it is that it’s, you know, I’m not here to philosophize, you know, all day long. It’s, you know, understanding and being aware of the situation and like the climate around me and taking the means that I feel like I need to defend myself and those I love.

Camilla
I think about it and have like rationalized it to people in my life to help them understand that I’m not necessarily out here training for today or tomorrow. I have, like, an informed realist kind of like perspective on what might lie ahead, and so I’m kind of like trying to get myself to somewhere other than behind the eight ball when it comes time to use those skills. I don’t necessarily walk around thinking about the imminence of, like, collapse, civil conflict. But I do want to be prepared for that like when/if it happens. I know it’s, like, a very blunt way of talking about it. But it’s very real, right? And it becomes a thing where it’s just like, there’s such an overwhelming amount of people on like the authoritarian right that have access to these tools and know how to use them, and I just want to help, like, hyper-local communities near me, and wherever else listeners might be, and people who aren’t even listeners, to like—whatever, I want people to be able to defend themselves, and that’s fundamentally what it’s about for me.

John
For me, I want to second everything Camilla and Snow said. I actually like it when they speak before me because they are more eloquent than me and say things that I wanted to say. Just to add on to that: for me, why do I want to own a firearm? It’s the utter failure of the state. And I’m not even sure it’s correct to call it a failure, because it never, like—the state is—the state never protects people like us, right? The state exists for the benefit of the ownership class, white men, and it doesn’t—it’s not a failure to protect us. It never was designed to do that in the first place. So when you’re talking about community defense, Snow’s right. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. You get the best tools for the job. I hope I never have to use a firearm in self-defense. Community defense to me, like, you know, I’m not even say—no one’s got to go—I’m not saying that anyone’s got to go Antifa super soldier and, you know, go march around out there. Although some people do that. But community defense to me can be as simple as, you know, giving someone like pepper spray, right? Which is an extremely effective deterrent. Go on our Instagram, see us blasting one of our homies in the face with it. It—I almost puked and I was, like, I was there. I almost puked. You know, it can be just teaching someone who is interested in guns like how to, you know, how to use a gun. Like, you know, maybe they want to get into guns and like learn how to use them themselves, or worst case scenario, at least they know you know gun safety. But you can’t rely on a government or the state to protect you, and in many cases you can rely on them to probably harm you. So you just gotta do it, you just gotta do yourself, rely on yourself and the people in your community, and the people that you trust, and your friends.

Margaret
Yeah, and—to interject my own answer to question I asked you—like, just thinking from what you are talking about, one of the things that I think about a lot is that, like, because people—you know, I think sometimes people don’t arm up because they’re like, well, I would lose a gun fight. And right—well, like, maybe—like, probably—like, you don’t really win gun fights, you survive them. And for me a lot of it is just about like—people say like, oh, not being a statistic, right? Because, like, I don’t want to get murdered like sometimes people look at me like they want to murder me when they realize I’m a man or whatever, you know. After they’re, like, they’re checking me out in the dress or whatever. And I don’t want to get murdered, but I also just like don’t want to passively get murdered. Like, for me, I don’t know if this resonates but, like, it’s not that I think I’ll win. It’s that I get to, like, shoot them also. Like, it becomes fair. And so then I’m like, all right, well I fucking lost. Okay. Like, I mean, I don’t want to lose. I don’t even want to play, I don’t want fight, but… I don’t know.

Camilla
No, I think that’s super valid. I think that’s very real. Like—and I don’t know—especially for us trans folks, like, it’s a different thing for me politically. It’s just like, it’s resistance to like a type of genocide—genocidal conditions that exist in our country towards gender deviance. So—and sexuality. But like, I’m thinking specifically about, like, the obvious violence that’s directed towards trans people. And yeah, fuck yeah, if that continues being the case, I’m going to carry something to defend myself with the same lethal means that will be used against me if someone just, you know, whimsically decides they want to—which kind of feels like it’s the score out there sometimes.

Margaret
Yeah.

Camilla
Yeah. I don’t know about y’all, but that’s kind of my thing.

John
Snow, you made this point I think on a previous podcast. It was just like, did y’all learn nothing from summer 2020? Did ya’ll learn nothing from that whole experience? Joe Biden gets elected and we’re like, all right, cool. It’s all good, yo. The same people that were talking about ACAB or whatever. It’s like, well you can’t be ACAB and be gun control. Like, who do you think is going to take your guns? Who do you think is going to do that, you know. You can’t. I think you made that point, Snow, and it’s correct.

Snow
Yeah and I think too it’s just, like, I’m not fucking going down without a fight. Like it’s, you know, I’ve fucking come too far. You know? Lincoln Park is playing in my head right now. And it’s like, I have so much to fight for, not just for myself but for my loved ones and my community. And like, it’s that drive and like will to live that I’ve, , had to cultivate for some time. It’s not something that has come naturally to me. And I’ve, like, struggled with my mental health a lot. And so to finally get where I’m at, I’m like, you’re not fucking taking that away from me. And if like you’re gonna fucking come up on me like that, like, it’s gonna be a problem for you and me. And I really like what you said Margaret around, like, you don’t when gun fights, you survive, right? And like, I am fucking trying to survive out here, you know, just a ho trying to make it out here. And like, I want that to be a choice that I don’t have to defend all the time. You know? 

Margaret
Yeah.

Snow
I feel like I have to like have a like dissertation for a PhD on like why deserve to live and I’m just tired of it. Like, I’m tired of it.

Margaret
Oh my god, that’s such a fucking good point. Like I finally just, like, my like stock line is, like, self-defense is a right. The current most effective form of self-defense in modern society against lethal force is a striker fired 9mm semiautomatic handgun.

John
I’m dying. I’m dying over here Margaret, sorry. 

Camilla
Amen.

John
A-fucking-men.

Margaret
And then, you know, on a community level, it’s a semiautomatic rifle—or carbine, which is a shorter rifle, for people who don’t keep up with—I don’t actually remember where the barrel lengths change between the definitions. But okay, well, you know, there’s so much more that I want to talk to you all about and I’d love to have you all on again, but it’s definitely running long and then, I guess I wonder if you have any, like, final thoughts about any of the stuff we’ve been talking about.

[Jeopardy music]

John
I got something. I don’t know, maybe this is like too big or something, but I don’t know. Like, I think the people in Yellow Peril, they know me as like just a sort doomer person. And I am like, that’s completely true. But honestly, like, one of the funnest things and one of the most, like, empowering things is like when I’m out there like with my friends and I’m, like, shooting. And a lot of times, like, I fucking suck. Doesn’t matter. Like, it’s fun, and I I feel better about life. I mean, it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

Margaret
All right. Well, where can people find you? I know you’re not really online or anything like that but—you know, it’s funny, people—I get in trouble for my dry sense of sarcasm a lot, and it’s been really kicking in really hard the past couple months. But where can people find you online or find out more about what you do?

Snow
We are on a few platforms. Our main platform is Instagram @yellow_peril_tactical and we’re also on the Twitter, regrettably. But our Twitter is @yptactual. And if you ever want to send us an email. We’re at yellow.peril.tactical@protonmail.com, and we also have a website but we don’t really do anything with the website. I think it’s just yellowperiltactical.com. But that’s where to find us send us a DM.

John
We got it because we didn’t want anyone else taking the website.

Snow
True Domain wars.

John
And if you’re on Instagram, keep typing it in because we’re sort of like shadow banned. You have to typing it in, like, yellow_peril_tac and then it usually shows up.

Margaret
And you all have a podcast. What’s it called? How can people find that?

Snow
So yeah, our podcast is Yellow Peril Tactical Tiger Bloc podcast, and we’re on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. And you can also find us on Patreon. I say Paaaatreon because I want to be British sometimes. But we’re on Patreon, give us a follow. It’s just to help us cover our costs. We don’t make any profits off of it. But this is something we do in our free time. And John Chinaman, what’s our Patreon.

John
Ah, you can find it, the best way to find it is actually like going to like our Instagram or Twitter and looking in the Linktree and just click on it. It’s there.

Margaret
Okay, and it looks like yawls Patreon is patreon.com/yellow_peril_tactical

Margaret
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. Tell them on the internet or tell them about it in person while wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask depending on your risk analysis and how well you know the person. You should tell people about the show if you liked it—which you probably didn’t hate it because you made it this far, and you can also do all of the internet things as well. You can subscribe and rate and review and do all of those things that make machines tell other people to listen to this podcast. You can also support this podcast by supporting Strangers in the Tangled Wilderness, our publisher, on Patreon which is patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And we are publishers of radical culture. We’ll be putting out zines, and podcasts, and pop culture reviews, and fiction, and poetry even maybe, and a whole bunch of other stuff, and you all are going to help make it happen. Well, some of you all are. The people who support us on Patreon are making it happen, and I’m very excited. There’s nothing more amazing than watching a project be able to come forth and do so much stuff. Because Strangers in a Tangle Wilderness has been around for almost twenty years but it’s been on and off, and watching it get reinvented anew like a phoenix from the flames. Yeah, I’m going to leave in that terrible metaphor and you can help and you can help by supporting us on Patreon. And in particular I would love to thank Hoss and Chris, Sam, Nora, Hugh, Kirk, Natalie, Eleanor, Jennifer, Starro, Chelsea, Dana, David, and Nicole for making this possible. And well, that’s all for me, and I hope you’re doing as well as as you can in everything that’s happening.

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

S1E36 – Summer on Frontline Nursing in a Rural Area

Episode Notes

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

Transcript

Margaret
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and also welcome back to the show. It’s been several months since I put out the last episode and you’ll be shocked to know that’s because a bunch of stuff happened in my life which is, you know, everything to do with everything that’s going on in the world. Um, maybe most importantly I moved and I now live on-grid in Appalachia instead of off-grid and Appalachia, and I’m very happy for the transition. It’s pretty cool to have enough electricity to make this show. And also have an oven that works. I really like having an oven. And I also got a puppy, and I got a puppy who is rescued, so I’ve not—I spent several months where instead of sleeping or getting anything done, I had a puppy. I still have the puppy but now I get to sleep because the puppy is like five months old. So that’s where I’ve been. And, yeah, welcome back to the show. This week I’ll be talking with Summer who is my friend who is an ICU nurse in a rural area in in rural Oregon, which is not the most lefty area, and we’re going to be talking about pretty much the—the politics of vaccination and some of what they’ve dealt with during the pandemic. And I think you’ll enjoy it. And this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts, and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Duh da duh da da daaaaa.

Jingle 1
The Final Straw is a weekly anarchist radio show. It’s fucking awesome, and you’re never gonna hear me say fucking awesome on our show because we’re FCC regulated.

Jingle 2
There’s a black part of my heart that just flutters when you talk like that.

Jingle 1
[Inaudible] talk than more yelling.

Jingle 3
It’s a weird sort of like nice thing, in a way, that also can get kind of frightening at times.

Jingle 1
Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org

Margaret
Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with like your name, your pronouns, and then I guess a little bit about what it is that you do that is the reason I invited you to talk on the show today.

Summer
My name’s Summer. I’m a nurse, I live in Rural Oregon. I use they/them pronouns and I’ve been working in an ICU and have experienced now working in a Covid ICU—full Covid ICU. And I come from a background of radical politics and we’re here today to talk about some of that.

Margaret
Yeah I guess I wanted to have you on because I’ve seen some of your social media posts about the hate that you’ve gotten at the—at the ICU that you work at and I know there’s a lot of conversation right now about what do we do about the unvaccinated people who end up in hospital, and you know, combined with the—there’s a lot of like news stories about, you know, the ungratitude of the unvaccinated folks and things like that. And I guess I just wanted to talk to you to get more of a firsthand idea of what it’s like working at an ICU during Covid in a pandemic. I already set the Covid part.

Summer
Sure, um, so to give a little context: like I said, I live in a rural area of Organ. It’s predominantly conservative, a lot of libertarian bent, um, included in the state of Jefferson—if you’re familiar with that as a concept. And we experienced a huge Covid surge in our ICUs August through October of this last fall—or summer into fall. Maybe even into November really. And so rural area with low vaccination rates. Like I said, a lot of libertarian politics. And during that surge we were experiencing some of the worst numbers in the country in terms of infection rates and it hit our hospital pretty hard. We serve, uh, like very wide rural area. We’re, um, the highest level trauma center within hundreds of miles. And so we get people from a really wide region of the state and even from Northern California. And our ICU just got flooded with very, very sick Covid patients. It’s a fifteen-bed ICU and as soon as that filled up, you know, it really impacted the entire hospital system. And it ended up that our ICU and our step down unit were both full of critically ill Covid patients during that time frame, and we ended up having the National Guard and FEMA nurses present at the hospital to just help it continue to function and help it serve the Covid patients and the rest of the patients in the hospital who needed care. So that’s the larger context of what was going on. And then more specifically in my experience, you know, the politics around the pandemic not only impacted, like, who’s getting vaccinated and who’s not and the numbers and how they grew so rapidly, but really, they impact and trust in the medical system. And there’s already a lot of reasons for a lot of different demographics and populations to have distrust in the medical system. But right now we’re experiencing that kind of expanding into different demographics and different populations. And the things that I think you’re referring to that I’ve experienced was, you know, there was a day during our surge where the national news actually came into our ICU to report on what was happening in this rural area. And, you know, at that time the vast majority of patients we were seeing were unvaccinated. And that very same day there was a protest outside the hospital against the state vaccine mandate that had not been enacted but was upcoming, that would require all health care workers to be vaccinated, um, barring a religious exemption. So we left a shift where the national news was present, high Intensity, we lost like 3 patients that day in our small ICU I think, um, to walk out of the hospital to hundreds of people across the street protesting the vaccine mandate. And then, you know, of course mixed in there are antivaxxers are—you know, generally antivaxxers— more far-right folks mixed in. It was a pretty tough day, a pretty emotional day for a lot of us walking out from some really intense cases in the ICU to a public that is completely undermining your lived reality, you know, just on the other side of these doors, right? And I think that that’s, you know, that’s a thing that’s been seen at different areas across the country, that tension that’s escalated between healthcare and the public. And I think there’s so many things that we can say about that. But really, I—you know, this question of like vaxx versus antivaxx, um, it’s something I’ve thought out about quite a lot, obviously. And I actually had a friend somewhat recently who, um—a mutual friend I believe—asked me whether I still have compassion for unvaccinated patients. You know, going off of his experience of having healthcare worker friends who are kind of just totally disillusioned around vaccination rates and taking care of these patients who didn’t take what seems like the obvious step to take care of themselves.

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
And the answer to that is like, yes, I definitely still do have compassion for these people, and um I can understand not—I can understand the frustration. I’m still frustrated, right. It’s still easy to get really angry. But for me it’s the same as any other patients that I treat, whether it’s an OD, or a DUI, or people coming in with exacerbations of chronic illness. It’s not really my job to judge why someone’s in the hospital. It’s not my job to moralize their suffering. And if you’re in a Covid ICU, that is like a hellhole of suffering, let me tell you. These people are suffering in a major way and experiencing a huge trauma. Not just the patients, but families as well.

Margaret
Right.

Summer
I also, you know, have to contextualize it in this much larger situation where we have a government that is, like, face planting, a public healthcare system that is face planting on managing a global pandemic in our country, and this huge amount of misinformation that’s out, both about, you know, a vaccine, but also about a virus and what that is, and about a pandemic and what that is, and what it takes to protect yourself from one another. And so I have a lot of compassion for people who, their world is just a different reality. It’s a reality where the facts don’t line up, right?

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
And a lot of us experience that now, right? Like, what is reality? Sometimes you can’t even have a conversation with someone about facts, about what’s real and what’s not, and I experience that a lot talking to family members in healthcare at this point.

Margaret
Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting comparing it—kind of, like, subtly comparing it to harm reduction, right? I feel like that was actually one of the most, you know, that was like the way of putting it that really got to me, like, when you just set that just now is because I—yeah, I do think of the like, well obviously these people are making decisions that I don’t, right? Um, and yet that’s a decision we’ve made at least in terms of the opioid crisis to just not have any judgment towards, and it’s kind of interesting. Also because when you talk about the suffering that people are facing, right? Like, it comes up every now and then that someone who is kind of terrible dies, right?

Summer
Right.

Margaret
And then, in some ways, especially if they have a lot of like political power or whatever, everyone talking shit on that person who’s died. Whatever, I don’t I don’t care. But on some level there’s a certain amount of, like, well can’t ask accountability of the dead. You know, like, um, like say—so for example, someone dies doing something very like heroic and good that we all agree is a good thing, but they have a long history of doing bad things. There’s kind of a like, well, but they can’t do anything about that now, right? There’s no way for us to ask for them to do anything about that. And so, maybe even the people who survive who aren’t vaccinated who end up in the hospital—I mean I guess what we’re kind of saying is, like, get vaccinated or face the consequences. And they were like, “consequences, please.” And then they face the consequences. So on some level—

Summer
Yeah.

Margaret
—like what more can you ask? They’re suffering, you know.

10:20.19
Summer
Yeah. But even in in my regards, some people don’t really understand—many people don’t really understand the consequences. Not only have many people not really seen what an ICU is, what a ventilator is, what someone’s body looks like after weeks on a ventilator. Um, but in their version of reality, the truth that they’ve been presented, this whole thing isn’t real for some of these people. And I’m not exaggerating. Like I have met—I have talked to family members at the bedside of their loved one who has an 80–90% chance of dying—because those were the rates we were seeing in our ICU during that surge—80–90% of our intubated patients were dying of Covid—who says, “I just didn’t know. I just didn’t think this was real. I didn’t think this could happen.”

Margaret
Yeah.

11:14.96
Summer
“If you were going to get a vaccine, which one would you get.” Like, those are conversations I’ve had with people, you know, and it’s—that’s what really for me is so heart-wrenching is, like, the dawning of knowledge upon these people in the worst way possible. Like, that shouldn’t be the way people have to understand the truth is by watching their family member die because of what they’ve all believed. Um, and I mean, I’ve witnessed that regret from family members for sure, and I—this isn’t to, you know, I’m not like a flawless person or something. I also get super fucking frustrated and I’ve had family members yell at me on the phone about Ivermectin, um, when I’m like, that’s not—there’s no evidence to support that as a treatment in severe Covid cases. Like that’s, like, become this, like, this sentence I’ve repeated so many times. And it’s—that’s super challenging when you’re working with a team around the clock that is like monitoring literally everything that this person’s body is doing, from like every milliliter of urine they’re producing, to all their blood work, to the pressure that’s programmed into the ventilator to keep their lungs open, and then you walk out of the room and there’s a family member on the phone yelling at you about how, well there’s no evidence to support vaccination, and you’re staring at their loved one unvaccinated on a ventilator. You know, it’s like this this dissonance.

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
Um, like I—it’s like you’re reaching across a span that’s really great in those instances, you know, because you don’t have a common understanding of what the world is right now.

Margaret
Right. It’s funny because I kept waiting, you know, like hearing stories about that—obviously I don’t experience them—but hearing those stories, I keep kind of waiting for it to, like, break through and for people to be like, oh okay, like, my cousin died and now all of my other cousins are getting vaccinated and I’m going to and, you know what, I’m going to actually tell my friends at the bar that we should get vaccinated, especially if we keep hanging out at a bar. And like, I kept like waiting for that to happen. And at this point I’ve completely given up on that ever happening because of—

Summer
Well it does—it does happen sometimes. And I’m not trying to be, like, a blasting ray of hope, because it doesn’t happen a lot, too. You know, but I have seen—like I have cared for a patient who was on a ventilator for over 60 days and then you know, was brought—like he’s, the patient’s awake now and can talk and whatnot. And any team member, any—whether it’s a physical therapist or a nurse or anyone who walks in the room, the patient immediately now asks, “do you have the vaccine.” And because of the experience that this person has had, they’ve completely changed their mind about vaccination, of course. And at our at our hospital you have to be vaccinated to work there at this point, so it’s kind of a like moot question, but I do see people turn around in a really big way. But it’s just so unfortunate that they have to have what to me looks like one of the worst experiences I could possibly imagine in order to come to terms with the reality that we’re living under, you know?

Margaret
Yeah

Summer
And I get it, you know? I get the root of where people are coming from is distrust of the government, distrust of the media, distrust of healthcare. Like, uh, relatable? Like yeah, I get that. I also don’t trust those things, you know?

Maraget
Right.

Summer
And, you know, depending on what background you come from, you have even more reason. not to distrust those things, especially healthcare. And so I can’t, you know, stand on my moral high ground and pretend that I get it and I’m right and they’re wrong and I’m smart and they’re dumb, you know. Like that doesn’t really get us anywhere when the actual reality that I’m faced with is a person in front of me who is deeply suffering, who we’re going to try our best to take care of.

Margaret
Yeah. I, you know, I’m sure you get this daily and maybe it’s annoying, but it’s like, I can’t imagine being able to do what you do, you know, and then, like, maintain enough, um—yeah, okay, like how do you maintain enough faith in humanity to go to work? Is that too blunt of a question?

Summer
You know, I go to work. I don’t know if I maintain faith in humanity.

Margaret
Ah, okay.

Summer
But I keep going back somehow. And it’s been Hard. It’s been really fucking hard. And if anyone’s listening and you are close to anyone who’s working in healthcare, especially if they’re working and an ICU, like, I can’t emphasize enough just taking care of your friends, and even just asking, hey man, shit sounds rough. How are you doing? Like, that goes a long way, you know? And yeah, how do I keep doing it? Honestly it’s like—and I guess this ties into some of the topics you kind of mentioned talking about today—um, it’s the team that I work with that really does make a big difference. And, you know, going into nursing as like a queer person with this radical background, I felt really alienated from my co-workers. I kind of had this, like, mindset that I was like an alien walking into a foreign land and I didn’t want anyone to know I was an alien, you know. And I still feel that like every day of my life everywhere I go but—

Margaret
This is unrelatable. I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Summer
Yeah, you have no idea what I mean. Um, but over time I’ve developed relationships with people who I probably would never have five years ago, and, um, the type of solidarity that I experienced in the workplace might not be like #radical or something, or #anarchy, but um, those bonds are really important and really powerful, and I know that my co-workers would show up for one another in so many big ways, you know, like, it’s not called mutual aid there, but it sure as fuck is. The way that I’ve seen people show up for one another, especially in these crises. And, yeah, it’s—that bleeds into so many other things about nursing and mental health and the crisis that’s happening in nursing right now.

Margaret
I mean, we could talk about that. I’m curious about that.

Summer
Yeah, I think that you know some people are kind of—who aren’t in healthcare are kind of aware of what’s happening, but I think a large number of people aren’t really aware of—

Margaret
Which is that everyone’s rushing to join the field because you all are well-respectcted, well-paid, and taken care of? Loved by society?

Summer
Yeah—and yeah, not facing these like ruptures of, like, what is real on a daily basis.

Margaret
Yeah, that’s right.

Summer
Yeah, exactly it’s going great.

Margaret
It’s utopian.

Summer
Become a nurse, everyone. Um, no, but there is a—there’s a huge crisis happening right now in nursing and there already was this like nursing shortage, right? Like when I was in nursing school they would talk about the nursing shortage. And really what it was was, like, a lot of nurses were retiring at retirement age, and what I see as the biggest barrier wasn’t that no one wanted to be a nurse, it’s that—it’s twofold. It’s like we have an aging population with complex chronic health conditions, so more patients, right? And then we have people who want to be nurses, but we have educational institutions that are trying to make as money as much money as possible, and limiting the number of people who can access degrees in nursing. And we maybe don’t have enough educators. Maybe, you know, probably a lot of stuff that I don’t know about or not qualified to talk about. But and that was already the baseline when I entered the field of nursing, and then you lay on top of that this huge pandemic that is just totally changed everything, changed what nursing looks like. And like, side note, also a lot of healthcare workers have died of Covid. And it’s not like an extreme number, but I think the number from the World Health Organization last October was between like 80- and 180,000. I believe that’s worldwide. So—and I don’t know what percentage of those are nurses—but like, you know, that does play a role, fear of that probably plays a role, and then it’s extreme burnout and trauma. Like, you know, I mentioned earlier that during these surges—and probably these numbers differ from hospital to hospital—80–90% of our patients who were put on ventilators for Covid were dying. And, you know, we’re pretty used to dealing with people dying in the ICU. It’s kind of, like, what we do is try to prevent people from dying. But inevitably people die. Um, but when you have 80–90% of the people that you’re taking care of dying no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, no matter what interventions you try, it is demoralizing to say the least. You know it’s awful.

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
It’s truly awful. Um, and it’s like an already high-stress job that then you add that on top of, you add the public discourse on top of that, you add the politics, you add the family’s yelling at you about whatever treatment they heard about from Joe Rogan or, you know, whatever. It just creates this stress level that’s, I think, unprecedented and really difficult to manage. Um, and there’s that narrative of, like, the public not caring about nurses, or the public not understanding what they’re going through, but even bigger is like policies that reflect a lack of care for human life in this country, which, you know, our job as nurses is to preserve human life. And then we’re faced with the government, healthcare—or public health policies that don’t value human life. So there’s like that dissonance going on.

Margaret
You talking about the, like, the way the CDC keeps changing, like, what’s being valued or whatever?

Summer
Yeah, I mean just all of it. The way that, um, both presidents who have been elected or serving—or whatever the fuck you call what they do during this pandemic. The way that it’s been managed, the way the way capitalism manages this pandemic does not reflect a care for human life, right? It reflects the care for capital. And that just—when your job is to preserve human life and you see all these policies coming down that you’re like, what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck? Like, this doesn’t line up with what we’re supposed to do. Like, this doesn’t line up at all. And then you have, you know, places that lack appropriate PPE for nurses, like, these policies that don’t reflect I care for healthcare workers. It is, like, the whole picture is a big labor crisis, because people of course are going to be like, the fuck am I doing here when I could do x, y, z thing, right? And, like—

Margaret
You should try podcasting. You don’t have to leave the house.

Summer
I know, I’m thinking about it actually.

Margaret
Okay, cool.

Summer
And I am lucky in a lot of ways. Like, I live on the West Coast, I am unionized, my pay proportionally is a lot greater than some parts of the country, like some parts would rule south where nurses are getting paid garbage, right? And don’t have a lot of the protections that I do. And, I mean, I can keep listing all these things. Like you mentioned the CDC, like, growing lack of trust in the CDC as an institution, as a healthcare worker, because they just say garbage that is not evidence-based. They tell you you’re supposed to, like, work your job based on policies that have no evidence behind it. There’s just—everything’s starting to feel more and more arbitrary, right. Um, and it’s gotten to a point where, like, I hear my coworkers in the break room talking about the different psych meds that they’re trying. Or like, the different anti-anxiety pills that they’re trying, and the different dosages that they’re trying, just to manage, like, their job. Now, off course, that’s not everyone. I’m not trying to be like overly-dramatic. But it’s definitely a trend. And then the—you know, the other side of that is, like, you have people just leaving the field entirely. But you have a shit ton of people who are going to be travel nurses and, like—a travel nurse, for people who don’t know, it’s an RN who can pick up a contract. Hospitals around the country do this, and have done it since before the pandemic. You pick up a contract for a certain number of weeks for a certain pay. You work that contract, you move on. Um, people do this for short periods of time, for long periods of time, but during the pandemic it’s been totally amplified, because you started having these crisis contracts, some of which were funded by the government, to send nurses to places that were really impacted by the pandemic and lacking staff. And you had these huge, huge incentives—like huge pay bonuses—for working in these extreme conditions. And at first you saw that, you know, in places like New York and whatnot with big surges. But now pretty much everywhere is hurting for nurses, and they will hire travel nurses for up to, you know, 4 or 5 times what staff nurses are making at that same institution. So you work under these conditions for long enough, your management tells you for long enough that they can’t do—they can’t give you PPE or they can’t give you a retention bonus, or they just can’t, they can’t, they can’t. Of course eventually people are going to be like, well fuck this place, I’m going to go make 4 times as much 2 hours away or next state over. And so it’s turning into a situation where we have more and more travel nurses in hospitals, and less and less staff nurses. And like, that in itself doesn’t sound that problematic until you think about, like, what’s the difference between a nurse who’s been at the same institution for 10 years and one who’s been there for 3 days. It’s like a commitment to that institution in a certain sense, right? At least a commitment to the community that they’re serving in maybe some way, and knowledge of the way things work there because every hospital is going to be a little different. So it does, you know, in some senses pose a safety concern. Um, and in some cases people who are getting travel contracts are maybe not necessarily qualified to work in the positions that they’re getting hired to. And I’ve seen that happen before. People are chasing the money, and I don’t blame them right? So anyway, that’s like a lot of talk. The whole crisis. But it really is becoming a crisis. At our hospital I see people who I don’t think of as, like, labor organize-y or, like, radical by any means, who would describe themselves as moderate talking about this stuff in terms that are getting more and more pressured. And I see people who are talking about leaving who I would have never imagined would leave. And we have management telling us, we can’t pay you more because we have to pay all these travel nurses. Well, if you paid us more we might stay and not become travel nurses, right?

Margaret
Can I just become a travel nurse and stay here? Actually, do people do that?

Summer
Yeah, um, no, they try to prevent you from doing that.

Margaret
Oh, okay.

Summer
But I have people that I work with who even took travel gigs north like 2 hours, and so they’re still living where we live, they just drive 2 hours to work and make 4 times as much.

Margaret
Yeah, yeah. One of the things you were talking about earlier, you know, watching the nurses like trust the CDC and the government stuff less and less. And it ties into that thing that you were talking about earlier about how a lot of people have good reasons not to trust the government, and so that’s like something that we can all—I think anyone who’s thought through most things would have reason to distrust the government, right? Any analysis of history, almost regardless of your background, but obviously some backgrounds more than others. There’s good reasons to not trust the government.

Summer
I can think of like 5 reasons not to trust.

Margaret
Like a little list?

Summer
Top 5 reasons not to trust them.

Margaret
Yeah, totally. No, this is good. You’re going to be a good podcaster. Better than me. But the thing that works—that it comes down to for me—and it helps that I know people like you. I know medical professionals. You know, my joke for a long time is that the way to get health care in this country is to date a doctor and then stay friends with him. Um, because that’s how I had my health care for a very long time, is that my ex is a doctor now. Um you date one boy, you pick the right one. Anyway. Um, and yeah. But the thing is this like—okay, so I don’t trust the government. What I trust is people. And so, like, people are like, well why do you trust the government telling you what’s good for your health? And I’m like, no, I trust my friends who are doctors. And it’s not even like I trust doctors as a category at large, because I also understand why people are nervous around that. And it is this position of privilege where I am around people who have made those choices or have access to those choices to become medical professionals. But it’s like, no, I trust you, like I trust you—it’s just interesting to me. I don’t know like how to—this is my solution. This is how we get, um, you know, all the nurses just go to the people and you’d be like, look hey, don’t listen to the government, listen to me. I don’t know.

Summer
A flawless plan.

Margaret
Maybe, everyone to listening, trust us! What could go wrong? Trust the voices and the headphones. Unlike Joe Rogan, don’t trust Joe Rogan.

Summer
Yeah, don’t trust that voice in your headphone. Yeah I really get it. Why not to trust institutions, why not to trust, uh, what feels like big government saying, now do this to your body. You know, it’s the good thing to do. But, and before the vaccine came out, you know, I had my own, I’ll be honest, I had my own hesitations about whether or not I would get it. But the moment that it was made accessible to me I was at work and I got an email that said, hey, you can make appointment. I picked up the phone immediately and made an appointment. I kind of surprised myself with how, like, my response to it. Like how ready I was to get the vaccine. It was pretty early on, it was last December, um, but part of what really changed it for me is kind of what you’re talking about. Like not thinking about it as, like, the government made a vaccine or, you know, Pfizer made a vaccine, but thinking about the individual people who worked on producing that vaccine and, like, you know, we’ve all met science nerds, right? That’s like, they’re passionate about their nerd-dom around science and I was just imagining people like in these labs working their fucking tails off to produce something. And, you know, whether they do it for money, or glory, or fame, or out of, like, a care for people, who knows? But, I don’t know, for some reason that comforted me, thinking about people like pouring their hearts and their minds into this project. But, I mean, that kind of like brings us back to talking about vaccines, right?

Margaret
Which vaccine did you get?

Summer
Um and I have Pfizer. Yeah. Does that mean—is this like a horoscope reading? Does that mean something about me?

Margaret
Yeah, probably. We need to come up with that.

Summer
My sun and moon are and Pfizer. Um I just—I’ve been thinking a lot about this like vaxxed versus unvaxxed thing. And especially in the Biden administration, and how so many liberals—probably more or less well-meaning liberals—thought that, like, Joe Biden was going to turn us around in terms of the pandemic. And what we’ve seen is, like, definitely not. We have not turned this thing around, you know? Like not even close. By no means have we turned it around.

Margaret
Well, I mean, you know, there’s like a million people a day getting Covid. Oh yeah, nope. I see what you mean.

Summer
Yeah, yeah. And ultimately it’s like, I just take issue with this really neoliberal response where this control of a global pandemic is being placed on the actions of the individual, right? Whether or not the individual makes the like “good” or “moral” choice to get vaccinated, and ultimately to me it feels like this fascist tendency. Like we’ve, like, identified an internal enemy which is the unvaccinated, right? And like those are the people responsible for all of this, for the economy failing for—like what does that narrative sound like, you know? And like this is all to say, like, yeah, I’m provaxx. I’m vaxxed. Like, I think it’s a good Idea. You should probably get vaccinated. But I don’t, you know, we’re talking about like a global issue here and whether or not your neighbor’s vaccinated, ultimately like there’s bigger fucking questions of like why there’s been such a failure in public health to manage this pandemic. There are countries where this isn’t the reality, you know?

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
Their numbers right now are like in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. Like, that could have been our reality if this had been managed differently on a policy level, and I’m not even like a fucking policy nerd, you know? I’m just like, wow y’ all did bad. Like this has not worked out. And the hyper-focus on the, like, choice of the individual, just like it does with green capitalism, it pulls our attention away from these larger structural issues and institutional responses to the pandemic. Like, are we really—like, don’t question Joe Biden, question your neighbor, you know. Don’t be mad at like the CDC, be mad at like the guy out on the street. Like, it’s just a really ineffectual way to manage this. And it also—like the narrative around, like, well if only they’d get vaccinated. It’s just like writing off the deaths of these people as inevitable and as, like, not worth our care, or our time, or our thought. And I don’t think—I mean, maybe I can think of some people who like “deserve” to die of Covid, but I don’t think the vast majority of people who are dying deserve it by any means, you know.

Margaret
Right.

Summer
And um—and we’re at a point too where like even vaccinated people are getting sick, so it becomes, like, this really big question, right?

Margaret
Yeah, and I guess—I guess it’s like people are putting their faith—even if they’re not putting their faith in government, they’re putting their faith in like Fox News or whoever it is who’s, you know, telling them not to get vaccinated.

Summer
Right, yeah.

Margaret
Instead of putting their faith in themselves and their own decision making. Yeah, no, that’s interesting. You know, okay, so like one of the reasons that, like, you know, green capitalism—it’s like the—well, if you’d only change your light bulbs to LEDs a little bit earlier, we wouldn’t have climate change, everyone knows that. If you, Summer, hadn’t changed—had changed your light bulbs, still hold you responsible for this. And, you know, and so it’s like we all see how that’s bullshit, and I can see how that that makes sense about this. But it is interesting because some of the—some of the ways it seems like that countries are handling it successfully do challenge some of my anti-authoritarianism on some level.

Summer
Yeah.

Margaret
And so it would be less about giving your neighbor the choice, and in some ways it is about like vaccine mandates. It’s like, well, if you want to keep working at this thing that you do, you need a vaccine. And I actually don’t have—like people ask me a fair amount as, like, a sort of public-facing anarchist or something, people be like, well what is the, you know, anti-authoritarian response about vaccines and stuff. And for me, it’s like fairly easy. It’s like, well, I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want to get other people sick, so obviously I take the thing that’s available to me that can minimize my chances of that and, you know. But if you’re talking about on a policy level, like what does that look like? What does that mean?

Summer
Yeah, I don’t—honestly, I don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot too because I don’t want to come across as, like, everyone should do what they want, because I obviously don’t feel that way. Like, that’s not limiting—that’s what we’re doing and it’s not limiting suffering. It’s not preventing people from dying. It’s not preventing people who are medically fragile and don’t deserve this from dying, you know? Not that—I don’t want to come across that way at all and, like, have you have you read Climate Leviathan”

Margaret
I have not, but I once listened to a podcast where they discuss the basic concept. So I basically have read it.

Summer
Well, it just it creates this like interesting…w hat would you call it… like, this categorization of different ways that governments could respond to the ongoing climate crisis, right. And there’s like climate Mao, which is kind of—resembles like the way a country like China might respond to the climate—or is responding to the climate crisis. And I’ve been thinking about that in terms of, like, the pandemic.

Margaret
So using, like, top-down authoritarian control.

Summer
Yeah, yeah. But like left-wing authoritarian, I guess. And in China the way that they’re dealing with pandemic right now from some of the stories I’ve read is, like, people who have tried to travel there and you test positive and you are forcibly put into isolation, you know.

Margaret
Right.

Summer
You know, you’re given treatment and you don’t really have a choice. Is that good? Ugh, you know, doesn’t make me feel good. And then you have a country like ours which is more of, like, neoliberal, that, you know, we’re seeing what that response looks like. Like, freedom to the individual and then like what fuck happens then? It’s a shit show in its own way, and all the policies are geared towards, you know, maximizing capital instead of valuing humans or human life.

Margaret
Right.

Summer
And then there would be like a right-wing authoritarian response, which I don’t know what kind of example to give for that. But then there’s the, like, what is the response that you’re talking about? What do we come up with that’s like an antiauthoritarian leftist response to a global pandemic, and I don’t know, really. But I do know that, like, things that come to mind are like, we talk a lot about informed consent in medicine and I don’t think that people have the right education and right information to make informed decisions around a lot of this. That’s like a huge issue, right? Like, our education system, our public health system, our media and the way that—you know, back to what we were talking about earlier, the way that like there’s this split in reality, the reality that people are experiencing. Like, people are not making informed choices about their health when they choose not to vaccinate—often. Sometimes they are, but often they aren’t, right. Because they don’t have access to all the information—or not being given all the information in unbiased manner. So that’s one of the things I think about. And then, like, global vaccine equity is huge, right? Because we can’t pretend this is just a national issue, like that’s absurd, viruses do not, like, acknowledge borders. Like, why we treat this as if it’s, like, in an enclosed space ,right, that is called the United States when, um, the border is, like—yeah, it has like very real and fucked up implications in the world. But it’s also a concept, right? And like, we need to acknowledge this as a global problem, or else, you know, we’re going to keep getting these variants, we’re going to keep getting more waves of Covid. So, yeah, I don’t really have like a solid answer of, like, how do we deal with this in an antiauthoritarian way. But there’s things we can do better, that’s for sure.

Margaret
I had this like huge moment of, somewhere between disappointment and fear, like I think there was, like, a news story that broke about, like, Russia, like, hacked some of the people researching a vaccine and stole their research or whatever. And everyone’s like, oh, damn you Russia. And I’m like, wait, what? It wasn’t freely available? Like, you like to imagine that when there’s a global pandemic all of the smart people who specifically study that get together and say, like, okay, what’s the best plan? And then they all figure it out together and we can have our Star Trek moment where we realize we’re all going to fucking die unless we do it, right? And something about, like, climate change and carbon emissions and stuff, I see how that like screws the economy—I’m completely in favor of this approach to climate change, mind you—but like I could see the argument for it’s really more complex than that and it has all these implications. But I just like can’t see a defense of intellectual property for vaccines and for medical care. You know, I just, I cannot fathom— especially, even from a self-interest point of view of like as you said, the, you know, vaccine does not respect borders. And so, like, I’m glad I have my like third shot—my booster shot—but it like kind of irritates me that there’s, you know, plenty of people who’ve never had access to it at all, you know, elsewhere in the world.

Summer
Mhmm.

Margaret
I mean, I think that would be part of anti-authoritarianism, right? Is that you have this like, well obviously we don’t respect these like borders or capitalism enough to say that, like, you all can, you know, hide the intellectual property of how we take care of ourselves. But it does get into interesting questions around, like, when you when you bring up informed consent, right. Because you’re like, okay, well—I’m almost afraid to get into these kinds of—it’s such a murky territory. But it’s like, okay, if you have a community of people where they’re like, oh, we all agree we’re not vaccinated and it might fucking kill us and whatever, you know? But in some ways the consent—like, do I consent to allowing people who have not chose to be vaccinated get near me, you know? Like, what direction does the consent go? Like, I don’t know the answer to that, but part of me thinks that the, you know, in the same way that we use informed consent with sex around STIs, right? And like, it’s not to say that someone who has STIs like shouldn’t have sex, it’s just that you just need to have an informed, consensual sex. And like all sex, you know, because it’s not like it’s like a binary where some people have STIs and some people don’t. I’m not trying to like, you know—people don’t always know and then there’s all these things that people have that—this is why it’s so messy. And like, so, I’m not trying to be like, oh, if you want to hang out in Plague Village in Plague Town you can, right? I don’t know, it gets—it’s really complex and I just—like, I actually almost appreciate but mostly begrudge how much all of this challenges, I think not just like my ideological position, but like all the ideological positions that anyone who’s actually thinking clearly comes into this with. If you came into the pandemic with a clear ideological position and it hasn’t been challenged at all by the pandemic or climate change, I think you’re lying to yourself.

Summer
Yeah, or you’ve just like—maybe if you’re a capitalist you’re still just like, yay capitalism, you know.

Margaret
I’m going to Mars, fuck all you!

Summer
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean there is a lot of nuance and I think it’s made a lot of us pretty uncomfortable, right, to be like, should the government tell us not to leave our houses? Like maybe, is that a—maybe that’s a good idea? That can’t be a good idea. You know, like, it is really uncomfortable.

Margaret
Yeah.

Summer
And it’s uncomfortable to be an anarchist or an anti-authoritarian and be like, well, the government should definitely just give me money to stay home. Because then it’s like, oh, like—well, you know what—I don’t have to explain it. But like, I think there is a lot of discomfort. There’s a lot of weird ground here and like, it’s—I think that, ultimately, it’s just hard to imagine a widespread anti-authoritarian response to something when we live under capital and we live under this extreme—in this extreme situation, in extreme circumstances where we have very little control over something That’s so widespread and overarching.

Margaret
I think that is the answer.

Summer
Yeah. That’s not just you like no control, right? Like, we do have some control over our day-to-day lives, over what risks we’re willing to accept, how we share information and resources and all that. Yeah, but some of it just feels very, oh yeah, so icky.

Margaret
Yeah I mean but it also gets to the level of, like, well, for example, something someone could do is stay being a nurse in the ICU. You know? I’m not trying to convince you to stay your job, you do whatever you want. But like, you know, I feel like that is a—you know, because so much of the response—or like, all the mutual aid organizations that popped up, you know, is like, in some ways that is our response. Because we don’t control society, but we do control ourselves and we do control, you know, collectively control smaller organizations and things. Which might be too Pat of an answer.

Summer
I’m sure I’m sure there’s like people more creative or smarter or something than I am who have a really great response to, like, what could that look like. But if—I know in my life for me right now it’s just become—like my circle’s gotten smaller in a lot of ways and I just try my best to take really good care of the people that are closest to me, you know. When my friends get sick with Covid I, like, bring them food, and I bring them care boxes and whatnot. And that seems kind of like mundane or simple. But for me, coming from my like ICU nursing position, that’s kind of the best I can do. And help people understand what’s going on, too, people who I’m close to who are like, wait, what the fuck does this—wait, what’s happening with this thing? Like, not that I’m an authority, but I do have some room to speak from here. So.

Margaret
Well, is that no okay question to ask you? This will probably come out maybe a week from when we record it, so maybe everything will have changed. But like, what the fuck is happening right now? Is that something I can ask you>

Summer
Oh god. You mean with like Omicron, or?

Margaret
Yeah, and like, you know, there’s a lot of discussion right now about, like, do we throw our hands up in the air and say, everyone’s going to get it anyway?

Summer
Oh god.

Margaret
You know, both like in terms of, like, what kind of response is like appropriate—or even like what response like you take in your personal life, or like the people around you take in your personal lives that you respect, you know?—Whose choices around it you respect. Everyone listening do exactly what Summer is about to say and don’t think for yourself.

Summer
Oh my god. Everyone who’s listening, do not do as I say. But I think I have a couple of responses to that in terms of, like, what’s going on right now with Omicron and, you know, we’re seeing a ton of breakthrough infections. We probably all know people who are getting Covid right now. Do we just, yeah, throw our hands up in, like, let nihilism take over and let everyone get sick? No, that is a horrible strategy for managing a pandemic. That’s a terrible—

Margaret
Oh, interesting.

49:57.48
Summer
A terrible strategy and, you know, it does kind of bring me back to policy because so much of Biden’s campaign or whatever, the dialogue around it has been about vaccination. And vaccination, yes, that’s a tool. But that’s not—I guess what I’m thinking of is there was like a statement that Biden made at some point that was like, we have such a great vaccine program and rollout and we’re, rah rah, we’re doing the best. It’s just those damn unvaccinated people. And it’s like, if we have this many unvaccinated people, is our vaccine campaign really that good? No, it’s not. It’s not good. It’s not going well, you know, we could do better.

Margaret
We’re doing great in the war except for the enemy that keeps winning.

Summer
Exactly. Yeah, it’s like, what the hell? And I, you know, I think that like just throwing our hands up and saying, well everyone’s going to get sick, it just fucking sucks because I think people are riding on this notion that, like, well, Omicron seems to confer less severe disease. Which, yeah, that’s great, right? But if more people are getting infected—we’re playing a statistics game, right? If more people are getting infected, then a smaller percentage can still be a bigger number of people who have severe disease, you know what I’m saying? And in like a place that’s, like, where I live, where our resources aren’t extensive in terms of like ICU medicine, our ICU is 15 beds. It only takes 15 people with severe Covid for us to be completely overwhelmed in a hospital that’s already completely overwhelmed, in a hospital system that’s overwhelmed, in a health care system that’s overwhelmed. And so even if people—even in another situation where the people coming into the hospital don’t have severe disease, they just have bad enough disease to come to the hospital, you’re still dealing with a healthcare system that is, like, teetering—and I mean it, like really teetering. So everyone getting sick is not a great solution. I think that like, I can’t tell anyone—

Margaret
But what if we do it all at once?

Summer
I can’t tell anyone what to do, but in terms of what I do in my life is like, you know, I’ve all along assessed what risk feels appropriate for me and it’s a harm reduction thing, right? It’s like, we can’t expect people to make the decisions that we would make for ourselves. We can give them the best information possible and the resources and hope for the best, you know, hope for the best outcomes. And I’m not going into indoor dining. I have friends that I see, a lot of them are nurses. I do a lot of outdoor activities so I’m able to see people outdoors a lot. I’m still having some dinners with friends, but I live—I also live in a rural area where, like, transmission isn’t quite the same as it is in like big cities, right? So probably some people would take issue with some of the activities I participate in. But that’s why I’m saying, like, not everyone should do what I do. But, I don’t know, you just, you really need to think about the impact, right? Like, it’s not not a big deal if you get sick, and I’m saying that with this assumption that whoever’s hearing this has, like, a level of health and immune function that I do, and a lot of people don’t, you know. Like I think we, like—“we” being, you know, maybe me—not trying to make assumptions about you—but a lot of us think, oh, this this isn’t conferring severe disease, and we’re not thinking about our friends, our community members who are really compromised at baseline, who are disabled at baseline, who are chronically ill at baseline, and who maybe aren’t “useful” to capitalism at baseline. So it’s easy to write off their illness and their deaths as insignificant. It’s only affecting people who have chronic illness, you know, like we hear this narrative a lot. Like, 40% of Americans have chronic illnesses. 40%!

Margaret
Oh, that’s a high number, yeah.

Summer
Yeah, and not all of those are gonna, you know, make it so you get severe Covid. But I’ve treated patients who their, you know, their chronic illness was hypertension. That’s what they came in with, and they’re intubated now, you know. And I’m not saying this to like fear-monger but just to, like, there isn’t some “other” that is the chronically ill that is the immunocompromised, like, people all around us have these things that they’re managing at baseline. So all of us getting sick: bad plan, was the summary of what I just said.

Margaret
Yeah, yeah. Well no, it’s—I mean, it’s interesting because it talks about the—when you’re talking about, like, okay because people hear, okay, Omicron is less likely to cause severe illness. But as you pointed out, more people are still ending up, you know, we’re still seeing a spike in severe illness like hospitalizations and death right now as a result of it. And it is—I think it’s because, on an individual level, every individual is safer getting Omicron than Delta, potentially, right?

Summer
Yeah, potentially yeah.

Margaret
And so, any individual, especially probably those who kind of had in the back of their heads like, well, I’m healthy, I’ll probably survive, you know, anyway, going on. Then hear this like reassurance. But yeah, we don’t—we don’t tend to think of ourselves at scale. We tend to think of ourselves as us, or at least I do way more than I would like to, you know?

Summer
Yeah.

Margaret
No, it’s interesting. [Laughs] “Interesting.” What a wonderful word for what we’re dealing with. Okay, well we’re—we’re kind of—we’re coming up near an hour, but I guess I wanted to ask,
do you have any final thoughts about Covid pandemic, you know, why people should go become nurses, or not become nurses, or anything to impart upon our listeners?

Summer
Um, I guess one thought that I have is, you know, I know a lot of us come from communities like DIY communities or communities that really value that ethic, and I also value that. But I just, like, want to remind people that, who are treating symptoms at home if they do get Covid or whatever they’re treating at home, that if you’re going to, you know, use herbal, or nontraditional, or traditional remedies to treat things like this, you just also have to have—you have to be judicious, you know. A lot of us have laughed a lot about people using Ivermectin or something like that. But I’ve treated a patient who was treating Covid at home with tonic water and homeopathic remedies, and I think it’s easy to scoff at that, but like, one person’s tonic water and homeopathic remedies is another person’s, like, tinctures, right?

Margaret
Right.

Summer
Like these just are coming from different cultural backgrounds and situations. And that’s not me writing off herbalism by any means, I just want to remind people that, like, in any situation, whether it’s first aid, whether it’s—we’re talking about Covid. There’s a point at which we can’t DIY anymore, you know. And I just want to like throw that out there because, um, it’s unfortunate, right, that we have to rely on institutions, but they’re there for a reason. The ICU is there for a reason, and we can’t DIY the ICU. So um, yeah, and just to have compassion for people who are trying those other remedies that seem absurd to you, because your remedies seem absurd to somebody else, you know.

Margaret
Yeah. Well, join us next week when we talk about how to set up a DIY ICU. No, no, no, that makes so much sense. And one of the things that I feel like I’ve learned a lot by talking to people for this show is kind of this, um, like, the institutions that run society are bad, but society is good—or like, the concept of having a society is good. Like DIY is great, but not everything should fall on you, or even the do it ourselves. Like, you know, we actually do need to learn to expand the “ourselves” in do it ourselves. And like, I don’t know, I think one of the things that gave me the most hope that you said during all of this is talking about coming into the hospital system, you know, as a, like a queer weirdo, and then being like, oh, I’m not going to get along with anyone, and then like having these deep connections with people outside your usual bubble. I think that that’s, like, so important and one of the things that gives me hope is that, you know, there’s actually this like—these larger structures that are still just made of people that we can all work together and figure things out.

Summer
And, I mean, a lot of those people— I get why we should be skeptical of anyone in a lab coat or whatnot. But a lot of those people really do fucking care, and they really want to do their best even if they fuck up sometimes. So, I’m not trying to be like, woohoo, trust all nurses. But like, some of us are, you know, we’re doing all right.

Margaret
Yeah. Okay, well do you have any either, like, personal or like any projects that you want to shout out to draw attention to while you have the moment?

Summer
I wish I did. I was for a while working on a project around here called Rogue Harm Reduction providing Narcan and STI testing for free, and Narcan training and whatnot. I haven’t worked on that project in a while. I got pretty burned out at work, as you can imagine, so I took a step back. But that’s a project I’ll shout out to, you can look them up on social media. They’re great people doing great stuff.

Margaret
So they do still exist and people can go support them?

Summer
Yeah.
Margaret
Awesome, well thank you so much. Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast, please tell people about it. It’s the main way that people hear about it is word of mouth or, I guess mostly word of internet mouth at the moment. And, you know, you can feed all the algorithms that run the world that probably shouldn’t by commenting, and posting about it to all the social medias, and doing all of those things—they have kind of a vastly disproportionate effect compared to what you might think. Every comment and every thumbs up and every subscription and all of that means that more people will run across this content. And if you want to support the show more directly, you can do so by supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, which is the publishing collective that publishes this show which I’m part of. And you can do that by going to patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. I used to be supported by a personal Patreon, but owing to various things in my life, specifically that I have a nonprofit job now, I no longer am supported by that I’m supported by my nonprofit job. So instead the Patreon supports a bunch of different people who are making all kinds of awesome content and I’m very excited for people to check out Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness and all the stuff that we’re going to be doing in 2022? Yes, that’s the year it is. It’s a new year. I’m still not very good at that. And I want to thank all the people who support the show, but in particular I want to thank Nicole and James and David and Justine [inaudible], Sean, Hugh, Dana, Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, and Nora for making this show possible. All right, that’s it and I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that’s going on, and take care of yourself and take care of each other.

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

S1E35 – Casandra on Food Preserveration

Episode Notes

Margaret talks to Casandra about canning, drying, and other means by which to preserve food.

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

Transcript

Margaret
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy. And this episode we’re going to be talking about food preservation and specifically canning and dried food storage and some other things. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Duh daaaaa.

Jingle
One two, one two. Tune in for another episode of MaroonCast. MaroonCast is a down to earth Black radical podcast for the people. Our hosts, hip hop anarchist Sima Lee, the RBG and sex educator and crochet artists KLC, share their reflections on Maroons, rebellion, womanism, life, culture, community, trapped liberation, and everyday ratchet. They deliver fresh commentary with the queer, transgender, non-conforming, fierce, funny, Southern guls, anti-imperialist, anti-oppression approach. Poly ad and bullshit. Check out episodes of MaroonCast on Channel Zero National, Buzzsprout, SoundCloud, Google, Apple, and Spotify. All power to the people, all pleasure.

Margaret
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe a little bit about your experience with prepping, like, I don’t know, if you like work for any prepping podcasts that people might like, if you want to shout them out, but also your experience a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about today.

Casandra
Yeah, my name is Casandra and I use they or she pronouns. Um, I don’t know, I’ve always been interested in foraging and gardening and preserving food and I happen to work for this really cool prepping podcast called Live Like the World is Dying.

Margaret
Casandra is our transcriptionist and we’ve been talking—I’ve been bugging them more and more about food preservation. And finally I was like, can I just have you on the podcast? And then you have to listen to the sound of your own voice as you transcribe it. And they said yes, which was nice of them. So okay, so most of your experience in terms of food preservation is canning, is that right?

Salem Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s—I think the two things that I do most are drying and canning, but I also do some fermenting and, like, salt preserving.

Margaret
Cool. Okay, well, let’s talk about all of it. Do you want to talk about the different methods of food preservation and which ones are appropriate for which foods and what you like the most?

Casandra
Yes, I think there, there are two things that I think about when I’m deciding how to preserve something and one is, drying, for instance, is good for like really long-term storage. But—and it’s also good because the food is lightweight, right? So it’s very portable. But in my day to day life, I’m much more likely to use like canned food. So ease of use is another consideration when I’m deciding how to preserve something. And different food is best preserved in different ways. And that’s something we can talk about when we get into canning especially a little bit later. Like acidity, how juicy something is, those things all come into play.

Margaret
Okay. Why preserve food? I mean, like, obviously, you could just go to the supermarket and buy the food instead of canning it or preserving in other ways. Like, I mean, that sort of—that part’s sort of a joke. But what is it that appeals to you about DIY preservation of food, like what got you into it?

Casandra
Um, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and there are certain times of year where food is really abundant and accessible. And it just at a certain point seems silly to me to not take advantage of that if I could. You know, so if I have access to, you know, dozens of pounds of green beans once a year, why not can it instead of going out and buying it in the winter?

Margaret
Okay, so what are the methods of preserving food? You’ve mentioned some of them, but is it possible that we could get a list of just, like, what—there’s canning, salting, pickling, drying, what am I missing? Smoking? Curing? Is that what you would call that?

Casandra
Yeah, I guess smoking and curing could—smoking is like a form of curing I think. Freezing. What else? Did we say fermenting already?

Margaret
No, we haven’t put that one yet.

Casandra
Fermenting.

Margaret
Okay, should we just go through them and talk about why each one’s great?

Casandra
Yes, yeah, we can definitely do that. It’s hard to like, it’s hard to talk about them all at once because they’re all so different so…

Margaret
Yeah.

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
Well, so if possible, I mean, like—one of the things I’m really curious about is that, like, when you look at green beans, you’re like, okay, green beans belong in a can. And then when you look at something else, you’re like, oh, that belongs fermented. You know, hops, obviously. But what, um—is it just the different methods just work for different foods, if you like are working with meats you’re mostly interested in curing them or freezing them or something? Like, how does all this work? How do you how do you decide?

Casandra
I decide based on what I like to eat most. So like, which preservation method I’m most likely to use because I’m not interested in wasting food. And then also just like, which is the most accessible to me. So for something like green beans, I don’t know, I guess you could dry them, but I don’t think that would taste particularly. good. So I want to preserve them in a way that tastes really good that I’m actually likely to use throughout the year. And then also space, I think space is a huge issue. So my pantry is only so large so there are certain things that it makes more sense for me to dry like nuts, right? I’m not going to can walnuts, though I suppose you could. I’m just going to dry them and store them in a bin.

Margaret
Does it just take up less space because there’s like fewer individual jars taking up space.

Casandra
Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

Margaret
Okay. What, um, what’s like the easiest to get into and/or what’s cheapest?

Casandra
Probably drying? Drying probably or salt curing because, you know, all you need to salt preserve something is salt.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Um, but the drying as well. You know, you can sun dry or you can, like, create some trays for yourself and some airflow, you don’t need a particular tool to dry something effectively.

Margaret
Okay, what, uh—you said that drying tends to make things last longest. Like, what’s the kind of like, scale there? Okay, so like, because you were saying how, okay, so you’re saying how it’s hard to talk about all of them at once because each one has like all these different pros and cons. So I’m trying to, like get you to talk about the pros and cons of different ones. But so like, what’s the, like, you know, hierarchy of how long food can last. Like I know, for example, in my own limited research into this, I’m like, oh, I can store dried beans, dried rice, etc., for like, 30 years, right? But I’m under the impression that canning has a shorter shelf life than that. And in my head, of course, like it would be, like, freezing, there’s a long shelf life as long as you have electricity, and then like cured food, it’s like maybe not as lonh. But this might be my, like, my my weird, like, obviously, like, storing meat isn’t as good or something. You know, my own non-meat-eating bias which I will attempt to not bring into this particular episode of the show because everyone’s gonna make up their own minds about what they want to eat. But so what, um, so if drying last longest, what last least long and what—where is everything else in the middle?

Casandra
Um, yes. I don’t even know if drying last longest, honestly, because you hear about like, fermented or cured eggs that are found that are, you know, hundreds of years old and stuff—or like kimchi, like jars of kimchi that are still good after hundreds of years. So.

Margaret
Oh lord, okay.

Casandra
Yeah, yeah, so, you know, fermenting can be very long lived as well. But, but yeah, drying, as long as the thing stays dry and like bugs and mice don’t get to it, as long as it’s properly sealed, that’s probably the longest—longest-term. And then the shortest—what would be the shortest? I think it’s probably either canned or frozen. Like, food can be frozen for a long time—sorry—food can’t be frozen for a long time but, like, it starts to taste like freezer at a certain point. So that’s like my least favorite method, personally.

Margaret
What does that mean? Is that, like, I’ve heard that like if you store things in the freezer for a long time it starts to like take on the taste of everything around it. Or is there like a specific, like, just as the cell walls burst of frozenness and whatever—I don’t know anything about the science of any of this.

Casandra
I don’t know about the science of freezing. I’m not sure. I just know that, like, you know, if I lose a bag of green beans in the back of the freezer, a year and a half later the green beans don’t really taste like green beans anymore. They kind of tastes like freezer.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Which is gross. I don’t want freezer beans. I’m also very anti-freezer just because we had—we had a, I guess a climate event here in February that knocked out power at my house for about 10 days. And so everything in the fridge in the freezer was compromised. And it sucked, and I lost a lot of food, and it was very stressful. But all of my canned goods and all of my dry goods were perfectly fine.

Margaret
That’s a really important point.

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
I know that’s, like, classic prepper style is to have the deep freeze in your garage full of, like, you know, ideally some deer or something like that. But it always seems like it just requires so much electricity to maintain.

Casandra
Yeah, and if, yeah. It’s also—I mean, I think when we’re talking about preparing for disasters, there’s the preparing in place versus preparing to move. Um, and so something like freezing makes sense for preparing in place, but—and canning as well. But if you’re preparing to move, then something like dried or cured makes more sense.

Margaret
Yeah.

Casandra
But even with freezing, like, when our power was out, I didn’t thaw out frozen food and try to cook it over my wood stove, you know. It was much easier for me to just like open a can of soup that I had canned from the year before and warm it up. So even if I’m thinking about preparing in place, things like canning make more sense to me.

Margaret
Yeah. No, such a—being in place versus going—I don’t really have anything deep to say about that, I just, I think about that a lot. And there’s a reason that all the, like, food you put in your, like, go bag is usually, you know, dried backpacker meals where you add water or whatever, you know.

Casandra
Yeah. Which is good, in an emergency, but it’s not super sustainable. So yeah.

Margaret
Yeah. At the beginning of the COVID crisis when I was, like, alone all the time and I didn’t know what’s happening so I just didn’t go into town and I just, like, ate through my—ate through my own food stores. You know, I definitely was very reliant on canned goods, canned soups in particular. And then also, like, when I lived out of a backpack and traveled I did rely on cans then but I relied on cans, like, you know, I don’t like carry two or three or something like cans of chili or something. This wasn’t a DIY canning. This was, you know, Amy’s chili.

Casandra
Right. And that’s the other thing too is, like, Amy’s chili in a tin can is—it’s heavier than dried food, but it’s sturdy. But I’m not gonna, like, put glass jars of food in a go bag, right?

Margaret
Yeah.

Casandra
That would be catastrophe waiting to happen.

Margaret
Yeah, I learned the hard way that, like, several times I tried, when I lived out of a backpack I always like want it to travel with, like, this jar of almond butter, but it was glass. Or for a while I decided I was gonna be that asshole who lived out of a backpack and had a brandy snifter. And when I say for a while I mean, like, 24 hours?

Casandra
‘Til it broke?

Margaret
Yeah. The jar of almond butter didn’t last as long as that, and that was a little bit more of a desperate thing, because when I dropped it I was like, that’s all the calories that I have on me.

Casandra
Oh, God. Yeah.

Margaret
And I genuinely don’t remember—I remember looking at it and staring at it and being like, do I pull out shards of glass? Or do I just not eat? Oh, yeah, I’m just I don’t remember which one I picked.

Casandra
Oh no.

Margaret
I’m alive so I probably picked not eating the almond butter. Okay, so that’s a good point. So is it possible to can and non-glass jars? Like okay, my head like canning requires mason jars. Which people buy in bulk. And they’re, like, not crazy cheap, but I haven’t looked in a long time.

Casandra
I know that historically people have used tin cans, but maybe this is a conversation we could get into right now. But, like, modern food safety guidelines, everything I’ve read is glass jars. But the good news is, once you purchase the jar, this isn’t—this isn’t prepping like, you know, storing something away for 30 years and like stocking in bulk. This is, like, something that you do yearly and you’re rotating through your food so you’re reusing your supplies.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
Which actually, probably—and now I’m just purely conjecturing—is like a better way to do any kind of prepping anyways, like, it’s like reminding yourself that it’s very rarely for the long haul. It’s usually for situations like what you had happen where, you know, you lost power for 10 days.

Casandra
I mean even just part of your daily life. Like I’m—the main purpose of me doing things like canning and saving dry food is to eat throughout the year, not to prepare for disaster. But, you know, when there is a disaster I’m already prepared so, because it’s just part of my daily life.

Margaret
Well and I guess that’s like the yearly cycle that I mean, I grew up completely alienated from, you know, I ate the same things every season of the year. But that’s not really the way that humanity evolved.

Casandra
Yeah. I mean, the nice thing about preserving food is that you don’t have to eat the same things because you’ve preserved them for a different season. But it is cyclical, because, like, right now it’s green bean season. So my weekends are canning green beans or tomatoes. And in a few months, it’ll be nut season, so that’s what I’m focusing on. But it gives me what I need for the rest of the year.

Margaret
Okay, so I’m going to try and make this a pun but it’s not going to work very well. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts—but there’s no bolts and food—of this. And let’s talk about canning. Let’s talk about, like, how do you get started canning? What is canning? Like, you know, I mean, if—clearly it’s not just the can of Amy’s chili, it’s something else.

Casandra
Yeah, so canning is preserving food in a glass jar, in liquid. And you’re doing that by using heat and pressure to cook the food inside of it. Like, you’re raising it to a particular temperature to destroy microbes and bacteria and things like that. And then it’s also creating a vacuum seal. And that’s what makes it shelf-stable.

Margaret
Okay. How do you do it?

Casandra
Hooray for shelf-stable food. There are different ways. So um, let’s see. I think maybe I want to give my food safety spiel first before—

Margaret
Yeah. Okay, cool.

Casandra
So, yeah, so I worked in the food industry for a long time and I feel really comfortable with food safety. But I think that it’s wise, if someone doesn’t feel comfortable with food safety to, you know, do some research or learn from someone or take a class or something because botulism is fatal. However, canning is really safe if it’s done properly. And so as long as you understand what properly mean, you’re gonna be fine. And then the anecdote I like to give is that—Let’s see—my my grandpa’s mom—when I was learning to cat I was really nervous about food safety. And my grandpa was, like, don’t worry about it because his mom used to can everything they ate in a two-tiered steam canter, which is just, like, outlandish. And she would do it on a wood stove, like, manually regulating the heat. And she would can everything from like meat to vegetables to fruit, which we’ll learn in a second why that’s absolutely insane. And, you know, she had 18 kids and none of them died of botulism. So—

Margaret
That’s—I mean, by that number, one of them would have died of botulism. Even if someone—anyway, yeah.

Casandra
So I’m not saying like not to be safe, but just to know that, like, statistically you’ll be okay, especially if you do what you’re supposed to do. So.

Margaret
Okay, so take the warning seriously, is what your—

Casandra
Yeah, I think it was important for me to hear that like, no, really, you’re gonna be okay. Because if you look at like the USDA website, or the like national—what’s it called?—National Center for Home Food Preservation website. I swear, it’s like every other paragraph, they’re trying to scare you about botulism. Anyway, it feels like every other paragraph they’re trying to warn you about botulism. And it feels really, like, anxiety-inducing. So it’s something to be aware of but not to be afraid of, if that makes sense.

Margaret
What is botulism actually, do you know?

Casandra
Um, let’s see. I think it’s it’s a bacteria that produces a toxin that is fatal. And the reason it’s so scary is because most food spoilage you can see or smell, but botulism, you can’t.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Um, and it can even be fatal just with, like, skin contact.

Margaret
Oh, wow.

Casandra
Yeah, so it’s it’s very scary, but it—I don’t know. I don’t want to terrify people.

Margaret
Well, how do you not make it?

Casandra
Right.

Margaret
I was reading something that’s like has something to do with, like, whether or not there’s oxygen or something?

Casandra
Yep, yep. So it—botulism grows in an anaerobic environment, which means no oxygen. I think that’s correct. I—so I learned from my grandma. That’s the other part of the disclaimer. So the science is not something that I know a ton of out, which is fine. But the point is that if you follow proper, like, sterilization and follow recipes that are approved, you’ll be fine. So you asked like three times what canning is and how to do it. So maybe—

Margaret
Yeah yeah yeah.

Casandra
Okay, so there are two different—there are three different types of canners. And they’re used are different acidities. So the acidity of a food is important because the microorganisms in acidic food are killed at a lower temperature than non-acidic food. So for acidic food—and that means, like, fruits, pickled things that have like a vinegar brine—those are canned in a water bath canner or a steam canner. And then non-acidic foods like vegetables, meats, things like that are canned in a pressure canner because it helps them get to higher heat.

Margaret
Where do tomatoes fall in, are they acidic are they—

Casandra
So tomatoes are tricky because you—they’re right on the edge of acidic and non-acidic. So if you add an acid to them, like lemon juice or citric acid, you can can them as if they’re acidic, but if you don’t, you have to put them in a pressure canner. And for a long time, whoever regulates canning shit, said that steam canning was not safe.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
But recently—I think it was Wisconsin University—some school in Wisconsin did a study and found that it is safe, which is great because I prefer it to waterbath canning, and it’s how I learned to can.

Margaret
And it also, I mean was this, was the test subjects just all 18 of your great grandmother’s children, or? Because I think that’s a large enough sample size.

Casandra
I think so too. They also used the wood stove. No, so the difference between water bath canning and steam canning is water bath canning, you’re just taking a big ass pot, and you’re submerging your jars and water, and that’s what creates the heat and the pressure and the vacuum seal. But it’s really unwieldly because you’re having to, like, deal with a big ass pot of boiling water. So steam canning is creating the same effect, but just with steam, so the amount of water you need is much smaller. So that’s how I learned and that’s what I prefer. It’s very quick. And then pressure canning takes a special tool called a pressure canner.

Margaret
You can’t just put it in a pressure cooker.

Casandra
No, but you can use your pressure canner for pressure cooking, if that makes sense.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
But pressure canners have—there are two different types, and don’t ask me to explain the difference in detail because I won’t be able to—but there’s a weighted gauge canner and a dial gauge canner. And I believe what I use is a dial gauge. So it has this special gauge on top that tells you how much pressure you’re creating within the canner.

Margaret
So is the basic idea that all this food goes into a jar, the lid goes on the jar, and then you’re trying to create enough pressure and heat to both cook the food and seal it? How does it seal it? Like is it, like, creating like a pressure difference inside and outside? That’s like sucking the lid down onto it, or?

Casandra
Yeah, yeah, that’s my understanding. And it gets sciency especially with pressure canning because altitude impacts—

Margaret
Of course it does.

Casandra
Impacts the pressure in canning time. But that’s why it’s—so that’s one of the benefits of following—let’s talk about this actually, this will be useful. So, what makes a good canning recipe? Because it’s important to follow good canning recipes. And they’ll include things like how to make sure your food is acidic enough. They’ll included chart based on altitude telling you what pressure you need, and also how long to can things. They’ll tell you how and whether that changes depending on your jar size. So they’ll outline everything like that in the recipe. So it’s not, like, an equation you have to figure out every time you can a thing—unless you’re changing altitude constantly, which would be, I don’t know, adventurous.

Margaret
Would you say it would be jarring?

Casandra
Yes. Yes, it would be jarring. Yeah, once you know your altitude, it’s very easy. And they’re, like, companies like Bell jars put out entire books full of charts and recipes and things like that.

Margaret
Okay, is there something special about like—like, I’ve never canned anything, but at various points I’ve looked at how to do basically everything. And I remember when I was looking at canning and a long time ago, I think I got shy—I think I got scared away by the botulism thing, honestly. And it was like something about, like, if you use the spatula—you use like a rubber spatula when you put the food in the jar, and if you don’t do it right then you like murder everyone you know.

Casandra
Yeah, so there are some basic safety considerations. So maybe let’s, like, pretend we’re canning something.

Margaret
Okay. Is it green beans?

Casandra
Yeah, let’s can some green beans and we’ll walk through the steps. So. So we’re just canning plain green beans, which means that they’re not acidic. So we’re doing them in a pressure canner. So first you prep your food. So if we’re prepping green beans, that means I’m snapping all the ends off. And I’m washing them and I’m, you know, I’m making sure none of them are, like, moldy or anything like that. And then I’m getting a pot going to prep my jars and my lids. The thing about jars is that they’re glass. And the thing about glass is that if you put a hot thing into a cold glass thing, the glass thing will shatter, right?

Margaret
Yeah. Which is why you don’t drink coffee out of mason jars. Well, people do, but why?

Casandra
But then they make the ones with the handles as if you’re supposed to, you know?

Margaret
Yeah, that’s a good point.

Casandra
Yeah, that’s sketchy. Anyway, so sterilizing your jars and heating them up is sort of all done in the same step, you just toss everything in a big pot and put water in it, and you boil it for 10 minutes.

Margaret
Okay, and that’s not the pressure canner, that’s just a pot of water on the stove.

Casandra
Yep. And, you know, if you were to read like a canning website or something, they—people have all different methods for heating up and sterilizing their jars. I just think that that’s like the quickest and the thing that I do because then they’re both warm and sterile. So we’re doing green beans. So, let’s see, what I’m going to do next is take the jars out of the sterilized water. And I’m going to pack them full of these green beans. So we’re putting all of our green beans in a jar, and we’re doing something called raw packing, which means that the green beans are raw when I put them in the jar as opposed to cooked. And differrent recipes will tell you, you know what you should be doing. And then I pour warm liquid over them—in this case, it’s just water—because if there are air gaps in the jar, that means that there’s a chance air will get trapped, which you know, botulism and spoilage and things like that. But it also means there’s a chance that the jars won’t seal properly.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Recipes, use something called headspace. So your recipe will specify how much headspace to leave in a jar. And that means the space between the top of your food and liquid and the top of the jar. And so they’ve timed their recipe based on the headspace. So if the recipe says 1/2in headspace but I leave, you know, an inch and a half, it probably won’t seal because it’s not in the canner long enough to like vacuum all have that air out. Does that make sense?

Margaret
Yeah. And then you murder everyone, you know?

Casandra
Hopefully they just won’t seal and you try again. Botulism comes after the jar has sealed, and that’s when things go poorly. Yeah, so anyway, so we’ve got our beans and our liquid in a jar. We wipe the rims of the jar because that’s where the seal happens. So we want to make sure there’s nothing like impeding that.

Margaret
Okay. Oh, like a little piece of dirt or something that would keep it from—or like a green bean stem.

Casandra
Yes, exactly. For things that are, like, chunkier, that’s when your spatula technique comes in because you want to make sure there’s there aren’t any air pockets. Then you put your lids and your rings on. And then everything’s really hot, so you make sure you use gloves and appropriate tools and load everything into your pressure canner with, I don’t know, I think it’s an inch of water. It depends on your canner. And then you seal it up and you start your canning.

Margaret
Are those, like, electric systems or they like stovetop,

Casandra
Stovetop, I’ve never seen an electric one, but I wouldn’t be shocked if that existed.

Margaret
No I just didn’t—I’ve never seen one of these things, so I struggle to visualize it. Okay, so it’s in the pressure canner and we start, and then you leave it for some length of time that is specified in the recipe?

Casandra
Yep, yep. And, you know, different canners come with specific instructions to make sure that your weight is correct and your pressure is correct and things like that. So I won’t, like, try to detail that out because it depends on the tool you’re using. But assuming your weight and your pressure are correct, then you just set your timer once it’s up to pressure and leave it in.

Margaret
Okay. Is this, like, are they usually like around an hour, or is this like three days? Or what’s—

Casandra
It depends on the food and how acidic it is. So something like meat takes, let’s see, like the the bone broth recipe I use—the canning recipe—takes like an hour and a half in the pressure. But something like tomato sauce takes 15 minutes.

Margaret
Oh, because it’s so acidic?

Casandra
Yep.

Margaret
Okay. Cool.

Casandra
You know, that means that, like, on tomato day, I can get through a bunch of batches but on broth canning day I can’t, so.

Margaret
Yeah. What about tomato bone broth canning? Nevermind. Okay.

Casandra
The lesson is not to—not to combine recipes.

Margaret
See, I think that this is, like—you know, I’ve never been like a baker. I’ve technically baked things, but I’m not very good at following directions specifically. My mom isn’t any good at this either. I hope my mom isn’t—I have no idea if my mom’s listening to the podcast. You know, it’s like, I’ll start a recipe and then somewhere along the way, maybe halfway, three quarters of the way through, I’m just going to do something different. I don’t know why. And so I’ve always been a terrible baker. So maybe canning isn’t the food preservation method that I’m specifically going to get into.

Casandra
I’m in the same way though.

Margaret
Okay. Okay.

Casandra
And here’s the thing. So like, with—there are so many fancy canning recipes. Like bourbon peach preserves, and—you know, like, people get ridiculously fancy. And those are never the recipes I use because I would be tempted to experiment. So when I—personally when I’m canning, I’m just canning, like, the most basic ingredients so that—like plain, just in water, I don’t even use salt. So when it’s time for me to cook later in the year, I can experiment because I haven’t, you know, I haven’t, like, made all of my beans into different like fancy bean recipes already. They’re just plain beans. I don’t know if that makes sense, but…

Margaret
No, no, no, that makes sense. Okay, I think you’ve sold me on canning—this is—I mean, clearly our job is to sell me on each of these things, one after the other. Okay, so canning is good for something that you’re going to cycle through at home. And so that’s something that you grow or get access to at one time of year, so you can have access to it at another time of year. And you said you can also, like, can soups—is like the next level up of like the classic bachelor thing where you make a whole bunch of soup on Sunday and put it in the freezer and then just, like, eat that soup all week.

Casandra
I mean, I do that. So I—soup is why I can, because my kid loves soup and that’s just like what we eat during the winter. So I’ll get off work and forget to have planned anything. So I’ll just open a jar of broth and a jar of stew meat and a jar of potato—you know, I just throw it all into a pot. But that’s like seven quarts of food into a single pot, so I think I’m doing both.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
So we have soup for a week, but it’s from pre-canned food.

Margaret
There’s—I really wish I was on my puns and jokes better today. But somewhere there’s a soup for our family joke.

Casandra
I’m sure there is.

Margaret
Hopefully someone will just tell it to me later on Twitter in a way that is either very charming or very annoying.

Casandra
You’ll have to send it to me.

Margaret
Okay, so that kind of covers canning. Now everyone who’s listened is capable of making up their own recipes and so let’s move on from there to—what’s next? What do you like the most after canning?

Casandra
Drying.

Margaret
Drying. Okay.

Casandra
What do you want to know about drying, Margaret?

Margaret
Well, I mean, okay, so like, I feel like there’s two parts to it. And maybe I’m totally wrong about this, but there’s both the, like, drying of the food and then the storing of the dried food. Does that seem like?

Casandra
And then the preparing of the dried food.

Margaret
Oh, yeah, no cooking is totally beyond anything.

Casandra
It’s not like a can where you can just open it and heat it up.

Margaret
Yeah, you’re right. Yeah, I mean, it’s like—oh, so that means I should probably just make canned beans. I’ve always felt like a terrible prepper because I’m, like, I have all these like dried beans. Then I’m like, I hate soaking beans. I definitely just eat canned beans.

Casandra
See, that’s why I do both. So I get my, like, 50 pound bags of black beans, right? And I keep them in five gallon buckets. But then I rotate through them. So I will can large batches of them. So I’m only having to think about soaking them once, right? And then the cans and then I buy more dry beans to replace the ones I used, and then I have cans. Does that make sense?

Margaret
Yeah. So you can soaked beans, not dried beans, right?

Casandra
Yeah, well, they’re dried and then you soak them so—and it’s actually, going through the soaking process and then pressure cooking, essentially, makes them more digestible. So, I don’t know. It’s my favorite.

Margaret
Okay. Yeah. Cuz like, it’s like, one of the reasons I’ve given—it’s really, I mean, people have probably noticed that I haven’t done a lot of episodes about food. And it’s not because I, like, think that like this other stuff is cooler. It’s because, like, food growing, preservation, and preparation, like, intimidate the hell out of me. And, you know, I’m convinced that I can’t grow anything because—I said this in like one of the last episodes—because I tried to plant a pine tree when I was a kid and I failed or whatever, you know. And I’m really excited to get to talk about this, basically, even though it’s very embarrassing that I’m, like, in my mind I’m like, oh, yeah, when you soak beans overnight they always—you soak them forever and they always end up still just a little bit, a little bit crunchy.

Casandra
Because you still have to cook them.

Margaret
Well, yeah. But—ah, and then the pressure cooker being the way to—okay.

Casandra
But we were talking about drying food.

Margaret
Yes. Right. Okay, so yeah, so okay. So there’s three different parts to it, there’s the drying of the food, the storing of the dried food, and the the preparation of the dried food. Let’s not too much get into the preparation of the dried food today. But let’s talk about the, like, the drying and the storing. And I’m really sad about this storing because it’s the only thing that I’ve, like, done any of at all and done some research about. So.

Casandra
You probably know much more than me about the storage, but—

Margaret
Only in that I took a lot of notes like last week.

Casandra
Oh Good!

Margaret
But okay, how do you dry food?

Casandra
Um, so I use just a really cheap food dehydrator, like the cheapest one I could find on Amazon. There are really fancy dehydrators you can get. You don’t have to buy a dehydrator at all, you can just, you know, set things out on trays and rotate them and, like, put a fan near them so there’s airflow.

Margaret
When you say set things out, you mean like in the sun?

Casandra
Um, I guess if you want it sun dried, but I—in general, if I’m preserving food, I try to keep it out of sunlight.

Margaret
Okay, that makes sense.

Casandra
That’s maybe—we didn’t talk about canning and how long things are shelf stable, but generally, if food is exposed to sunlight, it affects its shelf stability. So.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Um, but yeah, airflow is the—temperature and airflow are the major factors for drying food. So, especially if something’s very juicy, you want it to be lower temperature with lots of airflow because if the outside of it dries before the inside, it’s bad news. I guess it can cause mold for whatever’s on the inside if it doesn’t fully dry, but if it does fully dry, it means that like, say you’re drying cranberries or something, they’re rockhard instead of that, like, nice, tender, dryness. I can speak. So yeah, most of hydrators will come with like settings for different types of food. And you can look those up online as well. Like which foods need more heat, which foods want less heat.

Margaret
How much does humidity affect this? Like I—where I live it’s basically I live inside a cloud. All of the South is just a cloud for all of the summer and so, like, I can’t even dry clothes on the line unless they’re in the direct sunlight. So I assume I would have to use—I would have to use one of these, like, what are they, electric? The ones that you’re talking about?

Casandra
Yeah, I imagine so. I live in a not humid place. So I haven’t had to think about that. Also storage, I imagine that you probably have more trouble with food storage.

Margaret
I do.

Casandra
Yeah. But, you know, then there are things that apparently great if you have a higher humidity, like—what I’m sure you’re super interested in—salt curing meat is, apparently a higher humidity is better so—

Margaret
Oh, really?

Casandra
There’s that.

Margaret
I wonder what I can salt cure.

Casandra
Right?

Margaret
Just slabs of seitan. It sounds terrible. Okay.

Casandra
The things that that I mostly dry are nuts and seeds because I grow a lot of sunflowers and also I live in the Pacific Northwest. So it’s, like, filbert and walnut territory, acorn territory.

Margaret
Do you have to prepare—the only one of these things I know anything about is acorns. And I know that you have to do a lot of work to get the tannins out of acorns. You do that before you drive them in this case?

Casandra
You know, I’ve actually heard—and I’m planning to try this this year—but I’ve heard that it’s actually quicker to get the tannins out if you dry them first because then, when you introduce water to flush the tannins out, it can, like, fully saturate the nut meat.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
Does that make sense? So you’re getting rid of all the moisture first, and then when you introduce fresh water to the nuts, it can penetrate into the like flesh.

Margaret
Okay. Because yeah, it takes forever to flush acorns.

Casandra
It does. If you—I mean, you have a stream, so that would be much, much less time intensive. For folks who don’t know, acorns are delicious, but only if they’re not full of tannins.

Margaret
Which is like, what, a natural preservative or something that’s in them that, in order to human edible, you have to get rid of.

Casandra
Yeah, I mean, there are tannins and lots of food. It’s the thing that makes sour food sour or like astringent food astringent, but, you know, the amount that’s in the average acorn can give you a tummy ache.

Margaret
Okay, so is this, like, is this one of the ways that you would—because I assume basically all the nuts I eat in my life are, like, dried nuts, right? Because I’m not going around eating fresh nuts. So this is like one of the main ways, if you wanted to make the nuts that you grow taste like the nuts people are used to eating, you would dry them first in this way, right?

Casandra
Like acorns or just?

Margaret
Oh sorry. I was going back to like, you know, the other nuts?

Casandra
Yeah, yeah.

Margaret
Cashews. I don’t know. You didn’t say cashews, I was just thinking about cashews. Because I like cashews.

Casandra
I think cashews are actually way different. Have you seen a cashew plant?

Margaret
All of the nuts look really weird in the wild. I struggle to understand them. This is the most embarrassing episode I’ll ever put out. It’s just like, I’m this crazy person who lives in the woods. And I don’t know anything about plants.

Casandra
Because cashew is part of a fruit, right? It’s not, like, in a hard shell like a walnut. Anyway. Let’s not talk about cashews.

Margaret
Let’s not talk about cashews. I’ll pretend like I know what filberts are and talk about them.

Casandra
A filter is just—I think it’s actually a different species than a hazelnut, but it’s what we call hazelnuts here.

Margaret
Okay, cool.

Casandra
So like filberts and walnuts, things that have a hard shell that you crack the shell open, and then—you can eat it fresh. It’s delicious, fresh. But if you want to store it, you just dry it.

Margaret
Okay.

Casandra
And some nuts you dry in the shell like walnuts, but some you don’t have to.

Margaret
Okay. And so drying is like a little bit simpler. It’s like—

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
If you’re drying walnuts, you look at the article that says “this is how you dry walnuts,” and you put them in your dryer and you dry them.

Casandra
I mean, I don’t even put nuts in a dryer, because they’re already so dry.

Margaret
You just leave them out.

Casandra
Yeah, I just—like, I put a blanket on the floor in front of my fireplace in the winter and just have a, like, mound of nuts that I—

Margaret
Cool.

Casandra
Like, rotate. So, but if you’re doing something that’s, like, quicker to spoil, I guess, like fruit or vegetables, than a dehydrator might be the solution for you.

Margaret
Okay, how long—like, what are some of the advantages of drying food? I mean, obviously, like, certain foods, like nuts and things, like that’s like almost, like, the way that you you store them, right? But it’s like, I don’t know a ton about, like, dried fruits—I suppose I know fruits a bit—but like dried vegetables, and, you know, is this, uh, like, how long do they last? Like, what is good about this method?

Casandra
I think it’s good because it’s smaller so it’s easier to store, right? It’s also lighter. So that goes back to our conversation about, you know, preparing to be on the move as opposed to being stationary. For things that are snackable it’s nice to have snacks, so like dried fruits, dried seeds, things like that. Um, I—there are a few vegetables that I routinely dry because I routinely use them. Garlic is one. I guess alliums. Can we call the allium family of vegetable? Garlic and onions are two of them because I don’t really can them. You could ferment them, especially fermented garlic is really popular, I just don’t do it. Um, but, like, the number of times I’ve gone to make soup in the winter and not had garlic or onions is embarrassing. But if I have them dried, I can just toss in a handful and it’s delicious.

Margaret
Okay, but like, so if you dry—how long does dried fruit last? How long do dried vegetables last? Like, is it, like, good enough to last you—kike most of these food preservation methods are sort of, like, meant to kind of get you until—set you up so that the next time—until the next harvest of the same thing. Is that kind of the general idea, like, so that you have this thing that lasts, like, hopefully almost a year, or?

Casandra
Oh, they can last—I mean, I have like dried onions, dried plums in my pantry that have been there for two years and are perfectly good. The thing about, like, everything other than canning, is that if something goes bad, you can see it or smell it. So it’s good until it, you know, it’s good until you can see or smell that it isn’t good anymore. And that depends on, you know, how you’ve stored it. Do you put—is it in direct sunlight? Is it totally dry? Is it in a hot place? A cool place? Things like that. But it lasts a long time. That’s a really vague answer. I think you were looking for something more specific.

Margaret
I mean, it’s fine. We don’t have to have, like, a chart—an audio chart of, like, you know, column A, the fruit, column B, how long it lasts with each different method. Okay, that’s how you would organize the data anyway.

Casandra
It seems like there should be more to it, right? Like, there should be more to talk about with dried food. But it’s so simple. You just—

Margaret
Yeah.

Casandra
But storage you wanted to talk about and I feel like you probably know more about storage can I do.

Margaret
Well, only because, like, I came into this with this “I don’t know how to make food” thing, right? And, you know, I just remember a couple years ago a food scientist friend of mine was like—this was maybe like four or five years ago—was like, hey, I’m not saying it’s gonna happen, but the supply chain on food is looking a little bit precarious this year, or whatever. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna just start having some, like, five gallon buckets of like beans and rice around. And that was probably what started me on the journey that you’re all along for with me today. And so I just would go and buy, you know, basically prepper food, right? Ideally, the ones with like the least markup or whatever, but just, you know, five gallon buckets or huge cans of stuff that’s like freeze dried or whatever and it’s like meant to last 30 to 50 years on a shelf. And so I was doing that. And—but then I realized as I started to kind of, like, scale this, and more people are asking me for my recommendation. And I don’t want to just be like, oh, go to Amazon, because that’s the main place to buy Augason Farm stuff, you know—ans go for this company I don’t know anything about. And instead realized, was like, well, there has to be a way to just, like, put rice in a five gallon bucket. It’s like not quite as easy as that. You can do that and that’ll last for a fairly long time, again, depending on your conditions, especially humidity and sunlight, as you mentioned, and oxygen is actually one of the biggest ways that, like, long shelf life foods go bad. And so the thing I’ve been researching, and I’ll probably make a YouTube video about in the next week or so, is how to store dried goods for like long term storage, which is less the like—I feel like, in my head, there’s like two tiers of food storage. And there’s the more important one, which is what you’re talking about and the, like, the things that you can cycle through and to get you through any given interruption. And then there’s the sort of deep storage stuff where, I don’t know, I don’t see a reason for most people not to have, like, a month or two of food sitting in five gallon buckets in their basement, you know, that just sit there and you can pass them on to your kids. And—who will be like, really? Why are you giving this to me? But—actually, that’s very optimistic to think that they won’t immediately understand the need for such things.

Casandra
Right.

Margaret
And I like to imagine that will be around for 30 to 50 years from now. That seems optimistic, but I like it. So long term food storage, you can make beans and rice and many other things last 30-50 years. And the main way going at the moment—there’s a lot of different ways to do it—but basically it’s like the main way that people are doing right now and in prepper world, and it’s mostly, I think pioneered by the Mormons. A lot of the information you can get about this—and if you live in Utah, apparently there’re these stores will they’ll just sell you really cheap beans and rice, and some of them are open to people who aren’t in the church. But you basically, you put them into mylar bags, which are plastic bags with like an aluminum layer—which isn’t technically the definition of mylar but, like, when you say mylar bag, it’s what you mean—and you heat seal the bags. You put in the dried food, and then you put in oxygen absorbers. I always thought you put in desiccant because I think that humidity all of the time. The instruments that I built last year, some of them aren’t even playable right now because the warping because the stupid humidity. I don’t understand how a mountain dulcimer was invented in Appalachia and has such a thin soundboard. Anyway. So, but you don’t put in desiccants necessarily—actually, in general, you don’t. It actually seems to be contraindicated. But instead you put in oxygen absorbers that are sized to the size of bag, and you got to do it kind of quick, because obviously when you open up the oxygen absorber starts absorbing oxygen. And what it is is like little iron fillings that are absorbing that are oxidizing and making rust, I think, and they’re in little sealed packets that air can go in, but rust pellets can’t come out. You drop it in, you heat seal the bag, you can either get like a little flash sealer for like 25 bucks, or you can use a household iron, or you can use a hair—you know, it’s like, I have a feeling that people making these things don’t actually do this because I’ve seen people say straightening iron or curling iron. But um, you can seal it with heat. And then it is sealed. And then that doesn’t keep like animals and stuff out, so then you put it in a bucket. So really, long story short, you take a mylar bag, at least five mil thick—mil is not millimeter, it’s, I don’t know, .001 or something, I don’t remember. Millionth of an inch or 1,000th of an inch or something. You put in the oxygen absorber, you heat seal it, you put it in the bucket, and you’re good. And it seems kind of simple. And it’s a lot cheaper per five gallon bucket of beans and rice then going and getting the pre made stuff.

Casandra
Yeah.

Margaret
But being able to do it with stuff that you dry yourself—again, like, different things are gonna last different lengths of time. And oh, and you can only do this with stuff that’s, like, less than 10% water content. You know, it has to be like way more dried. So you can’t just like put in your, like, dried fruit and stuff. It’s like almost all like rice and beans and oats and other things. And then there’s like weird stuff where like brown rice is actually harder to preserve than white rice because brown rice has, like—which is much better, of course, in general—has more stuff, like more oils in it that can go bad. That’s what I’ve learned, but you should correct me if that’s what you’re about to do.

Casandra
No, no, I was just gonna say I’ve heard of people—or I’ve seen something called dry canning. I haven’t actually tried it. But it’s something similar, except you’re using jars and you’re using an oven to, yeah, create a seal—a hot seal on the jars. And it’s supposed to make dried food last longer. I’ve never personally understood the purpose of things like that just because I rotate. So it’s just like a part of my life and routine. But yeah.

Margaret
Just having some deep storage, you know, like—but okay, this actually makes me—why are mason jars clear? Because isn’t sunlight the enemy of, like, all food preservation?

Casandra
Yeah, I guess so I honestly—I have no idea. They make fancy, like, tinted jars, but they’re much more expensive. I imagine it’s just because it’s more expensive to make tinted glass. But like traditionally you’re not keeping your jars on a shelf in direct sunlight. You’re keeping them, like, in your basement or your root cellar or something like that.

Margaret
Okay, so we’ve been talking almost an hour, and obviously there’s still several methods of food preservation left, but maybe we won’t go into the details about any of the other ones—unless, is, like, is there like one more that you want to like quick like shout out? Like hey, look how great salting is, or pickling, or, I don’t know.

Casandra
Yeah. I mean, fermenting and pickling is amazing. And that’s, like, an episode in and of itself. And I think that it’s really like trendy right now, so probably accessible for people to find information on. And then salt preserving and sugar—I can’t eat sugar, so I don’t do sugar preserving. But those two methods are surprisingly simple. And I’m just beginning to experiment with salt preserving, but I love it. So, I dunno. Check it out.

Margaret
Is it just like you take the thing and you pack it in salt and then you’re like, it’s good.

Casandra
Kinda, yeah. Kinda, yeah.

Margaret
That’s cool.

Casandra
I mean, there’s more to it than that, but basically.

Margaret
Okay, well, I don’t know. You’ve sold me on far more food preservation instead of just looking at it from this, like—you know, as much as I want to like try and sell you on deep storage, I think that that’s like the far and away least useful aspect and like the one that ties most into, like, the bunker mentality that I supposedly shit talk all the time. You know, and so this, like, this—these methods of cycling through appeal quite a bit to me. Is there any—are there any like last thoughts on food preservation or anything else about any of this that you want to you want to bring up?

Casandra
Just that once you start digging into it, you’ll probably be shocked by how many things you can can from, you know, butter to water. So.

Margaret
Wait, really?

Casandra
To whole chickens. So it’s pretty flexible and pretty fun once you get the basic down. Canned water.

Margaret
I’m laughing about the canned chicken because I’m imagining, like, the chicken like coming out and running away when you opening up the can 15 years later. Alright, well, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. And also, you know, thanks for helping make the show accessible. And, I don’t know, I really appreciate that, and I appreciate all the work that you’ve done with that.

Casandra
You’re welcome. I’m dreading transcribing this, but I will do it. So.

Margaret
I appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you got out of this as much as I did. I didn’t know anything. I mean, well I didn’t know anything compared to what I now know. And I’m excited to eat green beans, I mean, prepare green beans. No, I’m mostly just excited to eat green beans. I really like green beans. I’m really glad that was the example food we used. If you liked this episode or this podcast, you should tell people about it and tell people about it on the internet. Well, tell about it in real life. But if you tell people about it on the internet, all the like weird algorithms will like make other people know about it if you like, and comment, and subscribe, and do all the stuff. And you can also support me directly on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And there’s a bunch of like zines and other things up there. And they’re behind a paywall, but if you live off of less money than we make off of the Patreon, then you should just message us and—or me, I guess, on any social media platform, and I will give you access to all the content for free because the main point is to put out content and I really just appreciate everyone’s support helps me do that. And in particular, I want to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana, Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, the Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, and Nora. And also I would be remiss not to tell you that I have a book available for pre-order. AK Press is republishing a new edition of my book, A Country of Ghosts, which is an anarchist utopian book. And if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably have like a vague idea of what I’m talking about when I talk about anarchy like that. But if you don’t, or if you do, you might like this book, A Country of Ghosts. And if you hate the government and capitalism, you might like it. And if you hate the government but like capitalism, or if you like capitalism but hate the government, then I would challenge you to read this book anyway, because you might learn that both of those are very interrelated things and you’re kind of only doing it halfway and you have to destroy the Ring of Power and it must be—don’t be a Boromir. You should throw the Ring of Power into the—into the fires of Mount Doom. Anyway, you should tell me about the fun foods that you all prepare, because I will be jealous. Or I’ll start canning my own foods and I’ll talk to you all soon.

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

S1E34 – Simon on Reforestation, pt. 2

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Episode Notes

Margaret continues talking to Simon, a restoration ecologist who works in the Pacific Northwest, about confronting climate crisis with reforestation.

Simon can be found on twitter @plant_warlock.

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

Transcript

1:00:55

Margaret  
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. And this episode I’m actually recording immediately after the previous episode with Simon because, as soon as we got off the call, we talked about all of these other things that are worth talking about. And there’s just so much to all of this that we thought it might be worth doing a second episode about. You might be hearing this—I don’t know when you’re gonna hear this as compared to the other part. But anyway, Live Like the World is Dying as a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Duh daaaaa do.

Jingle  
What’s up y’all, I’m Pearson, host of Coffee with Comrades. Coffee with Comrades is rooted in militant joy. Our hope is to cultivate a warm and inviting atmosphere, like walking into your favorite coffee shop to sit down with some of your close friends and share a heart-to-heart conversation. New episodes premiere your every Tuesday, so be sure to smash that subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts so that you never miss an episode. We are proud to be a part of the Channel Zero Network.

Margaret  
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns. And then just a real brief overview for people who didn’t listen to the first interview we just did with you about the kind of work you do and what your specialization is.

Simon  
Yeah, thanks for having me on again. My name is Simon Apostle. I’m a restoration ecologist. And I’ve been working in Oregon and Washington, kind of across the Pacific Northwest, for the last 10 or so years. And most of my work has focused on reforestation, but also just general natural resource management and ecological restoration.

Margaret  
So we were talking about—you have ideas about what people who have access to some, you know, maybe homestead-style, size of land or land project or even, like, maybe even smaller scale than that—about what people can do besides just reforestation, what is involved in restoration, and using that to mitigate whether climate change or other problems ecologically?

Simon  
Yeah, so one of the things that, in our field, we’ve been looking at quite a bit is how do certain keystone organisms really affect the landscapes. And one of the biggest ones—not just in size, they get pretty large though—is the North American Beaver. Which and this is true across North America. And beaver are a critical component of ecosystems. And they do that by doing what we know they do, by building dams, and altering hydrology in a way that creates habitat, it creates diversity, it retains water in a landscape by damming streams up and creating new channels and all of these things. And so reintroduction of beavers, or by mimicking the processes that beavers create, you can do a lot for the land and also potentially make it work better for you. Because you know, as we face climate change, water retention is kind of one of our biggest issues.

Margaret  
So you’re telling people that they should build dams and cut trees? 

Simon  
That’s exactly right. Yeah. If you want to think like a beaver, you should build a dam. If you want to use it for hydroelectric purposes, you can do that. And then, yeah, of course, cut down trees. No, it’s a really interesting parallel, right? Because beavers kind of act like us, you know, and they do all these things that we know are—especially in the Pacific Northwest—know are bad. We know that the dams, the hydroelectric dams, are a massive problem for salmon and for other organisms, and disrupting natural water flows and creating barriers and, of course, cutting down trees is the thing we all know is we don’t do well. But beaver do things in a way that that they, you know, ecosystem around them has adapted to do and interact with. So a beaver dam—first of all, the scale is different, right, it’s not going to be across the Columbia River, it’s across a stream, a low gradient side channel, something like that. And a beaver dam is porous, it has water cascading over it, a fish can jump over it. It is complex, you know, there’s a pond behind it and there’s wetlands on the margins and there’s channels flowing around it that they may not have gotten to damming yet. And that complexity is critical, right? Like, it’s the taking of a simple stream channel and making it into something really complicated and with little niches for all these different organisms. And it can work for humans too, you know, by recharging groundwater, by retaining water on a landscape for longer you get aquifer recharge, you get, you know, trees surrounding that area, maybe growing a little bit better, all of these things that are directly valuable to us.

Margaret  
So that’s the kind of, like, microclimate stuff of making your area—you’re, like, so wells will go dry, slower and things like that.

Simon  
Absolutely. I mean, water retention in landscapes is so important. You know, as we, like, face climate change, right, it’s—and some of that is affected by by climate change directly just through evaporation, but also as you get precipitation changing from snow to rainfall, you know, through a larger portion of the year in a lot of systems, that means that the water’s not coming down as a trickle of snowmelt throughout the year, it’s coming down, you know, in a single rain of that. And there’s none left in the summer. And beaver are one of the organisms that can help counteract that by retaining that water in the smaller streams and then letting it out as a slower trickle.

Margaret  
It’s so wild that that—that something at that small of a scale has an impact. I feel like that’s like something that I often forget about because, as much as I’m like, oh, I like bottom-up organizations and blah, blah, blah. I’m like always sometimes forget that something as simple as like blocking a creek can have an impact.

Simon  
Yeah, and it’s the aggregate effect, right, too. It’s all of—its every little side channel. And especially if we talk about in a temperate region, like the the Northeast in the US or the Northwest, where you have lots and lots of little creeks. And historically there were probably beaver populations on every single one of those that, of course, were all trapped out, you know, as European trappers moved into those landscapes.

Margaret  
What—This is it is a question I feel like I should have learned in middle school or something. But why do beavers build dams? Like what’s in it for them?

Simon  
Yeah, so I mean, it’s a really good question, right? For them, I think—and actually, this is like, a really interesting evolutionary question because old world beavers, a European, like super similar species. I don’t even know how different they are genetically, and I’m sure a little bit, but they don’t build dams, they just burrow into into dens on the bank as far as I’m aware. 

Margaret  
Huh. 

Simon  
But beavers build dams largely to create more habitat for themselves. They’re safe from predators underwater. The entrances to their lodges are underwater. So they’ll build their big lodge and then they’ll swim underwater to an entrance and then inside the lodge it’ll be back up in the air so that they’re safe. They also like to eat willows and willows like to grow in wetlands. And so you flat out an area that was a canyon, you create more sediment deposits, you flood into the flat areas, you’re going to grow more of these kind of fast growing hardwoods that they like to eat. So it’s about creating more habitat for themselves, you know, in a way you can think about them as, like, they’re creating their shelter and they’re also, like, farming, the things that they like to eat by flooding.

Margaret  
No, no, only humans do that. That’s cool. That’s—yeah, I’m like, now I’m like, I wonder if we should have beaver where I—you know, I live on this this creek and, you know, there’s willows around and things like that. Yeah, no, okay. And so you’re saying—so what is the water retention do in terms of mitigating the effects of climate change and things like that?

Simon  
Yeah. Yeah. So, like we talked about, just holding that water in the landscape, letting it permeate into the soil, but also slowing that release through the creek just as it is beneficial to so many organisms, right? Because it allows water flow through a longer period of the year. You know, a big flush of water, a big flood, can be a lot less useful than a steady trickle in a lot of cases.

Margaret  
Can I selfishly ask you about reforesting willows and, like, is that a useful—you know, I guess as I was saying, I live on a creek that floods. And we’ve talked about, you know, people talk about willows being very good plants for, you know, sucking up water or whatever, but we don’t believe it changes the way that water flows across the land or anything like that. But it might help, like, reinforce banks or—because most of your work is riparian specifically, right? What is—what are you doing when you reforest in a riparian area? And how can I selfishly do that myself?

Simon  
That’s gonna depend on the situation, right, but a lot of what we’re doing when we focus on riparian areas is because they’re important to so many species, right. And so they’re rare and critical. And so the benefits that you have by reforesting of riparian area, you have shade over the stream, you know, you’re cooling the water temperature which reduces evaporation, it helps the organisms within the stream. In terms of planting willows, I mean, the one of the best things about willows is that they’re one of the easiest things to plant and grow, right. They’re adapted to break off in flooding. So you have twigs and stems and branches will just break off, and any single one of those can land on a bank of mud and sprout and turn into a new tree. So they have this vegetative adaptation that’s a hormone that allows them to root from any given node, you know, and a node being a part of the plant that can turn into a leaf or a branch, or in the case of a willow or root, even if it was, you know, a branch from the top of the tree. And anyone who’s you know, propagated cuttings and stuff knows that some plants have that hormone, and particularly willows do. And you can stick a willow branch in your cuttings of some other tree or shrub and they’ll root more easily. So a lot of times what we’ll do in riparian areas just harvest willow cuttings, either locally if there’s a good source, or bring them in from somewhere nearby, or, you know, from a nursery, and just plant those basically stick straight in the ground. It looks super weird because it just looks like we planted a bunch of two or three foot sticks on the ground. Super dense, in most areas in North America you would have—might be planting 2000 stems an acre of willows and kind of related riparian shrubs. And, you know, if conditions are right, you will get a pretty dense willow stand within a few years.

Margaret  
Do you then go—let’s say for some, you had a homestead and there was a dense stand of willows. Do you then go and, like, thin it out so that there’s, you know, so each tree—like I know that when dealing with, like, you know, a monoculture of young pines, sometimes you have to thin it out in order to make them grow healthier?

Simon  
Yeah, that’s gonna depend, you know where you are, but but probably not. They you know, their life cycle is such that they are going to live a much shorter period of time, and they grow in these big, thick, dense stands that all grow up at once because there was some big flood that brought in a bunch of new, clean sediment and wiped out all the old ones. And then the new branches and seeds landed and you grow a thick forest. And they’ll kind of self thin. And actually that’s—those standing dead trees and fallen dead trees or habitat features in themselves. You know, woodpeckers like them, salamanders like the logs on the ground, so do turtles, you know, things like that. So, generally speaking, no, I mean, we’ll do things like we control to reduce competition when they’re young. But their growth cycle is such that they’re a big disturbance, and then they grow, and then everything gets wiped out in a stand, and then they grow again in most systems.

Margaret  
I guess to go back to what you were talking about earlier, you said you wanted to talk about bringing back beaver. How to—what does that look like? How do people do that?

Simon  
Yeah, I mean, and sometimes it’s as simple as, you know, you have county highway departments and things that you know, beaver like to build dams, and they like to build dams in a roadside ditch next to a highway. So these county highway departments will trap and kill the beaver. And so if you can work with them to say, no, trap and release it. And in some cases, some counties will actually say—you can say, hey, we’d be okay with you releasing them on our property instead of killing them. And they may be, they may do that for you. The other way to do it is kind of—and it depends on, if they’re there, to build it and they will come. So you plant willows on a stream, you know, eventually they might find it if they’re nearby. They roam pretty far. The other thing that you can do is, even if you don’t have beavers, is to start to kind of connect those processes that beavers create by basically building your own dams that are functionally similar to a beaver dam. And beavers will often find those too and start to build and add to them. 

Margaret  
That’s cool. 

Simon  
We actually, we have a whole technical term. They’re called BDAs, which just means Beaver Dam Analogue. But it’s a really cool sort of growing niche in my field because it’s—they’re low tech, right. It’s, you’re putting a bunch of posts in the river and piling a bunch of brush behind them so water kind of dams up but also flows through. Snd anyone can do it. You know, you don’t need an engineering degree, you don’t need a forestry degree, you can just kind of do it.

Margaret  
Aren’t like riparian areas, creeks and things like that, like, fairly heavily controlled, like, can’t you get in some trouble for messing with a creeks flow.

Simon  
Yeah, I mean, if you’re doing something that’s, you know—yes, in the United States, and there’s stronger rules depending on the state that you’re in. There’s wetlands and waters rules that have to do with the Clean Water Act. A lot of these were just kind of greatly diminished by the Trump administration. So you’re safer there on a lot of the ephemeral streams, and it’s going to depend on your state. But generally speaking, I mean, I’m not a lawyer. But, you know, if you’re doing a restoration activity on—we’re talking a small stream, a small ephemeral stream on a piece of ground that you own, these kinds of activities are fine. You’re really talking about, okay, am I bringing in fill, am I bringing in equipment, am I, you know, dumping dirt, am I building a permanent dam that really is, like, easily identifiable as like an irrigation dam or something like that? That’s where you need to get into the permitting world.

Margaret  
And now I’m just trying to figure out whether I can do micro hydro on a beaver dam. Like without actually blocking it.

Simon  
That you would probably technically need a permit for in the world we live in, but I won’t…

Margaret  
Appreciate it. Neither should any of you. I’ve not actually—I looked into a fair amount of micro hydro, and it’s just not—even though I have running water on our property, it’s not the right move for us. Which is a shame because micro hydro where you don’t actually block the creek—I’m sure it has ecological impacts. But it doesn’t block the creek. I don’t know.

Simon  
Now there’s been studies about, you know, replacing the Columbia River dams with things like that. It’s, like, they’re less micro, I’m sure, because of the scale, but you know, things that just basically sit on the side of the river instead of blocking the whole thing. 

Margaret  
Seems so—now I wonder why we didn’t do that in the first place.

Simon  
How was—I think you’d probably get more power if you dam the whole river. And yeah, different time, I guess. Yeah. I thought, you know, it’d be interesting to kind of like, think about, just because your initial question kind of got me thinking about, like, how do we make for us work for us. And, you know, that can touch on, like, you know, how Indigenous groups interacted with the forest in places that I know, things like that, but like, what are, you know, kind of what are some of like the other human benefits to forests.

Margaret  
So we’re still kind of having this conversation about reforestation, and the advantages of it, and besides just water retention, and besides, you know, the cooling effect and things like that, what are—why reforestation? Like, tell me tell me more about what’s cool about reforestation.

Simon  
Yeah, well I think one of the things that we’re kind of slowly realizing is, like, all of the side benefits that the forests provide us. And not—we’ve already talked about, you know, cooling effects and shading and things like that. But, you know, there can also be like a fair amount of food production from a diverse forest. There’s been a really interesting set of research that was done in coastal British Columbia, where they found these pockets of forests where you didn’t have a closed canopy, you had this kind of diverse patchwork, and near historic coast Salish village sites we had these—or still have these essentially what have been called food forests. So this kind of diverse array of fruiting species like crab apples and cranberries and huckleberries and things like that, that now we know were managed by people. So it’s something that we would kind of recognize as something somewhere between like a European conception of agriculture, and then just a natural, quote/unquote natural forest with no human impacts, which of course, there were. But regardless, you know, there’s ways to kind of create something that’s diverse and works for plants and animals, while also working for you. And I think food production is one of those. And creating diversity in a stand is one of the ways to do that. So instead of thinking about, we have this stand of trees, and we want it all to be as old as possible. Well, what if there’s a little clearing over here, you know, which would—could mimic a natural process. You’d have windfall, you know, knocking a few trees over. And then one of the things that come up in that clearing, might be some of those early seral plants, some of them are fruiting, some of them are useful for other purposes, or, you know, and so you can manage that stand, that clearing, in ways that that work for people. You know, it’s like, reframing how we think about agriculture, and also how we think about forestry. We think about forestry as producing lumber, and we think about agriculture is producing things that we, you know, and they don’t mix. They’re just different things. But of course, you know, they’re all just plants.

Margaret  
Yeah, maybe—we would probably need to have an entirely different economic system in order to take advantage of, you know, decentralized food production like that—which, obviously, I’m in favor of a completely different economic system. So that sounds good to me. So this is the kind of stuff that’s mostly useful for people who are working—who have access to, like, a land project and things like that. Is this information that people can use to, you know, influence county decisions about how to do things? Like how much control are people able to exert either within the existing system or outside of it on reforestation?

Simon  
Yeah. One of the biggest issues is the lack of control that people who don’t have a sort of like legal and economic stake in these things, you know, indirectly have, in some cases, you know, you talk about a federal agency planning a project, and they’re going to say, oh, we’re doing community involvement, we’re going to talk to our neighbors. Well, their neighbors might be, you know, a farmer, who may even be a local farmer, but owns, you know, a significant amount of land and is not really representative of maybe your rural communities actual income and wealth distribution. Or their neighbor may even be an industrial timber company. 

Margaret  
Right. 

Simon  
But a lot of these projects have, you know, if they’re federally funded, they have public comment periods. They have all these things that are written into law that are supposed to allow for community engagement, and sometimes are not so easily accessible. But you can get together with some people and watch out for things like, there’s going to be a forest thinning project and we want input on this, we want to say, hey, you need to consider, you know, our use, like, our group wants to do mushroom foraging in this area, and we’re concerned that you’re going to disturb this. Or, we want you to think about how your project design affects that, you know, things of that nature. Yeah, and a lot of times nobody really comments on these projects. So a little bit of public comment, a little bit of input, can actually really sway land managers decisions. I know when I’m in that situation, you know, hearing from five people that are all saying the same thing, is a big group of people, because usually no one says anything. So I think you can have a difference—make a difference. And that’s going to depend on the sort of willingness and adaptability of people in positions of power, like with all things. But usually these things just kind of get ignored. So.

Margaret  
Yeah, one of the things—one of the talking points when I did more forest defense out west—one of the main talking points would be—and, you know, most of us weren’t, we didn’t really care about what what was good for the economy. We cared about what was good for, you know, the values that we held about biodiversity and things like that. But one of the things we would talk about is that you actually literally make more—like it does more for the local economy by and large to leave the National Forest alone and not run the National Forest timber sale program. And, again, is at least as far as I understood it at the time, and that like most of the timber sale program was like run at a loss because they’re basically subsidizing all of the costs of these timber companies to come in and clear cut, you know, quote/unquote, our forests within a colonial system, whatever that means. But these public lands—you know, I didn’t realize when I was a kid that the national forests were—huge chunks of them are regular clear cut, and they’re on some ways like managed just like another timber farm. And there is a little bit more say that people are able to have. And one of the things that I liked about, you know, working with groups like Earth First was that we were very every tool in the toolbox and that absolutely included public comment periods and showing up to, you know, city council meetings in these small towns and things like that. And working with people who are from the small towns, usually. You know, basically, we would come into support local organizing. And then also, you know, direct action and blocking people from logging. It doesn’t always work, right? But it works more times than I expected, to basically come in and say, you know, the tree sit doesn’t sit on every tree that they’re going to cut. The tree sit sits on where they want to build a road, right? And you block access long enough either to make it just so expensive that it stops being worth it for them, or, more likely, it’s part of a larger strategy where you’re also, like, suing them in the courts. Like often they do this thing where they can—they’re allowed to clear cut—you’re suing them to say you can’t clear cut, and then they’re allowed to if there’s no injunction. They can do so while the, you know, while court is happening. So they can be like, well, doesn’t matter now, we already did it. And so sometimes you’re just literally stopping them while you make a larger change, which now that I think about it feels like a larger metaphor for how so much of this is about preserving what we can while we try to make these larger changes, while we try to change the economic systems that we live under and things like that.

Simon  
Yeah, no, that’s definitely true. And I think just being a stick in the mud sometimes just being loud in as many ways as you can think, can be really beneficial. One issue, kind of jumping on, like, federal logging thing that that is a problem is that you can have kind of greenwashing of timber sales sometimes. You know, you look at, like, post-fire salvage logging that is really not ecologically justified, right? You know, well we need to clear out the trees because then we’ll have room for the nutrients to grow. It’s like, well, no, you know, fire’s natural and actually standing dead trees are an entirely separate and unique habitat type. And they’re an important thing to protect, you know. And, similarly, we need to thin forests because we’ve repressed fire for so long, and we need to make them—we need to reintroduce fire to the landscape. But sometimes, you know, these projects kind of—there will be people who insert themselves in them with ulterior motives, right. So it’d be—no longer becomes about—it’s ecologically justified, we’re thinning out the young trees to save. For the other ones it’s like, well, actually, maybe we should take some of the big ones too, you know. There’s probably too many of them, you know. It’s like—so just being active, and paying attention to when those things are happening, you can make a pretty big difference over a pretty large chunk of ground. You know, one of the issues that we have here is that I think I mentioned last time is how much of our forests are privately owned though, right? And more and more that ownership is not only private, you know, quote/unquote, but owned by investment firms and entities that not only want to extract profit, but they want to extract profit quickly. So they’ve reduced the length of time between harvest from something like 80 years,—and you know, 80 year old forest has a lot of habitat value, or a 50 year old forest does—to now being maybe 50, or sometimes even 30. You know, 30 year old trees, which basically just looks like a plantation, you know. And they’ll harvest and then they sell the land again. And it’s just this ongoing cycle of making sure that the quarterly returns are up so the stock prices are up. And, you know, that’s something that really needs to be actively fought in my region.

Margaret  
Yeah. And then I’m under the impression that you can only have these cycles where you remove all the biomass every 30 or 80 years—you can only do that so many times before you end up with no biomass left and get desertification. Is that the case?

Simon  
Yeah, I mean, there’s certainly—we’ve undergone massive changes to soil structure in ways that we don’t understand in forests in the Pacific Northwest. And, definitely, it’s that loss of biomass. And there’s certain types of biomass that only big trees can really provide. There’s like that something called like brown cubicle rot, which isn’t a very romantic name, but—there’s other terms for it—but basically it’s like, if you’ve ever been in the Pacific Northwest and you’d seem like a big nurse log on the ground, which is we call like a tree that’s fallen on the ground and it has other trees and plants growing out of it. It’s providing an entirely unique set of soil conditions. And you crumble that apart and it’s got these, like, cavities and square pieces, and it’s often very brown or bright orange. And that type of biomass in the soil is just, it’s just a completely different entity than the bare mineral soil. And certainly you start to reduce the health of the trees that grow when you keep removing that biomass. And, of course, it provides carbon storage too. So, you know, last year in Oregon in 2020—this year, we had record-breaking heat waves, and last year, we had record-breaking wildfires on the west side of the Cascades, which, you know, you’re familiar with Oregon, of course. But for people that aren’t, that’s, like, the wet side, right? That’s when people think about Oregon and big trees and things like that, that’s kind of what they’re envisioning. But we had these fires raging through the west side. And they ended up burning like 2% of the land area of the state in one month. And a lot of those burns were on these these private tree farms with these young trees that are just matchsticks, they’re stressed by drought because they don’t have the organic matter in the soil to retain moisture. And they just, they burned completely, a lot of these areas, you know, 100%, true mortality. So there’s—you can’t do it forever. But but they, you know, they don’t care that you can’t do it forever.

Margaret  
Which I guess is like—is yet another example of, like, the whole climate preparedness and mitigating the effects of climate change involves stopping all of this treating the earth just like a sit a set of resources to extract, you know?

Simon  
Yeah, yeah. And it’s not, you know, it’s not like, I mean, we use wood products, right? But it’s just how do we change our relationship to do that in a way that works for us in the present, and will also work for future generations. I’m working on a forest management plan right now for a property—for a reserve—but that will allow timber harvest, and it’s, you know, it was purchased from Weyerhaeuser, it’s 1300 acres. And a lot of it was logged fairly recently before they sold it because they kind of extracted the value that they could, But it’s thinking about, okay, but the trees are too dense, we’re gonna need to thin them. At what stage do we send them, you know, that we can actually extract some value and that value goes into the local economy, and we’re creating timber products, but we’re not—but we’re sort of mimicking the natural cycles in order to get to a place where in a couple 100 years, it’s a mature, old growth forest, right? And at that point, like, I don’t need to consider what the economy is like in 100 or 200 years, I don’t need to consider what we need out of forest products. But like we can make it work for us in the present by clearing little clearings and creating, you know, have like diversity areas that’re similar those clearings that I talked about before, or selectively thinning, you know, the weaker trees and creating a more open canopy that mimics those natural systems, but also allows for economic activity or for just wood products that we use in our lives. And I really like that, because it’s that dichotomy of, like, what do we need now, but how can we plan for a future that’s unknowable to us? But we do know that we want all grow for us again someday for future generations. 

Margaret  
Yeah, and I like it because it’s acknowledging that it’s, like, well, we do want to use wood to build our houses or whatever, you know. There’s, in many climates, that’s the best way to do it. And most of us prefer to live in shelter and things like that, you know. And it’s just—and people have this like, okay, well, since clear cutting, you know, on massive scale is bad, and looking at the earth as a series of resources bad, therefore, we have to feel guilty about using, like, you know, interacting with the earth, and that also doesn’t do us any good. One, because guilt-based organizing this garbage. But it’s also just, like, it’s not—it’s a babies and bathwater problem, you know. It’s a—we do, we are animals, and animals use, well, other animals and nature to do the things we want to do. I remember trying to, you know, we were trying to protect this forest in Southern Oregon, and it was, it had actually been burned. And it was a salvage—it was old growth forests that have been burned on public land. And none of the locals would log it because everyone knew it was bad. So there was like all of these out of state loggers, which is funny because then, you know, of course we get accused of being outside agitators or whatever. And, you know, I remember one of the times some loggers got past one of our blockades and, you know, and people are like yelling at them. And the logger are like, well, what do you do for a living? You know, and I was like, I’m a landscaper. And the person next to me is like, well, I’m a logger. You know, it’s like, like, you can be a logger. Like, if you’re—you can be a person who turns trees into lumber and have that be a positive thing in the world, you know, you can do forestry in ways that aren’t monstrous.

Simon  
Yeah, and we often don’t give people the opportunity to engage with these practices that we all need, you know, to function, at least in the society that we build. We don’t give them the opportunity to engage in that way. You know, you can’t just like, well, I’m not going to work—if I’m a logger, I’m not going to work on any standard commercial timber operations, I’m only going to do selective logging and I’m only going to do, you know, sustainable logging. I mean, that sounds great. But you know, people who, again, quote/unquote, own the land, I mean, they need to allow that, they need to give people that opportunity, or they need to organize and demand it. And it’s sort of the, you know, it’s kind of the, like, Plato’s cave of forest management. You know, we all need to, like, envision a different world, you know, that can work for us in order to get there. There’s a leap of faith that needs to happen, I think, and there’s not a lot of faith in what feels like a declining industry and a, you know, climate change, and all of these things.

Margaret  
Something that we were talking about, you know, when we were talking about doing this episode—about, you know, there’s all this information about how to do reforestation, or, you know, sustainable forestry and all of these different things. But I’m guessing most of you listening don’t have even as much access to land as, say, I do. Right? And, you know, and so it can be kind of hopeless thinking like, well, what do I do about this? And, because yeah, most land—most privately owned land—is owned by these, well I don’t know this is as a statistic, but there’s certainly a lot of land that is in private hands in this country that is just, you know, resources to extract, like, things people who would not be interested in doing this. And the reason I was thinking about this is so useful to talk about—pardon the motorcycle revving its engine outside my office—the reason I feel so useful to talk about is because the current situation, to me, doesn’t seem like it’s going to stay. Because we probably, as a society, are nearing the end of our ability to stick our fingers in our ears about climate change. I’m sure we’ll always have, you know, people will always have, like, disaster fatigue, where we—it’s not like we’re suddenly gonna wake up one day and everyone’s gonna realize climate change is real and, you know, have a glorious happy revolution or whatever. But things will shift as more and more people, like, essentially have to come to terms with this. It’ll probably shift in bad ways also. But the thing that I—it occurs to me is that it’s like, these people who own, you know, giant tracts of land and stuff, like some of them are people, and some of them are people who would see themselves as decent people. And I think that a lot of people who see themselves as decent people are going to start having a different relationship to economic production in the very near future. And maybe some of the other ones who don’t want to change, have a change of heart, might cease being able to have the physical security necessary to control what happens on their property. You know, it’s, things are gonna change, probably. Well, they’ll definitely change, just I can’t tell you how they’re going to change. So it feels like it’s useful to understand all this stuff and to understand the importance of reforestation and all of this, because we might be able to start convincing some of these people that this is what should happen, you know, that they should not manage their property the way that they currently do at the very least. I dunno. Is there any hope in that?

Simon  
I think the shift that needs to happen is that we need to think about these things long-term. And, ideally, it would be in multi generational cycles. But even thinking about things in terms of people’s own lifetimes, and one of the issues with commercial timber management is that it’s not even in people’s lifetimes, or it’s not even in the lifetimes of the company, its quarterly profit returns, its stock prices, it’s all these sort of abstract but very quick return things that just—they don’t—there’s no way for that to really intersect in a healthy way, no matter what you think about capitalism and the stock market and stuff. And I would guess that most people listening to this don’t have like super favorable views on that. But there’s just no way for that quick cycle of profit returns to mesh with managing an ecosystem, and particularly managing an ecosystem like a forest where, even in a short-lived forests in some regions, you’re talking about trees living 100 years. You know, and then in other areas 300 years, 500 sometimes, you know. So it just can’t—it can’t operate that way. And a lot of the people that work for these companies are people that have lived in these areas for a long time now, right? And do feel like they care about the land, but also they feel like they care about their communities and they need to provide jobs and they’re just sort of wrapped up in the system. And I guess I’ll make the forest for the trees puns, right, you know you can’t see your way out, the trees are too dense in a tree farm. You need to thin it out a little bit. And, sorry, for that terrible joke. But I think that a lot more people are reachable than we know, and we need to just talk to each other. And I think we all need to sort of meet—I don’t want to say meet in the middle—but meet in kind of a new place where we’re not sort of old school environmentalist in that we say, okay people do bad things to nature, and then we need to just stop people from doing the bad things to nature. It’s like, what new—and then we’re not just extractivist, you know, logging everything, mining everything, well the economy, you know, jobs, the economy, blah, blah, blah. We need to come to a new place where it’s like, how do we develop this relationship that works for us, you know, with each other and with with nature. And that sounds very Kumbaya, but I do think you’re right, that climate change starts to—it starts to force a shift. And even the management of these companies know that, you know, Weyerhaeuser, they’re not climate denialist, you know. They do experiments to see how far north they need to move their tree seedlings, you know, their stock, you know, do we bring seedlings from Southern Oregon to halfway up Washington because they’re adapted to the hotter climate? They’re studying all of that stuff, they know it’s real. And the people working for them, I think, largely know that it’s real too. It’s certainly in the past few years around here, I think, gotten to the point where it’s unavoidable. I work with loggers and farmers and people that don’t always have the same views as me, but that—I hear a lot less climate denial now than I did even five years ago. We’ve just had too many extreme events. People know it’s here. And, you know, and yeah, disaster can create an opportunity, we realize we need to change and we need to come to a better system with each other. And that may, you know, whether you believe in the power of government to change these things or not, that can lead to either community solutions, people just demanding better from the organizations with whom they work. And also, a lot of this stuff could be easily changed in state legislatures. You know, there’s the power in Oregon and Washington to say, no, we are going to disincentivize these outside investment groups from owning these forests. We’re gonna, you know, lay down a heavy hand. And if you can get local communities of loggers to say that that’s good and that’s fine instead of kind of these, like astroturfed, you know, Timber Unity-type groups that are really just right wing, you know, corporate funded, hollow entities. You know, if you have actual communities making their voices heard, change feel possible.

Margaret  
That idea of, like, we have to meet at a third place is really fascinating to me. You know, I remember—well I don’t remember. It was before my time in Earth First. But, you know, one of the, like, one of the main stories we talk about, right, is the story of—are ou familiar with Judi Bari, the Earth First organizer who organized loggers? And she got bombed for it, right. And, you know, basically like, she was organizing as an Earth First-er, but very also explicitly as a labor organizer with the IWW. And being like, you know, loggers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and, you know, and are by and large people who like the fact that they spend all their time outdoors, you know. And I’m not trying to come Kumbaya either and be like, oh, well, you know, we’ll never have to be opposed to the people who are working on resource extraction or whatever, right. But the less we can be, the better, both strategically and ethically. And also, I mean, I think that’s why Judi Bari got bombed. I personally believe that that was by the federal government. I know there was a lawsuit that, one, proving that at the very least, they were certainly ready to go to show that, you know, like, ready to blame her own assassination on herself, you know. And—assassination attempt, she survived the bombing, died of cancer a couple years later. But, you know, like, I think that that actually is what threatens power is when—not to sound Marxist, but like when the working—well, whatever, anarchist, everyone knows that—you know when the working class gets together and is like, oh, we can actually see passed our immediate differences and work together towards a goal, we accomplished an awful lot. And I don’t personally have the first clue about how to do that. And maybe you do have more of a first clue because you work, I presume your work puts you in touch with both environmentalists and loggers and timber companies and things that are these very traditionally at odds organizations?

Simon  
Yeah, so my current role is with a land trust. And for those that don’t know, basically a land trust, in some cases, buys property directly or has it donated, and then it’s put in a trust forever to protect it from development or for restoration, or whatever the threat is. Or it’ll be a legal entity, like a conservation easement, that it’s still owned by someone else but we have some restrictions on, okay, you can’t mine it, you can’t put housing developments on it. Maybe you can still log it though, or maybe there’s some restrictions on how that logging happens. And so that allows me to kind of straddle that world a little bit. And I’ve worked in many different organizations with many different entities, but it kind of gives us a, you know, an avenue to interacting with local communities. Like, we’re not just flying in, you know, by night—and some people are still pissed at us and that’s fine. That’s always going to be the case. But we’re there more or less permanently. And so, like it or not, we can work together. But also, I mean, you know, yeah, we do, I work with people, I hire farmers for work, I hire loggers for work. We, like as I mentioned, we do, you know, timber production activities. And so, being local and kind of leading by example, if you have the opportunity, it has been really valuable. You know, I will say that a lot of times the groups that get cut out of that conversation of, oh, we need to work with local communities, are Indigenous groups. You know, and when Indigenous groups are brought in, it’s usually tribal governments. And, of course, not all tribes are recognized federally. And if they’re not federally recognized, they’re out of luck. You know, locally we have the Chinook tribe fighting for recognition and wanting to be a part of managing lands in our region on the lower Columbia River, and being cut out without funding, without recognition. But other tribes are, and so they are able to kind of assert themselves. And so I think this is all true. You know, I don’t want to go down the road of romanticizing rural communities, because I think that there’s a lot that also needs to change, but there are a lot of people in those communities who, yeah, absolutely want it a different way. And like you said, just like being outside, they like being in the woods, and they just really care about things. And, you know, one of the funniest things to me is that, you know, a lot of, like, a lot of these these people in a way that I don’t—it doesn’t have any packing in theory or in politics, really—but like really push back against private ownership. You know, when you think about like private property being not just like an absolute thing, but a bundle of rights, you know, I have the right to log this, I have the right to access. You know, all these private timber lands used to be, like, widely accessible to people in local communities. And that, especially when they’re a smaller companies, and so people grew up, you know, going to places in the coast range and hunting and fishing and just hanging out and camping and, like, that was their backyards. And they have the larger companies coming in and being like, well wait a second, we can we can charge for permit access, you know, and we can hire our security to control it, and we can put up gates on all the roads. And that really pisses people off, you know, and I think there’s a real organizing opportunity there, you know, for someone to bridge that gap and be, like, yeah, you know, you’re right. These big private companies really are, you know, taking away something that is not theirs to take away. You know, you own it too, and then can we extend this to, okay, but also you own it, but also, you know, there were people here first that also owned it and stuff do and have an ownership stake. And we can kind of build a new vision of who owns the land.

Margaret  
Yeah, no, it’s like—it’s like, people coming back just instinctively, on some level, to the the idea of the commons. You know, the idea that there’s this land where it’s okay to like—I’m not encouraging this, I’m just talking about the original commons in England or whatever—but like, it’s okay to take some trees every now and then. It’s okay to forage. It’s okay to hunt. It’s okay to see this as a common pool of resources that we all, you know, maintain and draw from. And in the enclosure of the commons, of course, you know, is the now everyone needs permits, you know, and you get all the Robin Hood stuff about, you know, don’t go hunt on the king’s land or whatever. It’s just kind of interesting to watch that—not the same. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat, it echoes, or whatever the—rhymes? I think it rhymes. I don’t remember what the cliche is. I’ll make a new cliche by not knowing the original cliche.

Simon  
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s true. And that entity that people are mad at for these access issues. I mean, it’s, we have—there’s just a vision of, like, here’s the tax lots on the map, and that’s who owns it. And it just is always much more complicated than that. And I think we just need to, like, recognize and put that complexity forward. Maybe in our society, in a way, that we all kind of know instinctively, you know, that it’s wrong to just like, gate it all off and say it’s a private property and, you know, screw you. And—but by reinforcing that sense of ownership, too, it makes all this stuff easier, it makes my work easier. And I want to expand that sense of ownership, because sometimes the people that are invited into having a say are people with with power in our society.

Margaret  
Yeah. The large landowners and…

Simon  
We can—I think we can build it—yeah, we can build a different ethic of, you know, how we interact with lands, with natural lands.

Margaret  
Do people—I mean, I don’t know whether you would specifically know—but I wonder if people do guerrilla reforestation, you know, just like, going to—

Simon  
You know, it’s a really good question. And like, I remember—so, in Oregon—well and a little bit in Washington—I think it was maybe four years ago, we had the first big wildfire near Portland in a lot of people’s lives here. And that was in the Columbia River Gorge, which is like a really beloved place. You know, it’s—the Columbia River is, I’m sure, you know, of course, but like, for your listeners who haven’t been there, the Columbia River is like carving through the Cascade Mountains. And so it’s this massive river, and it’s easily accessible from the city. And so there’s lots of hiking. And a wildfire started there. And a lot of people, unlike in other areas of the West, hadn’t really experienced wildfire close to the city before. And so there was a lot of, like, real emotional scarring for people about, like, we lost this place. Like, it’s gone. Like not knowing what was there yet. It was closed for a couple years for safety. You know, like, a lot of the hiking trails and things are still closed. And a long-winded way to say there were groups popping up, I remember on Facebook, you know, being like, I’m starting this group, and I’m gonna go in and start planting trees, who’s with me? Like, we need to go plant trees. And, of course, people like me were jumping in and saying, well, actually, fire is a natural process and blah, blah, blah, and like, maybe don’t. Let’s give it a second. Like this is actually like, the gorge probably burned pretty frequently because there were a lot of, like, village sites and people were there and fires—anyways, whatever. But that sentiment was certainly there. So, like, clearly when people, like, know and love a place I think that, like, they can be organized to like do that, you know. Because this was a place that held a lot of, like a really special place in a lot of people’s hearts. And so the question is, like, a lot of the places that really need reforestation are the super degraded places that no one goes to, you know, that aren’t like the beautiful mountains. It’s like the agricultural pasture that’s like a little bit degraded and, like, maybe it’s kind of a problem now. Or like just this little strip of land next to the creek, you know. So, I would love to see, like, that sort of like community response to doing that kind of thing. I think it would be like incredibly cool. And in terms of guerrilla efforts, I think probably the best examples you would find outside of the United States. Like I am not going to know the name of the village, but I have a family friend who is a doctor who spent a lot of time working in Rwanda for Doctors Without Borders. And she met these people that, like, in this little village they’ve started just reforesting, like, the hillsides next to their town. There were like these landslides happening and they just—now they started to get like NGO funding and stuff. But they started themselves. And I really wish I remember the name of this group and what they’re doing but—and the name of the village—but I don’t know. But I think in places without resources and without, like, everything is very codified, you know, here’s who owns this land and here’s who’s responsible for it. There’ve been really like beautiful examples of people just taking it into their own hands. And this whole village just goes out and plants trees and I—the pictures are looking at—and it’s like they’re just, they grow them themselves. And they’re like terracing the hills a little bit to, like, retain some moisture. And it was, like, to save their land and their lives. Like there were these landslides that were threatening them and they just started doing it, you know? And so I think there’s—the best examples, you need to look outside of people like me who work for governments and nonprofits and things like that and look at other parts of the world.

Margaret  
That’s uh… Okay, so the takeaways are: planting trees is good. Bringing beavers is good. Plant trees whether or not you have permission, but possibly, ideally, get actual local expertise about where to plant the trees and what kind of trees to plant. Change property relations. Yeah, no, no big deal. Damn it.

Simon  
No big deal. 

Margaret  
Yeah. 

Simon  
Also, you know, I mean, build your own expertise, right? Like, just, if you are interested in a piece of ground and in restoring it, just start going there. Like if there’s a creek in your town that’s kind of abandoned and, you know, whatever. Like, just seeing how it behaves for a couple of seasons, you can start to build that expertise. 

Margaret  
Cool. 

Simon  
So it’s not that complicated, really.

Margaret  
Okay, well, that’s probably a good note to end on. Do you have—for people who didn’t listen to the last episode necessarily—do you have any organizations you’re excited about shouting out or how people can follow you and bug you on the internet?

Simon  
Yeah, just the same things, I think. For people that are in the Portland, Oregon region, a great group—if you’re interested in planting trees—to volunteer with or donate to is Friends of Trees. I don’t work for them, but they’re excellent. They plant trees in natural areas and in neighborhoods. And so you can just google Friends of Trees Portland and find them. For me, nothing to plug. But if you want to find me on Twitter, it’s @plant_warlock. And if you have general questions about forestry or restoration, I’d be happy to to get in touch with you.

Margaret  
All right. Well, thanks so much for letting us steal even more of your time than originally we planned.

Simon  
Yeah, thank you.

Margaret  
Thanks, everyone, for listening. I hope you enjoyed that episode. I was just basically, as soon as we finished the call last time, I was like, no, wait, there’s more we want to talk about. Because, while it’s such a big issue, reforesting the planet to not all die seems like an important thing to talk about. And I hope you enjoyed listening to the conversation again—well, it’s not the same conversation. So different conversation. I bet everyone really just sticks around to the end in order to hear me ramble. That’s like the main thing. But if you want to be able to keep hearing me ramble, then the best way to do it is to tell people about the show. Yeah, sure. That works. Help feed the algorithms that run the world and things by liking and sharing and subscribing and retweeting and original tweeting and Instagram story sharing and we’re on Facebook and Instagram and, you know, I’m on Twitter @magpiekilljoy. And I’m also on Patreon. And if you want to support the show, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon which goes to support all the people who work on this show and all the other stuff that we’re really excited to start putting out soon. And I particularly would like to thank Nora and Hoss the dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Starro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, Hugh, and Shawn. Thank you so much. And also, if you want access to the patron only—Patreon only content—but you don’t make as much money as like we make—if you—whatever, if you’re like not doing super well financially, just message me on whatever platform and I’ll give you access to all of it for free. We do like a monthly zine that at the moment has been like zine by me, but soon is going to be zine—original zine by someone else. I’m restarting an old publisher called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. I’m very excited about it. And we also have YouTube show now called, get this, it’s called Live Like the World is Dying because it’s the same show, it’s just on YouTube. There’s some stuff that, like, visually makes more sense—that makes more sense visually. I need to eat, so I’m going to be done recording now. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you’re doing great

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S1E33 – Simon on Reforestation, pt. 1

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Episode Notes

Margaret talks to Simon, a restoration ecologist who works in the Pacific Northwest, about confronting climate crisis with reforestation, and about hope and resilience in the face of environmental devastation.

Simon can be found on twitter @plant_warlock.

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

Transcript

1:00:24

Margaret
Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I’m your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. And this episode I’m excited—I put a call out basically being like, who should I talk to about reforestation and how we can confront climate change through reforestation and, you know, how microclimates affect things, etc. And I am very excited to talk to my guest for this week, Simon, about reforestation. But first, Live Like the World is Dying as a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts. I tried to go into, pretty neat, y’all heard it, but I tried to go into the radio producer voice but I gave up. We’re proud member of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts, and here is a jingle from another show on the network. Da duh daaaa!

Jingle Speaker 1 (Scully)
Where did you get this?

Jingle Speaker 2 (Mulder)
Your friendly neighborhood anarchist?

Jingle Speaker 3
More of an anarchist militant…

Jingle Speaker 4
People involved in social struggles, everybody else.

Jingle Speaker 5
People have been waiting for some content.

Jingle Speaker 6
Radio.

Jingle Speaker 7
The show.

Jingle Speaker 8
The Final Straw and I’m William.

Jingle Speaker 9
And I’m Bursts of Goodness.

Jingle Speaker 8
Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

Margaret
Okay, if you could introduce yourself with, I guess, your name, your pronouns, and some of what you do for work professionally that has led you to end up on this podcast talking about this issue.

Simon
Hi Margaret, thanks for having me. My name is Simon Apostle. And I’ve been a restoration ecologist working primarily in Oregon and Washington for the past decade or so. And a lot of my work has focused on reforestation projects, I guess would be an easy way to describe them to lay people, but really I’m a general practice restoration ecologist. And that means applying science to the field of restoring ecosystems.

Margaret
Okay, so that brings up the broad and probably easy to answer question of how do we fix the ecosystem? It seems kind of broken right now.

Simon
Yeah, I mean, it’s obviously the biggest question that is, you know, people are never able to answer in my field. I think the first thing you need to know is what’s wrong. Which is a question that is answerable through a combination of research and also just feeling out your values, you know, how do—what do we want from our ecosystems globally and locally? And in the early, kind of the early times of ecological restoration as a field, and it’s a fairly new field, you know, the idea was, okay, we’re going to find historical reference conditions. We’re going to figure out, you know, this is what ecosystems used to be—and used to be usually meant, what were they like before white settlers—I’m speaking at a North American context here which, of course, you know, plays into a lot of racist notions about noble savage, you know, how native peoples here really didn’t affect the ecosystem that was in a natural state. And as the field has developed, especially in recent years, people have become much more cognizant of what people have been living in and interacting with and manipulating the ecosystems around us for millennia. But then that question becomes much more complicated, you know, our relationship with the natural world is different than it used to be and different than people in cultures historically have related to the ecosystem. So it becomes a very difficult question to answer. So you need to start to fall back on some priorities, you know, or—and those priorities can be something like, well, we value biodiversity, you know. We can look and see that this ecosystem here is degraded, it’s full of introduced weeds, there’s only three species really dominant. And we know a minimum, whatever things were like in the past, that there was a lot more going on here. So that’s a really good starting point. So you have a value of biodiversity.

Margaret
The the moving away from, like, reference systems is really interesting to me. So the idea is that, like, basically, people are moving away from the idea of, well we’re going to make it exactly like it used to be in thism like, quote/unquote, untouched natural state, which of course doesn’t really exist because humans have been interacting with nature for a long time. But instead picking what values matter to us and then applying them? Is that—

Simon
Yeah, I think that’s true. And one of those values is historical conditions. And that’s kind of the core value of the field. But it’s the introduction of these other values that have made things much more complicated and I think much more interesting, but also much more true to how we interact with the natural world. So certainly a value is, we know—we basically know that we’ve messed up. We know that we’ve come in and through agriculture, and through building cities and roads, and all of the things that modern society does, we’ve impacted the natural world in negative ways. We see declines of species, we see loss of biodiversity, we see introduction of invasive species from other areas. And so we know that these things are problems, but what I think my field is starting to wrestle with a little bit more is, okay, well, what is what is really the solution? We can’t, we can’t, you know, find a time capsule and go backwards.

Margaret
Right.

Simon
And even if we did, you know, we don’t know how people were managing those systems before we—an when I say we, I’m talking about white people which, again, you know, there’s lots of native people that are involved in ecological restoration and that’s becoming more of a focus as well. But it’s introducing those more complex values. And then, of course, you introduce global warming which is—kind of makes it clear that you can’t just go backwards, you know, we don’t know what the effects of climate change are going to be in every system or in any system. And so that throws a wrench into the whole idea of, okay, we can just, we can just return.

Margaret
I like that I like—I mean, I don’t like that everything’s going horribly. But I like this idea of acknowledging that we can’t go backwards and, you know, one of the things that always—when I was a younger environmentalist and I was more involved with green anarchism, one of the things that wasn’t always the problem but could sometimes kind of come up as a problem is this idea of, like, pretending like we’re all going to go back to the quote/unquote natural way of living and like living off of the land in very specific ways. And it never made any sense to me because it always seemed to me that people,—even people who are like foraging and things like that, I always thought of, you know, I mean, if you live in a city, dumpster diving is foraging, you know, like, not just picking berries, or whatever, and—not to be dismissive of foraging in wild environments—but it always seemed like this romanticization of the past. Of, like, trying to recreate the past rather than taking the ideas—well it’s like people, the thing that we’re excited about is like people working with what’s around them. And what’s around us is different than what was around people before industrialization and things like that. So it’s just, it’s kind of interesting to me to see a parallel with that in something like ecological restoration. And, I mean, it’s even in the name “restoration,” right? To restore things kind of implies the taking things back to what they used to be, but I don’t know.

Simon
Yeah, you have to respond to the world as it exists in front of you. And you need to maintain a level of idealism, you know, in order to be in this field, I think, you know, because you’re faced with the kind of enormity of the world being fairly messed up, you know. There’s a lot of tragedy in environmental fields, you know, it’s you feel like you’re just fingers in the dam and trying to stem the bleeding. And so, in a way, kind of letting go of that vision of, we’re just going to completely return and we’re going to have these little time capsules of true native ecosystems that are how things were, and then everything else is changing around it—letting go of that maybe can start to allow for some hope and for a broader vision of the future. But there’s room for lots of different methods and lots of different results, and that’s going to vary a lot locally as well. I’m speaking again kind of in the context of having worked, you know, in the Pacific Northwest. But things may be different somewhere else. So, and the impacts that you’re dealing with may be different. So, there’s a lot to consider there. But certainly, you know, some of my work is in coastal estuaries in forested wetlands and it’s important work, it’s important to restore these areas that have been degraded by agriculture. The land has subsided through lack of sediment inputs and diking. We can restore them and we can, we can rebuild these wetland forests and the estuary. But we also have the knowledge that many of these systems that we’re, right, quote/unquote restoring, are going to be gone in 100 years. That’s just, that’s a certainty. And so is there still value in doing that? And maybe the answer is yes. Because maybe, really, it’s not restoration, it’s just a form of stewardship of the land. You know, we’re taking care of it, we’re improving the condition for generations of plants and animals. And we can’t know what will happen after that. We know that this thing will be gone, but there will be something else after it. And we’re maintaining some biodiversity just for the time being.

Margaret
Well and it seems like if we, if we restore certain areas, even though we know we’re going to lose them, you know, we might lose them in like different ways than we would otherwise lose them. I don’t know if this is totally naive. But I’m like, well, you know, we know that desertification, and we know that, you know, well at least climate is going to change and overall be much harder. We know that’s true. Right? But maybe the way things die off can be different, you know, if we make things a little better ahead of time.

Simon
Yeah, no, that’s absolutely true. And I think that there’s functional reasons that would be true, just basic population ecology reasons that that would be true. You know, if you’re working somewhere and you know, like, for example, okay, we’re trying to, you know, we’re working on a dry site and we’re trying to restore, let’s say, ponderosa pine woodlands in the American Southwest. But we know maybe this is a marginal site for Ponderosa pines, and eventually they’re not going to persist in this area. Well, one of the potential mechanisms of climate change is that things move both north and they move uphill, they move up slope, especially in mountainous areas as the temperature warms. And those upslope areas become become relatively warmer, but they maybe are closer to the temperature that was previously in the valleys. It’s oversimplification, there’s many other factors. But if there aren’t trees there, then there’s no seed source for that population to move up upslope, right. So, you know, and we deal with a similar thing in these estuarine systems in coastal areas where we know sea level rise is going to flood these places out, it’s like, well, at least we have the spruce swamps. We have spruce, and if the spruce exists, the spruce can move into the upper areas. Or if they’re there, maybe, you know, you have more trees, they capture more sediment, it slows that process and allows things to adapt. And sometimes the slowing of those start processes can be really beneficial.

Margaret
Is this the like—when I was in Arizona I went to this place, I think it was called Mount Lemon—and it was like a sky island. It was basically the Pacific Northwest, but in Arizona. I think it even had Douglas firs. I feel like wrong when I say that. But there was some—

Simon
No. I mean, it probably does.

Margaret
And that’s cool. That’s like a—do you know this concept, have you heard of green nihilism or like eco nihilism or climate nihilism or whatever, like nihilism as applies to the climate but in a positive way? Have you heard this?

Simon
Yeah, totally. And I mean, I think it’s kind of self explanatory, right? Like, it’s just, it’s too much and it’s like, well, there’s just there’s a fatalism about climate change.

Margaret
Yeah. And this idea—and I think when people use it positively—like green nihilism is like, you know, people sometimes talk about, like, giving up hope in order to be able to, like, you know, stopping—like, giving up stopping climate change and moving towards adapting to climate change. I actually think that that style shouldn’t—to me that doesn’t feel like nihilism at all, it actually feels very hopeful. Because most of the time, when I think about climate change, I kind of think over everyone forced to live underground and grow foods and hydroponics and, you know, the earth—surface of the earth is unrecognizable. And so when people talk about, like, well, maybe everything will just be a little bit different. I’m like, oh, that sounds so optimistic. And I get really excited about that optimism. But I like, I don’t know, the thing that you’re talking about now seems like this, like, in between space where it’s—you know, it’s like, knowing you’re going to lose, but seeing what you can gain by trying to win in the process.

Simon
Yeah, I mean, you have to be realistic about that things are going to change, but we also know that changes are just a part of ecology. It’s a part of the natural world. And I—these—it’s funny to say that out loud, right, because that’s the sort of phrasing that gets used by climate denialist—deniers and such, to say, oh, you know, climate change is natural these things happen. And of course it’s not. And the rate of change is extreme and it’s bad. But we also can—we can have an active hand in that adaptation, I think is what you’re kind of getting at. We can, we know that change is coming. And there’s people who are working on trying to slow that rate of change and that’s what, you know, we’re trying to do if we’re talking about reducing emissions and things like that. But when we also talk about—a lot of what we talked about in ecology is resiliency, which, of course, is a really important concept in human communities as well, right? It’s how do you build community resiliency in the face of disasters, in the face of climate change, or other threats. And that’s a lot of what we talked about in restoration as well now. We kind of, when we talk about moving on from that historical model, one of the things that—one of the buzzwords now is—and I say that not negatively, because I think it’s important—is resiliency. And a lot of things can make an ecosystem resilient. One of those things is biodiversity. You know, if we don’t know how the world is going to change, the more organisms occupy a space, the more they occupy a piece of ground, the more likely it will be that some kind of balance or equilibrium is going to be found later, or that one of those organisms is going to survive and thrive in some form that may not be the current form, it’s not going to be the community composition that it is today, but you probably also won’t have a monoculture. It won’t disappear completely. You won’t get desertification or whatever the specific threat is in the area that you’re living and working in.

Margaret
So it’s just like similar to how farmers, you know, one of the reasons that people push back against Monsanto and these other sort of attempts to sort of monoculture our food sources is because if you have only one strain of rice or whatever then whatever blight comes through iw will take out all of your rice. Versus, the more different strains you have, the better your chances of actually getting a good yield.

Simon
That’s exactly right. And that’s talking about even just genetic diversity, right. And it’s really just, it’s threat mitigation. The more—if we have a diversity of species, the same way we think about diversity of genes, you know, and we think about climate change as a disease to an ecosystem, if you think about as a singular living body, the more diversity you have among plant species, the more likely it is that the ecosystem is going to be able to respond. You know, so you don’t—if you have a single overstory tree species, which in some cases you have, in some marginal ecosystems that’s all that’s there and that’s all that’s available. But if that single overstory species becomes impacted in a way, specific to climate change, to the point where maybe it’s wiped out, which is a real possibility in some parts of the arid West where you have native bark beetles, often increasing in damage to forests stands, largely due to climate change, you know, you have warmer winters and so they’re able to be active for longer, you have less kills from freezes, so you have whole stands disappearing. And if you have a single tree species in those stands, then it’s not a forest anymore It’ll be something else. But if you have a multi-layered canopy with with many different tree species, then you know, perhaps one of those other species is going to be resilient, it’s going to resist that, threat and it can occupy the space. So it’s really just, it’s just kind of building in more options for the ecosystem to adapt.

Margaret
I like this a lot. Like, I don’t know, I really am enjoying learning this stuff because it—because it dovetails so well into, like, what I believe about the world and things like that. But like, you know, I mean, one of the main things that I’m interested in is that I believe diversity is a better form of strength than, like, unity. Rather than trying to make everyone agree to something or making everyone the same along almost any axis, instead, getting people to work together despite differences, you know, and, like actual multiculturalism versus like the melting pot, for example. Or, you know, even like in political movements, having diverse opinions, diverse strategies, diverse methods, and then just working together to try not to step on each other’s toes and to try to figure out how all of our different strengths can tie together. And so I’m excited to hear that that’s, like, the main way that people are thinking about creating resilient ecosystems is, you know, because I think people have this concept of, like, the way to stop climate change is, you know, essentially this eco fascist idea—or I heard someone call it, I think, climate Leviathan or something like that—you know, this idea of, like, a top down, here’s what we all must do approach. And yet, I think that replicates, well, the problems that got us here in the first place, but also, you know, that would be like saying, like, oh, well, this is the tree, this particular tree will resist climate change the best. So we’re just gonna, like, clear cut everything and plant that tree, you know?

Simon
Yeah, I think, oh, yeah, I just—I think there’s a lot of social lessons probably to be drawn from ecology. And I think it’s tempting for people and it’s been done a lot. And it interplays, right, we—ecology is the study of relationships between organisms functionally, and if you’re talking about restoration ecology, it’s just how do you restore those relationships. And if you have a monoculture, there’s no relationships to be had, or there’s fewer. You know, your web becomes just some kind of simple grid with a few connections instead of this kind of unknowable complexity of interactions. And it’s that sort of unknowable complexity that I think is, like, most beautiful in ecology to me, and is maybe why I was drawn to being a practitioner instead of a researcher. Maybe I’m also just not smart enough, that’s part of it, maybe I’m not good enough at the math. You know, it’s, you know that you have to let go. You get to act and you get to see how the ecosystem responds, and you’re never really going to know what all those response mechanisms actually were. I mean, I think that’s really nice. But yeah, I mean, it’s, an ecosystem is not top down, it’s not anything down, it’s just the interaction of many organisms. And as a top-down actor, in a sense, you know, choosing our inputs into the ecosystem, I think that’s something that does need to be decided as a society in a way, but also that society can be in, you know, there’s layers to that, right. It’s like, how, what is our ethic? How do we treat natural systems? You know, I think there needs to be like a moral framework. But then a lot of this stuff, it really is only, it only functions on a local scale. I mean, I think it’s, in my field, it’s so important to just continue to work in one place as much as possible. I mean, it just, I’m still learning plant species, you know, in sites that I’ve worked on for years and it’s, like, I didn’t even know this thing existed. And so some level of local control, even if we’re operating in the space where government and funding and all of these things are major factors, you need local experts. And some of that is just that, like, we don’t orient our society towards local expertise because people have to have jobs and they need to move on from those jobs. And sometimes a career opportunity is going to be in a different part of the country. And, on and on. But without that local knowledge there’s just—you miss too many things. And you miss many things regardless. But—and that’s why when people, you know, people do lip service to Indigenous knowledge and cultural practices and stuff, and sometimes it’s not genuine, but the most genuinely important thing about it is that local knowledge, right, and when you think about, like—in my field, I think about just like the massive tragedy of losing, you know, 1000s of years of knowledge. And then what of it that we have—because these these, you know, cultures and Indigenous people are still with us and they’re like—I see, like, yeah, tribal governments and just individual native people trying to insert themselves into these spaces and natural area management and being kind of like, oh, well yeah, you can have this over here. You can do this over in this other space. And it’s like, you know, what little we have left that we didn’t, you know, wreck of this built up knowledge over 1000s of years, we’re kind of just, like, shunting to the side.

Margaret
Yeah, kind of marginalizing it.

Simon
And putting it into it’s own little box when really that’s the model we need to be replicating, you know, and building as a culture, right. We need to build those generations of knowledge.

Margaret
I like, I get really excited about organizational structures that are bottom-up, right? Like, where the main most important thing is that local expertise, is the fact that the people who live in an area are more likely to have the skills they need to deal with problems in that certain area, but they might need resources. And in some ways, you might want to centralize the acquisition of these resources or whatever, you know, or talk with each other and like network and coordinate with each other, you know, because there’s some—there are decisions that need to be sort of made at a larger and wider level. But I think that just, like, we can essentially invert the kind of hierarchies within our society. But I suppose that is tangential to reforestation. And I’ve been spending the whole time trying to come up with a way to phrase the pun, like, see the forest for the trees, but I’m just going to leave that there, and you all can come up with your own version of that. What, um, to try and be, like, more specific and more practical about it: How does reforestation affect, like a local area? Besides—I guess, like, okay, it’s two separate questions. One is the large scale question: How does reforestation impact climate change, besides, again, like protecting biodiversity like you were just saying, and giving, like more tickets in the lottery of survival or something? But also, like, is it true—okay, I’ll just go—like, is it true that if we plant a whole bunch of trees then we’ll be able to slow down or mitigate the effects of carbon in the atmosphere because of trees capturing carbon? That would be a first question.

Simon
Yeah. So the simple answer to that first question is yes, of course we know trees capture carbon. And through photosynthetic processes trees and all plants, not just trees, which is an important point that people miss, capture carbon. And that carbon is stored unless it’s burned or, you know, otherwise disturbed, sometimes through decomposition processes, you can have methane and carbon released back into the atmosphere. But yes, on a global scale, reforestation, generally, if you’re starting at zero state—you know, you take a bare piece of ground and plant trees—reforestation is an effective way to mitigate or counter the effects of climate change. Now, I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent, but I will say that one of the scariest sets of words in my field is “global tree planting initiative.”

Margaret
Oh, interesting, okay, because that’s where my brain goes.

Simon
Yeah, that’s less a function—well, I think it’s a function of going back to talking about needing local solutions—or at least needing local expertise, even if you have a global initiative. And a lot of it is that, frankly, there’s organizations out there that are, they’re just big grify, you know, that are saying, you buy this product, we’re going to plant a tree. You don’t know really where that tree is, or they’re going to maybe—sometimes that money goes towards replanting timber plantations in Canada or something, you know, and it’s like, well, the carbon accounting of something like that is pretty sketchy, because they were probably going to replant it anyways because it’s functionally a farm. Right? They’re just replanting the trees that they’re going to harvest again in 50 years. And in other cases, you have organizations kind of swooping into areas and planting non-native species, you know, in areas that were already vegetated, and maybe that vegetation has similar, you know, carbon storage capacity as that monoculture of trees that you went in and planted. So, you know, I don’t want to get too far down that road. But I—the answer is that trees, yes, of course, store carbon. So does other plant life. And the most effective way to use forests to—at least in the Pacific Northwest where I have some knowledge—to combat climate change, it can be tree planting, but it’s protecting existing forests from logging and destruction. Because it’s really the old trees, at least in this system that I’m familiar with, that have the most carbon storage capacity. But big, old, you know, 100 plus year old trees.

Margaret
I mean, that’s—I guess it’s not surprising to me that the organizations are the problem with tree planting initiatives, you know, because I’m so used to not even thinking organizationally at this point that I’m like, oh, no, you just plant trees everywhere, right? But I’m like, oh yeah, but if there was like, either, of course—yeah, of course, these companies where they’re like, oh, we want to get the most carbon capture per dollar or whatever. And so yeah, I guess they’ll go plant the wrong trees in some area and mess up that ecosystem and mess up the ways of life of all the people who live around there and things. Yeah, I mean, I guess it seems to me that, yeah, defending the trees that we have as well as, I guess, replanting and reforestation but from local, like, in ways that are applicable to the local context as best understood by people who are Indigenous to that context, or at least are experts in that local context, is that…?

Simon
Yeah, I think that’s right. And the other thing I would add to that is carbon accounting is extremely difficult. And in any scientist who studies this—I’m not a scientist who studies carbon accounting, but from everything that I’ve seen and read, and everyone who I know and I’ve talked to, there’s so much hedging as to be the point, well, we know that this probably has impacts, but maybe those impacts are two centuries down the line. One example is I just saw a presentation about, you know, is looking at what was the carbon storage capacity in coastal wetland systems. Again, this is just, these are places I work. So this really smart researcher whose name I’m forgetting—but that’s probably okay—was looking at carbon capture, and then also carbon and methane emissions from these wetland systems. And one of the conclusions was that these wetland systems are long term if left alone, you know, net carbon and methane positive, right, like they will capture more than they take in. But a lot of them are actually emit more methane and carbon through decompositional processes. You know, you think about walking around in a swamp, you stick your boots in, and you get that smell of sulfur and methane. Those decompositional processes, which are super important and do a lot for the ecosystem, emit more methane, which is a much stronger greenhouse gas than carbon than they do capture carbon. And eventually it becomes carbon positive, I guess would be the term, right, that it’s capturing more than it’s emitting, because methane doesn’t last as long as the atmosphere, you’re continuing to capture carbon, you know, over time, that could be 400 years in the future, you know. So that doesn’t make it not worth doing, but if the idea is we’re going to solve climate change by planting trees, you know, or by manipulating ecosystems in order to prioritize carbon capture without considering all these other things, I think it’s probably too difficult. It’s a nice bonus. But I—my feeling tends to be that there’s so much that restoring ecosystems, including forests, reforestation does for societies and for people beyond that—things that you can see and feel and effect—and feel the effects of locally, that we should be valuing those things as well.

Margaret
Can you give me examples of some of those things?

Simon
Yeah, well, initially, you know, I know you wanted to talk about micro climates.

Margaret
That is my next question, so this is great.

Simon
Yeah. I mean, well, we can jump right into it I guess. There’s like, there’s been some really interesting research lately on the local climate effects of forests. I was reading a paper earlier about, you know, of course you have you have effects on ground temperature, just through direct shading, right. Just the creation of shade can make a massive difference. In the Northwest, we just experienced what has been described as 1000 year heat event. In Portland, where I live, we had temperatures pushing 120 degrees, which is, like, not fathomable.

Margaret
Yeah.

Simon
You know, I still can’t fathom that, even though it just happened and I’m seeing the effects.

Margaret
Yeah.

Simon
Seeing dying plants. You know, it’s apocalyptic feeling. But because we have a good network of temperature sensors and weather stations, you can see that in neighborhoods that had tree cover, you could easily be 10 degrees cooler than neighborhoods without that. And that’s going to be largely because of just the direct shading effects. And then there’s also cooling effects from respiration and trees, you know, water is one of the best temperature moderators that exists, right. And so just the process of trees respirating and giving off water vapor through that process cools the air. And so—

Margaret
Oh it’s like evaporative cooling that’s happening on the Trees? Cool.

Simon
Essentially yeah. Yeah, it’s just, you know, it’s thermodynamics. And that respiration slows, you know, when you have a super hot temperatures, a lot of species will undergo, you know, like, sort of heat dormancy, summer dormancy. But it still happens and depends on the planets but, and then of course just the direct shading. I mean, obviously, shade is cooler than being in the direct sunlight. And open concrete and asphalt is the opposite, it reflects a lot of heat. So in an urban context—and there’s been actually some really incredible research done by—again, trying to recall his name. A researcher, same person. Yeah, I will, maybe I’ll come up with a later. But a researcher at Portland State University who’s done thermal mapping of the City of Portland and now has moved on to other cities, basically showing where there’s these urban heat islands, right. And these heat islands are—I mean, it’s incredibly stark. And of course, there’s all these social implications because the heat islands are in poor neighborhoods, and the rich neighborhoods have big old trees. But again, yeah, that the cooling effects just directly from being your trees is well known and it’s becoming more and more well documented.

Margaret
Yeah, I live—I mean, part of the reason I got excited about like reading about microclimate stuff is that, you know, I live on a land project where slightly more than half of it is open field. And then the other half is up in the woods. And I’m the only one who built her house up in the woods. And there’s, you know, when it comes to running my solar panels and things, there’s a lot of disadvantages here. And the humidity is a little bit worse up there, which is a problem in the mid-Atlantic, although I feel terrible complained about any climate problem that I’m facing in one of the most temperate and so far least affected areas. But it’s a 15 degree difference between—you know, and I’m not that far into the woods or something, but my house stays fine in hot Southern summer without AC from, as long as I haven’t maintained some airflow and have vents and things. And if I walked out into the field, I’m like—like, I’ll walk down in the morning and I’ll have a hoodie on, and I’ll get to the field and everyone else who lives there will be, like, you know, not wearing a shirt or whatever. It’s stark in a way that I never—you know, it’s like, I know it on some level, like, oh, if you walk on the middle of the road and it’s black and, you know, it’s asphalt, it’s hot or whatever, right. But I never quite, you know, felt it daily that that difference. And so that’s why I got excited about it, just because I was like, oh, this works here. It clearly is applicable on a global scale and I should enforce a global tree planting initiative.

Simon
Yeah. You can make pretty good money at it.

Margaret
Yeah. How long does it take to create a microclimate? Is this something that, like, listeners who if they have, like, if they have enough power to influence the, you know, flora of their neighborhood and things like that could be pursuing as a way to at least keep their environment, like, a substantial amount of cooler, or?

Simon
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s, of course, gonna depend on the growth rate of trees. And that’s going to depend regionally. I mean, I live in a pretty productive climate, a mild climate so far in our history and lifetimes. But there’s tree species here that, you know, in their established can grow 5-10 feet a year. So that’s very much within our lifetimes. Those shade effects, you know, you start to feel that as soon as it’s putting out shade, and the more shade that’s put out, the stronger those effects will be. So absolutely. If this is a primary, you know, if you’re talking about an urban context of interest in your neighborhood, you do want to consider, right, like, what is the growth rate of the species that I’m planting? You know, maybe that’s an important consideration for a reforestation project or picking something near your house. You know, if you look in the West, you know, all the old homesteads, they would plant poplars in a row, either as a windbreaker or as shade or both next to the houses, because poplars and things in Populous, in that group of plants, grow incredibly fast. They’re also very brittle. Something to consider if you’re planting near your house, you know. Limbs can fall off and such. But yeah, I mean, it’s something that you can be involved in and do and, you know, especially on sites that I work on, I have sites where I I planted the trees or planted trees with a group of people and eight years later, they’re, they’re 25 feet tall. And so you’re really seeing a forest develop.

Margaret
That’s cool.

Simon
But of course, that’s going to depend on on where you live.

Margaret
Okay, here’s an oddly specific question. How do you plant a tree? Like when I was a kid and it was like Arbor Day or something, they were like, go home and plant this pine tree. And they gave us like this like pine tree sapling, and I like dug a hole and I put it in the hole and then it died.

Simon
Yeah.

Margaret
You know? And so I’ve convinced myself ever since that I can’t—I have like a, you know, an anti-green thumb or whatever. And if anytime I plant anything, it’s gonna die because I like tried to plant a pine tree in elementary school. But, what’s involved in just the literal act of reforestation or even just tree planting.

Simon
Yeah, well in reforestation, you know, what you’re talking about, mostly is scale, right? And so the most important thing is covering acreage and making sure that we can cover as much ground as possible and in the field of ecological restoration locally, we’re, you know, we’re actually borrowing a lot of practices from agriculture and from commercial forestry where these things are—there’s lots of money behind them and techniques have been established, right. So a tree planting crew in the Pacific Northwest, even in steep terrain, and the less steep it is, the easier. You know, each crew member can plant 1000 to 1200 trees per day, would be about standard.

Margaret
Oh wow.

Simon
And, you know, if you’re reforesting it at an area, say it’s canopy species only and you’re—you maybe planting 300 stems per acre on a restoration project. So each crew member might reforest four acres a day, on a on a good day. You know, if we’re doing a restoration project, we’re also planting understory species and other things as well, then maybe that drops to an acre. You know, scale is the most critical thing. So it’s professionals, people who know what they’re doing, right. And it’s not that anyone can’t learn, there’s some simple things that all plants want when they’re being planted. You know, not—letting the roots hang naturally is maybe one of the most important things that people kind of get wrong when they’re planting a tree. It’s like oh, my god, this, these roots are too big, I’m just going to kind of stuff in the hole and then they turn upwards and we’d call that J rooting. Right? So the root basically forms a J and the tree can recover from that, but when you think about a young sapling developing, one of its biggest limitations in a lot of climates, not all, is going to be water availability. And the deeper those roots are—so the deeper the hole is, the deeper the roots are, and the more natural they are in their arrangement—the later it’s going to be able to access water into the dry season. Every inch of depth might gain at a week as the, as things dry out. Trees get planted too high, you know, roots get exposed. That’s another component.

Margaret
Okay. So you just, like—you’re going out there with like a, like a one person gas auger or something and drilling a bunch of holes and then going back through and putting saplings that were grown in a nursery somewhere into it?

Simon
Yeah, most of what most of what we would use in reforestation projects locally, it’s almost all going to be hand planting. Again, you’re talking about pretty steep terrain. In some cases we may use augers mounted on the back of a tractor. But anywhere that’s flat in Oregon and Washington in the winter is usually pretty wet, when we’re planting things. So it can be hard to get equipment around. But usually it’s snow, we plant smaller trees, things that people can carry. We use what we would call bare root stock, primarily, that’s grown in a commercial nursery. And instead of coming in a container, you know, a plastic pot that creates a lot of trash and also is just heavy and hard to carry around, we—the plants when they’re dormant get pulled out of the ground with the roots exposed to the air and then they get put in a, basically a planting bag and sealed up. And then you pull them out when it’s time to plant them and the roots are just exposed to the air and you plant them in the ground directly. And when you have that, each tree planter can carry maybe 200 trees at a time in planting bags just on their shoulders because the weight is significantly lighter when you don’t have the soil attached. So almost all hand planting. So that 1200 trees a day will be—they’re digging every one of those holes and just sliding the tree in. You just dig as small hole as possible. You open it up a little bit and—it’s a cool process to watch.

Margaret
Yeah. What do you what are you digging it with that if it’s not like a gas auger or something? Like I guess I’m yeah, building foundations.

Simon
Yeah, we have planting shovels. They’re just a long shovel with a long narrow spade usually. In some cases, there’s a tool called a hoedad in steep areas. And actually—I’m going to get the history wrong—I think the tool is named after a group of basically hippies that moved out to Oregon in the 60s to be on tree planting crews and they developed this tool, you know, or they named the group after the tool. But I think it was the other way around. Anyways, one or the other. But the hoedads were a cool group of kids back in the day. And so on steep terrain you might have basically looks like kind of a long pickaxe with a blade at the end. But usually, yeah, it’s just like a 16 inch long, narrow shovel.

Margaret
Okay, and then what if someone’s trying to plant trees a little bit more DIY, whether getting them from a nursery? Or even, like, is it feasible for people to try and plant from seed with trees? Like, I really don’t know much about gardening. I feel almost bad, this podcast is like not focused on food. But I would like to.

Simon
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. And again, this is where connecting with people locally and understanding what things need to grow locally is so important, right? We don’t use a lot of seating for trees and shrubs just because we have a well-developed network of nurseries that grow these seedlings. And it makes maintenance a little bit easier to be able to know exactly where the seedlings are. So you’re not mowing something that’s, you know, an inch tall. But trees grow from seed, you know. And definitely, you know, one of the things that I’ve done is on a project where we’ve had to remove alders, they were going to see it at the time, and we just ground that up into mulch and the seeds that were developing on the tree were part of that mulch, and then that just got spread around on the site. And then we had like, thick stand of alders just pop up. And they were mulch, basically, from the bodies of the parents.

Margaret
Oh wow.

Simon
In some cases you can also use natural processes to get those seeds to establish on their own. Like another example would be the cottonwoods locally, which a lot of my restoration is of kind of cottonwood galleries along rivers. They time their sea drop to happen after the river is just dropped, you know, the spring floods have receded. And you have all these, this exposed mud and exposed ground so the seeds can take advantage of that exposed ground. And so, of course, because we have hydroelectric dams on a lot of the rivers here, you don’t have that flooding anymore and you have weedy grasses and things. But if you clear that ground at the right time of year underneath the trees, you can get a response of seedlings dropping all around and among those trees. So the remaining mature trees will kind of sprout a forest if you just, you know when those seeds drop, you know when the natural time is for them to emerge, you can use that to your advantage.

Margaret
How do—you know it’s, like, okay, so you work on restoration and reforestation and things like that. But then, of course, as you pointed out, we’re also losing a lot all the time. Right? And it’s kind of two questions. And one is—sometimes I worry about, you know, my work as an environmentalist or even as, like, with encouraging preparedness, like how much am I just, like, in some ways, like, allowing the system to continue. Because if I’m mitigating—as an activist, if I’m mitigating the worst effects of a system, then in some ways I’m allowing it to continue, right? And like, you know, charity is particularly famous for this of, like, basically just, like, well, industrialized capitalism wouldn’t work without charity because it doesn’t—you know, like, people need that or there wouldn’t be a workforce anymore. And yet, at the same time, this act of redistributing resources is very good, right? And so in the act of physical resources we’ll talk about, you know, mutual aid instead of charity. And I wonder about, like, something like reforestation. Where do we cross the threshold? Is it just a matter of scale of crossing the threshold from, like, being a release valve for the worst parts of industrialization versus, like, gaining ground ecoligically.

Simon
Yeah, right. I don’t know. I don’t know how to assess that, like, on a global scale. But what I can know is that—you know, circling back to talking about resiliency—if you’re doing something to the best of your knowledge to improve your local natural environment, you are—you’re counteracting some of those negative effects. Whether it’s enough, I don’t know. I mean, there’s lots that we need to do aside from climate change, I think, to like, start gaining ground instead of just halting it. And the history of the environmental field, or of conservation of natural resource management, is starting with that, oh, we just need to halt things, right, we need to preserve land. And that’s super important and still needs to happen. And restoration was kind of people thinking, well, we need a next step, right? We’ve preserved a lot of land but, like, a lot of its degraded. But of course, we’re still building new subdivisions. You know, we’re still converting small farms to industrial agriculture. These processes are still happening. And so the answer is, I don’t know. I mean, it’s hard to know what action is going to have like the best total positive difference. I think maybe organizing to stop a new subdivision is going to be a more effective use of your time, or just more impactful, than reforesting an area that’s already natural, that is just degraded. I really don’t know, and part of that’s going to depend on what you’re valuing. You know, what are you most concerned about? Is it habitat—is a total, you know, is it climate change? Is it total loss of green areas? Is it shade as we’re talking about, you know, local climate mitigation? These are all things to consider, I guess. And, yeah, I don’t know when we reach the tipping point in the other direction, but I know that, for me, if it’s directionally—if it feels directionally good, then maybe I’ve just chosen not to think about it beyond that, because otherwise it’s too hopeless.

Margaret
No, no, I totally understand that. I mean, it’s like a thing that I wrestle with when I’m doing activism, but it doesn’t make me stop doing activism. You know, I’m like, okay, like, we’re still gonna—we still need to do these things even if it isn’t yet at a critical mass at which it, like, is winning or whatever on this larger scale. I guess I’ve always been a big fan of, like, sort of why not both approach [inaudible] girl asking why not both. Because, like, I’ve always been of the, like, stop/demolish the institutions of destructive—or, you know, like, stop oppression while also building liberation as like, you know, both things are so necessary and I guess I can accidentally sometimes get caught up in that false dichotomy of, like, building up the things we want versus tearing down the things that are destroying the world. I guess, coming towards the end of this, but I wanted to ask—because you were talking about how the work you do, you know, kind of relies on idealism and hope. And I think that that’s something that’s in short supply right now. And despite my last name, and despite the fact that I run a podcast about the end of the world, I believe very strongly in hope, at least as a strategic thing. You know, it’s like, you can’t—you can’t win unless you fight to win, and you can’t fight to win unless you envision the fact that you could win or at least, you know, have a better time along the way to losing or whatever. And so I guess I want to ask you, like, what gives you hope? What—because most of us don’t know that much intimately about the ecological impacts of climate change. It’s just scary, right? And I know that what you’re talking about, about biodiversity giving us a better shot, that feels really hopeful. But I’m wondering if you have other ideas.

Simon
I would say, one of the most beautiful things I think about being in the field that I am, building forests, a lot of the time is that you are hopefully creating something that’s going to outlast you. There’s sort of an awe that I try to maintain. And it’s not always easy, but some of these organisms that we interact with that might be a couple years old, and they plant it, it could have a lifespan of, in my region, 500 years. We can talk about a coast Douglas fir. And we can’t know what the world is going to be like. And it’s not really about making your impact, because no one’s going to know, oh, I designed, I built this cathedral. You know, it’s not like that. But it’s, like, you’re humbled by the experience of working with something that’s so big and so vast in size and in time. And I think that’s a really—I think it’s a really beautiful thing. And it’s a cliche to say, oh, go plant a tree as like an environmental action. But participating in restoration locally—which there are ways to do, hopefully, and people should try to if they have the ability—it can give you that sense of awe. And then if you’re able to go back to that place that you helped, you know, 10 years, in 20 years, it’s really humbling and it’s really amazing. So it gives me hope that things outlast us, you know, that the world kind of goes on, and that also that we can be a positive part of the natural world. It’s not just oh, humans are are bad and we’re screwing everything up. It’s—we can be intentional and how we interact with nature. And I think introducing that intentionality into how we impact the natural world is just so important, and feels good when you do it.

Margaret
Yeah, I wonder if one of the single most important things we can do is fight this idea of, like, humanity as a cancer or whatever, right? Like, you know, humanity itself, like humans are not inherently flawed in this way. Like, we’re not inherently going to destroy everything. You know, it’s—there’s certain organizational systems, both economic and also larger structural systems, that do this thing, you know, and we end up participating in it. But there’s other ways that we can live, have lived, do live, will live, you know?

Simon
Yeah. And a lot of times we think about nature as something that we affect incidentally. You know, we do a thing that we want to do for some reason, and then we accidentally have an effect on the natural world. And I would like people to maybe think about it as, we can choose how we affect the natural world, and we can be a positive force, and we can be, you know, get very hippy, but we can be one with it. You know, we’re not separate, as you said. And it just, it’s I think just a much healthier way to view ourselves and nature. Just go do something positive. You know, be specific in how you want to impact the natural world, in the same way that you would be intentional about how you want to impact your community and your relationships with your family and your friends.

Margaret
Yeah, I like that. I like that comparison and it feels very—it’s almost, it’s like not even a metaphor. It’s just literal. You know, there’s like the human and the nonhuman communities that were part of, you know?

Simon
Yeah. And it’s not just having less impact, it’s having good impact.

Margaret
Yeah. Instead of the—you know, it always struck me as, like, trying to just reduce your impact upon the world was always, like, what’s the point of that just so that you can feel better about yourself, you know? Like, actually doing something positive feels way better and way less, in some ways, like, obsessive, right? Because if you’re just trying to make sure you have no impact on the natural world, you’re essentially just trying to negate yourself. Yeah. Was there—is there a question I should have asked you or something that you really want to bring up that you think I or the listener should hear? I wanted to ask you all this stuff about riparian zones and flooding, but that was entirely selfishly because I live on quote/unquote 100 year floodplain that thanks to climate change is a 4-5 times a year. But I’ll ask that another time.

Simon
Yeah. I mean, I think we covered some interesting ground. I would say, connecting with people locally and building that local knowledge is the main thing that I can leave people with. Because that’s—I can’t tell you what to do if you live somewhere else, or even if you live near me. You know the problems that you face better than anyone, and people in your community probably do as well. So that’s, yeah, I can’t think of anything else.

Margaret
Okay. Well, thank you so much for coming on. And do you have any—you know, I don’t know whether you’re trying to have strangers ask you questions on Twitter or if you’d like to shout out anything about how people can either follow your work or learn more about what you do, or if there’s any other organizations or anything like that that you’re excited about that you’d like to shout out to people?

Simon
Yeah. I would say, if people want to follow me on Twitter, it’s plant_warlock. And as much as I talk about, you know, environmental issues and projects that I’m working on that may be interesting to folks. Again, reforestation and dam removals and things like that. I have to admit, I also just talk a lot about how terrible our mayor is and things like that. But I would also say for people local to Portland, if they’re interested in tree planting, we have a great organization called Friends of Trees that does tree planting projects in neighborhoods and also a natural areas. And it’s a great way to kind of get your foot in the door and see if you enjoy doing this kind of work. And if anyone just has questions or, you know, wants advice on things in the natural world, I may at least be able to point them in the right direction. So feel free to contact me.

Margaret
Okay, thanks so much. And does that organization in Portland—do you all, like, take donations? Can I try and direct people to give you all money?

Simon
Yeah, they do. I’m not affiliated. I just know it’s an easy way for people to get involved. But they certainly take donations, and they are always looking for volunteers. That’s not, I know that’s slowed down and been different during COVID times, but I think they’re taking volunteers again, and people can certainly donate to them.

Margaret
Cool. Okay, well, thanks so much.

Simon
Thank you.

Margaret
Thank you all so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please tell people about it. This is the kind of the only way that people find out about this podcast is through word of mouth. And I’m incredibly grateful for everyone who, like, you know, shares and retweets and posts to their story on Instagram and blah, blah, blah, like feeds the algorithm and tells their friends about it. And of course, anyone who tells people about it in person. Well if you don’t like the episode then don’t tell people about it—unless, actually, if you—if you don’t like the episode, you should tell people about how much you don’t like it because that will still also drive engagement. That’s my favorite thing when people do. And you can also support the show by supporting me on Patreon. Eventually, it’ll be supporting a whole organization on Patreon, which is basically what you’re doing if you support me on Patreon because other people are very involved in this podcast at the moment and we’re going to expand out to other podcasts and shows and things like that. Oh, speaking of which, I now have a YouTube show. The channel is called Live Like the World is Dying. You’ll be shocked to know that. And you can find it on YouTube. I only have one episode up as of this recording, but who knows how many I have up by the time it’s released. In particular, I’d like to thank some of my patreon backers. I’d like to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana, Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, and Nora. I really can’t thank you all enough. I mean, I don’t know, I guess if I did too much no one would listen anymore. If I just said just names over and over again in a weird pleading tone. So I won’t do that. But I will say that I hope everyone is handling all this as best as they can and I will talk to y’all soon

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

S1E32 – Jimmy on Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

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Episode Notes

Summary

You can find more information about Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, including the zines and resources Jimmy mentioned, a list of mutual aid networks, and social media pages, at https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org/.

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

Transcript

Margaret
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 on this episode I’ll be talking to Jimmy from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. And we’re going to be talking about what is involved in setting up and maintaining a mutual aid network and also what disaster relief looks like. Because, obviously, that’s something that’s on people’s minds for some strange reason. And this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here’s a jingle from another show on the network. Da duuuuh!

Jingle
What’s up y’all? I’m Pearson, host of Coffee with Comrades. Coffee with Comrades is rooted in militant joy. Our hope is to cultivate a warm and inviting atmosphere, like walking into your favorite coffee shop to sit down with some of your close friends and share a heart to heart conversation. New episode premier every Tuesday, so be sure to smash that subscribe button wherever you get your podcasts so that you never miss an episode. We are proud to be a part of the Channel Zero Network.

Margaret
Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with your name, which I guess I already said, and your pronouns and I guess your affiliations as relate to disaster relief.

Jimmy
Yeah, my name is Jimmy. I’m with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, any pronouns are fine. Um, and yeah, I’ve been part of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief since, you know, about five years ago. Um, and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is a people-powered disaster relief network based on the principles of solidarity, mutual aid, and autonomous direct action. And we work with communities especially, you know, the most marginalized, to assist folks in leading their own recoveries. And this network is a permanent network from below to respond to disasters, building off of the history and the legacy of Common Ground in New Orleans after Katrina, Occupy Sandy in New York after Superstorm Sandy, and other solidarity-based mobilizations. And we, we seek to provide some level of continuity for the larger movement of which we’re only a small part. And then also, um, you know, continue to build off of the lessons learned so that we can, um, you know, build off the successes and avoid the mistakes of previous iterations of doing this type of organizing.

Margaret
Okay, could you give some examples of situations that you all respond to?

Jimmy
Sure. Yeah. So, you know, this last year we’ve been responding to COVID. You know, before that, um, you know, a lot of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, fires, things like that. And we also, to a smaller extent, respond to what we call invisible disasters. So, you know, even though, you know, for example, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, it’s not a hurricane that knocked out power or made it so people don’t have heat to run their homes, it’s the legacy of colonialism, you know. So, um, you know, we’ve tried to respond to disasters like those as well as the very visible climate-related disasters of hurricanes and fires and floods and things like that.

Margaret
Okay, so y’all are nationwide then?

Jimmy
Yes, we are.

Margaret
Cool. Um, I guess, so, I want to ask—one of the things that comes up a lot when people talk about, well, mutual aid networks, especially ones that are, say, nationwide rather than, like, specifically rooted in the communities where the disaster is happening, what does that look like for you all—like, are you outsiders coming in? Are you invited in? How do you all navigate that kind of tension?

Jimmy
Um, so yes, we, you know, we are—we’re national, but we’re also local. You know, so all of us are from local communities and involved in local mutual aid projects and movements, you know, for justice and liberation in our own local communities. You know, so Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, rather than trying to supplant or replace local spontaneous manifestations of mutual aid, whether organized through a local mutual aid group or just, you know, the people impacted, you know, assisting each other, we try to amplify that and support that and provide, you know, this ongoing organizing and backup for those, you know, for those mutual aid efforts. So this can look like, um, you know, um, uh, you know, like getting bulk supply donations, or help with clean up, solar infrastructure or water infrastructure. Um, you know, wellness, you know, either wellness checks or setting up Wellness Centers after disasters. We try to be really flexible and adaptive to whatever the self-determined needs of the impacted people are. We borrow the Zapatista principle of leading by obeying, you know, so, you know, both to, you know—we listen to impacted people directly, and respond to their self-determined needs, and we listen to, you know, local mutual aid groups or local solidarity base, you know, justice-ro0ted efforts, and listen to them, you know, and go from there and respond to, you know, and assist however, we can. However, we can leverage our ongoing organizing, and, you know, we have a number of different mutual aid survival programs, um, you know, so we have, you know, like, the Rebuilding a Better World which involves, like, debris cleanup, or, um, you know, cleaning up flooded homes, you know, that’s our—we, with our local partners on the ground in Michigan are doing that right now, with the floods up there. Um, you know, with COVID most recently a lot of our efforts—we have been responding to impacted people directly when we’re able to, when they reach out to us. But a lot of our focus with COVID has been supporting local mutual aid efforts. There’s been a beautiful outpouring of mutual aid globally with COVID-19. And so Mutual Aid Disaster Relief has, uh, you know, supported and amplified and backed up those local mutual aid efforts whenever possible and however, we’re able

Margaret
To take a step back, what is mutual aid? That’s just charity but done by young idealists, right?

Jimmy
No, charity is top down. Charity doesn’t question—it takes for granted the unjust power relationships in our society, and it at most provides a band aid. Whereas mutual aid or solidarity, it addresses the immediate survival needs of the people while simultaneously raising consciousness and advocating and being a part of these movements for long-term structural changes. So it both meets the survival needs of the people, and in that way, you know, um, you know, we get out of our silos and echo chambers and meet the people where they’re at, you know. And also it’s connected to a long-term vision for radical social change. And so mutual aid and solidarity, it’s about sharing resources, um, but it’s also about sharing power. You know, so people who are impacted by disasters, or—you know, whether it’s, you know, climate-related, or the disasters of capitalism and colonialism—they have more at stake in their own survival and wellbeing than well-intentioned paternalistic givers of charity. And what we’re all longing for, you know, when a crisis hits, is to be part of a communal recovery. And that’s part of our healing process, part of how we cope with crisis or with extreme events. And so, you know, just because somebody is impacted by a disaster doesn’t mean that they are passive consumers who are just like empty vessels to be filled with blankets or canned goods, you know. People, you know, have skills, have networks, have, you know, a lot to offer. And so one thing about mutual aid is that it’s reciprocal. There’s no this for that, there’s no requirement, but it’s, you know, we’re giving what we can and receiving what we need. And all of us are, you know, whether it’s, you know, people who are supporting, you know, or people who are impacted. And also those two, you know, are not mutually exclusive, they’re usually overlapping. You know, so, um, you know, like, one thing that I’ll often do is drive around a box truck with, you know, pick up supplies and drop them off in neighborhoods that are impacted. And so, you know, I’ll be, you know, going all day, you know, passing out water, food, cleaning supplies, whatever I can get my hands on. But then also, you know, the local community, you know, they’ll see that I’m, you know, in go mode, and they’ll, you know, come out with an ice cold water, you know, which, you know, after a power outage and nobody has a fridge, it’s like gold, you know, and, you know, and so, you know, that kind of mutuality, is, you know, really a key part of mutual aid. And also, there’s also a component that I didn’t learn until looking into other people’s language and experiences around mutual aid and solidarity, is that, you know, with charity there’s this emotional distance. There’s, you know, like, oftentimes, you know, it’s like a traditional, you know, client/service provider relationship, you know, and with mutual aid that is overturned. That, you know, there’s an authentic relationship, there’s authentic friendships, you know, that—you know, we’re not isolated from each other and we get to know each other, we get—we become friends, we become, you know, close to each other. And when we understand, you know, that, you know, predatory landlords are, you know, evicting our friends, you know, we, you know, we join with them and resist, you know, and, you know, mutual aid is also about relationships. And so, um, you know, it’s—and relationships are where power is. You know, oftentimes people think in terms—with regards to disasters—in terms of, you know, stockpiling or hoarding, you know, that’s the popular imagination around disasters. But in reality, what almost unequivocably happens in almost every location after disasters, people come out of their houses, sometimes meet each other for the first time, and spontaneously come together to meet each other’s needs. And oftentimes building off of the relationships that already existed before the storm—or before the disaster. And so, you know, one thing that we talked about a lot in our popular education trainings is that community organizing is the best form of disaster preparedness, and disaster relief is just another form of community organizing.

Margaret
You know, one of the things that we talk about a lot on this show is that even if sometimes I can get focused on like, you know, here’s gear, or here’s skills to learn, or whatever, is that people are the best resources and relationships are, like, not only one of the most important things to stockpile or whatever, but more than that just like being around people is actually really good in times of crisis and, like, which is the opposite of the right wing prepper mindset, you know. And, with the solidarity and mutual aid stuff, one of the things that—I’ve been trying to think about things more and more in terms of—so a lot of communities are extracted from, right? In the same way that a colony is extracted from, resources are extracted from it and brought to another place. A lot of communities are extracted from on a regular basis and therefore, like, need help, right? And charity is this way of like bolstering the extractive process. It’s like this way of, like, watering the plants that you plan on harvesting, you know, it’s a way of making sure that the extractive process can continue. And the way that I’ve been more recently thinking about mutual aid is this, ideally, a method of beginning to like reverse the extractive process instead of buffering it up. I don’t know.

Jimmy
Absolutely, no, at its root mutual aid is radical care, you know, it is loving each other. And in a patriarchal capitalist colonial white supremacist and other, you know, innumerable forms of domination and oppression, to love each other, to love ourselves and to, um, you know, take care of each other is a radical act.

Margaret
Yeah. Could you talk about—I really like hearing, like, more, like, specific examples like what either, you know, like specific examples of disasters that you all responded to and how that worked, or just specific examples of when you felt like you knew that you were doing mutual aid instead of charity, like, not just like necessarily, like, gratitude of people, but in terms of what it looks like to have a mutual aid organization, if you could give more specific example.

Jimmy
Yeah, um, so one thing that I want to highlight, you know, just to begin with, is you don’t have to have it all figured out all in the beginning. You know, so, um, you know, there’s a story that Rebecca Solnit talks about in A Paradise Built in Hell, her book, that, you know, after the San Francisco earthquake, people started a community kitchen with one can and one spoon, you know, and then it just grew from there. Similar to that, you know, we, um, you know, sometimes it can feel impossible to start a hospital or a whole Wellness Center. But if we just set up a first aid station, and then have people rolling in and out, and then somebody says, “Oh, yeah, I’m a massage therapist.” “Oh, yeah, I’m an acupuncturist.” “Oh, yeah, I’m a nurse.” “I’m a medic.” You know, then it snowballs and takes on a life of its own. Same with, you know, like, maybe the idea of a whole warehouse of supply distribution seems far off, but if we start with a community fridge, or community pantry, just, you know, taking what’s in our cupboards and sharing them with our neighbors and then giving, you know, making sure people have the awareness that they can put in too, that they can share as well, you know, that can easily you know, blossom and grow into something a lot larger. You know, Hurricane Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico, pretty bad. And, um, you know, there was this colonial occupation that—I mean, Puerto Rico’s been occupied for, you know, a long time—but it was ramped up, you know, after Hurricane Maria. And there was a beautiful explosion of mutual aid organizing throughout the island. There’s [inaudible] that are still active that, you know, they took over a governmental buildings that were part of the Oversight Board, the Promesa. Former schools, former government buildings, and they turn them into mutual aid community centers. And out of these centers they have acupuncture, they have computer access for the kids, they have food kitchens, and one thing that we have assisted with for the last couple of years is the solar and water infrastructure. So especially solar, we’ve been able to access, you know, solar panels, and then, you know, the inverters, charge controllers, battery backup, and help install solar infrastructure at these mutual aid centers to bring them, you know, with, you know, our partners down there, to help with autonomous infrastructure and sustainability. And so one thing that we did in the beginning, um, you know, soon after Maria hit, you know, we were in Florida, we had already had active mobilization for Hurricane Irma in Florida, and so many people who were involved in that mobilization, you know, some of them had family ties and friend ties down to Puerto Rico. And so a delegation went down there. And one thing that we noticed real quick was, you know, our teams down there, was supplies were sitting in FEMA warehouses and not getting out to the people. So one thing that our folks did was they rolled up to the FEMA warehouse and said they’re here for the 8am pickup. And the person that the the windows said, oh, we don’t see you on the list. And they just insisted, we’re here for the 8am pickup. And eventually they were allowed in, they flashed their Mutual Aid Disaster Relief IDs, and they were allowed in and were able to pick up a box truck and carloads full of supplies, and then get that out to the people. And then also, you know, before they had—before they left the island, we made Mutual Aid Disaster Relief badges for local community organizers so they could continue that supply hook up and, you know, continue to try to, you know, liberate those supplies, you know, from sitting in warehouses, to get to the people where they’re actually supposed to go. That’s one example of how, you know, through our ongoing organizing and just being willing to take risks, we can leverage, um, you know, our access to resources or status as Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, to support survival of the people, but also the local mutual aid organizing of the people as well.

Margaret
Okay, and welcome back, which you all won’t even notice as a cut. But we lost connection for a moment. And it’s funny, because one of the reasons that I don’t know how the sound quality is going to be for the listeners, we have a good audio engineer, but I’m no longer—I recorded most of these at home. But now that the trees, now that the leaves are really coming in it blocks my antenna on the top of my house that boosts my cell phone signal enough to do a hotspot enough to do interviews. So now instead I have to go into town near a noisy office and road. So I just think it’s ironic. There have been a couple interviews that I haven’t been able to do because of my internet at home getting suddenly so much worse. But anyway, so that’s why there’s a strange break in the conversation. Do you want to talk about the history of mutual aid, whether the history of it like using that word, or the history of it as like a concept, and/or where ya’lls specific lineage comes in. I suppose those are three different questions, but if one of those appeals to you.

Jimmy
So mutual aid is—there’s, um, I think—called Kropotkin who wrote a book called Mutual Aid. And it was kind of written in opposition to the Darwinian theory of, you know, like, survival of the fittest, that was misused by people. So what Kropotkin did was articulate and give voice to an organizing principle of life. Um, you know, like, what Kropotkin saw with plants and animals, with, you know, like indigenous societies, was that how people survived and thrived was not through competition, it was through cooperation. As far as Mutual Aid Disaster Relief. Um, you know, I personally, and other people who are also involved and helped found Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, were part of the organizing in New Orleans after Katrina, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and surrounding areas. And there was a call from Malik Rahim, a former Black Panther, in the neighborhood of Algiers. There were white vigilantes that were roaming the streets shooting and killing unarmed black men. And Malik Rahim had a history of organizing in that community, you know, through the Black Panther Party, and then later through other, you know, movements for peace and justice and environmental justice. And, you know, so at this time it was, um, you know, there were these white vigilantes and also, you know, people stranded out the Superdome. People were trying to cross the bridge to safety and dry land from the east bank to the west bank and they were stopped by Gretna police to turn them back with rifles. And in this context, Malik sent out a call—Malik, you know, and Scott Crowe and others—you know, sent out a call for solidarity and support. Many of us who were involved in movements like Food Not Bombs, or street medics at global justice demonstrations, or indie media, radical independent movement-based media, um, you know, we had some experience with setting up community kitchens, we had some experience with, you know, doing medic work at demonstrations or setting up media centers, you know, for these, you know, big mobilizations against global capital. And many of us responded to that call. There was a blending of the wisdom and legacy of the Black Panther Party, you know, through Malik Rahim and the survival programs. You know, there’s the most famous of their programs was the free breakfast program, but they had numerous survival programs. They were doing pest control—community-wide pest control—they were doing a free ambulance program. They did sickle cell anemia testing and education. You know, across the board they were meeting the survival needs of the people, and that’s actually what made them the biggest threat to the FBI and to colonialism. They did have an armed component, but what was really the threat was that they were mobilizing the people in a mass way. And Malik Rahim continued that legacy and and then that was translated and melded with the legacy of the global justice movement, you know, where, you know, we were active with, whether it’s Food Not Bombs or street medic organizing, and, um, you know, that coalesced in New Orleans after Katrina with, you know, a lot of vibrant mutual aid efforts, and it gave our movements some cohesion. You know, so even people as ideologically far apart as say, like, Michael Moore, the documentarian, or the writers of The Coming Insurrection, they could see what was happening in New Orleans after Katrina and be like, that’s actually what we’re for. That’s what we’re about. That’s what the world that we’re trying to build. And, you know, there were, you know, there was a at least one agent provocateur FBI informant who used his position of power to undermine the organization and take advantage of women. You know, there’s a lot of conflicting feelings for many of us who were involved in that in that effort. And we saw again after Superstorm Sandy, you know, where Occupy Wall Street transitioned to disaster response. And again, this solidarity-based network model outperformed the top-down charity model.

Margaret
Can you explain that? Like, in what ways does Mutual Aid Disaster Relief do better than than top-down intervention?

Jimmy
So Naomi Klein talks about this term disaster capitalism. Disaster, capitalism refers to this idea of how the powerful will use shocks or disasters or crises to reinforce their privilege and power. They put in transformations to the economy or society that reinforce their privilege status. And in parallel to this, there’s disaster colonialism. So after a disaster, there’s a lot of guns that show up. And, you know, there’s, you know, authorities, you know, with guns, the army, the National Guard, Blackwater, you know, similar mercenary type groups, and their general response is not, how can we help the people survive? Their general response is, how do we maintain order and keep people in their place? The nonprofits, the top-down nonprofit industrial complex, goes hand in hand with that militarized authoritarian response. The nonprofit’s, they undermine local spontaneous manifestations of mutual aid and make it into this thing that is not reciprocal, that is not participatory, that is not power sharing, where people just wait in line and receive a few items and then, you know, are, you know, go back to being oppressed by their landlords or, you know, the, you know, police or the, you know, the state authorities.

Margaret
But what would you say to someone who, like, isn’t ideologically committed to mutual aid and is looking for the most efficient response to disaster. Like, regardless of the—I mean, I believe ideologically in mutual aid, but I think that it’s worth pointing out the ways in which the the actual just like straight up efficiency of decentralized movements can be so much greater and I was wondering if you can talk on that part of it.

Jimmy
Yes, absolutely. Um, a story I heard about with Occupy Sandy, that, um, you know, there were some people involved with FEMA that, you know, they got—they heard about this elder And they didn’t have heat, they, you know it was getting cold and um, you know, these people, you know, in the FEMA organization had their hands tied because it’s, there’s so much bureaucracy, so much red tape, so much hoops to jump through. Even though they wanted to help this person, they could not do anything because the top-down nature of it is not participatory, is not liberating for those impacted or those, you know, involved in the relief efforts. So what they did, these people involved with FEMA, was they reached out to people with Occupy Sandy and people with Occupy Sandy weatherize the house, got them—got the elder situated and, you know, what they needed to survive. And then also, after that mobilization, the Department of Homeland Security issued out a report highlighting how movements like Occupy Sandy that are decentralized, that are people powered, network based, solidarity based, are actually more effective than their command and control top-down model. And these are the same people who regularly infiltrate our movements and undermine almost everything we try to do through infiltration, through agent provocateurs, you know, and even they, you know, have owned up to the fact that their top-down model is not as effective as our mutual aid model.

Margaret
Yeah, there’s a—it’s been going around Twitter lately—a leaked or, you know, declassified document about how to infiltrate leftist organizations and, you know, the behaviors that make leftist organizations less effective. And one of them is like, basically, like, put everything to committee. And like, basically try to stop autonomy within the organizations, try to stop people from acting on the organizations without, like, putting everything to the larger organization and everything to little subcommittees and shit like that. And I thought that was really interesting, not that the people who do that thing are inherently, you know, agent provocateurs, or whatever. But we always have this conception of infiltrators as these people who are, like, go there to like break things or instigate or escalate, right? And that does happen. But it really was telling to me that the main way they know how to fuck us up is to go in and get us stuck in endless meetings and get people to not just do things. And the thing that is our strength as people who practice direct action and people practice mutual aid is our capacity to just do things and then coordinate about the things we’re doing rather than centrally plan all of the things that we’re trying to do.

Jimmy
And that is the organizing principle of Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is almost everything is done through affinity groups, through working groups, rather than through centralized planning or organizing. We have, you know, regular, you know, signal threads and conference calls and things like that. But it’s mostly to provide updates with each other, um, rather than to do the nuts and bolts organizing. We, similar to the Zapatista principle of leading by obeying, there’s this idea of subsidiarity, which means you devolve decision making to the localest scale possible. And so, with our organizing, we encourage everybody to be involved in, you know, affinity groups and local collectives and local mutual aid groups, and then partner with Mutual Aid Disaster relief. And, you know, oftentimes, you know, like, if your local affinity group or your local mutual aid group is unable to cover something after a disaster, maybe Mutual Aid Disaster Relief could, or vice versa. You know, there’s some things that a local collective or affinity group or mutual aid group could do that Mutual Aid Disaster Relief couldn’t. you know. And so, we kind of work in tandem and hand in hand, you know, and we combine both collective decision making and checking in with each other with respect for autonomy and direct action and self determination.

Margaret
I mean, it sounds good. And I’ve seen some of the work that folks associated with you all have done in eastern North Carolina and have always been impressed by, yeah, the non top-down structure organizing, but still the ability to get a lot of stuff done. To go back, there was like thoughts I was thinking about—I was like taking notes as you’re talking about mutual aid and, you know, I remember reading this article in a science magazine in probably like, 2008 or something like that about mutual aid and gay birds. And it was—there had been this like thing that—I actually, as far as I understand, Darwin would not have appreciated social Darwinism, or maybe even didn’t appreciate social Darwinism, like, the like, survival of the fittest thing, like, wasn’t even the Darwinian concept of evolution. But then Kropotkin was, you know, most famously an anarchist. But well, at the time, he was also very famously, I believe, a naturalist and a scientist. And, you know, all of his work was around saying, like, oh, no, animals just take care of each other. Not always, right, there’s like, you know, I mean, obviously, animals eat each other and shit too and like, there are animals that fuck up each other’s like chances of reproduction or whatever. But people would sit there and they’d be like, why gay birds? Like, why are animals gay? And, I mean, I think, me as an animal know I am gay. But, you know, this is the kind of thing that rightwing thinkers will bring up all the time, right? And like Alex Jones, like, always freaks out about the gay frogs or whatever. And this article basically points out that it was like, well, the gay birds like do an incredible amount of service for the larger community of the animals and therefore, like, continue to propagate the species as a whole, even if they don’t individually reproduce. And it was basically this realization that science was finally catching up—and maybe it had—pop science, at least, was finally catching up to the fact that Kropotkin was right about evolution and the, like, mutual aid theory of evolution is, like, as far as I understand it, predominantly the theory within evolution at the moment, and that it’s not this, like, you know, war of one against all that people present. But—sorry, this is a rant I’ve been thinking about for a while. I do appreciate that it’s like, mutual aid wasn’t invented by kropotkin, right. And like, Kropotkin didn’t think mutual aid was invented by Kropotkin. He was observing it, and he was observing it in, you know, the animal kingdom, plant kingdom, and also in the human, like, all, you know, different human societies all over the world have been practicing mutual aid largely before, essentially, like, various forms of colonization including, like, the internal colonization of Europe and things like that.

Jimmy
Mutual Aid predates anarchism. And it also is not a European ideology. It’s how life survives and thrives. And it’s something that, you know, mutual—Kropotkin noticed and gave voice to, you know, in his book. But also, you know, like, um, there’s also a vibrant indigenous mutual aid network that has been growing, you know, over the last year plus. And I feel like their approach to mutual aid and solidarity organizing is also somewhat an antidote to the Eurocentric or ideological-based, you know, European-centric, you know, mutual aid organizing, you know, more broadly, that all of us, you know, involved and devoted to mutual aid and a better world, you know, should be engaging with and learning from and communicating with. Because, you know, indigenous people on this continent, Turtle Island, have centuries of experience surviving catastrophes and living through apocalypses. And there’s a lot of wisdom there that those of us, you know, in the cities or, you know, involved in, you know, mutual aid that doesn’t have that focus, you know, there’s a lot that we can learn from, you know, there’s a lot of interchange that can be, can be had there, that we can be attuned to.

Margaret
Yeah, and even anarchism as a concept. You know, one of the things that really interests me about this mutual aid revelation from Kropotkin’s point of view is that anarchism, as a concept, as a Western concept, was basically just Western people figuring out, like, rediscovering something that so much of the world already knows. And so it wasn’t like—anyone who presents like anarchism or these ideas as invented by the people who called themselves anarchists in France and Russia or whatever, right? It wasn’t an invention, it was a rediscovering and an applying of things. You talked at the beginning about lessons that you’ve learned. So I’m really interested in how you all are providing continuity across—hm, how to I want to say this? It’s like there’s been this huge explosion in mutual aid groups in the past year since COVID started, right. And that’s actually the most hopeful thing about the whole fucking crisis, from my point of view. And, you know, it’s like the only thing at the beginning of it all that was giving me hope, was watching this mainstreaming of mutual aid. And obviously, with mainstream comes a lot of danger and a lot of people calling things mutual aid that might not be mutual aid. But on the other hand, that also seems to me the only hope because, I mean, I believe in a society that the economic system is essentially mutual aid rather than, you know, anything else. But you—I—one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you all is because you all predate this current explosion of mutual aid. And I was wondering if you could talk about what that explosion means, and like lessons that you’re able to bring to people who are coming in this, like, newer group of mutual aid organizers, but also things that you’ve learned from the newer people who might be coming from a less ideological position, or just are younger,

Jimmy
We’re totally inspired. And we’ve been, you know, sowing the seeds, you know, of mutual aid and watering them these past several years. And we all—we would always talk about how, you know, like, if we have a hope for survival, it’s not gonna come from the state, it’s not going to come from the nonprofit industrial complex, it’s going to come from each other and these relationships of support, you know, that are horizontal, and participatory and, you know, from below. And I think still, though, even though we were already responding to disasters, and, you know, there’s still an element of, you know, like, that, you know, we’re talking about the future survival of humanity, you know, with this explosion of mutual aid with regards to the COVID, there’s been over 600,000 people killed just in the United States alone, you know, from COVID. And, um, you know, there’s evictions looming, mass evictions looming right now, I feel like we’ve all lost loved ones or lost, you know, or have friends or have family who have lost loved ones, and for both the climate and, you know, the pandemic, the future is now, you know. There’s overlapping constant disaster, one crisis after another and, you know, these local mutual aid groups are, you know, they’re carving out laboratory spaces and coming up with new ideas about how to meet people’s needs, articulating their vision for social change. And it’s hard work. So there is, you know, some stumbling in the dark while we—while people figure it out. And that’s normal and that’s to be expected. You know, with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, one thing that we’ve, you know, oftentimes—you know, previously with a hurricane, or a flood, or a fire or tornado, a lot of our efforts were in person, direct to people impacted, um, you know, face to face. You know, going to the neighborhood that was impacted and, you know, dropping off supplies, and then seeing what else they need, you know. And then, um, you know, with this explosion of local mutual aid groups it’s, um, you know, shifted things somewhat of how Mutual Aid Disaster Relief has responded in that we are still meeting people’s needs directly, you know, when needed or when we are able, but these local mutual aid groups are rooted in the community and they are able to respond in ways that, you know, sometimes a national network is not able to. You know, we’ve learned a lot, and one thing that we try to do to provide some level of continuity for this larger movement is be a clearinghouse of information and resources. So if people go on the website mutualaiddisasterrelief.org you can see a ton of resources, both about mutual aid in general, how to start a mutual aid network, what is mutual aid, you know, disaster response, and, you know, report backs from different mobilizations, different zines, news articles about the mutual aid responses for disasters. And so, you know, there’s 1000s of different resources on there, and some of them we created, but many of them, you know, others, you know, local mutual aid groups, partner organizations and networks created and we, you know, help share because we see that that wisdom is valuable and needs to get elevated and out there more. So we try to, you know, offer a library online about disaster response and mutual aid, you know, for the larger movement. On there, one resource specifically that we put out last summer is our Lessons Learned zine. And so people can visit that, there’s a dozen different lessons learned both, you know, like, ideas like moving at the speed of trust and at the speed of dreams. Um, you know, and also things to be aware of, you know, such as the savior complex or disaster patriarchy, and ways to, you know, maintain our principles and values while being responsive to the needs on the ground of those most impacted.

Margaret
Okay, let’s like take some of those. You know, the moving at the speed of trust and the speed of dreams, what is what does that mean?

Jimmy
Yeah, so the speed of trust, you know, refers to this idea of, we need to be building bonds with each other. One of the most revolutionary things that we can do is find each other and build meaningful relationships, you know, that are, um, you know, based on care, based on mutual respect and a shared vision and affinity for that better world we know is possible and are trying to build. Um, it’s hard to, you know, as a mutual aid network, whether local or national, to act if you don’t have a level of trust and a level of connection, and affinity and love for each other. That basis of trust, um, is the foundation, you know, that we can build off of. We encourage people, mutual aid groups, to, you know, if you don’t already have core values or guiding principles or foundation, like principles of unity, something like that, to take the time to come together and articulate that collectively. You know, there’s so much that is, you know, adaptable and, you know, flexible, you know, in disaster response, oftentimes we need, you know, some principles or some core values to go back to ground ourselves. And, you know, like that, for us in Mutual Aid Disaster Relief that was, you know, a key part of building that trust initially, um, you know, so that we are coming at it from—we know that we are coming at it with a shared vision of what we’re doing and where we’re going. And then also this idea of the speed of dreams, it comes from, you know, the Zapatistas. It’s this idea that when we put our hands and hearts and bodies in service of our dreams, they can manifest themselves exponentially. Far from being, you know, something that, you know, like, we plant seeds and then, you know, generations, they sprout and grow, we see the effects by moment to moment, you know, day to day and year to year when we are true to our principles and values and we, you know, are devoted to an ethic of solidarity and justice, it can be almost disconcerting, you know, how quickly our dreams can manifest into reality. It’s that, you know, snowball thing I was talking about earlier is, you know, we can start with just the tiniest bit of liberated space or mutual aid, you know, organizing, and then as we cultivate it, it’s amazing, you know, how quickly that can grow and blossom in 1000 different directions.

Margaret
Yeah, I mean, it’s interesting that—one of the reasons I’ve always loved direct action as an organizing principle—sorry about the siren in the background if you all can hear it. One of the things I’ve loved about direct action as an organizing principle is that it involves actually like starting to solve problems. Like, you know, thinking of these examples that you talk about, about like Occupy Sandy going and winterizing someone’s house. We often get so caught up, like, especially right now, when all of this bad shits happening, right? When we think, how do we stop climate change? And in some ways, how do we stop climate change is the wrong question because, while we need to stop climate change, it probably looks like solving specific problems along the way. It might be, how do we create a microclimate in this environment that is more resistant to the fires that are going to come? Right? Because we’re not going to actually stop climate change. You know, we can stop the worst of it. And so it reminds me of one of the problems that I see lock up a lot of people in general is any given thing that you have to do, it’s really hard to be like, well, I’m thinking about the entire problem and how do I solve the entire problem? So you just don’t do anything. You know, whenever people are like, well, how do you write a book? And like any writer who’s written books is like, I don’t know, you start writing a book, and then it’s shit so you go back and change things. And then the third time you write a book you, like, plan it out ahead of time better because you know what you’re doing. But it really just starts with doing it. You know, there’s the whole anarchist cliche that the secret is to begin. And that’s one thing I’ve always loved about mutual aid organizing is like, yeah, I don’t know how we—you know, people are always like, oh, what do you anarchist want or whatever. I’m like, look, I can’t tell you everything about the economic system of the society that I want to create. I don’t even think that would be a good idea. Because what I want to do is feed myself and feed the people around me who I care about, and then build up from there. And so that’s one thing I really like about the work that you all do is that focus on, you just start doing it. And it’s what, as you were saying, that’s what people do is they’re like, oh, shit bad’s happening, I guess we should do something, you know?

Jimmy
Absolutely. And our mutual aid organizing his movement infrastructure. So, you know, there’s this idea of dual power, to be simultaneously, you know, building up our own prefigurative resources and institutions and, you know, power from below, while also challenging, you know, the forces of oppression and occupation and colonialism and capitalism and contesting. You know, there’s an element of mutual aid organizing that is, you know, all of us are involved simultaneously in mutual aid organizing and the other movements that are contemporaneous for, you know, the movement for Black Lives, or for the Stop Line 3, or the Dakota Access Pipeline, you know, and so, you know, when we build power from below for mutual aid, we’re also building power from below to resist extensive resource extraction or, you know, attacks on indigenous sovereignty or on, you know, homeless sweeps. Mutual aid organizing is fertilizing, you know, the movement of ground beneath us to be stronger the next time, you know, we need to be out in the streets or be in front of the bulldozers at a pipeline camp.

Margaret
Yeah, and they all tie together, right? Because the only way that we can like really consistently save ourselves is by also stopping the machinery of destruction that is destroying the climate and destroying communities. Because it’s like, well, we can, we can provide tents, to people who are currently without houses, but we also need to, like, stop the people who are stealing their tents and stop the system that leaves them without housing in the first place.

Jimmy
Exactly. And, you know, one thing that we talked about in our popular education is audacity is our capacity. You know, so, you know, oftentimes we’re just limited by our imaginations, you know, we think something is not possible, so we don’t try it. You know, but as soon as we shake off that sense of powerlessness and act, then, you know, we’re filled with the sense of possibility and then, you know, things that were impossible, or we thought were impossible, are no more.

Margaret
I really liked that. And I think that might be a good note to end on. Besides, of course, the obvious joke about audacity as the primary thing that podcasters use that is suddenly spyware. So I’m avoiding making that joke. And you all should be very appreciative of this inside joke I’m not making that only—anyway. What—how can people find out more about your work or support you? Or are there other things like either final words, or, you know, plugging all this stuff that you all do and how people can support it?

Jimmy
Yeah, so people can go to mutualaiddisasterrelief.org to check out our website. We also have on there links to many other local mutual aid groups that you can also be involved in, we encourage people to do both—be involved in Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and be involved in other locally-rooted mutual aid projects and organizations in general. We have a Facebook page, we have a Twitter, we have Instagram, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, you can find us on all of those. And also, um, we often share a quote from Buenaventura Durruti. Durruti was an antifascist during the Spanish Civil War. And one thing that he said was that our opposition might blast and ruin its world before it exits the stage of history, but we’re not in the least afraid of ruins because we carry a new world here in our hearts. And all of us who dream of a better world are carrying that new world in our hearts. And we’re going to create it, it takes takes lifetimes. Um, but you know, we’re a part of that growing world and we know your listeners, you know, everybody listening to this is part of that growing world. And we’re excited to see what we’re able to build, you know, together.

Margaret
All right. Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. And I hope you enjoyed this episode. And also, you know, after we hung up Jimmy pointed out that basically everyone doing, you know, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief is not as much an organization as it is a movement and that all of you listening who are working on preparedness and are working on mutual aid and things like that are all part of this thing we’re all doing and just wanted to extend that thanks. And I would also like to extend that thanks. Not just for listening, but for talking, not just about this show, right, that’s a tiny part of it all, but but talking about this stuff with people around you. So thank you so much. And if you’d like to support the show, you can do so by supporting me which will soon be supporting Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness which is an old zine collective that is now kind of rebooting to also do podcasts and YouTube channels—YouTube shows and all that shit. You can do so by supporting me on patreon@patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And in particular I guess I’d like to thank Nora and Hoss the dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Starro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, Hugh, and Shawn. And also tell people that there’s now a YouTube show of Live Like the World is Dying. So far there’s only one episode, if you want to see me talking about the emergency kits that I make and distribute, I determined that video would be a better format for that than doing a whole podcast where I just like talk to myself or Jack or someone about, you know, and then in my kit is a whistle. And, you know, like, I think that the video format worked better for that. And it’s been a good reaction. So don’t worry, I’m not gonna abandon the podcasting format. I personally listen to podcast more than I want YouTube because I like listening. Everyone’s always like, “Oh, I don’t have the attention span for podcasts.” And I’m like, “I don’t have the attention span for video.” It just depends on your own mindset and also like where you like to consume content, I think, which is definitely stuff you were wanting to know my opinion about. You really wanted to know my opinion about the difference between podcasts and YouTube. So let me tell you more about—no, I’m not gonna tell you more about it. I instead want to say, again, thank you, and do as well as you can. And I hope that all of the things aren’t so overwhelming. And if there’s one lesson I’m going to remind myself from this conversation, it’s that start with the small things, you know. We—it’s so easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the magnitude of crisis that we’re all in, everyone on the planet Earth is in and to various degrees, of course, I’m not trying to claim that my position is as bad as many, many other people’s positions. But all we can do is we can take something we can do, we can think about what can I do? What can I do today? You know? I can go get hot hands, like hand warmers, and have them around or distribute them. Or I can learn how to build a campfire, or I can go talk to my neighbor that I don’t talk to much and kind of get a sense of who she is and how we could support each other if things go wrong. Or we just do things one at a time and hope that collectively—because there’s a lot of us on this planet, and if we all do things—well, we all did lots of little things and that caused the destruction of everything. So what have we all do lots of little things in the other direction? And I’m not talking—god, this sounds like I’m fucking talking about straws and shit, like fuck straws. I don’t care one way or the other about individual consumerism that causes this issue. Anyway, I guess I’m done with the podcast. Thank you for listening and I will talk to you all soon.

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