Part 2: What floated up out of my COVID-19 lock down solitary confinement
In part one I explained how I came to be living rent-free, expenses paid during cCOVID-19, and what that had led to. In part 2 I expand upon my findings.
I have been following two paths: One is the path of making money and learning to market my skills and fulfilling my personal dreams of selling my art and writing.
The second path is my dream of divesting from materialistic culture and living an off-grid, sustainable lifestyle, and helping others to do the same.
What has floated to the surface
It has become clear to me is that we are in need of two very important skills if we are to bridge the gap from where we are to where we need to be to survive as a species.
Firstly we need is to know how to make money and secondly, we need to use that money to build new social structures and learn how to use money in a righteous way that benefits the community and not just ourselves.
Six-figure incomes without vision lack, well, vision
The people I admire who are making six and seven-figure incomes in the location-independent online marketing scene do not have a big enough vision.
Their vision is to help people fulfill their individual potential and desires. That is a wonderful start. But that isn’t enough of a vision.
My business mentors are young successful 7 figure earners, but they are shallow in some ways.
I follow people like Ramit Sethi, Ash Ambirge, Cortney Foster Donahue, Heath and Alyssa of the RV entrepreneurs, and the Create and Go couple. They all make from decent to insane amounts of money and are very successful in online businesses.
I fear that their money will be of no use to them in 20 years when there is no fresh food to eat or air to breathe and the world is completely paved over with ugly cement and steel structures.
The only business mentor of mine that dabbles in sustainability at all is Marie Forleo, and I think she should do even more.
Wealth without a planet won’t work
Each group is missing half of the puzzle about what makes life successful. Fame and fortune without social consciousness is a total waste of time and energy.
Oprah has no intention of solving the climate crisis.
Bill gates could care less about creating sanctuaries for creative people to live and work in a sustainable manner.
The people with the money to have an impact on creating a new kind of society alongside the old crumbling one, have no awareness or desire to change anything.
The social justice people shun money, and it isn’t working
The people who do have that desire and awareness to change society do not have the financial means to get the land and resources we would need to build something that would make sense.
We need to build sanctuaries for humans to go and divest from the old ways. We need fully off-grid food-forest communities with our own currency, our own food, and our own power. Ain’t gonna happen without money.
Most of the people with the vision for a better future have divested so far from the current financial structure that they have no power to make the changes that need to be made.
Teaching wealth skills without teaching green values is irresponsible
On the one hand, If you are just teaching people to make money without teaching them to be socially conscious you are just creating students who can create more crap so they can make money for their own personal benefit while the world is falling apart all around them.
Business people know all the tricks about writing a fantastic sales letter and appealing to what people want to buy but they are not learning how to use those skills for good.
I love Ramit Sethi. He empowers people to start businesses.
But Sethi is totally one-sided and has very little awareness of the connection or responsibility we have to build something better.
He lives in New York City and has probably never heard of permaculture or regenerative farming.
What he and many other great young entrepreneurs do is teach people to make their own lives a little better while everything is caving in all around us.
The sustainability movement is partially sighted people leading blind people
And yet social consciousness without money to really make any changes is also a waste. Sailesh Rao of climate healers is a hero of mine with his ideas on creating a new society.
But he cannot make anything actually happen with his Vegan World 2026 movement because he doesn’t know how to leverage wealth. He doesn’t have land and housing and gardens for his followers because all his energy goes into social good and not into building wealth.
The people he has gathered to him are excited about his ideas. But they are expected to do a lot of work without resources or funding after they spend all day working at regular jobs and tasks. It makes no sense.
Green and permaculture people often don’t have a lot of impact on the world because they don’t own land or have passive income to leverage for change. They have no resources for helping other people up and out of poverty.
Land ownership: is it an illusion or is it a necessity?
I admire Heather Jo Flores who teaches permaculture and wrote Food Not Lawns. But after reading about her life I can see that there is a flaw in the way she has structured her permaculture projects.
She has never owned the land she pours so much of her time and energy into. She lost the farm she put so much time and dedication into over a ten-year period.
When her relationship ended she was not able to stay there. It wasn’t really hers.
She continued to garden on rental property and helped a lot of other people build gardens, but she always had to leave these things behind and start over.
Flores has a wonderful sustainable online business teaching now and seems to have landed in the perfect situation with a relationship and a piece of land in Spain.
But once again, I don’t know if she owns the land or if it is simply land that comes with the relationship.
Financial issues are not things people in the green movement talk about openly. It is always something I have to guess at and wonder about. I worry that if her relationship ends she will have to move and rebuild again.
Money is belittled in the sustainability movement
There is this sense in the green movement as in creative circles, that money is filthy. The unspoken message is that we should just somehow scrape by and nobly do the green work for free while we work some shitty low pay job on the side and hope it all works out.
To me, this is a flawed way to do things. Young women in permaculture need to learn how to play the financial game well enough to purchase their own land and build land empires.
Rob Greenfield’s poverty vow
Rob Greenfield is a strong activist presence in the world. He has lots of connections and people who love him.
Rob has taken a poverty vow of sorts so that he keeps his income below the poverty level so he does not have to pay into the tax system and support bombing and killing children in foreign lands. This is noble in theory.
Rob has to grow food on other people’s land and build his tiny homes and leave them when he moves on.
He says he would like to build a community at some point but since he doesn’t play the game of ownership, has no driver’s license, no credit cards, and no bank account he will never own land.
How can he really build something if he doesn’t play the game?
Rob will never have the ability to give other people the land he works on once it is cultivated.
His legacy will never be concrete. It will always be ideas and theories and never anything tangible. And this is tragic. Or perhaps I am wrong and he knows what he is doing.
Maybe the money system will simply crumble and the boundaries won’t matter anymore much sooner than I think. Then Everything Rob is doing will make more sense.
There needs to be an actual green empire-sanctuary
People who build communities and ecovillages often don’t have a way to help others get out of the system because they downplay the importance of having money and leaving a legacy.
There are few scholarships or business ideas that can be leveraged to get more land and more resources to help people get out of poverty and into the green communities once they are started. And that is because businesses and money are seen as dirty by people who want to get away from the rat race. It is a complicated relationship with money.
People who are into food equality, social justice, etc. need to also be getting it together with ways to produce wealth to buy out the powers that be or at least finance the move away.
Imagine If we could simply buy Tyson or Nestle and change it over to lab-based meat egg and dairy products and sustainable food forests jobs. Then things would really change.
Nothing changes because we are half-people
People like Ramit Sethi don’t become radicalized or exposed to ecological values. Ramit is whip-smart and I love what he does. But I hope somehow he will incorporate more sustainable ideas in his work.
On the opposite extreme people like Heather Jo Flores don’t make a lot of money or buy up tracts of land and build eco-village empires. Green folks would turn their noses up at owning anything as disgusting as a piece of property.
People like Rob Greenfield reject the present culture and reject making money and so they don’t have a lot of the power they need to make the changes that need to happen.
Money is good a tool in good hands
Money greases the wheels: money gets one the land one needs to have space to do things and grow things including food and businesses.
I was taught to shun everything that reeked of financial success because money does tend to muddy the waters of purity.
But money in and of itself is not bad if it is used to buy land and build food forests and solar panels and waste oil diesel conversions, etc.
I guess Ed Begley Junior is one of the few people I have met who does both the money part and the sustainable world part of the equation. He has some wealth and some mainstream success, and he lives a sustainable life.
Begley does this on a personal level. But he doesn’t take it to the next step to help others to also live that life. He doesn’t start a village with businesses that help people break away from the grid. And this is probably because it isn’t even part of the conversation.
If it was normal to try and build a new landing place for people it would happen a lot more of the time.
I am not putting down either group, the wealth seekers and the green seekers are both important.
Big picture thinking needs to become normal
I think we need to make it seem normal for people like Ramit Sethi, Marie Forleo, and Tim Ferris to take on sustainability in a big way and to make it part of their overall message.
And those in sustainability and social change and the arts should stop being so damn money averse.
My next steps
I plan to continue to simplify/divest as much as possible while still making as much money as possible to save for land to support movements like Climate Healers and other groups.
There is raw land that is dirt cheap right now all over the USA and probably the world. Some of it is near toxic waste dumps or in deserts where you have to truck in all of the water, but some of it is just fine.
Grow my own food and maybe try to dumpster dive
Rob Greenfield has inspired me to start dumpster diving and growing even more of my own food and to stop spending money on the present food system.
Hopefully, I will be able to give some food to the surrounding community.
I have shied away from dumpster diving and a lot of the minimalist rhetoric because I grew up on welfare and never wanted to buy anything used again.
I need to both divest and invest. Saving money for land instead of spending it on food could help. I also want to learn how to forage better and connect with my surroundings that way.
My goal right now is to save over the next year for a diesel-powered step van, a short bus, or a used U-Haul truck to convert to a portable tiny house and convert it to waste veggie oil. I will build it out into a workspace and living space with powerful internet access, and solar power.
Having a home on wheels will make it possible to travel using work-trade contacts to learn about cob building, regenerative agriculture, and permaculture gardening and write about these communities. I will also share my graphic and writing skills as needed.
I want to make contacts for buying land with other people or perhaps just buy my own land. Or perhaps I will join one of the places I visit if there is one that is in keeping with my values of compassion and wealth-building so others can join us without being stressed over money.
I want to create a sanctuary not just an escape
Rather than just divesting from the current culture, I want to build a model for other people to escape with me. I want to supply jobs doing online businesses and other services as well as growing our own food and building our own housing.
The thing I find frustrating about most alternative communities is that they do not provide enough work. It is hard for people to get out of the rat race and join them.
A community needs to have income-producing businesses at the same time that they are growing food. Growing and selling surplus food isn’t enough.
You have to take into account that people will need some money as long as the federal reserve is still in charge.
Many communities survive by having people going off to work shitty low pay jobs periodically and then people return to put that money into the community to pay for resources that the community cannot build or grow itself. This is a flawed way of doing things.
Alternative communities need to find ways to create wealth and business acumen from within the community so that people don’t have to keep going out and working shitty wage-slave jobs every few months to pay for the community to exist.
There is the usual taboo against talking about money that most creative and sustainable groups have that keeps them broke.
You are supposed to be as creative as possible and just suffer and be broke forever and never deal with it.
When you join these communities they expect you to buy in for land and supplies. But how are you supposed to do that when there is almost no income-producing work in these communities? They are usually out in the woods near small towns with shitty jobs. It makes no sense.
Why are social justice groups always broke?
For instance, Sailesh Rao and his Climate Healers organization supply no jobs from within the org. He has a good chunk of the philosophy worked out but there is no place to gather as a team, make money, and do the theoretical lifestyle he recommends.
In these models, there is no way to make any income outside of the present destructive system we are already a part of and are trying to divest from. These groups make no sense in real life. It is all just a lot of theory that doesn’t work because it has no engine to drive it.
Is anyone leaving a legacy that future generations can use?
To just divest the way Rob Greenfield has done leave you powerless. To just keep planting and working and giving things away for free the way Heather Jo Flores does is to keep yourself too powerless to leave a lasting legacy.
Neither of them will leave us a garden city where future generations can go and live and thrive. I understand that property is not “real,” but we have to follow the customs of the culture we are in right now to get the ball rolling.
What is the good of leaving wealth if you don’t teach people what it is good for?
Successful moguls like Ramit Sethi, Courtney Foster Donahue, Marie Forleo, and Tim Ferris, will empower some people to build 6 figure and 7 figure businesses.
They will leave behind a bunch of savvy business people when they die. But what good is that if they have not instilled good values into the people they teach?
Living our personal dreams isn’t enough
So what if a few people make it out of the wage-slave norm and get rich if they don’t build anything good for the community?
If people are just going to “live their rich life” and follow their own personal dreams it isn’t enough.
If a few people make it out and get to express themselves fully what good is that in a vacuum? Why is that the goal when the entire culture and environment are rotting around them?
Between the build-your-own little-empire group and the build-a new-sustainable-world group, They each have only half the puzzle.
If you don’t have both wealth and a vision for a sustainable future then you don’t really have anything.
So what am I going to do about it?
My goal is to at least start talking about this by living it as much as I can.
I am already 60, so I won’t be around much longer (though 60 more years would be nice.)
I wasted a lot of my life fighting depression and chasing after a lot of crap that didn’t make much sense and didn’t help anyone.
I realize now that a lot of my sadness came from a sense of futility. I didn’t have the vision to see how to change things.
Much of my own physical illness came out of feeling powerless over circumstances. If life is pointless it makes you sick.
Unfortunately, until covid, I never had the luxury or time to think this all through and figure out what was important.
I was too busy just trying to survive and get as much art done as possible.
It is probably too late for me to get very far with my plan to build a sanctuary for people to launch from. But at least I can build a foundation of ideas for younger people to take further.