Avsnitt

  • Episode Notes

    Episode summary

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

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

    TranscriptMargaretHello 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?JasonSure, 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.MargaretAnd 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?JasonSo, 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.MargaretYeah.JasonI 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.MargaretThis is kind of an aside, but if you read The Water Knife, this novel about Phoenix?JasonIt's on my shelf. Yeah, the author, what is it, Paolo Bacigalupi, I think?MargaretI 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.JasonYes. 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.MargaretOkay, 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.JasonYes, yeah. Okay.MargaretSo 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.JasonYeah.MargaretBut 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.JasonYeah. 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.MargaretMy 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?JasonYeah. 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.MargaretSo it's gonna keep it watered when it's not monsoon season.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretAnd it works.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretI 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.JasonYeah.MargaretBut 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.JasonYeah.MargaretBut 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.JasonYeah, and cities definitely struggle with that.MargaretYeah. Because most have already destroyed everything.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretYeah.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretSo 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.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretYeah. 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?JasonSo 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.MargaretSo a swale is like a thing that moves water in a field, right?JasonYeah. 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—MargaretThat's kind of awesome.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretAre 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?JasonYou 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.MargaretWell, thank me in the acknowledgments when this study—JasonYeah 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.MargaretI 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?JasonYeah.MargaretBut 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.JasonYeah, 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—MargaretMe too.JasonOh, 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.MargaretYeah, totally.JasonLike, 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—MargaretWhich affects water. It's not just an animal issue.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretNo, 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.JasonI'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.MargaretI 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?JasonYeah, 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—MargaretI'm guessing you're more cynical now?JasonOh, 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—MargaretSo what's the point of having this institution if it's not scientifically informed?JasonYeah, 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?MargaretHave you seen—it's as pop culture thing—have you seen? Don't Look Up on Netflix?JasonIt's on my list! I really want to.MargaretWell, 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?JasonYeah.MargaretThat 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.JasonI've known less spiteful children, certainly.MargaretYeah. No, I don't know it. I don't know. Okay.JasonYeah. 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.MargaretIt's not a complex movie. You basically got it.JasonYeah. 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—MargaretNo one needs that stuff.JasonYeah, 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 reasonMargaretTo 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?JasonYeah.MargaretLike, 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.JasonYeah, exactly. Like, you're literally telling this to your children, being like, I'm not here.MargaretI'm gonna be dead before it's a problem. I'm like, I'm not. Actually, you're not either.JasonYeah. 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.MargaretYeah, fair enough.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretRight? 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—JasonWe'll mine comets. Greenly.MargaretYeah, totally. Yeah.JasonYeah, 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.MargaretNo, 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.JasonYeah, 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...MargaretRight, 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.JasonYeah. 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.MargaretThat part's not true. Yeah, that sounds right. I have a terrible memory. But that sounds right.JasonWhere, 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.MargaretYeah. 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?JasonHire 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.MargaretOh cool.JasonWhere 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.MargaretOkay. Well, thank you so much.JasonYeah, thank you. I really had a lot of fun.MargaretThanks 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

  • 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

    MargaretkilljoyHello 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.

    00:00.00MargaretkilljoyOkay 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?

    00:53.82GreggYeah, 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.”

    01:38.60MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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?

    02:43.89GreggYeah, 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.

    03:11.72MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    03:22.36GreggThey 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.

    05:46.43MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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.

    06:42.97GreggYeah, 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.

    07:32.89MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    07:38.50GreggI 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

    07:58.85MargaretkilljoyMhmm

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

    08:07.67MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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...

    09:13.86GreggYeah, 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--

    09:38.66MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    09:51.78Gregg--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.

    10:58.14MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    10:59.92GreggAnd 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.

    11:46.47MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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.

    12:23.52GreggDefinitely, 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.

    12:36.47MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    12:42.55GreggI 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--

    13:14.57MargaretkilljoyThat's cool.

    13:18.86Gregg--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."

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

    14:16.86GreggYeah, 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.

    14:50.61MargaretkilljoyHahah

    14:56.10GreggAnd 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--

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

    15:51.28GreggOh, I wish. It's just a long pole with a basket on the end.

    16:02.90MargaretkilljoyOh, cool.

    16:13.72GreggAnd 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.

    16:15.00MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    16:15.60GreggBut 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.

    16:35.73MargaretkilljoyWhoa.

    16:49.67GreggAnd 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.

    17:07.90MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    17:08.36GreggLike, 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.

    17:38.64MargaretkilljoyNo, 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.

    18:10.64GreggYeah

    18:15.70MargaretkilljoyAnd 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?

    18:19.00GreggYeah

    18:20.00MargaretkilljoyAnd, 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--

    18:54.58GreggYeah

    19:11.79Margaretkilljoy--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?

    19:55.10GreggYeah.

    20:08.43MargaretkilljoyAnd 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.

    20:10.14GreggYeah, I'm not convinced that it necessarily is--

    20:14.91MargaretkilljoyMmm, okay.

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

    20:31.80MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    20:31.5GreggYou 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.

    20:42.64MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    20:46.40GreggLike, 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?

    21:15.95MargaretkilljoyNo, I don't.

    21:23.23GreggSo, 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--

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

    GreggNot Yet, it will probably be next year--

    MargaretkilljoyyOkay.

    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.

    23:08.93MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    23:17.30GreggI 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.

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

    23:42.40GreggYeah.

    23:53.12MargaretkilljoyWhen 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.

    24:05.62GreggYeah.

    24:12.73MargaretkilljoyI 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.

    25:04.98GreggYeah. 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.

    25:21.37MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    25:24.21GreggAnd like I, there's a lot of opportunity in boredom.

    25:28.31MargaretkilljoyYeeeah.

    25:43.73GreggAnd, 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.

    26:17.50MargaretkilljoyNo 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.

    28:00.63GreggSo, 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.

    29:58.72MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    30:13.34GreggYou 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.

    30:57.86MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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?

    32:43.41GreggYeah, 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?

    33:07.90MargaretkilljoyOh yeah, totally.

    33:22.14GreggInstead 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.

    34:13.00MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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.

    35:03.57GreggYes.

    35:07.74MargaretkilljoyIt'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.

    35:19.22GreggYeah, 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.

    37:27.40MargaretkilljoyYeah. 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?

    37:49.23GreggAh, 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.

    40:39.44MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    40:58.38GreggEven, 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.

    41:15.48MargaretkilljoyOkay.

    41:17.19GreggLike 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."

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

    42:40.74GreggYeah, 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--

    43:53.20MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    43:54.92Gregg--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.

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

    44:09.72GreggYeah, 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.

    44:52.18MargaretkilljoyAnd 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."

    45:00.00GreggYeah, yeah.

    45:02.00MargaretkilljoyI 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?

    46:23.63GreggYeah, 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.

    46:58.53MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    47:00.50GreggBut 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,

    47:29.72MargaretkilljoyGod forbid.

    47:30.00GreggAnd like, you have you have, like you know people being like, "They just need a spanking."

    47:20.42MargaretkilljoyOh my God.

    47:36.54GreggAnd 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.

    48:52.80MargaretkilljoyRight. 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.

    50:07.75GreggYeah, 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?

    50:52.90MargaretkilljoyYeah. 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.

    51:29.57GreggI 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.

    52:05.35MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    52:08.10GreggLike 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.

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

    53:05.43GreggYeah 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--

    53:10.82MargaretkilljoyGod Someone invented a worse flag than the American flag I'm really impressed by that. Yeah.

    53:25.25GreggI 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?

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

    53:44.56GreggYeah, 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.

    54:40.65MargaretkilljoyMhmm

    54:42.50GreggSo 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.

    54:56.48MargaretkilljoyYeah.55:00.63GreggAnd, 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.

    55:10.90MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    55:19.86GreggAnd 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.

    55:27.25MargaretkilljoyRight.

    55:38.82GreggSo 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.

    55:41.34MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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?

    57:26.60GreggBut you were successful.

    MargaretkilljoyYeah, successfully, yes.

    GreggThat's amazing.

    57:37.41MargaretkilljoyYeah, 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.

    58:28.89GreggYeah, 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---

    58:40.78MargaretkilljoyWait, that's why are you on the podcast. I thought you had all the answers.

    58:46.46GreggExactly. 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?

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

    59:27.54GreggYeah, 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.

    59:55.20MargaretkilljoyYeah.

    01:00:04.15GreggAnd 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.

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

    01:00:17.88GreggYeah, yeah.

    01:00:22.86MargaretkilljoyAlright, 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?

    01:00:31.43GreggUm. 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.

    01:01:53.47MargaretkilljoyPeople 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?

    01:02:08.33GreggYeah.

    01:02:12.40MargaretkilljoyAnd 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.

    01:02:27.83GreggYeah.

    01:02:30.88MargaretkilljoyAnd 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.

    01:02:54.60GreggYeah.

    01:02:58.10MargaretkilljoyOkay, 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.

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

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

    GreggOh yeah, G-R-E-G-G-A-W-A-T-T yeah..01:03:22.48margaretkilljoyAlso 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.

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

    MargaretkilljoyCool.

    GreggAlright.

    MargaretkilljoyThanks so much.

    GreggThank you have a good day.

    01:05.79MargaretkilljoyThanks 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

  • Saknas det avsnitt?

    Klicka här för att uppdatera flödet manuellt.

  • 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

    MargaretHello 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 1Hello! 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 2The 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

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

    SnowHi 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.

    MargaretWhat was the post?

    SnowIt 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.

    MargaretCool.

    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.

    MargaretThat'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.

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

    SnowYeah, 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.

    MargaretBut shooting a microwave sounds really fun though.

    SnowI 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.

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

    SnowInstead of Office Space where it's like a printer, it's just a fucking TV.

    MargaretYeah. 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 3x5 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 3x5 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.

    SnowIt is unforgiving. Yeah.

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

    MargaretWhat 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...

    CamillaIt'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.

    SnowAll your friends are watching.

    CamillaYeah, 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.

    MargaretOne 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.

    SnowNo, 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    CamillaYeah, 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.

    MargaretI'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.

    SnowYeah, 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.

    MargaretMhmm.

    SnowAnd 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.

    MargaretNo 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.

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    CamillaYeah, 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.

    MargaretWell, 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?

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

    SnowOh my God.

    MargaretThat’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.

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

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

    SnowYeah, tell us Camilla.

    CamillaAh, 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.

    SnowSo 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—

    MargaretSRA is the socialist rifle association?

    SnowYes, thank you. My bad.

    MargaretNo, it's all good.

    SnowAnd 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.

    JohnStarting 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.

    SnowThere'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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CamillaThere’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.

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

    MargaretDemocratic Socialist America?

    JohnDemocratic 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.

    MargaretI 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?

    CamillaYeah, I could tell you've been—you've been studying up on our Instagram bio—

    JohnsGo ahead Camilla.

    Camilla1911 is a Colt 45 handgun that chuds’ll often cite—

    MargaretWhat’s a thud in this context?

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

    MargaretOkay.

    CamillaThey 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.

    JohnThe 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]

    JohnNot, 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.

    MargaretThe 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.

    SnowOh.

    MargaretAnd 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.

    JohnMargaret, who doesn't love surprises? We all love surprises.

    SnowYou know, maybe this is too soon, but Alec Baldwin sure doesn't like surprises, you know?

    CamillaOh my goodness.

    JohnOh my god. Oh, rim shot.

    CamillaBut 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.

    JohnI 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.

    SnowI 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.

    JohnLike, 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.

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

    SnowIt's fun.

    MargaretMy 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.

    CamillaAh, 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.

    JohnI 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—

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

    JohnI don't want to opine on any every jurisdiction. But yeah, usually you don't do that.

    CamillaYeah, it's not going to save you either.

    JohnCamilla'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

    CamillaYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    SnowGlock 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.

    MargaretThat's a that's like an in-between size?

    SnowYeah, 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?

    JohnI 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?

    CamillaYeah, 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.

    MargaretI'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.

    CamillaThey are prettier.

    MargaretAnd 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.

    JohnI 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?

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

    CamillaThis is my nightmare.

    SnowYeah.

    JohnFor 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.

    MargaretGood. 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.

    JohnIt’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.

    MargaretYou’re fired.

    JohnYou 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.

    CamillaAnd 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.

    SnowAlso, like, don't buy a Scar as your first rifle.

    MargaretOh, what’s a Scar?

    SnowAh, 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.”

    JohnFabric national.

    01:01:09.89SnowBut 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.

    JohnOne 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.

    MargaretWell 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.

    SnowAnd 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.

    CamillaI 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.

    JohnFor 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.

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    CamillaNo, 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    CamillaYeah. I don't know about y'all, but that's kind of my thing.

    JohnSnow, 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.

    SnowYeah 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?

    MargaretYeah.

    SnowI 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.

    MargaretOh 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.

    JohnI'm dying. I’m dying over here Margaret, sorry.

    CamillaAmen.

    JohnA-fucking-men.

    MargaretAnd 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]

    JohnI 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.

    MargaretAll 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?

    SnowWe 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.

    JohnWe got it because we didn't want anyone else taking the website.

    SnowTrue Domain wars.

    JohnAnd 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.

    MargaretAnd you all have a podcast. What's it called? How can people find that?

    SnowSo 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.

    JohnAh, 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.

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

    MargaretThank 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

  • 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

    MargaretHello 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 1The 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 2There’s a black part of my heart that just flutters when you talk like that.

    Jingle 1[Inaudible] talk than more yelling.

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

    Jingle 1Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org

    MargaretOkay, 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.

    SummerMy 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.

    MargaretYeah 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.

    SummerSure, 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerAnd 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.

    MargaretRight.

    SummerI 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?

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerAnd 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.

    MargaretYeah. 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?

    SummerRight.

    MargaretAnd 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—

    SummerYeah.

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

    10:20.19SummerYeah. 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.”

    MargaretYeah.

    11:14.96Summer“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.

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerUm, 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.

    MargaretRight. 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—

    SummerWell 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?

    MargaretYeah

    SummerAnd 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?

    MaragetRight.

    SummerAnd, 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.

    MargaretYeah. 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?

    SummerYou know, I go to work. I don't know if I maintain faith in humanity.

    MargaretAh, okay.

    SummerBut 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—

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

    SummerYeah, 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.

    MargaretI mean, we could talk about that. I'm curious about that.

    SummerYeah, 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—

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

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

    MargaretYeah, that’s right.

    SummerYeah, exactly it's going great.

    MargaretIt’s utopian.

    SummerBecome 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerIt'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.

    MargaretYou talking about the, like, the way the CDC keeps changing, like, what's being valued or whatever?

    SummerYeah, 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—

    MargaretYou should try podcasting. You don't have to leave the house.

    SummerI know, I’m thinking about it actually.

    MargaretOkay, cool.

    SummerAnd 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?

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

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

    MargaretOh, okay.

    SummerBut 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.

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    SummerI can think of like 5 reasons not to trust.

    MargaretLike a little list?

    SummerTop 5 reasons not to trust them.

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    SummerA flawless plan.

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

    SummerYeah, 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?

    MargaretWhich vaccine did you get?

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

    MargaretYeah, probably. We need to come up with that.

    SummerMy 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.

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

    SummerYeah, 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?

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerTheir 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.

    MargaretRight.

    SummerAnd 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?

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    SummerRight, yeah.

    MargaretInstead 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.

    SummerYeah.

    MargaretAnd 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?

    SummerYeah, 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”

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

    SummerWell, 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.

    MargaretSo using, like, top-down authoritarian control.

    SummerYeah, 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.

    MargaretRight.

    SummerYou 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.

    MargaretRight.

    SummerAnd 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.

    MargaretI 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.

    SummerMhmm.

    MargaretI 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.

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

    MargaretI'm going to Mars, fuck all you!

    SummerYeah, 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    SummerAnd 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.

    MargaretI think that is the answer.

    SummerYeah. 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.

    MargaretYeah 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.

    SummerI'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.

    MargaretWell, 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>

    SummerOh god. You mean with like Omicron, or?

    MargaretYeah, 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?

    SummerOh god.

    MargaretYou 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.

    SummerOh 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—

    MargaretOh, interesting.

    49:57.48SummerA 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.

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

    SummerExactly. 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—

    MargaretBut what if we do it all at once?

    SummerI 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%!

    MargaretOh, that’s a high number, yeah.

    SummerYeah, 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.

    MargaretYeah, 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?

    SummerYeah, potentially yeah.

    MargaretAnd 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?

    SummerYeah.

    MargaretNo, 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?

    SummerUm, 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?

    MargaretRight.

    SummerLike 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.

    MargaretYeah. 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.

    SummerAnd, 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.

    MargaretYeah. 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?

    SummerI 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.

    MargaretSo they do still exist and people can go support them?

    SummerYeah.MargaretAwesome, 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

  • 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

    MargaretHello 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.

    JingleOne 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretCasandra 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 2Yeah, 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.

    MargaretCool. 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?

    CasandraYes, 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.

    MargaretOkay. 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?

    CasandraUm, 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?

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraYeah, I guess smoking and curing could—smoking is like a form of curing I think. Freezing. What else? Did we say fermenting already?

    MargaretNo, we haven't put that one yet.

    CasandraFermenting.

    MargaretOkay, should we just go through them and talk about why each one's great?

    CasandraYes, 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...

    MargaretYeah.

    CasandraYeah.

    MargaretWell, 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?

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretDoes it just take up less space because there's like fewer individual jars taking up space.

    CasandraMm hmm. Yeah, yeah. Definitely.

    MargaretOkay. What, um, what's like the easiest to get into and/or what's cheapest?

    CasandraProbably drying? Drying probably or salt curing because, you know, all you need to salt preserve something is salt.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretOh lord, okay.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretWhat 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.

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraWhich 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.

    MargaretThat's a really important point.

    CasandraYeah.

    MargaretI 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.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretYeah.

    CasandraBut 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.

    MargaretYeah. 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.

    CasandraYeah. Which is good, in an emergency, but it's not super sustainable. So yeah.

    MargaretYeah. 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.

    CasandraRight. 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?

    MargaretYeah.

    CasandraThat would be catastrophe waiting to happen.

    MargaretYeah, 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?

    MargaretYeah. 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.

    CasandraOh, God. Yeah.

    MargaretAnd 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.

    CasandraOh no.

    MargaretI'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.

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraYeah.

    MargaretWhich 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.

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretWell 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.

    CasandraYeah. 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay. How do you do it?

    CasandraHooray 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—

    MargaretYeah. Okay, cool.

    CasandraSo, 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—

    MargaretThat's—I mean, by that number, one of them would have died of botulism. Even if someone—anyway, yeah.

    CasandraSo 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.

    MargaretOkay, so take the warning seriously, is what your—

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretWhat is botulism actually, do you know?

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraUm, and it can even be fatal just with, like, skin contact.

    MargaretOh, wow.

    CasandraYeah, so it's it's very scary, but it—I don't know. I don't want to terrify people.

    MargaretWell, how do you not make it?

    CasandraRight.

    MargaretI was reading something that's like has something to do with, like, whether or not there's oxygen or something?

    CasandraYep, 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—

    MargaretYeah yeah yeah.

    CasandraOkay, 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.

    MargaretWhere do tomatoes fall in, are they acidic are they—

    CasandraSo 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraBut 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.

    MargaretAnd 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.

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretYou can't just put it in a pressure cooker.

    CasandraNo, but you can use your pressure canner for pressure cooking, if that makes sense.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraBut 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.

    MargaretSo 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?

    CasandraYeah, yeah, that's my understanding. And it gets sciency especially with pressure canning because altitude impacts—

    MargaretOf course it does.

    CasandraImpacts 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.

    MargaretWould you say it would be jarring?

    CasandraYes. 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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.

    CasandraYeah, so there are some basic safety considerations. So maybe let's, like, pretend we're canning something.

    MargaretOkay. Is it green beans?

    CasandraYeah, 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?

    MargaretYeah. Which is why you don't drink coffee out of mason jars. Well, people do, but why?

    CasandraBut then they make the ones with the handles as if you're supposed to, you know?

    MargaretYeah, that's a good point.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay, and that's not the pressure canner, that's just a pot of water on the stove.

    CasandraYep. 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraRecipes, 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?

    MargaretYeah. And then you murder everyone, you know?

    CasandraHopefully 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.

    MargaretOkay. Oh, like a little piece of dirt or something that would keep it from—or like a green bean stem.

    CasandraYes, 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.

    MargaretAre those, like, electric systems or they like stovetop,

    CasandraStovetop, I've never seen an electric one, but I wouldn't be shocked if that existed.

    MargaretNo 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?

    CasandraYep, 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.

    MargaretOkay. Is this, like, are they usually like around an hour, or is this like three days? Or what's—

    CasandraIt 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.

    MargaretOh, because it's so acidic?

    CasandraYep.

    MargaretOkay. Cool.

    CasandraYou 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.

    MargaretYeah. What about tomato bone broth canning? Nevermind. Okay.

    CasandraThe lesson is not to—not to combine recipes.

    MargaretSee, 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.

    CasandraI'm in the same way though.

    MargaretOkay. Okay.

    CasandraAnd 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...

    MargaretNo, 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.

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraSo we have soup for a week, but it's from pre-canned food.

    MargaretThere's—I really wish I was on my puns and jokes better today. But somewhere there's a soup for our family joke.

    CasandraI'm sure there is.

    MargaretHopefully someone will just tell it to me later on Twitter in a way that is either very charming or very annoying.

    CasandraYou'll have to send it to me.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraDrying.

    MargaretDrying. Okay.

    CasandraWhat do you want to know about drying, Margaret?

    MargaretWell, 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?

    CasandraAnd then the preparing of the dried food.

    MargaretOh, yeah, no cooking is totally beyond anything.

    CasandraIt's not like a can where you can just open it and heat it up.

    MargaretYeah, 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.

    CasandraSee, 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?

    MargaretYeah. So you can soaked beans, not dried beans, right?

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay. 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.

    CasandraBecause you still have to cook them.

    MargaretWell, yeah. But—ah, and then the pressure cooker being the way to—okay.

    CasandraBut we were talking about drying food.

    MargaretYes. 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.

    CasandraYou probably know much more than me about the storage, but—

    MargaretOnly in that I took a lot of notes like last week.

    CasandraOh Good!

    MargaretBut okay, how do you dry food?

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretWhen you say set things out, you mean like in the sun?

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretOkay, that makes sense.

    CasandraThat'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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraUm, 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.

    MargaretHow 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?

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretI do.

    CasandraYeah. 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—

    MargaretOh, really?

    CasandraThere's that.

    MargaretI wonder what I can salt cure.

    CasandraRight?

    MargaretJust slabs of seitan. It sounds terrible. Okay.

    CasandraThe 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.

    MargaretDo 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?

    CasandraYou 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraDoes 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.

    MargaretOkay. Because yeah, it takes forever to flush acorns.

    CasandraIt 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.

    MargaretWhich is like, what, a natural preservative or something that's in them that, in order to human edible, you have to get rid of.

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraLike acorns or just?

    MargaretOh sorry. I was going back to like, you know, the other nuts?

    CasandraYeah, yeah.

    MargaretCashews. I don't know. You didn't say cashews, I was just thinking about cashews. Because I like cashews.

    CasandraI think cashews are actually way different. Have you seen a cashew plant?

    MargaretAll 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.

    CasandraBecause 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.

    MargaretLet's not talk about cashews. I'll pretend like I know what filberts are and talk about them.

    CasandraA filter is just—I think it's actually a different species than a hazelnut, but it's what we call hazelnuts here.

    MargaretOkay, cool.

    CasandraSo 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.

    MargaretOkay.

    CasandraAnd some nuts you dry in the shell like walnuts, but some you don't have to.

    MargaretOkay. And so drying is like a little bit simpler. It's like—

    CasandraYeah.

    MargaretIf 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.

    CasandraI mean, I don't even put nuts in a dryer, because they're already so dry.

    MargaretYou just leave them out.

    CasandraYeah, 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—

    MargaretCool.

    CasandraLike, 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraI 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraOh, 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.

    MargaretI 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.

    CasandraIt 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—

    MargaretYeah.

    CasandraBut storage you wanted to talk about and I feel like you probably know more about storage can I do.

    MargaretWell, 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.

    CasandraRight.

    MargaretAnd 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.

    CasandraYeah.

    MargaretBut 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.

    CasandraNo, 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.

    MargaretJust 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?

    CasandraYeah, 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.

    MargaretOkay, 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.

    CasandraYeah. 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.

    MargaretIs it just like you take the thing and you pack it in salt and then you're like, it's good.

    CasandraKinda, yeah. Kinda, yeah.

    MargaretThat's cool.

    CasandraI mean, there's more to it than that, but basically.

    MargaretOkay, 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?

    CasandraJust 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.

    MargaretWait, really?

    CasandraTo whole chickens. So it's pretty flexible and pretty fun once you get the basic down. Canned water.

    MargaretI'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.

    CasandraYou're welcome. I'm dreading transcribing this, but I will do it. So.

    MargaretI 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

  • 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

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

  • 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

  • Episode NotesSummary

    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.

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

  • Episode Notes

    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.

    The guest Guy recommended people support the Gray Coast Guildhall on Patreon to support a small town community space: https://www.patreon.com/graycoastguildhall

    Transcript

    This is an updated transcript, replacing the machine-generated one which was initially posted with the episode.

    1:05:45

    SPEAKERSMargaret, Guy

    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. Normally I do this like whole intro thing that I record after the conversation. But this is a special—a special episode that I'm just doing as quickly—as quick turnaround as I can because of what's going on in the Pacific Northwest with unprecedented heat. And I want people to have information as soon as possible. So please forgive audio quality on my end, I'm recording this from the best place I had access to internet, which is right next to one of the busiest intersections in all of the tiny town of Asheville, North Carolina. But anyway, this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And normally I put in a jingle here, but I'm not going to. Instead you should just go to Channel Zero Network. I don't even know the website, you just Google it. I mean, come on, who's actually going to type in URL and you can just type things into the search bar. Go check out the Channel Zero Network, there's a ton of shows that might interest you. Okay, so would you like to introduce yourself with your name and your pronouns? And then a bit of your background as relates to heat related illnesses?

    Guy Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me on. My name is Guy, I use he and him pronouns. I live up in the Pacific Northwest on the Olympic Peninsula. And my background related to this, I have been a wilderness educator and backpacking guide for many years, especially working down in the Grand Canyon for several years. So a lot of exposure to heat there. And I also instruct wilderness medicine courses. And so I teach and think about bodies and how bodies adapt to stress, particularly heat stress in this context. Yeah, that's me.

    Margaret Hurray. I'm so glad that your skillset is about to become very useful away from the Grand Canyon and in the Olympic Peninsula. The rain forest that I believe is not—is it—is it normal for you all to have 109 degree weather? Or is that abnormal?

    Guy That is definitely abnormal. Yeah. We sometimes we’ll cross 100 or triple digits over 100 for one or two days in the summer, usually in late July or August. I cannot remember a time when we hit 108 degrees, and certainly not in late June. It is pretty hot.

    Margaret Yeah, I've—I'm from the Mid Atlantic and now I live in the south on the east coast. And I've, the only time I've been in—I mean, I've been in triple digits. I don't think it ever got hotter than 103/104 the whole time I was growing up. And only time I've been in 110 degree weather was in Death Valley. So I'm worried about you all. So that's why I'm—I don't, yeah, we're going to talk at a later point with someone that you co teach with about more wilderness first aid. But it seems like wilderness first aid is suddenly might become urban first aid in a way that we're not—I'm not really used to and maybe you're not really used to. I guess to start with, do you want to talk about, like, what are the dangers of heat?

    Guy Yeah, so I'll preface this by saying a couple of things. The first is that human—the human body is actually really adaptable and resilient if it has time to adapt to a changing environment. So people can handle really extreme heat if they have time to acclimatized to it. But if we get these big spikes of heat coming in a place where people aren't used to it, we're jumping from the mid-80s, one week to 108 another week, then that becomes a lot more stressful on body. And then add on to that, right, up here in the Pacific Northwest as a culture, as a society, we're not adapted to experience heat. Most people don't have air conditioning. Most people's houses aren't particularly well insulated because, in general, it's a fairly temperate climate. So there's just not the—either the time to adapt on a physiological level or to adapt our environment to really manage and handle this heat. So that said, a few different things happen when we get too hot. So, our body, right, we we sweat, we produce sweat, and that's the primary way that we cool ourselves off. And evaporation is is actually a very effective cooling mechanism. If we have enough sweat, and particularly if there's a breeze that is able to allow that evaporation to continue to cools us off. As our body gets too hot and we start to lose our ability to thermoregulate, we end up seeing a lot of different side effects. And so we used to think of this really clear progression from what we call heat exhaustion to heat stroke. And now it seems more like there's just a lot of different clusters of symptoms that appear when people get too hot. So things like nausea, vomiting, feeling really tired, feeling a little bit disoriented, feeling irritable, some muscle cramps particularly related to exercise, sweating, excessive sweating, but then also maybe some more like chills or pale skin, clammy feeling, as our body just doesn't tolerate the heat extremes very well. And all the symptoms, all those symptoms are unpleasant but fine. And the real danger is when our internal temperature starts to cross 104 or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. And at that point, our brain actually starts cooking. And so we see our mental process change, we don't think as clearly, our personality changes, and we're actually doing long term damage to our brains, and they won't survive that for very long.

    Margaret When you say very long, like what are you talking about there, like five minutes, an hour?

    Guy Oh, no, definitely in the in the hours realm. But the longer that persists, the more damage—the more permanent damage can be done to our brain and to our bodies. Depends on the heat extreme. And then once we lose that, once we start losing that ability to thermoregulate altogether, instead of maintaining a temperature that's elevated but not too high, we just kind of start to run away, and we can't cool off at all. And then—and then we need help from from other people, we need a change of environment, we need to be cooled down really, really quickly.

    Margaret One of the—I asked social media right before this interview, like what advice people had and also what questions people had. And the thing that you just talked about, about how we used to see it as heat exhaustion versus heatstroke is very different. That is one of the things that most people were bringing up is, like, make sure you know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke with the idea, I guess the prevailing knowledge—what I had known prior to five minutes ago when you said otherwise—would be that heat exhaustion is the like, oh, this fucking sucks and I should probably get somewhere cold real quick. And maybe someone can help me get somewhere—not real cold, but like colder real quick—versus heat stroke is like, you know, call a paramedic, like, get taken to the emergency room or whatever because you're about to die or something. Right? And you're saying that the line between these two is not only not a clear line, but it's not even necessarily a specific progression as much as, like, you are just different clusters. Can you tell me more about that?

    Guy Yeah. So heat stroke, heat stroke is really clear. And maybe that I misspoke a little bit there.

    Margaret I might have misheard you.

    Guy Yeah, so so heat stroke is very clear. That's when our internal temperatures reached 104/105, the proteins that our brains start denaturing we start doing—we start getting cell death in our brains and permanent damage. And the easiest way to recognize that in someone is a change in their personality, or change in their thought process. Someone who was previously grumpy and maybe a little irritable, or maybe a little hot, or maybe they were just fine, now they're saying or doing things that don't make any sense. And that's because their brain is not functioning properly anymore. So heatstroke is pretty clearly delineated. The distinction is that there's not necessarily a progression from one to the next. You don't necessarily get this long warning sign of heat exhaustion, and you're feeling bad, and then you feel worse, and then you feel worse, and then it's heatstroke. That happens in some people. But in other people it can just go directly to heatstroke without this preliminary experience of feeling a little bit crappy and under the weather and nauseous and faint.

    Margaret Okay. So what do you do in each of these situations? Whether you're alone, or whether you're with someone who's experiencing these symptoms, like what do you do for someone who's suffering from heat exhaustion symptoms versus heatstroke?

    Guy Yeah, so, so in both cases, the problem is that someone is too hot and so the solution is to cool them down. So heat exhaustion, this cluster of nausea, muscle cramps, I just don't feel good, fatigue, maybe some vomiting, that person wants to be cooled down. So we should get into the shade, we should try to move to a cooler environment, change clothes. But we're not necessarily—we have time to do that. Heat stroke, as soon as we see that change in personality or mentation, we want to cool that person down as quickly as possible. And so the fastest way generally to cool someone down is through some amount of cold water immersion. So—

    Margaret Throw them into lake.

    Guy Throw them in a lake, but probably not throw them because if they have this altered mental status, they can't think as well, we're worried about their ability to swim, right? But get them in running water, get as much of their body in the water as we can while protecting their airway to cool them down quickly. And if we don't have a big body of water we can put them in that's nice and cool, the next best thing is get them as wet as we can, and then fan them. Because that sort of cooling consumes a huge amount of energy, which then cools the body fairly quickly. So if you think about, you get your hands wet, they don't feel that cold, and then you get a breeze moving across your cold hands or your clothes are wet, you get cold really fast, because evaporation takes more energy then simply being immersed in water.

    Margaret Okay, how does, um, how does being in a humid environment, impact evaporative cooling and dealing with this sort of crisis?

    Guy Yeah, humidity is a real challenge here. And that's the thing that we're fortunate about here in the Pacific Northwest where our summers are usually pretty dry.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy But the the more humid the air gets, the less effective evaporative cooling will be. And that means both that just getting someone wet and fanning them won't work as well. But it also means that our body's natural mechanism for cooling, which is sweat, also doesn't work as well. And so there's this concept of the wet bulb temperature which is, rather than looking at what is the temperature on the thermometer, you put a thermometer inside a bulb and you cover it with a damp cloth—now they have mean fancier tools to do this now, but the principle is the same—cover it in a soaking wet cloth. And then they measure what is the temperature that that thermometer reads.

    Margaret When you have a bowl or a bulb.

    Guy Yep, wet bulb temperature. Bulb.

    Margaret Oh, you get the—oh, you put it inside a light bulb is that?

    Guy Any bulb, any sphirical object, right? It's covered in a damp cloth.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy If the humidity is lower than 100%, the temperature that that thermometer reads is going to be lower than—lower than the air temperature, right? Because there's some amount of evaporation which is cooling the air inside.

    Margaret Interesting. Okay.

    Guy And so this is a way for us to understand what the actual threat of any particular temperature is. Because once we get to 100% humidity, the temperature inside that bulb is going to be exactly the same as it is outside because there's no longer any evaporation occurring and no longer any cooling. And the challenge there—and so this is how wet bulb temperatures are measured. You can look up tables that will tell you relative humidity and temperature and you can find the wet bulb temperature at that intersection. And once we hit about 90 degrees at 100% humidity, or a 90 degree wet bulb temperature—which we could get with either higher temperature and lower humidity or lower temperature and higher humidity—once that wet bulb temperature hits about 90 degrees, humans can no longer effectively function in any kind of meaningful physical exertion outside.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy And even completely at rest without any exertion people will start to die within hours once you hit about 95 degrees wet bulb temperature.

    Margaret Which is what it would be at like 100% humidity if it was 95 degrees out.

    Guy Exactly. Yeah.

    Margaret As someone who the inside of my house is regularly 90 to 95% humidity during the summer. I know I'm not supposed to be worried about myself today, I'm still mostly worried about y'all. But it actually is changing a little bit my sense of the heat that y'all are facing.

    Guy Yeah.

    Margaret What—I mean, okay, so if it's like—do you have a sense of, like, when they're like, it's gonna be 109 degrees, 111 degrees, 116 degrees in the Pacific Northwest this weekend, you know, or maybe you're listening to this three weeks later, I don't know, whatever. But do you have a sense of, like, what kind of wet bulb temperature that is likely to be for people?

    Guy Yeah, so our humidity usually here in the summer ranges between like 20 and 40%, so not particularly high. And so I ran a couple of numbers before this show and who was looking like this Sunday, when we're supposed to hit about 108 degrees during the peak of the day, that'll probably equate to something around a 75 or 80 degree wet bulb temperature, which doesn't sound that hot, but actually is pretty darn hot and really hard for the body to tolerate.

    Margaret And so what that means is not that everyone is fine, it means that the means by which we can fight this with, like, cold water immersion and fanning and things like that actually have a chance of working is what you're saying?

    Guy Exactly. In places with low humidity, water and evaporation works really well to cool you down. The problem with this, and this is what a lot of climate scientists have been warning about for a long time, is that the tropical parts of the world, as we start to get increases in temperature, which are already close to 100% humidity during the hot season, will get so hot that there's no effective way to cool down. And then we'll see a lot a lot a lot of heat related deaths, because these parts of the world also don't have air conditioning and evaporative cooling is completely ineffective. And so in some ways we're lucky up here so far, because our summers are dry.

    Margaret Yeah, and there's—I mean, a lot of people listening don't have access to air conditioning. But I, but there's—there might be like, you know, I know that some cities are setting up cooling centers and things like that. So there is some access to air conditioning in the northwest. So when you talk about like not exerting yourself and things like that, like you're basically saying, like—basically, because when you exert yourself, your body heats up and that's bad. So it's, like, one of the main things people should do is, like, chill the fuck out and, like, not exert themselves as much as possible.

    Guy Yeah, exactly. That's one of the best things that we can do is, right, stay out of the sun as much as possible, try to stay as cool as possible, and just don't do—don't exert yourself, don't do physical labor. Don't go for runs, try to get out of your job if your job involves heavy, heavy physical labor during these hot temperatures—or organize with your other workers because it's literally putting your life at risk.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy To be working in these conditions.

    Margaret Yeah, okay. And then. So if this kind of—not fully covers—but but gets at the idea behind like heat exhaustion, heat stroke. The other thing that at least is on my radar to worry about as relates to intense heat is dehydration. And that's kind of a separate threat, right?

    Guy Yeah.

    Margaret Can you talk about dehydration, also, our mutual friends as you have a good story about dehydration?

    Guy Yeah, I have a lot of rants that I could go on about dehydration. And it's more evil twin, overhydration, also known as hyponatremia. So, hydration is important. Our bodies function better when we're well hydrated. But luckily, our bodies also have this amazing built-in mechanism to help us maintain adequate hydration, which is our sense of thirst. And so, generally, people should drink when they're thirsty, and they should drink a little bit more if they're exercising or if they're in hot weather. And if you're well-hydrated, then you will, you will tolerate heat better and you will be more able to adapt. That said, hydration doesn't prevent heat exhaustion and hydrating doesn't fix heat exhaustion or heatstroke either. The problem is, once you've hit that point, the problem was just that you're too hot and you need to cool down.

    Margaret So it's a separate problem.

    Guy Exactly. They go hand-in-hand. Humans do tend to sweat more, lose more fluids in hot weather and need to replace them. The place where people get into trouble—we have this cultural myth of dehydration as the big killer. And, like, you've probably heard people say "hydrate or die," and there's all these stories about people who—athletes who didn't drink enough water and they died. And that's actually not really the case. Most people stay hydrated enough most of the time. They are getting dehydrated and they have access to water and then don't have vomiting or diarrhea that's sucking water out of them, they can maintain adequate hydration pretty decently. The problem, the area that we actually see a lot more deaths and a lot more severe illness is the opposite. This problem over hydration. And so for the last couple decades until well, like, through the 90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of rhetoric in sports medicine about the importance of hydration, and you have to hydrate and drink, drink, drink, and you have to drink Gatorade, and you have to drink electrolytes because if you don't, then you're gonna die of dehydration. And actually, what we were doing was people were drinking too much water. And that changes the electrolyte balance in our bodies, and it ends up making our cells swell up. And we started getting swelling in the brain that can be fairly rapidly fatal. And so most, most of the exercise related deaths like ultra marathoners, hikers, that we used to think were linked to dehydration, most of those deaths are actually linked to what's called hyponatremia, not enough salt. But the real problem is that you've drunk too much water and you've diluted your salt.

    Margaret Oh, god, so we're telling people exactly the wrong thing to do. Being like, all of those other hikers died, so you better drink more water?

    Guy Yeah, so you'd have to drink a lot. But when people get these benchmarks and they hear like, oh, I should drink, I should drink a liter of water an hour. I should drink two liters of water an hour. I should drink a Gatorade at every stop in this race. People are basing their hydration on some outside metric rather than their own body's sense of whether they need fluid or not. Then we tend to see hyponatremia which is much more deadly and much harder to treat than dehydration. So, like many other things that Western medicine has done, we have invented a problem where there used to be no problem because humans generally are good at knowing what their bodies need and taking care of them.

    Margaret Yeah. Okay. And like—like, I've never drank electrolytes on purpose in my life. Right? Like, I mean, I drink Emergen-C in the morning, but I think I do it for like vitamins, which might also be bullshit, but I don't know. Um, and people are always, like, talking about the importance of drinking electrolytes. And, I mean, this obviously sounds like it ties into it, like, do you avoid hype—hyponatremia—I was gonna just avoid pronouncing that actually. But I failed at that. Do you avoid that better if you are also drinking electrolytes and, like, eating salty snacks and things like that? Is there like—like, how important are like our electrolytes and all this?

    Guy Um, so the answer is twofold, like many things. So electrolytes are important. We should have salty snacks. And our body needs electrolytes to function well. That said, there's just no correlation between drinking electrolyte solutions and a lower onset of hyponatremia. There's plenty [inaudible] of extreme athletes, ultra marathoners in hot places who are drinking mostly electrolyte solutions. And the real risk factor is just the volume of fluid—the volume of fluid drunk. So if people like electrolyte drinks, they should drink them. I drink them sometimes. And it makes me feel better, I think.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy But not to prevent hyponatremia and we shouldn't think that we're fixing the problem of low electrolytes by drinking electrolyte drinks, because what we're actually doing is just adding too much more fluid to a system that's already over hydrated.

    Margaret Okay, so just trust your body and drink—is this like how, like, one of the main things you learn in like street medic stuff is that just water for everything? Like, you know, it's like chemical weapons and you fix it with water.

    Guy Yeah, water's great. It's amazing. So just water and not too much of it. If you're thirsy uou should drink a little more if it's really hot out. You should eat salty snacks.

    Margaret Yeah. Okay. So if you want to focus on electrolytes, focus on salty snacks instead of Gatorade.

    Guy I mean, you can drink Gatorade, if you like sugar which is what Gatorade is, and other electrolytes drinks are fine. It's not like they do harm—unless you drink too much of them and you think you're helping problem. Yeah.

    Margaret Okay. Now this is—I'm really glad to like be, like, mythbusting in or whatever and like getting past that, like, stuff you can quickly Google on the internet, you know? So I have a lot of other questions from people. This is—I think everyone's—I already said this, everyone's really worried. Um, what um—and actually, we've been talking about this a lot. We've definitely been talking about things primarily from the point of view of, like, not having access to, you know, air conditioning and things like that, right. Oh, actually, before we leave dehydration, what do you do about it? What do you do if—both where there is a doctor available and where there isn't a doctor available for both dehydration and the problem that shall not be named?

    Guy Right? Yeah, hyponatremia. Or we could just call it overhydration which is—

    Margaret You call it hyponatremia and I'll call it over hydration.

    Guy Right. That's perfect. Um, so dehydration, the problem is those not enough water and so the solution is they should drink some water.

    Margaret Okay, cool.

    Guy And the way that—and the tricky thing here, right, is that we see people, and it's hot out, and they've been exercising, and they say they've got a headache, and they feel kind of nauseous, and they don't feel good, and they're kind of grumpy. And we think, oh, you must be dehydrated, I'm going to give you water. It turns out that the symptoms of hyponatremia are pretty much exactly the same as the symptoms of dehydration with a few exceptions. And so we really actually should be talking to our friends, talking to the people we're interacting with, and asking them some basic questions. How much water have you been drinking?

    Margaret Mhmm.

    Guy Oh, you had two liters this hour, two liters the hour before, a liter before that, you've had six liters all day and you haven't been doing much. That's a lot of water. Probably shouldn't give you more water. So the treatment for hyponatremia in its mild form is just withhold water. A couple of the things that we could look for an ask about is someone who's over hydrated, who has hyponatremia, is likely going to have pretty clear urine, and they're going to be peeing a lot. They're going to say, yeah, I just have to pee all the time and I really got to drink water, it's really important to drink fluid and I'm peeing and all the time. That's a good indication to say, you should stop drinking water.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy Until you're no longer peeing all the time. Dehydration, that person wants water. That's the problem is there's not enough and so they should drink some water. And, right, we might also inquire about the urine and then they could say, I haven't been peeing very much, it's been really dark yellow, it's been smelly. Those are good indications that someone is dehydrated. On the mild side of either of these, it just takes time to fix. If you're dehydrated, you should drink water and rest. And if you're over hydrated, you should rest and stop drinking water.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy Once once it gets more severe, once we see mental status change, someone is no longer behaving like themselves, that just means that their brain is angry because it's not getting what it needs. Either it's not enough water in the case of dehydration, or there's swelling and pressure building up because of this hyponatremia. And in those cases, that person really needs to go to a hospital.

    Margaret Okay, what would the hospital be doing? And I know I'm not like trying to encourage everyone to do everything by themselves, but I feel like it's like useful to, like, break open the black box with like medical stuff.

    Guy Yeah, so dehydration—dehydration, they're gonna be rehydrating via IV. That's a thing that we can do in the back country or without access to a hospital. We don't have IVs, but we can rehydrate someone gradually just by drinking water and reducing exertion. And as long as they're not continuing to lose fluid either through sweat or through diarrhea or vomiting, then we can probably fix that problem. Hyponatremia is—there's unfortunately not much outside of a hospital setting once it's advanced to the stage that someone's mental status is changing, there's not much that we can do. And this is one of the reasons it's more fatal than dehydration and exercise context.

    Margaret We can't bloodlet them with leeches?

    Guy Yeah, we can't do that. What they end up doing it a hospital is giving someone a lot of saline intravenously to change the electrolyte balance of their blood, and we just can't do that quickly or effectively orally. So we can definitely give someone salt but we should know that if they're—if it seems like a severe case of hyponatremia or overhydration, that really what they need is a hospital intervention. And we should prioritize getting them to that hospital instead of trying to do it ourselves. Because there's just not much we can do unless we're, that's right, that's way above my paygrade is measuring someone's blood pH and blood chemistry and tinkering with it and injecting different solutions into them.

    Margaret And so this sounds like these are problems related to heat but the—but dehydration and overhydration are like more‚less directly the problems that we're like specifically worried about this coming weekend, because it sounds like it's like more athletes and things, like people who, like, are fucking with things in that way? Or is this, like, are a lot of the people who are potentially going to die because of a massive heatwave, is it mostly heatstroke or is it also dehydration and over hydration?

    Guy Yeah, so in—globally in heat waves the largest deaths are heatstroke related, or heat stress related, and largely in in populations over 60 years of age just because as we age, our bodies just become less adept at thermo regulating, and we're having a hard time adapting the stress.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy Certainly people who are really worried about the heat and think that the solution is to drink a lot, a lot, a lot of water all day long are putting themselves in danger of hyponatremia. And certainly as someone who's working outside and sweating a lot and doesn't have access to water, or maybe they're houseless and don't have shelter and don't have a place to stay cool and don't have good access to clean water quickly could see dehydration set in and be exacerbated by the heat. The major killers, statistically, are heatstroke.

    Margaret Okay. What—what should someone who's listening to this who is experiencing homelessness or someone who cares about people who are do besides, like, I mean, I guess, like, pressure cities into having cooling areas, invite people if you have AC, like, inviting people in? You know, like, or are there, like, specific—yeah, what would you suggest?

    Guy Yeah, so there's like, there's a couple—I mean, those are both really important and great and we should do that. A couple of other things that that we can do, that anyone can do, to to adapt to heat better, right, maintaining good hydration, but not too much. Salty snacks, all of these things will help with our water balance. Staying in the shade as much as possible and then trying to have a water source, even if it's just spray bottle and like the ability to spray yourself down. Right, spray your face down, spray your clothes down with a little, like, $1 spray bottle you get from the dollar store and you fill up and you can just spritz yourself and evaporate and that will cool you down. Right, damp bandanas around the neck, on the head, even getting your clothes soaking wet in this more dry environment will work because all the evaporation of those clothes—that clothing is going to cool your body quite a bit. Another thing that we see in urban environments is usually with all of the pavement and the asphalt and the buildings and the lack of tree cover, we'll see temperatures that are 10 to 15 degrees higher in urban centers than they are in surrounding forests or green areas. And so thinking about, is it possible to get to a park, is it possible to get to a place with trees that has shade and the plants are through evapotranspiration are helping to cool the area a little more and they're absorbing less heat than these big blocks of concrete that just absorb solar energy and radiate it back out at you? Those will make a big difference. And then thinking about—thinking about kind of the mechanisms by which we gain heat and we lose heat. And so certainly radiation from the sun would heat us up really fast and we can partially mitigate that by wearing light colored clothes that covers all of your skin. So loose fitting long t-shirt, long pants, a big hat, you're actually going to be staying cooler in clothes like that then you will be in shorts and a t-shirt.

    Margaret Does humidity affect that? I have this like general conception that, like, dry heat places are all about cover yourself from the sun, giving yourself shade through clothes is important, whereas like more humid places, more tropical places, it seems like people tend to go with like just less clothes—maybe to like really make it as easy as possible to do the little bit of evaporative cooling they can do. Or am I like just totally off base about this?

    Guy No, no, I think that that seems accurate to me. I think that the more humid it becomes, the more difficult it is to stay cool and the less the problem is, like, direct solar radiation and more the problem is just that ambient air temperature. All of the moisture hanging out in that air that's holding onto heat and then transferring it to you. I've been lucky to spend—well, I grew up in Indiana which was very humid—but I've been lucky to spend most of my life in places with fairly dry heat, which I much prefer.

    Margaret Yeah, like, I'm just coming at this, like, entirely from this, you know, we refer to it as like, oh, it's just the Baltimore soup, you know, in August or whatever. Okay, um, yeah, a lot of people talked about a lot of different like water methods of cooling—besides, I mean, obviously the, like, get into an air conditioning building is, like, the most bulletproof means or whatever, right? But, um, like, people talk about, like, what, like sleeping on intentionally wet sheets, like spraying your—like wearing wet socks, or even damn clothes when you're trying to sleep. One person was talking about, like, wet the bottom of your curtains and leave the window open so that it, like, wicks up the water and then it evaporates. So just basically doing anything that you can to encourage evaporative cooling?

    Guy Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that's the kind of the biggest thing. Um, and right, it depends on if you're trying to cool yourself or your house, less energy to cool yourself. Oftentimes, here in the northwest, it's actually more effective to, as soon as the temperature starts climbing in the morning, close all the windows, trap all the cool air from the night in the house, and rely on your insulation rather than thinking that a cross breeze from outside 100 degree temperature is going to cool your house. But that only goes so far. And so there's also the swamp cooler method, which doesn't work in humid places for the same reason. But you can make kind of DIY swamp coolers by putting a wet sheet over a box fan and then blowing the air through that wet sheet.

    Margaret Okay. That kind of answers one of the questions that someone asked, which is like, you know, obviously whenever bad things happen, only one bad thing happens at a time. But let's say for some weird reason, a bunch of dry heat might cause fire. And, you know, obviously, the West Coast has been blanketed in smoke for the past several years. And, like, so if smoke it means you got to keep your window shut. You're saying then you just like basically focus on air movement within the house with fans and like personal cooling through dehydration?

    Guy Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Through evaporation. Yeah, like I would—so when there's, when it's not smoke season, which it thankfully is not yet, although I think it'll be coming earlier this year based on our temperatures. When it's not smoke season, I'll open all the windows at night once things cool off, because we do get a big temperature swing here, even in the summer it cools off at night, and close them in the morning and try to capture some of that cold air during the night. During smoke season, just keep it all closed. Stay inside and focus on that evaporative cooling if you need to. So get yourself wet, sit in front of a fan. If you don't have electricity, right, people have been keeping themselves cool with fans for 1000s of years before electricity. Big hand fans are really quite effective at moving a lot of air quickly without much exertion.

    Margaret Okay, so the trade off would be worth it of the exertion of physical motion for the like evaporative cooling?

    Guy Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it doesn't take that much work to fan yourself or a fan a friend, as long as you're able to get yourself wet, right? If you're just fanning hot air across yourself, that's not going to do any good.

    Margaret Does that tie into the—one of the questions I got that I just, you know, it's like a piece of information that people have that I don't know one way or another, I've never heard of it before. Someone asked if fanning is bad and extreme heat, how do you pull yourself off? It's probably only saying it's like—you're suggesting it's probably only bad if the if you're not causing evaporative cooling, if you're not—if there's no water on you.

    Guy Exactly, yeah. And I looked that one up because I had actually never heard that before. And it actually is—I think it's a CDC—it's some government guideline. I think it's from the CDC. And it's just really, it's this example of policies and advice being written in a way that's totally robbed of context and is more confusing to people than not, which often is the case. If you're just moving hot air across someone, that definitely will be worse because air—there's some amount of convection, right. But we also create a little bubble around ourselves—and this happens all the time—a little bubble of temperature of air close to our skin that's close to our skin temperature. And so it will be slightly cooler than 108 degrees outside if we're effectively sweating and evaporating some, it'll be slightly warmer in cold temperatures. And if that air is not being disturbed, then it'll help us thermoregulate just a little bit. And if we're moving really hot air across that, then that'll heat us up faster in the same way that sticking your hand or your foot in an ice cold stream or moving water, you're gonna get a lot colder than sticking that foot in the same temperature water that's not moving. Build up a little insulated layer. But that only—but you just fix the problem by adding water and then it's not a problem anymore, because evaporation is much more powerful at cooling.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy Yeah.

    Margaret So if people don't have much access to water, basically it's, like, get access to water. If you can't get access to air conditioning, you just need access to water. Is that kind of pretty much the deal?

    Guy Yeah. I think that's the the big thing. And so it's, certainly we should have water to drink, maintain good hydration, but having water that you can use to cool yourself down—whether that's a stream or a river or a lake, or whether that's just carrying some extra water with you, know that you don't need it to drink so you can use it to wet your clothes down.

    Margaret And would Gatorade be more effective for this? Like it has electrolytes in it. And I know electrolytes are good when it's hot out.

    Guy Um, for cooling yourself down?

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy No, no.

    Margaret Oh interesting.

    Guy The only good thing Gatorade is for is, yeah, lots of sugar.

    Margaret You're gonna fuck up my chance for a sponsorship.

    Guy Yeah Gatorade actually got us into this whole bind with hyponatremia because they sponsored sports medicine conferences from the 90s to the early 2000s and all the studies came out saying how important hydration was and we realized that people are dying all over the place because they're drinking too much Gatorade.

    Margaret Oh my god, it's literally the plot of Idiocracy. Great, cool. That makes me feel really good about the world. Fuck. Okay. Oh, do you know much about, like, dealing with pets? Like, I guess, like what, like most animals don't sweat? Are we the only animals that sweat? Like, what's the deal with keeping pets cool?

    Guy Yeah, I don't know as much about pets. Dogs sweat, but only through their feet. They do sweat some but they just don't—right, yhey're mostly covered in hair so they're not going to as effectively be able to cool themselves down. Cats are the same. I don't know about other animals. But, right, you're not gonna sweat if you're covered in hair because it won't be effective at all.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy And so for pets, it's really, I mean a lot of it is the same. Stay inside, stay in cool, shady areas, right? Get some damp clothes or damp bandana or something on them. We could, like, wet down a sheet or a bed, like a dog bed, ust get it damp and put that on the floor for them to sleep on. I've heard of people putting a couple ice cubes in water bowls. I don't know whether that is actually effective at cooling your dog down, but they probably like it. And then avoiding exertion the same way. Yeah.

    Margaret Okay. Well and okay with the cold water and maybe it doesn't help but it it tastes better to them or something, like, people have questions. I have questions. I don't know enough about this. Like it seems like, would be drinking like ice cold water kind of shock your system? Like if you're—even if, like, someone has heat exhaustion or god forbid heatstroke and you don't have access to a hospital or whatever. Is it, like, is there an ideal temperature? Do you only want it a little bit colder than their body? Or is it like, we would put them on a fucking glacier if you could?

    Guy Yeah, absolutely. The big problem with heatstroke is someone's brain is cooking. And so we want to stop the cooking as quickly as possible. And we do that by putting them in cold water. And there's just not much evidence that putting someone in cold water from an overheated position does any kind of damage to them. We're not going to make someone hypothermic with 30 minutes in cold water when they've been overheated. We're not gonna—we're—yeah, they might gasp a little bit. When we get that cold water on our skin we have an involuntary gasp reflex and then we adjust to the water temperature, but it's not going to do any damage. And same with drinking ice water. The temperature of the water doesn't make a huge difference in changing the temperature of our bodies. But it's not like drinking ice water will cool us faster than drinking warm water. But I know that I'm more likely to drink water when it's hot out if the water is cold and refreshing, and so—

    Margaret Right.

    Guy So the way to stay adequately hydrated, ice water is great. You can stick around your forehead and call yourself down.

    Margaret Yeah, okay, so—like sticky—so like getting the ice water on you is probably more important than getting ice water in you in terms of—

    Guy Yeah, if you only have enough. Yeah, but I mean, I just, you know, you get that big glass of ice water and it's condensing on the outside and outside is super cold. Yeah. You could hold on to it and stick that jar on your forehead until you—til you've drink it.

    Margaret Okay. So I'm not gonna get the story about dehydration out of you?

    Guy Uh, well, I'm trying to think of what our friend would be talking about. The story that I do have is—and this is just more of a general warning story about tunnel vision and people who are convinced that they're right about something, and they don't look at all the facts. But I was, several years ago, I was guiding in the Grand Canyon and I ran into a couple of people who were in fairly substantial distress. And they were a day behind their schedule, they'd gone about four miles, maybe five miles in about 24 hours. And they were convinced that—there was only one person who is really having trouble. And he was nauseous, he didn't feel good, little unsteady on his feet, really classic, pale, kind of pale, clammy skin, really classic heat exhaustion symptoms. And his friend who claimed to be a guide with him was convinced that he had altitude illness because he was nauseous and had a headache and because the rim of the Grand Canyon is 7000 feet, which is not actually very high as far as altitude illness goes. But they were convinced that they had altitude illness and so they were descending into the canyon where it got hotter. And the only solution, they thought, was to keep going down because if they dropped an elevation, then they'd fix the altitude illness problem.

    Margaret Okay.

    Guy And so I tried to talk to them and convince them that it wasn't altitude illness and that, in fact, it was extremely hot and they weren't a climatized to the heat, because it was springtime and they had just come from the Midwest where it was 40 degrees outside and now it was 100 degrees in the canyon. And they wouldn't listen to me. And I ended up running into a couple paramedics on the trail who were hiking behind me and caught up and overtook me. And they had also encountered this person after I did, stopped them, did a full assessment, knew it was heat exhaustion, tried to convince the people to stop and rest and turn around. But they weren't having any of it. They were convinced that it was altitude illness. I ran into a ranger later on who also tried to convince them to turn around. And I don't know what happened to them. He clearly didn't die because I would have heard about a death in the canyon, but certainly didn't have a good time. And I think the big takeaway there is we, as humans, I think as soon as we think we've identified what a problem is, then we start trying to solve it. And then we ignore all of the other evidence that suggests that could be a different problem. And so I think anytime that you're feeling bad, or your friend is feeling bad, or they're feeling sick, and you think you know what's going on, it's worth stopping and asking yourselves, especially if they're not getting any better.

    Margaret Mm hmm.

    Guy Is it actually this thing? Is it actually dehydration? Maybe it's hyponatremia and I should stop giving this person a water.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy Is it actually altitude illness, or maybe it's really hot out and you feel crappy and you should be in the shade and lie down and rest and fan you until you feel better instead of trying to rush down to drop in elevation and, yeah.

    Margaret If you had a whole group of people, we have five people, and they're all exposed to the exact same—you know, you're all hiking together, roughly the same amount of exertion, etc. Is everyone gonna get heatstroke at the same time? Or is it like fairly personal about that?

    Guy There's a pretty wide range in human tolerance for heat and exertion. So yeah, it can be all over the place. I would say that, right, the hotter it gets, the higher the probability of heat exhaustion or heat stroke is. But it's, but human bodies are really amazing and they're really adaptable, right? We think of 105 degree internal temperature, like you stick a thermometer in someone's mouth, when it read the 105 we say, medicine says that heat stroke. Their brain's dying. But there are also some ultra marathon athletes who run in really hot weather who have recorded internal temps of 105. And they're totally fine.

    Margaret God, okay.

    Guy And that's probably because they've acclimated to that over a long time and they've actually been able to change their physiology and what their bodies used to. So people, people have really different responses. And so we should be looking at, how are people doing? And asking our friends and looking for these little telltale signs. Oh, yeah, this person's a little grumpier than usual and they're kind of ornery, and they look a little pale, and they're kind of slower to respond. We should check in, how are you doing? How are you feeling? Rather than thinking that the objective conditions are what's going to dictate when, yeah. Yeah.

    Margaret Okay. Yeah, that kind of answers—or it starts to answer one of the questions that a couple people asked which is, like, basically, what do you do if you're someone who just hates heat? Right? Like I definitely have friends who like—they—you know, I'm always—I don't hate heat the same way I hate being cold, you know? You think that's, like, just like a lifetime acclamation and, like, basically, the answer is slowly acclimatize rather than suddenly have a—what's it called, like a heat hell, a heat bulb? I dunno, it's some horrible name for what's happening to you all? Don't have the bad thing happen.

    Guy Is it "heat dome"? They keep inventing new names for weather phenomena that have actually been around forever. You know, not that this particular heat wave has been around forever. It's certainly new. But I just think about the, like, Arctic bomb polar vortex. Now that we're finally all paying attention to the weather.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy With all these new terms about it instead of, I don't know, stopping emitting carbon and planting a lot of trees.

    Margaret That'd be a lot of work.

    Guy Yeah, it'd be a lot of work. It's a lot easier to name all the problems and make some add revenue off of driving clicks to your website. But I digress. Yeah, some people don't like heat. I think that as a person who doesn't like heat and who also guided in the desert for many years, I think the acclimatising makes a big difference. And slowly, right, go to a new environment—if you're not being confronted by one of these heat waves—you go to a different environment, and you don't do your normal level of exertion. You just rest and you hang out and you expose yourself to the temperature, and then you go and you cool off. And then you do it again. And then you do it again. And you'll become more used to that, and especially if you're using other techniques to keep yourself cool. It's interesting—I think that I get grumpier with heat here in the Pacific Northwest than I ever did when I was guiding in the desert. And I think it was—I think a lot of it was acclimatising. And having an orientation of, I know I'm in a hot place here and so I need to change my behavior and I need to change how I'm managing my body so that I can stay cool. Whereas it gets hot right here and I think, I should just be able to do all the things I can normally do. And now I feel terrible. And I'm mad at everyone just because I'm too hot.

    Margaret Yeah. So it's like—maybe part of the whole answer is like actually change your pattern of behavior. Which actually ties into both the "we're all gonna die because of global warming if we don't do anything," and then also the, like, what you talked about, about the person who was, you know, walking further and further down because they were like, no, no, no, no, it's climate sickness, you know, or whatever—or not climate—altitude sickness. And then like, I know that when I do cognitive behavioral therapy, like, the thing that we have to throw away first is I tell—I tell the therapist, what's wrong and then therapist, it's, like, able to specifically say, "Now I know what isn't wrong." Like, that's your narrative. That's the thing that you, like, have been telling yourself.

    Guy Yeah.

    Margaret And clearly telling yourself this didn't work, so... And, yeah, which we need to do as a society, we need to actually change our patterns in the same way that y'all in the Pacific Northwest should avoid exertion and, as you suggested at the very beginning, work with your coworkers to collectively avoid exertion, you know?

    Guy Yeah. Yeah.

    Margaret Just easier said than done from someone who's a remote worker on the East Coast but... Okay. Oh, sorry—there's one more—people talk—there's like one question left: food, drug, medications to avoid, are caffeine and alcohol like absolutely terrible anathema if you take, like, different, you know, different medications? Is this going to impact the degree to which you're sensitive, and are the things that people can do about that?

    Guy Yeah, um, there's certainly some risk factors. In general, caffeine and alcohol both just don't help the body adapt to any kind of changing environment. And so cold, hot, altitude, all of these things, caffeine and alcohol aren't going to make us feel better. Whether that's a huge risk factor, I'm not convinced. I'm still gonna drink my coffee in the morning, but I'll probably make a cold brew. And, but I'm not going to drink coffee all day, and I'm not going to sit in the sun drinking beer all day. Some other medications—some allergy medications and decongestants have some linkage to just reducing the body's ability to thermoregulate and to cool down. Now, I'm definitely not a doctor. And so if people are taking medication they should look at that medication specifically and look it up and just Google that medication and heat exhaustion or heatstroke and see what—see if there's a contraindication or an extra risk factor there. We'll probably get better information from that than from broad and general statements from the—

    Margaret Wait I thought this podcast is—this past guest is your doc—not just your doctor, but everyone is listening.

    Guy Yes.

    Margaret We are both doctors. I thought that was the basis of... okay. Okay, um, makes sense. Do you have any, like, final thoughts? Like things about, like, you know, how are you feeling about this whole thing? Or, you know, things that we missed talking about all of this?

    Guy Yeah, no, I really enjoyed this conversation. I think we hit, like, we had a lot of topics. I can kind of nerd out about physiology and bodies and illnesses for a while. So it's been fun to do this with heat. I'm going to make a weird plug, which is, I really believe in umbrellas in the summer for sun protextion. So like, silver, reflective, or light-colored umbrellas, just thinking of other prevention techniques. So you can kind of carry your portable shade with you, and thinking particularly about houseless people people who can't access cool areas. Get a cheap, bright colored umbrella, and you've got your own shade, and it'll help. So I just wanted to throw that one in there. I hiked with an umbrella in the Grand Canyon all the time.

    Margaret And so goth. I'm really excited about that. Well you said bright colored. But you know...

    Guy Mine was silver. It was nice and reflective. But really anything that will reflect rather than absorb heat.

    Margaret Could you tape an emergency blanket to on or something?

    Guy Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah. And then—and then beyond that, I just think that it's going to be hot here this week. People up here are, I think, probably simultaneously freaking out more than they need to and not enough. By which I mean, a couple of days of extreme heat are going to be challenging for people and we should take care of each other and look out for marginalized and vulnerable people. But we're probably not going to see a lot of deaths, huge, huge problems with a short heatwave like this. However, we should be freaking out about the fact that it's 108 degrees in the Pacific Northwest in June. And this is really, like, where we are headed as a planet. And so we need to be thinking and adapting right now and thinking about how can we—first of all, right, stop emitting carbon and lock as much carbon as possible in the ground. And second of all, how can we change our environments and our behaviors to live in a hotter world? And working 40 hours a week in an urban concrete metropolis is not going to be tenable a couple decades from now when—right, think about the—think about Texas, right? And last summer they got that big cold wave and then they last electricity and we had all these deaths because people could no longer to heat their homes. And we're gonna see the same thing with heat waves as well, where we have brownouts and blackouts, because there's too much electrical demand with the air conditioners running. And so we need to be thinking about, how can we keep ourselves cool without relying on air conditioning? How can we change our behaviors and our patterns to do that? And how can we plant a shit ton of trees?

    Margaret Yeah.

    Guy Because really, not only because they fix carbon, but because trees cool the environment down, the local environment. They, right, evaporation is a major cooling effect. And trees of evapotranspire huge amounts of moisture when they're photosynthesizing. And all that moisture cools an area down. And so how can we convert these giant, awful concrete metropolises into beautiful forest gardens where we can survive and have food to eat. And also so that we can cool the areas where people are concentrated down. We, right, we see this with just disparities in heat related deaths across the country, where people who are lower income or marginalized or of color live in areas that are more paved and have less access to green space, and they get hotter. And they're more exposed to environmental extremes. So yeah. We should—we should take care of each other in the coming week and stay cool. And we should plant a lot of trees and stop trying to pretend we can continue living as normal when it's not normal anymore.

    Margaret I like that because it covers—you know, most this podcast is about what most of this episode has been about, like what to do in the very immediate short term, right, to solve this problem, or make it through this problem. But the solutions like absolutely have to be long term and ongoing. And I like that you tied that into that. Um, do you have—do you have anything that you want to, like, shout out, like anything you want to plug, any—I don't know whether your medic trainings are public or if people want to, like, follow you do you do social media stuff? Anything?

    Guy No, not really. I'm pretty pretty nonexistent on the internet. Don't really have any social media. But yeah, we do street medic trainings on and off in the Pacific Northwest, we haven't done one in a while. Hopefully will again. I will plug, actually, because I'm in the process of moving up all the way to the peninsula. And there's an amazing new community project forming in Quilcene. People bought an old theater there a couple of years ago, the Gray Coast Guild Hall. They're just starting some big fundraising campaigns right now to replace the roof and do a bunch of infrastructure upgrades so that it can be a community gathering space and a resource, and hopefully a place that people who are all thinking about how do we how do we actually live together throughout this climate changing world in the long term can encounter each other. And so, Great Coast Guild Hall could definitely use some dollars if you Google that or look it up they have a Patreon. I don't know if they've launched their big Kickstarter fundraiser yet. But yeah.

    Margaret Yeah, and one of the reasons I'm excited about that project is because it's, you know, it's a, it's a social center—will be a social center—and it's like collectively operated, and it's within a pretty small town. And so it's a pretty major percent of that town's, like, social and cultural, like, life or something like that in a kind of really interesting way. Yeah, so it's, I agree, it's absolutely worth supporting. Normally I do this whole, like, separate outro but and so I'm gonna make you stay on the call as I do my outro. So that way, all of my files are in one place so I can edit this as quickly as possible. But thanks, everyone, for listening. And if you want to support this podcast, you can do so by supporting currently me on patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. But in the very near future that same Patreon will switch over. You won't have to do anything on your end to support a larger collective effort that's going to be doing more podcasts and more zine publishing, called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. And I'm very excited about moving to a more collective structure. It makes—just, you know, many hands make light work as long as many hands don't make everyone grouchy and get in each other's way. And in particular—and also you can tell people about the podcast and that's the main way—and you can, you can thank us by telling people about it. But in particular I want to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana and Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Kat J, The Compoun, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris for making this possible. And, yeah, thanks so much. And I hope everyone is doing as well as they can with everything that happens and stays safe. And it seems like maybe one of the main messages about this is that, well yeah, I guess Guy already said it: you don't have to freak out as bad about this one specific thing, but we need to freak out more about the larger things.

    SPEAKERSMargaretGuy

    MargaretHello, 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. Normally I do this like whole intro thing that I record after the conversation. But this is a special, a special episode that I'm just doing as quickly as quick turnaround as I can because of what's going on in the Pacific Northwest with unprecedented heat. And I want people to have information as soon as possible. So please forgive audio quality. on my end, I'm recording this from the best place I had access to internet, which is right next to one of the busiest intersections in all of the tiny town of Asheville, North Carolina. But anyway, this podcast is a proud member of the channel zero network of anarchist podcasts. And normally I put in a jingle here, but I'm not going to instead, you should just go to channel zero network. I don't even know the website, you just Google it. I mean, come on, who's actually going to type in URL and you can just type things into the search bar. Go check out the channel zero network, there's a ton of shows that might interest you. Okay, so would you like to introduce yourself with your name and your pronouns? And then a bit of your background as relates to heat related illnesses?

    GuyYeah, thank you. Thanks for having me on. My name is Guy, I use he him pronouns. I live up in the Pacific Northwest on the Olympic Peninsula. And my background related to this, I have been a wilderness educator and backpacking guide for many years, especially working down in the Grand Canyon for several years. So a lot of exposure to heat there. And I also instruct wilderness medicine courses. And so I teach and think about bodies and how bodies adapt to stress, particularly heat stress in this context. Yeah,

    Margaretthat's me. Hurray. I'm so glad that your skill set is about to become very useful away from the Grand Canyon in the Olympic Peninsula. The rain forest that I believe is not is it? Is it normal for you all to have 109 degree weather? Is that abnormal?

    GuyThat is definitely abnormal. Yeah. We sometimes will will cross 100 or triple digits over 100 for one or two days in the summer, usually in late July or August. I cannot remember a time when we hit 108 degrees, and certainly not in late June. It is pretty hot.

    MargaretYeah, I've I'm I'm from the Mid Atlantic. And now I live in the south on the east coast. And I've The only time I've been in. I mean, I've been in triple digits. I don't think it ever got hotter than 103 104 the whole time I was growing up. And only time I've been in 110 degree weather was in Death Valley. So I'm worried about you all. So that's why I'm I don't Yeah, we're going to talk at a later point with someone that you co teach with about more wilderness first aid. But it seems like wilderness first aid is suddenly might become urban first aid in a way that we're not. I'm not really used to and maybe you're not really used to. I guess to start with, do you want to talk about? Like, what are the dangers of heat?

    GuyYeah, so I'll preface this by saying a couple of things. The first is the human The human body is actually really adaptable and resilient if it has time to adapt to a changing environment. So people can handle really extreme heat, if they have time, to climatized to it. But if we get these big spikes of heat coming in a place where people aren't used to it, we're jumping from the mid 80s, one week to 108 another week, then that becomes a lot more stressful on body. And then add on to that right up here in the Pacific Northwest as a culture as a society we're not adapted to experience. Most people's houses aren't particularly well insulated, because in general, it's a fairly temperate climate. So there's just not the either the time to adapt on a physiological level or to adapt our environment to really manage and handle this heat. So that said, a few different things happen when we we get too hot, so our body, right we we sweat, we produce sweat and that's the primary way that we cool ourselves off and evaporation is is actually a very effective cooling mechanism. If we have an up sweat, and particularly if there's a breeze that is able to allow that evaporation to to continue to cools off, as our body gets too hot, and we start to lose our ability to thermo regulate, we end up seeing a lot of different side effects. And so we used to think of this really clear progression from what we call heat exhaustion, heat stroke. And now it seems more like there's just a lot of different clusters of symptoms that appear when people get too hot. So things like nausea, vomiting, feeling really tired, feeling a little bit disoriented, feeling irritable, some muscle cramps, particularly related to exercise, sweating, and excessive sweating, but then also maybe some more like chills or pale, pale skin, clammy feeling, as our body just doesn't tolerate the heat extremes very well. And all the symptoms, all those symptoms are unpleasant, but fine. And the real danger is when our internal temperature starts to cross 104 or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. And at that point, our brain actually starts cooking. And so we see our mental process change, we don't think as clearly our personality changes, and we're actually doing long term damage to our brains, and they won't survive that for very long.

    MargaretWhen you say very long, like what are you talking about there, like five minutes an hour,

    Guyoh, no, definitely in the in the hours realm. But the longer that persists, the more damage the more permanent damage can be done to our to our brain and to our bodies. Depends on the heat extreme. But so and then once we lose that, once we start losing that ability to thermo regulate altogether, instead of maintaining a temperature that's elevated, but not too high, we just kind of start to run away, and we can't cool off at all. And then and then we need help from from other people, we need a change of environment, we need to be cooled down really, really quickly.

    MargaretOne of the I asked, asked social media right before this interview, like corner what what advice people had and also what questions people had. And the thing that you just talked about, about how we used to see it as heat exhaustion versus heatstroke is very different. That is one of the things that most people were bringing up is like, make sure you know the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke with the idea, I guess the prevailing knowledge and what I had known prior to five minutes ago, when you said otherwise, would be that heat exhaustion is the like, Oh, this fucking sucks. And I should probably get somewhere cold real quick. And maybe someone can help me get somewhere. Not real cold, but like colder real quick. Versus heat stroke is like, you know, call paramedic, like get taken to the emergency room or whatever, because you're about to die or something. Right. And you're saying that the line between these two is, is not only not a clear line, but it's not even necessarily a specific progression as much as like, you are just different clusters. Can you tell me more about that?

    GuyYeah. So heat stroke, heat stroke is really clear. And maybe that I misspoke. A little bit there.

    MargaretI might have misheard you. Yeah, yeah,

    Guyso so heat stroke is very clear. That's when our internal temperatures reached 104 105 are the proteins that our brains start denaturing we start doing we start getting cell death in our brains, and permanent damage. And the easiest way to recognize that in someone is a change in their personality, or change in their thought process and see someone who was previously grumpy and maybe a little irritable, or maybe a little hot, or maybe they were just fine. Now they're saying or doing things that don't make any sense. And that's because their brain is not functioning properly anymore. So heatstroke is a is pretty clearly delineated. The distinction is that there's not necessarily a progression from one to the next you don't necessarily get this long warning sign of heat exhaustion and you're feeling bad and then you feel worse, and then you feel worse, and then it's heatstroke. That happens in some people. But another people it can just go directly to heatstroke without this preliminary experience of feeling a little bit crappy and under the weather and nauseous and faint.

    MargaretOkay. So what do you do in each of these situations? Whether you're alone, or whether you're with someone who's experiencing these symptoms, like what do you do for someone who's suffering from heat exhaustion symptoms? versus heatstroke?

    GuyYeah, so, so in both cases, the problem is that someone is too hot and so the solution is to cool them down. So heat exhaustion This cluster of nausea, muscle cramps, I just don't feel good fatigue, maybe some vomiting, that person wants to be cooled down. So we should get into the shade, we should try to move to a cooler environment change clothes. But we're not necessarily we have time to do that heat stroke, as soon as we see that change in personality, or mentation, we want to cool that person down as quickly as possible. And so the fastest way generally to cool someone down is through some amount of Coldwater immersion. So, throw them into like, throw them in a leg, but probably not throw them because if they have this altered mental status, they can't think as well, we're worried about their ability to write but get them in, get them in running water, get as much of their body in the water as we can while protecting their airway, to cool them down quickly. And if we don't have a big body of water, we can put them in, it's nice and cool, the next best thing is get them as wet as we can, and then fan them because that sort of cooling consumes a huge amount of energy, which then cools the body fairly quickly. So if you think about you get your hands wet, they don't feel that cold, and then you get a breeze moving across your cold hands or your clothes are wet, you get cold really fast, because evaporation takes more energy, then I'm simply being immersed in water.

    MargaretOkay, how does, um, how does being in a human environment, impact evaporative cooling and dealing with this sort of crisis?

    GuyYeah, humidity is a real challenge here. And that's the thing that we're fortunate about here in the Pacific Northwest, where summers are usually pretty dry. Okay. But the the more humid the air gets, the less effective evaporative cooling will be. And that means both that just getting someone wet and fanning them won't work as well. But it also means that our body's natural mechanism for cooling, which is sweat also doesn't work as well. And so there's this concept of the wet bulb temperature, which is rather than looking at what is the temperature on the thermometer to put a thermometer inside a bulb and you cover it with a damp cloth. Now they have mean fancier tools to do this now, but the principle is the same. covering a soaking wet cloth. And then they measure what is the temperature that that thermometer reads.

    MargaretWhen you have a bowl or a bulb. So yep, wet bulb temperature bulb, oh, you get the Oh, you put it inside a light bulb is that it?

    Guyany any bulb any any any spiracle object, right? It's covered in a damp cloth. Okay? If the humidity is lower than 100%, the temperature that that thermometer reads is going to be lower than lower than the air temperature, right, because there's some amount of evaporation which is cooling the air inside.

    MargaretInteresting,

    Guyokay. And so this is a way for us to understand what the actual threat of a any particular temperature is. Because once we get to 100% humidity, the temperature inside that bulb is going to be exactly the same as it is outside because there's no longer any evaporation occurring and no longer any cooling. And the challenge there. And so this is this is how wet bulb temperatures are measured. You can look up tables that will tell you relative humidity and temperature and you can find the wet bulb temperature at that intersection. And once we hit about 90 degrees at 100% humidity, or a 90 degree wet bulb temperature, which we could get with either higher higher temperature and lower humidity or lower temperature and higher humidity. Once that wet bulb temperature hits about 90 degrees, humans can no longer effectively function in any kind of meaningful physical exertion outside. Okay, and even completely at rest. Without any exertion. People will start to die within hours once you hit about 95 degrees. wet bulb temperature,

    Margaretwhich is what it would be at like 100% humidity if it was 95 degrees out. Exactly. Yeah. As someone who the inside of my house is regularly 90 to 95% humidity during the summer. I know I'm not supposed to be worried about myself today. Still mostly worried about y'all. But it actually is changing a little bit my my sense of the heat that y'all are facing. Yeah. What I mean okay, so if it's like, like, do you have a sense of like when they're like it's gonna be 109 degrees 111 degrees 116 degrees in business. cific Northwest this weekend, you know, or maybe you're listening to this three weeks later, I don't know, whatever. But do you have a sense of like, what kind of wet bulb temperature that is likely to be for people?

    GuyYeah, so so our humidity usually here in the summer ranges between like 20 and 40%, particularly high. And so I ran a couple of numbers before this show, and who was looking like, this Sunday, when we're supposed to hit about 108 degrees during the peak of the day, that'll probably equate to something around a 75 or 80 degree wet bulb temperature, which doesn't sound that hot, but actually is is pretty darn hot and really hard for the body to tolerate.

    MargaretAnd so what that means is not everyone is fine, it means that the means by which we can fight this with like, cold water immersion, and fanning and things like that actually have a chance of working is what you're saying.

    GuyExactly in in places with low humidity, water, and evaporation works really well to pull you down. The problem with this, and this is what a lot of climate scientists have been warning about for a long time is that the tropical parts of the world, as we start to get increases in temperature, which are already close to 100% humidity, during that season, we'll get so hot that there's no effective way to cool down. And then we'll see a lot a lot a lot of heat related deaths, because these parts of the world also don't have air conditioning. cooling is completely ineffective. And so in some ways we're lucky up here so far, because our summers are dry.

    MargaretYeah, and there's, I mean, a lot of people listening don't have access to air conditioning. But I, but there's there might be like, you know, I know that some cities are setting up cooling centers and things like that. So there is some access to air conditioning in the northwest, okay. So when you talk about like not exerting yourself and things like that, like you're basically saying, like, basically, because when you exert yourself, your body heats up, and that's bad. So it's like, one of the main things people should do is like, chill the fuck out and like, not exert themselves as much as possible.

    GuyYeah, exactly. That's one of the best things that we can do is write we stay out of the sun, as much as possible, try to stay as cool as possible. And just don't do. Don't exert yourself, don't do physical labor. Don't go for runs, try to get out of your job if your job involves heavy, heavy physical labor during these hot temperatures or organized with your other workers, because it's literally putting putting your life at risk. Yeah. To be working in these conditions.

    MargaretYeah, okay. And then. So if this kind of not fully covers, but but gets at the idea behind like heat exhaustion, heat stroke. The other the other thing that at least is on my radar to worry about as relates to intense heat is dehydration. And that's kind of a separate threat. Right? Yeah. Can you talk about dehydration, also, our mutual friends as you have a good story about dehydration? Yeah,

    GuyI have a lot of rants that I could go on about dehydration. And it's it's more evil twin overhydration, also known as hyponatremia. So, so, hydration is important, our bodies function better when we're well hydrated. But luckily, our bodies also have this amazing built in mechanism to help us maintain adequate hydration, which is our sense of thirst. And generally, people should drink when they're thirsty, and they should drink a little bit more if they're exercising or if they're in hot weather. And if you're well hydrated, then you will, you will tolerate heat better and you will be more able to adapt. That said, hydration doesn't prevent heat exhaustion and hydrating doesn't fix heat exhaustion or heatstroke either. The problem is, once you've hit that point, the problem was just that you're too hot and you need to cool down. So it's a separate problem. Exactly. They go hand in hand and do tend to sweat more or lose more fluids in hot weather and need to replace them. The place where people get into trouble. We have this cultural myth of dehydration as the big killer. And like you've probably heard people say hydrate or die and there's all these stories about people who athletes who didn't drink enough water and they died. And that's actually not really the case. Most people stay hydrated enough, most of the time, they are getting dehydrated and they have access to water and then don't have vomiting or diarrhea that's sucking water out of them, they can maintain adequate hydration pretty decently the problem, the area that we actually see a lot more deaths, and a lot more severe illness is the opposite. This this problem over hydration. And so for the last couple decades until well, like through the 90s and early 2000s, there was a lot of rhetoric in sports medicine, about the importance of hydration, and you have to hydrate And drink, drink, drink, and you have to drink Gatorade, and you have to drink electrolytes. Because if you don't, then you're gonna die of dehydration. And actually, what we were doing was people were drinking too much water. And that changes the electrolyte balance in our bodies, and it ends up making our cells swell up. And we started getting swelling in the brain that really rapidly fatal and so most, most of the exercise related deaths like ultra marathoners hikers that we used to think were linked to dehydration. Most of those deaths are actually linked to called hyponatremia. Not enough salt. But the real problem is that you've drunk too much water and you've diluted your salt.

    MargaretOh, God, so we're telling people exactly the wrong thing to do. I mean, like all of those other hikers died, so you better drink more water?

    GuyYeah, so you're allowed to drink a lot. But when people get these benchmarks, and they hear like, Oh, I should drink, I should drink a liter of water an hour rest drink two liters of water an hour, I should drink a Gatorade at every stop in this race. People are basing their hydration on some outside metric rather than their own body's sense of whether they need fluid or not. Then Then we we tend to see hyponatremia which is much more deadly and much harder to treat than dehydration. So like many other things that Western medicine has done, we have invented a problem where there used to be no, because humans generally are good at knowing what their bodies need and taking care of them.

    MargaretYeah. Okay. And like, like, I've never drank electrolytes on purpose in my life. Right? Like, I mean, I drink emergency in the morning, but I think I do it for like vitamins, which might also be bullshit, but I don't know. Um, and people are always like, talking about the importance of drinking electrolytes. And, I mean, this obviously sounds like it ties into it, like, do you avoid hype? hype bone night? ceria I was gonna just avoid pronouncing that actually. But I failed at that. Do you avoid that better? If you are also drinking electrolytes and like eating salty snacks and things like that? Is there like? Like, how, how important are like our electrolytes and all this?

    GuyUm, so the the answer is twofold. Like many things, so electrolytes are important. We should have salty snacks. And our body needs electrolytes to function. Well. That said, there's just no correlation between drinking electrolyte solutions, and a lower onset of hyponatremia. There's plenty of extreme athletes, ultra marathoners and hot places who are drinking mostly electrolyte solutions. And the real the real risk factor is just the volume of fluid and formed the volume of fluid drunk. So if people like electrolyte drinks, they should drink them. I drink them sometimes. And it makes me feel better, I think. Yeah, but to prevent hyponatremia and we shouldn't think that we're fixing the problem of low electrolytes by drinking electrolyte drinks, because what we're actually doing is just adding too much more fluid to a system that's already over hydrated. Okay,

    Margaretso just trust your body and drink is this like how like, one of the main things you learn like street medic stuff? Is that just water for everything? Like, you know, it's like chemical weapons and you fix it with

    water. Now all these great, it's amazing or whatever. So just water and and not too much of it. You should drink a little more, if it's really hot out. salty snacks.

    MargaretYeah. Okay. So if you want to focus on electrolytes, focus on salty snacks instead of Gatorade.

    GuyI mean, you can drink Gatorade, if you like. Sugar and other electrolytes drinks are fine. It's not like they do harm. And if you drink too much of them and you think you're a problem. Yeah. Okay.

    MargaretNow this is I'm really glad to like be like myth. bussed in or whatever. And like getting past that, like stuff, you can quickly Google on the internet, you know? So I have a lot of other questions from people. This is I think everyone's I already said this, everyone's really worried. Um, what um, and actually, we've been talking about this a lot. We've definitely been talking about things primarily from the point of view of like, not having access to, you know, air conditioning and things like that, right. Oh, actually, before we leave dehydration, what do you do about it? What do you do if both where there is a doctor available and where there isn't a doctor available for both dehydration and the problem that shall not be named? Right? Yeah. hyponatremia overhydration, which is, you call it hyponatremia? And I'll call it over hydration?

    GuyRight? Go? That's perfect. Um, so dehydration, the problem is those not enough water. And so the solution is they should drink some water. Okay, cool. And the way that and the tricky thing here, right, is that we see people and it's hot out, and they've been exercising, and they say they've got a headache. And they feel kind of nauseous, and they don't feel good. And they're kind of grumpy. And we think, oh, you must be dehydrated, I'm going to give you water. It turns out that the symptoms of hyponatremia are pretty much exactly the same as the symptoms of dehydration with a few options. And so we really actually should be talking to our friends talking to the people we're interacting with and asking them some basic questions. How much water Have you been drinking? Hmm, oh, you had two liters this hour, two liters the hour before liter before that you've had six liters all day and you haven't been doing much. That's a lot of water. Probably shouldn't give you more water. So the very the treatment for hyponatremia. And its mild form is just with hold water. A couple of the things that that we could look for an ask about is someone who's over hydrated was hyponatremia is likely going to have pretty clear urine, and they're going to be peeing a lot. They're going to say, Yeah, I just have to pee all the time. And I really got to drink water, it's really important to drink fluid time pee and all the time. That's a good indication to say you should stop drinking water. Okay, until you're no longer peeing all the time. Dehydration, that person wants water. That's the problem is there's not enough and so they should drink some water. And right, we might also inquire about the year and then they could say I haven't been paying very much it's been really dark yellow, it's been smelly. Those are good indications that someone is dehydrated. On the mild side of, of either of these. It just takes time to fix. If you're if you're dehydrated, you should drink water and rest. And if you're over hydrated, you should rest and stop drinking water. Okay, once once it gets more severe, once we see mental status change, someone is no longer behaving like themselves. That just means that their brain is angry because it's not getting what it needs. Either. It's not enough water. In the case of dehydration, or there's there's swelling and pressure building up because of this hyponatremia And in those cases, that person really needs to go to a hospital.

    MargaretOkay, what what would the hospital be doing? And I know I'm not like trying to encourage everyone to do everything by themselves, but I feel like it's like useful to like break open the black box with like medical stuff.

    GuyYeah, so dehydration, dehydration, they're gonna be rehydrating via IV. Oh, that's a thing that we can do in the back country or without access to a hospital. We don't have IVs but we can rehydrate someone gradually just by drinking water and reducing exertion. And as long as they're not continuing to lose fluid either through sweat or through diarrhea or vomiting then we can probably fix that problem hyponatremia is there's unfortunately not much outside of a hospital setting once it's advanced to the stage someone's mental status is changing. There's not much that we can do and this is one of the reasons it's more fatal dehydration and exercise context

    Margaretbecause what if we bloodlet people with leeches

    GuyYeah, we can't do that. They will they end up doing it a hospital is giving someone a lot of sailing intravenously to change the the electrolyte balance of their blood, and we just can't do that quickly or effectively, orally so we can definitely give someone salt. But we should know that if they're if it seems like a severe case of hyponatremia or overhydration that really what they need is a hospital intervention. And when should prioritize getting them to that hospital instead of trying to do it ourselves. Because there's just not much we can do. Unless we're, that's right, that's way above my paygrade is, is measuring someone's blood pH and blood chemistry and tinkering with it and injecting different solutions into them.

    Margaretthem. And so this sounds like it. These are problems related to heat. But the but dehydration and overhydration are like more or less directly the problems that we're like specifically worried about this coming weekend, because it sounds like it's like more athletes and things like people who like are fighting can with things in that way? Or is this like, are a lot of the people who are potentially going to die because of a massive heatwave? Is it mostly heatstroke or is it also dehydration and over hydration?

    GuyYeah, so so in globally in heat waves, the largest deaths are heat stroke related, or heat stress related and largely in in populations over 60 years of age on this because as, as we age, our bodies just become less adept at thermo regulating, and we're having a hard time adapting the stress. Okay. Certainly, people who are really worried about the heat and think that the solution is to drink a lot, a lot, a lot of water all day long, everybody, a danger of hyponatremia. And certainly as someone who's working outside and sweating a lot and doesn't have access to water, or maybe they're houseless and don't have shelter, and don't have a place to stay cool and don't have good access to clean water. I think we could see dehydration set in and be exacerbated by the heat. The major killers, statistically, are heatstroke. Okay.

    MargaretWhat? What should someone who's listening to this who is experiencing homelessness or someone who cares about people who are do besides like, I mean, I guess like, pressure cities into having cooling areas, invite people, if you have AC, like, inviting people in? You know, like, or are there like, specific? Yeah, what would you suggest?

    GuyYeah, so there's like, there's a couple, I mean, those are both really important and great. And we should do that. A couple of other things that that we can do, that anyone can do to to adapt to heat better. Right, maintaining good hydration, but not too much salty snacks, all of these things will help with our water balance. Staying in the shade as much as possible, and then trying to have a water source, even if it's just spray bottle and like the ability to spray yourself down. Right, spray your face down, spray your clothes down with a little like $1 spray bottle you get from the dollar store and you fill up and you can just spritz yourself and evaporate and that will pull you down. Right damp bandanas around the neck. On the head, even getting your clothes soaking wet in this more dry environment will work. Because all the evaporation of those clothes, that clothing is going to cool your body quite a bit. Another thing that we see in urban environments is usually with all of the pavement and asphalt and the buildings and the lack of tree cover. We'll see temperatures that are 10 to 15 degrees higher in urban centers than they are in surrounding forests or green areas. And so thinking about is it possible to get to a park is it possible to get to a place with trees that has shade and the plants are through evapo transpiration are helping to cool the area a little more and they're absorbing less heat than these big blocks of concrete that just absorb solar energy and radiate it back out at you know it'll make a big difference. And then thinking about thinking about kind of the mechanisms by which we we gain heat and we lose heat. And so certainly radiation from the sun would heat us up really fast. And we can we can partially mitigate that by wearing light colored clothes that covers all of your skin. So loose fitting long t shirt, long pants, a big hat, you're actually going to be staying cooler and clothes like that then you will be in shorts and a T shirt.

    MargaretJust humidity affect that I have this like general conception that like dry heat places are all about cover yourself from the sun giving yourself shade through clothes as important whereas like more humid places, more tropical places. It seems like people tend to go with like just less clothes maybe to like really make it as easy as possible to do the little bit of evaporative cooling they can do or am I like just totally off base about this.

    GuyNo, no, I think I think that that's that seems accurate to me. I think that The more humid it becomes, the more difficult it is to stay cool. And the less the problem is like direct solar radiation and more problem is just that ambient air temperature, all of the moisture hanging out in that air that's holding on to heat and then transferring it to you. I've been, I've been lucky to spend Well, I grew up in Indiana, which was very human, but I've been lucky to spend most of my life in places with fairly dry heat, which I much prefer.

    MargaretYeah, like, I'm just coming at this, like entirely from this, you know, we refer to it is like, Oh, it's just the Baltimore soup, you know, in August or whatever. Okay, um, yeah, a lot of people talked about a lot of different like water methods of cooling. Besides, I mean, obviously, the, like, get into an air conditioning built in this, like, the most bulletproof means or whatever, right? But, um, like, people talk about, like, what, like sleeping on intentionally wet sheets, like spraying your, like wearing wet socks, or even damn close when you're trying to sleep. One person was talking about, like, wet the bottom of your curtains and leave the window open so that it like, wicks up the water and then it evaporates. So just basically doing anything that you can to encourage evaporative cooling?

    GuyYeah, exactly. Yeah, that's, that's the kind of the biggest thing. Um, and right, it depends on if you're trying to cool yourself or your house, in less energy to cool yourself. Oftentimes, here in the northwest, it's actually more effective to, as soon as the temperature starts climbing in the morning, close all the windows, trap all the cool air from the night in the house and rely on your relation rather than thinking that across breeze from outside 100 degree temperature is going to pull your house. But that only goes so far. And so yeah, there's also the swamp cooler method, which doesn't work in humid places for the same reason. But you can make kind of DIY swamp coolers by putting a wet sheet over a box fan, and then blowing the air through that wet sheet. Okay.

    MargaretAnd that kind of answers one of the questions that someone asked, which is like, you know, obviously, whenever bad things happen, only one bad thing happens at a time. But let's say for some weird reason, a bunch of dry heat might cause fire. And, you know, obviously, the West Coast has been blanketed in smoke for the past four years. And like, smoking means you got to keep your window shut. You're saying then you just like basically focus on air movement within the house within with fans and like personal cooling through dehydration?

    GuyYeah, yeah, absolutely. To through operation. Yeah, like I would. So when there's when it's not smoke season, which, thankfully is not yet although I think it'll be coming earlier this year, based on our temperatures. When it's not smoke season, I'll open all the windows at night once things cool off, because we do get a big temperature swing here, even in the summer, it cools off at night, and then in the morning, and try to capture some of that cold air during the night variants folk season. Just keep it all closed. Stay inside and focus on that evaporative cooling if you need to. So get yourself wet sit in front of a fan if you don't have electricity, right, people have been keeping themselves cool with fans for 1000s of years before electricity. Big hand fans are really quite effective at moving a lot of air quickly. Without much exertion.

    MargaretOkay, so the trade off would be worth it of the exertion of physical motion for the like evaporative cooling? Yeah,

    Guyabsolutely. Yeah, it doesn't take that much work to fan yourself out a fan a friend, as long as you're able to get yourself wet, right? If you're just being hot air across yourself. That's not going to do any good.

    Margaretdoes that tie into the one of the questions I got that I just you know, it's like a piece of information that people have that I don't know, one way or another. I've never heard of it before someone asked if fanning is bad and extreme heat, how do you pull yourself off? It's probably only saying it's like you're suggesting it's probably only hot, bad if the if you're not causing evaporative cooling? And if you're not, if there's no water on you. Exactly. Yeah.

    GuyAnd I looked that one up because I had actually never heard that before. And it actually is I think it's a CDC. It's some government guideline. I think it's from the CDC. And it's just really, this this example of policies and advice being written in a way that's totally robbed of context and is more confusing to people than not, which often is the case if you're just moving hot air across Someone, that definitely will be worse because air there's some amount of convection, right. But we also create a little bubble around ourselves. And this happens all the time a little bubble of temperature of air, close to our skin that's close to our skin temperature. And so it will be slightly more than 108 degrees outside, if we're effectively sweating and evaporating some, it'll be slightly warmer in cold temperatures. And if that air is not being disturbed, then then it'll help us thermoregulate just a little bit. And if we're moving really hot air across that, then that'll heat us up faster in the same way that sticking your hand or your foot in an ice cream or moving water, you're gonna get a lot colder than sticking that foot in the same temperature water that's not moving. build up a little insulated layer. But that only but but you just fix the problem by adding water. And then it's not a problem anymore, because evaporation is much more powerful at cooling. Okay, yeah.

    MargaretSo if people don't have much access to water, basically it's like, get access to water. If you can't get access to air conditioning, you just need access to water is that kind of? Yeah, pretty big deal.

    GuyI think that's the big thing. And so it's certainly we should have water to drink maintain good hydration but having water that you can use to cool yourself down and whether that's a stream or a river or a lake or whether that's just carrying some extra water with you know that you don't need it to drink so you can use it to what your clothes down.

    MargaretAnd would Gatorade be more effective for this? Like it has electrolytes in it. And I know electrolytes are good when it's hot out. Um, for cooling yourself down. Yeah. No, no, no interesting way. The only good thing Gatorade is for Yeah, lots of sugar. You're gonna fuck up my chance for a sponsorship.

    GuyThat Gatorade actually got us into this whole bind with hyponatremia because they sponsored sports medicine conferences from the neighborhood 1000s. And all the studies came out saying how important hydration was and we realized that people are dying all over the place because they're drinking too much. Get rid of too much.

    MargaretOh my god, it's literally the plot of idiocracy. Great, cool that that makes me feel really good about the world. Fuck. Okay. Oh, do you know much about like, dealing with pets? Like, I guess Like what? Like most? Most animals don't sweat? Are we the only animals that sweat? Like, what's the deal with keeping pets? Cool?

    GuyYeah, I don't know as much about pets, dogs, dogs sweat, but only through their feet. Do sweat. So um, but they just don't, right? They're mostly covered in hair. So they're not going to as effectively be able to cool themselves down. Cats are the same. I don't know about other animals. But right, you're not gonna sweat if you're covered in here because it won't be effective at all. Okay, and so for pets, it's really helped me and a lot of it is the same. Stay inside, stay in cool, shady areas, right? Get some damp clothes or damp bandana or something on them. We could like wet down a sheet or add like a dog. Just get it damp. And put that on the floor for them to sleep on. I've heard of people putting in a couple ice cubes in water bowls. I don't know whether that is actually effective at cooling your dog down but they probably like it. And then and then avoiding exertion the same way. Yeah.

    MargaretOkay. Well and okay with the cold water and maybe it doesn't help but it it tastes better to them or something like that. People have questions. I have questions. I don't know enough about this. Like it, it seems like would be drinking like ice cold water, kind of shock your system. Like if you're even if like someone has heat exhaustion or god forbid heatstroke and you don't have access to the hospital. But whatever is it like, Is there an ideal temperature? Do you only want it a little bit colder than their body? Or is it like? No, we would if I can put them on glacier if you could?

    GuyYeah, absolutely. The the big problem with heatstroke is someone's brain is cooking. And so we want to stop the cooking as quickly as possible. And we do that by putting them in cold water. And there's just not much evidence but putting someone in cold water from from an overheated position does any kind of damage to them. We're not going to make someone hypothermic with 30 minutes in cold water when they've been overheated. We're not gonna we're Yeah, they might gasp and a little bit and we get that cold water on our skin. We have an involuntary gasp reflex and then we adjust to the water temperature, but it's not going to do any damage. And same with drinking ice water. The temperature of the water doesn't make a huge difference in changing the temperature of our bodies. But it's not like drinking water will cool us faster than drinking warm water. But I know that I'm more likely to drink water when it's hot out if the water is cold and refreshing, and so, right. So the way to stay adequately hydrated. ice water is great. You can stick around your forehead and call yourself down.

    MargaretYeah, okay, so they said like, like sticky. So like getting the ice water on you is probably more important than getting ice water in you in terms of

    GuyYeah, if you only have enough. Yeah, but I mean, I just, you know, you get that big glass of ice water and it's condensing on the outside and outside is super cold, huh? Yeah. Okay, hold on to it, and stick that jar on your forehead until you till you drink it. Okay.

    MargaretSo I'm not gonna get the story about dehydration out of him.

    GuyUh, well, I'm trying to think of what our friend would be talking about. The the story that I do have is, and this is this is just more of a general warning story about tunnel vision. And people who are convinced that they're right about something, and they don't look at all the facts. But I was several years ago, I was guiding in the Grand Canyon. And I ran into ran into a couple of people who were in fairly substantial distress. And they were a day behind their schedule, they'd gone about four miles, maybe five miles in about 24 hours. And they were convinced that there was only one person who is really having trouble. And he was nauseous, he didn't feel good, little unsteady on his feet, really classic, pale kind of pale, clammy skin, really classic heat exhaustion symptoms. And his friend who claims to be a guide, with him was convinced of the altitude illness, because he was nauseous and had a headache. And because the Rim of the Grand Canyon was 7000 feet, which is not actually very high. Altitude illness goes. But they were convinced that they had altitude on this. And so they were descending into the canyon where it got hotter. And the only solution they thought was to keep going down, because if they dropped an elevation, then they'd fix the altitude and less problem. And so I tried to talk to them, and convince them that I wasn't altitude illness, and that, in fact, it was extremely hot. And they weren't a climatized to the heat, because it was springtime. And they had just come from the Midwest where it was 40 degrees outside and I was 100 degrees in the canyon. And they wouldn't listen to me. And I ended up running into a couple paramedics on the trail, who were hiking behind me and caught up and overtook me. And they had also encountered this person after I did stop them did a full assessment, knew it was heat exhaustion, tried to convince the people to stop and rest and turn around. Or they weren't having any of it. They were convinced that it was altitude LS ran into a ranger later on, who also tried to convince him to turn around. And I don't know what happened to them. He clearly didn't die, because I would have heard about a death in the canyon, but certainly didn't have a good time. And I think the big takeaway there is we as humans, I think as soon as we think we've identified what a problem is, then we start trying to solve it. And then we ignore all of the other evidence that suggests that could be a different problem. And so I think, anytime that you're feeling bad or your friend is feeling bad, or they're feeling sick, and you think you know what's going on, it's worth stopping and asking yourselves, especially if they're not getting any better. Mm hmm. Is it actually this thing? Is it actually dehydration? Maybe it's hyponatremia I should stop giving this person a water?

    MargaretYeah.

    GuyIs it actually altitude illness, or maybe it's really hot out and you feel crappy, and you should be in the shade and lie down and rest and fan you until you feel better? Instead of trying to rush down to drop in elevation? And yeah.

    MargaretIf you had a whole group of people in five people, and they're all exposed to the exact same, you know, you're all hiking together roughly the same amount of exertion etc. Is everyone gonna get heatstroke at the same time? Or is it like fairly personal about that?

    Guythere's a there's a pretty wide range in human tolerance for heat and exertion. So yeah, it can be all over the place. I would say that the right the hotter it gets, the higher the probability of heat exhaustion or heat stroke here. But but it's like human bodies are really amazing when they're really adaptable and right we think of 105 degree internal temperature, like you stick a thermometer in someone's mouth. When they read the 105, we say medicine says that heat stroke their brains. But there are also some ultra marathon athletes who run in really hot weather who have recorded internal temps of 105. And they're totally fine. Okay, and that's probably because they've acclimated to that over a long time. And we've actually been able to change their physiology and what their bodies do. So people, people have really different responses. And so we should be looking at how are people doing and asking our friends and looking for these these little telltale signs? Oh, yeah, this person's a little grumpier than usual. And kind of ornery, and they look a little pale, and they're kind of slower to respond, we should check in how are you doing? How are you feeling? Rather than thinking that the objective conditions are what's going to dictate? When?

    MargaretYeah, okay. Yeah. And that kind of answers or starts to answer one of the questions that a couple people asked, which is like, basically, what do you do if you're someone who just hates heat? Right? Like, I definitely have friends who like they, you know, I'm always I don't hate heat the same way. I hate being cold. You know? You think that's like, just like a lifetime acclamation and like, basically, the answer is slowly acclimate climatized rather than suddenly have a what's it called, like a heat Hill, a heat bulb? on some horrible name for what's happening to you all? Yeah.

    GuyDon't have the bad thing happen is that is that as a heat dome, they keep inventing new names for weather phenomenon that have actually been around forever. You know, I'm not that this particular heat wave has been around forever. It's certainly new. But I just think about the like, Arctic bomb polar vortex. New now that we're finally all paying attention to the weather. Yeah. All these new terms about it instead of I don't know, stopping emitting carbon and planting a lot of trees. B time. That'd be a lot of work. Yeah, it'd be a lot of work. It's a lot a lot easier to name all the problems and make some ad revenue off of driving clicks to website. But I digress. Yeah, some people don't like heat. I think that as a person who doesn't like heat, and who also guided in the desert, for many years, I think the climate Ising makes a big difference. And slowly, right, go to a new environment, if you're not being confronted by one of these heat waves, you go to a different environment, and you don't do your normal level exertion of exertion. You just dressed and you're hanging out and you expose yourself to the temperature, and then you go and you cool off and do it again. And then you do it again. And you'll become more used to that, and especially if you're using other techniques to keep yourself cool. It's interesting. I think that I get grumpier with heat here in the Pacific Northwest than I ever did when I was guiding in the desert. And I think it was, I think a lot of it was the climate tising. And, and having an orientation of I know, I'm in a hot place here. And so I need to change my behavior. And I need to change how I'm managing my body so that I can stay cool. Whereas it gets hot right here. And I think I should just be able to do all the things I can normally do. And now I feel terrible. And I'm mad. Just because I'm too hot.

    MargaretYeah. So it's like, maybe maybe part of the whole answer is like actually change your pattern of behavior. Which actually ties into both the we're all gonna die because of global warming, if we don't do anything, and then also the, like, what you talked about, about the person who is, you know, walking further and further down, because they were like, No, no, no, no, it's it's climate sickness, you know, or whatever, or not climbing, altitude sickness. And then like, I know that when I want to do cognitive behavioral therapy, like the thing that we have to throw away first is I tell, I tell the therapist, what's wrong. And then therapist, it's like, able to specifically say, Now I know what isn't wrong. Like, that's your narrative. That's the thing that you like have been telling yourself. Yeah. And clearly telling yourself this didn't work so and, yeah, which we need to do as a society we need to actually change our patterns in the same way that y'all in the Pacific Northwest should avoid exertion and as you suggested, the very beginning And then work with your co workers to collectively avoid exertion, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Just easier said than done from someone who's a remote worker on the East Coast but okay. Oh, sorry, is one more people talk about? Like one question left food drug medications to avoid our caffeine and alcohol like absolutely terrible anathema if you take, like, different, you know, different medications is going to impact the degree to which you're sensitive, and are the things that people can do about that.

    GuyYeah, um, there's certainly some risk factors. In general, caffeine and alcohol both just don't help the body adapt to any kind of changing environment. And so cold, hot altitude, all of these things, caffeine and alcohol aren't going to make us feel better. And whether that's a huge risk factor. I'm not convinced. I'm still gonna drink my coffee in the morning, but I'll probably make a cold brew. And, but I'm not going to drink coffee all day, and I'm not going to sit in the sun drinking beer all day. Some other some other medications, some allergy medications, and decongestants have some linkage to just reducing the body's ability to thermo regulate and to cool down. Now, I'm definitely not a doctor. And so if people are taking medication they should, they should look at that medication specifically and look it up and just Google that medication and heat exhaustion or heatstroke and see what see if there's a contraindication or or an extra risk factor there. We'll probably get better, better information from that than from broad and general statements from the way that this

    Margaretpodcast is this past guest is your doc is not just your doctor, but everyone is listening. Yes, we are both doctors. I thought that was the basis of okay. Okay, um, make sense? Do you have any, like, final thoughts like things about like, laying, you know, how are you feeling about this whole thing? Or, you know, things that we missed talking about all of this?

    GuyYeah, no, I really enjoyed this conversation. I think we hit like, we had a lot of topics, I can kind of nerd out about physiology and bodies and illnesses for a while. So it's been fun to do this with heat. I'm going to make a weird plug, which is, I really believe in umbrellas in the summer first. So like, silver reflective or light colored umbrellas, just thinking of other prevention techniques of carry your portable shade with you and thinking particularly about houseless people who can't access cool areas, get a cheap, bright colored umbrella, and you've got your own shade, and it'll help. So I just wanted to throw that one in there. I hiked with an umbrella in the Grand Canyon all the time.

    MargaretAnd so I'm really excited about that. Yeah, he said bright colored. But you know what? Yeah,

    Guymine was silver. It was nice and reflective, really any anything that will reflect rather than absorb heat?

    MargaretCould you tape an emergency blanket to on or something?

    GuyYeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah. And then and then beyond that, I just think that it's going to be hot here this week. People up here are, I think, probably simultaneously freaking out more than they need to and not enough. By which I mean, a couple of days of extreme heat are going to be challenging for people and we should take care of each other and look out for marginalized and vulnerable people are probably not going to see a lot of deaths. Huge, huge problems with a short heatwave like this. However, we should be freaking out about the fact that it's 108 degrees in the Pacific Northwest in June. And this is really like where we are headed as a planet. And so we need to be thinking and adapting right now and thinking about how can we, first of all right, stop emitting carbon and lock as much carbon as possible in the ground. And second of all, how can we change our environments and our behaviors to live in a hotter world and working? Yeah. Working 40 hours a week in an urban concrete. Metropolis is not going to be tenable couple decades from now, when? Right? Think about the thing about Texas right and last summer, they got that big cold wave and then the last Electricity and we have all these deaths because people could no longer to heat their homes and we're gonna see the same thing with with heat waves as well, where we have brownouts and blackouts, because there's too much electrical demand while the air conditioners running. And so we need to be thinking about how can we keep ourselves cool without relying on air conditioning? How can we change our behaviors and our patterns to do that? And how can we plant a shit ton of trees? Yeah, because really, not not only because because they fixed carbon. But because trees cool the environment down the local environment. They, right. evaporation is a major cooling effect. And trees of apo transport transpire huge amounts of moisture, when they're photosynthesizing. And all that moisture cools an area down. And so how can we convert these giant, awful concrete metropolises into beautiful forest gardens, we can survive and have food to eat. And also so that we can cool the areas where people are concentrated down. When we write we see this with just disparities in in heat related deaths across the country where people who are lower income or marginalized or of color live in areas that are more paid to have less access to green space, and they get hotter, and they're more exposed to environmental extremes. So yeah, we should we should take care of each other in the coming week. And stay cool. And we should plant a lot of trees and stop trying to pretend we can continue living as normal. When it's not normal anymore. I like that because

    Margaretit it covers it you know, most This podcast is about what most of this episode has been about, like what to do in the very immediate short term, right have to solve this problem, or make it through this problem. But the solutions like absolutely have to be long term and ongoing. And I like that you tied that into that. Um, do you have Do you have anything that you want to like shout out like any any thing you want to plug any? I don't I don't know whether your medic trainings are public or if people want to like follow you. Do you do social media stuff? Anything?

    GuyNo, not right. I'm pretty. We're pretty non existent on the internet. No, social media. But yeah, we do. We do street medic trainings on and off in the Pacific Northwest, you haven't done one in a while. Hopefully will again, I will plug actually because I am in the process of moving up all the way to the peninsula. And there's a there's an amazing new community project forming in quilcene. people bought an old theater there a couple of years ago, the gray coast Guild Hall. There, they're just starting some big fundraising campaigns right now to replace the roof and do a bunch of infrastructure upgrades so that it can be a community gathering space and a resource and hopefully a place that people who are all thinking about how do we how do we actually live together throughout this climate changing world in the long term? Can I encounter each other and so a great coast Guild Hall could definitely use some dollars with you Google that or look it up they have a Patreon. I don't know if they've launched their big Kickstarter fundraiser yet. But yeah,

    Margaretyeah, and one of the reasons I'm excited about that project is because it's you know, it's a, it's a social center will be a social center, and it's like, collectively operated, and it's within a pretty small town. And so it's a pretty major percent of that town's like, social and cultural, like, life or something like that. And it kind of really interesting way. Yeah, so it's, I agree, it's absolutely worth supporting. Normally, I do this whole, like separate outro but and so I'm gonna make you stay on the call as I do my outro. So that way, all of my files are in place, so I can edit this as quickly as possible. But thanks, everyone, for listening. And if you want to support this podcast, you can do so by supporting currently me on patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. But in the very near future, that same Patreon will switch over, you won't have to do anything on your end to support a larger collective effort that's going to be doing more podcasts and more zine publishing, called strangers in a tangled wilderness. And I'm very excited about moving to a more collective structure. It makes just you know, the many hands make light work as long as many hands and make everyone crouching getting each other's way. And in particular, and also you can tell people about the podcast and that's the main way and you can, you can thank us by telling people about it. But in particular, I want to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana and Chelsea Eleanor Mike staro, Kat j, the compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the Dog, Nora, and Chris, for making this possible. And, yeah, thanks so much. And I hope everyone is doing as well as they can with everything that happens and stay safe. And it seems like maybe one of the main messages about this is that well, yeah, like Guy already said it. You don't have to freak out as bad about this one specific thing, but we need to freak out more about the larger, larger things.

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

  • Episode Notes

    Margaret talks to Parks from Appalachian Medical Solidarity about disaster relief, what kinds of medical interventions are often needed after a disaster, and how to both respond to and prepare for them.

    Guest info and links

    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

    49:54

    SPEAKERSMargaret, Parks

    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. I use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking to Parks, who is a medical professional who works with Appalachian Medical Solidarity. And when I say this week I mean I recorded this interview at the very beginning of starting this podcast, which was just before the pandemic. I started this podcast in early 2020 when I had no real reason to think that COVID was going to become COVID in the way that it did. So this episode about, you know, medical things and disaster situations didn't really seem like it made a lot of sense. It's not what a lot of people were thinking about when it came to disaster and medical issues throughout all of 2020. But I actually, I still think this information is really important. And there are so many other crises that are happening now and will continue to happen. And so we talk a lot about, well, just what it means to be a responder to disaster, especially from a medical point of view, and I hope you get a lot out of it. I know I did. 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.

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

    Margaret So, welcome to the podcast.

    Parks Thank you.

    Margaret Do you want to introduce yourself with whatever name, pronoun, and affiliations that you would like to be known for for this podcast?

    Parks Sure. So my name is Parks, I use he/him pronouns, and I'm affiliated with Appalachian Medical Solidarity.

    Margaret Could you maybe start by talking about what Appalachian Medical Solidarity is, like what you all do?

    Parks Sure. Appalachian Medical Solidarity is a group that is centered in Asheville and the southern Appalachian area. And we provide disaster medical interventions, particularly after hurricanes and things of that nature. And we're working on other projects around the area, we do a lot of education in the area. For example, we taught a CPR certification class this weekend, and a Naloxone class.

    Margaret So one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is that you told me once—you went through the list of how people design die and natural disasters and how it's not what people think it is. And clearly preparing or understanding how natural disasters work is, like, comparable to understanding how larger disasters work and things like that. So I was wondering if you wanted to talk a little bit about disaster and what the actual, like, kind of threat models are?

    Parks Sure. So there are several kinds of disasters and natural disasters, as you and your audience are likely aware. One that my group deals with specifically based on our geographic location is hurricanes. In developed countries, or countries with well-built infrastructure such as buildings and roads, deaths from hurricanes tend to come after the event itself. So the hurricane may kill less than 10 people—I'm not, I'm making up numbers there—but a small number of people will be killed by things like wind and falling trees and powerlines coming down and, you know, maybe a tree falling through their house and hitting them, that type of thing. More people die in flooding during the event than anything else. So most people don't die from being hit by a tree or blown away. They die from drowning and flooding, particularly when trapped in houses or when trapped in their cars, situations like that. So in places like the United States, those fatalities tend to be low. More people die in the few days after the hurricane. So as the power is out and infrastructure is down and people start to do things to cope with the infrastructure being down, part of the issue in developed countries is people are not accustomed to the infrastructure being down, so they're not necessarily aware of safety precautions to use when using things like grills or propane heaters or other non-conventional items, or in non-conventional areas. So people tend to die of carbon monoxide poisoning when they're using devices that need to be used in a ventilated area indoors, such as propane heaters, gas grills, things of that nature. They also tend to die after those events from chainsaw injuries, that's pretty common one, or from improper use of chainsaw, so trying to cut down trees and people being untrained to do so and having the tree fall on them. In that scenario, that type of thing. That's a much more common way to die in developed or over developed countries after disasters. People also die from food poisoning after disasters as they eat things out of their refrigerators and freezers that are going down. That's not as common, but it does happen. Sometimes people have issues with the spread of contagious illnesses inside of shelters. But here again, that's not usually causing a lot of people to die, it's causing a lot of people to have colds.

    Margaret So would you say that one of the better ways to prepare is more about, like, knowing how to use your emergency equipment—like knowing, like, chainsaws and propane and all that or?

    Parks I would—yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Knowing how to use equipment without, you know—knowing how to properly use a chainsaw, knowing when and where to properly use a propane heater. The other thing I would suggest is simply not using those items if you're not trained or unsure. You know, after a hurricane event, if you're a little cold, you know, put on extra layers if that's an option. If you can eat crackers and peanut butter instead of trying to, you know, make some kind of makeshift stove inside your house, then do that. You know, wait till it stops raining and you can move your grill outside. So use a little bit of common sense and forego small what are, you know, small luxuries essentially like cooking your food indoors or heat if you can, if you can live without it.

    Margaret I want to ask you about Appalachian Medical Solidarity and your experiences with it and like what you've seen, or what people who are part of AMS have seen or like, I know, for example, when we had the conversation before we did this interview that you talked about while you're a medical professional, and you're often not using your, you know, surgery skills or something like that on the ground.

    Parks That's true. You know, with Appalachian Medical Solidarity, I am a medical clinician and I don't end up using my medical skills very often after disasters. We occasionally will see things like people having to use insulins—types of insulin they're not accustomed to and they don't know how to do the calculation to identify the proper dose. So sometimes people need help with things like that. And upper respiratory issues. They're not usually—what we're seeing at as a volunteer community group are not the kind of issues that people are going to the hospital for. The hospitals tend to still be in place, people go to the hospital. So the things we're seeing are relatively minor as it comes to medical issues. What we're seeing more is people needing help mucking out their houses, needing help cutting out drywall, needing help getting trees out of the road or off their houses. So mostly what we're seeing is a great need for cleanup and also a need for supplies to get into certain areas. So it can be difficult with trees down and powerlines down and flooding and roads washed out to get things like clean water to certain areas or food that people can eat. So a lot of transporting supplies and the, you know, one to three days after a disaster before FEMA is able to come in ends up being something that we see a lot.

    Margaret That's one of the kind of advantages that I found that—or at least people talk about, like autonomous and anarchist disaster relief and mutual aid—how this is about like the ability to mobilize quickly and maybe, like, without some of the inefficiencies of large organized structures. And I'm wondering if you want to talk about how you all organize, to get supplies and aid to crisis areas?

    Parks That's a great question and it's one that we've been working on. I think we can improve our dispatching capabilities and how we identify different areas and need. At least in our recent experience, one of the things we've run into is a need to pre stage before disasters when we know a disaster is coming. So that's not always possible. But with hurricanes, we tend to have a sense that that's maybe going to hit, so getting closer to the area—or as close as you can to the disaster zone and stay safe so that you're not just adding to the, you know, people that need to have supplies brought to them. So staying in an area that's near the disaster area where you're still safe. And so you're able to quickly mobilize supplies and able to mobilize personnel into areas that are hardest hit is an important thing. We mostly do it through cell phones and, at times, driving around randomly, honestly, and looking for people. We've also watched flood maps online to see where flooding is the worst and where places might be isolated. News media pretty quickly starts to cover and tell people where isolated pockets might be, like this town is cut off, or that town is cut off, or, you know, these highways are washed out. So you can use that information to try to dispatch your personnel to those areas and to dispatch supplies to those areas. But I think that could be improved upon. So pre planning is certainly a helpful thing, you know, trying to come up with who is going to be a dispatcher, who's going to watch the news, who's going to watch the flood map, who's going to be pre staging, all of those things are important. And one of the points I think, also is that specialized personnel aren't necessarily needed in these cases, you know? Just having people who can drive, having people who have vehicles that, you know, like trucks or trailers that can move a large quantity of water. And just having people that can drive back and forth supplying water and food to certain areas is invaluable. You know, it's nice to have a nurse, it's nice to have someone who can use a chainsaw. But it's, that's not the majority of people that are really needed.

    Margaret How do you get into isolated areas?

    Parks That's a great question. There was one hurricane in which we teamed up with some private pilots to be airlifted into those areas. I'm not sure if airlifted is the right word, we weren't jumping out of the planes, but small planes that could land and fields or could land in small airports and rural areas would take two or three personnel and a quantity of supplies, and they were able to fly back and forth and bring supplies into places where roads didn't have access for several days. And that was invaluable. So that's one of the more fancy ways that we've been able to access folks who are cut off. Other ways are, you know, tall four wheel drive vehicles. So just having the kind of equipment or having the kind of vehicles that can withstand those kind of conditions and get into places. You know, if you have a small two wheel drive hatchback car, it's not going to make it. So having somebody available, who has the type of vehicle that might be able to get into more challenging environments.

    Margaret One of the things that I'm interested in is sort of the cultural bridging that happens during disaster and crisis. And I've heard stories that there was kind of an interesting cultural difference between the types of folks who own small airplanes and the types of folks who organize anarchistically bring supplies places, is that something you feel like you can talk about it?

    Parks Sure, that's absolutely the case. And I think that's a major issue in people signing up to be personnel after disasters, you know? I think people who initially are going into these areas in the first two or three days need to be people who can interface with all kinds of people, who can withstand being insulted, who can withstand, you know, different things like that, like it's not a—it's not as safe and supportive working environment in any way. You know, socially, the people who were operating the private airplanes, for example, tended to be wealthy individuals, often were white males who were wealthy, a lot of them—or possibly all of them—were Republican, these kind of things. So folks who feel uncomfortable interfacing with those folks, or feel uncomfortable building bridges with those folks, you know, there's a need to be polite, there's a need to reach out, there's a need to work together, there's a need to problem solve with people who are very different from yourself, who, whose ideas of, you know, even who should deserve help are very different than yours. So, being someone who's very diplomatic is very valuable in those scenarios. And folks who aren't as diplomatic or who don't want to interface with people, you know, that are very different than them, are possibly better suited to roles like doing dispatch, or gathering supplies, or, you know, there are plenty of roles to do. But it's important to consider that folks are going to have to interface with a lot of different people who are not necessarily being their best selves, and who are very different than them and have a different idea of reasonable politeness than they do.

    Margaret Yeah. I mean, that's kind of one of the things that sort of interesting about disaster scenarios and apocalypse and all that kind of crap is that you get into this idea of a lot of different types of communities having to pull together in order to survive. And one of the things that I'm kind of trying to explore with this podcast is the sort of idea of the opposite of—instead of like a nationalist approach to disaster, where you like bunker up with your friends and you have yours, fuck you—like this, like, internationalist approach of, like, working together with diverse communities and things like that. And so it's just fascinating because usually when I think about, like, working with diverse communities, I don't think of, like, right wing libertarian types, you know? And yet, I mean, there's a certain amount of, like—and maybe I'm being overly generous—but like, okay, yeah, they may be a rich Republican, but they're willing to fly into storms and small planes in order to give people things for free. So that's kind of what we want from people. You know?

    Parks I absolutely agree. You know, there's something called the disaster bug, which is where people go into disaster zones, and they, they get really fixated on it, or they really enjoy it, and they seek out that scenario again. And part of the reason for getting that disaster bug in my opinion is, you know, people are at their worst at times, but really overall people are at their best. You know, people are ready to collaborate, people are willing to do things they wouldn't normally do, like, help people, they wouldn't normally help, things like that. So watching communities draw together, watching people, you know, go to their neighbor's houses and see if they need anything, is beautiful and a wonderful thing. And, you know, you get to meet all kinds of people that you wouldn't normally get to meet—or I get to meet all kinds of people that I wouldn't normally meet. And I really value that and my experience. You know, I think it's interesting to meet the rich Republican dude that wants to fly people into a difficult flight situation and deliver food to people they might not normally think about. I think that's great. You know, it expands their horizons potentially, it expands our horizons, and, you know, ultimately it helps people and that's really the purpose. But I personally think that's great. But I also recognize that that can be a challenge for some folks.

    Margaret Yeah, that makes sense. I want to talk about how have you—and if you don't we can cut this part out—have you had to do sort of disaster triage or like—like, in what way has like your—as a medical provider or whatever, how do you plan for medical care, specifically in disaster situations, or especially if you're preparing for a situation in which hospitals weren't available, but even in preparing for situations in which hospitals are harder to get to and things like that?

    Parks Sure, that's a reasonable question. And I don't have a great answer to it, actually. You know, hospitals and paramedic teams and those kind of groups already have triage processes in place. So there are, for example, toe tags or tags that medical personnel will put on individuals indicating the severity of their illness. And then they will decide based on the number of casualties and the number of people needing medical care what order to treat people in when they can't treat everyone at once. So those kinds of organizations already have a system for that. I can't say that my group has had a need to triage people in that way because we simply haven't seen large numbers of injuries at once, which is fortunate.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks It would be good for us to prepare for that perhaps I haven't really taken it into consideration. But, you know, a lot of what we're seeing is needing to assist people using their own medications. So needing to help people find their inhaler in their ruined house, or find a neighbor who uses an inhaler that they can borrow, or calculate a new dose of insulin based on what insulin might be available to them. So getting people supplies, getting people on medications that they already take, you know, having people—helping people to find the medical equipment that they already have that they need, those things are helpful. And prior—you know, certainly prioritize people with medical needs in terms of transporting them to shelters or transporting them to hospitals, things of that nature. But we have not been responding in the—well, I should say, I have not been responding in the minutes and hours, you know, few hours right after a disaster during which time people may need things like swift water rescue, or may need things like airlifting out situations, where there may be people who are injured enough that they require getting to a hospital within a few minutes or within an hour. Those would be done by—those kind of rescue things will be done by specialized teams and we're certainly not trained to do those.

    Margaret Okay, and maybe also the people who are more immediately already on the ground?

    Parks Correct. So not only people with specialized training, but people who are already on the ground, you know. I would certainly advise any group to be well aware of what I would call scope of practice. So be well aware of what you can safely offer and what you cannot safely offer. And don't go outside of that. Don't try to offer something that you aren't trained to do, don't try to offer something that you're not prepared to follow up with, that you're not able to do all the way through. You know, don't offer someone transport to the hospital if you're not sure you can get them there, or if you're not reasonably sure you can get them there. You know, because you're delaying their getting into an ambulance, you're delaying their getting into a medical fight helicopter if you're offering something you can't follow through with, if that makes sense.

    Margaret Yeah, that's actually a really interesting concept. And, like, could apply to a lot of situations, but even gets back to the, like, the chainsaw use for example of, like, you know—I've only recently started actually training with a chainsaw and I always thought it was just a matter of, like, making sure you're not in the way of the blade. And like making sure that, you know, if it bucks back, the blade won't hit you. And that's, like, that's a big part of it. But then I'm like learning that there's, like, a lot of stuff about the way trees hold tension and that apparently what kills a lot of chainsaw operators is just, like, releasing the tension on a tree and having everything go crazy. And so the scope of practice, that's a useful phrase I hadn't heard before.

    Parks Absolutely. And I would say, you know, do what you can. A lot of people don't do what they can, you know? Step up, do what you can, decide you're going to help. That's the first thing. You know, assess the situation, decide you're going to help, and then help in a way that you're able to. And of course if you set up in a truck, you don't know if you're going to come up to a washed out road. And if you do, that's okay, you know, turn back, don't try to cross, you know, a flooded area you can't cross or anything like that. Don't try to offer medical care to someone who's more hurt than you can really help them with or—or do what you can, you know? If what you can do is hold their head still while the EMS gets there, great, do that. You know, do it, you can. Absolutely step up and do what you can. But don't try to do things that are outside of your abilities. And don't take risks. In a scenario where it's difficult to get people in and out of a situation, if you are a relatively healthy person who's going in to help and you get hurt, you are delaying care for people who are already hurt, you know, you're clogging up the system. And, you know, you're also getting hurt, which is a problem. But not only that, but you know, you're clogging up the system, you're making one more casualty for medical personnel to deal with, you're making it worse. You know, one of the first rules in medical care is do no harm, right, don't make it worse. And it's really easy to make it worse. It's a lot easier than you think to make it worse. You know, don't go in and say you're going to sterilize water and you don't know how and you poison someone. You know, don't go in and think you're just going to figure out a chainsaw and get hit by a tree. You know, there's lots of things that might be trickier than you think.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks So go and help but sit and think a while before you take on a project that you might be unprepared for and might be dangerous.

    Margaret What are some—if people are interested in doing either disaster response or preparedness within their own communities for potential disaster, what are some of the skills—especially like first aid or medical type skills—that you think people can and should develop? Like in a more generalized sense, like what should people be learning and focusing on?

    Parks Basic medical care at home is a good thing to focus on. So the number one thing that I see people not doing enough of is washing their hands and washing their hands properly. That sounds really basic, but people really don't do it enough. So learning how to wash your hands, washing your hands for an adequate amount of time with clean water, with soap, and doing it consistently when you need to. You know, if you're touching a person and you go touch another person and you haven't washed your hands, you're spreading, you know, potentially you're spreading all kinds of pathogens from one person to another and to yourself. So learning how to wear gloves, when to wear gloves, how to take them off without contaminating yourself, you know, how to wash your hands in a way that's effective. I would start there. I think those things are really important. Recognizing an infection is a helpful thing. You know, being able to look at a wound and say, within reason, if it's obviously infected or not. I mean, that's—that can be a specialized skill, but there are some things that, you know, a regular person might be able to learn in advance that may be helpful. So those things are important. I would say also water is a big thing after any kind of disaster that's gonna affect infrastructure. So focus on getting enough water, storing enough water, knowing how to sterilize water, knowing water from—knowing what source to get your water from, you know, you don't want to use flood water, for example, that's very difficult to impossible to sterilize in a way that's going to be accessible after a disaster. You know, there might be people out there with specialized skills who know how to do that, but most people are not, you know, that's not a good idea. You know, finding a stream is going to be better, collecting rainwater is going to be better. There's lots of different, you know, water sources that you can identify that might be better choices for you. So if you want to get fancy or do a little more, you might identify water sources near your home, for example, you might find out where your nearest stream is. If you're, you know, if you're living in a place that might have the kind of disasters where your water infrastructure might go down, and that's more likely in some places than others. But first and foremost, I would say water.

    Margaret What, um, can you talk more specifics about, like, for example, what kinds of places the water infrastructure is more vulnerable and also, like, how people might, yeah, get water, filter water, sterilize water, whatever they need.

    Parks The CDC has some good guidelines on that. As does as FEMA actually, so FEMA's website has good instructions on what kind of sources to look for after a disaster. Firstly, knowing about storing of water is helpful. It's not great to store water in your empty, you know, gallon water jug that you got from the, you know, from the store, unless you're able to sterilize it. And you can sterilize it by using a mix of bleach water, I don't remember the ratio, but shake that around in your container, empty it out, rinse your container, and store water. So prior to events know how to store water if you're going to use your own containers and know how to store it properly. And, you know, be wary of glass containers because they can break. And if your water supplies on glass containers and it breaks, you know, you're out of luck. So first of all know how to store water beforehand. And if you're able to do that, you can avoid having to find sources of water afterwards, which is ideal. You know, sterilizing your tap water is something that may be accessible to you if the tap water is not contaminated. The other thing to do is to know how to turn off the main—the water mains to your house. So if there's an announcement that the water is contaminated, you would turn off the water main to your house, empty the faucets, and you can typically still use the water that's in your hot water heater if you have one. So—and a lot of this is geared toward people who live indoors, obviously. So if you don't live indoors that's going to be a different scenario. But if you do live indoors, using the water and your hot water heater can work. And there's a, usually there's a way to empty it. There's like a faucet at the bottom of the hot water heater or something like that. You can use the water in there. You'd probably want to add bleach to it. But look up the proper ratios of bleach to water and, you know, have some bleach in your house that's fresh. Bleach goes bad after about maybe six months or a year. So make sure you have something that's unopened and not flavored or scented or—I guess not flavored, but whatever. Not scented and without like additional cleaning agents. You don't want to use, like, a tile cleaner with bleach. You need to use, you know, the regular bleach in a bottle that that's all that's in there.

    Margaret What about like the kind of water purification tablets and things like that?

    Parks Iodine water purification is not generally recommended. Generally bleach is recommended because it kills more of the pathogens that you're going to be encountering after that kind of disaster. You know, if that's all you have, then that's all you have. But in terms of pre planning and what to get, I would recommend bleach.

    Margaret Are you talking about, like, maybe you'll get Giardia or like maybe you'll, like, die immediately? Or like what's the—what's the threat model from contaminated water like floodwater or whatever.

    Parks That depends. I don't have a great answer for that. You know, in eastern North Carolina, in floodwater, there are millions of dead animals floating, you know, stuff from septic systems can be in there. So any kind of fecal oral type pathogen could be in there and, you know, think of water with, you know, human waste in it as well as rotting pigs. You know, sometimes the wastewater pits overflow, like from coal fired power plants have wastewater pits, and those can get into the groundwater or into the floodwater. So there's not just bacteria in floodwater. There's also toxic chemicals that can't be filtered out, that can't be removed with bleach, for example. So that's one of the reasons why flood water is not going to be a good option. If you can find a stream that's not contaminated heavily, you know, that's not a strange color, that's not covered with floodwater, that may be an option. Collecting rainwater is an option. You can remove salt from salt water by like taking a large pot with a—that has a lid with a handle, turn— flipping the lid over so the handle is facing inside the pot, suspend a mug or a cup from the handle inside the pot on a string. Put saltwater in the bottom of the pot, boil that for 20 minutes or so. The condensation will collect on that upside down lid, drip down the handle, and drip into your mug. You can probably find diagrams of that and your listeners might already know how to do this kind of thing.

    Margaret Home distillation.

    Parks Right. But some some knowledge of home distillation might be helpful. You know, I've never been in a situation where that was helpful, but I'm sure people have been.

    Margaret Yeah. You mentioned how some—a lot of the advice that goes around is more helpful for people who live indoors. Do you want to talk about—do you have any information about either how to help people who are, or people who are themselves not living inside in disaster situations?

    Parks If you know does that stress coming, it's good to let people know who might not already know. So some folks who live outdoors are certainly going to be in the know about, you know, things that are happening in their community. But it can be helpful to spread that information. So let people know that there's a hurricane coming, let people know that flood—flooding is going to be happening so that people can, if they have encampments, they can move them uphill, you know. I live in a mountainous area so, you know, in this area moving uphill as an option. That's not necessarily going to be an option in a lot of places. But seeking shelter, securing whatever, you know, materials that you have for housing or trying to keep dry, all of those things are going to be important. Letting people know where security—or where like emergency shelters are in case they want to go to emergency shelters can be beneficial. Just making sure people are aware in advance. You know, somebody who—I live inside, so somebody who lives outside might be able to—might be better able to provide information on preparedness and that scenario.

    Margaret Off the top of your head—or, what are some of the common myths about disaster survival that that irritate you?

    Parks I don't think this is a myth. But I think people are both underprepared and over prepared. Okay. Sometimes people prepare for like situations that sound more interesting, rather than situations that are more likely. For example, people might have wilderness survival skills that involve starting a fire with sticks or, you know, distilling water in strange situations or, I don't know. And while those things might come in handy at some point, things like washing your hands and knowing how to store your water reasonably safely, you know, knowing that expiration dates of foods or how to tell if your meat is spoiled or not, you know, those like less romantic, I guess, skills are actually going to be far more important and far more useful and far more likely to be utilized. So I think it's easy to prepare for, like, what are we going to do if civilization collapses? And while living in the woods, like we need all these skills on like, you know, do you—like, do you really—like in what situation are you going to, like, need to go and kill a deer because you really can't get literally anything from the grocery store?

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks You know, that might, I don't know, maybe that happens. But you know, in the United States that's really unlikely to be—depending on where you live. You know, maybe if you live rurally and you already depend on killing deer or killing animals for your food then, of course, you know, you're going to continue to rely on that food source. But for people that don't already rely on that food source, you know, developing those more specialized skills is interesting and cool, but don't neglect the less interesting skills and preparations. Like it's good to have a radio that runs on batteries. It's good to have extra batteries. Do you need 100 guns? Probably not. You know, guns are really overrated. I think after disasters, you know, most people are very kind to each other after disasters. You know, if people are looting, it's generally because they need the stuff. And if you're the kind of person that wants to shoot people because they're stealing items from a store, I don't know what to tell you other than, you know, you might reevaluate your life. But, you know, I don't know how useful it's going to be unless you're planning on hunting because that's something you already rely on. You know, for a lot of folks like myself who don't rely on hunting, live indoors, you know, a gun is not actually going to be helpful. I don't think, you know, having social skills, having the ability to talk to people that aren't like you, you know, knowing how to wash your hands, I really can't say it enough.

    Margaret That's gonna be the title of this episode: Wash Your Fucking Hands.

    Parks Wash your hands and do it right. You know, using hand sanitizer—this is an important one—using hand sanitizer after you go to the bathroom is not effective. You need soap and water.

    Margaret Okay.

    Parks The kind of pathogens that are spread from the oral fecal route, so to speak, are not cleaned off your hands by hand sanitizer.

    Margaret What is hand sanitizer good for?

    Parks Hand sanitizer is good for anything that gives you a stuffy nose. Anything that gives you diarrhea, you need soap and water.

    Margaret Okay.

    Parks Not anything in the world but, you know, that's a rough estimate.

    Margaret Well, okay, so you talk a bit about risk analysis. I'm really excited about what I think hackers but maybe other people coin threat modeling. And like people talking about, like, you know, okay, your internet security might be really good, but based on the wrong threat model. And, you know, a gun for example is a good tool for certain threat models, like someone specifically trying to kill you.

    Parks Right.

    Margaret But a very bad tool for a lot of other threat models. And so it sounds like kind of what you're talking about is that people have sort of poor threat modeling when they think about preparedness in general.

    Parks I think that's a great way to put it, you know, just like if you're writing and knowing who your audience is, you know, know what you're preparing for and be fairly reasonable about that and don't, you know, skip things that you think are obvious or skip things that you think are boring. So, you know, if you're preparing—I don't know, if people prepare for earthquakes, I'm not sure how on earth you would do that. You know, they hit randomly and horrible things happen. But if you're preparing for a hurricane, if you're preparing for flooding, you know, prepare for that in a way that makes sense. And do some research, you know, it doesn't take very long if you have access to the internet or a library to do a little bit of research, and don't discount, you know, government websites. Really, the CDC offers good information and FEMA offers good information on preparedness. You're going to have to tailor that to your own specific needs of course. You know, if you use insulin and needs to be kept in a refrigerator, you need to focus on being able to refrigerate that.

    Margaret Okay.

    Parks You know, if that's not with a cooler, ice, or whatever, you need to prioritize ice if that's your situation. Other people are not necessarily going to need to prioritize refrigeration after that kind of event, for example. Or, you know, as I was saying, if you're planning to live in the wilderness with no contact with any kind of "civilization", then, like, your skill set certainly needs to be different than if you're trying to survive, you know, an urban setting that suddenly has no infrastructure. You know, one of the main issues—well I don't know about main issues—but one of the issues after Hurricane Sandy in New York City was people in high rises who couldn't flush their toilets and didn't—and lived, you know, on the 10th or 12th floor of a building and were unable to haul water up and down the stairs because of physical issues. And that quickly became a very, very dire problem.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks So, you know, and that's a problem that's specific to a certain physical scenario.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks So preparing for your physical scenario and preparing for the actual threat and having some sense of, you know, maybe over prepare slightly. But you don't necessarily need, like, a year's worth of food for an event that's probably going to take a week or two to stabilize.

    Margaret Right. Well, if you have a year's worth of food than you have, you know, 300 peoples' day's worth of food.

    Parks That's true. And there may be, you know, scenarios in which that makes sense. But in that scenario, it's still a week's worth of food, you're taking into consideration the number of people. Yeah. And if you want to be able to feed your whole town, that's awesome. You know, is it necessary? I don't know.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks You know,

    Margaret You once said something something to me that was one of the best examples of risk analysis that I actually use fairly often—I came to you with a medical concern and I said, am I going to die because of this or that thing? And you said to me, well, I can't tell you that—because you're honest to a fault—you're like, I can't tell you that you won't die because that's completely possible, you could also be eaten by a shark today in Asheville.

    Parks Right, I remember that. Yeah, and I think those things are reasonable to keep in mind, you know, you're not likely to be killed by a chainsaw if you're not using one after a disaster, so I don't know.

    Margaret So I'm not gonna wear my chops all the time.

    Parks Right, so you don't need to wear your chainsaw chaps all the time necessarily, unless you're just like them maybe, look, I don't know. But yeah, you know, think about what's likely and think about what's important. So if something is unlikely to occur but will definitely kill you, if it does you may want to be—have some preparedness for that, within reason.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Parks You know, if something is not likely to happen and not going to be a big deal if it happens, you don't necessarily need to prepare for that. Like, how much do you need to prepare for boredom, you know, maybe a little bit, but that's not super important. You know, it's not that likely that you're going to be stuck in your house more than a week. But if you were and you didn't have water, you could die. Humans can survive a fairly long time without food, but we can't survive more than a few days without water. So, you know, that's why I emphasize that too.

    Margaret So eat peanut butter and crackers rather than tainted meat if you're only stuck for a week?

    Parks Sure, yeah, you know, if you have the ability to cook, you know, if you have a grill, if it's not raining, you know how to use the grill, it's the first day after your freezer has gone down, absolutely cook all your meat, you know, and eat it and share it and all those things, that make sense. But if it's been a week, and your freezer has been off for a week, and you've got meat left, you know, and that's it, don't eat it. If it's been sitting out, you know, unless it's jerky or something like that, you know, you don't want to risk a diarrheal illness or a vomiting illness if you if your water supplies are scarce, particularly.

    Margaret Probably final question: So we talked a little bit about the the kinds of people that you'd be working with to go into disaster areas. But in terms of going into communities, often as outsiders, what does that look like in terms of not been more trouble than you're actually worth, in terms of making sure that it's like sort of a consensual relationship with the people? I know, I was talking to someone who's from a Caribbean island and he was talking about how, you know, non official organizations showing up to help are often just in the way and doing all the wrong things. While, of course, also most people I know are also very critical of the official organizations who go into help because then they take resources and centralize them and disempower people and cut people out of agency and things like that.

    Parks Yeah, don't go to a disaster area unless you have truly something to offer and you're able to get yourself in, supply for all of your needs the entire time you're there, and get yourself out. If you can't do those things, don't go unless you're already there in your chapter with other people, then respond accordingly. But, you know, if you're not already in a disaster area that hit where you are living, don't go on vacation to see how bad it is, you know, don't drive around in an area to gawk at the damage. There's, that's rude. Don't do that. And it's not helpful. You know, if you have, like, two power bars and one 16 ounce bottle of water, don't go into a disaster area and think you're prepared because you're not. You're going to be a drain on resources. You know, there are going to be a lot of people who already have skills in an area, you know, if an area in the United States is hit by a hurricane or, you know, some kind of disaster, there are already medical personnel there. You know, there are already people there who know how to use chainsaws, there are already people there who knows how to hunt or, you know, various things. So, to some extent, you know, keep your ear to the ground, see what people need. If you can, you know, ferry water to the edge of a disaster area and give it to someone who is already networked to distribute it or something like that, that may be very helpful. And it may be boring to you to drive, you know, 100 gallons of water from, you know, where you live to the edge of a disaster zone and then go home again, you might be tempted to like, dive in and drive around, go be helpful. But you know, driving water to the edge and going home is really helpful in certain scenarios. You know, driving in with a bunch of food that you don't know where you're going to leave it, and you're just driving around trying to give it to people who don't, you know, you don't, I don't know, you don't know where the need is. That's not necessarily as helpful. Yeah, don't become a drain. Don't go and need to be fed or housed or clothed or need water in an area that's already strained. You know, the more people that there are in a strained situation with limited resources, the less those limited resources are able to go around. So be realistic about what you can contribute and be realistic about whether what you can contribute is going to be better than what you know the people—the skills that people already there have, if that makes sense.

    Margaret That does. If someone wants to learn more about either Appalachian Medical Solidarity or other mutual aid disaster relief organizations, do you have a place to point them to or anything like that?

    Parks I'm not sure. I think AMS has a Facebook page. I don't actually know.

    Margaret Okay.

    Parks Yeah, I'm not sure. If you're in the Asheville area, you know, we do put out announcements for classes and things that, you could certainly come and talk to us. There is a team with AMS, with Appalachian Medical Solidarity, that does stuff on computers and social media.

    Margaret And you're not on that team.

    Parks I'm not, and I'm not on that team. And I don't use computers outside of work if I can help it because I don't like them. So I'm sorry, but we could probably find that information and add it.

    Margaret I'm going to add it, yeah. I'll do an aside.

    Parks Thanks.

    Margaret Okay. Well, thank you so much for doing this interview. Is there any—Is there anything I missed, any like final takeaway, besides wash your hands?

    Parks Just have water, wash your hands. Those are really important. Decide to help, you know, I think is what I would say, decide to help and realize what helping is and realize what not helping is in any given scenario. You know, don't let your worry about, you know, being a burden or not knowing how to help or not having specialized skills, don't let that stop you from helping. Decide to help, but help within reason. Usually—you know, find out what people need, find out what people don't need, don't guess what people need and just start sending a bunch of crap to an area, it's not helpful. You know, but find out where you can plug in, try to get reliable information on what's needed. And if you have the ability to meet any of those needs, then do it. Absolutely. But don't go outside of your scope of practice, don't go outside of what you are actually able to contribute. Contribute what you can, don't try to contribute what you can't. Okay.

    Margaret Okay. Thank you so much.

    Parks Yeah, absolutely.

    Margaret Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please tell people about it. Please tell the machine overlords about it—or rather, tell them to tell other people about it by liking and subscribing and posting and following us on social media. We have—you don't even have to just follow me on social media now. Live Like the World is Dying has its own Instagram page and Facebook page, although Facebook is, besides being terrible for the world is also really terrible in terms of engagement for projects. It's actually just a garbage fire that is trying to get me to buy advertising. And then turns down my advertising? I finally like gave in and tried to give it some money to, so that people who like the like the redesign page actually see Live Like the World is Dying posts, and I was rejected. And well, fuck you, you don't like me, I don't like you either. And clearly, that's my only problem with Facebook or the algorithms that run the world is that they didn't like me personally. Anyway, you can also tell about it in person, that's even cooler. And if you want to support this podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me, which will soon be supporting the Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness publisher. But you can support us on Patreon—or currently me on Patreon—later us on Patreon, depending on when you're actually listening to this, at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy or patreon.com/I-don't-know-what-I'm-going-to-change-it-to. But I'm sure you can find it, you clever people. And there you can support us. There's a zine that goes out every month. It's very behind, but it's going to become less behind now that it's a collective project, and all kinds of good stuff. Also, if you don't have any fucking money, don't give me any fucking money. It's totally fine. We'll give you all of our ship for free. If you message me on any social media platform, I'll give you access to all of our content for free because money should go from the people who have more money to the people have less money and not the other way around. In as much as money is a useful construct, which is a different argument for a different time. In particular, I would like to thank Sean and Hugh and Dana and Chelsea, Eleanor, Mike, Starro, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. You all make this possible and I am endlessly grateful. And I also am grateful to everyone else. Because now that people actually like pay attention to this shit we have a fucking chance, right? Like, we can all like take care of each other and like live happily ever after unless everything's on fire—we'll figure it out. Right? We'll figure it out. Okay, be well.

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

  • Episode Notes

    Margaret talks to author and organizer Shane Burley about fascism: what it is, why it comes up during times of crisis, and what we can do about it. They discuss the ways that we organize as anti-authoritarians to confront the ultimate authoritarianism.

    Shane Burley is the author of Why We Fight: Essays on Fascism, Resistance, and Surviving the Apocalypse (AK Press, 2021) and Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It (AK Press, 2017). His work has appeared in places such as NBC News, Jacobin, Al Jazeera, The Baffler, The Daily Beast, Truthout, In These Times, and Protean. He also runs the antifascist neofolk blog A Blaze Ansuz. You can find him on Twitter: @shane_burley1.

    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

    1:16:24

    SPEAKERSShane Burley, Margaret

    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, I use she or they pronouns. And this week I'm talking to author and researcher Shane Burley about, well about fascism, about what it is and why it comes up during times of crisis and what we can do about it and the ways that we organize as antiauthoritarians to confront the ultimate authoritarianism which is, you know, fascism. 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.

    Jingle Speaker 1 Where did you get this?

    Jingle Speaker 2 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. The Final Straw. [inaudible] Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

    Margaret So I'm here today with author and activist Shane Burley. And if you want to introduce yourself with I guess your name, which I already said, and your pronouns, and then I guess a bit of your background and how you come to know a bit about the apocalypse and fascism.

    Shane Burley Sure, sure. So Shane Burley, he/him or them, both a fine. I'm based out here in Portland, and recently just wrote a book, a collection of essays sort of tying together fascism, antifascism, and the kind of feeling of the apocalypse. I've been an organizer for all my adult life, labor, mutual aid groups, housing groups particularly, and part of kind of integrated social movements on both coasts, and have definitely seen a certain kind of crisis set in—maybe a longstanding crisis—but when that really came into fruition in 2020. So the feeling of the apocalypse was something I felt like I knew really well. And it's how I became—began to kind of understand the last few years within the narrative of apocalypse, particularly kind of the religious apocalypse that a lot of us were raised with.

    Margaret Okay. And that's kind of interesting to me because usually when I think about the apocalypse, and when I—when I talk about it, I actually don't think much or talk much about the religious apocalypse, like—and so that's actually a little bit outside my own purview. And I was wondering if you could expand on that, because I mean, like, I have ideas about how the current world relates to societal collapse in a secular sense. But could you explain more what you mean about religious apocalypse?

    Shane Burley You know, I think a piece of it comes to how I kind of understand religion or maybe spiritual practices as a sort of folk tradition for understanding our emotions, our experiences, our relationships, both kind of small, interpersonal, but also like big social systems. And so, you know, the apocalypse is something that's such—one of those ever present—kind of perennial concepts in people's folk traditions, trying to understand themselves in the world. It can be sometimes cyclical, there's many apocalypses and many rebirths, that kind of thing could be one, long standing apocalypse. But I talk about this in my book is that, you know, I had a lot of religious terror growing up in advance of the millennium. And so, you know, I was born in 1984. So I was a teenager when, you know, what the Y2K happened. But in the years leading up to that when I was still pretty young, there was this really intensive feeling that apocalypse talk was starting to happen, particularly the kind of Christian eschatology of Revelation, the rapture, and that really sort of captivated me in the worst possible way. And something I bonded—that fear I bonded on with my mother, because she had been captivated by that when she grew up Pentecostal in kind of rural California. And so that feeling of terror about what could happen, the end of the world, that stuck with me for a very long time, and not in entirely bad ways it's—and to a degree it's kind of the narrative story I give to the emotions of feeling trapped and not sure what's about to happen or feeling like things are kind of falling to pieces. And that narrative quality sometimes helps me step back and kind of understand it. And I think, after Trump's election, a real ramping up of climate collapse, economic—just totally dissolving, watching capitalism basically begin to break apart—there was that feeling. I felt like I was 10 years old again, you know, hearing about Revelation. It felt the same. And then when I was actually putting the book together it became so obvious because when I was writing the introduction, the smoke from the forest fires out in Oregon had literally blotted out the sun. And it had this kind of sickening red glow that covered everything. And people saw photos of it, you know, they were not photoshopped, it really, really was that profoundly kind of disturbing. And so it felt like it was unmistakable that there was a continuity here, that this kind of story of the apocalypse was one that was really coming to fruition more so than it had as an adult. You know, it was ephemeral when I was a kid, it was in my mind, but this was actually coming around me, and so I started to kind of understand it in that way.

    Margaret How do you think that—because I mean, most of your work, you know, when when you message me and you're saying, "Hey I, you know, I wrote this book on the apocalypse," and I was kind of like, "No, no, no, you write about fascism." Because obviously, anyone can only do one thing and obviously I'm a living example of that. But, you know, in some ways in my mind the religious aspect of it almost answers this for me in a different way than I normally think about, again, because I, I think about the world somewhat in religious terms, but I was not raised in the same kind of—I was raised a lapsed Catholic, you know, and the apocalypse wasn't something that we really talked about. I tend to think of fascism as rising in this very, very secular way. Like I think about like the material conditions or whatever, like almost like a materialist rise of fascism or something. And, and yet, I guess there's also this, well, this religious rise of fascism quite obviously. And I was wondering if you could talk about that. Why is fascism on the rise now?

    Shane Burley Yeah, there's a lot there. I, I just talked about this with someone else because they had asked me why in any of my work I don't cite Marxist theories on fascism. I never do. You know, and this is like, the kind of like, well Trotsky is the kind of thing people like to cite a lot. But there's a lot of versions of this to talk about, you know, it's the splitting of the middle class, or it's the, you know, the artisan classes meet with—there's all these kind of class dimensions that are meant to kind of tell that material story. Like this, you know, A+B=C, these conditions have been met, therefore this happened. And I don't actually think in those terms. I think in not anti-materialist terms, but I actually think about it in the ways that ideology is forced because I actually think that the conditions are much more muted than had been written about, you know, it's not as specific. There's a sort of this term, I use it in the book bunch of times, it's from Robert Paxton, which is "mobilizing passion." So it's like the energy that comes from a crisis. This could go into a left wing direction, could go into a right wing direction. Generally in privileged communities that goes into a more right wing direction. And I think that that—those conditions, quote/unquote, are this simple—that's the—that is as simple as it gets. It's just that kind of crisis can lead to it. There are kind of other factors that go in and sort of geopolitics. But what I think is more important is to think about it as a crisis of identity, of breaking of, you know, the tried—attempts to return to tradition for people to kind of parse out who they are, and—I think that that story of fascism is actually what brings us continuity from interwar years.

    Margaret Okay.

    Shane Burley Because those conditions that happened in Europe and in a few countries. Yeah, they showed no permanent stasis for how those conditions will be carried over. What happened in Germany, what happened to Italy—like in terms of the economy and those sorts of things—aren't going to happen exactly today. But what does drive them together is this crisis sense of rebirth, the the—the reification of human inequality, those sorts of things. And so we're heading to a period of a lot of instability brought on by climate collapse, economic collapse, that kind of thing. And so I think that you're seeing that tumultuous is as much of material conditions as you need.

    Margaret Yeah, that um—okay, let me pitch to you my theory about the rise of fascism and how it ties into what you're saying.

    Shane Burley Oh go for it.

    Margaret It's a very pessimistic theory because when people ask me, I basically say that like in the 20th century we were sort of able to defeat fascism, like, as an organized political entity on some level. Obviously we didn't defeat authoritarianism. We did defeat nationalism. We didn't defeat all of these other things. But I kind of think we never will be able to again, because—not that we can't like a beat it down. But my theory is that basically as climate change makes more resources scarce to more people, it—and makes more places unliveable, there will be mobility of people and there will always be people who respond to the mobility of people with like fear and scarcity and complete sort of ignorance of how labor creates all wealth and that more people means you can do more things. And so there's always going to be people who have like the "I've got mine, fuck you" response to crisis. And I just see that crisis deepening as climate change sets in. I don't know, does that map with what you're talking about?

    Shane Burley Yeah, I think he does. And I think this is gets down to that kind of collapsing of the middle that's been used a lot—why you have the radicalization of both the left and the right. Because this kind of centrist modicum of liberal politics is built on stability, it's built on the idea that this current system—which feels like it's lasted forever but it's only been here a short period of time—that's gonna, that's going to continue. And actually, when you're having increased crisis, you actually have the edges built out. And so part of, I think—part of what I think antifascists actually bring—and particularly like radicals anarchists actually bring to the antifascist project—is a battle for who owns the edges in general. So like, you're saying, we have this crisis of migration—it's not actually crisis, is totally invented by folks who are enemies of migration. But it does create that sense of crisis, and we actually end up engaging in a war with them for how we're going to approach that. Is this period of crisis going to strengthen us as a people through a revolutionary vision? Or is it going to divide us into these nationalisms that are kind of worn out? I do think that in a way we have a choice between socialism and barbarism here, that there—like we're actually going to—we kinda have to win it, otherwise somebody else is going to. So I think, like, I half agree with the pessimism. I think that there—we could be pessimistic about this. But we actually are kind of called to question on this. So we are having the question call on us right now. Like, are we going to take the challenge of the fringes to a degree? Are we going to look at this moment of crisis and say, "No, we're going to tip over and create a new revolutionary society out of that crisis." Because we don't have a choice now, it's not a matter of pushing back the crisis and trying to retain some kind of progressively moving forward center, that just can't happen anymore. The conditions don't allow for that. So instead, we have to live in the crisis.

    Margaret Okay, so basically—so maybe it's not that we can't beat them this next time, it's that the center can't beat them this time. Right. Like, like a very centrist—I mean, you know, obviously, all—anything you call centrist depends on what perspective you're looking at, right. But like, theoretically, an alliance of sort of centrist powers defeated, you know, the far right last time.

    Shane Burley Yeah totally.

    Margaret The tankies listening will love that I'm calling the USSR centrist. But that's more polite than what I would normally call the USSR. So and—so this time it actually has to be the radical left, it has to be socialism, it has to be the idea of, like, we're all in it together to some degree, as like the only way to actually try and keep it beaten down which then maybe—I'm just trying to repeat back what you're saying, cuz I'm trying to, I'm trying to think it through. So you're saying that the thing we have to do is that when people are leaving the center, we have to help them leave the center in a good direction instead of a bad direction? Is that kind of where you're getting up?

    Shane Burley Yeah, I think—I mean, in a way it's just a call to everyday radicalism to like not abandon any communities, to offer them like a tangible vision. I mean, part of the problem here is that the left loses. And the left loses so consistently, so spectacularly, that it's hard to maintain the argument at certain times, we have a revolutionary vision to offer. We abandoned certain communities, we disregard so many types of folks. And so we actually have to build that up and have a real viable alternative and the ability to win something from it. You know, like, part of why the centrist powers—you know, the great global powers—were able to defeat fascism is that they had something to offer, they were offering, like, you know, stable homes, they were—I mean, they weren't really everyone, but there was an image of it, there's like a certain kind of, like, white middle class that developed in the 50s and stuff, and they were making these arguments. All of those promises have had the rug pulled out from under them. They're all kind of revealed to be such a fraud. And people are living with that reality now. And so we—in a way we have the ability to capture that energy, and we have to deal with like a cogent vision, something really profound to offer. And I actually think that 2020 was a good example of what we have to offer, which is we don't have money and things like that, we have each other. We have the ability to share things and do it together.

    Margaret But what if instead of creating a viable alternative and creating really good visions of what we want, what if instead we create a sort of pure elite click of radicals and then anyone who doesn't totally align with us we abandon to the center and/or the right. Have you thought about that as a as an option?

    Shane Burley Let's just create affinity groups and do little a like ideology test before people can join, you know, that will be the vision of the revolutionary future. It was something—someone was asking me about, like, the things that—the things that 2020 did wrong. Like, the few different things that organizers did wrong. I just—my answer was the revival of the affinity group as a model of success. Nothing felt more alienating or most more closed off, more impactful for most people.

    Margaret So I want to push back against that idea. And maybe it's defensiveness, right. But I think that the concept of the affinity group isn't inherently flawed—like this concept, for anyone who's listening isn't aware, as far as I understand that the concept of the affinity group is that one of the primary makers of change that you can participate in is basically you, like, crew up with some of your friends and you figure out what you want to do and then you do it together. And you have like, really tight solidarity within that group. And it's a, it's a means that has, like, primarily been pushed towards, like, direct actions and demonstrations and things like that, right? It hasn't been leveraged as much in mass actions, and, you know, labor actions and things like that. But it has been used to, like, mutual aid organizing and things. But I don't know, this something—actually is really interesting. This is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I've been thinking about how people do and don't come to the left, and specifically the anarchist left or the anti authoritarian left or the anarchic left or basically the "we can't, we're not going to tell you exactly what to do" left. And on some level, we can tell people like, "Hey, here's a bunch of really good ideas." And they can be like, "Oh, cool. I want to join." And we don't usually have a good system for which—by which they can join, right? Because especially if we organize an affinity groups, it's like, well, we organize with our friends and we don't know you, you're not our friend.

    Shane Burley Yeah.

    Margaret So good luck. We have your back in the streets, probably, maybe, if we know you. I mean, ideally, right? As compared to people who organize, like, I think both churches and to some degree the right wing—well the far right actually, I think, has some of the same organizing problems that the left does. But it immediately becomes your friend group if you go join other types of organizations, right. And it provides a sense of meaning. And I would hold that it's actually a sense of meaning and affinity that holds most people into politics, into an ideology or a culture. So I see some, like, real limitations to the affinity group. But I also don't think it's wrong that people want to, like, organize with the people that they know and they care about. And I actually think it makes us more resistant to certain types of ideological takeovers and like—

    Shane Burley It does.

    Margaret —strong figureheads and things like that. But I, I just, I think we need to solve this problem of like, how do you give people places, like , you know, my argument that I've been making lately—sorry, I know, that was me interviewing you and I just, I've been thinking about this a lot. I don't get to talk to humans all that much.

    Shane Burley No, go for it. You're good.

    Margaret I've been thinking a lot about, like, what does it mean to instead of gatekeeping on the left, like, usher. Be an usher for the left, right? It's like, helping people find the place that they belong, which might not be with you, you know? I don't know actually. Okay, so that's my like vague defensiveness. But I'd like to hear your critique of the affinity group before we get back into what is fascism and how to fight it.

    Shane Burley I mean, I—I think I fundamentally agree with you and I, in all my years organizing and doing things, it is strong bonds and ideas and ideology that actually keep people there. There's this mythic idea that someone joins organizing through a perfect storm of experiences that are validated non political ways, you know, like, they were about to lose their house and the tenant union came in, they saved it and they join the movement. Now they're radical, that's the way you do it. Not, you know, I knew somebody or somebody introduced an idea to me at a party or something. Like, that's the "bad way" to come. And so no, and I also think it's important to work towards depolitisizing spaces. I don't like and I was—I've been in a number of these groups when I was younger that had this almost, like, discouraging people from being like intimately involved with each other as people, you know, as if that would weaken the project.

    Margaret Right..

    Shane Burley But what I'm—I think, when I'm talking about more is that there is a real lack of, like you said, moving people into things, of finding ways to get people included, to reaching out to them. So you know, over 2020 there's a lot of mutual aid projects. And I remember trying to touch base with a number of them—and this, this is something this is—this is something I've talked to other people about, I think it's a tough situation. It's partly, you know, getting older is part of this, maybe not feeling as tender to radical spaces as you get older. You know, I know that like having chronic health issues or experiencing disability, things like that will sometimes pull you out of those things. And I remember feeling like very tough to feel like I had a home space in the mass protests that were happening in 2020. And often feeling like people were moving without me or kind of chase—trying to chase those groups because the tight affinity group model was based on something that I wasn't invited to and a lot of people weren't invited to. And so that, if that's the the tight knit entry to it, it ends up I think having kind of a heartbreak for a lot of people that have not been able to find their way into it. And so that's sort of the thing is, if we have too many boundaries on it, and we haven't found that way of actually getting people to form that, it almost feels like a, like a romantic dream, the affinity group that you'll never have.

    Margaret Yeah, which has, like, I've always been a, you know, perpetual outsider, right? Like, there's any group I'm in, I always am convinced forever that I'm, like, not really the—I'm not part of the core of it, you know, they like, you know, when I was younger I was like, people don't even tolerate me here. Which may have been true, might not have been true. It was kind of annoying. And then as I get older, it's like, oh, they tolerate me, because I'm, like, interesting, but I'm not part of it. Right. And I think that that's actually a very common sentiment. I've talked to a lot of—a lot of anarchists who have that feeling despite being part of a sometimes really cliquey culture.

    Shane Burley Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

    Margaret So yeah, that's, uh, I don't know, that's a good point. It's funny because I'm like, well, I didn't experience that that much in 2020 because I wasn't super involved in the streets like I went sometimes, right. But I didn't work with an affinity group I tested riot materials and made shields and—

    Shane Burley Yeah that was great.

    Margaret —ran a podcast, you know. It's like I found, I found my, like, individual ways to help. And I really like that and maybe idealize that, where it's like, oh, everyone has their thing they can do and all I have to do is figure how to like, plug all these puzzle pieces together.

    Shane Burley In that way it's like, the more you need those affinity group support—and the kind of support that goes far beyond just organizational support, like the ones that really intervene in your life in a way—the more you need, that, the harder it is to find, you know. I remember years ago both my parents died in like really rapid succession. And I felt like I forgot how to talk to other people, you know, I'd just kind of stare in conversations for a really long time, much longer than people would have expected. And I think, in a way, you know, the political spaces I was doing stuff, people's reaction was that—on that—was to sort of back away from me. And to make it so that all the expectations that come along, both spoken and unspoken, I no longer could meet, therefore I couldn't really be there. You know, I couldn't travel to meetings, I couldn't necessarily be as dependable as I used to be, all those sorts of things. Really dramatically pulled me out of a shared space of mutual aid. So I spent a lot of time thinking, like, what would it mean to flip that script? What how would we create something that, like, not just, like, creates a stable mutual aid but, like, seeks people out? That kind of like grasps after them? And I don't—it's not like I have a great answer about that. But I do like the idea that that's like our mission.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Shane Burley Is to, like, constantly like reaching out towards them.

    Margaret I think that's like one of the biggest questions that we have to ask ourselves as a, as antiauthoritarians, because we have to say, you know, it's so much easier when you can say, "Well, here's the plan. We all do this, which Joe over there told us to do, you know, and all praise Joe, and we'll get this done." You know, and then because someone is, like, lost and they don't know what to do with their life, right? It's like cults recruit that way. So do fringe ideological movements. You know, so do churches, all of these three things are roughly the same thing sometimes. And, you know, it's very effective, but it's predatory. Right? You know, it's like, I always say that, like, antiauthoritarian revolutionists, we're playing—we're playing the game on hard mode, but it's also the only way to get the good ending if it's a video game, you know? Like, if you play it on easy you actually, no matter what you do, you get the bad ending. You have to play on hard mode to get to the good ending where we don't create more tyranny.

    Shane Burley This is, I mean, it's also a question of, like, organizing in general. You know, I remember being part of groups where the term "social insertion" was used a lot, you know. Which led to lots of great jokes, but like, it was this idea that, like, you know, you have an analysis, that analysis is well forged—you know, many—lots of people have got into this thing. And so you're going to go into a social movement and you're going to help shape it in a positive direction. You're inserting into this. But you're not predatory. No, no. Because you really believe in that social movement, right. Therefore, you can't be predatory. It's not entryism because you're totally well intentioned. It—now I, you know, when you look back a lot—and this is the foundation of organizing in general, you know, anyone that has like, you know, be like a union organizer talks about, like, agitational conversations. You draw people's trauma, you agitate it, and then you move it towards a path, right? Like that's the function of the classic organizing. But it does, there's a lot—like you are really going in there with the intention of moving people at vulnerable stages, moving people's projects at vulnerable stages. It's a, it's a really tough balance. And it's not one that I think is perfect. There's been a lot of times in these organized spaces where I'll see these conversations happen and I'm just like, I don't feel good about this. I feel like I was just, you know, selling somebody a Macbook or something.

    Margaret Yeah, I mean, you know, it's something I think about with, like, it's easier for me to think about with like my veganism, right. I don't seek to proselytize veganism. Like, one, I just straight up don't believe it's the answer for everybody. You know, some people don't even have a question so why would they need an answer? But when people come to me, and they're like, oh, what's the deal? Why do you do this? I'm very happy to talk about it. Right? And say, like, this is why it works for me. And I kind of tried to do that with anarchism, but it, you know, but it feels a little bit more urgent, right? With anarchism. But that urgency is dangerous, right? It's the same thing as like a Christian missionary because, you know, a Christian missionary, you have to go do this because you're literally saving people from eternal damnation. And so there's this, like, similar drive sometimes into saying, like, well, there's oppression and anti-oppression, and I need to teach everyone anti-oppression. And it's true. But also, it's not going to work until people are ready to like come to it which, of course, also doesn't have any reflections within the church and come to Jesus. I don't know. Yeah, the social insertion thing always bothered me even though I on some level, right, I do it, but I do it subculturally, right. If I'm involved with a subculture I try to like stake out a presence for, like, radical ideas within that subculture that, like, come from that subculture, you know. I'll try and say, like, well, I'm involved in goth and here's all the, like, things that I reflect well with about the goth subculture that work with my values as an anarchist. And I'll definitely like tell people that. And in my head that's different than saying, like, I'm going to demand that all goth spaces be leftist. I might demand that all goth spaces be free of Nazis. But that's only to do my part to make sure the entire world is free of Nazis.

    Shane Burley I feel almost like less conflicted when it comes to a subcultural space. You know, so it's like, you know, like, we've talked about, like, neofolk and stuff. Like, I am entering a neofolk space to change the rules and kick out all the Nazis totally intentionally, like, I—like they should be scared. It's a nefarious plan. We want to eliminate them from the space entirely. But, like, when someone's sort of, like, sharing their, like, human vulnerability, I feel like we need to hold that with care, you know, and sometimes that's a really tough balancing act. You know, there's, there's a lot—I mean, I used to feel uncomfortable with the radical politics-to-church analogy, but it's very true. And in a lot of ways, just common human impulses, right, to try and come together with other people figure out a solution for this mess. You know, we have our own version of eschatology. We have our own version of the Second Coming, like, all those sorts of things, in a way, I feel like maybe it's a common human story just told with profoundly different language. And so I it's—I mean, this was true all in 2020, because there was so much trauma. Just—all of the kind of political friction was built on trauma, all the transitions were traumatic ones. So the question was, how do you radicalize this moment but also, like, really holding true to supporting people through that trauma.

    Margaret So this idea of how—I'm answering the beginning of what he said instead of the end of what he said because I got fixated on it. This idea of, like, you entered the subculture and you kick the Nazis out, right, and that is your, your entryism. That is your, you know, I'm trying to change this. And it's interesting because it's, that's different than saying, "I'm going to enter neofolk and make it an anarchist space." But instead it's saying, "I'm going to enter neofolk and to make it a space that is okay for me and mine and my, like, leftism, and drive out the Nazis." And so, I actually do think that's different than like walking in and saying, "Everyone needs to be this." And so that's actually, I think that reflects onto, like, antifascism as a larger movement. I think this answers the question of how to change the world perfectly and we've solved everything. Is that antifascism—you know, it's like people use anarchists and antifascism almost interchangeably if they're talking shit in the media, right? And also, like, you know, historically, right, like you know, anarchists are the forefront of antifascism and then also, if you look at the period in which, you know, authoritarian left was like not really a player on the scene for, like, until more recently again, you know, anarchism, antifascism were fairly synonymous, right? But it's different because it's saying, we want to drive out the Nazis, like, we want to stop Naziism and make it okay for us to be anarchists or anarchic or, you know, some other leftist position that is a reasonable one. And then when we do that the thing that we're united about is drive out the Nazis. And I find that that, like, naturally tends towards people being, like, "Hey, what are the alternatives to the Nazis?" And like thinking more for the—on their own, "How do I get involved in making sure I'm part of a society that has no room for Nazis, period." And then come to the left and that way.

    Shane Burley It's sort of like capturing another mobilizing passion too, you know. Like, the passion of music, or of a musical space or a subculture—so there's a lot of really emotive experiences in there that somebody else is capturing. Like somebody else is telling that story. We're not there. And so it's a totally contested space. And I think there's a chapter in the book that talks about this. But it's, it ends up being a [inaudible] struggle. That's one that's like so overlooked in a lot of political groups, they look kind of down on that or don't see it as productive work because they don't want their movements and remain subcultural so they avoid engaging in subcultural struggle. The other part is you kind of have to be a part of that subculture to deal with any sicerity.

    Margaret Right.

    Shane Burley But it is something where you're sort of like saying, I'm not allowing these people to take energy anymore. Like we are, like, it's like a war for that energy and space.

    Margaret Yeah, because I think people are attracted to subculture for the same reason that they're attracted in some ways to ideology, which is that they desire a sense of meaning. And I would say subculture is usually more about, like, aesthetic meaning, right? Which is incredibly valid, and I care about it deeply as a person. And yeah, like, subculturalism gets a lot of shit. And actually, I think it's comparable to the way affinity groups get shit, right? Because, like, if you have the cool kids and you're not one of them, then it's really natural and actually an antiauthoritarian and good urge to be, like, well then fuck the cool kids. Right?

    Shane Burley Yeah.

    Margaret But and I think we—

    Shane Burley I've always said, fuck the cool kids, for sure.

    Margaret Yeah. And then what's funny is then you end up being the cool kids who say fuck the cool kids and you're like, you can't join because you have a baseball cap, and then you're like—or whatever. I don't know what the cool kids I—well, all the cool hipster anarchist all have baseball caps now anyway. But, you know, it's like, you're like a normal guy wearing khakis, you can't join, you know, because fuck you. It's like, nah, you're actually just being the cool kids. But, so if we—people who don't like subculturalism within radical politics, it makes sense, right? If you think—if you conflate punk and anarchy, right? And you're not a punk, you therefore think, well, I'm, I can't be an anarchist. And as a—and then probably there's a bunch of dumb punks who are like, "Oh, the fact that I'm a squatter is the only good real way to be an anarchist." Right? And so then, you know, they're gatekeeping, anarchism, etc, right? And I find that the answer is not to then, like—I remember when all of a sudden all the punks, like, started trying to dress as normal as possible in order to, like, infiltrate the mainstream.

    Shane Burley Yeah.

    Margaret And I think some people did that to infiltrate the mainstream, but I actually think most of them did it because they actually wanted to dress normal, or dress in a different aesthetic than they were previously. And they were actually making room for you to dress in a different aesthetic within the radical movement. And so I think that's good. I think that the, like—my answer has always been we just need to make every subculture a space that engenders radicalism, you know, and we need to—and then we just need to make sure that they all, like, get along with each other where it's not, like, "Oh, well you're, you know, you're into metal that's dumb" or whatever, right?

    Shane Burley You know, I think in a way—I don't know if this is a step too far—but a liberated society is a web of very collaborative subcultures. You know? Because people, people are different, they'll have different tastes, religions, like, you know, ways of living life, diets, things like that. And the goal is to allow people with different while eliminating nationalism and like those dividing lines and hierarchies. And so I respect people's subcultures. And a lot of—you know, I talked about—I have a chapter in the book called "Contested Space," and I talk about neofolk, I talk about heathenry a lot. A lot of these things like, if you—when you talk to antiracist heathens, you ask them why you do this work they're like, "Because nobody else will care. They'll just give this away to people," right? Like, people don't care about our subcultures, except for us. And to remain true to that, like, we're the only ones that can do it. So it becomes, in a way, a really essential political struggle because the struggle to, like, whether or not we have the ability to create spaces that really reflect us.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Shane Burley And a lot of ways like all these Nazi infiltrations into a lot of subcultures is like a direct attack on our ability to, like, enjoy life, to have like an aesthetic way of living.

    Margaret Yeah. And then, so this all comes back into this thing where it's like, it's about solidarity instead of unity. It's instead of saying, like, it's not about everyone suddenly becoming the same and all having the same ideas. It's just literally about, like, not hating people for having other different religious ideas, or aesthetic ideas, or even political ideas within a certain frame. Right? As long as the frame allows for other people to have political ideas, you have a lot more freedom to accept them, right? Okay, so how would you describe fascism? And how would you suggest the fight against fascism, what it might look like? Those are probably—those are really simple questions.

    Shane Burley [Laughing] I'll give you, like, 10 word answers then we'll be good.

    Margaret Yeah, listicle maybe.

    Shane Burley So in my first book I basically have two [inaudible] in the definition of fascism. So one is the belief in human inequality, that people are fundamentally hierarchical and unequal, for a myriad of reasons, biological or racial or spiritual. And the other thing is that identity is fixed, immutable, and determines who you are. So those identities and the hierarchies are bound together. Race is the most common one you see, but gender plays in there, sexual orientation, sometimes religion, there's other factors case—there's different versions of this that can play out. And but we use intentionally vague language so that you can include a bigger swath of types of far right movements that have that kind of base commonality. Well, part of this is a revolutionary return to a pre-enlightenment way of living or a pre kind of modern way. So you'll take kind of earlier modern racial ideas and try and bring them up to the current day by using, you know, pseudoscience, or reinterpreting spiritual values, things like that. There's a revolutionary element to it, it does seek to basically undermine the basic assumptions of society. So that it can achieve both the hierarchy and the identity models. And it has a populist element to it. And that's, I think, one thing that gets sometimes lost in this and it particularly gets lost in some of the older kind of Marxist tropes about finance capital, or monopoly capital, things like that, is that the working class does fascism, the white working class in particular does it in a really mass level. People participate in fascism, it's not just happening from the top, it actually happens in a lot of ways from the bottom or the middle. But it happens from mass complicity. And the violence is a really central part of that as well, because violence is kind of understood as the fulcrum of hierarchy and identity. It's how politics happens in this kind of revolutionary cycle. It's turning back on the center with a new revolutionary, not to turn things back to where it was, but they take the reactionary things they like from the past and modernize them, which is a very complicated series of forces. Why I think it's really hard to answer, you know, there's, you know, hundreds of hundreds of books written about what fascism is and almost none of them actually agree with one another, which makes it really, really hard to fight it. I think—so there's a few things, having a clear understanding of what is fascist and what is not, I think, is really important. And I think that has actually been built up pretty well over the past five or six years, people actually have a much more sophisticated understanding of politics, like just everyday folks, because they've been forced to do it and to really orient to it. The fundamental core way to fight fascism is to disallow its presence. And so fascism has to do all the normal organizing things to grow, it has to talk to people, it has to build sometimes groups, both formal and informal. Deplatforming is the process by which those things seek you no longer have access to other people. So breaking that chain is the fundamental core of antifascism. I think another core piece of that is having a revolutionary vision to offer people that runs counter to that, that exposes the lie for it and actually brings people together in something that really gets at their needs, you know, that really gets at the solutions to economic inequality are the feelings of alienation, the lack of community, those sorts of things. I think that's the other piece of it. Antifascism is an inherently negative thing. And I think we actually kind of caught earlier about why. It's actually a really simple proposition. We're not trying to build everything, we're just trying to stop this one place so we can exist. But when we exist, we do the other thing, right? The other thing is part of how we exist. It's like a civic life, to live a joyous life is to actually build that community. And that's how I kind of—I talked about this in the book. That's how I think of a revolutionary vision is us building something that supports us in our own image, like when we're doing that you're engaging in that revolutionary project.

    Margaret Okay. Given like, so basically saying in some ways, it's actually hard to defeat it with centrism, it's hard to defeat it with—certainly anyone who's like disaffected by the status quo is obviously not going to be super attracted to the status quo. One of the things that—okay, so what about like, I'll just pitch my, like, my thing that I think about a lot with how to defeat fascism, is that I think the fascist mindset is an attraction to individual power. And, like, to be strong—maybe community power—but like, to be like strong with your buds, right? And against this thing that you're afraid of. Like, I think that—I think that essentially fascism is a cowardly position. It comes from this—and I—this is like very pejorative, I mean, obviously I love pejoratives to say about Nazis—but like, it comes from this position of fear, right? Like, these people are coming, they will therefore destroy my way of life. I am not strong enough to live my own life if these other people are around. This kind of thing. But also, like, I think people want to get high on power, and especially, like, street level—like, it seems like fascism has historically tended to have a paramilitary element of, like, you know, people run around beating up people that don't like, right? And I think those people are very much attracted to strength. And when they get beat up, it's not fun anymore. Like when they can show up in enough numbers to when it's real fun. And then when they get their asses handed to them, it's not anymore. And maybe this is like kind of leftover from some of them—the pre—like, we've learned a lot about confronting fascism in the past three or four years, right? I'm basing this mostly on my experiences of talking to primarily European, especially Eastern European, antifascists who are doing work, like, over the past, like, 10-20 years, is this idea that like, yeah, when it's not fun anymore, when when you're not strong anymore, you quit. I don't know. Does that? Am I wrong about that? Are we've been proven wrong? Or is that, how does that tie in?

    Shane Burley No, I mean, there's, there's a really old through line from like Adorno and folks—like Adorno wrote, you know, "The Authoritarian Personality" about this kind of process, you know, that was really at the heart of what fascism was. I think, you know, I think there's a sort of rebellion against soft power, the idea that power is gained through consensus and compromise and lobbying and persuasion, and like a sort of return to hard power that, like, wins by force and strength, like sort of cuts out all the other stuff. Which feel as though—at least have been told to them—is how things are done now, which is why you're in x, y, and z situation, which is why your life is going nowhere, because of this kind of coercion of softness.

    Margaret They can punch their way out of all this talk.

    Shane Burley Right, right. And this is a deep, I think this is a deepseated thing in our culture, in general. There's this Marxist named Moishe Postone who wrote this really famous essay on antisemitism called "Antisemitism and National Socialism." And he talks about the commodity form—basically that the way that products are made sort of bifurcates labor. There's like the good labor of, like, artisans, people use their hands. And then there's like the bad labor of, like, finance, capital, or maybe like real estate people, bankers, that kind of thing. But the reality is that both of them are a part of the system, right? They're actually both a piece of capitalism. And really an equal measure. But we don't see it that way. And so we ended up experiencing a bifurcation whereby we start to resent this one type of capital, when we start to like, you know, celebrate the other type of capital. And I think there is a really deeply layered process in that where we create a false image of what's responsible in our lives. And then we look at this sort of producer's mentality of a strong person using their hands, laboring, that honest person, and that person has to be the one that's being kind of attacked by the other person, the other person is basically characterized by their, you know, greedy persuasion and their lies and their, you know, board rooms and their greasy hands and that kind of thing. And so I think we ended up having a culture that helps to build this in, that it helps to tell the story that if you were only to just be strong, and to essentially use violence, you would be able to see through all the petty perversions of society, all the things that make us so sick. If you could just overcome that and be like the artisan instead of the finance capitalist, then you would somehow come out. And I think there's a deep mythology, because what's happening is that story is being told. But then there's real impulses underneath it. People really are losing their homes and they're losing their farms. They really don't know the community, they don't have neighbors, they don't have good jobs, they don't talk to the kids. I mean, those things are real. And so I think that that process—having a real tactile experience, right? It's going out with your buddies in your goofy polo shirts and hitting someone, it feels like you're doing something, right? Like, you're really reaffirming that dichotomy. That's profoundly powerful thing. And I think that, you know, when you see people out in that kind of, those—again, I've been a lot of these Proud Boy rallies where they attack people, and not just Proud Boys, other groups—like, they are as high as people could be. I mean, there's almost like a spiritual dimension to setting yourself up for that kind of violence. It imbues so much meaning in their lives, and they attach so much meaning to it. So I think you're right, I think there's this process about claiming individual power. But the reality is, I mean, you know this, it's not like a secret that that's not power at all. That's maybe one of the weakest things a person can do. What's powerful is coming together with other people and realizing your vulnerability with them. And having the ability to actually change something. Like that's, that's a—I mean, it's infinitely more powerful. But again, we're being told that that's the slimy way of doing things in a way. That that's the, that's the coercive way. That's a soft way. That's the way of liberals and people who have gotten this in this situation in the first place.

    Margaret Yeah. And then I think about—I mean, there's like, there's ways that we always have to be on guard. I don't want to say, like, antifascist is the same as fascist. It's just not true, right. Antifascist violence is like an inherently defensive quality that—on the other hand, I mean, I'm sure Nazis would say that theirs is defensive, too, about their way of life or whatever the fuck right? But—

    Shane Burley They always frame it as defense.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Shane Burley That's, it's so consistent always. Even when—the beginning of the Holocaust they framed is self defense.

    Margaret And so then it's like an interesting thing where in some ways I'm saying, well, like, the way is that if you beat them up successfully enough, they go away. And, you know, that is in some ways holding on to hard power or promoting hard power. But yet I—and maybe I'm wrong about this—but okay, there's like this story that has always sat with me. I was talking to an antifascist, an old punk from Asheville who was part of the antifascist kicking out shit, Nazi punks in the 80s. And he was like, well they outnumbered us, right? But we won eventually on some level of driving fascist organizing out of Asheville. And the way we would do it, is we gave them no rest. You see a Nazi, you jump a Nazi. And he was talking about this time where he was, like, walking home, he sees three Nazis, he's alone, and he jumps them. He jumps all three of them. And he gets the shit kicked out of him, right? But it's like—but it still breaks their sense of security and rightness. Because they're not the ones who instigated that, you know? And eventually it kind of drove people away. And, and maybe this is bullshit, but I think about how, like, theoretically—like Nazis will play the underdog card if it's all they got, right? But like, what they—their good card is claiming underdog without being underdog that's like their strong card in their deck. But claiming underdog while being underdog doesn't really work very much because only the most like deeply ideologically committed Nazis stay Nazis in that sense. Everyone else is kind of like, yes, isn't really fun anymore. And again, I don't know if this is outdated. And I wonder—I questioned my own in this case, like, insistence on hard power. And I think that there's all kinds of, like, soft power that goes behind this. And like, it seems like antifascist organizing has at least as long of a history of, like, organizing, and also like counter recruitment, and like, soft stuff.

    Shane Burley You know, it—it's like those things you're indicating, those are actually approached as organizing, right? So it's like never letting you rest. And this is something I've heard from other groups. You know, when I interviewed Rose City Antifa for my last book they said they basically were able to successfully take down Volksfront—which was like a, you know, a big confederation skinhead gang in the 90s centered in Portland—just because they were so tenacious, because they never stopped, right? They made it so impossible. But that was like an organizing project. It actually wasn't just about like building up muscles and taking them down. It was about, like, you know, how do you look at a situation and find all the ways to make them totally unsuccessful, you know, to make them unstable at home and at work. So it was almost like in a way of like, those sorts of things, whether or not they're engaging in physical resistance was almost like a secondary thing to the negotiation of being like a community organizer and being like in that community and thinking—and there's the other different too is that they really are defensive. I mean, people are being pushed to defend themselves because of the violent presence of Nazis if, you know, if neo-nazi skinheads weren't out murdering people in the 80s I doubt a movement of people would have formed to take them on. Like they—their violence was so ever-present that they—people were forced to do it. You know, and I also, as much as people I know there's like, you know, riot porn videos and stuff, I never really hear antifascists doing a ton of celebrations of violence, because I don't think that there's a lot of like joy in that for most folks.

    Margaret Yeah. And then I almost think that the ones that have the most joy are the sort of, like, when it's almost like you're like clowning them. Like, obviously, it is not totally the same to put a pie in someone's face as punch them in the face. It's almost like you're doing it to make sure that people laugh at them. You know, like, I just think of the Richard Spencer punch, you know. Like it wasn't, like, he got taken to the ground and, like, you know, kicked to death or something. Right? It was just like, he was talking and now he can't because someone sucker punched him.

    Shane Burley Yeah, it was like a humiliate—like a public humiliation. You know, it also, it stops their continuity. I mean, like Richard Spencer could no longer just go talk to a camera anymore, right? It's too uncomfortable to do that. So the function wasn't that, like, stopping them with the fist, it was now they have the specter hangover of not be able to do x, y, and z activity. That work was—I mean, it was so clear with Richard Spencer too because he was so upfront about it. I talked about in the book, too. I mean, like, that's what stopped them was that they could not do the events anymore. So they couldn't do the practical organizing they wanted to do, their organizations really couldn't function anymore. So it was sort of like taking that to its logical conclusion, like, how do you see through the situation and like a real organizer way, which is why I think part of why the left is different—or radicals are different—because it is about a community building project. Because at the fundamental core, it's about how do we realize an actual vibrant, loving community?

    Margaret I'm just, like—I mean that's probably what they say. But there's a difference just literally in whether or not ours is about, you know, ours is about inclusion and theirs is about exclusion, you know? Okay, well, how does all this tie into apocalyptic survival, right? We're talking about what is fascism? How do we stop fascism? You know, why—I mean, I know the answer to this, but why am I having you on this prepper podcast? What is—how does how does this tie together?

    Shane Burley I think there's a couple things here. I think the first is acknowledging what we're actually living in, which is much more severe than I think where—what is normative to discuss. And I think part of why it, we, we don't encourage that kind of discussion is that we are afraid it would lead to apathy, we're afraid it would lead people to not fight, you know, things like climate change, to not try and push back on, like, emission standards, whatever the reforms are, you know, and I think there's a fear that pushing past that would then disallow us all the kind of both morally and practically accessible things to do. The other thing is just living with the actual reality of where we're at, you know. What's that mean, like, [inaudible] a lot, you were trained to live in a world that no longer exists. That's a really profound thing that we have to kind of sit with. And so I'm now in a situation where in the next couple of months, within a few miles of my house, the entire ancient forests that surround my city will ignite in the flames, right? And they'll blanket everything with a toxic smoke where I'll have to wear a gas mask and we have to use air purifiers. That's, that's what this is now. We can expect that, we put on calendar. That's what our life is like now for that period. We're living in an era where literally, like, people's financial investments are dominated by stuff like cryptocurrency. I'm not even trying to make fun of people, I just, this is just the kind of chaos of the modern economies, where we're heading to a place where, you know, states—while as kind of monstrous as they are—are still things that we've sort of depended on, those are starting to break down in their practical functions, they literally couldn't meet the challenges of 2020. It wasn't just they get it in a shitty way, it's that they could not do it at all. And so what that does is it sort of forces us into a counter power project where these sort of things like mutual aid stuff take on a level of importance that they didn't have for every person all the time, you know, there—I know you've been a part of bunch of mutual aid groups, I've done a bunch, you know, Food Not Bombs when I was younger, and a lot of them were really bad. And I feel kind of bad, like, drawing out the worst examples of them over the last year because I've talked about this a lot.

    Margaret You mean like how we thought eggplant should be cooked in Food Not Bombs?

    Shane Burley We'd like—you know, there was just times when I was like, I was like, you know, the food we're cooking is subpar. We're like two hours late because we're hung over. And just stuff like that all the time. And the reality was that the soup kitchen down the road, which we had all kinds of ethical problems with, did it much better. Like they just did what we were trying to do a lot better. That has actually in a way collapsed in on itself where the idea that there is a service space that exists and non-politicized way has sort of disappeared, and we're all that's left. And also our ability to do it has gotten better. And there's better examples historically, you know, like, survival pending revolution programs with the Panthers, there's other groups that done it really well. But we're hitting an era of capacity where we're actually in a way sort of able to take it on. And what I saw in 2020 was, you know, mutual aid groups come together really quickly around the Coronavirus, then those mutual aid groups to the protests, and grow that and create the whole infrastructure. And then that infrastructure then pivots to the fires, which then pivots to the next thing. And we're actually able to do that in a really profound way. So as this crisis is unfolding and we're living through profound prices, our ability to survive through collective action is really ramping up. And so I'm seeing these different projects as ways of not just seeing through how to survive the crisis, but what's on the other side? You know, our ability to survive now and to do it in a vibrant way is that revolutionary project that comes next. And so, when I think about the apocalypse, I don't just think about, you know, all like the kind of, I don't know, eschatological fantasies of like the Left Behind series, you know, where like, it's like fire and brimstone and, you know, people being beamed up to heaven. I think about what does it mean to bring something to an end. And I think, like, if we're thinking about collapse and things like that, that's endemic to our society now. That's not an end of anything. That's just a continuation of what we've had to a degree. What ends it is changing our underlying conditions. And so I think by responding to this crisis in the way that we're doing—and this is just the seed of it, hopefully it just grows as we create really vibrant structures of survival, healthcare networks, of solidarity networks to support people in tenant situations, all the kinds of things that we're going to need. By doing that we actually do have the ability to shift to the next stage, that we actually answer the crisis, not with more crisis, but by bringing this thing to an end so we can build something new.

    Margaret Okay, so that actually answers my pessimism at the beginning of it, right, is—like, there's going to be something new. Things are not going to continue. Now. I mean, I'll be real, like, people thought capitalism is gonna fall before. I actually don't want to put all my eggs in the capitalism is definitely going to collapse basket, or even the nation states are going to collapse basket, just because they're oddly resilient. Right? But it's gonna be fucking different.

    Shane Burley Yeah, yeah, exactly.

    Margaret And, and it completely certainly could collapse, which people just sort of forget is possible, and then they remember it as possible. But now the Biden's president they forget as possible again. And so then, if everyone's looking at this escalating crisis, there needs to be an answer we offer. And Nazis are offering an answer, which is blame the migrants, be strong by being a fucking coward. You know, masculinity taken to its ultimate and—not even its ultimate extreme, a weird, twisted side path of masculinity. And so yeah, I guess we got to do something new instead. And that's the answer to the pessimism is everyone's going to change their mind about how society should work. So we just have to fuckin good enough answer.

    Shane Burley And I actually am optimistic about it. You know, one of the, one of the realities—I think we—I have gotten historically caught up in this kind of, this under resourced space. Like, we don't have money, they have the money. We don't have the time, we're always working trying to survive. But the reality is, we have the one thing that this new model is built on, we have each other. That is all that we actually need. And the reality is I think that maybe this is the materialism of the—maybe this is the dialectic is that the conditions have met into a place where I think, like, for example, we have social media tools that do allow us to connect in ways we didn't before. We have the ability to travel and be with people in a way we didn't have before. We have the ability to spontaneously rise up in coordinated fashion that was really hard, you know, a couple of decades ago. Conditions are ripe to actually realize what it means to build a society of relationships. That is possible. And by doing it now, by living that through, it inherently challenges power. That is a revolutionary process right there. You know, it's not one that leads to a revolution, is it right there. Like, living that new society is that revolutionary process because it creates the friction and tension. And the reality is that we are, like you said, it's not like capitalism and the state are going to disappear tomorrow, but they are going to devolve even further into more outstanding cruelties. Which, in a way, puts the necessity on us because we can only survive by doing it together, that—we can always survive through a new society.

    Margaret Yeah, when people ask me, you know, when people I'm—like, um, you know, I prepare for the apocalypse or whatever, like—or even like, I want to have an anarchist society or I want a totally different society, people will be like, "Well, how would you do this, that thing or the other?" And you're like, well, how do we do it now? Like, people will be like, "Well, how would a revolutionary society make antibiotics?" And you're like, well, I literally don't know because I don't know how we do it now, but there are people who do know how and many of those people might join us and tell us how, or just keep doing it. You know, and—yeah, you're right, we always fall into this idea that, like, we—I think overall one of the biggest problems is I think that, like, leftist revolutionists, anarchists, whatever the fuck, like just don't know how to, like, take themselves seriously and act big. Like, because we are so used to being told we can't do anything but, like, throw a tantrum. And now I'm not like talking shit on rioting, I think that's actually a great way of expressing power and learning to find power with each other, you know, but that—we're being told that all we can do is, like, stir things up a little bit. And, you know, we even run into this within, like, ostensibly left spaces where people are like, "Oh, well, you know, you antiauthoritarians don't actually accomplish anything." And they're actually just lying. Like, they're just, they're either wrong or lying. We have we accomplish things on massive scales constantly. Probably the most interesting revolutionary project happening in the world right now is the democratic confederalism of northern Syria, at least in terms of like scale that it's happening on, you know? And we can do that, you know? It doesn't require—I mean, it requires organization which actually gets into that soft—I don't know. Ah, man, there's just so much to fuckin think about all this.

    Shane Burley In a way it gets at the problem—it gets it the reality of the problem—which is that we're not engaging in revolution because it's easy.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Shane Burley We're doing it because it's hard. Like we didn't—like, easy doesn't get us where we're trying to go, right? Like we just talked about earlier, it's actually the hard. You know, one of the—I used to love this, coming from a kind of authoritarian communist that would try and stack up their list of accomplishments. And I'm like, name one of those, that was a liberated society. Not one of them. Never one. Like, the reality is that like, it's just hard. And it's unlikely too. That's the other thing, it's a journey. And so we, it does require sort of throwing it all in, which used to feel scary, except we are all in all the time now. You know, like, we live in a war society now. And so it's never going to be a situation where the comforts of stability are just there that we can kind of retreat to for safety. Instead, all we have is each other, which has a volatility to it, but it's one that we control.

    Margaret And there's upsides to this, like, no one thinks the normal is normal anymore. You know? Like, I don't—I never actually want to fall into the, like, "Collapse of society is good, actually." Right? Because like, yeah, the existing society was a nightmare, but like, the breakdown of it causes so much trauma, pain, and death—

    Shane Burley So much pain.

    Margaret —that you can't, yeah, you can't celebrate it. Like because it's also a failure. We didn't successfully, like, shift before this happened, right? But there's something nice about like, you know, like people believing that your position is a lot more reasonable than they used to believe. Like, even just stuff like, oh hey, I'm going to go to this medical training. Or before the inauguration, I'm going to spend $1,000 on trauma medical supplies and make sure that they're distributed to people. Or whatever the thing is, right? I can say that to, like, coworkers and stuff now, right? Because people are like, yeah, I mean, okay. It's not necessary, what they would do, but like, it doesn't seem as far fetched as it used to.

    Shane Burley Yeah, I was talking with Scott Crow and I was working on the book and, you know, we're talking about the Common Ground Clinic, and we're talking about the real early days of being in, in the kind of Katrina—in like the aftermath of the hurricane.

    Margaret Could you, could you explain for people who don't know what you're talking about?

    Shane Burley Yeah, yeah. So we're talking about in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Scott Crow and number of folks came out there and worked to develop this kind of community-run clinic, this kind of mutual aid project—a number of mutual—actually it became an interlocking web of different types of mutual aid projects. And one of the things he was talking about, like, you know, you want to fight collapse. Like you want to—there's really no—nothing should be romanticize about collapse. There's also a reality of, like, things were gone. There is actually a void there now. And so in a way we, you know—he's like, what I had to offer—which felt so partial in other situations—what I had to offer was what was necessary then. It's all there was. And so in a way there's less competition for how to solve problems, in a sense. Because we've seen that like there is—there really isn't an offered solution. It's not like we can take the temporary solution that state is offering when it comes to the Coronavirus. All that was there was us helping each other. No one else is going to show up at our house and deliver medication, it just wasn't gonna happen. And so in a way, like, our ideologies and like the ideas that underskirt that suddenly have an incredible relevance for people because they actually answer the question everyone has. And I think there is that common experience makes the case better than we ever could have. It makes the case in a very sincere way. And it's one that we don't have to pump full of kind of this ideological performance. We're just there trying to exist in this kind of supportive, overcoming way. And, maybe it's just the silver linings playbook in a way, but it's about looking at a lot of these crisis happening and seeing, like, how can I be there in the best version of myself I can with other people. Like, how can I show up and live this out and try and support community and build it with the confidence that doing that is a revolutionary act, that it does actually get us somewhere? You know, in a time—I mean, like, this was, this was fucking hard. Like, this was a really hard year and a half. And coming through it, we did it with each other and we really saw a vision of what we were. And I—it comes down to—I think, you know, Robert Evans I think talked about this on the podcast. You know, people are smart and kind with each other in crisis for the most part. The non—there's an elite panic of rich people that will kind of force that crisis and stuff that survivalists, right wing survivalists often talk about. But what we see is that our ability to handle this crisis is incredibly resilient, and incredibly caring. And in a way it runs counter to every narrative and structure we have in society. So I—seeing that, it gives me a lot of hope and optimism, not just that we can make it through this incredible sense of collapse, but also that we can build something new out of it. And maybe that's the dialectic, the conditions we were always sort of promised.

    Margaret I really appreciate your optimism, partly because I think I usually try to be the more optimistic person—not necessary on this podcast, but in conversations in my life, and that I sort of needed this pep talk today. So I actually really appreciate it. It actually ties into—it makes me think about—we got to wrap this up in a moment. But I think about um, you know, sometimes you work and your work and you work in a project, and it just doesn't resonate with people. And maybe you care about it so you keep doing it. And sometimes you work and you work and you work and it resonates with people way beyond, like, what you put in is—you get way more out of it than what you put in. And this podcast has actually been an example of that. My previous podcast is not an example of it. I I ran a podcast called We Will Remember Freedom which was an anarchist fiction podcast, and it had listeners and had people cared about it, right? And I put a lot of work into it.

    Shane Burley Yeah I listened to that.

    Margaret And I'm proud of that podcast. And then I made this podcast right before the Coronavirus and it resonated more with people. And, while both things are important to me, it actually makes sense to do these things that resonate with people, and mutual aid and rebellion are kind of what we've been doing forever—not like just you and me, but like, you know, the antiauthoritarian left—and it's resonating with people right now. And it's a really good time to let it keep resonating with people and to, like, put energy in when it's coming back. And, I don't know.

    Shane Burley It's—I actually think it's almost, in a way, like what we're talking about the subculture is like people like survivalism. They want to be able to do these things and they don't feel welcome in those spaces. So there's this—I think, this idea that like, yeah, I think this is kind of cool. I'd like to be able to, you know, do edible plants or do, you know, medical training, like build self defense—they want to do all these things but then they go and look at the spaces where those are available and don't see themselves in is all. So when when someone gives them the option of like, yeah, I'm actually going to validate your desires and we're going to allow you to be yourself with it, that's like a really profound thing. I think that, but that's happening all over the place with mutual aid and survival things, with DIY stuff is having a huge Renaissance. People want to have that really hands on, tactile effect in their lives. And I think because they've seen that so many things were sort of outside of our control, and we're doing it in this way that brings us together. And I think having, combining those things and not having this isolationist survivalists fantasy allows people to really rethink, what would it mean, like—what would it mean to build community in a crisis? And I think that—it is optimistic in the end, I think it's giving people a real path forward.

    Margaret And I will say to anyone who's listening, my favorite type of response that I've gotten from this podcast is—well, I mean, the most nice in my personal life is when I go to something and people are like, "Oh my god, I love your podcast." That's really fun. But overall, hearing from people who were, who weren't necessarily leftist, but just like weren't right wingers who were like, well, I like living in the woods and I have always been kind of into preparedness. And, you know, it's refreshing to hear people talk about this who don't think antifa are terrorists or whatever. Right? And, you know, and who are concerned about the rise of fascism. And, I don't know, I appreciate that so much. Because for all I'll talk about, like, I really mean it when I say, if I enter a space, all I want to do is kick out the Nazis. I don't want to tell people they have to ideologically agree with me beyond "don't murder me for being trans." You know? I don't know. Okay, but do you have like, last thoughts about fascism, apocalypse, survival? And then, if not, or at the end of, would you like to let listeners know more where they can find your books and your other content?

    Shane Burley I think, you know, one of the threads in the book is that people can make apocalypses in your life, like the belief in white genocide has created an apocalypse in many people's lives in the form of mass shooting and really cruel violence. And there's no reason to believe that in the next couple of years, suddenly those forces will disappear, which I think is why community support, defense, mutual aid, is so crucial. Not just in times of trauma, but all the time. And so I don't, I don't want to have it be an optimism that's based out—you know, that doesn't see the real crisis and trauma that we're in, that could be coming, that has happened. It's about trying to do it together as much as possible. The simplest, most basic element of my politics is about being here with each other. It's hard to make it much more complicated than that. So, I think if we're able to answer that, how we do those things together, how we survive together, we'll end up answering a lot more questions than we thought we would.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Shane Burley Find my stuff. Yo, I'm on Twitter. I'm very online @shane_burley1. My book is "Why We Fight." Pick up AK Press if y'all want. They're the publisher, but you can also buy directly from them. And I'm doing a bunch of writing all over the place right now.

    Margaret Okay. Yeah, do you still run a music blog?

    Shane Burley Oh, I do. I do. So you can find it at antifascistsneofolk.com. It's called the Blaze Ansuz. I'm trying to do more interviews than I have been lately. But basically what I'm doing is interviewing antifascist neofolk and similar musicians. It's a lot of ways all over the political spectrum that they all are just united on on hating Nazis and wanting to boot out the far right from the, some sort of music scenes that they've been a part of. And we've discovered a lot of great bands, a lot of bands have come out, have come together with it. I know that there's some music festival coming up in the works. You might know more about that than I do. And there's a bunch of compilations with some colleagues over at Left Folk. They'll be putting together and doing a bunch of work over the next year promoting as many bands as possible because the numbers of bands identify as antifascist neofolk are just like, it's like dozens and dozens of dozens, just growing really fast.

    Margaret Cool. We're taking over. Speaking of subcultural insertion. And don't worry listeners, if you don't know what neofolk is, neither do we. It is a very hard to understand conceptually genre. All right. Well, thank you so much for for coming on the podcast.

    Shane Burley Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I really do love the podcast. So it's a real treasure to be able to join.

    Margaret Oh, thanks. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode or this podcast in general, please tell people about it. Tell people about it on social media or, you know, ideally in person. And also do all the algorithm shit like rating and reviewing and subscribing and doing all that shit because it feeds algorithms. [Singing] Algorithm, algorithms, they rule the world. Okay, and if you'd like to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. Although in the very near future, that's going to shift over to supporting us on Patreon. But for the moment, because I'm starting with some other people who work on the show with me we're restarting a zine publisher that's existed—an anarchist zine publisher that's existed since 2005 or so called Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. And I'm really excited for that project to come back to life. And it will be supporting this show and supporting a lot of other things including a monthly zine and hopefully more podcasts and all kinds of cool stuff. And my Patreon will be shifted over to become a Strangers Patreon. And if you'd like to support currently me, soon us, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My patreon currently is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. If you're listening to this in the future, it might be something like strangers in a tangled wilderness, or tangled wilderness, or I don't know. Damn, this is gonna be a problem when that happens. Hooray, complicated things with computers and me talking about it at the end of my show when I should probably—I'm not even going to cut this out. I'm going to keep it. In particular I'd like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog and Kirk and Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher. Shane, The Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, Hugh, and Sean. Thank you all so much, your contributions allow this to happen, allow us to keep happening, and allow us to move—I keep promising that we're moving towards weekly but I swear to you, we're moving towards weekly, and I'm really excited about it. And yeah, I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that's going on and I will talk to you all soon.

  • Episode Notes

    In this episode, Margaret talks to Liza Kurtz about disaster studies and elite panic.

    The guest, Liza Kurtz, is a a PhD candidate in disaster studies who studies the impact of disaster on society, specifically how class and other antecedent conditions make people vulnerable to disasters. She is @semihumanist on twitter, and you can email her at liza.c.kurtz@gmail.com.

    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

    1:07:41

    SPEAKERSMargaret, Liza Kurtz

    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. I use she or they pronouns. And this week I'm talking with Liza Kurtz, who is a PhD candidate in disaster studies who studies essentially the impact—well, the impact of disaster upon society. And we talk about a lot of stuff, we cover a lot of ground in this episode. But primarily, we're talking about the ways in which people do and don't respond to disaster. And basically, are trying to kind of bust the myth of that everyone runs around and, you know, murders each other or whatever. And also we get to talk about elite panic which is the idea that basically the people who are invested in the system are the ones who panic during times of extraordinary crisis. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts, and here's a jingle from another podcast on the network. Da daaaaa.

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

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

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

    Margaret Okay, if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then also just kind of, like, what you do, like, what do—you know, why did I bring you on this show?

    Liza Sure thing that sounds great. So my name is Lisa Kurtz. I am a PhD candidate at Arizona State University. I use the pronouns she and her. And my research really focuses on specifically heat and power outages in the southwest. That's what my dissertation will be about. But in general, I am grounded in disaster sociology as a discipline, looking at it from sort of a conflict theory lens, which is a fancy way of saying, I look at class struggle and how antecedent conditions of disaster make people vulnerable to what we perceive as these, like, natural events that cause great harm.

    Margaret Okay. What does that mean? That last part.

    Liza Sure, yeah. That's a good question. So basically I think we have a tendency, and certainly there's a tendency in popular culture and in the media to perceive any kind of disaster as—the term you'll hear used in legal circles, and sometimes in the press, is an "act of God," right? Like something no one could have predicted that just happens, that's nobody's fault. And it causes great suffering, but that suffering often isn't really drilled down on to see why did this happen. And so what disaster sociology and disaster studies try to do really is pick that apart and really trouble the implication that these things are just natural and just happen. Because they don't. And so if you look at who suffers most from disasters, if you look at why disasters happen at all, really all they are these natural events make a lens that that focuses and amplifies what's already going on in society. So if you have inequality, you have injustice, disaster brings all of that to the fore. But there's a temptation to think of it as coming out of nowhere, when in reality, we create the conditions that make suffering happen during a disaster. So Katrina is a great example of this. You can say, "Oh, it was, you know, a hundred-year storm, nobody could have predicted a hurricane that large." And there's some element of truth to that, but there's more elements of truth to how we built the city of New Orleans reflects, like, the racial injustice of its history and the poverty that we've allowed to flourish there. And all of that can get hidden behind the idea that this storm just happened.

    Margaret Yeah. It's interesting, because one of the things that I focus on when I pay attention to disasters is actually the almost—the inverse consideration as far as it goes, as far as class—not in terms of like, clearly, people who are oppressed in society along numerous axes are far more likely to suffer during disasters. But I guess I like, I put a lot of my energy into thinking about how people come together during disasters. And the main thing that I've been learning slowly and I kind of want to talk to you about is this idea that, like, everyone except the elite come together and, like, work on shit together during disasters. Is that—

    Liza Oh, man.

    Margaret Is that true? Is that, like—that's my conception, right.

    Liza That is certainly. Yeah, that's pretty spot on in a lot of cases. Yeah. And you're right certainly that people who suffer disproportionately during disasters, the folks who are vulnerable, who take the hardest hit, whether that's health or money or property damage, that doesn't make them not incredible at self-organizing and incredible at building community and responding to those events. It just makes—means they take a disproportionate amount of damage. And yeah, you're super right in the sense that we see—so, to really talk about this I'm gonna have to backup, and maybe this isn't that interesting, but I hope it is. I'm not sure if you know anything about the history of disaster studies.

    Margaret I do not.

    Liza Okay, so a lot of disaster studies came out of World War Two, like, civil defense ideas. The idea that there might be air attacks or even a land invasion of the United States by Axis forces or, right afterward and during the Cold War by Russia. And so there was this—oh, yeah, of course. Like it all goes back to the Cold War if you look hard enough, right.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Liza So there was this enormous interest in what the civilian response would be if something like that happens, and how we can encourage regular civilians to take the stress off of military forces that might be forced to respond by becoming self-reliant. So that's where you see this, like, advertising in glossy magazines about, like, build your own fallout shelter kind of thing. All the stuff that you see in video games now, all that was super real during the Cold War, and before that it was it was air raid shelters during World War Two. And it was really to take the pressure off of military and humanitarian forces who might be forced to respond. The idea was, you didn't want to be part of the problem. And so there was this massive wartime militaristic interest in what civilian populations would do and how we could train them to be self-sufficient. And so part of that was a ton of interest in and research into—that was funded by the military and a lot of cases—into how people would behave if something went really, really wrong. Like, would they panic? Would there be mass chaos? Would they turn on each other? And the perception that still lingers to this day in the media, if you see any bad disaster movies, and they're pretty much all bad—although some of them are bad and fun and some are just bad. If it's got the Rock, I'm there and I don't care.

    Margaret Yeah, no, that's just natural.

    Liza Yeah, so the perception and the expectation was that civilian populations would panic. That if there was an air raid, or a bombing, or something went wrong, there would be this mass panic. And then, as you get researchers starting to look into this, what they find actually is that people are usually pretty good at self-organizing in response to an immediate crisis. And so even though the perception is still, in the media, that if anything goes wrong it will be immediately a Walking Dead kind of scenario, as one of my interviewees put itrecently—that's not really true. Especially not among, like, middle class and lower class communities that live side-by-side with each other all the time. And we'll go into elite panic a little bit more. So that's where there started to be the seed of dispelling the myth of disaster panic was then. And that research happened in the 70s and the 80s, and the late 60s a little bit. And that has since been borne out by most of the available data, that people are really good at self-rescuing, that the real first responder is your neighbor most of the time or a family member, and that folks are pretty good at making the best of terrible, terrible situations and making life easier for each other. Now, where you see that start to fall apart is in elite panic, which is when affluent communities or communities that tend to be racial enclaves—like all-white suburbs, and things like that—get that fear of the other bite, because their perception is that as soon as anything breaks bad, it's going to be a Walking Dead scenario and everyone is going to come for their stuff. And I don't know what goes on in their head. It seems like a very, like almost a wild west, like, take your wives and children kind of mentality. Yeah. Which is really, I mean, the more you unpack that and really think about it, the more fucked up it gets. Um, and so the elite panic can be super dangerous.

    Margaret I mean, on some level, I might be coming for their stuff.

    Liza Yeah, well, fair. Yeah, absolutely.

    Margaret Like, I might come for their stuff. I mean, you know, they have too much of it and they're not sharing. I mean, not to tie into their own fears. It's just, you know, the billionaires of this world like...

    Liza No, that's real. I've never confirmed this. But there's anecdotal reports in the Balkan Wars of people who stockpiled supplies because they sort of saw things going poorly becoming extreme social pariahs and sometimes even the targets of violence because of their, their hoarding tendencies, stockpiling goods in advance and keeping other people from getting them. So apparently that was like a severe social crime at the time, although I've never confirmed that in the literature. I've just heard that anecdotally. And it's, it's easy to understand why, like, if you're taking it and not sharing, then I can certainly see something similar happening here. I mean, I often tell preppers—when people ask about preppers in my work, I tell them preppers are going to die alone in a bunker full of goods because it's great you have all that stuff, but there isn't much you can really do with it if you don't have the social connections to make social life happen. I think prepping in particular is a particular—a particularly elite and American form of the myth of individualism taken to the most dramatic extreme

    Margaret Well it's interesting thoughbecause it—if it comes from this idea of us being asked to self-rescue, us being asked to be resilient, you know—I know maybe it's like I'm always, like, trying to, like, salvage what I can out of prepping because in my mind, yeah, like the the bunker mentality—which I talk shit on, and probably every single episode—because I basically find people who are, like, functionally know a lot about prepping but don't call themselves preppers for a lot of good reasons. The bunker mentality is obviously just going to get you killed, whether it's by disease or, you know, there's like—but, but it's interesting when this idea of like being resilient, being prepared, rather than being like "a prepper" maybe. I don't know.

    Liza Yeah, absolutely. And I want to draw the distinction here between what I would probably call if I, in academic speak, like the practice of prepping, which is the knowledge and the goods and knowing how to do basic survival tasks if needed, and sort of the classic American dominant culture of prepping, which is that hyper-masculinized, hyper-muscular Christianity, like, it's just going to be me and my family and my guns and a bunker full of food kind of thing. So when I talk about prepping in a derogatory way, I definitely mean the culture and not the practice. Yeah, no, I think—I have a really complicated relationship with the idea of resilience because, on one hand, I think resilience can be used to recognize how incredible some communities are at self-organizing and taking care of themselves in the face not just a disaster but of tremendously difficult conditions. Like, it is truly astonishing what people can do to find ways to survive. And here especially we see that a lot. In Phoenix, air conditioning—which is where I am—air conditioning is really not a luxury like it is in many other places. It is 110%, a survival skill or a survival tool because it is not uncommon for summers to be 115 here, which is, if you can't cool off that can be extremely detrimental to health. And so the people who have to live without air conditioning, in my work, have a tremendously creative number of strategies. Now, should they have to use them? No, of course not. They should, they should be able to have access to air conditioning for equity and health reasons. But that doesn't make the things that they do any less creative or impressive in doing so. And what's interesting to me is that sometimes we talk about prepping and the failure of systems or natural hazards can sometimes invert the relationship of who is most—how would I put this—of who is, like, doing the best in the sense that in my work in Phoenix, people who live without air conditioning are far more prepared for blackouts. So they may be more at risk in the everyday scenario as opposed to having air conditioning, but if the city's grid failed, they already have the culture and practice of staying cool without access to air conditioning down in a way that somebody who like me, honestly, who can afford air conditioning and uses it all the time really doesn't.

    Margaret Just as a tangent that I'm curious about, what do people do without AC in severe, like, in severe heat. Like what do you recommend to people in power outages in the southwest?

    Liza Oh, boy. Well, yeah, that's a complicated question. But we've been very fortunate here in Phoenix to never have a truly widespread power outage. And so generally when there are smaller scale outages here, it's possible to seek indoor cooled shelter in another part of the city. But my dissertation focuses on asking residents what they would do during a three day power outage where the entire metro area does not have power. And I think I definitely ruined some people's days asking them that because it's one of those things that's uncomfortable to consider, for sure. But people who don't have power really talk about very, very smart ways. And what's especially interesting is they tap into knowledge that was present prior to the city having electricity. So these really old practices of things like hanging wet blankets over doorways so that your humidifying the air that comes into your house for greater evapotranspiration is one of them. Fairly straightforward things that most of us might think of, like wearing lighter-colored clothing, or staying out of the sun. But then also some really amazing stuff like knowing, you know, knowing which structures in the town are adobe and were built prior to air conditioning and are designed to stay cool. So if you're in a modern house in Phoenix now when you don't have AC, the temperature inside the house will rise very quickly. But many adobe structures were built prior to air conditioning or even, like, swamp cooling which is another thing we use here which is basically a giant humidifier prior to those being accessible. And so adobe structures will stay cool significantly better than modern buildings.

    Margaret Yeah, I like—then you also have the problem how dry it is because, yeah, the thing that immediately strikes me as evaporative cooling, like, I would be like, oh, can you like, you know, I don't know, build, like, water catchment on the roof that holds water on the roof so it evaporates instead of transferring heat or whatever. I don't know. But that's dependent on a very different ecosystem. And also just some bullshit that I made up right now.

    Liza I mean, if you think about it, that's how all survival strategies started, right? Like, hey, I wonder if this works? Yeah, no, water is a huge, a huge cooling strategy here. And it's funny because I'm originally from Tennessee, and I literally until I moved here did not know it was possible to buy humidifiers. I'd never seen anything but dehumidifiers. And so when I got here I was like, why would you want to put water in your house? And then my first summer I was like, oh, I get it. Yeah, water is hugely important in everyone's cooling strategies here. And that's another issue with blackouts in particular, because certainly if you go and ask many people who are responsible for critical infrastructure systems, they will tell you that power outages will not cause water treatment and pressure issues. But if you look at the history of citywide blackouts, the United States, there's almost always somebody who is having to cope without household potable water at the time. And so it seems like these systems are not as resilient as we would like in terms of critical infrastructure. And here, if you don't have access to household water, a huge number of your cooling strategy is, like, you know, just slam dunking yourself in a cold bath if you need to—suddenly become less tenable. And that can be really, really a problem.

    Margaret Yeah. Let's talk about—I kind of accidentally derailed you or intentionally derailed you while you're talking about elite panic. But I'm really interested in that, because I'm really interested in this idea—like, again, the the working understanding that I've had, just from my my layman's perspective or whatever, is that during disasters, overall, people like essentially self-organize—not in a utopian way inherently, but often in a way that people kind of miss when things go back to normal. But then when everything gets really fucked up seems like when the existing power—the previous power structures attempt to reassert themselves. That's like been my observational understanding of, like, talking to a lot of people involved in disaster relief and things like that. But it seems like that ties into elite panic, this idea that people who are actually invested in the previous power relations, and especially property relations, are maybe the ones who can't handle the idea of everyone suddenly taking care of each other and shit.

    Liza Yeah, absolutely. I think that's spot on. And I think you really see this sort of that—well, you might almost call it like a pivot point, or an inflection point where things could turn one way or the other in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. And you really see that reflected in the practice of disaster capitalism. So I think sometimes we overlook—because it seems so inevitable—that disasters have poor outcomes, and they do for many people. Disasters can also be an opportunity to say, "Hey, business, as usual, is what got us to this outcome. How can we do things differently?" Because there's sort of a shock to the system, whether the system is you as a resident or the household or the town or the county or the state, like, they're really, they're a shock point. And so they provide an opportunity to stop and say, like, okay, business as usual—the everyday practice of how we run things—got us here? How do we make sure this doesn't happen again? And if you really start engaging with how does this not happen again, that means transforming those everyday practices that got you there. So I think you're spot on with that idea that elites and people on the top who have an interest in preserving the status quo see the inflection point and sort of grab it and pull as hard as they can in the other direction. And so it's not just that there's, I think, a desire to go back to the way things were and preserve the power structure and the property relationships and everything else of the place before the disaster happened. In a lot of cases, they're perceived as opportunities, which is extremely messed up and amoral, but it's true that really these things are seen as, here is a great opportunity to restructure things towards a more capitalist, a more stratified, a less just system. And one of the things that I think you can see right now with that is because COVID closed public school systems, which is a good thing, like, kids don't need to be spreading COVID. Like, I'm broadly supportive of the public health need to close school systems. It provided this vacuum for all these alternatives, and these think pieces to crop up, etc. And these companies to start pitching like, well, do we really need public schooling anyway?

    Margaret Oh, shit, uhuh.

    Liza Can this be replaced by a different system that's more private, that's more controlled by capital, that's less interested in the public good, that is more about profit. And that's a classic, classic example of what's called disaster capitalism, where something goes wrong and suddenly it becomes an opportunity for someone somewhere to restructure things so they can make more money.

    Margaret Yeah, and that's, I mean, you know, Amazon, Jeff Bezos, all that shit. Like, with COVID now, everyone buys everything online. I buy everything online. I'm terrified of COVID and I work from home. So, you know—and then you're like, I don't know, just watching. society restructure itself to buy everything online. And online is kind of, it—I don't know whether it's naturally or it's designed that way by evil people. But, like, overall, the internet is so good at decentralizing things and yet in terms of, like, commerce, it seems like it's really good at centralizing. It's like really good at having the everything store. You know?

    Liza Yeah. And I don't know enough about the architecture of the internet and economics therein to say, like, if that's by design, or just a function of the way it works. But yes, it does seem to be—seems to be so good at creating monopolies in that way.

    Margaret When you're talking about adobe houses, you know, and how, okay, the old houses are actually built with adobe or whatever. You know, it just—it really strikes me about how completely arrogant the colonial and industrial system is, in that it's like, well, whatever works in New England is what should work in Arizona. And it's so baffling to me, you know, because it's like, well, there's so obviously, like, a steep pitched roof exists that way to shed snow, you know, and then people were like, "Oh, we'll just put these steep gables everywhere." And like—

    Liza Right.

    Margaret It's just... I mean, I say that as someone who lives in a a-frame somewhere where there's no snow—well, not no snow, but not much snow. But in my defense, I actually just built it that way because it's the cheapest and most structurally sound way for someone who doesn't know how to build a house to build a house is have fewer walls, more roof. I don't know, it just, it—it depresses me to think about. Yeah, no. This the centralizing urge. Go ahead.

    Oh, I just, I think you're so right. And I think it's, it's—maybe there is something to the idea that accelerated consolidationist capitalism makes everything sort of a bland universalism in much of the way that Amazon is a bland universalism. Because I do think one of the things that we've really lost that is super helpful in the practice of preparing for disaster is local knowledge. Just localization in general is such a huge thing. Whether it's knowing where in your landscape the water is, or knowing what kind of house does best without AC. And certainly here in Phoenix I have been known to just, like, scream a little bit in my car driving around because there is a massive fad for pulling out old, beautiful 50s Ranch homes and putting in—I've heard them referred to as "McModerns." So houses that take up the entire lot, that look, like you say, very much New England-y. They're often two storeys which is dumb in the desert, they have no green buffer around them at all to help cool anything, they're made of, like, the cheapest possible, like, wood and sheet rock and very little insulation, very large windows that face, you know, like east and west, often. And so you just look at these buildings that are literally the worst possible choice for this environment. And they are building them constantly and it really like it is tremendously painful to see in these beautiful neighborhoods that were originally orange groves. And so when people started building houses there, they would leave the orange trees around their houses, and so there was significant shade and food in your front yard, and then they will just rip them all out and replace them with these. And what really gets me—and this is like such a classic example of a thing people think they're doing for a good reason that is actually worse —s many of them have astroturf lawns, which I understand from the perspective of not wanting to use water or like your grass always being green. But you've replaced, like, not that I support suburban lawns, but you've replaced something that is at least a plant, even if it's a monoculture, with plastic. And sure it doesn't use water. But the thing that gets me the most is my colleagues study surface temperature, and astroturf is the worst thing you could put down for heat.

    Margaret Yeah. Okay.

    Liza Like, it's worse—you might as well have paved your yard.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Liza And it's also carcinogenic. And so there's this, like, pseudo-greenwashing that's actually just absolutely the worst thing you could do for everyone involved, all these horrible McModerns that are the worst thing you could build for the desert. And we have—and I think it really all just comes from a desire for, I want to live in a place that looks like every other place. And we've come so far from, like, the localized knowledge of knowing adobe is better and xeriscaping is better and all of that.

    Margaret Xeriscaping?.

    Liza Oh, sorry, X-E-R-I. Xeriscaping is desert landscaping. So it's the practice of planting your yard in a way that is congruous with, like, the natural environment of the Sonoran Desert that we're in here.

    Margaret Yeah, it's this arrogance that I almost can't handle. Because it's, like, if you build your life around, I assume that I will always have a gas line and a power line and, you know, I will always just have as much electricity as I could possibly want. You know, it's like, now that I live somewhere where I generate my own electricity—I mean, a solar panel generates the electricity for me. It, which isn't, you know, carbon neutral, either, you know. But I'm so aware of, like, how incredibly not necessary wasteful AC is, because you kind of need it in a lot of circumstances. It's not a waste. But it's not exactly this, like, low power device. You know? And, I don't know, just the things that we take for granted, it confuses me sometimes.

    Liza For sure. And you shouldn't have said solar panel, because in my head it was just you biking furiously on like a bike generator to keep the computer on while we do is so you could have had me there. No, absolutely, I think—yeah, I mean, an AC is one of those things where, I don't know, it's almost like putting a band aid on a bullet wound here a little bit in the sense that I'm not going to argue that centralized air conditioning is the single most effective intervention for saving people from dying from heat, which is a huge problem here. About 500 people in the state died last year from heat-related causes last year, which is not an insignificant number. And actually, extreme heat kills more people in the United States than any other weather-related hazard. So you know, when you worry about hurricanes or tornadoes or things like that, it's really heat that's the major killer of people. And so I would never say, like, don't have central AC for ecological reasons, because it is a huge and immediate public health intervention that saves lives. But also, it doesn't solve this fundamental problem which is, part of the reason we need AC so badly is we built the city in a really stupid sort of 70s-thinking kind of way, which is there's tons of uncovered pavement, and really tall buildings that, you know, like, the urban heat island here is very, very real, it doesn't cool off overnight. And so the need for AC is great, but the need to think beyond AC and think about how do we look into the future and actually reduce the need for this, like, immediate public health triage of just get in a cool environment so you don't die right away?

    Margaret Well, okay, so the the need to fundamentally restructure huge parts of our society seems very apparent and increasingly apparent to more and more people, especially as, you know, climate change barrels down on everyone, even if you were willing to ignore all of the systemic oppression that people face. And I think sometimes—and I know I do this, and I wonder whether—you talk about how capitalists look at disaster as opportunity, and that's a problem. And I'm like, so do revolutionists, and so do people who want society to be fundamentally different. Because you have this, some level of like wiping the slate clean, and there's a certain amount of opportunity to restructure society. And it seems like very often capitalism is better at this than us. But there are also these, like, you know, like watching mutual aid networks pop up all over at least the United States last year in a way that like—and I wouldn't, you know, I don't want COVID to have happened, right? But when people look at that and say, well, we actually need to learn how to take care of each other and build these, like, networks by which to take care of each other. To me, that's the beauty of it. But then it's—now I wonder whether I'm doing the same kind of ambulance chasing that capitalists are. Do I let myself off the hook just because I think what I'm doing is good and what they're doing is bad, right? Like, they think the opposite. But I'm right.

    Liza Well, yeah, I mean, I don't think it is—if it's ambulance chasing, you're only chasing the ambulance, to help stop the bleeding as opposed to charge the patient. So I think that there's a fundamental value difference there. And so yeah, no, you're you're absolutely correct in the sense that they're are opportunities, and there are opportunities, whether we want them to be or not, so we might as well seize them. But I think part of the problem is about how—not just in media, but even to each other-how we storytelling around disasters as, like—it's very hard to hold the tension in your mind. Like with COVID, it's very hard to hold the tension in your mind between so many people, particularly people of color and otherwise vulnerable folks have paid this horrible price for our inability to cope with an epidemic. And at the same time, this sort of—and that's, there's nothing good about that, that is massively negative. And at the same time, we are being presented with this opportunity that could allow us to build something better, like these mutual aid networks that you mentioned. But it feels–it's very hard to talk about, in a way that feels respectful and honorable—to say like, this is an opportunity for something better to be born out of the ashes of this enormous tragedy. And so I think it's easy for those conversations to get derailed, one because of how we talk about disasters as, you know, like always negative with the panic and everything like that—the mythology around disasters makes it hard. And then two, the difficulty of respectfully talking about this. But I would certainly argue that if we want especially—and I'll use COVID, as the example here—if we want to honor the people who died unjustly of COVID, there is no better way to do so, than taking this opportunity and seizing it to make a system and a world where that won't happen again.

    Margaret Yeah, that's a—that's a good way to put it. And I wonder, you know, it's like, I mean, what we should be trying to do—and what people do try to do is just that the systems of power we're up against are rather good at what they do of maintaining their power—is do this anyway. You know, it's like, there's been mutual aid networks for—well, ever, obviously—just assigning a word to it in the 19th century, or whatever. But, you know, we need to restructure things anyway. And if you were to take Phoenix as an example, it's like—I mean, I kind of, I have to admit, I look at Phoenix as like this just grand arrogance in the desert, that, like, probably shouldn't be there. And I know that that's not fair to the actual individual people who live there, you know. And so I don't want to be like, get rid of Phoenix or whatever, right. But like—but instead it's like, well, probably the slow, hard work of restructuring needs to happen anyway. Like the slow, hard work of figuring out how to rebuild the city in such a way that it isn't just, like, waiting for disaster. I don't know.

    Liza Oh, yeah. I think you've touched on something there that I always try and challenge people with when they talk about Phoenix as a grand experiment in inevitable failure—building I think at this point the fifth largest city in the United States—or the fifth largest metro area, actually—in the desert which is—I don't necessarily disagree that that is not an immediately intuitively good idea. But now that it's here, I like to think of Phoenix as the perfect testbed and sandbox because it's the hottest large metro area in the United States. And if we can turn this thing around, and we can make Phoenix in the next 30 years cooler and more livable and more just and more sustainable, than it can be done anywhere. We're the edge case, and so this is the perfect place to find those solutions, and then take the lessons learned and the things that worked and export them to less extreme environments where they might be useful. So in that sense, even a little victory in Phoenix might be a big victory in somewhere else.

    Margaret Yeah. Okay. So, to go back to disaster studies, we've talked about how the mainstream, like, certainly the media conception of disaster is, you know, the Walking Dead scenario is the everyone running around, like, you know, everyone for themselves scenario. And—but, but disaster studies, it seems like even though it came from this, you know, kind of shitty background, it seems like—have the people who study disaster academically, have they kind of known this entire time, that's bullshit? And if so, why isn't that getting out? Like, why aren't more people aware of the fact that everything we know about how people respond to disaster is wrong?

    Liza That is a great, great question. And I'm not sure I have, like, a perfect answer for you. But I can certainly offer some thoughts. So yes, you're right that disaster studies, even though it came out of this very militarized and military-funded background, really starting with a wonderful scholar named E. L. Quarantelli who was active in the 60s to the 90s really started questioning those views and pushing on this idea of panic and other things like that. And so, disaster studies in general as a field—not all of it, but for a long time—has been very justice-oriented in its approach. So if you've heard the words "social vulnerability," a lot of that is coming out of disaster studies. If you've heard the words, you know—or heard talking about the concept of resilience as applied from the top down being a way of almost victim blaming—which certainly it can be, you know. Like, why aren't you—it's a repackaging sometimes of the idea of like, why aren't you self reliant? Why are you making us help you? Kind of thing. All of that is really coming out of a disaster studies. The problem is, unfortunately, that you almost have two separate silos of disaster studies, because disaster scholars are not the people who respond to disaster. They're not the people preparing for it. They're not the people deciding what mitigates it. Those people are part of what I would broadly call sort of the emergency management class, at least here in the United States, they are. And many of them are emergency managers, but that also includes things like crisis communications and information officers, or Public Information Officers, and fire chiefs and firefighters, and EMS first responders, and in many cases public health officials as well. And that is a professional class that has existed for a long time—and this is slowly starting to change—that has really stayed rooted in that military idea. So it's not directly connected to the military, although sometimes it is. But it's a militarized service. It's very about hierarchy—so I was a firefighter, I was a volunteer firefighter in Tennessee for about two years. So you have a commanding officer, you know, it's structured like the military, basically. In a lot of cases it works very closely with law enforcement and the military, like National Guard, for instance. Here in Arizona, I think it's very indicative that our agency is DEMA, which is the Department of Emergency and military affairs. And how you became an emergency manager, or fire chief, or someone who is really directly involved in the world of preparing for and responding to disasters, was you started as, like, a frontline law enforcement, frontline fireman, frontline-and I say men because they generally are, although starting to change too—and you worked for 20 years. And eventually you worked your way up the chain, much like the military, to becoming someone who was making all of these strategic decisions, etc. And so, disaster studies has a very hard time talking across the gap to practitioners. And it's a little disheartening sometimes how white and male disaster practitioners still tend to be, and how stuck in a particularly militaristic frame of mind. And that's something that's really been troubling me lately and something I've talked about colleagues with because—I don't know if I've said this publicly yet but I've certainly said it to colleagues—as a queer woman with a trans partner who is deeply interested in racial and social justice, even though my degree sets me up for it, I don't feel like at this point I can, in good conscience, take a standard Emergency Management job.

    Margaret Yeah.

    Liza It's too wrapped up with law enforcement and militaristic ideas of what disaster response means and who deserves what and why people do things and where aid goes. And it's just—and, you know, like, FEMA is still housed in the Department of Homeland Security, which is a whole other issue that we could talk about for another hour—which really no one who studies disasters is—or very few people—really support that model. It offers tremendous problems. And so you have this gap. And so that's part of the reason these things still exist is the practice of emergency management really looks pretty similar to the 1950s in some ways, and the study of disaster is much more radical, much more diverse thing.

    Margaret Okay, so hear me out. If already in terms of disaster management you have the militaristic system, the official governmental system, and then you have these, like, incredibly complex and interesting disaster relief organizations—especially the, like, the nonhierarchical, the mutual aid focused ones, right. So you all should just get up with those peoplea nd basically, like, I don't know, I get really excited about this, like, okay, so like, create a counter structure, right? Like, and these—that already is starting to exist increasingly. And so I think we call if y'all got up with them, and maybe you all already do. Yeah, one of the—okay, so like thinking about the terrible ways that people manage disaster, like the government's managed disaster or whatever, I am curious if you know of this: I've been hearing this phrase from people I know who do disaster relief, especially coming from anarchist spaces, that there is a specific written thing that the priority of the government in disasters above all else, including the actual rule of law, like the application of laws, is COG—is continuance of governance. Basically, like, this is the justification for like shooting looters and things like that, because it's absolutely illegal to shoot looters, right. Like, by the existing right structure. But the reassertion of control as, like, the absolute baseline priority. Does that hold up with your understanding? I know it's now in a different silo than your silo but...

    Liza Yeah, so I would be surprised if that is specifically written down anywhere in that way. Certainly Continuity of Operations as it's called—COOP plans—and Continuity of Governance—COG plans—exist. And they play a very important role in how, on paper, we prepare for disaster as, like, large government institutions prepare for disaster. It is certainly not supposed to be held above rule of law. Now, is it? Probably quite a bit. And things like shooting looters is really hard to unpack because you have things operating on so many different levels. So first off, people who—like you have the personal prejudice level of the people doing the shooting, right? Like that particular person or police officer or resident might be especially racist, as you saw in Katrina. And it might be, like, if a Black person comes through this neighborhood, I'm going to shoot them. Certainly that happened a lot. You also have policy that structures itself in ways that we know is not necessarily reflective of reality. So you may have contingency plans that place law enforcement officers to prevent looting, for instance, when actually law enforcement officers need to, like, exacerbate the situation, right? And so you end up creating these situations which lead to other bad situations. So really, there's so many operational—and then you have the storytelling mythology level where, like, because even among people who do this professionally, you will still find the myth that mass panic is going to happen. You have the drive of, like, well I'm expecting it and therefore I overreact when I see something that might be it. And that's even leaving aside the category of who is a looter and who is resourcefully scavenging resources. There's been a lot of studies done—again, mostly Katrina, but in other contexts as well—about how media presents people taking survival requirements like water and food from stores and how the economic status and skin color of those people really determines the headline they get. Which is, you know, perhaps not a surprise, but it's good to have that data. So you have all these things building on each other to create—if you'll pardon the disaster-related upon—sort of a perfect storm situation where everything works to prop up the system. But whether there's a single origin point of policy pushing for that in writing, I don't know. And I would be surprised if there is. I think it's more complex than that.

    Margaret Okay. Yeah, that—it makes sense to me if, like, basically, like, a COG or continuous governance or whatever was like part of this larger framework, and then just gets exaggerated. One of the things that gives me hope is all of the, like, the weird human element parts of it when it actually hits the ground of, like, you know, I remember hearing from a friend who worked with the Common Ground Collective in Katrina in New Orleans basically talking about how, like, National Guardsmen would, like, give the anarchists supplies. Because they would be like, well, if I take this where I'm supposed to take it, it's gonna sit in a warehouse for two weeks, and it's needed right now. And it's just like, I don't know, I get—the things I've talked about before on the show—the stuff that makes me like the most hopeful is when certain unbridgeable chasms are bridged between different types of people. And—

    Liza Yes.

    Margaret But then on the other—you have the exact opposite of the, like, yeah, the people who seem to go wild. The people who seemed to go the wildest in Katrina seemed to be the white racists. But, yeah.

    Liza Yeah, I think there is... Man. And it's hard to talk about and frustrating to talk about incremental progress, because I think there has been some recognition in the system that things are not working, and that you need to rely on local expertise and local knowledge and local abilities to get things done—which is sort of the bigger scale version of the guardsmen giving supplies to anarchists because they know they're going to sit in a warehouse and anarchists can get them into the hands of people who need them right away. The problem there is, it's a little bit like being, I don't know, like a mouse trying to steer an elephant. Like we have built this system of disaster response that is so large and so cumbersome, that it's really beyond any single person's ability to fundamentally change. And so there's a lot of attention being paid—or more attention than there has been previously anyway, I don't know, but a lo— to the idea that we need to be supporting communities at, like, the higher level institutions—that macroscale institutions need to be supporting communities and the work that they're already doing. We just need to enable the anarchists to have more stuff to go out and distribute that kind of thing. Now, whether or not that's going to make a significant difference in the long run definitely remains to be seen. But certainly there seems to be more interest in that. Now I personally have some mixed feelings about that because in a lot of cases here in Phoenix when we're talking about especially like heat relief, or disaster relief, or who's going to help you pay your power bill if you can't, there's been a significant—I think we all know that since the 80s, there's been a significant replacement of state services with more localized things. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But a lot of the localized assistance now is through churches. And to me that raises some troubling questions about, like, who gets helped? Who gets left out? What are the conditions of help reliant upon? And so we've sort of replaced this ineffective state aid with this may be more effective but differently discriminatory aid that's at the local level. And so I think you really have to pay close attention to the idea of localism as a panacea as the remedy for all injustice because sometimes localism just means enacting injustice on a smaller scale. Like handmade artisan home grown fuck you instead of like a fuck you from the state.

    Margaret Okay, well, so that ties into something you were talking about earlier at the very beginning when you're talking about the history of disaster studies, was kind of to create a culture of prepping—as in, to get people away—to take the power—take pressure off of the elites who, like, ostensibly should be providing our needs, by having us provide for ourselves, but in a way that doesn't actually fundamentally free us. It's kind of an interesting trap around—it's something that I've seen mutual aid groups struggle with for years is like, well, we always say, we're mutual aid not to charity, right? And like Food Not Bombs, you know, with it's, like, free food program that's been going on for decades. And now, I think that, like, there are just ways to do that local level stuff without like—like Food Not Bombs, like, unlike a, most church feeds that, you know, I'm aware of—most church feeds it's like, take a number, stand in line, like, you know, it's very—it replicates a lot of disempowerment, right. And, you know, like Food Not Bombs is ostensibly more like, it's a picnic in the park and you're invited, because you exist. And of course it's gonna have its own informal problems, right? I'm not trying to claim it's perfect. But there's always this worry about how much do activists make—like, how much do we empower oppression just by solving the problems that oppression creates? You know, like, if we're feeding—

    Liza Oh, boy.

    Margaret Yeah. And if we're feeding people without fundamentally challenging the system that has left people without food... I don't know. For me it's just, like, you just—I think that the answer is that the problem with this bespoke oppression that you're talking about, the localist oppression, is it just needs to be tied into challenging things at a larger scale. Wh I say just, it's easy. Everyone could just do this, it would fix everything. No problem. No one will have any.

    Liza This is a problem I'm intimately familiar with on a personal level because when I graduated from undergrad and suddenly the stress of college was no longer upon me, I discovered that I am a stress junkie and I needed something to do because I was going out of my mind. And so I joined the local volunteer fire service thinking, like, oh, this will be, like, I'll learn skills, I'll be able to help people, and I'll be stressed out enough to be happy. It turned out even that was not enough and I had to go to graduate school, but that's a story for another time. And this is like the fundamental tension of a volunteer fire service. I mean, think about what that means, right? So the city I was in had a professional fire service because it was considered a population density sufficient enough. But the county, which is a very large and populated county, was all volunteer-run. And it's sort of the same problem, like, you don't want people's houses to burn down, so someone needs to go put them out. But at the same time, if you're rural, you are fundamentally getting a worse class of service than the professionals. And the volunteer fire department enabled its own perpetuation by the fact that eventually most people's houses got put out. And I always used to joke, like, don't have a house fire between the hours of 8am and 5pm when we're all at work. Because it was one of those things where, if people's houses had just burned down, there probably would have been significant push to have a professional fire service. But at the same time, then you have a bunch of people's houses burning down, and maybe they die in the fire too and that's awful. But because there is sort of an ad hoc fire service, there wasn't the push to have a professional one. Even though—andI don't think people knew this, right. But we were using equipment that was out of date, that hadn't been tested. I think our jaws of life for rescuing people out of car wrecks were like some of the first models ever made from the 80s because we didn't have funding. And it's like, you know, we were saving lives but also perpetuating the system that was probably really harming people. So what's the trade off between, like, that long term harm and the short term, everybody's house burns down, but people get a professional fire service in the end? And I don't know what the solution is besides, as you said, sort of making sure we're plugging into troubling the larger structure and advocating for larger structure. The fire service is a particularly tricky one because people's lives depend on it so immediately. For something like Food Not Bombs I would say it's possible they're already doing some of that work by having people show up and having that picnic in the park feeling and just letting people know that receiving assistance doesn't have to be total drudgery and shame. And so maybe for things like that, where there can be joy and comradeship and true connections on social scale, maybe the next person that—the next time that person needs to go to a church handout line or an unemployment office, there is that seed of like, well, why isn't this like that? I think sometimes you can really—you can plant the revolutionary seed in people by showing them joy just as much as by showing them tragedy.

    Margaret Yeah, that's a really good note I think maybe to kind of wind down on—to think about. What—I guess the questions I want to ask to kind of close this out. One, I kind of want to ask, what do you worry about personally? What do you prepare for? What is—how is working with disaster studies—how has it influenced your own life?

    Liza Sure, yeah. Well, I will say I worry much more about long term trends than I do about any particular single incident. So for Phoenix, I'm worried about what the temperature profile of the city looks like in the next 50 years, because I might—I might be like one of the few people on record ever saying this—but I really love Phoenix. I think it's got a really cool art scene and there's wonderful people here. And it has a surprisingly revolutionary spirit and a fighting spirit for being a blue town and a very red state. And also, it's nice to be in Arizona, because in many ways, we're at this political tipping point. So if you're here and you're willing to get engaged, you can really make a difference. So I don't want to see Phoenix fail. She like there's a lot of people who do to sort of make a point about climate arrogance, but I'm not one of them. And so for me, I worry about these really boring things that unless you're in the weeds, you probably don't think of. So I worry about what are our overnight temperatures going to be in the next 50 years, because we know that overnight temperatures have a significant effect on human health, they're a really good indicator of the urban heat island. And one of the things that's hopeful is that thus far the science shows that if we really buckled down and redesigned the way we did the city of Phoenix, we would be able to offset most of the regional and global climate warming in the region through localized efforts. So Phoenix in 50 years could be cooler than it is today. There's nothing that's stopping us from doing that. But we have to raise the political will and reach out and seize that opportunity. I don't worry as much about our regional—or rather a city-wide blackout, even though that's what I talk to people about—partially because I know our utility companies and how they function and that is something they're thinking about. It's—I worry more about it in areas that don't think about extreme heat on their grid. Like, we have it so often, it's regular here, that I think we're better prepared than many other places. So in that sense, extreme heat could be worse in, say, like, the Northeast of the Northwest than it could be here because those grids are not regularly stress tested in the same way.

    Margaret Right.

    Liza And then I also worry about—and this kind of ties back with what we're talking to you about disaster panic—I worry about—its maybe—and this is—at the end of the interview is the wrong time to bring this up, but this is fun. It's not completely true that there's never violence and looting after disasters.

    Margaret Right.

    Liza It does happen, and primarily where you see it happen is after some blackouts. And it tends to be blackouts in cities that are already have a very wide divide between rich and poor and are undergoing a lot of racial tension. And you can really see, like, why. One is they aren't perceived in the same way as an act of God because blackouts—it's easier to see human culpability. Like, the electricity company that I pay to maintain my power has failed in their job and I am angry about it. And then also, they're perceived as an opportunity of, like, the system is failing us, we should go out and express that it is failing us and we are angry about it and take advantage where we can of the opportunity to gain more resources. So it's all extremely understandable. But I really—I worry about our next disaster—next major US disaster—acute disaster, I should say. Because COVID is a disaster, it's just a slower moving one. Our next acute disaster response, because of growing injustice, because of factionalization in society, because of this awakened beast of white rage in the nation—I worry that our next disaster response is going to look more like the cops at Black Lives Matter protests than mutual aid groups.

    Margaret Yeah, I bet it'll be both.

    Liza Probably. And yeah, of course mutual aid groups will be they're doing what they can, but I really worry that we're creating a perfect storm for disaster response to be hyper militarized because cries for justice are perceived as unrest.

    Margaret Yeah. No, it's interesting. And yeah, there's a lot to dig into with you more some time. Okay, my final question is just, where can people engage more with your work? Or do you even want or have any kind of public profile around the work that you do?

    Liza I do. I am on Twitter. I'm at semi humanist, S-E-M-I-humanist on Twitter. I love chatting with people about my work and things like that. Everyone's also free to email me and you can put this in the show notes if you like at liza.c.kurtz@gmail.com. I do speak at academic conferences. But if anyone is listening and really wants me to come talk a little bit in a digestible way—hopefully about what disaster research says—to a mutual aid group or an anarchist book club or any of those fun venues where knowledge can be a little freer than stuffy academia sometimes, I'm really always happy to talk to those folks. I think probably the most important work I do is closer to things like this than academic publications, which circulate to other scientists, which is very personally satisfying to engage with other scientists, but not—probably not tremendously socially helpful. And it's also just a great check of, like, I think it's easy as an academic to get wrapped up in such a way that you can talk to other academics but not people in your field. And I try hard to avoid that at all costs.

    Margaret Yeah. I found everything that I've—you know, from talking to you before we did the show—very approachable. So I highly recommend anyone who's listening to take Liza up on that. Alright, well, thank you so much for being on the show.

    Liza Oh, yeah, no problem. Thank you so much for having me.

    Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please tell people about it. Tell people on social media. Tell people about it in person from six feet away, unless both vaxxed or whatever. Tell people on—by liking and subscribing and writing reviews and all of that algorithmic shit, because it has a wildly disproportionate impact on how things get viewed. And if we're trying to make our content and our media reach more people, that is an unfortunately effective way to do it. So tweet about it and stuff. Also, you can follow us now on Instagram instead of just following me as Margaret Killjoy, there's now actually a live like the world is dying Instagram because—oh, that's the other fun thing. Live Like the World is Dying is becoming an increasingly collective project and pretty soon you'll probably hear more than just my voice on the mic, although at least for now I'm going to probably continue to be the host. But Jack is now the, essentially the producer of the podcast, and is doing all the audio editing. And it's really fun to talk about people when you're recording, when you know that they have to listen to you talk about them, and then edit it. But you can't edit this part. You have to leave this in. Anyway. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. But that money actually does go out collectively to the people who are helping make this possible. And, well, to people who are putting in the direct labor to make this possible. The people who are making this possible though are you, the listeners, who write about it and review it and tell their friends about it, and also who support me on Patreon. And if you can't afford to support me on Patreon, don't do it. If you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, don't give me money on Patreon. There's some content that is, like, paywalled there or whatever. But if you just message me, I'll give you access to all of the monthly zines and all of those things for free. But if you would like to support us, please do. And in particular I would like to thank Chris and Nora and Hoss the dog, Kirk, Willow, Natalie, Sam, Christopher, Shane, the Compound, Cat J, Staro, Mike, Eleanor, Chelsea, Dana, and Hugh. Your contributions sustain this. They pay for the transcriber, they pay for the editing, and a lot of the other costs associated with this content. I've gone on way too fucking along about the money involved in this project now. Hooray! Well, I hope you're doing reasonably well. If the weather's getting warmer in the part of the world that you live in, I know that I really enjoy watching the leaves come in, even if it means that the sun will no longer dry my clothes on the line because the sun will no longer reach my close line because I built my house in the forest because I'm a very intelligent person. It has good passive cooling qualities too, though. And that is definitely not what I'm supposed to talk about. What am I supposed to talk about? I think I'm supposed to end the episode. So thank you so much for listening, and I hope you're all doing as well as you can with everything that's going on.

  • Episode Notes

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

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

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

    Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kylie 07:14Well, um, I would say space, but there's a lot of different aquaponics systems and ways that you can go about it. I honestly haven't seen very many people using the vertical system that I've come up with because it takes all the growing space that you do have, even if you have a—you know how these apartments will have like a small five by five little patio in the backyard? You're not going to be able to grow anything in that. You know, maybe it's all concrete, maybe it's there's no grass there, and you can't even have anything there except for maybe a couple of potted plants. But those still take up a certain amount of ground space. With this you could have, you know, a two by five footprint. And you could have a 10-square foot grow space for yourself, if that makes sense. So you take that little 5x5 and you turn it in—and—well, you're only using 2x5 and you're turning it into a 10 just like that. Because it goes up about 8 feet.

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

    Kylie 08:35I'm the only one doing it the way that I've seen so far. I've taken little bits from both hydroponics and aquaponics because it's far more common to see a vertical system in a hydroponic setup. So I've taken things from what they do and I've mixed them together with aquaponics to kind of create my own. The way that I've done it, it's scalable. So if you did have a bunch of land out there, wherever you're at, you could link these things up and just have them going on in a straight line forever. And with the addition of course with more pumps and more filtration, but you can just keep on adding onto the system easily. So if you only have the 2x5 grow space, you can still do it and get a lot out of it—enough to feed, you know, a two-person household salads every day. Or you could have, you know, you could have a full scale setup, you know. You could have one of those industrial farms, yeah it's gonna take a little bit more work and you're probably going to cut some corners here and there on, you know, like tank buildings and stuff like that in order to save yourself some money, but it's definitely doable on a larger scale.

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

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

    Margaret 09:59Mhmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 16:04Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 19:36Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 22:42Yeah.

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

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

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

    Margaret 23:50Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 29:48Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 32:46Yeah.

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

    Margaret 33:00[Laughing] Uh huh.

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

    Margaret 34:22Yeah.

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

    Margaret 34:36Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 41:07Yeah.

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

    Margaret 41:48Yeah.

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

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

    Kylie 47:02Right, right.

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

    Kylie 47:09Right.

    Margaret 47:12Yeah.

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

    Margaret 47:50Yeah.

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

    Margaret 48:08Yeah.

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

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

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

    Margaret 49:49Yeah.

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

    Margaret 51:49Oh, god.

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

    Margaret 53:30Yeah.

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

    Margaret 54:10Yeah.

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

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

    Kylie 55:20Oh, wow.

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

    Kylie 55:50Right.

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

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

    Margaret 56:16Yeah.

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

    Margaret 56:45Yeah.

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

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

    Kylie 58:18Yeah.

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

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

    Margaret 1:01:33Yeah.

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

    Margaret 1:02:02Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 1:06:05Yeah.

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

    Margaret 1:06:26Yeah, I like that.

    Kylie 1:06:28That's it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Episode Notes

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

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

    Transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Adrienne 09:40Yeah, no, go off.

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 18:50Yeah.

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

    Margaret 19:21Yeah.

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

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

    Adrienne 19:56Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

    Margaret 23:08Yeah.

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

    Margaret 26:12Yeah.

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

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

    Adrienne 27:17Exactly. We're in it.

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

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

    Margaret 27:33And I'm actually curious.

    Adrienne 27:35Yeah.

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

    Adrienne 28:03Well you write them.

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

    Adrienne 28:15Yes. You know, I just listened to—I got to read a bunch of Octavia Butler's work for this NPR Throughline podcast. And they include a lot of interview with her. And she's talking about how important it was for her to write herself in. She was like, "I wanted to write myself into the narrative, into the story." And I think for so many of us, when we look back, we can see either stories of our trauma or stories—or like the gaps, the erasure, where our story should be, and they're not. And I live in Detroit, and Detroit, you drive around and if you know what you're looking at, right, if you've seen like maps or pictures of what it looked like 40 years ago to now, you can see that it's a city full of gaps, full of spaces where there used to be homes. Like literally on a block it'll be like, "Huh, this is kind of random. There's just two houses on this block." It used to be seven, right? But time and the economic crisis and other things disappeared those homes and I feel like history can look like that for those of us who are queer or trans, Black or Latino, Indigenous, etc. can look back and be like, "Where were we? Where were we?" And white supremacy and nationalism, other things, errased the full story of us so that we are left with just the trauma that we've been able to unveil. And so writing futures—writing ourselves into the future—is to me a way that we go ahead and stake a claim. Like, we are here now imagining ourselves. And in the imagining, we are creating room for something different to exist. And whenever I am engaging in fiction writing as a practice, I really feel like I am up to something that—the biggest thing maybe that I'm ever up to, is understanding that the whole world that we currently