Avsnitt

  • 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

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  • Episode Notes

    Margaret talks to Simon, a restoration ecologist who works in the Pacific Northwest, about confronting climate crisis with reforestation, and about hope and resilience in the face of environmental devastation.

    Simon can be found on twitter @plant_warlock.

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

    Transcript

    1:00:24

    Margaret
    Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the End Times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and I use she or they pronouns. And this episode I'm excited—I put a call out basically being like, who should I talk to about reforestation and how we can confront climate change through reforestation and, you know, how microclimates affect things, etc. And I am very excited to talk to my guest for this week, Simon, about reforestation. But first, Live Like the World is Dying as a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts. I tried to go into, pretty neat, y'all heard it, but I tried to go into the radio producer voice but I gave up. We're proud member of the Channel Zero Network of Anarchist Podcasts, and here is a jingle from another show on the network. Da duh daaaa!

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    More of an anarchist militant...

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    People involved in social struggles, everybody else.

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    People have been waiting for some content.

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    Radio.

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    The show.

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    The Final Straw and I'm William.

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    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 live in came out of someone's imagination. All of the constructs, the way that I experience my own gender, the way that I experience my skin, the way that I experience my size, the way that I experience my desirability, my worthfull—worthiness, you know—there's so many fundamental aspects of myself that are just miraculous, because that's what everyone is. But they've been so complicated, and I've had to fight to feel like I deserve to exist. And that fight is because someone imagined that I did not. And they imagine that, you know—I was this morning thinking about all the Black children that we've lost to police violence, and like, they're all dead because someone imagined that they were dangerous, you know. Imagination is a very, very powerful drug, a very powerful practice. And, to me, I'm like, if we want something new, we have to actually imagine, what does it look like? When I say defund the police, what am I imagining happens when there's a domestic violence incident on the street? And does that mean—am I imagining myself willing to go down and intervene? Am I imagining myself calling community mediators to come on over right now, something's going on? You know, what do I imagine happens? Because if I can't imagine it, I'm definitely not going to be able to invite tons of people who are used to the putative system to come join me on another path. The imagination to me is how we create the future that we want to be, and how we make sure that we're not absent from it. So—and I have to give a lot of props here to Disability Justice communities because I feel like I've just now starting to understand how much I learned from Disability Justice communities around this. But they're like, if we're not in the room and y'all plan something and it doesn't have a wheelchair ramp, and it doesn't have an accessible bathroom, and it's like chemical scent overload or whatever, it's because we weren't in the room. So you didn't even imagine us there. You didn't not imagine us, you just didn't think about us at all. We were just not part of it. And as a facilitator, the number of times that happened was like, "Oh, I'm sorry, like, I just didn't." And it's like, no, that's not acceptable. Like, now I'm like, how do I make sure that people are in the room where imagination happens? How do I make sure that they're in the pages where imagination happens? And because then you end up with a future that is accessible, that is equitable, that is pleasurable, and is sustainable, right? Because we're all there dreaming it.

    Margaret 32:37Yeah, the—this happens sometimes when I interview guests and I'm like, instead of having like a good—especially my year of reasonable isolation, I've lost some of my social skills. So people say things, and I'm just like, thinking about it. You know? Instead of having like, an immediate response.

    Adrienne 32:52I'm like—I would love to do a study on the social skills we've all lost.

    Margaret 32:56Yeah.

    Adrienne 32:57Because I just like, yeah.

    Margaret 33:00Yeah. [Laughing]

    Adrienne 33:01I'm also having—I have that experience all the time these days where I'm just like, everything moves slower now.

    Margaret 33:06Yeah.

    Adrienne 33:06And I'm thinking about it.

    Margaret 33:07Yeah. And then, you know, in some ways I'm, like, glad because I'm like, well, I don't have an immediate response to what you're saying, because I'm just thinking about it. I'm like, I just want to sit with that. Like that's, you know, that touches on something that I've thought about before, but I haven't—and I've tried to address in my own work, but I haven't succeeded at yet. And I haven't given enough attention to.

    Adrienne 33:28Yeah.

    Margaret 33:28To talk about something else. I very embarrassingly, after I named my podcast Live Like the World is Dying, googled—I was like, "Well, what if I called it something like How—" Because I always do things that are like "how to" or like, you know, whatever. Yeah.

    Adrienne 33:42How To... [Laughing]

    Margaret 33:42And um, do you want to talk about your own podcast with a very similar title?

    Adrienne 33:47Yes. I mean, our podcasts are definitely siblings in the territory of content.

    Margaret 33:51Yeah.

    Adrienne 33:53Yeah. So I have a—I have two podcasts. Actually now I have three podcasts.

    Margaret 33:56Oh wow, okay!

    Adrienne 33:57I'm an unstoppable podcast machine. So I really love the art of podcasting. You know, there's something beautiful about just sitting and having a conversation, listening to a conversation. So my first podcast, my longest running one, is called How to Survive the End of the World. And it's with my sister Autumn. And we're both just obsessed with Octaviam obsessed with apocalypse and like how do we turn and face the fact that we are in apocalypse, and that we have been through many, and that apocalypse is actually a moment you can harness for change. And it's actually quite a powerful portal if we harness it that way. So there's a lot of philosophy and theoretical conversations mixed in with, like, hard skill offers. So that one is is kind of a blast, you know. It—for me it felt very liberating to just turn directly and face apocalypse and just get to be in conversations that are all, like, related to what is. And then I do the Octavia's Parables podcast with Toshi Reagon where we're reading the Parable of the Sower chapter by chapter. We just finished that first season. Now we're going to head into the Parable of the Talents, and then we'll keep going with Octavia's work just—we're like, even though only two of her books are called parables, they're all parables in a way so. And then Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute just last week launched our podcast, which is the three kind of core collective members take turns interviewing different people who are, what we see is like living Emergent Strategy in the world. And we're just examining, like, building basically a set of audio case studies for people to listen to. Like, what does it look like to practice Emergent Strategy and all these different realms of movements?

    Margaret 35:46Okay. I admit the How to Survive the End of the World one—people have been, you know, that—more and more, I think, people—for some strange reason everyone's really into prepping right now. It's hard to figure out why. But I actually—

    Adrienne 36:04No idea why. Mysterious.

    Margaret 36:07And I like that there is—that there is other stuff out there. And I was wondering if you had—

    Adrienne 36:13Oh, yeah.

    Margaret 36:14—your own thoughts about, like, where people can find stuff about whether individual community or social preparation? Or like, how else people can get—

    Adrienne 36:23So we have brought on a series of guests. Last year, I was away on sabbatical and my sister did, I think, the best episodes of the entire podcast without me, which were—it was apocalypse of survival series. And each of the guests are people who have their own work and their own lives. But there's a group called Queer Survival—Queer Nature. They basically blew our minds. Blew our minds. And it was just very tangible stuff on, like, how do you think under the pressure of crisis? And they do trainings, they do offerings. And then Leah Penniman came on from Soul Fire Farm and was really talking about, like, how do we reorient our relationship to food? Because, you know, what happened when the pandemic went down. Everybody was like, run to the store, buy everything frozen and canned, stick that in your house. And like—I'm like, so basically, you're prepared to give up even having access to any organic, fresh food. And that's your plan for how you're going to survive. Like, what does that mean? Right. And I feel like, listening to someone like Leah Penniman, it's like, what is it instead look like to begin to organize ourselves around farms, around food growth, around the cycles of planting and gardening and growing. I'm hoping that that becomes one of the next iterations that emerges from this pandemic crisis is that people are like, okay, we were not fully ready to actually be growing and thinking about food as a community. That's something we want to be orienting ourselves towards. I know that for me that's something I'm thinking about is, do I have the first clue about how to grow my own food if I wanted to? [Laughing, inaudible] How would I do that? You know? So I just started, I'm now growing cilantro and lavender, which is not something I could survive on but it is, like, a move in the right direction. And I have aloe and I have other things. But I'm like, what does it look like to actually, like, think about a season and put things in the ground? And how much food would it take for me and my partner to live? How much will we be able to contribute? One of the things I love, that I feel like I learned from the conversations with Leah, but with other farmers, Black farmers—Derek Cooper, other folks—is like, everything that we grow is actually immediately abundant. If you're doing it, if you're in right relationship with whatever it is you're growing, you end up with more than you could ever need. And that's why so many farmers end up doing all kinds of cooperative efforts of sharing their food out to other people, because you get so much. I love that as a problem and as a challenge for us. It's like, could we deal with the abundance that would come if we actually all gave a portion of our time and attention to growing food directly from land? So that's one of the things I'm—that's like one of my next horizons is, like, inspired by this Soul Fire Farms community is, like, what does it look like to actually get our hands dirty in a different way.

    Margaret 39:23Cool. Yeah, I um—when all this happened I was like, I live on land that is technically a farm. And I consider myself to not have a green thumb at all. And—

    Adrienne 39:36Yeah.

    Margaret 39:37—and I've like, you know, the few times I've tried to grow food, it's failed. So I've convinced myself that I will never successfully grow food. And so—

    Adrienne 39:43You're like, see, I can't. [Laughing]

    Margaret 39:44Yeah, exactly. Which is funny because I think that I'm capable of, like, almost anything because I'm so obsessively DIY that I like—I'm, you know, in a house I built and I've learned plumbing and electrical since the pandemic started so that I could make my house meet my needs and, and all of these things. But I'm like, I'm convinced that growing food is entirely just magic that is beyond me. And what I've decided to do personally is I'm going to start mushroom cultivation because I'm like, well, this fits my like, "I live in the forest." Everyone else lives in, like, you know, elsewhere in the sun. And I'm like, "I'm in the forest, everything is dark and rainy." And, you know, trying to play to my strengths while still—but then there's the thing where it's like, I don't even envision—as much as I talked about my isolation, I still live with land mates, right? I'm, and I imagine that, come crisis, we continue to help each other. And so I'm like, well, I live with people who know how to grow food. So— I will focus on learning how to fix the rainwater catchment and things like that.

    Adrienne 40:36Exactly. Exactly. Like there's a way to be of use. And I mean—well, two things are happening right now. One is, I have my first mushroom log out on my deck. So we, you and I are mycelium familia. And I'm very excited about it. But same thinking is just like, I can grow mushrooms, like, I'm in a place where, like, there's enough condition for mushroom growing. And then I feel the same way, right? That I'm like, even if I never get great at growing food, if I'm in community with people who do grow food, but I have other skills to bring to the table, then that's great. And one of the things I'm always worried about is like, is my only skill talking? Like, do I still do I have other—you know, like—and then, you know, like, no, facilitation is a skill. Mediation is a skill. That's something you can offer to a community. I do doula work, that's a skill. But I'm always looking at like, you know, I'm of value in the current conditions, how would I be a value in future conditions. And I want to make sure that whatever I'm developing myself, I would be a community member that people would be like, "you're of value to us."

    Margaret 40:44Yeah. Yeah.

    Adrienne 41:47And not just because of what you do, but how you show up how you are, right?

    Margaret 41:50Yeah.

    Adrienne 41:51Like, I would love to have such value to my community that even if I can't do anything—because I have arthritis that it's just getting worse and worse and worse and worse—so Toshi and I talked about this often that, like, if the community all had to run for it, we wouldn't be running for it. So we would be like, okay, we'll sit and hold down the fort and, like, distract them and point them in another direction and that'll be our usefulness. Or whatever it is, like, you know—but be—I think everyone should be thinking about that question. How can I be of use in community? How do I understand my usefulness? How do I understand the relationships I'm in? Not transactionally, but in a sense of mutual aid and a sense of, we all need, we all have to give, how do we do that well with elegance, with grace? Yeah.

    Margaret 42:34Yeah, the usefulness question, it comes up so much when we talk about disability and the apocalypse, like you're talking about, and I really liked the way that you phrased—you phrased it, how you come to interactions is also part of our usefulness. And, you know, and—and then there's even stuff around like, you know, I've friends who, through like, sort of, like no fault of their own, or whatever, have... let's go spiky personalities. Right? And yet, we—I think it's like, partly it's a challenge to figure out how we can be useful, but it's also partly a challenge to figure out the usefulness—like, what people around you bring to you. And so like, for me, it's like, okay, my friends who are, like, maybe really hard to get along in a facilitated consensus meetings because they're opinionated and angry. And like, often because the world has done horrible things to them. And yet, like, for me, I kind of secretly enjoy, like, learning to help those people point themselves. Be like, ah, you have all of this anger. Here's this institution that needs destruction. How would you go about destroying it? You know.

    Adrienne 43:09Like, how would you do it? I love that, Margaret, because I—I just turned in the final draft of my next book, which is called Holding Change, the Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation. And there's a whole section on there, like, quote/unquote problem participants. And one of the things I was noting in there is like, every single person who shows up in the space as a problem—whatever kind of problem they are—if you can harness the energy that they're bringing in, they're often the most effective people. They're coming to the space. Right? You should be able to harness and move that energy somewhere. But particularly the grumpy, grouchy, curmudgeonly, flat, you know, this isn't working. Often those are the most visionary people in the room. And what's happening is that they are hurt by how it's all going down. You know, they're like, why are we not free yet? Why is it going like this? Like, why aren't we doing a better job? And like, harnessing that energy could free and save the world, right? So I always keep a couple of curmudgeonly, grumpy people close by. [Chuckling] Just keep me honest and to keep me like motivated.

    Margaret 44:47I think we're running up on time. How can people find out more about your work?

    Adrienne 44:55You know, go to akpress.org to buy the books there. I prefer people buy them straight from AK, which is an amazing people's press. And I'm on Instagram, that's where I'm like a person, you know, on social—the place where I—I mostly put pictures of things that I think are beautiful or cool. And then I have a website, adriennemareebrown.net, where I blog and I keep an archive of the interviews I do. So this will eventually live there. Yeah.

    Margaret 45:31Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, or any of the other episodes, please tell people about it. Like, first and foremost, the way to help the show is to tell people about it in person or online. And, you know, I always go on about the algorithms that run the world and how we can influence them. And, you know, and that's kind of shitty to just sit around and try and influence algorithms. But if you like, or subscribe, or post about this, or review it, or whatever, on whatever platforms you listen to it, it helps far more than it should. It helps bring it up into other people's feeds and it helps people more find—more people find out about it. And all the support that I've been getting for the show, especially seeing people post about it on social media and things like that. And, you know, people I know telling me that they like it is kind of the reason that I'm continuing going with it right now. I'm very low energy these days, and that'll swing back around, I'm sure. But hearing that it's useful to people is—matters to me and it makes me feel like I'm not wasting my time. So thank you all. And also you can support the podcast more directly by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. There's not a ton of stuff that you get, like, that exclusive, except that I do ostensibly a monthly scene that I mail out to people. It's also very far behind. I point to, you know, the world, and hold that up as my excuse which is getting kind of old for myself, but so it goes. And I do try and post up there as much as I can and also try and send out presents to my Patreon supporters as much as I can. In particular though I would like to thank Hugh and Dana and Chelsea and Eleanor, Mike Satara, Cat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. I—I'm overwhelmed by the amount of support that I've been getting. And I've been able to use that to hire a transcriptionist. And now also potentially get more help, like the show might end up collectivizing, who knows, we'll see how it goes. In which case, me having bad mental health times won't be as much of a hold up. And that'll be good for everyone. And so thank you to my supporters for helping that make—helping that look like it might become a possibility. Anyway, I hope you all are doing as well as you can with everything that's going on and I'll talk to you soon.

  • Episode Notes

    Cici can be found on twitter @postleftprole. The IAF-FAI can be found on twitter @IAF__FAI and through their website iaf-fai.org. The Javelina Network can be found on twitter @JavelinaNetwork.

    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.

    For an overview of radio from an anarchist perspective, check out the zine For An Anarchist Radio Relay League.

    Transcript

    1:32:19SPEAKERSMargaret, Cici, Eepa

    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. Are use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking with two people who have a lot of experience with different radio communications, mostly HAM radio and other means of two-way radio communications. Their names are Cici and Eepa and they work with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and/or the Javelina Network which is a network of—well, they'll explain it. And we're going to be talking a lot about radio communications, and they actually do a really good job of breaking it down—a subject that could feel very technical. I know I get very overwhelmed when I try and understand radio communications. They break it down in a fairly non-technical way that, well, I'm excited for you all to hear. So this podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And usually I lead with a jingle, but this week I'm going to do something slightly different and first I'm just going to say welcome to the Maroon Cast. I don't believe they have a jingle yet. But there is a new podcast on the network called the Maroon Cast and it is absolutely worth checking out. And the jingle—they actually call it a commercial—that I am going to play is from the Institute for Anarchist Studies who are offering grants. And here's that. Hooray. Hey radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists. Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and Indigenous archaisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That's anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends. Okay, so if y'all could introduce yourself with I guess your name, your pronouns, and then any political or organizational affiliations that makes sense with what you're going to be talking about today.

    Cici 02:32So my name is Cici. I do she/her pronouns, I also do they/them pronouns. I don't really have any organizational affiliations at this time. I am—I have some experience with radio in a like a certain area, but in other areas I'm still learning and I'm trying to get up to speed. I am a licensed radio operator which helps a bit. But obviously, like, you don't have to be licensed to do stuff with a radio. And that's I guess enough about me.

    Eepa 03:13All right, [I didn't catch a lot of this except Eepa] and I use he/him pronouns. My affiliations, I'm with the Indigenous Anarchist Federation and I'm a part of the newly formed Javelina Network. And basically, I am fairly new to the whole communication world. But it's one of those things that I've become very passionate about building up people's knowledge that way in communities for mutual aid, you know, both in disasters and just for general preparedness. We have ways of communicating that don't rely on, you know, corporate infrastructure or government infrastructure.

    Margaret 04:02Yeah, so I guess one of the first things that I want to ask you all, for people who are, like—so this will probably be in some ways a slightly more technical conversation than some of the—some of my shows, just because, at least, there's an awful lot of acronyms and weird technical stuff that comes along with learning about radios. And I think it's worth—I'm going to ask you all a lot about that stuff. But I guess I was wondering if you all could start with kind of like a pitch for why we should care about radios. Like, we all have cell phones. Shouldn't we just use cell phones? Like what are some of the advantages of understanding and having an experience with radio communication?

    Eepa 04:40So one of the things that people should consider whenever they're using—whatever type of communications you're using on a daily basis, that could be using email through ProtonMail or using Signal or WhatsApp, or just using your regular cell phone service—these are things things that are controlled by somebody. So the infrastructure that makes them possible is controlled by either corporations, or they're controlled by corporations and regulated by the government. They're subject to warrants and data collection and they're subject to a lot of other, you know, less security-related, but more just infrastructure in general. You know, if, as we saw in hurricane Maria, when hurricanes come they knocked down cell phone towers and if you don't have cell phone towers, your cell phone just becomes a, you know, a box with whatever photos you have on, it doesn't become very useful for communications. And the same thing goes for emails, when you are logging on to your, you know, ProtonMail account which is, you know, a great service and everything—if those servers go down in Switzerland, then you're out of luck—that that means that communication no longer exists. If the United States government decides to block a certain app that—that could basically cut off your service and take away all of your context. So it's a very fragile thing that we have, you know, during normal circumstances cell phone services is great, it's convenient. And honestly, it should still probably be your primary means of communication because of its ease of use. But there's a lot to be said for having all of the infrastructure you need to communicate in your own hands without needing any external infrastructure, aside from a community of other people who are likewise equipped and trained to communicate with.

    Cici 06:42I think that's an excellent answer. In addition to what Eepa said I would basically just add on, like, yeah, there's—it's hard with the infrastructure that people usually use—cell phone towers, servers, routers, or at least, you know, commercially available routers and phones and everything. People don't have—people in, like, their communities don't have a lot of control over it. One of the things that I'm actually—I need to do way more study into it, because it's rather technical. But if something were to happen and the internet were to go down, either unintentionally, because—or, you know, not because of a—because like it's natural—something natural happens like a hurricane. Or because the government has shut the internet down for the express purposes of, you know, preventing people from communicating. One of the things radio can do is it can actually mimic a internet, I should—I may say mimic but it's actually a true internet protocol. So you can actually get an internet running up in your community. Those are the kind of things that I think radio is great for. I would echo what Eepa said where it's not really a—in terms of people saying, "Well, I have a cell phone what's, you know, what is radio offer to me?" I'd actually say, yeah, I don't think that just being able to say, "Hey, I communicated with somebody in another spot." Like, that's not really the attraction necessarily for learning a bunch of radio things. I would also note for a lot of people who are just doing off-grid stuff, there's a lot of places where your cell phone just, there's just no signal, it's too far away from cell phone towers. You can still get out with a radio if something were to help. A lot of people are like, well, you know, I'm not gonna be setting up a another Wifi internet system. But, you know, if you're ever hiking or you're doing stuff that's just not close to a big city or whatever, it can still be useful if something happens, you get hurt, you're not out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone signal needing extreme medical attention immediately. So I just like to point that kind of thing out where it's useful on an individual level, but it's also useful on a community level.

    Margaret 08:58Yeah. Yeah. I mean—

    Eepa 09:00I think that that's probably one of those—I think that's one of those misconceptions that people have about radio, just in a general sense, is they think that it's two people on walkie-talkies talking to each other. But there's a whole realm of radio use that includes, you know, sending messages, photographs, even videos utilizing radio that people are probably not aware of.

    Margaret 09:24I only learned about that really recently when someone was talking about how you can take your Baofeng radio and—I think it was, like, get a photo from the international space station on your cell phone by having your, like, cell phone listen to what's coming out of your radio?

    Eepa 09:46Yeah.

    Margaret 09:48That was a good moment of like, "Oh, this is some scifi shit." And I'm like, "Oh, and I mean it's some like 1970s scifi shit." But it's—that's so fucking cool. Yeah, I mean, okay, so like, I'm rudely guessing that a lot of people who are listening, if they have much experience like, say, direct action stuff, they're probably their only real experience with radios might be walkie-talkies. Right? And so I was—I was wondering if there's like a way to, like—the thing that really intimidates me when I look at radios is that I look and then I'm, like, okay, there's high frequency, very high frequency, ultra high frequency. There's walkietalkies which use FRS. There's MURS. They're CB radios, there's GMRS radios, there's the Business Band, there's a HAM radio. There's AM/FM, SSB, contint CW, like, there's like all this shit, right? And so I guess I kind of wanted to like start and try and kind of break some of this down if you all can, like, maybe talk starting with like—maybe you'll have a better pedagogical sense of like where to start or something. But in my head, I would ask you first about maybe, like, Family Radio Service, the walkie-talkies, that people might be used to, like what they can be used for and kind of build out from there. Or if there's another way to introduce all of this that you all would like to use.

    Cici 11:18I can't actually speak too much to the Family Radio Service. I'm glad you mentioned that there's a lot of different modes. What tends to happen is there's very few people that know all of that, or if they do they're a dime a dozen. At least from my experience talking to other radio people, they tend to focus in areas that they think are interesting, or areas that they think are useful, or whatever. So for instance, you mentioned Family Radio and you mentioned, I believe it's GR-GMRS, I actually have like no experience in those. I mentioned in the introduction that I'm licensed. What I meant by that, or I probably should have been more specific, is that I'm licensed as an amateur radio operator. If people have ever heard someone talk about HAM radio, that's basically what I'm talking about. HAM is just another way of saying an amateur radio app. I'm an amateur in the sense that I don't get money. I'm not like a radio station. I'm not commercially broadcasting, like, the radio you might listen to music or whatever. So that's all that means. Amateur doesn't necessarily mean you don't know a lot or that, you know, it just means I don't get paid. And that my license basically says I can't get paid to broadcast. So that's kind of my experience. So yeah, I don't know if Eepa would be able to talk about the Family Radio Service. Some people have heard CB radio. I believe that's—it's similar to amateur radio but it's it's still very different. I actually associated with truckers doing stuff in the, like, I know, that's kind of an old association, doing stuff in their cars. As far as modes, I know Margaret, you mentioned things like single sideband which is that SSB. That's a voice mode. You mentioned—I guess I should start with the—you mentioned high frequency, very high frequency, and ultra high frequency. Usually people will shorten that to the individual letter. So like very high frequency they'll just say VH, VHF. Those just basically are a shorthand way of talking about how far you can talk. So for instance, people that have Baofengs are often going to be using very high frequency or ultra high frequency. Very high frequency is usually going to be a line of sight, maybe a little bit further because radio waves can actually see a little further than, like, the way we see the horizon. But for instance, if you and a friend both had Baofengs and you lived in the same city, depending on your antenas, that a bunch of other technical stuff, you should be able to hear each other. A lot of times the type of radio also use a repeater. The repeater is basically something that will send the signal further—it's it's own equipment but it will send your signal further than if you just had it by yourself. So when people hear that I just want them to think, "Oh, that's just distance." My interest is in very high—or, excuse me, is in just high frequency, just HF. That tends to be very far distances. So like that's usually talking to people in other countries, or talking to people across, like, a country, like a big country like the United States, or the so-called the United States. I'm in the Midwest, I can use high frequency to talk to someone in California which is obviously not line of sight or, you know, horizon. So that's all that means. I don't—a lot of times HAM radio and radio in general uses these terms that make stuff sound really technical and really like scary, but it's actually just a—there's an easier way to understand it. So that has to just do with distance. That's all I'll say about that for now. I don't want to overload but uh...

    Eepa 15:01Yeah, and so basically what I'll add to that is there's two basic things that somebody who's new to radio needs to do to understand what their radio is going to be used for. And so like Cici was talking about with the frequencies: Frequency is one of the two things that you really need to pay attention to when you're a beginner, is frequency and wattage. So wattage is just how much power is actually being emitted from your radio. So one of the ways that you can think about frequency—we'll start with frequency first—is it's basically wavelength. And so the shorter your wavelength, the smaller it is, the smaller the distance—or the frequency or sorry, the frequency. So ultra high frequency, very short distance. Very high frequency is going to be kind of a medium distance. And then high frequency is long distance. Now what the Family Radio Service radios that you're talking about, they broadcast on very high frequency. But what makes them not very good for communicating at distance is they have a low wattage, so they're legally not allowed to go above a certain wattage. And so that means that they can only communicate at like a very, very short distance. Basically, these radios were designed so that way parents and kids could have radios or, you know, a family convoying on a vacation—this is in the days before cellphones—could have communication with each other. And so they didn't need very high wattage, and they didn't want these radio frequencies to be basically blocking other radio traffic. So it's a low wattage, very high frequency and that means that it's going to be a very limited distance. So even with like ultra high frequency, if you have a low wattage, you get even less distance. What amateur radio opens up to you is higher wattage, and it opens up more frequencies. So that's the key thing there.

    Margaret 17:09Okay, yeah, I took a bunch of notes about this right before. Right before we started I was trying to like map out all of this because I've been learning about this some for a while. And I was just trying to map all of this out. And what I came up with was basically like three types of, in the US, unlicensed types of radios, and then like two sort of types of licensed radios with HAM radio being kind of like the big—or amateur radio being like the big open one. And it was kind of interesting to me because I learned, like, for example, like I was reading about, like, what the hell is the difference between CB and FRS, and between walkie talkies and trucker radios as I always kind of saw it. And yeah, so I guess if CB is high frequency it needs—it can go further on lower wattage—or I don't know if it goes through a low wattage, but it can go—it bend—the the frequencies like bend around the horizon and hills and shit better. But apparently it takes like a much, much more of an antenna and it doesn't like going into buildings and shit very well as compared to like—

    Eepa 18:17Yeah.

    Margaret 18:17UHF, which is like much more—I don't know, in my head it's almost like piercing rather than, like, you know, it doesn't go very far but it like goes through things a little better or something? And doesn't need as much of an antenna. I don't know, that's what I—what I—so I guess—like, what I came up with as the things that you can use unlicensed are—well, I mean, you can theoretically use anything—well anyway—actually, I'm gonna ask you some about some of that stuff and a little bit, what you can get away with. But unlicensed, you can use FRS which are like the walkie talkies, you can use CB which has like a slightly higher wattage limit and is shortwave only but requires more of an antenna, and then something called MURS, M-U-R-S, Multi Use Radio Service, which is, like, a little bit better. And then, I think, in terms of licensed radio, I'm actually—I'm running this past youu so you can like tell me if I'm wrong. But also if I'm right then I'm just expressing everything that I learned to the audience. In terms of licensing, there is one type of license you can get without taking a test, you just give the US government 70 of your dollars. And it's General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS. And it's, like, still substantially more limited than amateur radio, right? But it allows more—I don't know, it's a little bit—it's nicer than than family radio service. It's nicer than a walkie-talkie. It's like a fancy walkie-talkie. And you don't have to take a test, versus amateur radio, which I guess you have to in order to—you have to pass these very intimidating tests in order to start using it, or in order to legally start using it. And I guess—I dunno, does that match up with with—does that seem correct? This is just like what I put together right for the show.

    Eepa 20:08Yeah, so if people wanted to just get on the radio, like, tonight, if you could just go down to the store and pick something up and get on the radio. Basically, what you outlined is spot on, you know, Family Radio Service is probably the weakest kind of radio that you can get. And, again, if you're within, you know, eyesight of the person you're talking to those kind of radios will work for you. CB radios are larger, typically they're mounted in like a vehicle. So they are a little bit less easy to keep on your person but they do carry further. So this is what nowadays you tend to see, like, off -oaders and other things like that use whenever they're going out in the desert and off-roading. Again, you have limited channels on both of those. So you have, like, you know, theoretically there's a bunch of channels in there, sub-channels, but it's very limited. So if you're in a city or something, you could find very easily that all of those channels are occupied and being used by people. And so that could just make things really confusing and really challenging. CB radios are kind of known as, like, the wild west of like the radio world, because you can say and do anything on that radio channel without any kind of punishment. So it's full of very not great things. And, again, it's a very busy radio channel because it's used by a lot of unlicensed people to communicate. Now, when you're talking about basic commercial radio, which is that license you're talking about for those handheld, the GMRS, that is going to be something that usually requires that you show you are a business. So you need to have an LLC, a nonprofit, some kind of designator, some kind of, like, you know, tax ID or whatever, to tell the FCC that yes, I'm a business. They will assign you a little tiny frequency of the spectrum that none of the other businesses in your area have and then you're stuck with it. So that means that you might have a few channels on your radio, but that's all that's going to be available to you to legally use. And you're having to pay money on a regular basis to keep that license.

    Margaret 22:23Okay.

    Eepa 22:24The one upside to that is you do get to use a slightly more powerful radio that—I mean, they are designed for, you know, like, mines and construction sites and factories, that's typically where these kind of radios are used. So they are more powerful and they also have the legal ability to be encrypted. So you can actually get encrypted radios, which is not legal on any other radio service. The only way you can do that is through the GMRS. But you have to go through a major company to get your encryption service which means if somebody wants to de-encrypt your radio, all they have to do is get in contact with the company and find out what your encryption keys are and then they're in. So this is also something that you see a lot of law enforcement that had switched to is this style of radio, just a modified one that are, you know, higher power and use repeaters. So these are all legal non-testing options, but they're purposefully designed to limit you. They're designed to basically reduce your capacity to communicate beyond line of sight in a way that, I mean, the amateur radio community would say the reason why is because, you know, you can't have people running rampant on the on the air, there needs to be, you know, law and order on the air. So that's part of the reason why the amateur bands are more thoroughly regulated, is to basically make sure that there's a system of accountability to the government.

    Margaret 24:00Okay.

    Cici 24:04Actually, I'm really glad that Eepa shared tha. I have—my information outside of HAM radio is very limited so I actually learned a lot listening to that. The only different thing I would like to say is there's actually a lot of changes coming with the—not with the testing, but the FCC—this is extremely recent. Like, I think the actual report from the FCC is, like, was dated like December 28—of like a few days ago, like last month, basically, it'sless than a month old. But they did actually say they're going to start charging people for HAM radio licenses. This is extreme because it used to—like, as of right now it's completely free. You have to take a test, but you don't have to pay any money. Sometimes if you look online you'll see people saying they want $15. That doesn't actually go to the FCC, that goes to the people providing the test itself. Those people are actually just HAM radio operators. It's, one of the interesting things is that the FCC actually has a very decentralized, like, they basically let HAM radio operators test each other and that's—they just send the paperwork to the FCC to get your callsign. So if anyone's at home thinking, "Oh, I was thinking about getting licensed and I think I'm ready." If you don't want to pay the FCC $35, like, I would, I would say, like, do what now. Along with that, they actually cut the GMRS license to $35 as well, it used to be $70. So they actually made getting a GMRS license and getting a HAM radio license the same price. HAM radio—people on ham radio, very upset, like, they—one of the big things is, oh, we need to attract people to HAM radio. So, like, the community in general is not happy about this change. It hasn't taken effect yet. The report doesn't actually say exactly when it's supposed to take effect, like, it's supposed to take effect the month after the report, but then it has to go through a bunch of bureaucracy. If I had to guess I'd say they're probably going to try to do it sometime around February/March. But it might be sooner, it might be more after that. As far as my experience, I—that's correct, you do have to take a test to get into HAM radio. Even in HAM radio, the first—there's three levels. Basically you have to pass each test to get to the next level. So like you can't just, like—so the levels, the first one you have is technician—technician level. The second one's a general level, that's actually where I'm at. I have a general level license. And then the highest one is called amateur extra, a lot of people just say "extra." That's—extras basically have the most privileges on the HAM radio.

    Margaret 26:36They all sound inverted. Like, if I was to come up with the hierarchy, I would be like amateur, general, technician.

    Cici 26:44Yeah no, they're like actually, like, holdovers from older—like there used to be advanced, there used to be a novice and, like, they've changed—the FCC is the one that's in charge of making these levels. And it's like, it's changed a lot. It used to be kind of like five or like three and a half kind of, and now it's basically just the three. Sometimes you'll run into a really old HAM who's like, "I haven't advanced license," and it's, like, what the hell is that? But it's basically like an old, depreciated license that they don't issue anymore. So yeah, I'm at the middle level. You can't just jump straight to, like, one of the levels. So like, if you're like, "I think I know enough to get an extra license," you can't just go and say, "Give me the extra test, I'll get an extra license." But you can take them all in one sitting. So like, if you're like, "I'm pretty sure I could do the extra," they'll give you a technician test. If you pass it, they'll give you a general test. If you pass it, they'll give you an extra test. The extra test has more questions, it's—I'm actually studying for it right now. It's very technical. It's kind of like what Eepa was referring to. There's kind of a culture of HAM radio. And it's, there's this idea that you basically have to earn your privileges on the bands by knowing what you're doing and all this type of basically hierarchy type of ideas. But I mean, it is helpful to know some of the things that are in the test. I've actually learned a lot, just from having to study for the technician or the general test even though I've forgotten some of it. The licenses are good for 10 years. So you do have to actually renew them every 10 years. So yeah, after a few years I'll have to renew mine, and pay them this stupid fee that didn't exist when I first got it. But yeah, also something I want to put out is if you—you only need a license if you want to transmit. By what I mean by that is if you want to send a signal out. That's important if you're, like, if you're in an emergency situation, you're probably going to want to send a signal out. If you're trying to communicate with people that are not near you, you want to send a signal out. But if you just want to listen you actually don't need a license, you can actually go grab a radio tonight, tune your radio to HAM radio bands and just listen all day long, as long as you don't transmit. And technically you're not supposed to interfere. So you can't, like, jam other people's signals. But, like, if you're not transmitting, you can listen, like whatever. Like there's no license to listen. So that's something interesting I want people to know: if you just want to listen to stuff, you don't actually need a license.

    Margaret 29:05What do they talk about around you? Because around me, like, I got a scanner and, you know, it doesn't transmit any way, right? And I set it to listen to HAM radio channels, and I mostly heard like a 70-year-old talking to maybe a 15-year-old about like how to cook hot dogs and how to get trucks unstuck in mud, and then started explaining a story about snakes that I found very improbable. And that was about the most interesting thing that's happened, like, all of the many hours I've, like, just had the scanner on in the background. I don't know. I'm curious what you all have heard people talking about on these things.

    Cici 29:45So for me, I actually don't do that much listening. Going back to kind of like different areas of different—I guess that's something called "rag chewing." In the HAM radio world that's if you hear someone say, "Oh, you're rag chewing," that's basically you're getting on the radio, you're just listening to other people. A lot of times people will make—I don't want to say a game, game probably sounds—is the right—is the wrong—but people will actually do this as a contest. Like, sometimes people will try to contact as many people as you can in a certain amount of time. You've heard of people called "contesting," that's what they mean. You'll hear some people "de-exing," this is better if you have that—so if you're in the high frequency, you try to get people as far away from you as you can. A lot of that, actually, you don't say much. Because you want to get as many contacts, you'll actually have this very non-conversation. It's basically like your call sign, like, some necessary information and that's it. Some people actually automate it. It's interesting. So you don't actually say a lot when you're doing that. However, I know we mentioned ultra high frequency, the UHV—or excuse me UHF, I'm sorry—UHF earlier, and somebody might be thinking, "Why would I want to even talk"—like they're very short, like, distances. They can penetrate into buildings which is helpful. So someone's like, "Why would I want to do that? If somebody right there, like, what's the point?" I mentioned earlier, one of the things you can do is you can create your own WiFi networks. Those actually operate. And those vary—or excuse me, not very, but ultra high frequency. 13 centimeters is about where that happens if people are able to look at a band plan and, like, see what links go where. If you were trying to set up your own—like, even like the commercial WiFi networks operate in that same thing. That's why your router is generally limited to your house and just outside your house and why you can't pick up a router like a mile away. So that's kind of like—I know, this is getting away from the question of what do people talk about around you.

    Margaret 31:50Oh, no, no. Go on. This is a better tangent.

    Cici 31:55It's like you don't have to necessarily even if you—there's a lot of people that have radios and they hardly ever listen, they don't ever rag chew. One of the things I'm trying to learn is it's basically Morse code. I don't know why I said basically, it is Morse code. It's called—for technical reasons it's called "continuous wave" in HAM radio. So if you hear people saying CW, that's Morse code. One of the attractive things in Morse code—because someone's like, "Well, why would you want to do that, that seems way more, way more like technical and you have to learn a whole thing and then"—it gets out when nothing else can. When I say that is a radio signals take up a certain amount of space, basically, in the bigger—the more space it takes up—bandwidth is how, I guess, the technical word for that. But the more bandwidth it is, the harder it can be to get that signal out. This is particularly pression, as Eepa was saying, a lot of times you're limited in how many watts you can put out. So if you're running something that's not a lot of watts—especially you've got like maybe an antenna that you've made or an antenna that's not extremely efficient—if you can do something like Morse code, it might get out, when if you were trying to do a voice code wouldn't get out. Now you have trade-offs with that, like, you know, you have to, you have to have equipment that will use it, you'll have to have somebody on the receiving end that can listen to it. But actually a lot of people use automatic—something, I forget what it's called. But it's basically something where when it comes up to your computer, or your radio, depending on if your radio is nice enough, will just automatically translate the Morse code for you. So you don't necessarily have to know it. In the HAM culture it's kind of like, well, that's cheating, you know, like you're supposed to like actually learn it and whatever. But if you're using it as an emergency thing, for instance, it can be really important. Another thing is if you don't really want to listen to what people around, you have to talk about, like I don't want to care—I don't care how people make hot dogs. The jokes is actually that if you are actually—a lot of it's just what gear do you have, what radio do you have? And like, "Oh, how nice is your radio?" And it's just, like, this is not information I need. One of the things, you can actually send out images? Which seems kind of like, "Well, I've got a computer, why do I care that I can send out images and like actually receive them?" This can be key if you're in a place where the government's actually shut down on purpose, you know, your your internet or your cell phone stuff, because they're doing things that they don't want people to know. For instance, I don't actually, I don't know if it's still happening. But I remember in the northern region of India, there was a blackout there a year or so ago. The Indian government was doing just, we don't really know because nothing could get out. But if you had a radio that could send out—there's fast scan and slow scan—TV is what it's called. But if you could send out an image without the government knowing, you could potentially let people know what's going on and in a situation where it's otherwise impossible to get communication out. So I mean, that's something that I—basically my answer to the question, "What do people talking around me?" is, "I don't really know." I'm not listening to people around me so much and I'm not a I'm not rag chewing, basically. But that's just to give people examples of what you can do if you're like, well, I'm really antisocial, I don't want to talk to anybody around me about just random stuff. So...

    Eepa 35:14Yeah, for like around me, one of the things that—I actually do listen. I'm actually still in the process of getting licensed. The tests are themselves are, you know, intimidating and challenging but you can develop a lot of interesting insights, basically, by listening. And, I mean, around where we're at it's simple stuff, like, they have little game shows where you can, like, call in answers to trivia questions. And they have, like, little social meet and greets. They've got like a technical night where if you're having a problem with your radio, you can call in and they'll help you troubleshoot what's going on with it. And this is all done via repeaters, which means you could use a UHF or VHF, you know, like a Baofeng basically, to talk to somebody in Ohio. Now, again, these repeaters are run by local radio clubs which means, you know, you don't control the infrastructure, which means if those repeaters were to go down or, you know, the government was to take them over or something like that, you could lose access. And that's one of the reasons that I'm very interested in HF because HF is a self-contained communication system where you're able to do everything on your own. The IF's in contact with some of the people—some of the anarchists in Ethiopia. And during the recent civil war in Tigray that was one of the issues that they were running into and something that they had wished that they had basically prepared was people who could actually send out images and send out news reports on the radio from within Tigray because a lot of the news was only coming from the Ethiopian state forces. And there were, you know, reports and rumors of massacres and other things like that. But there were no images, there was nothing really to substantiate what was happening. And so just touching on that, the ability to send images and things like that is really nice. But just when it comes to listening, I think that's actually something really critical to think about when you're looking at radio from a prepper kind of standpoint, from a—the idea that you are trying to get into communications because you want to be a part of community awareness. The primary thing that you will be using radio for in a situation where communications are shut down through normal means, and that could mean just a grid down, you know, Hurricane knocked out the power grid or something like that. Or it could be something more sinister where, you know, the government is purposefully denying people access to communication. The primary thing you're gonna be doing on radio is listening, is intelligence gathering. It's figuring out what all the other HAMs that are on the radio are talking about, what are they seeing, you know. Are they seeing, you know—are there rumors of, you know, troop movements to the north? Are there rumors, that there's a food shortage in the town that's north to you or that, you know, they're sick people really concentrated in a certain area? That intelligence gathering is something that you can do with really cheap equipment. You can—one of the things that we recommend on our site is to get a shortwave, you know, receiver or something that can listen to all of these different bands. And just use that as a tool in your community to get people the ability to listen and learn because information is absolutely critical for survival, it's the central thing you can have in a situation where stability has crumbled, is to have information awareness on the ground. So listening, even when you're, you know, not licensed, can do that. It also can kind of give you an idea of what your local HAM community is like. Because one of the things that you will very, very rapidly learn, if you're a minority and you're involved in HAM, is that the community is blazingly white. And sometimes they can be fairly reactionary. And you can actually start to take notes of people that are actually kind of cool on the radio and people that you never want to talk to you again, just based off their call signs because they're required to give those. And that can help you decide in the future how reliable somebody information might be, or what kind of perspectives they might be providing in a disaster situation. So that kind of, like, finite information gathering is an important skill to develop even before you consider transmitting, you know, that's something you can work on right now.

    Margaret 39:59Yeah, that makes sense.

    Cici 40:00I'm actually really glad he mentioned that. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, Margaret, I'm sorry,

    Margaret 40:04No, go ahead.

    Cici 40:05I was just gonna say like, I—I'm gonna preface this just legally by saying, don't ever do anything illegal on the radio. But one of the things that I don't think people necessarily realize is that the FCC isn't—they don't have the manpower to sit and listen to like every single band. So like, generally, if you're doing something say, untoward, or you're not necessarily licensed, it's not the FCC that's going to like find out. It's the other HAMs. HAM radio is largely kind of self-disciplined. It's self—like, for instance, we do our own testing. Like, it's not like if you do—if you do something someone's—the band hammer is gonna come down. It's basically if you piss off enough HAMs or if they know, they'll— they're the ones who's going to report it. Eepa had mentioned earlier in our conversation that in HAM radio you can't send encrypted communication. However, you could send—and there's kind of a formality of how you send information via HAM radio—but for instance, you could say what they would expect you to say if you were doing a regular HAM conversation and it could mean not what they would necessarily expect it to mean. So for instance, one of the things on—I don't know a lot about voice because I actually am trying to focus more and Morse code, but one of the things that you're supposed to do on Morse code to call a another radio is CQ, CQ CQ. And then someone will be like is, you know, are you looking for someone? You can use those codes to mean for your intended audience whatever you want them to mean. So it's not encrypted. But it's also something where the other HAM radio, if someone happens to be listening, has a HAM radio, they won't necessarily know what's going on. Again, you should never do anything illegal on the radio. I just want to let people know that it's not like there's a radio police that sits and actively listens, like, it's really just other HAMs that are gonna report you. Also, that's something to know. If you note that you're in kind of a, you know, maybe you live in a really remote area and there's just not a lot of other HAMs, you're listening on the air, and they're just not a lot of other people, you don't hear a lot of other people. That also might mean there's not really a lot of people listening, which means there's not a lot of people that could report you to the FCC. So that's something to keep in mind as well. If people were, you know—also something to note that even in a licensed situation, for something that's considered an emergency, and this is actually one part of the test, you can break HAM radio protocol and laws in the case of emergency. And that's actually something that's acknowledged. So like, if something were happening where it's like, this person needs immediate attention, you're not expected to follow all the—like, you can get on the air and be like, "I'm not licensed, but I need help," and most HAMs are gonna not, you know, they're not going to get on you. Like, that's allowed. So that's also something I want people to know, like, if you just want to radio for emergencies technically you should be licensed and it's good, because you'll have experience and you'll know what you're doing, but if it's something like this is like four death, or this is extreme, other HAMs aren't gonna report you. Like, people are generally, you know, and also that's allowed. So even if they did report you other HAMs would be like, well, that's allowed in the rule. So something I just wanted people to know.

    Margaret 43:44Yeah, that actually helps.

    Eepa 43:45So if you break your leg out in the woods, go ahead and get on your Baofeng and start honking.

    Margaret 43:51So I feel like at this point, I should probably tell the audience what a Baofeng is. Which is, as far as I understand—because that's actually, that's how Baofengs were introduced to me, right is like, "Oh, yeah, I got a Baofeng." Like, "Oh yeah, there's radios over there, they're Baofengs." And like, everyone like talks about it, like, "Whoa, like, this is the fucking coolest thing ever," right? And it's just a really cheap radio that can do a lot of things. And it can do a lot of things that are legal like transmit at low wattage on FRS. And it can do a lot of things that would only be illegal if you were licensed. But it's just kind of like, what, a $20 or $30 radio you can buy on the internet and you can like swap it out with a nicer antenna? And it's just kind of like—it's become, like, kind of like a thing in this sort of like tactical and prepper and whatever worlds is like Baofengs is, like, the thing. But actually what you were talking about, about how you can use it in emergencies. That's kind of how I've always seen, like, I have a Baofeng, right? I don't really know how to use it. I've pretty much just used it to listen to things. But I'm like, okay, I could theoretically transmitted an emergency if I needed to. And, you know, for a $20 thing that can transmit in an emergency, that's cool. It's also cool that it's a tool that, like, isn't limited, like, I hate when I buy something and it's like, this is locked down to make sure that you can't do the things it's supposed to do. Just the things that you're allowed to do. You know?

    Eepa 45:23Yeah.

    Margaret 45:23I hate that kind of shit, I—there's a, just, I don't know, whatever. I'm clearly an anarchist, I—there's—I don't really have to defend this position very hard.

    Eepa 45:36Yeah, and so like, those Baofengs are basically like, I mean, the the way that you can think about it is, like, your first, you know, foray into radio if you are, like, just—what I generally recommend Baofengs for is if you're actually interested in doing like, computer stuff with it, if you're interested in doing programming, they can be really fun to play with. Also, if you're interested in a radio that the cops can confiscate and you're not going to miss it because it's not that much of an investment, that's another really good reason to get a Baofeng. But if you're a beginner and you're serious about getting into radio, I do think that there are better options for just ease of use, because Baofengs can be very difficult to program, sometimes, they can be very finicky to use all of the functions of it. And so something like, you know, an Alinco, or a Yaesu, you know, these types of like, you know, Japanese radios can be a little bit more easy to use and they're going to be much more durable, you know, as far as like weather proofing and things like that. But again, that's something you have to weigh the pros and the cons of, you know, is this something that's gonna be confiscated at a protest, I probably don't want to spend a lot of money on it. Whereas if you're something where this isn't my go bag, I need something that's going to survive no matter what, then you might want to invest more money in something that's going to be easy to use and is going to be durable. So I mean, yeah, the Baofeng s ubiquitous, because it is cheap and there are better options that are still affordable.

    Margaret 47:20I feel like the Baofeng is like such a perfect way to introduce someone to help goddamn convoluted radio looks, like, you know?

    Eepa 47:30It can't—that's one of the issues with it is if you were—if I was to hand you a Yaesu. Like if I was to give you just like a Yaesu FT4X you would be able to program that without plugging in into a computer. It's much easier to use. You can just run to the menu, everything's right there. It's not convoluted and complex. And I think that's one of the issues with the Baofeng is it kind of—if you're not used to radio it can be very, very intimidating if you see that as your first introduction to radio. At least that's been my experience. I do have Baofengs, I was that typical person where I went out and I, first thing I got was, you know, a four-pack of Baofengs that I split amongst some of my comrades. And we were, you know, learning how to use them. But it was much more challenging. And the first time I used a radio with a nice, smooth, easy operation interface, you know, a nice, easy menu system. It really—it made it a lot less intimidating.

    Margaret 48:35Now you sold me. I mean, yeah, like, I basically look at my Baofeng and I'm like, I'm an idiot. And I'm like, I know how to program a computer to some degree, like, I've been doing technical shit for very long time. And I just look at it, and I'm like, I don't have enough time to dedicate in my life. Actually, this ties back to something I don't remember—I think it was Cici who was saying it but I'm not sure—earlier about how like, you know, Cici's like well, I actually very involved in this community, right, but then you're like, but I only know about the stuff that I'm interested in. I don't necessarily have to know everything about everything. And that is one of the things that's so hard about radio is when you look at it from the outside, it's just a string of letters that you're supposed to know how to make sense of. I mean, it honestly reminds me of like when you get into guns or something when everyone's like, "Oh, yeah, well if you don't have this thing go attached to this thing and the other thing and then this thing, then you're just gonna die." Well I don't wanna die.

    Cici 49:32I mean it's actually—yeah, I'd say with guns it's a good analogy. Like, there's very few gun people who, like, their experienced with revolvers, and they're experienced with like the latest pistols, and they're experienced with like lever guns, and their experienced with black powder, and their experienced with like—yeah, like, if people are—I don't know if listeners, if your listeners would have a good sense of like how guns are. I know you've done some episodes on firearms, but generally people tend to know more about certain aspects of firearms and they do other aspects, even though—even people that have a broad knowledge will know more about stuff than others, like black powder is very specific. A lot of people don't—who know a lot about guns, still don't know a lot about black powder, or vice versa. In the same way radio is kind of like that. There's very few. And I mean, like, I haven't met anybody who's, like, I know everything about every aspect of radio. That's, like, a crazy person. Like, or I should say, a person who's like, you know, they might be an engineer or something or that's their job.

    Eepa 50:33Yeah, yeah.

    Cici 50:34So for most people, like, I actually don't do too much what I would call local radio stuff and be—that'd be the very high frequency and ultra high frequency. I am interested in mesh networks, which would be the setting up those WiFi networks, but I haven't actually done a lot with it. What I'm interested in, the stuff is usually called high frequency, it's more long-distance, it's very different from the ultra high frequency. So I'm still learning a lot about setting up a mesh network and how to do a decentralized WiFi. I'm still learning a lot about that. What I guess my interests lie more in something called, I mentioned Morse code over there. There's another aspect of radio called QRP. So yeah, QRP is just a fancy way of saying low power. Generally, when people talk about radio they're gonna be talking about wattages. So we've been talking a lot about Baofengs and I know Eva mentioned the Alinko radios, Yaesu radios, these are generally going to be handy talkies. They looknkind of like what people might think a walkie-talkie would look like. The type of radios that would be a base station, they'll look very different. They look kind of like a—basically a box. It's a real, if it's a nice space station, that might be a really big box. Generally those are going to be at 100 watts or more, but those are also going to be extremely expensive. They're going to also generally require kind of semi-complex antenna setups, a lot of room to set up some type of base station like that. The stuff that I'm interested in for low power, the difference is that it's much cheaper. And a lot of people look at radio and they're like, I don't have an extra $1,000 to just drop on like a nice radio, I don't have an extra—especially if you want to do long distance stuff. That was kind of my interest. That's actually why I have a general license. If you get a technician license, it actually kind of limits you to very high frequency and ultra high frequency. You can do some stuff on the longer distance, but it's very limited. So yeah, you to even do stuff with long distance in a general sense, you have to get a general license, but a QRP is a way that you can not spend a lot of money—or at least spend less money, it still might be a lot of money, relatively speaking. But um. What'd you say?

    Margaret 52:58And QRP means low powered, right?

    Cici 53:01Yeah, low power. For Morse code, that's five watts or less. For voice modes like single sideband, that would be 10 watts or less. Actually, a lot of HAM radios kind of poopoo it because they're like, why would you use, you know—it's just, it can be difficult because you're using such little power, but you get a lot of benefits with it. A lot of benefits is you can use a radio that doesn't—or you can use an antenna that doesn't take up a lot of space. If you live in an apartment, that's huge. If you live in a place where, you know, like, you don't—you're not supposed to set up outside antennas or something, that's huge. I already mentioned that it's very cheap, or cheaper, I shouldn't say very cheap. But it's cheaper than doing other types of radios that use much higher power. Also, one of the big things is that you can make your own radios. We were talking about earlier how one of the benefits of radio was that it's decentralized, like, you're not about to go make your own smartphone.

    Margaret 53:55Mm hmm.

    Cici 53:56At least I can't. I don't know anyone who can. But you could make your own radio. And you can make your own antenna. In fact, a lot of HAMs encourage people to make their own antennas because it's—antennas are actually kind of expensive to go buy. It's actually cheaper to make them. So like a lot of HAMs will just learn how to make antennas out of, like, nothing. Like a lot of people make them on a tape measure and stuff, like it's very—if you're kind of that person where it's like I want to experiment and I want to kind of just make stuff with found materials or stuff that's, like, I have already at my house. Like, that's a huge benefit. Also, we didn't mention this earlier, but RF safety kind of is a related to the amount of—it's related to a lot of stuff, but it can be related to the amount of watts you're putting out.

    Margaret 54:39What is RF?

    Cici 54:41Oh, sorry, RF is radio frequency. It's just—it's the type of energy we're using for radio.

    Margaret 54:47So what is—how does it tie in to safety? Sorry, I'm just like...

    Cici 54:52Oh, it's okay. So if you're using something like 100 watts or more and you're transmitting. Like, for instance, you should never touch an antenna at that many watts that's transmitting. You're gonna get an RF burn. It's basically something that, like, it can get kind of complicated. But—and there's—I don't want to like scare people or anything, like, it's not—I'm not trying to be like, "Oh, we didn't talk about safety." But the lower wattage you use the less you have to worry about that, basically, especially if you have an indoor antenna or something. Like, if you have an indoor antenna, you really want to keep your RF, like, levels lower so you don't—part of it is actually practical, like, we haven't talked a lot about interference. But if you have a really, really high, like, wattage, and today—it can cause interference. And it can be something where your neighbors are trying to like use their electronics, and they hear all sorts of weird stuff, they hear all sorts of clicks and whatever. That's because you're using like a really high power radio. So, like, your neighbors just might get mad and be like, "You're, we see this antenna outside your house, and it's doing this thing and blah, blah, blah." So using a less power, it can be—it can cause less interference. But also it will just cause less RF like fields, which means that it's safer to operate inside. And someone might, like, might be thinking, "Well, why would I want to operate inside? If I can operate outside, shouldn't I?" Well, it depends. Are you doing something where you don't necessarily want people to know you're operating. A big antennas, like, if you have a huge antenna outside your house, or even just kind of a moderate one but something that's obviously an antenna and not a TV antenna, it'll be like, well, that person's a radio operator. Not everybody wants that immediately known if they were to walk by their house. I'll just say that. It's something that, if you're using QRP, it's much easier for you to not cause interference, to operate from completely inside, and to be able to make your own equipment.

    Margaret 56:51It's really cool honestly. Like, talking to you makes me want to learn how to build radios.

    Eepa 56:58I mean, it's like, there's some benefits to, like, QRP, like low power HF radios for prepping especially because they're mobile. You can literally put one of these—you can put a full QRP setup—a low power radio, power source, an antenna, and like an antenna tuner—in your purse. You could put it in a very small satchel and be able to talk to somebody states away. So these can be really compact and really mobile solutions that still give you access to autonomous email, like, still give you access to, you know, listening to all of these different bands, transmitting all these different bands. So from a preparedness perspective, that is a huge benefit. The low wattage basically allows you to use less power from your battery so you can use a very small solar panel that folds up and into your backpack to recharge your battery when you need. And so that just has tremendous benefits for mobility. And one of the key things to think about from a, maybe, a situation where you have any type of adversary. So that could be, you know, a lot of white supremacists militia types have created radio nets and have radio training. They're—they've been working on preparing this for years, they have pre-designated frequencies and nets, they've got all these different things set up. And one of the things that they can do is they can track you. So it's extremely easy to triangulate and locate the source of a transmission. So if you are needing to transmit something that is sensitive or that will identify you, as politically opposed to people that might be interested in finding you, you're going to want to transmit from locations away from your place of residence and also in a way that doesn't, you know, create a big circle on the map around your house. You're going to want to choose random locations to transmit from, and you're going to want to use, you know—low power helps with that a little bit as well. You can reach the people you need to without giving away your position too much. But as soon as you click the transmission button, you're opening up the world to find out exactly where you're at. So you can transmit what you need to, pack up, and get out of there if you need to. That's the nice thing about those low power rigs. So that's something to really think about when you're getting into radio. And, yeah, you can build your own, you can build your own antenna. There's some awesome antennas that you can literally just launch up into a tree with a slingshot and it's—all it is is one giant long strand of speaker cable, speaker wire. That's it, that's an antenna. Nothing more is needed. You just need a little antenna tuner to hook up to it and your radio and you're good to go. So those kinds of things are—they open up the whole world to you on a very, very—on a lower budget than you would be if you had a base station. One of the things that we talked about with the article that we released the Javelina Network is that handheld radios and QRP HF radios are very good for transmitting on the go and that was our main focus on that. You can do base stations which is like based out of your apartment, based out of your co-op or your bookstore or whatever you want to do. But again, that's a known location, that's a fixed location, that means that you have to be much more careful about what you're transmitting. And if you're transmitting outside of legal areas, the amateur radio committee has a whole community of amateur snitches that their whole thing—they get their jollies by tagging people on not having licenses and stuff. So it can happen. You just got to be careful about what you do.

    Margaret 1:00:53That's actually one of the questions that I—when I asked around basically being like what should I ask these people? One of the questions that came up a couple times was how real is—I think—it was presented to me that's called fox hunting? Like, the hobby of tracking down on licensed operators. What a great culture, what a wonderful culture where their whole thing is just snitching on people. But so, yeah, my question was, like, how real is that? Like, how much do people—especially like, let's say if you're not—I mean obviously if you're doing something where people are—where the people around you are politically opposed to you, and opposed to what you're saying, obviously that will increase the odds. But if you're just, like, coordinating some random bullshit like picking up lumber or something like that, how much do you act—do people—how real is this? How much do people actually get kind of tracked down?

    Eepa 1:01:52So from my experience, basically, fox hunting—I'm sorry, I've got a ICE helicopter flying over me right now. The—as far as fox hunting goes, if you go to any type of, like, HAM Fest or HAM convention or HAM con or, you know, whatever you want to go to, they will all have fox hunting competitions. This is something that, you know, people really enjoy doing is just like, you know, hunting down signals. Now, what this is typically used for is not going to be tracking down the guy who's saying, "Hey, I got lumber," or, you know, the person who's like, "Hey, you know, I need to pick up a quart of oil from you," or something like that, or the gal that's, you know, "I've got eggs for sale," or something like that, you know. It's not typically going to be stuff like that. It's usually like sources of interference that people are going to be tracking down. So if you're causing a lot of interferenc, and it's pissing people off, then they will fox hunt you down, and they'll find out what's going on. So if you have a jammer or something like that, which are illegal, and you operate that jammer and it makes people mad—if you operate it for long enough, people will find it and they will make sure that that is put to the stop. And so you have to be careful if you do utilize jammers and things like that, that you're not using them when you don't need to. So fox hunting in, like, day to day circumstances is a little bit less of a threat. If you know kind of what radio people sound like—and, again, do this at your own risk. This is something, again, that, you know, is illegal. But if you had like a fake callsign and you just follow the standard protocols of calls, you could basically get away with it as long as you didn't accidentally have some callsign that somebody there knew as being somebody else. So generally it's not going to be an issue if you're just talking between two people, you select a frequency, you listen to it, nobody's on that frequency, nobody's been on that frequency for a long time, and you just use it to call each other to coordinate something. Just kind of sound like you belong and you'll be okay. As soon as you get into an adversarial situation, that's when you do have police operating like stingers and other devices that will track down cell phone data, they'll track down radio data, everything—any kind of frequency that's being emitted, those things will be able to track down the source of so just be very aware of when and how you're transmitting, and be safe about it.

    Cici 1:04:29Absolutely. And I would actually add to what Eepa says: If you're going to use a call sign, first you want to absolutely know who—you know, if you're licensed—So, okay, so for people who are like what the hell is call sign?

    Margaret 1:04:43Yeah I was about to ask.

    Cici 1:04:46For HAM radio, what—basically what happens is you take this test. Assuming you pass they'll—what the license actually—the most important thing that I guess the license gives you is a call sign. I actually have a call sign. I'm not going to say it. The reason I'm not going to say it is because for anybody that says a call sign, it's instantly look up-able. When you take the test you have to give like an address, it's supposed to be your home address, of where you live. And basically that data is publicly available. So like, if I were to say my call sign right now, anybody listening to this podcast could go look it up online and find out exactly who I am—or at least, I shouldn't say exactly who I am. They could find out the name that I gave to the FCC, which is my real name. They could find out the address I have listed. You're supposed to updat it, like, you know, every time you move or whatever. A lot of people don't necessarily but like if they find out, like, that can become an issue. So for instance, let's say you just found a call sign. Nobody's using it. Cool. Somebody happens to look it up—and they might actually do this innocuously, a lot of people want these—they're called QSL cards. It's basically a little card that say, "Hey, I contacted you." And it's like a postcard that 's like, oh, cool. So they might just look it up just thinking, "Hey, I contacted you, I want a little postcard," and see that, you know, that call sign's registered to somebody in Texas. You were transmitting from, like, Washington. Like, they might be, like, well, that's kind of weird. That's not necessarily a tip off. Because, you know, you could be traveling. It's not like you have to change your call sign when you go traveling, you're on vacation, whatever. But if you're constantly—like, if you live in Texas and you're constantly transmitting from Texas and you never transmit for Washington, but that call sign is assigned to someone in Washington, like that's gonna tip somebody off, like, is this person really who they say they are? Also, you might—this gets a little dicey, too. But if you're using voice modes and, you know, your call sign says tou're this 58-year-old guy and you don't sound like a 58-year-old guy, like, that might start making sound like, you know, is this person who they say they are?

    Margaret 1:06:57Is it gonna be like four random letters or something? Like is—or is the call sign, like, this is like, I don't know, Phoenix Rising, I don't know...

    Cici 1:07:06Oh no, they're random letters. Like, for instance, I'm not gonna say my call sign. But, for instance, I'm reading this book, HAM—like HAM radio people generally love sharing their call signs, like, they'll put it on books. The call sign of [inaudible] from this guy that I'm reading, it's G0KYA. And actually, the G in the beginning means that he's actually from the UK. So not only are they location-specific, but they're country-specific. So like, if you just made up a call sign, like, people can generally tell if it's real or not. They're supposed to be a certain length, they have certain—like, for instance, in the in the US, generally if you get a call sign, it's gonna start with K or W. So like, that's something, if you're going to do that, you should know that these are things. Now of course this could all be alleviated just by getting an actual, like getting licensed and getting an actual whole sign. Still be careful who you share it with, you know. Like, maybe don't just go around telling everybody what your call sign is like most HAMs do. Just because, you know, maybe there is that really reactionary guy at the local HAM and, like, he gets a whiff that you're not, you know, you're not—your politics upset him. He knows your call sign. Also, if you're broadcasting you're supposed to actually say your call sign every 10 minutes. So it's not like, "Well, I'm just never gonna say my call sign when a broadcasting." You're supposed to. You're not just gonna keep it secret so that's something to think about. As far as fox hunting, yeah, there's this whole thing where HAMs will set out a radio, they'll hide it, and the whole game is to try to go and find the transmitter. This is actually something you don't even need to be licensed to do, you're just listening for this transmitter. So like, technically, you wouldn't even—you don't even need a license to go fox hunt. Anybody could track it down if they're just listening to you.

    Margaret 1:08:48That honestly sounds fun.

    Cici 1:08:50Also—I would also mention, that's actually something I'm interested in doing. We're not the only people at Radio Stash, obviously have radios. And if you know how to foxhunt and you note that there's this—or maybe there's just this guy in your local HAM community. If anyone's interacted with HAM, it tends to be very old, white, retired dudes. Like the average age of HAMs is probably something like 60 or 70. Like, it's very old. Like, it's people that have the money to buy like $1,000 base stations usually. So like, maybe there's a guy there that's, you know, he's always got a Blue Lives Matter shirt on. Or maybe, you know, he went to, you know, he went to DC recently, or something. And maybe you don't know his, you don't know his call sign, or maybe he's using a fake call sign or something. But if you can triangulate your signal, you could probably find out where he's at least transmitting from. Whether or not that's his house is, you know, it's a different thing. But you can actually use a lot of this stuff—the stuff that they use against us you can also use, like, to help us as well.

    Margaret 1:09:56So I'm impressed that we made it an hour and eight minutes before we brought up the fact that the fascist attempted to stage a coup in the United States yesterday. Sorry, anyway, what were you gonna say?

    Eepa 1:10:11Oh, no, I was gonna basically just add that when it comes to that security culture around call signs, that's really important. I've remember going to a protest of a basically a bunch of white supremacists, you know, ethno-nationalists or whatever. And there was a guy there who had his FRA sticker and his call sign on the back of his truck. And so I just went online, I looked at the call sign, and I showed him a picture of his home address. And I said, "Do you live here?" And he's like, "Yes." And then I showed him a picture of his little earth and his truck sitting in his driveway of his house, I was like, "This is your house in your truck, right?" And, you know, his face went white. And it was just like, either you put the call sign on the truck, or you put the the FRA sticker, but you'd never put both.

    Margaret 1:11:02Yeah.

    Eepa 1:11:02And typically, it's just don't even put your call sign in your vehicle. Because if you show up to an event, police will be able to look that up, fash will be able to look that up, anybody who knows about that can look it up. So that's just a really basic piece of security culture to do. And I can guarantee you that there are people who were in DC that had their call signs that the FBI are going to be looking up as we speak to go and arrest them. So don't snitch on yourself.

    Margaret 1:11:31Yeah.

    Cici 1:11:32Yeah. So no, I mean, like, be very diligent who you share your call sign with. Talking about repeaters, anybody could call into a repeater. So if you're using a repeater and you know that there's people in the area that you don't want them to know your call sign, like, either don't transmit longer than 10 minutes or, you know, just be aware of that you don't want it to be where there's a situation where you're constantly saying your call sign and now people you don't really want to know where you are, either know where you are, or they find out you have a call sign, or something like that. I do want to mention that if you're doing a data mode—there's these things called data modes, which are basically not voice modes. It's, you know, it's not your voice. Also Morse code obviously isn't your voice, it's just a series of beats dits and dots. It's harder for people to tell that's not necessarily you—not in the terms of location but in the terms of like, dits and dots. So like, if you have a friend that lives close to you and you know, their licensed, and and they said it's okay—you should never do anything illegal on the radio, by the way.

    Margaret 1:12:35Yeah, that would be wrong.

    Cici 1:12:37For someone to tell that, oh, that's not you doing dits and dots. I mean, they could maybe? Like maybe your friend transmits at a certain speed and you never transmit at that speed. But even then you could use a keyer which just puts it in automatically. And then like lots of people use keyers, like, that could be—like someone would have to really know, like, I know that dude and I know, that's not how he sends code. Like, that's a really specific situation. But if you're not using voice you have a little more... I don't know. Don't ever do anything illegal on the radio. But also, you don't have to use voice.

    Margaret 1:13:12Yeah.

    Cici 1:13:13Just gonna say that.

    Margaret 1:13:14And I mean, like, it's funny because like, I actually think that—go ahead, go ahead.

    Eepa 1:13:18No, no, no, no, go for it.

    Margaret 1:13:21I actually do think that, like, I think it would be great for us all to get licenses. Like it would actually be like, you know, I mean, it's like—do I think it's like ethically necessary that people have licenses to drive cars? No. But do I, like, want people who are driving cars to know how to drive cars? Yes. Right? And it's not the same thing, right? But like, I would say that, like, I intend to slowly work towards getting my license, right? And, you know, anyone who's interested in radio, it seems like a really good way to do it. And so—but yeah, no, I appreciate that sort of nuance of the conversation around, like, here's how you can choose to access radios while you're still working on them in emergency situations, etc. You know?

    Eepa 1:14:06Well, and I would say, basically, when it comes to getting your license, I think that is actually an important step for people to take because one of the things that allows you to do is to get lots and lots of practice. Practice is going to be the most important thing for you to actually be effective in a, you know, grid down or a, you know—in a sensitive situation, you don't want to be figuring out how to do new modes, how to, you know, what the bands are in the area, what your radio can operate at. You don't want to be figuring that out on the fly. And so if you spend a lot of time with a license interacting with other people in the community, even going and learning from some of those old white codgers who, you know, know how to build, you know, nice antennas or mobile rigs or things like that. You can do that and you can learn—you can learn a lot. And so that's the upside to the license is that you're going to be able to develop and nurture the skills that will come in handy later. Because one of the things that I'm very interested in is a program called JS8Call. And what that does is basically it creates a network of people that, you can be off the radio, and somebody can send you a text message. And the next time you get on the radio, other radios have stored that and when you get on, it'll send you that message. So it's just like an email, or just like a text message.

    Margaret 1:15:32Cool.

    Eepa 1:15:33In that whenever your radios on, you can get those messages. So the other nice thing about that is they have individual rooms. So you could set up a room in JS8Call just for your local mutual aid thing. And if somebody logs in, you will know that they have logged in from your group. And if somebody logs in who's not from your group, you will know. So it offers you a little extra level of security over just general voice transmission and things like that. So, but learning the fineties of all of these different things and learning what your niche is, because again, everyone has different interests and different talents. The best way to explore that is going to be with a license. Now, the second things go south and you need to be using your radio for revolutionary purposes, you also need to know how to operate securely without your call sign, and how to, you know, vary your location, how to vary your signal strength, how to use transmission that actually bounces off of the ionosphere instead of line of sight, and things like that. There's all kinds of cool tricks you can learn, but you really need to practice them and refine them and make sure you know what you're doing before you get to a situation where you're going to be asked to be the expert. And it can be very intimidating, technically, to be like, you know, there's all these different things that I can learn, I can do all this, I can do all that. One of the things you can do is if you are one of those people, like, you know, us, that's very interested in radio and thinks that it's like really interesting and cool, is become extremely proficient at something and then develop simplified protocols for people who aren't extremely interested but want to have communication. We have, one of the members of the Javelina Network is a veteran who used to be a radio operator overseas. And basically, you type the numbers in, you push the button, you call. And that's basically the level of complexity. And that enables large-scale coordination of logistics, of people movement, of intelligence, of all kinds of stuff like that, just having community members that know how to make those transmissions. So if you are the kind of person who's excited and interested in radio, and you're developing those skills, your other role is to act as a teacher about just basic stuff. You pre-programm the radio and you give it to somebody and you say, "Okay, this is how and when to transmit. This is why you transmit. This is how you stay safe." You just give them the basic instructions and that way, they don't have to worry about programming, they don't have to worry about all of the minutia that, you know, you can get easily lost in. And that's the way we can we can lift each other up. That's part of, like, what the Javelina Network's all about.

    Cici 1:18:11Absolutely. I love that. Also, I would say to people—so yes, HAM radio is generally—it's going to be more reactionary as a general rule. You're going to generally be dealing with old white dudes. But it's not—I don't want to paint them as all bad people. Like there are—some places are better than others. I liked what Eepa said earlier about just kind of listen and see what kind of people are there. Some HAMs, some like people in HAM radio, they love teaching new HAMs, they love trying to—there's this kind of subset of HAMs that we always need to be like getting more people into this. It's like, if you just show up and you're just like, "I don't know anything," or you know, I don't know anything, but I need help. There's, depending on the club or the culture that exists in your area, there might be somebody there that's like willing to just take you under their wing. That's actually a word in HAM culture for people that teach. It's kind of hard to find these people actually, but they're Elmers. An Elmer is actually supposed to be a mentor for you. They're supposed to, like, help you. You know, you don't have to be super political and you don't have to tell these people what you think or whatever. A lot of HAMs, you know, a lot of HAMs actually won't tell other people what they're thinking either. They're there just to have fun with the radio, they're not trying to necessarily tell people all of their business either. So yeah, you might have a guy that, you know, we were talking about access to equipment can be a huge limitation to this hobby. If you find an Elmer, and a lot of these guys have old equipment or they have just, they've accumulated equipment, they might just give you an old radio they're not using anymore which could be huge, you know, and you can develop like these relationships that they don't have to be, like, your best friend, like—or you know, maybe they are your best friend. I don't know. Like, they can, you know, they don't—not all HAMs are like out to get you or trying to like find all the—they're not all just trying to find the person messing up so they can report them to the FCC. There's actually, with a license change, I've been reading a few things in HAM radio community and one HAM was so upset that he was like if I hear somebody transmitting and they're made up a license, like, I'm not going to report it. Because he's, like, he just doesn't think people should pay $35 to the FCC. So I mean, like, not everyone is not everyone in the HAM community is like, "Oh, we're gonna get you." But also, yeah, I would also say, share what knowledge you have. One of the things that I think, like, if you are somebody that does have a little bit more money, or maybe you do have a little bit of, I don't know, you could buy 10 Baofengs, you can give them out, teach people how to tune them into the police station—a lot of police have, they basically have it where you can actually listen to them. A lot of people actually do this, not just for political reasons but just to, you know, they just want to know why there's a million sirens going off. As long as you don't transmit and as long as you don't jam the signal, you can listen all day long. And that can be helpful. Listen, see what's going on, call your friends being like, this is where they're going to be at or this is what's happening. As far as the licensing goes, part of the reason people get licenses is so they don't accidentally do stuff. For instance, like if you were listening into like a ambulance, or like a health—like something for, like, EMTs—you don't want to accidentally interfere with them. Like, obviously, they're going to go help people who are in like medical distress. So like, you want to make sure that you know how to use the Baofeng but that's kind of what Eepa was saying. Like, if you have access to where you can get equipment to people, and you can teach them. "Look, I've already programmed this for you. I've already set it up to the frequency. This is how to change the frequency if you need to. But in general, like, just listening and if youm you know, want to let somebody know what you hear just, you know, call somebody." That's great. Like, no one is expected to know everything in this hobby. So like, yeah, if you can help somebody who—I actually don't know a lot about Baofengs. I've been focusing on other stuff. So like, I'd love for someone to help me do things that are more like VH VHF type of technologies. So...

    Margaret 1:22:18Well, do y'all have any—we're kind of running out of time and it's funny cuz there's so much about radios that I can easily talk with us forever. But are there any last thoughts that we—or things that we haven't covered that you want people to know?

    Cici 1:22:35Ah, I didn't mention this earlier, but I'm actually a volunteer examiner. I mentioned earlier, like ham radio people are the ones who actually give the exams. If people are interested in getting licensed, either now or in the future—I don't know I didn't put out any contact information, but feel free to let get in touch with me. I'm actually currently studying for the extra license. I want to do it before they have to pay the FCC $35. But once I get the extra license—one of the things the licenses actually let you do is test other people to get licensed. So maybe you're in an area where, again, the HAM club sucks, they're really reactionary, they don't want to help new HAMS, they're just mean, whatever, but you still want to get licensed. If you have a friend that can help, like, basically a—you need three VEs to do a test. But like, if you have three people in your community who could basically be those VEs and help you get tested—

    Margaret 1:23:32What does that mean? Oh, a volunteer examiner?

    Cici 1:23:35Oh, yeah, volunteer diameter. Yeah, sorry, VE. That can help tremendously. One of the things that pandemic's actually done is that you used to have to do that in person but now there's actually a whole system of people doing this remotely. So you can actually take your tests on Zoom, you don't have to show up anywhere. So that's great if you're, you know, you're homebound, or you know, it's a pandemic and you just don't want to leave your house because you're quarantining. So yeah, that's actually one of the benefits that's happened recently. Like, this is recent in terms of, like, I think, April they—the FCC authorized like 14 groups to give remote exams. So yeah, if people have questions about getting licensed, questions about QRP which was the low power stuff, questions about Morse code, please get in touch with me. It can feel very overwhelming but I want people to know that they're not—they don't have to sit there and struggle. I'm actually also trying to learn how to do antenna stuff—antenna stuff's just one of the coolest things. But yeah, I guess that's my last little bit.

    Eepa 1:24:40Um yeah, for me, basically, I want to encourage people to check out the Javelina project. This is something that we have launched together, basically a bunch of decolonial, anti authoritarian kind of people who are interested in building autonomous communications, building networks, creating ways for us to basically keeping in touch and to get information in and out of places as time goes on. You know, we want to be the kind of people that help, you know, next time there's a Standing Rock or Wet'suwet'en and actually set up indigenous communication networks in and out. So that way, you know, when you're frozen out of any type of other media, you can still get media in and out. And we're trying to create resources for, you know, like, a how-to guide of how to set up digital modes on your Baofeng, that's gonna be an article that's gonna be coming out soon.

    Margaret 1:25:30Cool.

    Eepa 1:25:31We're going to be doing an article soon about pirate radio, how to set up a pirate radio station. We're going to be doing articles about, you know, like JS8Call. So I definitely encourage people to stay tuned for that. We already have a guide up on the Indigenous Anarchist Federation website called Skills for Revolutionary Survival: Communication Equipment for Rebels. And that has information, all the basic information about what radios are, what radio you need depending on what situation you expect to be in, recommendations based off of price and like weatherproofing, things like that. And then video resources that you can watch to not only start studying for your test if that's what you're interested in, but also to look at kind of the logistical side of communication. So those videos are a part of that article as well. And basically, you know, just get out there and you can start working with a very cheap radio very fast, use a shortwave radio scanner and start listening to all your local channels. If you want to be the person in your, in your little anarchist cell or in your community who's, you know, next time there's a big storm system that comes through and you want to listen to weather bands, you can learn how to do that. Learn how to listen to it on your radio. And that's a skill you can start developing right now. So there's no time to wait. You can always start the next day that you have access to it and get involved.

    Margaret 1:27:00Yeah. Okay. And then how can folks find you all online?

    Eepa 1:27:05So for the Javelina Network, our Twitter literally just got launched. And it is @JavelinaNetwork which is spelled like the animal: J-A-V-E-L-I-N-A-Network. We decided to go with Javelina because, you know, instead of being hams from Europe, we're the Indigenous little pig so. We're the Javelinas is on the air.

    Cici 1:27:36I love that, by the way. I didn't even think about like people contacting me.

    Margaret 1:27:43You don't have to say it if you don't want, but you just—you said earlier that people should contact you. So I'm giving you a chance if you want.

    Cici 1:27:49I guess Twitter but, like, I don't know if people should contact me on Twitter. I'll go ahead and put my Twitter, why not? I think @postleftprole I think?

    Margaret 1:27:59That sounds right.

    Cici 1:28:03Yeah. Get in touch with me I guess. Just, I guess, request to send me a DM. I guess you can't like to send a DM if I haven't friended you or whatever. But just send a friend request be like, "Hey, I listened to the podcast, I'm curious." I'll, we can talk further. So. I'm not always online but uh, I try to respond—I'm actually on Twitter a fair bit so I guess I'll try to respond. I'm not always on Reddit, or at least I'm not always checking my messages on Reddit. So Twitter's probably more reliable. Right now I'm not a—I don't have any official channels. I should probably think about that. In the future, actually, I hope to put up some videos and stuff to help people do radio stuff. So if people want to get in touch with me to see if when I get that going, like, I'd be happy to let people know.

    Margaret 1:28:55I'm really excited about that work.

    Eepa 1:28:56And you can contact both of us. I was gonna say basically you you can contact both of us at javelinanetwork@protonmail.com. That's an email that all of us that are part of the Javelina Network more generally have access to. And so, like, if you're interested in something as well, that's a—if you're just want to use email, that's a good way to get in contact with us as well.

    Margaret 1:29:20Cool. All right. Well, thank you all so much for your time, and I've been I've been looking forward to this conversation for a long time. And I—you've really helped break the, like—I'm like, okay, I was like, I came into this with practically a spreadsheet being like, "Alright, this thing maps to this thing. And then this thing has 40 channels and blah, blah, blah." And then you're all like, "No, no, no, you just, you find something you're interested in and you go with it. " It's brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed that, or at least got something out of it. And if you want to support the podcast you can do so by telling people about it, you can tell people on the internet, you can even tell people about it in person, although you should tell them from far away—so you should probably shout about it from far away. Like walk up to strangers and scream, "Hey, Live Like the World is Dying!" That would actually be pretty cool if it became the new YOLO... because everything is YOLO. Anyway. But yeah, people have been doing an amazing job of telling people about the podcast, and it's been really wonderful bringing in new listeners. It makes doing this podcast feel worth it. And if you want to support me more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. If you support me on Patreon, it's how I pay for the podcast. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I put up zines ostensibly every month but I am very far behind because of the pandemic and my resultant complicated ability to interact with my own mental space and the amount of work I have to do—which I'm sure no one else is dealing with, it's a thing with the pandemic that actually only affects me. I'm the only person who is dealing with it. [chuckling] Anyway, sorry. But yeah, and you can support me there. And if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, don't support me there. Just contact me and I'll get you access to all of the information, all of the stuff that's behind the paywall of Patreon, I can give that to you for free. But in particular, I'd like to thank Eleanor and Mike and Satara and Kat J and The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the Dog, Nora, and Chris. Thank you all so much for making this possible. I never expected to get as much—anywhere near as much support as I do get from people. And I've been able to start passing that along and, you know, hire a transcriptionist to keep this podcast more accessible and hopefully start looking into other ways to expand this content beyond just me in the near future. So thank you. Thank you all so much for listening, and I hope you're doing as well as you can with everything that's going on.

  • Episode Notes

    The guest, Philip, has compiled this list of further resources and encourages people to check out look into them because there are a lot of good lessons about how counterinsurgency has operated historically that can help us resist today. Know Your Rights trainings are available from the CLDC and ACLU [including the Live Like the World is Dying episode on the subject] For the history of police and state repression

    "Our Enemies in Blue": "Secret Police, Red Squads, and the Strategy of Permanent Repression""Life During Wartime" - Kristian Williams, Lara Messersmith-Glavin, William Munger"Witness to Betrayal / Profiles of Provocateurs" - Kristian Williams"Basic Politics of Movement Security" - J Sakai"Policing Indigenous Movements" - Andrew Crosby & Jeffery Monaghan good for Canadian contextIntercept article on TigerSwan surveillance of Standing Rock:"New State Repression" Ken Lawrence"War at Home: Covert Action Against US Activists and What We Can Do About It"- Brian Glick

    Government resources on counterintelligence

    Church Committee Report (federal committee on FBI COINTELPRO ops)"Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency, Peace-Keeping" Frank Kitson

    The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and 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 I use she or they pronouns. This week I'm talking with Philip who, among many other things, teaches security culture trainings. And I first was introduced to Philip's work on it when we had a conversation about the complexities of security culture. Security culture—we'll go over in this episode—is basically the idea of creating a culture of security, a culture of a way—creating a culture by which people don't get caught as much for the types of things that they may choose to want to do in order to advance, you know, their desires. It's for activists and revolutionaries and shit to not get fucking caught. It has lot of good tools around how to do that kind of culturally. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And—but for this week, and next week, I'm going to do it a little bit differently, and instead of running a jingle for another show on the network, I'm just gonna tell you about another show on the network because I don't think they have a jingle yet. And basically say that the Maroon Cast is now a member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts and I'm very excited about that. And you all should go check it out. Also, the Institute for Anarchist Studies is an organization that gives grants to people who—well, I'm just about to play a fucking jingle for it. So I'll just fuckin play the jingle for it—da daaaa!

    Jingle 01:40Hey, radicals, anarchists, and all of you liberatory leftists: Are you a podcaster, video maker, multimedia artist, or writer? The Institute for Anarchist Studies wants to let you know we have grants available for projects focusing on Black and indigenous anarchisms, police abolition and alternatives, and mutual aid. For details and how to apply visit anarchiststudies.org and click on the grants application post on our main page. That's anarchiststudies.org. Anarchist-studies-dot-O-R-G. Applications close January 31, 2021. Spread the word and tell your friends.

    Margaret 02:24Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with whatever name you want to go by, your pronouns, and I guess kind of a little bit about what brought you to this work of teaching and security culture trainings?

    Philip 02:35Yeah, my name is Philip, I use they/them pronouns. I'm living in Suquamish Territory and the Salish Sea. I've been involved in a lot of solidarity work with Indigenous liberation movements and Black liberation movements that have exposed me to a lot of frontline experiences and experiences with state repression, both immediately and down the line. And in response to those encounters with law enforcement with legal repression, and with the effect that that has on our movements, me and a lot of friends and comrades have dived into learning about security culture, learning about the tools and the techniques that we can all use to keep each other safe. And also learning about the ways that the state works to isolate our movements, to discredit our movements—basically, to disempower us—so that we're able to be more informed about how to take care of each other. So I'm definitely deeply indebted to a lot of Black and Indigenous liberation movements for developing these skills and passing them on. And I'm here to just try to contribute now what I've been taught and foster a conversation about how we can be moving into this, like, pretty unprecedented territory in the world of new state surveillance, expanding state surveillance, more encounters with police, but also with right-wing vigilantes, paramilitary groups, white supremacists, and some of the tools we can use.

    Margaret 04:07That makes sense. Yeah, one of the reasons that I wanted to have you on in particular is a conversation that we had about the nuances of security culture, and I'm really excited to get into that stuff. But for people who have no idea what we're talking about, could you introduce the concept of security culture?

    Philip 04:26Yeah, that's a great question. I feel like there's a lot of intersections between security culture and a lot of other topics that you've had on this show or that you might have on in the future. Ultimately, I think of security culture as this big framework. And it's a framework that helps us reduce risk for ourselves when we're engaging in social movement work, basically by protecting sensitive information. So one definition might be: It's like a mix of interpersonal and organizational and technical practices that help us be more resilient to state repression. It's a shared set of customs, that helps us minimize risk by explicitly naming some norms, over our boundaries and over our communication and that helps us lessen our paranoia, reducing ambiguity, and feeling more secure as we're engaging with the inherently risky work of challenging unjust power systems.

    Margaret 05:31So what are some of the examples of that when you talk about, like, changing social norms in order to accommodate security culture? Like, you know, what comes to mind with that?

    Philip 05:43Yeah, well, I think that the first thing to say is, intentionally or unintentionally, we all have a set of security practices that we do as human beings. We all have boundaries with each other, intentional or unintentional. And the point of security culture is really to be explicit about those boundaries. I, you know, I really want to do a shout out that a lot of people already practice security, culture, and situational awareness in their daily lives, you know, especially trauma survivors, people who are targeted by police and state surveillance. But some of those specific boundaries and norms that we might use would be having, you know, a clear idea of what information is sensitive, and then not sharing that information with people who don't need to know it, to protect yourself and to protect them.

    Margaret 06:37Like so concretely like—

    Philip 06:38That—

    Margaret 06:38Go ahead.

    Philip 06:40Yeah, so that would, you know, a big, obvious one is like, don't talk about illegal activities that you have done, or that you're thinking about doing or asking someone else if they've done it. A big thing might be like, "Oh, yeah, I thought I saw you at this protest the other week doing this illegal action. Was that you? How does that feel to you?" That's a big thing that we wouldn't do. That's a pretty clear violation of norms and boundaries over not wanting people to expose themselves in that way.

    Margaret 07:09But what if you want to change your profile picture to, like, you throw in a brick on, like, Facebook?

    Philip 07:15And that's another one, you know, it's not only the explicit things that we share with each other, but also what is available to the outside world, to law enforcement, or to right wing groups through our social media presences, through, you know, just things that are immediately perceptible like bumper stickers or, like, the Antifa uniform that we're wearing. Being aware of the information that we're communicating, even if it's non-verbal.

    Margaret 07:45One of the—

    Philip 07:45Though I do wanna say— One of the main things is we should be aware of the sensitivity of the information and limit the information that's sensitive. And then the flip side of that is not stressing about information that is not sensitive. So it's not only, you know, being discreet and confidential about things that could expose us to legal targeting, but also then shedding the worry and anxiety of, "Oh, do I need to be lying to everyone in my life because they asked me what kind of coffee I like, and they're trying to build a case against me?"

    Margaret 07:47Go ahead. Mm hmm. Yeah, that makes sense. I—you know, it's like, when people first started talking about security culture around me, I ran into a lot of—we kind of all ran into a lot of issues of it with it, where it would cause, like, a lot of paranoia and then also a lot of like bravado and, like, it definitely, when practiced poorly, can be kind of not a very pleasant culture to be in. Like, it can become a culture of paranoia. But one of the things that I always really liked doing, you know, okay, so it's like—Alright, if you engage in a culture where you just don't talk about crime, like, you kind of have the sense that everyone around you is doing crime and that's cool (assuming they're doing cool crime, because lots of good things and bad things are crime). You can kind of just like—like, one of the things that I try and tell people is just, like, assume that everyone is a secret badass. Like, the shitty kid has been like sleeping on your couch for two weeks and like, doesn't do her dishes enough or whatever. Like, maybe she's getting up to, like, really wild shit. Or maybe she's on the run, you know, and kind of just assuming that everyone is up to something cool. And therefore you just don't need to know it. I don't know. That's something that's always worked for me. Yeah. Yeah, and I think there's absolutely something to be said there about—it takes a lot of intentional work to sort of decouple these practices from some of the, just the other cultural norms that we all have. And that being a big thing of social clout.

    Philip 10:00Of, you know, wanting—especially in a movement space—to be able to, like, celebrate the badass shit that we're doing. And one of the awkward things about security culture, or that makes it a little counterintuitive to people who are just learning it is that a lot of times the things that maybe have the biggest impact on our lives, or that we're spending lots of time or energy working on, or that were these really activating, or traumatizing, or fun and exciting experiences we had, we can't really talk about with other people, both for our safety and their safety. And so it's really nice, then, to think, not only, you know, is that something that we shouldn't do, but then also allowing us to think about, well, what are some of the positive ways that we can still be fostering community connection, and, you know, healthy, strong relationships and trust with people where we're not having to communicate about risky things that could implicate us in, like, all sorts of legal entanglements, but instead we can be still be building vulnerability and trust with each other. And that's a really big, important part of security culture that I think gets missed by a lot of people is that this is a great opportunity, actually, for us to think about what are our community norms around communication and interpersonal dynamics? And what are some of the ways that we can shape those intentionally to, like, really build trust and group cohesion and the ability to make us all feel like we're able to do the things that we need to do to survive in this world while staying safe?

    Margaret 10:00Yeah. Okay, so what are some of those things?

    Philip 11:32So I think a big one is that building trust with each other is an active process that we all need to be doing, especially in movement work. One of the big things that I think is really important is being able to, you know, talk about harmful and difficult dynamics that come up about conflict that comes up, about addressing accountability, and how much of state repression is able to impact movements by fracturing us along pre-existing tensions that we aren't able to work through. So there's a lot of examples in that historically, of state targeting movements, basically, where there was already distrust that was unable to be resolved, and fracturing movements by encouraging people to distrust each other because they weren't able to work through conflict.

    Margaret 12:25So you're basically talks about how the way that the state will essentially, like, bad-jacket or fed-jacket people, like, in order to sow distrust. Like basically, like, pick apart, like, so-and-so is unpopular, or maybe so-and-so actually caused harm, right? Like, so-and-so abuse someone or assaulted someone or is, you know, in accountability around it, or evading accountability around it, basically like sowing distrust about therefore, like, that person doing state work? Or what do you what do you mean by that?

    Philip 13:00Yeah, I think that is one popular example. We can definitely talk about that—about both how the state uses false accusations, you know, maybe to break trust—but also how real continued harm, real accusations, are then downplayed when we're existing in this like defensive, reactive space of being, "Oh, well, if, you know, we're going to be talking about these things then it's obviously a bad-jacketing." And so our movements are put in between a rock and a hard place because of just the widespread norm that exists of not being able to address the conflict when it comes up. But another way that that also happens is just how not only direct state intervention can fracture movements, but even the perception of state intervention, the fear and paranoia that gets spread through knowing that we're surveilled, through knowing that there's all these historical examples of actual state harm and us imagining then that we are being actively targeted at that time and us fracturing under that stress, even when there's not active state repression happening to our specific movements. And so it ends up that we almost start policing and repressing ourselves. And we're doing the state's work for it.

    Margaret 14:20I guess, like, one of the things that I think about this is I try to use history and awareness of that connection to actually—hm, how to I want to say this? It's like, I assume everyone's a cop and that makes me not paranoid. And I feel like there's a right way and a wrong way to do this. But for me, and the security culture that I practice—and this might be wildly unpopular—I just I assume that a decent portion of the people that I'm friends with and am close with, so possibly people I've been known and working with for decades, might be state agents. Or I've certainly had a lot of friends, a lot of people very close to me, become state agents, become informants in different cases. And because I'm able to do that, it kind of doesn't break my trust. Because I know that I'm, like, firewalling, all the information that I'm putting out there, right? I'm thinking about what I say to whom and because of that, you know, when someone turns out to be a state agent, I'm like, "Well, okay, like, I didn't trust them anyway so I was careful about what I said to them." And, you know, and obviously, this can be done in a very bad way. But, I don't know, I find it really useful to study basically, like—like, we can look at the history of COINTELPRO and it can, like, you know, drive us into a lot of fear and a lot of, like, just looking over our shoulders constantly, right? Or we can look at it and be like, "Okay, this is the situation that we may or may not be in, and what are the right steps to take if that's the situation we're in." And I think, for me, I mostly watch this be much harder on people for whom it's a shock, for people who come in and are like, "Wow, we're all doing this wild shit together and this is so great." And then it turns out that you're all being surveilled, or, you know, two of you are cops or something like that. And it's kind of heartbreaking and causes more fear as compared to if you just enter it knowing that that's going to be the case.

    Philip 16:36Absolutely, and I think you highlight two things there that feel really important to me in a security culture practice. So one is just having those proactive boundaries and that discretion, and just making that part of your everyday life—part of your way of relating with people and not this whole other mindset that you're adopting just in moments of direct action. Basically assuming, like, I just don't want to publicly share anything that I don't want read back to me at a grand jury hearing.

    Margaret 17:10Right.

    Philip 17:12I think another thing that is really important with what you just said is how important learning from history and looking at the concrete and well-documented examples of state repression that we can learn from prepares us to be able to be more resilient. And that that is an actually really important part of being able to evaluate risk and being able to care for ourselves and being able to know what's coming down the line. And that that should be something that we're constantly doing. And it's a lot of work but I think that's one of the things that I've been really excited by, it's just thinking about all these different resources and tracking the terrain of state repression and being able to then sort of stay ahead of the ball as best we can with thinking about what sort of terrain we have to be working in, and the actual tools and maneuverability that the state has, or that right-wing groups have to be interfacing with us. You know, it feels—not to minimize the very real risks that many people are experiencing by confronting white supremacy and capitalism and state violence.—but thinking about this on a little bit more exploded of a level, it feels like we're, you know, kind of playing this like big elaborate board game. And that state repression isn't functioning in the way of just pure unbridled force being exacted on any sort of social movement. There are absolutely moments of that. You know, we have seen assassinations, we have seen brutalization, there are many historical examples, you know, bombs were dropped on the MOVE collective in Philadelphia, police assassinated Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers while he slept in his bed. There are big examples of that. But by and large, at least as far as, you know, the material that is publicly available to reflect from, the way that state repression happens is more by controlling dissent through these sort of like light touches, by erecting the container that social movements and public opinion exist in, and trying to have that subtle touch, you know, that sort of negotiated management or that controlled management, similar to a lot of ways of how street protests are handled by police. Now, instead of it just being an outright brutality, it's more of negotiating with movement leaders, shutting the terrain, and if we're able to track that and we're able to keep a good tab on where public opinion is at, keep a good tab on what sort of restraints the state has for interacting with us for not trying to move public opinion towards supporting popular movements, you know, we're able to then track the sort of tools that we have available to be able to challenge these systems and have a little more strategy, a little more creativity, you know, thinking outside of the box and really engaging with this in a very adaptive and flexible and, like, spontaneous way. And I think that's one of the greatest strengths of decentralized movements is being able to be really flexible and responsive in a way that the state and other authoritarian or hierarchically-organized systems aren't able to keep up with.

    Margaret 20:25To keep asking you kind of the same question over and over again, but can you give examples of that? Like, what is it about decentralization that gives us that kind of advantage, like, or what are some examples of people using that advantage?

    Philip 20:40So I mean, one great example is just looking at the trove of documents that gets produced through surveillance of movements, and realizing how little these different analysts and intelligence agencies actually understand about social movements and about organizing. And so one example of that is specifically, there was a great series published by The Intercept after Standing Rock about this intelligence agency, Tiger Swan, and all the surveillance that they did on the Standing Rock movement. And this is an enormous cache of documents. You know, the state spent millions of dollars surveilling and compiling networks and trying to understand how these movements were working on the ground to be able to contain them and neutralize them. And yet, at the same time, the state just didn't seem to fundamentally understand how it was possible that such a large movement wasn't operating along, like, traditional military structuring. They were naming people who were, you know, a media spokesperson, or someone who had a popular Instagram feed who was documenting a lot of it, as the leader of the movement or as supplying arms, when that was so clearly not the case to anyone who was able to participate on the ground. And so that smokescreen of the state not understanding the organic flows of movements or how it's possible for things to exist in a [inaudible] fashion, it creates this haze that allows us to kind of keep, you know, the specifics of how we're relating with each other protected from that surveillance and allows us to remain safe.

    Margaret 22:23Yeah, I had a—Go ahead.

    Philip 22:25I mean, the counterpoint to that is just when states—when militaries are engaging with traditionally organized enemies, you know, whatever might be a centrally-commanded military unit, it's really easy to, you know, be able to identify the central command and eliminate it. Versus, you know, states, armies, militaries engaging with irregular guerrilla warfare is a very difficult situation to be able to differentiate between combatants and non-combatants. And, you know, I really love to point at the example of the United States military losing to the Vietcong, you know, the greatest military empire power on the planet losing to some communist guerrillas in the jungle who, you know, were able to operate in a way that this empire was just not able to respond.

    Margaret 23:21Yeah, so that's like, one of the things I like about security culture is it helps create that smokescreen because—and I like the way that phrasing it as a smokescreen—where they have a hard time seeing what a decentralized movement is doing. And a lot of times we don't understand what a decentralized movement is doing. It's like, I feel like whenever I'm engaged in a very chaotic and organic situation, I spend about half my time just trying to figure out what's going on, right? And—in order to understand what's happening so I can figure out how to best engage with it. But on the other hand, I like how a security culture—it's like, I don't know which of my friends are up to things besides what they talk about. And I don't need to know and it also it helps—it helps to minimize—I mean, like, you brought up earlier about the like social clout and, like, I think one of the things that destroys movements is social capitalism, is the idea of, like, everyone's trying to gain clout, everyone's trying to, you know, I mean, to say it cynically, you know, like, have the coolest podcast and get everyone to support your Patreon or whatever the fuck, right? But—and even if you're trying to do that for the best of reasons, even if you're trying to do that in order to like, you know, get out good ideas or whatever, social capital ends up playing a lot into it and social capital games are really dangerous. and way more than like being a cool podcaster or whatever, being a cool militant is like—to the people who know—that's like extra cool. And you get way too much say and what's going on if everyone like is, like, "Oh, yeah, like, she's doing all this like crazy shit," right? And it's kind of this thing, it's like a little bit hard, but you kind of like learn to just accept like, "Oh, alright, well, like I'm a secret badass and no one knows." Well like, not me, but like, you know, maybe when I was younger, I don't know. But like, I don't know—you talk about the smokescreen thing, it's just like, I literally don't know who's up to no good, you know, and that's great. It feels really good. I'm like, I literally can't snitch because I have no fucking clue. One of the things that you were talking about earlier, or that we were talking about earlier, that I feel like is worth breaking down for people who are, you know—I mean, obviously, this podcast is about preparedness, right? And I believe that revolt is an important part of preparedness. But people might not necessarily know what we're talking about when we talk about, like, snitch-jacketing, fed-jacketing, bad-jacketing, you know, which are like, slang terms or terms that we've come up with because this just happens over and over and over again and we want ways to be able to identify it quickly. But what the fuck did those mean? Are you able to break that down?

    Philip 26:05Sure. Yeah. Um, let me first—first, like, explicitly name some of the tools of state repression. I think that might be a helpful thing.

    Margaret 26:14Yeah. Explicit stuff.

    Philip 26:15So in my like conceptualization, ultimately, we have to recognize that challenging and unjust power system, that power system has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. So as we're challenging white supremacy, capitalism, militarism, you know, we are putting ourselves in a position where those systems are going to want to then minimize our ability to change them. And we get our power through working together collectively. And so I kind of see that fundamental tool of state repression has been isolation. A quote that I always go to of how clear that is from J. Edgar Hoover, who was the director of the FBI during the counterintelligence program against the Black Panthers, where his main objective—he, you know, writes that it's to expose, to disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize the activities of these black nationalist organizations. So there's a really intentional, conscious push from these state actors to isolate us and to neutralize us. And the ways that they do that historically has been through surveillance, both to gather information, but also as a sort of intimidation, you know, show of power through arrest, whether that's legitimate or illegitimate, through grand juries and legal intimidation, through smear campaigns in the media and discrediting movements, or, you know, saying these protesters are bad because they engage in these types of tactics, through disinformation and spreading paranoia within movements, promoting infighting, blackmail, infiltration, entrapment, threats, and you know, again, all the way up to police brutality and outright assassinations. But so a big way has been by planting informants, by planting undercover agents and those undercover agents either provoking people into committing acts of the state is then enabled us as justification for repression—so we've seen that with the RNC, the Republican National Convention, where an undercover agent encouraged two people to try to use Molotov cocktails and then that resulted in them getting arrested and facing lengthy prison sentences through federal court. But undercovers and informants also can be there to just spread misinformation to break trust, to disrupt group dynamics. And that's just been a really clear way that popular movements have been repressed historically. And so I think that's a reason that it's really easy for us now, as we're worried about security, to say, "Oh, there must be an informant," or like, "Oh, I know that this has happened in the past and so I'm extra aware of this possibility." And one of the outcomes of that is that people who are suspected of being involved in movements with bad intentions can be labeled as an informant, or as a snitch. And so that's basically snitch-jacketing is when you say, "I think this person is working for the police or is providing information," without having clear evidence. And this is something that's really personal to me because I, you know, I've learned a lot of my security practices through trial and error, and there's been error and I've messed up and I've hurt friends and I've hurt movements that have been a part of through dynamics just like this. And I think that's, you know, something I want to hold a lot of humility and hold a lot of accountability for is that I'm saying all these things, but these aren't easy things to implement.

    Margaret 30:05Yeah.

    Philip 30:05You know, the response to snitch-jacketing, or the response to thinking that someone might be a snitch, isn't to snitch-jacket, but to confront them directly with your concerns and be able to establish, you know, some way of trying to work through that conflict. Being able to address other people with your concerns, with your direct concerns, not things that you're assuming or projecting, and, you know, being able to name things directly, as they are. So saying, "Oh, I am skeptical of this person, because they are sketching me out by taking photos in times that I think are really inappropriate," or "Because they're always asking questions that kind of seem to be digging at trying to expose illegal activities," or "I'm not really sure if they are who they say they are because they're never telling me any information about where they're from or what they do."

    Margaret 31:01Right.

    Philip 31:02And so, therefore, this person clearly must be working for the FBI and is here as a plant to disrupt our movement. Therefore, this person is a snitch, and I mean, yes, sure, that has happened historically. But in my appraisal, labeling someone is a snitch does probably just as much if not more damage than just name—than that person actually being a snitch. Because it's all of a sudden creating a huge atmosphere of distrust.

    Margaret 31:29Right.

    Philip 31:29It's creating paranoia. It's exposing huge divisions within the movement. And so even if that person isn't a snitch, by labeling them as a snitch, you've essentially just done the state's work for them of spreading distrust and isolation within movement,

    Margaret 31:45Which is cool because then you can say, "Oh, that person's snitch-jacketing people, they must be a fed." You know, because if you're doing the state's work... Obviously don't do that. And that's called "fed-jacketing." The idea of saying instead of—it's the same fucking concept. It's like, you know, someone's probably a fed instead of—

    Philip 32:04Yeah.

    Margaret 32:05Yeah, one of the ways that I've always heard people talk about it that I've always appreciated is just: judge people by their behavior, not whether or not, like, they're a cop. Like, so rather than assuming, "I think that person's a cop," just be like, "This person is doing something that is making us all less safe." So address that, you know. Address the fact that this person is taking pictures at inappropriate times. Address your distrust of someone, right" But not by saying, like, "I think they're a cop," unless you have hard fucking evidence that they're a cop, you know?

    Philip 32:41Yeah, I really go back time and time again, in thinking about security culture, and seeing really clear intersections between security culture and harm reduction, and transformative justice and conflict resolution. You know, I think, in our society, we aren't given a lot of tools for working through conflict and that is especially aggravated by being in this very intense atmosphere that a lot of activists are existing under. But if we were able to—proactively, before engaging in movement work together, as much as possible—generate, what those norms are and what our shared agreements for how we're sharing space with each other are, then we're able to set the container. And then when someone steps over those boundaries, we're able to hold them accountable more directly. And that's ultimately what security culture is, you know, it's culture as a set of shared practices that are embodied, that we're using all the time. And I think it's really important, again, to just make that explicit. And I know that's not always possible, because sometimes we're working with people that we just met. But as much as we're able to, I really like to think about what it would look like if we were able to generate explicit norms and boundaries with each other, and then be able to hold each other to that and say, "Hey, you're making me uncomfortable right now because I told you earlier that I wasn't interested in talking about my historical involvement in that movement, and you're asking me a lot of questions about it. And so I'm just going to ask that you stop asking me those questions."

    Margaret 34:20Yeah.

    Philip 34:21Instead of saying, "Oh, well, this person is now a snitch."

    Margaret 34:23Right.

    Philip 34:24But that level of direct communication is challenging, and it's really challenging especially when we're all working in adrenalized frontline environments, or when we haven't gotten a lot of sleep and we're just existing up coffee and cigarettes. And it really speaks to me of just how much there needs to be this intentional push of like building in, like, a feminist ethic of care and of group cohesion and saying, like, we are going to work through this together.

    Margaret 34:56One of the things when you talk about holding people accountable to these new social norms that we create, this sort of brings up kind of the dark side of security culture, which is cliquishness. And, well, it's tto things: when I think of the downsides of security culture—I'm clearly a proponent of security culture, I'm trying to do an episode on it. But when I think of the things that we need to be aware of as we attempt to implement it, the two biggest downsides that I think about is creating cliquish, closed off social circles and basically making, you know, obviously, we would never want to be called a Vanguard, but you know, a revolutionary clique. And also, basically making ourselves ineffective. Those are the two biggest concerns that I have. And one of the things that I would say about it is that, like, if we hold people—and it's, actually what you're talking about is great for this, because you talk about, like, trying to set these social norms explicitly, instead of just having them be implicit, right? Because when we hold people accountable to social norms that they don't know about, like, that's not a good way to build a movement, you know? If people that come in and they act in ways that are totally normal for them and, like, you know, their culture, which isn't, like, cool kid anarchy or whatever the fuck, it's really quick—it's really easy if we take these—if we—if these social norms and if these boundaries are so important to us, and, you know, many of them should be very important to us. But if we see them as, like, something that of course people should just know and respect, then we just kick everyone out and get fucking nowhere.

    Philip 36:41Yeah, that is a really important thing to bring up. And, I think especially talking about security as this adaptive changing field, the practices we have in the way that we approach this work needs to change as the moment that we're organizing in changes. And I personally learned a lot of my security culture norms and practices through the lens of an anarchist punk subculture, specifically through the lens of frontline forest defense and other land defense campaigns. And the sort of tools and cultural norms that came out of that are ones that evolved really to protect people who were working in small groups or by themselves, engaging in very risky actions—you know, generally like under the cover of night, so to speak—and so it did lead to a set of practices that had a inherent cliquiness to them. I think we're in a really different historical moment right now. I think we're in a moment where mass unrest has spread all across the country in a way that I think is pretty historically unprecedented within the United States. And our security culture norms should change to reflect this mass moment we're in. So it's no longer the same situation as it was in the late 90s or early 2000s during the Green Scare. And one of the most important things that our movement can and needs to be doing during this time is being accessible to people who are newly becoming politically active, who don't have those sub cultural norms, and are coming into movement spaces for maybe the first time and are excited to be part of this huge uprising.

    Margaret 38:33Yeah.

    Philip 38:34And so something I've experienced a lot of the time is, just as much as there's that social clout of, you know, being the badass militant, I think there's also social clout of being the super secure militant.

    Margaret 38:47Oh, yeah, totally.

    Philip 38:48Who doesn't answer any questions and it's super dodgy and you don't know anything about them. And that's, I think, a really alienating experience for people who are just coming to movements for the first time without having that sort of background, and it's almost as much of a risk as the state repression itself for isolating our movements. You know, we're not existing solely in a static confrontation with state repression. But the terrain is changing a lot. And so we need to be evaluating what the different risks of our actions are. And if the risk of state repression because our security culture is too weak is lower than the risk of isolation because our security culture is too strong, then we need to be changing our security culture.

    Margaret 39:42Yeah. Yeah, I um, you know, the less directly involved I am in the streets, the more I read history-which is sort of a classic getting older move, which I'm not super proud of, but whatever-and one of the things that I'm like learning more and more as I read through different revolutionary history is that, like, sometimes the only way to be safest is fucking win. Like, and there's the quote, shit. German person... I don't even remember what revolution it was from, it was like before the 1848 stuff, but it was—this revolutionist has a quote, 'Those who make half a revolution dig their own grave." And, you know, and that person watched their friends die in jail, right? And, like, because if we—if we go half way we're just gonna fucking lose and—or die or, you know, whatever. Like if, I don't know, I think about it a lot like this—in the current moment, like to just be like really concrete and to not—I am not giving advice at all. Like, I just I literally don't know what the best thing to do is, but I think we need to have a conversation about it—is that like, okay, so on one level, taking pictures of burning cop cars is a really good way to get someone sent to prison, right? Especially if you take pictures of people who are setting cop cars on fire, which I think you just shouldn't fucking do. But if it weren't—

    Philip 41:19Absolutely. For all listeners, don't take photos of people doing illegal activity.

    Margaret 41:24But it's also the pictures of cop cars on fire that are causing the revolt to spread, right? And a movement that says, "No journalists," or you know, certainly, like no, no—and I am not trying to fucking weigh in on this. I am way too armchair on this particular uprising because I live somewhere where it's not particularly conflictual. But it's not as simple as like, just like, no one ever take pictures of any of this, ever. No one talks about what's happening, ever. Because if people don't know that this shit is happening, no one's going to get inspired. And for me, that is always, that has always worked out to mean, take a picture of, like, the broken window rather than the person breaking the window, you know? There's like,

    Philip 42:19Yeah.

    Margaret 42:22But it's...

    Philip 42:24Which is aa security culture tool right there of, your recognizing the different risks inherent in each activity, the risk of someone getting legally implicated through a photo, or the risk of your movement getting drowned out in the media cycle because there isn't popular media representing what we're doing.

    Margaret 42:45Yeah.

    Philip 42:45And then specifically, you're talking about our intentional ability to choose how to navigate those risks, and doing something that gives us the benefit of having our own popular media, of being able to build the movement while doing our best to protect people from the like actual legal evidence of, "Oh, here is this photo of you doing such and such action."

    Margaret 43:07Yeah.

    Philip 43:07And again, it's hard to know specifically what kind of photos might lead to incriminating evidence, hypothetically, but we can make educated guesses. And really, it is all about risk management and knowing the risks and it's not a one-sided risk. It's not, there's just the risk of state repression. You're absolutely right, that the risk of isolation and of getting swept under the rug is going to be a huge thing. And I, you know, again, it feels difficult to try to talk about this in an hour-long podcast because it feels like so many very large, important intersections between security culture and all these other fields that you could, you know, have an entire 'nother interview about. But I think one important one is movement strategy. And, you know, so being another armchair philosopher with you here. Looking at the historical moment of Biden about to enter the White House, you know, for the last four years, there's been this coalition of middle class liberals aligning themselves more actively with antifascist and radical left movements because there's been this clear enemy in the eyes of a Trump presidency. And I think historically we can see that once there's a return to quote/unquote "normalcy," you know, to attempt to reestablish the neoliberal order, there's going to be a move by the Democratic Party, by the centrists and the liberals, to separate themselves from the radical anarchists, the radical left, the militant component that has been supporting their return to power in some ways by being positioned against Trump. And I think it's really important to think about what that means for us practicing security at this time, of trying to weigh the pros and the risks of maintaining that relationship. And trying to use this as a time to continue to build power and not sort of go back to the edges of the social sphere because there's a Democrat process. Again, I'm not providing any concrete recommendations, but I think we should think about the implications of our actions. And, you know, one big place of this is thinking about how, in different contexts, militant actions can be really inspiring, or they can be really alienating for the rest of the population. And there are times that militant action can totally fractionalize and destroy a movement. And, potentially, this could be one of those times. You know, again, I'm not trying to say that people should or shouldn't do anything, but I think we should think about the coalition that has been being built for the last four years and how we can try to use this time to strengthen it and try to build more collective power with people who are shifting further and further to the left from the centrist position, instead of holing up in our militancy, in our purity of our anarchist movement, because that is going to leave us high and dry to fascists and then to state repression. And so it's going to be a good cop/bad cop of the liberals and the fascists against us.

    Margaret 46:20When you talk about, like, there are times when militant action will inspire people and their time where it'll divide people, I think about, like, people often make one claim or the other, you know? They'll say like, "Oh, violence alienates people," or, "Fighting the police alienates people." And it's like, first of all, it's like, yeah, probably alienates certain people but there's other people who certainly are like, "Oh, these people are, like, actually fucking about it and they're willing to, like, defend themselves and each other." And that's really inspiring, right? It's gonna be different with different people. But I think about it when I, like—just talk about survival bullshit that I think about way too often—when I'm building a fire in a precarious situation and you, know, building a campfire in a precarious situation, there are times when if you blow on the fire, it goes out. And, but also, if you never blow on the fire, you'll never have a fire and it'll go out. And, you know, that's the main metaphor that I think of when I think of that shit. When—you just have to know the right moments. You have to know the right moments, both like sort of on a tactical level of like reading the crowd around you, and also on a strategic level. I personally think that the main way to not go back to the margins is to, like, not be fucking shy about what we believe in, and that it's a reasonable thing to believe.

    Philip 47:44Yeah.

    Margaret 47:45And to like—

    Philip 47:46Absolutely.

    Margaret 47:47—avoid cliquishness. And it even gets into some of the security culture stuff you're talking about arlier. I was thinking about it where it was like—like, I have these like fucking Nazis. Hey Nazis listening to this show. Hello. And I'm just so impressed with the fact that people might hate listen to a podcast. And you know, and like one of the things that like Nazis always try and do when they doxx people or whatever is their like, they're gonna, like, tell people, right? They're gonna be like—and like, you can't fucking call my family and be like, "Did you know your daughter's an anarchist?" You know? You can't even call the local cops and be like, "Did you know Margaret Killjoy is an anarchist?" Right? And I'm in a different position than most people, right, because I intentionally do a lot of public facing work. But still on like an interpersonal level, just fucking be about what you're about and don't be ashamed of being about what you're about without shaming other people for being about what they're about. And that's how you find common ground. And that's how you, like, one of my goals is I want people to be like—like, I know, people who don't shit on the anarchists when all this stuff started because they, like, know some good anarchists who are nice to them.

    Philip 48:54Yeah.

    Margaret 48:55And so a lot of people want to hide the fact that they're anarchists or whatever other given, like, radical leftist position. And sometimes that's necessary from a security point of view. But you brought it up earlier when you were talking about how there's certain things you do have to keep hush hush, right? Like, like, no one should specifically know, like—actually, it's funny. I just like basically don't commit crime. But no one should specifically know I, like, you know, graffiti-ed to building in 2002—which I actually didn't do. But, like, they don't need to know that. Right? But I'm gonna be like, "Yeah, I was involved in anti war movement in 2002," or whatever the fuck to date myself, you know. And like, it's useful, and I don't know. It's just stuff I think about way too much. And the other part of it that you were talking about that I want to bring up is that when I first got into anarchism my friend was, like, "Oh, anarchists, you're the berserkers of the peace movement." And I was like, "What?" And he was like, "Yeah, when they need people to go run at the front and die, that's you." And he was talking shit. But more and more I see that like radicals have a high risk tolerance, right? And anti-authoritarians in particular have often been willing to build coalitions with people and willing to put ourselves at risk for broader movement goals with people who turn around and, like, turn their backs on us and let us go to jail or whatever. And I don't think that means that we shouldn't be risk tolerant. I don't think that it means, like, in some ways this is our advantage. But we do have to learn how to not be useful idiots. I don't know.

    Philip 50:47Yeah, and especially right now as there's a nationwide conversation about defunding and abolishing the police, it feels like such an important time to be putting these anarchist perspectives forward in a way that's actually contributing to people within the broader community being able to see us publicly and proudly, showing that we can live our values in this way. And it also, I think, is worth noting that different people have different stakes, whether that's based on social location, or the activities were involved in, the types of projects we're doing. But, personally speaking, as a white person, you know, I've got different social privileges and resources that I'm able to use. And so being able to mobilize a lot of the social capital I have and then add that with a layer of saying, "Oh, and actually I do fully believe that we should abolish the police and abolish prisons and implement transformative justice frameworks." Doing that doesn't really pose much of a risk to me. And it makes this entire project a lot more legible. And I do feel like there's been a big concern I've seen in a lot of anarchist communities about being authentic with our politics. You know, there's sort of been an emphasis that I've experienced of people, maybe downplaying their politics and trying to more just live their politics directly through the actions they do. And that's important. Of course that's important. But I do think that we're in a very different moment right now. And you're right that I think it's a bit of a sink or swim time.

    Margaret 52:24Yeah. Yeah, I think that we even see this—like, to take anarchism out of it for a second—like Antifa Or, you know, antifascism. Like, they really tried to Red Scare that shit really fucking hard in the past couple years. And it clearly worked for a large minority of the population, right? Antifa is like, code for terrorists to a huge chunk of the population, but only a minority of the population. And I think it's the reason is only a minority population is that so many people of all walks of life were just like, "What? Yeah, that's normal. It's totally normal to be against fascism." And like, watching Richard Spencer get punched and then having the whole world just be like, "Ya know, that tracks. I dunno. Punch white supremacists. That make sense to me," And so when we refuse to—when we when we're about what we're about, like, I think it fucking helps. Yeah.

    Philip 53:30Yeah, absolutely. And, I mean, again, I want to just go back to security culture having risk management as one of its core goals and aims. And I come from a background of doing a lot of, like, large management-type projects, where I interact with all these sort of tools that get developed in like the business world or the nonprofit world for making decisions. It's actually a really helpful, like, resource bin to go and get stuff from. And one of those tools is a risk matrix. So it's basically a graph where you have likelihood of something happening on one side, and then severity if this thing did happen or, you know, negative impact if this thing did happen. And then you can kind of plot different scenarios on their, on how likely they are to happen versus the negative impact. So the likelihood of the problem versus the severity of the problem helps us make decisions about how to approach all those problems. So like one thing would be driving is something that we do every day, it happens very frequently, and the possibility of you getting into a car crash would have really high, you know, potentially lethal consequences. And so as a result, car companies put all of this energy into safety mechanisms and airbags and all that. So thinking about this in security context situation, by actually quantifying, by explicitly naming the different potential outcomes of the work we're doing and the risks associated with them, I think it helps us visualize it more. And so the risk of us being authentic about our politics, and of then experiencing state repression, seems like a very high impact risk. And so we are risk adverse to that, or I historically have been risk adverse to being authentic about my politics. But the much higher likelihood—although lower risk—much higher likelihood outcome, is that being isolated, and not being able to build our movements has resulted in anarchism being socially isolated historically and, you know, of neoliberalism or centrist regimes being able to just marginalize them invisiblize these groups. And I know that these are things that we've already been talking about, but I think that that same sort of risk matrix can help us similarly with maybe smaller decisions. If we're making a decision about what types of actions we feel comfortable personally engaging in during a campaign, you know, we can think about, okay, these are the different frameworks that we have for what capacity the local police have, the amount of surveillance that we feel we're being under, the likelihood of this action succeeding, and actually being able to graph all these things can help us make informed decisions in a way that just thinking about or just talking about it, sometimes you can get lost.

    Margaret 56:50Yeah.

    Philip 56:53Another tool that I really appreciate using a little bit is kind of on that same note, it's the spectrum of risk. I think it came from CrimethInc, but it talks about different vulnerabilities of actions to state repression. Or like different levels of, like, illicit-ness of actions. So, you know, from the most mainstream and acceptable of a permitted march to, you know, the most nefarious, evil, militant anarchist thing you can imagine, and a whole spectrum in between them. And then for those different actions or activities, there's a different accompanying level of security discretion that we can use where with the mainstream march, you want to be as public as possible about it, because your objective is to get the message out, to get people out to make a big strong showing. Whereas with the evil, nefarious nighttime plot, you don't want any public attention on it whatsoever until it's completed.

    Margaret 57:56Right.

    Philip 57:56Theoretically, you know, whatever the objectives are. And again, a whole spectrum in the middle. And so, especially at this time, is showing us the strength of popular movements getting hundreds of 1000s of people out in the street, I do think that we're leaning maybe more towards the wanting to be public side of things. And if we're using security tools, if we're using discretion that limits the reach, then we're actually inflicting harm upon ourselves by being overly cautious. And so we are then engaging in, again, the isolation that counterintelligence is trying to inflict on us the whole time.

    Margaret 58:37Yeah, and then—sorry, it's like every—I'm thinking about all this shit wile are you talking about this stuff. I was gonna make a joke earlier while you were talking about how, like, what, no, we shouldn't just make decisions about what crimes to commit based on peer pressure. And then I kind of, like, get lost in this rabbit hole, where I'm thinking about how like so much of our movement historically bases its decisions on what crimes to commit, basically, by peer pressure, which you could also call social capital, or whatever, you know. And I was thinking about in the context of, like, you know, you and I addressing the fact that like, "Hey, anyone listening to this, like, don't fucking take our word for it." Like, I really like that the way that you're describing security culture is a set of tools that people can use to make their own decisions about what risks they want to do—they want to tolerate personally. And I actually think that a security culture tool might be basically, like, if you feel like you're being peer pressured into committing a crime, that's a huge red flag, right? Like, so many of the different infiltrations that have happened, you know—the FBI fucking loves infiltrating radical movements of different types, especially at the moment Islam, you know, like, what it considers, like, Islamic movements or whatever—and manufacturing criminals to then, you know, persecute, right? You know, there's been so many instances of a lot of the actions that people go down for were always the FBI idea in the first place. And one of the main tools, I think, that that happens through is social pressure. And basically, like, I'm now turning this into the ad of like, where like, the kid walks up and is like, "Come on, man, don't you wanna be cool and, like, do drugs or whatever?" Like, no do drugs only if you want to do drugs, and if you want to do drugs, that's fucking cool. If you want to commit crimes, like, you know, whatever, think about the ethics of your actions. Make your decisions based on ethics and risk, not based on crime. Crime just affects the risk part of it. And I don't know, yeah, just like fuckin—like way too often when I meet, like, younger radicals, I just kind of want to be like, "Look, like, I'm not saying be careful but, like, be a little bit careful. And like, don't jump off a bridge because your best friends that you met two months ago are doing it." You know?

    Philip 1:01:12Yeah. And I think a healthy way of doing that is really cultivating a good self-awareness of what your skills and your experience and your acceptable level of involvement is with different kinds of activities and of what you are willing to participate in, you know, ahead of time as much as possible. And being really secure in that and not feeling peer pressure. And again, I think it's easiest and healthiest if we're able to do this in our movement of making that norm established from the get-go in a really clearly articulated way of we're respecting each other's boundaries over what they do or do not want to participate in. And we aren't going to encourage people to do things that they're not comfortable in. But also being able to know what feels right or what feels wrong, having that situational awareness of, "Oh, this feels off to me." And being able to trust our gut instinct, or at least—or at least listen to our gut instinct—at least, you know, give it the time to think about the impact. Because, you know, because—and I do want to again say that, um, you know, I've made poor decisions, solely listening to my gut instinct and not thinking about the other power dynamics that were at play. And that's a real thing, too. But situational awareness and tracking how a situation feels is a big way that our bodies intuitively know to manage risk. I mean, we're living creatures who have existed in a risky world. And we do have ways that we know how to move through that world and keep ourselves safe. And obviously, we're in a totally different context. But trying to tap in to our intuitions is a really helpful way. And I think, you know, again, that goes a lot back to people already practicing security culture on a regular basis, especially people who have experienced trauma or who are targeted by violence and brutality, having a heightened awareness of their surroundings and of the risks that they're being exposed to, and making decisions in a much more intentional and active way than someone who is not at all needing to think about those things because they come from a social location and a privileged background that has insulated them.

    Margaret 1:03:36Could you—like basically saying that, like, if you're a rich kid, you're a lot more—you're a lot safer from—a rich kid, or white or, you know, have different sets of privileges, you're less at risk with the decisions that you're making is that...?

    Philip 1:03:52Um, well, a little bit. I mean, I am saying, if you're a rich white kid, you should go commit crime.

    Margaret 1:03:56[Laughing]

    Philip 1:03:59I am saying that people who have experienced marginalization and brutality, you know, oftentimes will have more situational awareness and will have just like a more natural set of security practices that they're doing to keep themselves safe than someone who hasn't experienced those things. And so being able to cultivate that awareness of what we're interacting with, with who we're interacting with, with our read on the situation, if something feels out of place, if there's a car parked behind the march with unmarked license plates, that looks brand new, and it's got tinted windows, and "Oh, that seems out of place. I wonder if I should keep an eye on that because it's either an undercover cop or a right wing vigilante who's about to drive into the crowd."

    Margaret 1:04:49Right.

    Philip 1:04:49You know, that is security culture and cultivating that awareness of who we're interacting with and how we're interacting with and the different risks is an important tool to just integrate into our everyday practice.

    Margaret 1:05:05No, I like tha. I like this idea that being, like, conscious—like as like a personal security culture technique or whatever—being conscious about what's happening and being conscious about your own choice in the decision or whatever... [Sighs] What am I trying to say? It's like, the people who do shit because they're swept up in it—it's okay to be swept up in what's happening sometimes, right? And I'm not trying to say like, never, like, go with the crowd. Because sometimes also, like going with the crowd'a literally the safest thing. Like, even if like—like, sometimes when all your friends are jumping off a bridge you should probably fucking jump off a bridge. Like, because if you chose your friends carefully—like sometimes I pick—I think about how I like pick my friends very carefully. And so therefore, sometimes I trust their judgment more than my own. And sometimes solidarity, like, requires that. But if you're doing shit just because you're swept up in it, especially a crowd of strangers, especially something you're new to. It's not as good of a scene. And also like the people who do that are like literally more likely to roll. Like, you know, some of the people that I've seen turn state's evidence after, you know, felony arrests or whatever are the people who were just, like, kind of in it for the social capital, they were in it as a social scene. They were, like, you know, like, "Oh, I guess all my friends are an anarchist so I'm an anarchist too," or whatever the fuck, you know? Which is a great way to start getting involved in radical politics is, like, pick cool friends. And, you know, they do cool shit, break the law, breaking the laws, cool. I think I'm allowed to?—I don't know, whatever. And, but the people who don't mean it, I don't trust them as much. And I worry about, like, expressing who I do and don't trust on this show because, like, I just don't trust anyone. But that works for me, but apparently it doesn't work for most people. So, but okay, to run with this paranoia thing for a minute: Like, one of the reasons I think that way is that, like, you know, when I first got involved in political activism or whatever, you know, I was involved in forest defense community in the Pacific Northwest. And I went to some of the last meetings of this particular forest defense crew. And they were just like, tree sitters and shit, right? It was like, it was illegalism but it's, like, above ground illegalism. Like people who sit in a tree are, like, "Hey, I fuckin sit in trees." You know? Like, that's like, one thing I'll like admit to, right? I've like sat in trees. And so it's not—they're not, like, the super sketchy arsonists or whatever running around at night. They're not the ELF. But they certainly were infiltrated as though they were. And I went to some of the last meetings of this organization because I joined it near the end of its time. And then during a FOIA request—a Freedom of Information Act request where you send off to the government and say, "Please give us information about this." Or maybe it was during court discovery, I can't remember which—it came out that, like, I think about 3 out of 8 or 9 people in that meeting were informants or cops of one style or another. And so it's just like, okay. 30% of the people in this movement are informants, you know? And that is, like, the wrong sample to pick from, right? Very few movements—there certainly have been movements that have been as heavily infiltrated as this—but most social movements are not as heavily infiltrated as the environmental movement was during the early 00s. But... I don't know. I don't know why I'm talking about that. I'm not specifically—

    Philip 1:08:56No, that's, um, that's an important point of—I mean, tracking, that not only is it the immediate moment, that you're doing whatever action you're trying to protect through security culture, that discretion is important, but that it's something that you're then carrying with you forever.

    Margaret 1:09:16Yeah.

    Philip 1:09:18And, you know, whatever we want to say about statute of limitations or not, the point is that once you do something that you don't want to talk about, you should be fully prepared to not talk about that forever.

    Margaret 1:09:32Yeah.

    Philip 1:09:33Forever. And I think that's part of the process that maybe gets overlooked. Again, when we're checking in with ourselves about what our boundaries are, what we're comfortable doing and what we're able to do sustainably, think about, am I able to do this and am I able to then hold that with me and not be able to express, you know, "Oh, this specific thing that I did at this specific time gave me this lasting feeling that I really want to process through." And I think that's a really important and so so so frequently overlooked part is that we need to be prepared to be continuing our security culture practices indefinitely onwards.

    Margaret 1:10:16Yeah.

    Philip 1:10:16And so building in some rituals or some practices or some ways of being able to process through the intensity of what happened or to process through grief or honor that experience is I think, a really cool possibility to see emerge out of security culture becoming more sustainable.

    Margaret 1:10:38Yeah. Yeah, because it can—otherwise it can kind of sit in you and just make you, like... Yeah, I think that people don't recognize that when you make certain decisions you make are—especially younger people, she said, sometimes don't realize that, like, actions are permanent, you know? Or, like, decisions you make have permanent impacts, which actually, we forget about in the other direction, too. I think sometimes we forget that, like, the fires we light today are beacons for the future, you know, whatever. Don't start fires do whatever—I'm not trying to tell people what to fucking do. But like, it can—you know, it's like interesting to realize that you're also, like, part of fucking making history too, you know. And so the decisions we make have permanent impacts in positive and negative and more complicated than that ways.

    Philip 1:11:39Absolutely. And I think that's something that I lean in frequently of using security culture in the most dry, analytical way possible, of just thinking about this as a tool to mitigate risk. And that's such a cool thing to also be thinking about the activities we're involved in in the totally idealistic and romantic and visionary ways that they also are. And so security culture, by being so methodical and being able to give me that basis of security to act from, then allows me to be able to like fantasize about the world that I want to be a part of, and not be enmeshed in anxiety or paranoia over how the state is going to respond to me enacting that.

    Margaret 1:12:26Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah, I think that having good security cultural practices is a good way to—well it's like prepping in general, right? Like, I have my to go bag or whatever. And it's not so that I can sit around and, like, freak out about what to do if the forest, I mean, catches fire, which is the most likely scenario by which I would need my go bag, right? But I now mostly put the thought of the fear of that out of my head, because I've done roughly the best I can. I have roughly what I would need, if that were the case. And in terms of, like, you know, having the pretense of being a revolutionist or whatever, just inherently by calling myself an anarchist, I—there's a, there is a certain amount of risk, like, you know, I remember trying to explain it to someone that I was like, yeah, if Antifa is designated a domestic terrorist organization or whatever, like, even though I don't do shit, that could really directly impact me personally, because I'm very public about, you know, my beliefs, right? And—but I can't worry about that. And so what I can do instead is come up with my best practices, put them into place, and then be like, you know, not wash my hands of it, but like, basically be like, "Alright, I'm doing the best I can on that front," and, like, yeah, if Biden lives up to his campaign promise of, like, prosecuting anarchists, like, that might impact me, you know. I don't know, we'll see. Like—but that's not within my control. And like, I—what's within my control is to just, like, you know, know who knows about when I graffiti-ed something in 2002, which I didn't do. I literally didn't. It's just a—I'm just trying to come up with a bullshit thing I can say on the show.

    Philip 1:14:21Yeah, but to just drive it home all the time. I mean that's, and that's great. And what you're doing is you're alleviating that possible concern or anxiety over not being prepared for the forest fire by just always being prepared for the forest fire.

    Margaret 1:14:37Yeah.

    Philip 1:14:37You know, you're just mitigating that risk ahead of time. And that's opening you up to being able to do what you really want to be doing safely and not being concerned about all the time because it's just your standard operating procedure.

    Margaret 1:14:49Yeah. Yeah. And then the other thing too with like security culture is just like we also have to make sure it doesn't give us a false sense of safety. And I think you brought this up earlier, but if there's like a point I want to like drive home as we're probably, you know, winding down or whatever is just, like, this isn't safe, right? But honestly, like, choosing to believe in revolution feels like the better when I look at the, like, the cost/benefit analysis. Like, it's safer to—like, we're more likely to survive to be old if we fucking overthrow capitalism and like halt climate change, you know? Even if it, like, brings with it short term risk.

    Philip 1:15:36Yeah. It's up to us to live.

    Margaret 1:15:39Yeah.

    Philip 1:15:42I guess I want to just end on some very specific, concrete things to do for security. This has been really great to talk with you about the overall picture, which I think oftentimes is missing. But it would feel a little remiss to not say some specifics like—

    Margaret 1:15:58Yeah.

    Philip 1:15:58One, don't cooperate with the police. Don't talk with law enforcement. You know, you have a right to remain silent, you have a right to a lawyer, don't answer questions, don't answer questions about your friends. Just be silent.

    Margaret 1:16:13Yeah.

    Philip 1:16:14And a great way to get more comfortable with that is to practice, you know, practice not answering a direct question from police. It's socially awkward, it takes energy. Also, you know, researching know your rights trainings, which are readily available online. And being more informed about some of the safeties that you do have, or some of the ways that you can interact with that is really important. That just feels like the foundational thing: don't talk to cops. Another simple thing would just be, you know, with so much going on digitally because of the pandemic, there's just been a lot going on through Zoom and Facebook and Google. And you should just always assume anything going on over social media or over a large email server is publicly available to right wing vigilantes and to the police. So, as best as you can, try to normalize using encrypted messaging like Signal, or encrypted email like Riseup or Proton Mail just for everything, not just for your activism. And even then don't share things online or over Signal that you wouldn't want read back to you in a courtroom in a criminal hearing.

    Margaret 1:17:31Right.

    Philip 1:17:32And, you know, ultimately I think that just staying abreast as much as possible and reading about counterinsurgency and about state repression and learning about how movements historically have responded is probably the best way to set yourself up. And so I compiled a bunch of resources that I found very helpful historically. Maybe you could list them in the show notes for people. But there's some great—there's some great manuals, both constructed by the state about how to implement counterinsurgency and how to manage popular movements, and then also lots of great books just looking at how social movements have resisted that and continue to win.

    Margaret 1:18:15Okay, is there any other—any other thing that we didn't talk about that we should have?

    Philip 1:18:23You know, there's a lot of talk of operational security in the prepper world, which is kind of the closest thing I found to right-winger security, culture, and timing and time again I'm just so surprised how, at the end of the day, their solution to security risks comes through stockpiling ammunition and being prepared to shoot your way out of any situation. And the thing that I love about being part of this community is how much of a focus we have on relationships and on community. And ultimately, I do think we get our security from each other. You know, we're only as strong as we're able to be with each other. And being able to work through conflict and being able to work with each other safely to create the kind of world is so much more transformative than stockpiling ammunition and dehydrated food in your basement.

    Margaret 1:19:18Yeah.

    Philip 1:19:19And, you know, at the same time, there's a lot of great stuff to be found through right-wing and prepper communities on operational security. That's especially a huge topic in military intelligence realms and is well worth researching. Also, again, looking at situational awareness tools and techniques, which is another big hub used by various prepper and right wing groups. Looking up different risk management tools, which is, you know, a huge field developed by like business leaders and techies and nonprofits. There's a lot of tools out there and we can apply them to do the good work that we need to be doing.

    Margaret 1:20:01That makes sense. Yeah, one of the—you know, just like reading about, um, just to continue with the like, the only way out is through kind of concept sometimes is I read about—when you're talking about how, like, the main way to stay safe is relationships, right? Like solidarity has always been our strongest weapon. And in a very, like, practical, direct way, even down to like when revolutionists all go to jail for trying to have a revolution, the main thing that gets them out of jail again is that when other people keep trying to have a revolution, and whether that revolution wins and frees the prisoners, or whether, basically, the existing system is like, "Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck. Maybe if we let some of these people out they'll like, you know." With the Frederick Douglass quote, "Power concedes nothing without a demand," you know?

    Philip 1:21:01Yeah.

    Margaret 1:21:02And yeah, just not abandoning people when they're inside or not abandoning people, just period, is our best bet even as individuals to stay safe.

    Philip 1:21:20Yeah, absolutely.

    Margaret 1:21:22Okay, so final thoughts?

    Philip 1:21:26I'm just happy to be able to be on here and share some of the tools that I've learned. But I really want to say I'm not an expert. And if you're in a different situation than me, you've got different tools to use, you've got different lessons to learn. You know, this is what we make of it. And I'm really excited to see the ways that people are going to continue to adapt these tools for their own circumstances.

    Margaret 1:21:47Yeah, totally. All right. Well, thanks so much for being on the show. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this podcast you should tell people about it, because it's not a security culture that—I was supposed to try and make a joke about how it's, like, security culture as relates to telling people about things about the podcast, but I don't know how to land it. So I won't tell that joke. But you can tell people about the podcast and that would mean a lot. And people have been doing that and that means a lot to me. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by following me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And if you support me at any level, you get a bunch of access to zines and music and me writing, "I'm sorry I'm late on the following things" notes to you all that are painfully earnest and heartfelt. And if you support me at $10, I'll mail you a zine. If you support me at $20, I'll shout out your name in a minute like I'm about to shout out people's names in a minute. But also, if you live off of less money than I make on Patreon, please don't give your money to me. Give your money to yourself, because you need it more than I do. And if you want access to the content that I make that's behind that pay wall, just contact me and you can have access to that. You can contact me in general. You can contact me on Instagram, which is Instagram @margaretkilljoy, or I'm @magpiekilljoy on Twitter. Don't follow me on Facebook. I have—I hate Facebook. I use it. But it's weird. I don't know. I mean, they're all weird. You're not really waiting for me to talk about social media, you're waiting for me to end the episode. So in particular I would like to thank Eleanor and Mike and Satara and Kat J, The Compound, Shane, Christopher, Sam, Natalie, Willow, Kirk, Hoss the dog, Nora, and Chris. Yeah, you all make this possible in a way that warms my heart and the aforementioned embarrassingly heartfelt and earnest ways. Anyway, thank you all so much for listening and I hope you're doing as well as you can with everything that's going on. And we keep us safe.

  • Episode Notes

    The guest, Dibs, runs a website called dibsfitness.com and can be found on Instagram at @dibs_pt.

    The host, Margaret Killjoy, can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

    Transcript:

    Margaret 00:14Hello, and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast where it feels like the end times. I'm your host, Margaret Killjoy, and this week I'm going to be talking to Dibs who is a personal fitness trainer in Montreal. I'm going to be talking with them about personal fitness, obviously, I guess that's the name of the episode that you clicked on. And they have a lot of really useful and concrete tips for how people with different relationships to their body can engage in personal fitness and training. And of course, well, it's worth pointing out that this episode does come with a content warning. We do talk about eating disorders, and we talk about relationships to eating and fitness and the way that they can become obsessive. So—and that that question is pretty clearly marked. It doesn't come out of the blue. 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.

    Jingle 01:12Gooooood morning slaves! Looking for relief from the steaming hot plate of bullshit served up on the daily by the mainstream media? Are you thirsting for solid and reliable information to escape the mind-numbing vortex of corporate news and Trump tweets? Are you ready to check out every time you hear a despacito on the radio one more fucking time? Then tune your dial to sub.Media, a mouthwatering hub of infotainment and subversion that'll make you want to quit your job and join the motherfucking resistance. Dive into our newly designed website and gorge yourself on one of the 500+ videos and audio tracks from our vast library of anarchist films, hip hop, and riot porn, or choose from one of our original shows like Trouble, Burning Cop Car, A is for Anarchy, Video Ninja Reports, and the Stimulator. Fuck Netflix, watch sub.Media.

    Margaret 02:07Okay, and Dibs, if you would like to introduce yourself with your name, which I guess I just said, and your pronouns and any, you know, what you do for work, any political or organizational affiliations that make sense with what you're going to be talking about today? Also maybe, like, your identity as relates to some of what you're going to be talking about today?

    Dibs 02:26Sure, so I'm Dibs, my pronouns, they/them, I am a certified personal trainer or fitness instructor some might call it, so I have my certificate 3 and 4 in group fitness and one-on-one training. I identify as transgender, and I have ADHD, and I am sort of still recovering from an eating disorder. So I guess that's relevant to probably what will come up, maybe?

    Margaret 02:57Yeah, that actually-that is a lot, like-and that's actually something I'd love to talk to you about what we're talking about this is like food and our relationships to food. So I wanted to have you on because I spent a while looking around, I was—I wanted to get someone on who is a personal trainer. And, of course, one of the problems with personal trainers, not personal trainers themselves but the fitness industry, is that it is very ablest, very centering of cis people, very centering of like thin people, and also centering of the weight experience, and just has a lot of problems. And then you came highly-recommended through our mutual friend as a personal trainer who specifically works to kind of counteract that stuff. And the reason I want to have someone on is talking about personal fitness: one is just sort of selfish. I'm like, "Oh, I'm getting older, and I need to worry about this stuff more." But you know, it's like—okay, it's a weird tangent to start with. But the first time I really ever thought about this stuff was years ago I was playing accordion and Amsterdam and a friend of mine walked by, and he was this older, like, super tough anarchist guy. And, you know, maybe in his 40s or something—actually might have been much younger than thatb ut when you're young, everyone seems old—and he said, "Oh, what are you doing?" I was like, "Oh, I'm playing accordion." And he said, and I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm coming home from the gym." And I was like, "Why are you at the gym?" Because I was an idiot. And he was like, "Well, because we want to have a revolution and we need to be stronger than the police." And I was like "Shit."

    Dibs 04:34Great answer.

    Margaret 04:35I'd never thought about it from that point of view.

    Dibs 04:38Yeah.

    Margaret 04:40And that's kind of where I'm coming from personally about a lot of like fitness goals. And I think that a lot of people are looking at this, as the world becomes more conflictual, they might be more interested in personal fitness. As the world gets a little crazier, they might be more interested in personal fitness. Would you be able to talk about your own experiences where you're coming from about personal fitness and kind of what got you engaged with it?

    Dibs 05:04Yeah. I mean, I've always been an active kid. I definitely have, you know, some symptoms of ADHD just have many hobbies, try all the things, like, as a child in like primary school, I did everything from like tap dancing, to soccer, to softball to netball to guitar lessons. Like, I always had, like, something that made me need to want to move. And then, so I played team sports for a while. And then when I left school and I became an adult, that's sort of when I looked at the gym for exercise. And at the same time of leaving school is when I started to think about my gender. And I've spoken about this to many people with, like, how my sort of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia is very much intertwined. And so I don't know, you know, what led me more down the path of wanting to lift weights and stuff. But, you know, wanting—having—being transgender and wanting to change your body. Before I started HRT, and before I had top surgery or anything, like, my only option or what I saw was to train so I started doing weightlifting. And then my dad passed away when I was 19 from heart disease. Suddenly, just one night, he went to bed and didn't wake up. And that scared me.

    Margaret 06:29Yeah.

    Dibs 06:30And I was like, well, I, you know, I want to live longer than 44 maybe. I mean, now I'm not so sure. But, you know, I was like, okay well, these are the things that led to that for him. What can I do to change my lifestyle? And yeah, and then I went from gym to gym, and I've done the fad, you know, lose nine kilos in six weeks, I've done those dumb challenges a couple times. And I've done—you know, and then I became a personal trainer and I found a gym to work at and that was a whole—that's a big story itself. It was very culty and so toxic and weird and straight and suburbian—suburban, sorry. But uh, yeah. So that's sort of where my journey—my fitness journey in a nutshell.

    Margaret 07:20No, that makes sense. And it brings up a ton of things that I'm really curious to ask you about. Because I've had some of those same experiences of like, you know, when I would go and study martial arts, I would go and study martial arts like, "Hello, fellow cisgendered men," and like, it would never really work, you know, like, people couldn't quite figure out what to make of me. And usually, I didn't get along very socially in any of the martial arts gyms that I've trained in. So, for listeners who are just starting to want to get into personal fitness, I guess, where do you begin? And I know that obviously, like, hiring you, for example, would be a good way to start. But that isn't going to be available for everyone. And, you know, like, how do you begin? How do you assess where you're at? How do you start building program that works for you?

    Dibs 08:19Yeah, it's, uh, it's tough. Like, I think the overwhelm is in the choice because anyone can go on the internet and look up, you know, "home workout program," or "three day home workout program," or whatever. And there's so much free stuff out there that's just copy and paste, cookie cutter bs that, like could work for some people, but it's not going to work for the majority of people. So I guess, like, start—there's a lot—there's so much on social media right now that's for queer people and for people of all different bodies and abilities, especially like on YouTube as well, you can find little communities of people who were various abilities and various backgrounds showing what you can use with just your body or like very cheap pieces of equipment. So, you know, using the internet is great, but then where do you start? And then if that's overwhelming you, I guess like, if you've done something in the past and you've sort of fallen off the wagon, you can go back to that thing. So like did you use to cycle? Did used to swim? Did you used to play team sports? What about that sport did you like or what muscle groups did you like working the most, you know? Like, was it your agility and your hand/eye coordination if you're playing tennis, and what can you sort of relate that to? That's another thing that you can start practicing if you don't necessarily have a tennis court near where you live in, you know? So it's like, you have to be—start slow and be really kind to yourself to not expect too much too soon. And the act of just making something a small habit that you maintain through, you know, half the year or year is a massive goal in massive achievement in itself. So, you know, if you don't know—if you really want to learn how to squat or do a push up, you can—there are so many articles on working your way up to a push up or working your way up to a chin up or something like that. Everything can be broken down into much smaller steps in fitness. But my sort of mantra is—what I what I like to promote to everyone is joyful movement, and you find the movement that brings you joy, and you're going to do it, and it's not going to be like that daunting task that hangs over your head.

    Margaret 10:35So rather than like, you know, screaming, "I'm doing this for Sparta!" and then doing like 50 pushups every morning or whatever, like...

    Dibs 10:43Yeah, like—because yeah I know, like so many people, like, "Oh, I just do 20 push ups and 50 sit ups before I go to bed every night." And that's—like, my mom says that. She's like, "I do my 20 sit ups before bed and like 20 squats, and that's how I'm gonna keep my belly fat away." And I'm like, oh my God. Like you don't—and that's not fun for her. She doesn't like doing it. She just thinks that's what she has to do to look hot for her boyfriend. And, you know, like you—but now she plays—or well, before the pandemic—she played adults all-gender soccer. And she—that was what she was what she thought was fun, because she played with some people from that she worked with so she got to see her work colleagues, she got to, you know, have fun in a non-competitive teamsport environment. Like, yeah, basically—I mean, I know, even if we are doing this for serious business, because we want to, you know, fight off police and survive the apocalypse. You can still, while the world is still [inaudible] have fun. Find the thing that brings you joy and, you know, make light of it. Because that's the only way you're going to commit to it before the end times when you're like, "Oh, shit." You'd rather be prepared—this is the whole point. Yes. You're preparing now.

    Margaret 12:01Yeah. Oh, that's actually that's really interesting because I, you know—um, before COVID and things like that I would go boff, I would run around in a park with foam swords and shields and—actually turns out that learning how to fight with sticks and shields is way more of a life skill than I expected. But, um, but you know, that's not happening right now, because of COVID. And a lot of, like, team or group exercise stuff obviously isn't happening right now. And what are some ways that people can find joyful movement in isolation or in greater isolation?

    Dibs 12:40Yeah, so I guess if you're one of those people who is really just not leaving your house at all for—unless, you know, you need groceries, or even then you're just getting someone else to send you stuff and you're stuck at home: I've been leading online aerobics dance classes, which are quite fun. Or, you know, if you can't find one of those and you don't know—if the time is not good for you—like, put on some music and dance because cardio is so important, like your cardiovascular health is gonna—that's what's going to help you run and keep running and not stop. So dancing for, you know, an hour non-stop, like, that is a hardcore workout. People who have gone to raves, I'm sure you know how sore your body is the next day. Like, dancing is really, really good for you and it's going to help you build stamina. So that's one thing. Just putting together a little routine at home is quite easy. I like to tell people, there's a form of exercise routine called an AMRAP: as many rounds as possible. And so I say, you know, find five exercises that you know, you've been taught before, do 20 of them all in a row as many times as you can in 10 minutes, or 15 minutes, or 25 minutes. So say you're doing 20 squats, 20 push ups, 20 mountain climbers, 20 burpees, 20 lunges, and then go back to the top of the list and keep going, top of the list, keep going, work your way through until your timer goes off on your phone, and boom! You've done a workout. It's—there's so many different ways that you can do it and to keep you motivated and to remove the thinking out of it. You don't have to make it complicated. It can be quite simple. And, you know, if you can't do push ups, do them on your knees. If you can't do knee push ups, lean against the wall and do them on the wall or the door until you build up your strength or lean on your kitchen counter or your couch or something. There's so many things you can do just at home to-you know, or follow along YouTube workouts. If you just type on YouTube "follow along workout." I know they're not the best because they're always just demonstrated by people who were ripped in bikinis. I'm gonna try and put some out online to try and show some diversity. But, you know, there's different ways at home that you can find-or like find your favorite person on the internet. Copy what they're putting out. But yeah, like, dancing is my favorite. And then creating your own routine and, you know, maybe put on a podcast where you're doing it or put on music that you like and work through your 15 minutes, and then you're done.

    Margaret 15:12Okay, that makes sense to me. That's, um, that's like stuff that I feel like, on some level, is like what I was subconsciously drawn to when I was trying to become more in shape. I was like, "Oh, I'll just, I'll dance more, you know, while like working at a standing desk I'll, like, play music and then, like, walk away from the computer or something." But then, as I find myself being like, "No, I must be serious about fitness" instead, I kind of find myself moving away from that kind of stuff and more back into the, like, you know, "I must do yeah, 20 squats every morning" or whatever.

    Dibs 15:45Yeah, yeah, it can come in whatever shape you want. Because even within dance, you know, if you're dropping it low, you're doing a squat. Like, there are many ways to do the typical fitness movements like the patterns that you use, like a push, a press, a squat, a deadlift—there's so many ways to do that, that are not, like, regimented and formal in everyday life, like when you're cleaning or you're gardening. Gardening is great exercise, as long as you keep good posture and you're not hurting your back. Like, that's another way to get those movement patterns in.

    Margaret 16:22So that's—that brings up something that I think about a lot. Most of my exercise at the moment—obviously, everything—I think about everything through the lens of myself, but whatever, that's totally normal, you know, it's not like people listen to this. Um, okay, so like, most of my exercise comes from construction and building and crafting, right? Because I live, you know, in the woods alone. And so, like, I feel like most of my exercise is like carrying heavy shit up the hill to my house, right? And I often wonder to what degree I'm like getting exercise and to what degree I'm just like hurting myself. And, like, when you're talking about gardening and being good exercise as long as you maintain good posture, like, it seems like maybe that's useful across the board is like—where is the line between getting stronger and more fit and wearing yourself down?

    Dibs 17:18Yeah, it's—that's a hard one, especially if you're doing something out of necessity, like, if you're building stuff and you need to get the materials, you know, before it rains or whatever, like, you're not going to stop when when you reach that limit, you're just going to keep going. So then you just have to know how to look after yourself afterwards. Like, the line is different for everyone depending on, you know, depending on what you've built up before and you're—like, I love that that's how you get your exercise because I love functional fitness. I've been, you know, rummaging through curbside trash way more often than the last three months that I have in my entire life. And I've been—I've found four cinder blocks in the last four weeks and I've carried them home like four blocks to my house because I wanted to make a bench seat out of them. And like, you know, I—by the third one that I found, I figured out the correct posture and the way to hold it that wasn't going to make my biceps feel like this snapping off. So sometimes it's trial and error. But, you know, and sometimes you pay for it afterwards and you just have to make sure you rest or stretch correctly. But the—it is such a fine line between totally wearing yourself out. But I guess, if you're doing something functional fitness-wise and it's taking you the whole day, like, you know, people who do landscaping and they're just slugging it out for six hours, eight hours, all day. And a lot of them have bad backs. But you can avoid that if you're using the right tools, like if you have things that help you lift and wheel things like a wheelbarrow or dolly or whatever. You just have to make sure you're taking breaks intermittently, like think—stop and think. "How am I holding this? Like, where's the weight? Where can I feel the most strain? Is it in my back? Is it in my biceps? Is it in my core?" You really want to feel things in your abs the most when you're holding them rather than your back. And then, you know, if one bicep is straining more than the other change the bottom arm and the top arm so you're evening yourself out. Cuz you just have to be more attuned to your body and take time and do a little scan and think, "Where am I feeling this?" I know it's hard because when you're in the moment and just want to get stuff done, you're not going to stop, but I find that difficult as well. And then maybe when I get home I realized that I was carrying it wrong. But to people have a much better attention span than than me, that's something that you can do is stop, scan your body, where am I feeling this? Can I readjust? Can I change hands or or change my stride somehow or change my posture? Do I lift it closer to my chest? Do I hold it down below my legs? Do I lifted it up above my head with my elbows locked out if it's light enough to give my back a rest? Those—you just carry things in a different way each time to give different body parts the load.

    Margaret 20:02Okay. Yeah, it's funny, I have—there's sort of a joke that, you know, if you're like punk past 30 you have to like pick between your options and it's like CrossFit, or knitting, or whatever. And I didn't pick either of those, I guess I picked podcasting and that's probably on there too. And sometimes my friends who do deadlifts and stuff, I'm kind of jealous because I'm like, "Oh, I should probably know how to do that really well because I like, later today I'm going to go have to drag my 50 pound generator to a different spot and hook it up to a 20 pound propane tank to get enough power to, you know, edit this interview. And I don't know, this is like cliche, right? But what I was like younger, I didn't really think about this stuff. And now I'm, like, I always make sure I put down heavy things, not on the ground but have thing's at about waist level.

    Dibs 20:56Yeah

    Margaret 20:57You know? And am I like, am I doing myself a disservice by doing that? You know, like, am I reducing my ability to learn how to deadlift? I don't know.

    Dibs 21:07I think you're saving your back in a long time. Because especially like, deadlifts are really good, they're an amazing full-body exercise. But if you’re having something with an awkward shape that prevents you from doing it with the correct form, then it's not going to be good to do so I think you're correct in putting it up higher so you don't have to go all the way down if it's a weird-shaped thing.

    Margaret 21:27Okay. Cool. Glad to hear my laziness is good. You mentioned food and eating disorder stuff. Is that is that okay to talk about?

    Dibs 21:38Yeah, we can dig into that.

    Margaret 21:40Um and, you know, content warning for anyone who's listening, obviously, we'll talk some about eating disorder stuff and I know that that can be very hard for a lot of people. So how does one—one of the things that I also worry about as I do this, right, um—again, to just use myself as the example for everything—I didn't think a ton about food until I came out as trans. And now I think about food way more than I would like to just because of the way that my body puts on weight being in a sort of masculine way, right? And both the combination of aging and suddenly holding myself to like feminine beauty standards are—is a wonderful one/two punch to deal with. But it's hard because I also want to become more fit. But I also really don't want to fall into what I can really easily see as disordered eating and just obsession about food. And I'm wondering how you manage or how you would recommend to people to manage dealing with fitness and as relates to food and how awful our society is about food and body image?

    Dibs 23:01Yeah, it's pretty terrible because, you know, a lot of the things out there are all about eliminating a certain either food group, or food source, or whatever. And it's all about eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. So the way I reframe it is don't think about what to cut out thinking about more about what you want to add to your diet to help you either feel fuller, or to help you get the nutrients that you need. So, you know, if you're a person that doesn't drink any water, start by adding an extra glass of water to your daily intake until that becomes a habit then add another until you're drinking, you know, at least 2-3 liters a day. Yes, good job drinking your water. So (laughing) she takes a sip. Yeah, so, you know, adding things like that. So it doesn't have to be food, it can be water. It can be, you know, if you're someone that only eats two colors, brown and white, maybe start adding a yellow thing or a green thing or a red thing to your plate. So, you know, add a sweet potato if you really hate vegetables, I know mushrooms are also black and white and brown, but there a vegetables so you can add mushrooms to your plate. I, you know, I used to hate sa—I probably only started eating salad when I was like 18, maybe 19. I used to never eat any vegetables and then I realized the certain ways that I like them cooked or prepared that will make me eat them more. So, you know, add—when I have now my bacon and eggs for breakfast I will put, like, a handful of baby spinach on top. And, you know, the way that that tastes is delicious is because it's smothered in bacon juice. Sorry, the vegan. But, like, that's how I deal with it and that's how I add my vegetables in so when you're thinking about like food and eating for your body type, like, there's a couple of TED Talks out there actually that are that are titled, you know, "The Perfect Diet," or "What is the perfect diet?" And I quite liked them. I watched them all because I wanted to see what they, what dumb stuff they said. But it's actually quite good because at the end, they're all like, "The perfect diet is the one that feels the best for your body or like what makes you feel the best." Because the Mediterranean diet's not everyone, keto is not for everyone, intermittent fasting is just dumb—unless, you know, unless you are experiencing food scarcity and then, you know, of course, you're going to not eat for 12 hours, and then you have your little window of eating time or whatever. But you know, a lot of us try all these things that were just not made for us. And instead of listening to what someone else's is spouting on the newest Instagram trend of the newest juice cleanse or whatever, like, just listen to your body more and think, "Okay, do I feel bloated when I eat beans? Do I feel bloated when I eat dairy? Do I feel bloated when I eat this? Like, do I have diarrhea or gas? Or like, what is this food making you feel?" I realize I get real gassy and I get an upset tummy when I have dairy, so I try and reduce that. Like it's—if you stop—and stress is something that helps you hold weight too that is—prevents you from digesting properly, right? Because you're in fight or flight, you're not going to digest your nutrients and absorb them. So if you're stressing less about, "Oh I can't eat this, or I can't that," and you're just, you know, you're not being too hard on yourself, that's also going to benefit you because you're going to be more calm. So I like to go at it thinking of what can I add? What's something easy, just one thing at a time, to add to my routine, to add to my grocery list or when I go out dumpster diving, what's the ingredient I'm going to add—you know, add a new vegetable a week, or whatever, a new legume or bean or whatever to try if you need to color your plate, and then pay attention to what foods make you feel like crap.

    Margaret 26:57Okay, I like that idea of the adding and sort of—that's—it's one of those things that probably should have been obvious. But, I mean, I spend a a not tiny amount of time like—I mean, I do the same thing that I think a lot of people do where I kind of go through a, "Oh crap, I'm out of shape, I better go figure out what will suddenly make me better," and then get into it for about three weeks and then drop it. And so I've, clearly, I've read a lot of fitness blogs and diet blogs and things like that as a result. And I haven't run across that and it seems so obvious. One of the things, you brought up dumpster rain, and I was thinking about how I actually ate better back when I dumpster dove for more of my meals then when I stopped dumpstering. I stopped dumpstering personally because of anxiety, I have a lot of food anxiety issues. And—but then what would happen is I didn't have much money and it's really hard to prioritize greens, it's really hard to prioritize things with no caloric content to speak of, right? You know, when I—if I have $8 to spend at a restaurant or something like that, there's no way that I'm buying the $8 salad, I'm buying the $8 burrito, you know. And it's interesting because that habit stayed with me after I no longer have the same, like, financial issues. Yeah, it was only very recently that I was like, "I'm ordering a salad at a restaurant." And it was very, it was a—a whole new world.

    Dibs 28:27Delicious?

    Margaret 28:28No, it was—it was good but it was like I still have kind of this, like, yeah, but if I'm paying at a restaurant, I want to be stupidly full. Like I want to, I want to look at the last bite of food and be like, "Can I do it?" You know? And I don't know maybe that's just from, like, food insecurity. I'm not sure.

    Dibs 28:49I'm like the opposite. I'm like, "I'm paying for the salad. I must eat all of my vegetables. I have paid for it." But uh, yeah, no, I get what you mean about that habit and you want to you want to spend your money on what's going to make you feel the most full, which is totally fine. And, so hot tip to anyone who has minimal income to spend on food and wants to feel full: potatoes, white potatoes are the most satiating food on the planet. I'm sure you've seen [inaudible] this fact. Probably many times.

    Margaret 29:17I haven't. No, go ahead.

    Dibs 29:19Yeah, well, fun fact: most satiating food on the planet like per gram, what you put in your mouth is it fills you up more than anything else. So you're—I mean, they have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals in them but, you know, you want to mix it up. If you want to, like, if you find potatoes or buy potatoes, and then you find other green things like zucchini or asparagus or bell peppers, capsicums, whatever you want to call them. I call them capsicums. You North Americans very strange. "Peppers."

    Margaret 29:51I was thinking that your accent didn't sound very Canadian.

    Dibs 29:54Yes, I'm from Australia. I now live in Canada. Mysterious So, you know, you can mix that potato with other things and then hopefully it still comes out tasting like potato because obviously that's going to be the most tasty thing in your meal. But I like to just heat up a skillet, grate some potato, and then grate some other veggies on top. And then you've got this big mishmash of delicious, mushy—or crispy depending on how you cook it—vegetables to put in your facehole. And, you know, it's—so if you want something to feel full, like, don't feel—be ashamed of not eating that many green things, but have your base, you know, starchy carbs that's going to make you feel full like beans, or rice, or potatoes, or pasta, and then throw some green things on top. Like it doesn't occur to many people when they're making pasta to do more than just the pasta and the sauce, like, you can throw baby spinach leaves in your sauce or you can throw like chopped up asparagus or mushrooms or whatever other vegetable to like, fatten it up, you know, make it really chunky and more filling. And then you'll—the pasta won't sustain you for that long, but the vegetables will help you keep—stay feeling fuller for longer. So you want to eat things that are full of fiber, right, that's what's going to make you full. If you go to, like, a juice bar. And, you know, you order a tropical juice, whatever, they're going to put things through the juicer, they're going to remove the skin and you're basically getting like the sugar from three apples and a banana and a pineapple, half a pineapple, or whatever. And none of the fiber or the really good chunky nutrients that are gonna fill you up. If you actually eat—physically eat an apple and bite into it—you can't eat more than like one and a half, two apples max before you feel like you're gonna explode because you're super full. Because you're getting all the fiber and you're getting the gut, like the guts of it. You're getting the meaty part of the fruit. So it's—that's another hot tip is don't juice things, like, you want the skin you want the flesh, that's what's going to feel you—make you feel awful.

    Margaret 31:59Okay. Yeah, I like that. It seems like a lot of food stuff comes down to, like, eating simpler—like not eating like less things, but eating like—not like raw food, but like, closer to—like less, I dunno, less processed.

    Dibs 32:15Less processed. Yeah, I mean, I know it's not easy for everyone to find that, to do the, you know, no processing. Like, some people want to get a $2 burger from In and Out Burger or A&W or whatever because that's what they have access to and that's what's going to be their meal for the day and that's fine. But, like, if you—you know, dumpster diving, or you have a local grocer, or a local farm, veggie and fruit distributor down the road from you, and you want to spend a couple bucks, like, that's the best way to do it is, like the closer—the less stages from earth to you to your mouth the better, right? If it's fall off a tree, it's grown from the ground, it's come straight off an animal's back, like, eat it. Fantastic. It's going to fill you up and it's going to be cheaper than if you've gotten something that's been picked from a tree, put on a truck, gone into a factory, run on a conveyor belt four times, got put in packaging, got on another truck, and onto a shelf, and then into your hand. You're going to be paying more for it and you're going to be getting less nutritional benefit from the thing.

    Margaret 33:21Okay. So in the meals that you're describing, which are very similar to the meals that I eat, but they don't have a lot of protein in them, as far as I can tell. And I'm curious your take on the—you know, I ran across the idea that you're supposed to eat, what, half your body weight in protein every day or something? Well, not half your body weight...

    Dibs 33:41Yeah, there's a formula where you measure your body weight and then divide it by 2, and then there's—you times that by 0.8 grams, and that's the amount of protein that you—that is a minimum, quote/unquote, "minimum intake." And that's, you know, if you're like lifting weights, if you're trading. So obviously it's going to be different depending on your hormones, because estrogen and testosterone do affect us differently and how our body deals with proteins and how it synthesizes muscle and stuff like that. So it's going to change depending on your hormones, it's gonna change depending on your weight, how much weight is muscle, how much of your weight is fat, what exercise you're doing. So like, those calculators are sort of helpful for trainers as a base level so you can look at your client and—but then you have to put in all these other factors around that. So I'd say for the average person looking at that calculation, don't worry about it. We—there's so much protein—like I'm not advocating veganism, vegetarianism, or being carnivore or whatever, like, whatever you have access to, it's great. I've tried so many different diets, like, I've tried all those things. And right now I just eat what I can get my hands on and what's cheap. Um, because that's what works for me. But you can get, you know, there's so much protein in a handful of spinach or, like, you know, peanut butter or eggs—eggs or protein and fat. So if you just survive on eggs, like, I used to have a 5 egg omelet every morning. Like, if you can get your hands on meat, you don't need that much, like, I used to—when I was doing like that stupid "lose nine kilos in six weeks challenge" like, what we're eating every day was like 160 grams/180 grams of cooked meat. So like, one quarter has been removed, like 180 grams cooked meat and then 2 cups of veggies for 3 meals a day. And then, yeah, of course you're going to get thin because you're not like eating. And there was like no carbs. They were like, you have like a pinky-sized pile of mashed potato or whatever. Like that's, you know, of course you're gonna get skinny if you're not eating any carbs and you're and you're in a calorie deficit so. But you can survive on not much protein and you can also build muscle on not much protein. Like, there are so many vegan bodybuilders out there and vegan athletes. And you can—there are many sources of protein and I think we don't get taught enough about where our food comes from and what's in our food in school. You know, I think there was a video—a viral video that went around of kids being asked, you know, "Where does the potato come from? Or where does this not come from?" And they couldn't tell you whether it was a tree, the ground or, you know, they're like, "The shop? I don't know." So I think we—it's definitely important to learn more about food and what macronutrients are and what micronutrients are. So macros are your protein, fats, and carbs. Micronutrients are all the vitamins and minerals that are inside food as well. So it's important to learn about that and to know what you're getting from each different thing because you need, like, you know, life's all about balance. You want—and your body craves variety. That's why, you know, when you stop yourself silly with your main meal, your brain's, like, "Hey, you still got room for dessert." Because that's a different nutrient for your body to absorb, its sugar. So you've just filled yourself up with, you know, some vitamin A, some vitamin C, some carbohydrates, like blah, blah, blah, and then you body's like, "Hey, but you haven't had that sugary, milky thing over there." Like, that's why we can still eat something different when we feel so full, because your body knows that you need a variety of different nutrients to keep yourself going. And it sees the benefit in all of them. So, you know, eating as many different things as you can is always better than, "This is my one food that I eat every day all the time."

    Margaret 37:49Mmhmm. That's something that I'm very bad at and I have inherited been very bad at. At one point my dad who I don't think listens to this podcast, I'm not sure—went to the doctor and was like, "I don't feel good." And the doctor was like, "What do you eat?" My dad explained exactly what he eats. And the doctor said, "Every day?" My dad was like, "Yeah." You know, it was very carefully thought out thing. It wasn't like, he wasn't eating junk. You know?

    Dibs 38:12Yeah.

    Margaret 38:14And I have a similar habit that I have to fight the desire to just eat the same thing every day.

    Dibs 38:22Well, because it's easy, right? Like, that's why a lot of people do it. And I used to do it and a lot of people with anxiety do it too because it's something that you can control and you know it doesn't make your stomach upset, you know, you can be full on it. Yeah, do you, how many meals do you have a day?

    Margaret 38:40Two and a half?

    Dibs 38:43More in the afternoon? Or do you like wait a bit after you wake up?

    Margaret 38:48Yeah, I mean, okay, so—I eat a Builder Bar for breakfast or some other protein bar, which is another long standing habit of sloth, I guess. And then for lunch, you know—or sometimes a bowl of cereal or something. And then for lunch I'll eat—if I'm feeling fancy I'll cook like, you know, potatoes and some greens or something. But usually it'll be, I don't know, oatmeal or something like that for lunch.

    Dibs 39:19Yeah.

    Margaret 39:19And then dinner is like the meal that I'm like—I can't be fucked to cook. And the worst thing about—well can't be fun to cook for myself. Like I enjoy cooking with other people, but I have a very hard time convincing myself that like I'm worth the effort of, like, taking an hour out of my day, like, three times in one day.

    Dibs 39:41Yeah.

    Margaret 39:42Just to like eat food when there's this packaged thing that will make me not hungry that says it has all the things I need in it. And obviously this is sustainable for the long term. Oh...

    Dibs 39:56Well that's where, like—you know, speaking of long-term prepping, short-term prepping comes in handy. So like, you know, cooking more rice than you need and then having it in the fridge and then, you know, you can have rice as your side for the next three or four days with your dinner. Or when you make a big salad or you make a big tray of roasted vegetables in the oven, make enough so you have, you know, enough for your sides for the next three or four days. So that's something that you can do to help combat the time spent so then it's like, "Okay, this one day, I'll spend an hour or an hour and a half prepping and then tomorrow, the next day, the next day, I'm gonna thank myself because I'm gonna have to do is put it—warm it up somehow or a eat it cold." And it's done.

    Margaret 40:38That makes sense. But um, it's also a reason that I need to expand my solar bank to get a freezer.

    Dibs 40:45Yeah.

    Margaret 40:46At the moment, I have a very small fridge. And because it's winter, I don't even really successfully have a fridge because there's not enough solar power. So now I have a cooler on my porch, which is perfectly good for vegetables, but I don't know whether I would trust cooked rice to it.

    Dibs 41:04Not sure. Maybe, I've always wondered that because it doesn't get that cold in Australia. So I've come here and I'm like, "Wow, my outside is cold that my fridge. Do I need a fridge? Can I can I rent out my fridge in winter to someone else I just use outside for myself?"

    Margaret 41:19Yes, but then it's harder to keep it from freezing. The cooler on my porch is actually—at the moment it exists to keep my stuff from freezing, not to keep my stuff... Yeah, it's interesting.

    Dibs 41:29Yeah. But yeah, like it's—then it becomes hard because if you don't have storage space, or, you know, if you live with a bunch of roommates, it's hard to put put things in a fridge for yourself. But yeah, you just have to pick the thing that's small and easy to put in a little container and just pick one thing to prep that takes the longest time and then cook the other things the day of or whatever.

    Margaret 41:51No, that makes sense.

    Dibs 41:52Yeah.

    Margaret 41:53Um, so you talked about how hormones affect your body differently, right—or different hormones will affect bodies differently. And I was wondering if you could talk about that, because I think that a lot of people who are listening are trans or have other reasons why they take hormones or hormone blockers. And not all trans people take hormones, I actually personally don't take hormones. And I'm wondering if you could talk about how different hormonal systems affect your decisions about fitness and how to, how to work to the advantages of of any given hormonal system.

    Dibs 42:33Well, so I've also trained myself before I started testosterone, and I was training when I was on testosterone, and now I'm off it again. And so I've experienced what training is like with all the different hormones—hormonal combinations. So you know, testosterone will turn you into a furnace, and so you're burning calories a lot quicker then someone who runs on estrogen. Your—you build muscle a lot quicker as well. You know, lucky bastards. But, uh, so you need more food generally. So someone on testosterone is going to have a higher caloric intake to just maintain and it's going to be easier to put on muscle. But the actual training regime, or like the exercise selection, should be exactly the same. You shouldn't have any need to do a specific type of exercise or type of training because of your hormones. So a lot of—that's why I think it's such BS to put like gender on intake forms for gyms or trainers or whatever, because, like it actually doesn't affect the training that much. If you're giving someone nutritional advice, yes, you're going to need to know that. But for the exercise prescription, we can pretty much do the same thing depending on your time available and your energy levels, you're just maybe going to be lifting a different weight depending on how much experience or how much practice you put in. And, you know, I hate that standard barbells now, standard Olympic barbells, are categorized into the men's barbell and the women's barbell, because they have a 5 kilo difference—weight difference.

    Margaret 44:21Lord, just...

    Dibs 44:21If you'd—like it's so silly. If you've ever watched like, you know, a CrossFit competition, those women very strong, can probably lift more than a lot of cis men who don't work out. So like, really, strength depends on how much time you put into it. Like if you're someone that's lifting a lot, doesn't matter what hormonal makeup you have. Strength is about your body weight and, you know, how much practice you put in. So that's why like powerlifting competitions are broken up into weight classes because it's all about your power to weight ratio. It's not fair if you know a 300 pound person is lifting against a 500 pound person because they're gonna have just different power to weight ratios naturally no matter how much they practice. And so, as a, you know, as a trans person, and even as a cis person, you don't have to worry about what trainings for men and what training so women or what trainings people on testosterone or not. It is does affect, you know, the amount of calories you're burning at rest. And it'll affect your progress timeline a little bit. But you don't really have to take that into consideration when choosing your exercises. Like I always say, the perfect exercise is the one that you do, and the one that doesn't injure you. So if you're like, "Oh, I must do this specific type of training," but you're on the couch every day because you're dreading doing high intensity workout. Obviously, that's not the one for you, because you're sitting on your ass. If you're like, "F yeah! I'm gonna do boxing today because I love boxing, like, I'm gonna do some sparring or some shadow boxing," and you get up because that excites you, then that's the exercise that works for you. But yeah, like, hormones are really such a small player and, like, they choose—they decide where your body fat is, is the biggest thing that they do, right? So like, if you are a trans person not on hormones, and you want to make your chest look bigger, then you're going to just do exercises that workout your chest. If you want to make your ass look better, you're going to do exercises that target you butt. You cannot target where fat comes off your body. That's just not a thing we can decide as human beings, it just happens randomly, just depending on your genetics. But you can decide where you target the muscle growth because you do exercises for those muscles and the surrounding muscles—the surrounding like assisting muscles. Okay. Yeah, one time I was—before I came out as trans even to myself, but I, you know, it was maybe one of the first really obvious signs—I was doing weightlifting and I stopped because I started having veins in my arms.

    Margaret 47:07You know, like, muscle—like, in my, like, vein sticking out of my muscles or whatever. And I was like, "Oh, no, that is not an acceptable thing for me. I would definitely rather be a little bit weaker than have my veins popping out." So I just stopped weightlifting. Probably should have just start eating more fat maybe? I'm not sure. But it wasn't really the—I mean, okay, so that actually ties into something that I want to bring up is that—and I guess I've been kind of trying to—in the same way that obsessing about food can be really bad, ut does also seem like obsessing about fitness can be really bad. When I think about, personally, probably the time that I was physically healthiest was the time that I was mentally the least healthy, where I was incredibly obsessive about what I ate and about exercising, but it was absolutely obsessive. And I'm wondering if you have ideas about preventing fitness from being obsessive and like maybe, like, understanding like realistic goals or something? I don't quite know how to phrase what I'm trying to get at.

    Dibs 47:07Yeah. Well, that's a hard one. Because, you know, that's what happened to me and I don't know if there was any way to prevent it, but at some point you catch yourself and I think it's just one of those rock bottom moments where you're like, okay, yeah, this is a problem. I'm—you know, because I had the similar thing to you as when I was at my physical peak and I thought I was looking great and I was trading all the time, but I was obsessing over what I was eating. Like, I ended up going to hospital with a stress condition that affect my guts. And I had—I was at a festival over a New Year's and I missed the countdown, I missed the New Year's Eve party, because I was in like excruciating pain and couldn't get out of bed because I had, like, a gastro problem of like, cramping, like, all in my entire torso. It was like, terrible, because I was eating the wrong makeup of food and I was literally just stressed all the time because I was—it was—I was also working a really intense, demanding job which was in the gym. And so you have to have that moment where you're like, "Okay, cool. Well, you know, I've missed this socialization with my friends, or I'm not going to parties, or I'm, you know, I'm stressing about pre-packing food to a wedding because I don't know what they're going to serve." Like when you get to that point. Like, seriously, like, that's what I was doing. Like, I was, you know, you don't want to go out because you know there's going to be cake and someone's gonna offer you at the end and you're gonna have to deny it, like say no, like, you shouldn't get to that point. And that's when you know, things have gone too far. So like, I mean, it is really hard to avoid that but you need to just go into any sort of exercise routine or nutritional change thinking that—or knowing that it could be sustained thing, or maybe you're gonna try this and it's not going to be for you, and that's okay. And it's totally fine to not have fitness, you know, not have your life revolve around fitness. Because, like, I like to come at it as a holistic thing, like, fitness is not gonna work on its own. If you're smashing yourself in the gym six days a week, or you know, you're going for runs every day, or you're doing your home workout six, seven days a week, that itself is not going to help you holistically if you're then not sleeping because you're stressed, or you're not sleeping because your body is ruined because of all the work you're doing. You're not hydrated, you're not stretching, you're not—you just can't be calm because your heart rates always elevated because you're always moving or, you know, cooking or whatever, like, it has to be a holistic thing for your body to be working properly and for you to make it sustainable. So if—something's always going to give, you know, if you're sacrificing too much for this fitness lifestyle or this diet that you're following, it's not going to be sustainable. And then it's going to cause you problems in the long-term. So you want to think about, okay, well, I'm smashing all this protein powder and all these like supplements all the time. What about when your, like liver, it gives out later? Or what if, you know, you end up getting heart disease or you have a heart attack because you're always stressed? Like, you have to think about long-term, what's going to put the least amount of stress and strain on your body and your internal organs.

    Margaret 51:34Okay. Yeah, I've always found—it's funny, because I end up using like muscle building, for example, as an analogy when I think about different—the way that different systems work. About, you know, as far as I understand it, you need to like work out the muscle group until you damage it a little bit, but not a lot a bit?

    Dibs 51:52Yeah.

    Margaret 51:53You know, in order to trick your body into building it back stronger. And it seems like a lot of mental health stuff for me has been that way. Where like, you know, cognitive behavioral therapy, the behavioral aspects of it with like exposure therapy will be like, well expose yourself to the thing that makes you anxious, but not go overboard with it, right? Because if you go overboard with it, you just make it worse. And that's how exercise feels like, is like, you know, you could be like, "Oh, I need to get stronger." So you could damage yourself versus like, I don't know, it's an analogy I use for way too much of my life.

    Dibs 52:30I like it. No, it's good. Yeah, you need it—you need to challenge yourself a little bit, but not too much. Yes, I guess, that.

    Margaret 52:38So one of the things that I want to talk to you about because I think that—one of the things that I've run into a lot when I talk about, you know, the end of the world and fitness—and obviously, anyone who's listened to many episodes of podcast knows I'm not necessarily talking about, like, the nukes drop and everyone runs around in Mad Max cars or whatever. But actually, you know, I'd argue that we're dealing with a version of the apocalypse right now, in that it is the possible death throes of a system that has currently sustained some of us and not others of us. But a lot of people feel like anything that talks about like disaster preparation excludes them because of especially disability. And also, things around fitness I feel like tie into both disability and like size-ism. And I really want to like separate out the two because I don't believe that size is like a disability, you know, like being fat or whatever. But both of those things seem to come up a lot in fitness discussions. And I'm wondering if you have opinions about how to navigate this—how to navigate fitness from the perspective of someone who's been basically told fitness isn't for them or feels personally that fitness might not be for them.

    Dibs 53:53Yeah. Well, yeah. And that's something I'm really passionate about and I'm trying to get more into with the content that I'm putting out on my social media channels is to target those audiences who feel like, you know, the fitness industry is against them. But there is, you know, there's a tiny mini little fitness industry revolution happening right now. And there are certainly people in my in my circles who I follow who are fat trainers, who are trainers with disabilities, who are, you know—or who are then specifically targeting those minorities and saying like, "This is for you. This is your time, like you can do this, we can all do it together." And it's not that hard to change, you know, if you have a class of people of different abilities of different sizes, like it's not hard to accommodate those—that mix group as a trainer. And, you know, a lot of trainers—to be fair, like, these days, you know, a lot of degrees you just pay for, right? So it's not hard to be a personal trainer. There are so many people out there who are a fitness conditional, like, you know, it's—so a lot of them don't know, they don't have the ability, that haven't been taught, or they haven't tried to think for themselves, "How do I include these other types of people in my class." So then, you know, a few people from those memories have gone and gotten their certification and have been, you know, the role model for everyone else. So, I like to, yeah, say that I—my tagline for my businesses is "fitness for every body," as in every

  • Episode Notes

    The guest Walidah Imarisha can be found online at walidah.com. Her books referenced in this episode are Angels With Dirty Faces and Octavia's Brood, both published by AK Press.

    The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy and on instagram @margaretkilljoy. You can support her and this podcast through her patreon.

    Transcription:

    LLWD - 22 - Walidah on Envisioning the Future1:21:45SPEAKERSMargaret, Walidah Imarisha

    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 I'll be talking to an author and activist and poet and just a historian—I'll be talking to will Walidah Imarisha who is, just, I think is absolutely wonderful. And that'll probably come across way too much in this episode. But I'm talking to her because I'm interested in talking about—well, this week is a little bit of a departure from usual, instead of just talking about the end of all things, right, we'll be talking about envisioning better things. And we'll be talking about how important—how necessary it is—to be able to imagine better things in order to make those better things real. And so we'll be talking about the importance of fiction, but we'll also be talking about what it means to envision a world, say for example, without police and prisons and how we can move towards that. And, yeah, I'm just really excited for y'all to hear this episode. 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 daaa...

    Jingle Speaker 1 01:28Kite 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 01:39Behind the prison walls a message is called a kite—whispered words, a note passed hand to hand, a request submitted to the guards for medical care. Illicit or not, sending a cadence 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 1 01:55You can hear us on the Channel Zero Network and find out more at kitelineradio.noblogs.org

    Margaret 02:06Okay, so if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then like political or organizational affiliations that kind of concern what you're going to be talking about, or maybe like the books that you've written that are about what we're going to be talking about.

    Walidah 02:22My name is Walidah Imarisha, she and her pronouns. I am a writer and an educator. I have done a lot of work on science fiction and social change, culminating in co-editing Octavius Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. I've also written the creative nonfiction book Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption.

    Margaret 02:46Oh, the fact—I've been telling people for years that my favorite book against prison is Angels with Dirty Faces. And I actually have a really hard time reading nonfiction, which is kind of embarrassing because I'm an author. And the fact that you describe it as creative nonfiction really helps explain part of why. For anyone who hasn't read it yet Angels with Dirty Faces is like, um... it's talking about prisons, but it's talking about prisons from the point of view of, like, several specific people who are in prison and, well, your interactions with them. So the reason I have you on this, like, community and individual preparation podcast is—the important—I kind of want to talk to you about the importance of actually, like, envisioning something better. And because it's this kind of cliché that, like, we know what we're against, but do we know what we're for? And sometimes I kind of hate when people ask—I actually almost always hate when people ask that—because my argument is that if you're being hit with a baseball bat, you don't actually have to articulate what you would like society to be like without someone hitting you with a baseball bat before you can get someone to stop hitting you with a baseball bat. But yet at the same time I do personally want a much better society and I know that you've done this work also, yeah, with Octavius Brood, which is just labeled visionary fiction. Is that right?

    Walidah 04:13Yeah.

    Margaret 04:14Um, could you talk about visionary fiction? And could you talk about what draws you to that? And what draws you to painting better worlds and resistance?

    Walidah 04:24Sure. Yeah. I mean, I feel—I agree with you. And I think it's a, you know, it's yes/and. And so, I also think it's really important who's asking these questions, right? Are we asking these questions of each other or people from outside being like, "Well, what do you want then?" Like, I don't really owe you anything if you're coming with that tone. Um, you know, for me, "visionary fiction," I started using that term to refer to the intersection of science fiction or imaginative fiction, fantastical art, and social change. It's deeply steeped in, you know, radical organizing, in thinking and building liberated futures. It's not a utopian project, it's really more about how can we imagine the futures we want to figure out new ways to build them into existence. So we're never going to get to those perfect futures because as science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler said, we're not going to have a utopia until we have a few perfect humans and that seems unlikely. So we won't reach utopia. But I think the practice of utopia is the useful one. And really, I mean, that is what organizing is, is thinking about this world around us and how we actually want it to be and, you know, that's the foundation of Octavia's Brood, which I co edited with Adrienne Maree Brown. The premise is all organizing is science fiction. And we believe that anytime you imagine a world without the ills we fight against, without borders, without prisons without police, that is science fiction because we haven't seen that world. But we can't build what we can't imagine. And so Octavia's Brood is fantastical writing, visionary fiction, specifically written by organizers, activists, and change-makers, the folks who are, you know, in the world trying to make it a better place. And I think that intersection of imaginative spaces and social change is not just useful, but it's absolutely imperative for us to build something other than this world around us.

    Margaret 06:50No, that makes sense. I really like the quote that you just had of, we can't build what we can imagine. That—I don't know. I like that a lot. It ties into a lot of what I what I think about with my own writing. And so this is a weird tangent, but okay, so like, so you're saying it's not a utopian project, right, even though it's sort of in some ways about envisioning utopia. And utopia has this like really mixed reputation, right? And I think some of your work, you've talked about how Oregon was developed as a white utopia, for example. And, you know, I remember doing a talk—I think I've even said this on the podcast before, I'm not sure—I was doing a talk about A Country of Ghosts, an anarchist utopian novel that I wrote. And I was doing it at Táala Hooghan, an Indigenous info shop. And someone who was there was like, "Yeah, you know, that white people with utopian ideas destroyed everything, right?" And I was like, "Yeah, no, you're just right. I don't have a counter argument. Like, you're just correct." And so I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about that, about like the idea—maybe the difference between like utopia as a thing that you're specifically trying to create versus utopia as like a direction to walk or something like that? I don't know. I don't know how to phrase this.

    Walidah 08:21No, I think that's I think that's a really useful differentiation. I think the idea—the sort of arrogance and audacity to think that we could create a perfect society, I think is rooted in, you know, everything that is against what we are wanting to build. It's, you know, it does result in, you know, in these projects, I mean, you know, Adrienne often quotes Terry Marshall talking about, you know, that we are in an imagination battle, that we are living in someone else's—specifically as black people—living in other people's imaginations. And this is the result of that— of us, you know, the world being manifested through this white supremacist imagination. And I do think it's important to talk about utopias because, I mean, so much of the goal of white supremacist hetero patriarchal, you know, capitalism has been to create their vision of utopia and to, you know, impress upon it, and press it upon the rest of the world. And so I think it's important to talk about that as utopia because it complicates the notion of utopias you're talking about, but I do think the sort of thought exercise of utopia is useful. I often quote, Eduardo Galeano and his quote of saying, "What is the purpose of utopia then, it is to cause us to advance."

    Margaret 10:03Yeah.

    Walidah 10:05Yeah, I think if we frame it in that way it becomes incredibly useful. Because as a thought experiment, to me, it roots very much in, you know, in Ursula K LeGuin's The Dispossessed, the subtitle of which is "An Ambiguous Utopia." The foundation of that ideas is these folks think they have built the perfect, you know, anarchist society and then realize, you know, the liberation we want is not a destination. And if we ever think we have reached perfection, that is the very moment that we begin to replicate the very systems of dystopian domination that we fought and give our lives for. And so I think it's important to continually think of this as, you know, as a process and a practice rather than a destination. And to continually get to ask the question, "What is our ideal world?" knowing that we won't reach it, but we will continually not only better ourselves and society, but we will create space to reimagine what we consider to be utopia. I mean, we're all growing. I'm growing. We're all messing up every day. We're all learning how to do better every day, hopefully. And, you know, so to imagine that the destination that we set at some fixed point in the past is the destination we want to go to today is—it actually does a disservice to ourselves, because it stops us from being able to grow and to continue to imagine beyond what we're told as possible.

    Margaret 11:52Wait, I thought we were just following the blueprints that Bakunin laid out. Is that not? Like? Yeah, no, I really like that. I really like this idea of that—I mean, for me, it's one of the reasons why, you know, personally, I'm an anarchist but I'm—just in general anti authoritarianism appeals to me is because to me it's this, it's a little bit clear to say like, no, no, no, no, there's not a "perfect." There's not a like, a system that you create, and then enforce on everyone, you know? It's a—instead it's always gonna be messy, it's always gonna be this process.

    Walidah 12:31Yeah. I mean, it's rebelling against the tyranny even of our past selves really. Right? Like, the plan that I laid out for myself when I was 20, you know, is certainly not the plan, you know—And even if the destination of this—even if I'm heading the same way on the horizon, certainly the lessons that I've learned along the way have deeply impacted, shifted, and changed. And if I don't allow myself the space to do that, then I've locked myself into a moment that has then become just my life.

    Margaret 13:06Yeah.

    Walidah 13:07But we do that with our movements every day.

    Margaret 13:11I like this idea. So—because it's like, we need the plans. We just—to even think of it like in terms of the individual, like you were saying, like the plan of what you were going to do when you were 20. It's like, we always need to have these plans so that we can do anything, right, otherwise—like, if I didn't have an idea of like, what I want it to be and what I wanted to do, I wouldn't make any progress. But yeah, no, that makes sense to be able to, like completely readdress it at any point.

    Walidah 13:39Well and just recognize that, you know, I mean, that the world is so much larger than we imagined, that the sky seems vast. And one point on the horizon that seems like the end point, when we reach it we recognize, oh, there is a whole infinity of sky beyond that. So why would we just stop when we've reached that point if our goal was to just continue exploring and seeing and experiencing and doing as much as possible.

    Margaret 14:10That's so good. I like, I love all that shit so much. Okay, so why then fiction? Why choosing to express that specifically through fiction, as you all did with Octavius Brood?

    Walidah 14:31Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I think again, for me, visionary fiction is about creating possibilities and as many entry points. So, you know, I think fiction is one way to do it. I think you can do it in any genre and whatever messy intersections between genres, the infinite intersections of

  • Episode Notes

    The host Margaret Killjoy can be found on twitter @magpiekilljoy, instagram @margaretkilljoy, and on Patreon at patreon.com/margaretkilljoy.

    Transcript:

    1:16:39SPEAKERSMargaret, Petra

    Margaret 00:15Hello, 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. This week I'm talking to my friend Petra, who is a wilderness instructor, basically about camping, about sleeping bags and tents and tarps and how to stay warm and the fact that you need to keep your lithium batteries in your sleeping bag with you and things like that. From the context of, in case you needed to move over land in a hurry. And well, originally, I was going to interview her about both what to do in terms of when you have the right stuff to be prepared and what to do when you don't have the right stuff to be prepared. We actually ran out of time just talking about all the stuff to have in order to be prepared. So consider this the episode about going camping when you have time to gather the materials that you need, which is most of the time, right? You probably have that time right now while you're listening. Because there's one kind of interesting thing is that, as bad as things seem, they're probably always going to get worse, and like basically this is the time to get ready. This podcast is a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchist podcasts. And here's another podcast from the network, jingle?—Here's a jingle for another podcast on the network. For some reason, I can never get the nouns right in the order of the sentences when I say this particular part of the show. I... here's the jingle:

    Jingle Speaker 1 01:44Where did you get this?

    Jingle Speaker 2 01:45Your friendly neighborhood anarchist.

    Jingle Speaker 3 01:50More of an anarchist militant.

    Jingle Speaker 4 01:52People involved in social struggles, everybody else.

    Jingle Speaker 5 01:55People have been waiting for some content radio show.

    Jingle Speaker 6 01:58The Final Straw. Thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

    Jingle Speaker 7 02:01If you're listening, you are the resistance.

    Margaret 02:12Okay, my guest this week is Petra. And if you could introduce yourself with your name, your pronouns, and then maybe any political or organizational affiliations or just what you do for a living as relates to what we're going to be talking about on the show today?

    Petra 02:26Yeah, so my name is Petra LeBaron-Botts and I live in Portland, Oregon, my pronouns are she/her/hers. I try to not have any political affiliations, actually. I find that my politics, although pretty consistent in overarching theories are sort of constantly mutating in specifics. And so I find that, and have found over the past several years, that not having any political affiliation seems to serve me better. So it's also something that, you know, and every job I've had, we've been very discouraged in terms of talking about it. But I am a wilderness educator, I guess, in the most basic of terms, lead trips, and currently teach for a community college in Portland.

    Margaret 03:22Cool. Okay, so I guess the main thing that I kind of want to talk to you about is how to camp when you're prepared to camp—so the framing that I'm imagining this particular conversation in is, you know, I reached out to you in a rush in the middle of the night during the uprising when I was like, "What would I need if I suddenly needed to move over land?" Like if suddenly the American South became a dramatically inhospitable place and I, you know, there were militia checkpoints on the roads or whatever—whatever the reasoning would be, I was like, "What would I need to get out on foot?" And, you know, I've camped a bit my life, right, and I, you know, live off grid, but there's still a lot of stuff. Like I said—I think I specifically called you to be like, "What kind of camping pad do I actually need? And also, are poles actually worth it?" And because, you know, I did most of my more active outdoors-ing while I was a younger woman, and was a little bit more physically resilient to sleeping on the ground and stuff. And so, so yeah, I guess I wanted to talk to you. We'll get into some other stuff about what to do when you don't have what you need. But I wanted to talk to you about like, when you have what you need, how do you go about camping or thru-hiking? Like, what's some of the stuff?

    Petra 04:54Yeah, I think that in planning for trips and planning for camping, there's a lot of working backwards, sort of, where do I envision myself going? How far do I envision myself going? What sort of tolerance for misery do I know that I have or not have? And working backwards, therefore, what kind of gear do I need or what kind of gear can I jettison? So I don't know that there's like a really easy answer to that. I think that being prepared tends to look like knowing the weight of your gear, knowing the number of miles that you can travel with a full backpack—and a full backpack, I mean, that's a pretty broad term because they're full backpacks that are, you know, 20 pounds and full backpacks that are 80 pounds. So, you know, how much weight can I personally comfortably carry according to the number of miles I want to travel? So yeah, a lot of working backwards and a lot of sort of not having a strict formula to work with.

    Margaret 05:58How would you gauge that if you are like, let's say you are a modestly physically active person who does not make a habit of thru-hiking or, you know, overnight backpacking or anything like that? What—how would people start getting a sense of—or people have different levels of ability, you know, I was just going to start using myself as an example. But how would you start gauging how much weight you would consider carrying and how far you think that you would try to push yourself on a given day?

    Petra 06:34I think one of the important things is to get a baseline understanding for how far you can travel before you start to feel really miserable. So that might look like, you know, in your initial stages, especially if you're not used to, say, walking up a lot of hills, is going out with very minimal equipment, going out with a bunch of water and maybe, you know, a couple of extra clothing layers, and going and walking up, you know, maybe 1000 feet of elevation gain, you know, maybe over two or three miles and seeing how that feels to your body. You know, is that already pushing it or not. And then I think another great step to take is getting everything that you think you're going to need—so there are sort of infinite packing lists that you can find online for back country trips—sort of getting together everything that you think you need, putting it all in a backpack, and then just taking that on a walk for even just a couple miles around your neighborhood or the place where you live and start to see how that feels. Because a lot of people the—when that you make the jump from day hiking to overnight backpacking, it's a pretty steep learning curve. And I think people tend to underestimate how much things weigh and they also tend to overestimate how much weight they can carry before they start to feel really miserable. So if you tell the average person you know, you're going to have to carry, you know, 35 pounds of gear on your back. 35 pounds doesn't necessarily sound like a lot of weight. But as soon as you put it on and start to move at a, you know, reasonably fast hiking pace over several miles, that weight tends to add up really quickly and start to feel real heavy.

    Margaret 08:23Yeah, that makes sense. When I was, you know, when I was younger, and lived out of a backpack, I felt like people always started by putting like, kind of, as much weight as they could possibly have in their backpacks. And then would kind of like, like, people who are hitchhiking and hopping freight trains and stuff. And then would slowly kind of just slimming down and getting rid of everything extra and then actually would then move back up to being like, well, now I want bolt cutters or some other fucking stupid heavy thing. Because they kind of know what they do and don't need by that point. But okay, well, to start with like, kind of the basics from my point of view—and please correct me if I'm wrong—the one thing that I always considered indispensable was a sleeping bag. Like, I always felt like no matter what, like, my backpack could just be a damn sleeping bag. And now I wasn't in the wilderness. I was like, in cities, so things like getting water and food were like more available. But um, yeah, I don't know. You know, it's like, I don't want to turn the show into just like a—just gear talk, right? Like, what's the best sleeping bag and stuff like that. But I—sometimes some of the gear stuff is important. And I guess it's like, not necessarily like what's like the best top of the line sleeping bag, but what's like, what's a baseline that people would be looking for? And I know it has to do with environment, but...

    Petra 09:57Totally. Sort of a few—kind of a few big characteristics I guess, to look at: The first one is, you know, if you go to like Dick's Sporting Goods and you pull a backpack off one of the—or a sleeping bag off one of the shelves, it's probably going to be one of those rectangular synthetic sleeping bags. Or they might even have like a, you know, like a fleece lining on the inside of it. You definitely want to get away from those rectangular sleeping bags, and go for something that's a mummy fit sleeping bag. So that's the one that's, you know, tapered the feet to narrower down there and then it sort of flares out around where the shoulders and torso are. And you want to do that just because you want to minimize the amount of space that your body has to heat up. So in rectangular sleeping bags, you have a lot more dead space, a lot more airspace inside the sleeping bag, which means it's harder for your body to heat up all of that air. So you're just kind of wasting heat. So mummy cut or mummy fit sleeping bags are important to look at. And then sleeping bags are rated according to their survival temperature. Which is to say, when a sleeping bag has a listed, you know, temperature rating, you should be safe, you should not die, down to that temperature. One thing that's really important to remember is that that's not a comfort rating. And so one thing that I really encourage people to think about is, do you tend to sleep really cold? You know, are you always cold when you're sleeping? Or are you the kind of person who's, you know, waking up and sweating in the middle of the night. And that's going to make a difference in terms of, you know, what kind of temperature you might opt for. I would say, you know, if I were going to pick one sleeping bag that would, you know, get me through the vast majority of conditions all the time, I would say a 20 degree synthetic bag.

    Margaret 11:58Okay.

    Petra 11:5920 degrees is, you know, that'll keep you alive through, you know, most certainly Pacific Northwest weather, you know, not being in the mountains. And you can always add in, you know, like a liner or, you know, have a hot water bottle or some of those chemical heat packs to make it a little bit warmer. But that'll keep you alive and reasonably comfortable in a lot of conditions. And then I always recommend the synthetic. They are bulkier and they are heavy, but they'll also continue to insulate even when they're wet. Which down sleeping bags won't. and especially here in the Pacific Northwest, eight months of rain, that's eight months of potentially having a not insulating sleeping bag.

    Margaret 12:43Yeah, that's actually really interesting. I'm happy to hear that because I tend to recommend synthetic sleeping bags, but the reason that I do it—and this is just to my best knowledge—is that synthetic sleeping bags are happier compacted, like, all day long. As compared to down sleeping bags need to be stored, like, outside of their stuff sack. And, you know, most people don't do what I do, which is sleep in a sleeping bag every night. It's an old habit. Dies hard. I've like—it takes so many comforters to be warm in a bed but it just takes one 0 degree sleeping bag and you're fine. And, you know, but most people probably are going to be keeping their sleeping bags like packed away, right? And if it's going to be living in the bottom of your pack, then—is that true? That synthetic is happier compacted?

    Petra 13:38Yes, well I don't know if it's happier compacted it's just less miserable when it's compacted because, yeah, if you're storing a down sleeping bag compacted, you know, in a stuff sack you're going to end up with clumping feathers and you're going to end up with inconsistent distribution of the down and so it's—you know, you're going to have sort of spots that feel really cold and that, it doesn't take a terribly long time for a down sleeping bag to end up with that clumping if it's been stored compacted.

    Margaret 14:09Okay. Cool yeah, and synthetic sleeping bags also cheaper so that's also nice.

    Petra 14:16Also that.

    Margaret 14:17And I literally don't know how down—what geese are treated—I have no idea.

    Petra 14:24Yeah, you know, there's this certified cruelty0free down now and I think it's probably bullshit, so yeah.

    Margaret 14:32Yeah, that wouldn't surprise me.

    Petra 14:34No geese had to suffer for those synthetic sleeping bags.

    Margaret 14:37So one thing I learned about sleeping in sleeping bags only more recently, which is embarrassing because again, that's been about half my life now has been the primary thing that I sleep in. It's that the loft of the sleeping bag, the like puffiness of it, is so crucial to its warming value. And so I was learning that like you shouldn't put a blanket over a sleeping bag if you're trying to maximize the efficacy of a sleeping bag. Is that something you know much about?

    Petra 15:06I wish I could comment more on sort of the physics of it. But yes, I will say that one of the reasons for that—one reason that I do know—is that the way that—the reason that down or synthetic fill, you know, the reason that it's effective is because there's air trapped in between feathers or sort of in that synthetic fill. And your—that trapped air is being heated up by your body. So your body is not only heating up sort of the airspace inside of your sleeping bag, but also in the air that's contained in the fill.

    Margaret 15:43Yeah.

    Petra 15:43And so when you compress that you are reducing the amount of warm air that can be held close to your body. So it's ultimately just making it a little bit colder for you.

    Margaret 15:55Yeah, that makes sense. Do you know if the rating of—Oh, and another question that I get asked and I, I think I have an answer to but I'm not entirely certain is, there's a rumor that goes around that sleeping in a sleeping bag with clothes on reduces the efficacy of a sleeping bag.

    Petra 16:16It's kind of half true. It's totally fine to sleep in clothes. But kind of, you know, just like we've been talking about this trapped airspace, if you are wearing a ton of clothing, then the airspace—there's just this little tiny sort of layer of air right around you between sort of your body and your clothes that you're eating up. But it's preventing your body heat from fully radiating into the airspace inside the sleeping bag. And then to that, you know, down or synthetic fill. So you can—you know, I sleep in like wool long johns and like a long sleeve base layer. But, you know, often when people are cold they'll say, "Well, I'm just going to put on all of my clothing and wear it to bed and then it'll be even warmer," which is not true. The better way if you have a bunch of extra clothing and you are cold at night is actually just to take that clothing and ball it up and stuff it inside your sleeping bag with you. Because that's just, again, reducing the amount of airspace that your body needs to heat up in order to make the sleeping bag warm.

    Margaret 17:27Okay. Yeah, and I also kind of recommend to people—like it's just something that I learned from a long habit—is that you put the clothes that you want to wear the next day, if they fit, into your sleeping bag so that they're not freezing in the morning and your life is like slightly less miserable. And then a weird random thing I've learned in the sort of modern era: I learned a long time ago that modern electronics are not designed with squatters in mind. And lithium batteries are not happy when it's cold out.

    Petra 17:59Correct.

    Margaret 18:00And so I also put my phone in my sleeping bag at night so that the battery's dead in the morning, and may or may not have occasionally put an entire fucking laptop in my sleep for the same purpose.

    Petra 18:01Yeah. When I used to work for—I used to guide for a wilderness therapy program. And, you know, we had radios that we had to carry and bags full of medication. Another thing that's really good if people don't already know is if you carry epinephrine, epinephrine can freeze and once it freezes it loses its potency. So if you have like an epi pen or epinephrine that could go in your sleeping bag with you as well. So I used to have a sleeping bag full of like epi pens and radios and batteries and then my spare radio batteries. And so every time I would roll around at night you're like, "Clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk clunk," and all my shit just, like, rolling over my sleeping bag with me.

    Margaret 19:00Uh huh. Yeah, and then also a ceramic water filters are—you have to like drain them. You can't let them freeze or whatever.

    Petra 19:11Right, because if there's water in there and it freezes it expands and it can crack the filter.

    Margaret 19:16Yeah. And I haven't had that. I haven't, like, had that happen to me yet in my personal life, but my water filter is no longer a ceramic water filter, the one on my house.

    Petra 19:28Yeah, that's why I don't—you know, it's for your house so it's a little bit different, but that's why on my personal trips I don't carry a filter anymore. I don't ever filter.

    Margaret 19:37Oh, interesting. What do you do for drinking water?

    Petra 19:42I do chemical treatment instead. So—and chemical treatment can sort of run the gamut from really super incredibly cheap up to, you know, not expensive but definitely more expensive. I use Aqua Mira which basically creates chlorine. And I like Aqua Mira because there's relatively little aftertaste. And sometimes in the outdoors I have a hard time drinking enough water, especially when it's cold. And if it's cold and my water tastes like shit, I'm definitely not going to drink it. So I use Aqua Mira, but you can use bleach. Bleach is an incredibly effective and super cheap way of chemically treating your water.

    Margaret 20:27So you should just drink bleach if—if you drink bad water, and then you just drink some bleach?

    Petra 20:32Yeah, I hear that will also solve COVID-19 too. So yeah, it's the one-two punch.

    Margaret 20:38Okay, so—no, it's actually interesting about water filters. Because I've been putting little tiny vials of chemical treatment into, like, any kind of survival kit that I pack for anybody. But for me—and I keep one like in my, you know, my day pack that goes with me everywhere, or whatever, right? Because I really like light, cheap, useful things that just, like, don't take up any space and you can forget about them. And,—but then when I imagine, like, actually, camping, I've always ended up using, you know, like, I use the mini Sawyer, that was like, the ceramic filter that I used on my house when pandemic started because I, you know, wasn't leaving my house because there was a pandemic. And so I've always seen the ceramic filters as like kind of the step up from the chemical treatment. So that's interesting to hear that you prefer the chemical treatment.

    Petra 21:32they definitely make water tastes a lot better when you filter it. I just—I, you know, they're bulky and I just often don't want to take the time to filter water. So chemical filtration—you know, and let me say this—it really depends on where I'm going. You know, I used to work in southeastern Utah, and we largely—and Southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah—and our water sources are all cow ponds. So you know, imagine brown water that you cannot see through with floating mounds of cow shit in it.

    Margaret 22:08Oh, god.

    Petra 22:09I'm gonna filter that.

    Margaret 22:10Yeah.

    Petra 22:11Definitely filter that water. But for anything, you know, in most of the Pacific Northwest, up in the Cascades, the water—I mean, we're so lucky out here, the water is so great. So I don't bother filtering that and I just will do chemical treatment.

    Margaret 22:25Okay. And for anyone who's listening who is like, "But the water so natural, I want to just drink it." You ever had Giardia? I had it once.

    Petra 22:35I have and it's horrendous.

    Margaret 22:37Yeah. It's a real bad scene. And I kind of think it would murder you if it happened in a situation where you couldn't, you know, have access to ways to get food and water in you.

    Petra 22:53Yeah, that becomes a really dangerous situation, actually, especially if you're pretty far out. Because, I guess for anyone who doesn't know, the biggest symptom, biggest sign for Giardia is really terrible diarrhea. So vomiting and diarrhea. And so you're just losing so much fluid from your body. And that just very quickly becomes really dangerous and then you're not able to walk very far. So yeah, I highly recommend—please, please do something to make your water drinkable.

    Margaret 23:24Yeah. Yeah, it's like, we think we're in a more—when you're out in the woods you think you're in a more pure environment than you are. And I've seen so many times, like, forest defense camps, or, you know, kind of more hippie backpacker types or whatever, who just are like, "Oh, no, it's cool because we're so far away from civilization, you could just drink right out of the stream." And I've seen those people get very sick. And I've been sickened by someone who I chose to trust and drink her water. And it was a poor decision because it was unfiltered water. And yeah, I've never had an experience of my life where I had to shit and throw up at the same time.

    Petra 24:01At the same time. It's so incredible. It just comes out really aggressively.

    Margaret 24:06Yeah

    Petra 24:06From both ends.

    Margaret 24:07So anyway, water. Water. Take care of your water. Okay, so so back to sleeping. You know, because this is one of the things I called you about, right, is because imagining, okay, like—I've done some cold weather camping, but I haven't like, done a ton of it. Right? I you know, I grew up in a place that has four seasons, but winter is not six months long, you know. And so—and I used to just never fuck with sleeping pads. Like, again, I was usually in an urban environment so I just find a cardboard dumpster and get a ton of cardboard and sleep on it. Which is incredibly uncomfortable. And one of the reasons it's so uncomfortable is that if you sleep outside all the time, you kind of have to—maybe everyone's body is different about this, right? But like if I sleep on my side and I do don't have enough padding, I just I toss and turn all night, right, because the grounds too hard on my hips and so I can only sleep on my back or on my belly. But then that isn't warm enough when you're cold, right? If you're sleeping and it's slightly cold, you don't want to sleep on your back, like your body will just get mad at you for sleeping on your back. And so sleeping pads, someone invented this wonderful thing called portable mattresses that should have occurred to me much younger than they did. What kind of sleeping pad do you use or recommend?

    Petra 25:34Yeah, so sleeping bags come in—or sorry, sleeping pads come in two basic varieties, two basic overarching varieties. One is a closed cell and one's an inflatable or an open cell. So a closed cell sleeping pad is like the ubiquitous, you know, yellow accordion fold sleeping pad that looks like an egg crate that you've seen, probably, you know, everybody using. So that is, that's great if you are a person who generally doesn't have any trouble sleeping, regardless of where you are. I personally would never take just that. But I have a lot of trouble sleeping to begin with even when I'm, you know, at home in my own bed. And so that sort of becomes, you know, that trouble becomes, you know, exponentially worse when I'm in the back country. So I personally take—always, regardless of where I am, but especially in the cold—I take both. I take a foam—I take that accordion fold egg crate yellow foam sleeping pad, and I also take an inflatable one. And that is just extra comfort for me, which I really appreciate because, you know, especially in the context of, you know, being outdoors for my work, work tends to feel a lot easier and I tend to be a much nicer person if a reasonable amount of sleep the night before, especially when I'm in charge of people's well-being, you know, I try to be well rested. Um, the combination of the two is, I would say, really important in the cold. Foam, you know, closed cell sleeping pads, they'll give you some insulation from the cold ground, which is great, but they don't provide a lot of comfort, you know, it's basically kind of a step up from cardboard, right? It's not that much softer or thicker. And then using an inflatable one, that's going to give you the extra comfort but using an inflatable sleeping pad directly on cold ground, all you're going to end up with is that cold ground, cooling that air inside of the inflatable sleeping pad and it's going to—it's going to draw away your—it's going to try to basically draw away your body heat until your temperature, your body temperature, is the same as the temperature of that air. So if you use the two, you have the insulation from the ground, you're not cooling down that airspace inside the inflatable pad as quickly and you're just that much more comfortable overnight.

    Margaret 28:08Okay. Yeah, I actually I tried this for the first time after talking to you.

    Petra 28:13And?

    Margaret 28:14It was great. I had just finished—I managed to maybe get trapped in a blizzard in what I thought was early fall—well actually is was mid fall—because I confusingly decided that I should drive a loan through, what's that state that's really cold? North Dakota and Montana. I don't remember which one I got stuck in the blizzard in. It was a very long day. And so I slept in my car that day, which is not particularly comfortable. And then the night after, I was like, I'm going to just fucking camp, you know. I made it somewhere a little bit warmer. And yeah, it was really, it was really comfortable is one of the nicer sleeping out moments I've had.

    Petra 29:00Yes. That's so great. Yeah, it's—for me, you know, there are lots of places where people are willing to shave off ounces and gear that people are willing to leave behind. For me, the combination, I just, it's unmatched. The quality of sleep that I get, and the comfort that I get from the combination is so worth the extra weight to me.

    Margaret 29:24Yeah, when you're talking about being grouchy in the morning, right? Like, it's like one of these things that people like laugh about, like they're like, "Oh, yeah, haha, I'm like really unhappy." But like, I hadn't quite realized, you know, how important morale is, you know?

    Petra 29:41Oh my god. Yeah.

    Margaret 29:42Like, I actually think it's probably on a regular basis the difference between life or death is like, just like, some vague level of comfort in a bad situation. You know?

    Petra 29:55Totally. Oh, 100%. You know, in all of the really terrible situations that I've ever been in, yeah, I think the reason that all of them didn't end with severe injury or death was because of some kind of comfort, whether that's physical comfort or emotional comfort, but you know, doing whatever the hell you can to try to keep morale up.

    Margaret 30:16Yeah, I could really see myself like, um, you know, you know, one of those movies where you're like trapped under a boulder and waiting for rescue or whatever? I could definitely see myself just, like, pulling out Nintendo Switch and playing Skyrim until the battery dies. You know?

    Petra 30:32Yeah.

    Margaret 30:34Because, like, yeah, morale is so much more vital than I would have expected, you know? And I—it's that kind of macho attitude of like, you know, doing without anything or whatever, right? Okay, so what is—speaking of stuff that people bring and don't bring, like, what some of the bullshit? Like, okay, so you're clearly like, for example, not—certainly in terms of your sleeping arrangements you're more maximalist than some, you know, campers and backpackers, but what some of the stuff that people think they need, that they don't?

    Petra 31:19Um, you know, gosh, a lot? I—there are all sorts of things that I think fall into this, and it kind of depends on what people are hoping to do, or sort of what kind of trip they're trying to have. So, you know, there are all kinds of really fancy gadgets that you can get, you know, I think there's now like a back country french press that you can get and, you know, a back country pour overs so you can have your perfectly brewed cup of coffee. So there's stuff like that, but I also kind of don't hold that against people because I get it, like, you know, at some point you're willing to carry the extra weight for the things that matter the most to you. One thing though is excessive toiletries. Every time—and this happens all the time—people are always trying to bring full size sticks of deodorant. I just don't get it. Because I get that there's this, you know, we have a lot of sort of cultural norms around, you know, how you smell and what you smell like. But I never really understood that. I just think, you know, we're outdoors, just embrace the fact that you're going to stink and the more smelly items that you bring, the more attractive you are to bears. It's just one more thing you got to protect from bears at night. So there's that, you know, some people will bring full-on camping pillows that are really bulky and quite heavy. People bring chairs a lot. And I think, you know, if you have back issues then that's great, whatever, do your thing. A lot of that—there are a lot of stools and chairs that are being made now that are really pretty cool and don't weigh all that much. I'm trying to think of what else people really are attached to. People tend to bring more clothing than they need. It's been pretty—I've been pretty impressed actually, I haven't seen people bring a whole lot of really absurd stuff on the trips that I've led, which is pretty good after I think 600 days working outdoors now that I have.

    Margaret 33:30Yeah.

    Petra 33:32Yeah, that's a really disappointing answer. I'm sorry.

    Margaret 33:36No, no, it's okay. Cuz I mean, that's like, I was just saying that I'm gonna bring a Nintendo Switch, right? So like—and I, you know, the things that I most immediately think of are like, I think I've talked shit on wire saws before on the show. The like, sort of like, gadgets, the like, kind of like, "tactical cool," like...

    Petra 34:02Yeah.

    Margaret 34:03You know, like, I don't know, that's the kind of stuff that I when I think of—besides, I don't know, besides, yeah, too much clothing. People don't realize that when you just go camping, you just don't change your shirt which actually has some problems down the road eventually, but...

    Petra 34:18Eventually. Do you know what a Woodsman's Pal is?

    Margaret 34:22I do not.

    Petra 34:23It's like—Oh, I wish I could—it's kind of like a smaller machete.

    Margaret 34:28Mm hmm.

    Petra 34:30Well I guess machetes come in all come in all sorts of sizes. It's basically designed for chopping wood but also sort of shaving strips of wood for tender. People have tried to bring those and, you know, really, just a just a regular knife will do. I, you know, people trying to backpack with axes and hatchets and—I mean good for you but I would say, you know, A) you shouldn't be chopping anything off of trees and B) If a log is so big that you need to chop it down in order to burn it, it's probably just too big to begin with.

    Margaret 35:06Yeah, no, that makes sense. I, yeah, a hatchet has not made any kind of level of my cut. I could imagine situations where like a machete might be useful, but like, I'm pretty into the just, like, one fuck off knife, you know, one fixed blade knife. But I know a lot of people are into folding saws, like, again, this is kind of less like three-day trip kind of thing and more a little bit of like, you know, I'm off to go start my new life in the forest eating squirrels or whatever. Um, but I feel like I would bring a folding saw in a lot of environments like to cut wood with, but I don't know.

    Petra 35:53They work pretty well. I did I have a pretty limited lifespan.

    Margaret 35:57Oh, interesting.

    Petra 35:58At least for me, you know, I've found that with heavy use, you know, six months before that thing is really warped or not really working well or part of the handle breaks off.

    Margaret 36:10Mm hmm. Okay, what do you recommend? What do you use instead? Or do you just replace them every six months?

    Petra 36:18You know, I don't these days find a lot of occasions to really take a folding saw—doesn't really feel necessary for where I'd go or where I work. So I just sort of the one standalone fuck off knife. That really does it for me. Mm hmm.

    Margaret 36:34Yeah. I love my fuck off knife. I also—I made my fuck off knife. I like was living with a knife maker and I was like watching over their shoulder for a long time. And then I was like, "Can I make one now?"

    Petra 36:49That's awesome. Has it—have you managed to get it and keep it pretty sharp?

    Margaret 36:55I am not incredibly good at sharpening knives. This is uh—I'm glad—this is the skill set that I'm like, very embarrassed that I seem to lack. It's a very fine dexterous thing. I got it very sharp when I first did it, very carefully. And then since then, honestly, I don't really sharpen it. And it still does the stuff that I need a knife to do, which is like, cut open boxes and make people not fuck with me when I'm wearing a miniskirt and have a giant knife.

    Petra 37:28Yeah.

    Margaret 37:30So like, I really need to sharpen it. Like I—you know, it's like, I can't shave with it, right?

    Petra 37:38Right.

    Margaret 37:39And I've definitely had knives when I could—I could shave with this knife when I, you know, when it first came out of the sharpening or whatever. But I don't know, what kind of fuck off knife do you like?

    Petra 37:52I carry a Mora knife, which is a pretty—it's just a pretty standard knife. I don't know, I made a new handle for it, which I really like. Because it comes with like a shitty plastic handle, you know, and I wanted something that's wood. They're relatively easy to sharpen. And I say that as a person who really sucks at sharpening things. They're pretty easy to sharpen. It's a good size. I like it, because you can both cut things and, like, whittle with it pretty well. So it's not an enormous blade. But I found it to be a good sort of all-purpose knife.

    Margaret 38:29Okay, that's cool. So what do people forget to bring all the time? Like, what are some of the things where people are like, "Oh, gee, I—" you know, I don't know, you would know the answer to this. And I could conjecture, but I'll be wrong.

    Petra 38:45Yeah, I there kind of three things that come to mind. One is, you know, people are really great about packing a stove, but are way less good about packing lighters. So you know, because then just sort of, I don't know, becomes less obvious as something that you would need. So people will always, you know, they'll have their fuel bottles and they'll have their stoves but they won't actually check to make sure that they have a lighter. Always have a lighter, always. Another thing is—sort of broadly I'm going to say something to protect your skin. And sort of two different areas of that. One is people always forget sun protection like sunscreen which, you know, and a lot of people are like, "Oh, well, you know, I don't really, you know, I just tan really quickly or whatever." Being significantly sunburned in the back country on a long trip is so shitty, it's so terrible. So even if you know you have like a broad brimmed hat, I think having that sort of extra sunscreen on top of that is great. The other thing is, if you're going to be traveling on snow, you needs some really burly sunscreen or you need something with zinc oxide in it that creates like an actual physical barrier on your skin. Because the combination of the sunlight and the reflection of the sunlight off of the snow becomes really intense. And people, you know, I personally have repeatedly burned the inside of my nose, the roof of my mouth.

    Margaret 40:26Whoa, okay.

    Petra 40:26Like all of these places that are so bad to have a sunburn. And so—and for me at least, you know, sunscreen, most sunscreen won't cut it because I'm sweating all the time. And so for that, you know, like diaper rash cream, which is like basically pure zinc oxide, is really great. It sits on the skin, it doesn't rub in, you're going to look really silly because you've got this white junk all over your face. But it's an actual barrier and also, you know, it protects you a little bit from wind burn and all of this just is such an important thing just for comfort and longevity in the back country and I think people tend to overlook that. Because they sort of figure, you know, well, as long as it's not a debilitating burn, then I'll be fine.

    Margaret 41:13Okay, that is absolutely something that I regularly overlook, so.

    Petra 41:18Yeah.

    Margaret 41:19I can't imagine the inside of my nose burning.

    Petra 41:23Oh, it's so bad. And I don't—have you ever had a second degree sunburn?

    Margaret 41:27No.

    Petra 41:29So second degree sunburn. You know, a second degree burn is when you have the formation of blisters. And as soon as you have blisters anywhere on your body in the back country it's a chance for infection. You know, depending on how bad they are, you're losing fluid from your body. So I've had many a second degree sunburn on my face.

    Margaret 41:50That's a terrible.

    Petra 41:51And it's just not fun to walk around with your face leaking fluid through your blisters.

    Margaret 41:56That would make me never go outside again. I would be like—

    Petra 41:58I know. It's really terrible.

    Margaret 42:00There's a murder orb in the sky and it's trying to murder me. That's its job.

    Petra 42:05The cursed a day star.

    Margaret 42:06Yeah. Wow. Okay, so people forget sunscreen. Yeah, it's interesting. I've been running across the like—there's like a list of like The 10 Essentials and it's like 8 years old and I could not tell you it off the top of my head. But sun protection always seems to make the list of, like, the absolute bare essentials before going out into the woods. And it has never been an essential for me. And I—but I think that's because I'm not—I mean, you know, because I haven't pushed this. I don't do multi day thru-hikes and stuff, you know?

    Petra 42:44Yeah.

    Margaret 42:45So.

    Petra 42:47Um, you know, there's one other thing—you just got me thinking about The 10 Essentials—another thing that people tend to forget, or they overlook, or they just convince themselves that they don't need it, is an actual compass, versus just your phone map. You know, I think we can do we can do so much with our phones now. And we have all of these, you know, neat devices that we can carry, that people assume that if they have, you know, a GPS, then they're never going to be lost. But there are so many limitations, so many ways that that can go wrong. And so I think people forget and overlook the fact that you need to have a map and a compass, and you need to be able to know how to use them together.

    Margaret 43:31Okay. Yeah, I was thinking about campuses as like—I mean, it's funny because compasses also fall into the, like, realm of like, if I see a knife with a compass in the handle of it, I assume it's a garbage knife and a garbage compass and like—

    Petra 43:45Correct.

    Margaret 43:47So like a compass embedded into another object is like almost always a bad scene. It seems like it's not inherently wrong, right? But there's just—if it's gonna be a quality compass, it seems like it's gonna be standalone is that—?

    Petra 44:01The tough thing is, especially if you're trying to navigate over any kind of distance, you have to—so depending on where you are in the world, there's going to be a difference between where true north is in relation to you, and where the needle of your compass points to. So there's a difference between true north and magnetic north. And that difference can be up to like 40 degrees difference. So you can probably start to see, if you don't have the knowledge of the declination, that difference between true north and magnetic north, and if you don't have a compass that has sort of clear individually marked degrees, then you can end up 40 degrees off of where you're actually trying to travel to.

    Margaret 44:47Okay. One of the reasons that I pitch people carrying a compass even if they kind of either suck at navigating like I do—because I haven't done it since I was a boy scout, which, you know, was a long time ago—or who just have no idea about navigation, is it seems to me to be like a kind of useful thing. And maybe, I don't know, this is like my own conjecture, basically to be like, well, at least I'm walking the same goddamn way.

    Petra 45:14Yes.

    Margaret 45:14So like, that was always my like, "I should carry a compass so that if I'm lost, I'm at least fucking walk in the same direction."

    Petra 45:22Totally. Even if you don't know how to do anything with your compass, if you can walk and keep—basically keep the needle pointing towards the same degree marking or pointing in the same direction, then yeah, you're more or less walking a straight line. And you're going to do better at walking a straight line with that than if you had nothing.

    Margaret 45:43Okay. Cool. I'm glad to hear that this—one of the things that I realize is that a lot of like—the things that scare people off of prepping—one thing that scares people off of prepping is that, like, it's so gear-oriented that it like, seems like it's only for antisocial people with lots of money and storage space, which is obviously like, not true, right? Those people are actually less likely to be in bad situations than the rest of us. But then also, even after that, it can be very skill-oriented. And sometimes that takes time that we can't always dedicate to this stuff, right? Like, I want to learn navigation again, for real. I couldn't do it again, you know, and I learned it 25 years ago or something. But I would love to, right? But there's just also so much other shit that I would love to do. And like, it's really interesting to learn which things you could use whether or not you have some skill and like figure it out in the woods and which things that you, like, actually probably need to figure out ahead of time. And I'm wondering, because you were telling me before we started recording that what you do is um—well here, do you want to explain the difference between being a guide and an instructor? And then the reason I'm going to ask is because I want to ask if there's things that people assume that they will be able to do that they cannot do or vice versa, things that people assume they can't do that they can do.

    Petra 47:16Yeah, absolutely. So I guess in sort of pretty brief terms, guides—in the sort of traditional sense—wilderness guides are people who take paying clients out and sort of facilitate an outdoor experience for them. That could be a backpacking trip that could be, you know, you kind of see them—I associate them the most with climbing mountains, you know, you can pay a guide who will basically close the gap, the knowledge gap, right? Will take you, a person with no, you know, background or skill in climbing mountains, and get you to the top of a, you know, relatively technical peak, get you back down safely, and will sort of cook all of your meals as you go. So I—the reason I shied away from guiding is because I find that when people are paying a guide, you know, guides are not inexpensive, right? And so I think when people pay a guide they sort of expect, "Well, you know, you are going to set up my sleeping, or you're going to set up my tent, you're going to cook meals, you're going to do all the technical stuff so that I don't have to worry about it." Right, and I just really kind of hate that. I do—I knew that if I went into that, that I would become really jaded and really cynical and really antisocial. And so what I do instead, and what I've done ever since I got into working outdoors in 2011, is I've been an instructor. So I take people who want to learn the skills into the back country and we do some, you know—I used to work courses that were 30 days long. So we'll do some really long 30 day trip, or we'll do like a—you know, we'll climb a mountain or we'll go snow camping. And I'm there to teach people how to do it as they are kind of immersed in the situation. And I really love what I do just because I—because there's a curiosity, because people feel some responsibility for their own well-being, and it feels much more like we're sort of a functioning team versus, I don't know, like a mother duck and a bunch of ducklings.

    Margaret 49:37Okay. That's cool. Okay, so when you do that, what are the things that—like, what are some of the skills that people can pick up easier than they think they can? Or what are some of the skills that people like—you actually probably need to study ahead of time? Basically, like, almost, where can you cut corners in your preparation in terms of skills, and where do you really have to focus in?

    Petra 50:05I think most outdoor living things can be picked up on the fly, you know, you can learn how to cook over a backpacking stove and even make, you know, some pretty awesome meals. And you can figure it out sort of in the back country. You can figure out, you know, how to put up a tent, you can figure out how to, you know, keep yourself relatively comfortable during the day, you can figure out how to make a fire kind of on the fly. You know, that—there are definitely some tips that make it easier, but you know, that's not something that you need to, you know, study beforehand. The two things that I would say really do require some forethought or some planning or some training is navigation, right? A lot of people think that they know how to navigate with a map and compass, but when it comes down to it, they have no idea. And I see this again and again, even in the sort of people I've worked with. And the other thing is building shelter. So putting up a tent is one thing, but trying to create a shelter, even like a tarp shelter, has more kind of nuance than you might expect. Anybody can put up a tarp shelter that, you know, kind of looks like shit and definitely won't last the night, but it takes a little more planning to sort of get a really nice weatherproof tarp shelter. And then, you know, something that I teach people in the context of my job right now and also, you know, has personally saved my life in the past is snow shelters. Digging a snow shelter is not intuitive. It's not intuitive. It's not. There are a lot of things to think about that you might not immediately think about. And that's one thing where I do think that if people are going to be in a remote situation in the snow, you oughta know how to build a snow shelter.

    Margaret 52:06Okay, that's good to know. I have no idea—I mean, I have an idea of how to build snow shelter in that I've, like, seen some diagrams and some very nice books. But you know, I have always just had tents if I'm—well, I've mostly avoided the snow because I didn't need to not avoid the snow so I would just hitchhike south because it was cold. But so okay, in terms of what you can cut corners with and what you can't, what about with gear? Like, you know, there's so much stuff that's marketed to, like, as soon as anyone who's listening, this podcast starts googling any of this shit, your ads are gonna be full of like all kinds of garbage, right? And they're gonna be like, "If you're a real man you're gonna get this real man box. And once a month, we send you a man tool." And it's always, like, some random fucking bullshit and like—and a lot of the shits, like, really expensive, right? Like, I've definitely learned—but then some of it's so fucking cheap. And like my one example that I use personally all the time is that, like, I swear by $5 folding knives.

    Petra 53:15Oh, yeah.

    Margaret 53:16Like, I have a hard time envisioning what an $80 folding knife is for. Like, I just—like, maybe it would just last me the rest of my life but I'm not convinced by that.

    Petra 53:31Yeah, you know, I think for some of these companies you do pay a premium for a lifetime guarantee, which is pretty nice.

    Margaret 53:39Yeah.

    Petra 53:40But I'd say you know, it kind of depends on how much you envision using that particular thing. Like, yeah, I might spend $80 on a knife if this knife is exactly the kind of knife that I want and I use a knife all the time.

    Margaret 53:53Right.

    Petra 53:53But personally, I just—that's not really worth it to me.

    Margaret 53:57Right.

    Petra 53:58But I will say like, I don't know if you know the company Darn Tough that makes socks. They're from Vermont.

    Margaret 54:03No.

    Petra 54:04They have a lifetime warranty on all their socks.

    Margaret 54:07Whoa. Okay, so you—

    Petra 54:08I have tested this and it's a real thing. If you develop a hole in one of your socks, you can take a picture, you can send it to the company, and they will send you a new pair of socks. Lifetime warranty.

    Margaret 54:19Okay, that's cool.

    Petra 54:21Totally worth the extra money.

    Margaret 54:23Yeah. Okay. What about like tents and—like what gear—because so much of this gear is so fuck off expensive. And yet so much of it is also available. It's funny when you're talking about the ubiquitous camping mat. And I'm like, in my mind, the ubiquitous camping mat is a blue foam mat from Walmart.

    Petra 54:48Yeah.

    Margaret 54:50Which I think is just ready to—go ahead.

    Petra 54:52I was just gonna say maybe ubiquitous just in the circles that I've been in for a decade now.

    Margaret 54:57Yeah. I have an accordion fold one now cuz I'm a fancy bitch but like, yeah, I'm curious what—if you have any other ideas of like gear that you can and can't cut corners with.

    Petra 55:14Yeah, um, you know, tents are kind of a weird story. Like the sort of cheapest tent that you can buy at like a, you know, an army navy surplus store or like Walmart or anything like that—those tents will work for sure, you know, they might even hold up to some, you know, some high winds, relatively high winds or some hard rain. They're just much less durable, and they're much heavier. So I guess really any gear can work if you don't mind carrying the weight. Because a lot of those tents that you can find at, you know, at Walmart or, you know, any like sporting goods store, or those like sort of cheaper, more basic tents. They're like 6 pounds, 7 pounds. And you know, in comparison, you know, if you buy like a really fancy tent, you can get one that's, you know, under a pound. But that's like a $900 tent. And I don't know about you, I'm never gonna fucking buy at $900 tent.

    Margaret 56:21No.

    Petra 56:22No, so—

    Margaret 56:24If I did, it'd be one of those giant camp, like, army ones that you like put a wood burning stove in and then you, like, stand outside with spears.

    Petra 56:31Like, can I have my horses inside of it? If so, great. $900.

    Margaret 56:36Yeah.

    Petra 56:37Kidding, I don't have horses. But if I did, I'd want to fit them in there.

    Margaret 56:40Yeah. Okay. Anyway, sorry, you were saying...

    Petra 56:43Oh I just said, you know, you can make a whole lot of gear work.

    Margaret 56:46Yeah.

    Petra 56:47And it's just, you know, there are going to be trade offs just because the cheaper models are going to be a little less durable, they're going to be heavier, they're not going to just last you as long, they're not going to hold up as well to extreme weather. But if you don't intend on, you know, walking a ton of miles, or you're not going to be in really crazy weather. You know, that's fine. You can get by with a tent like that, you know, that's absolutely fine. And you know, now—there are a lot of websites that are springing up now that are discount gear sites and they are absolutely worth checking, you know, if you think that you want one of these lighter weight, more durable tents. There are lots of them that pop up on these discount gear sites for, you know, 50–60% off.

    Margaret 57:36Okay.

    Petra 57:36So the the cheaper gear that's still, you know, pretty high quality—it's definitely out there. It just takes some some searching.

    Margaret 57:45Okay. Yeah, I guess it maybe on some level a tent then ends up kind of similar to, like, what I say about helmets with a demonstration. Which is, like, the best helmet is the one that you're wearing, you know?

    Petra 57:55Yeah, absolutely.

    Margaret 57:56And so, yeah, it seems like maybe some stuff you can get the nicer of. I do like all the things that like the nicer one is like not actually quite as good, like a down sleeping bag. I mean, like down sleeping bags are really—I'm certain they're great for very specific situations, you know. But, and speaking of another one, the other thing that I called you anxious about was hiking poles, and I called you about hiking poles because I basically was like, I am not as—I mean, it's funny cuz I'm in some ways more fit than I used to be in that I work on physical things all the time because I have to fix my stupid house constantly. You know, but I'm just, like, 20 years older than I used to be—well actually I'm 37 years older than I used to be if you're counting far enough back. But, uh, you know, anyway, um... Now just think about how old I am, god dammit. So I called you basically being like, "Oh, I might need poles, like, it seems like if I'm going to be carrying a lot of weight or moving across treacherous terrain, these poles seemed like a good idea." And could you tell me what you think about trekking poles?

    Petra 59:07Yeah, I am 2,000% on Team Trekking Pole. I love them. And I basically never hike without them. And even if I'm not using them while hiking, I'm always carrying them with me. So actually this kind of relates back to your question about, you know, where you can cut corners. One thing that I totally failed to mention is that if you don't need a completely enclosed tent, there are great lightweight tarps out there that are really affordable, you know, especially for something that's so compatible and so lightweight. You know, you can buy a super ultra lightweight tarp for like $30 which is just a lot cheaper than your average tent which is, you know, going to run you at least like $100 up to, you know, $900. So, lightweight tarps are great option and a lot of those can be pitched between trekking poles.

    Margaret 1:00:04Okay.

    Petra 1:00:04So you don't have to carry, you know, special tent poles or anything like that. And, you know, speaking of, you know, things that sort of serve multiple functions, the trekking pole is the unsung hero because you can use it to put up your tent. You can—they're incredibly, incredibly helpful for taking weight off of your joints. So, going uphill, they take, you know, they give you sort of a little extra momentum going uphill. And on the downhill, especially if you're like me and you have really busted knees after a lot of years of treating them very badly.

    Margaret 1:00:39Uh, huh.

    Petra 1:00:40They take a ton of weight off of that. And if you tend to end hikes with sore knees, trekking poles might really significantly help you.

    Margaret 1:00:48Okay.

    Petra 1:00:49They're also, you know, I used to be a wilderness EMT. And my favorite part of becoming an EMT, or, you know, any sort of wilderness first, you know, medical first response is first aid arts and crafts—or learning how to splint a broken bone. When you split a broken bone, you know, you need something that's rigid, that's going to, you know—that you basically strap to that injured extremity so you can prevent it from moving around. And trekking poles are so great, especially if you get ones that are collapsible, because then you can custom, you know, you can adjust the length of them. So, you know, you can fully extend them if it's a broken leg, or you can make them really short if it's a broken arm. So they're really great for that. And there's also a really hilarious story about Andrew Skurka, who's like this really famous thru-hiker and backpacker, who had a grizzly bear running at him. And he threw his trekking pole at this bear, and the bear turns around and ran away while shitting himself.

    Margaret 1:01:59Damn.

    Petra 1:02:02Scared the shit out of this grizzly bear with this trekking pole. Which I just love the visual of that so much.

    Margaret 1:02:12Yeah, I um—I hope I am never in a situation where I ever have to consider this.

    Petra 1:02:18Me neither! So yeah, I think trekking poles are absolutely worth it.

    Margaret 1:02:25Okay. Yeah, when I was younger I would, like, seek adventure, you know? Being like, "Adventure. That's cool." And now I'm like, "No adventure is when bad stuff happens, that's what makes it adventure." I'm like, if I go hiking, and all I can say is like, "Man, that waterfall was amazing." You know, like, that's a better trip.

    Petra 1:02:46It's been great.

    Margaret 1:02:48Yeah. Okay, the one other gear question—I mean, I'm sure I could talk to you gear way longer than this. The one other thing that I wanted to ask you about because I've been trying to look into for my own work is—"work," work have been prepared.

    Petra 1:03:06It's work.

    Margaret 1:03:06Yeah, well especially now that I do this podcast. Um, do you carry an emergency radio of any kind?

    Petra 1:03:12I don't. But let me say that that is something that I feel really terrible about. And I—that's sort of my next gear purchase, is a radio. There are a bunch of different kinds. And they're—one of the reasons that I haven't gotten one yet is that this is one technology where it feels like—or sort of one back country technology—where it feels like the technology is improving so quickly, that I keep waiting because I don't know, you know, the next iteration is going to be able to like microwave a bag of popcorn for me while I'm out. But, you know, there's a spot, there's a personal locator beacon, there's the Garmin inReach, they're all of these different options. And they kind of differ in terms of, you know, some of them just allow you to alert, you know, search and rescue, and you know, sort of your designated emergency contact when there's an emergency. So basically just has like a big red panic button, more or less. And then there are ones that let you text people and receive texts, which is nice, especially if you need to—you know, one problem with, like, the big red panic button scenario is that you can't actually tell search and rescue what's going on. They can pinpoint your location, but they don't know if it's, you know, is this a heart attack? Is that a broken bone? Can you be evacuated on foot? Do you need a helicopter, all of that.

    Margaret 1:04:40Right.

    Petra 1:04:40And so it's nice to have the text capacity so you can say, you know, one patient, 30 years old, broken femur, need a helicopter.

    Margaret 1:04:53Yeah. I—it's funny because I worry about that kind of stuff. Mostly because my version of—well I mean I like camping and from a camping and backpacking point of view, those make a ton of sense. But if I'm, like, right wing militias have taken over the region that I live in and I would like to leave. I don't imagine carrying, like, anything that locates me being a positive to my my health and safety. But I'm—but I could imagine either wanting a radio that can transmit, or even just like the like, the little like portable shortwave and FM and weather and whatever, radios. I don't know. Have you messed with any of those at all, or?

    Petra 1:05:38Not a lot. No, I really haven't. I think it's a great idea, though, sort of, as you mentioned, you know, it all kind of depends on what function you specifically need. And I think having some kind of communication that is not reliant on cell service is is great, you know, and that is another one of the 10 Essentials, right, is some sort of emergency communication device. And, you know, our phones are great, but our phones also tend to not, you know, work terribly reliably. So yeah, I don't have any great words of advice with those particular things. But I do think that having something like that is critical.

    Margaret 1:06:18Okay. Well, you know, I had this whole section prepared of asking what to do when you don't have all the stuff with you that you want to have. But we're coming up on an hour already and I guess maybe this is a conversation mostly about how to, you know, the gear that you might want to bring with you when you're preparing rather than what to do when you're, you know, surviving with just a fuck off knife and whatever. Is there anything, like, anything that you want to bring up—last words of advice, things that you think the listeners should hear? Or that I should hear?

    Petra 1:07:00Not really, I think that I do—I guess there is one thing I want to say, which is just that there's a whole lot of material out there that's going to tell you, you know, what you should bring what you shouldn't bring. And I think that people really just figure out what works for you. Because it might be something you know, maybe a tarp, a lightweight, tarp, works great for you. And great, like, that's what you should take. Or maybe you are the kind of person who needs, you know, sleep is really difficult for you. And you need a little bit of extra luxury when it comes to your sleeping setup. And that's great. You know, have that. Because I think, as you, I think, so correctly pointed out, right, morale is so important. And if we—I think the outdoor community, right, we're obsessed with gear, but we're also really obsessed with like denial and denying ourselves comfort, right? Which is great in some situations, right? If you're a thru-hiker and you want to hike 50 miles a day, great, you're probably going to have to ditch a lot of gear.

    Margaret 1:08:06Oh God.

    Petra 1:08:06But for most of us, for most of us, we're not going to be traveling that kind of distance, and bring some things that make you feel comfortable because that is ultimately going to keep you safe, right, is if you've had enough sleep, you've had enough calories, you've had enough water. You know, if you chemically treat your water and you hate the way it tastes, and that makes you drink less water, bring a filter, you know, then it's really worth it. So I think for a lot of these things, just like test out different sleeping situations, try different methods of treating your water, figure out what kind of food you like when you're hiking because there are lots of things that I like when I'm hiking that I really don't like at all at home.

    Margaret 1:08:50Like what?

    Petra 1:08:50So you know, figure out what those things are.

    Margaret 1:08:53What are they for you?

    Petra 1:08:55I—so I'm like not a candy person at all. But Sour Patch Kids in the back country are like the greatest thing in the world. And also just, like, regular—I think now they call it—hopefully they have changed it away from calling it "Oriental" ramen, because who approved that?

    Margaret 1:09:15Yeah.

    Petra 1:09:16I think now they're calling it their soy sauce flavor. But the soy sauce ramen, I can't get enough of it in the back country, and instant mashed potatoes.

    Margaret 1:09:24Oh, okay.

    Petra 1:09:26Yeah.

    Margaret 1:09:27That's cool.

    Petra 1:09:28And especially when you mix the two of them together.

    Margaret 1:09:30Yeah. I'm trying to think of like, yeah, when we would do forest defense basically like as soon as the food supply runs would come, all of the sugar just gets eaten right away. And at some point, people developed a rule where only tree sitters are allowed to get candy just because like to get people to do tree sitting, right? You know, you like, you need something nice dude.

    Petra 1:09:57And it's funny because I have such a—I normally have such sweet tooth, but not in the back country. I am just like all salt all the time.

    Margaret 1:10:05Okay. This is because you're sweating more you think?

    Petra 1:10:09Yeah, I think so. I assume that that's what it is, and so my body just permanently craves sodium. But yeah, and—oh, and potato chips, even if they're like crushed all to hell, like, potato chips in the outdoors are so great and I never eat potato chips at home. So yeah, just figure out what you like and what you crave when you're outdoors.

    Margaret 1:10:31Yeah, that makes sense. And, you know, now you have a good excuse whoever's listening to go camping and go hiking and learn more about this stuff. You know, learn what you prefer. Oh, I wanted to ask you, are you a tent, bivy, or tarp sleeper?

    Petra 1:10:51Tarp if it's—if the weather's nice. Tent in sort of snow and alpine situations. I hate bivies. I hate them. Some people really like them. They're lightweight. They pack down really small. But I don't know if you've ever had an MRI before. An MRI is like my worst nightmare, right? Because your in this tube that you can't escape from and it makes a shit ton of noise and that's basically the same.

    Margaret 1:11:23Okay.

    Petra 1:11:24So I hate them. But what—my perfect shelter actually, which is something that I don't, doesn't really fit into any one category that you mentioned, is a pyramid tent, which is kind of like a cross between a tarp and a tent.

    Margaret 1:11:42I have no idea what this is.

    Petra 1:11:44Okay, look it up. It's my favorite shelter.

    Margaret 1:11:48Okay.

    Petra 1:11:49Absolute favorite shelter because it's really roomy, it's really small, and it's really light.

    Margaret 1:11:54Okay, cool. That sounds great. Yeah, I never fucked with tents, because my threat model was always not animals, or even necessarily weather, it was like people, right? Because I'm sleeping places that either I'm not supposed to be or I just don't want anyone to see me anyway because people are incredibly cruel to, you know, people who are sleeping places that they should—you know, that aren't in houses or whatever. And so I just never fucked with tents because I was like, "No, that's the way you get caught, right?" And so a bivy to me seems like the best of all worlds, right? But I've only slept in one once. I just finally got one. And you know, I always just slept like out with no shelter or under a tarp. And then—if it's gonna be raining—and then—but now I have a bivy. And I've only got to sleep with it once and I'm like, I don't know. I haven't figured it out yet. And I haven't slept in the rain with it yet. I think I might hate it in the rain. But I don't know. And that's the whole point of it.

    Petra 1:13:01Yeah, they're really miserable in the rain, at least in my experience, and in the wind. The other thing that I really don't like is you can't keep anything dry. Like, if you have gear—the thing I like about tense is, you know, if the weather's really miserable, you either have a vestibule created by your rain, you know, your rain fly that you could put your gear underneath, or you bring your gear into your shelter with you, With a baby, you're just shit out of luck, man. I hope the weather is not going to be bad because everything's going to be out in the elements and I find that whenever I sleep in a bivy, I wake up to like a totally soaked backpack.

    Margaret 1:13:40Even with like the cover over the backpack or whatever.

    Petra 1:13:45I use a—I don't use a rain fly or rain cover for my pack. I use a like a trash compactor bag inside it.

    Margaret 1:13:55Okay,

    Petra 1:13:56Which is way cheaper and way more durable, but then also just allows for the sleeping bag to get totally—or the backpack to get totally soaked.

    Margaret 1:14:04Cool. Yeah, nope. That actually, that makes sense about bivies. I'm so sad. Why did you killjoy my perfect solution to all problems? Well, now I have a new perfect solution, it's a pyramid tent.

    Petra 1:14:15I thought you liked the killjoy.

    Margaret 1:14:18Aaaaaaah I see. Yeah, it's almost like I took it as my last name. All right. Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all this knowledge. And, yeah, I hope that you're doing as well as you can, as things go wild in this world. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed the podcast, please tell people about it on various social media or even in person. Although right now it's not a good time to talk to people in person. You should avoid all people all the time, because no one should have a pod. If I don't get to have a pod, no one gets to have a pod, but you should tell people about the show. If you liked it. If you don't like it, you probably didn't make it this far. I don't know, unless you hate listen to podcasts. What a strange thing to do. You need to reconsider your life choices. If you want to support the podcast more directly, you can do so by supporting me on Patreon. My Patreon is patreon.com/margaretkilljoy. And I ostensibly put up a scene every month. But actually now I've been so focused on this podcast that I've fallen pretty far behind.