Our Right to be Outside: Three Mules

“You spot a somewhat disheveled man with three fully loaded pack mules walking though your community. What the … ?

This strange and, to many, awe-inspiring sight has been experienced by thousands of people in small towns and large cities throughout the western United States. But who is he and what is he doing? Is he lost in the wrong century? Is he homeless? Is he on a mission?

mulesThe Mules (as he refers to himself and the animals collectively) have traveled for nearly three decades through 16 states. For the last ten years they have lived outdoors. Even though he may not talk much when one first meets him, if the time and place are right, Mule will share something that he feels we should all be thinking about.

Throughout their travels, the Mules have noticed an ever increasing urban sprawl. Open spaces where they once moved through freely, and sometimes spent the night in a secluded spot, were disappearing. More and more cars filled up the roadways, and the expanding urban infrastructure seemed to serve one purpose: accommodate more automobiles.

At the same time, space for other means of self- transportation, such as bicycling, horseback riding and simply walking, were shrinking. Those alternative means of self-travel have often been confined to designated “recreation” areas. Also, as the urban environment exploded, natural habitats have vanished, or been “preserved” in spaces a fraction of the size they once were.
Mule sums it all up: “The space needed by The Mules to travel this country freely in all four directions on the landscape is being taken over by the suburban model of automobile usage, exclusively, and leaving no space for alternative venues of moving and living. In our travels, we carry that awareness and bring it to others. We’re a working model for that awareness, one step at a time, all day, every day.””

Quoted from 3 mules, via LLoyd’s blog.

Celebrating the Luddite Uprisings

celebrating the luddite uprisings

“November 2011 – January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings, in which artisan cloth workers smashed machines which were destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into unemployment and destitution. Today, the industrial system that the Luddites were rebelling against has led to climate change and huge losses of biodiversity, and its new technologies, such as information technology, genetic engineering and nanotechnology raise equally profound issues. Yet anyone who raises concern about the price and side-effects of new technologies is harshly condemned as a ‘luddite’, someone supposedly irrationally opposed to technology and progress.”

“In fact, the Luddites were not ‘luddites’ in that sense: the idea that they were opposed to all technology is a history written by the victors. In fact the Luddites opposed only technology ‘hurtful to Commonality’, ie. to the common good, rather than the narrow interests of the few. They destroyed some machines whilst leaving alone others in the same workshop. So being a luddite today means being a sceptic about the dogma of technology as progress, not about denying the real benefits of some technologies. It means insisting that the crucial decisions about which technologies are developed are made democratically, not just imposed by corporations and technocratic elites. And it means standing up for our own ideas of what progress really is.”

Help celebrate 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprising: Luddites at 200 website. See also: “Lessons of the Luddites“.

What’s the Amish community’s stance on cars?

“To the extent that you are mobile in an automated or motorized way with something like a car or motorcycle or fast moving tractor, you’ve increased your radius of contact with other human beings, but at the same time you dilute the quality of contact within that radius.

So you can have more contact with a lot more people, but the quality of your relationships with those people, especially the people who are your immediate neighbors, is diluted. You don’t rely on them as much. It really drastically undermines the community.

The Beachy Amish — that’s a sect within the Amish — they decided to adopt cars. Then most of the young people left the group because they got exposed to the rest of the society and — poof! — they’re gone.”

Read more: Despite horses and buggies, Amish aren’t necessarily ‘low-tech’.

Where no one would believe someone could live

Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu” is a documentary about Jenny Endresen, an American woman who started a new, extremely low-tech life in an inhospitable part of Norway. It’s not my idea of a low-tech life (I would dress differently, for one thing) but there are some interesting things to see and to hear. Voiceover and questions are in Norwegian, but the woman answers in English. Hat tip to Cristiano Sandels Navarro.