[Opening clip: I just want to get a megaphone, and yell to people entering the Mall "It isn't in there."]
That is Cecile Andrews - and she's right. Happiness is not in the shopping mall, never was.
I'm Alex Smith, this is Radio Ecoshock.
This program is loaded. You'll hear retail expert Howard Davidowitz. He's the shopping expert who says 200,000 American stores will close - and the great days of consumerism are dead. May they rest in peace.
Following that interview from New York, we go to France. Michelle Holdsworth is co-author of the new book "Globesity, A Planet Out of Control?" We explore the relationship between obesity and climate change. Can fat warm the world?
In the second half hour, 15 minutes from a new speech by Cecile Andrews. She brought us "Slow Is Beautiful". Her new book, perfect for tough times, is "Less Is More". It's all about the simplicity movement, and how simple human community saves lives.
I'll wrap up the program with a survival project: one day canning, how to eat better for half the cost.
I am so tired of trying to think positive about a planet-wrecking economy in shambles. The mainstream media is full of good news. Banks passed the fake stress test, even though they admit insolvency. Stocks are up as half a million more lose their jobs each month. It's all going great - unless you listen to Howard. Howard Davidowitz is old enough, and successful enough, to lay out the ugly truth about shopping. As a recreational sport, and a pass-time, it's over.
Just two weeks ago I attended a screening of the movie "Malls R Us", a film by Helene Klodawsky. It's a deep look into the intention of mall designs, the mystique of shopping. But it's a sick culture. General Growth Properties, the giant mall owner, just suffered the largest real estate bankruptcy in American history. There is a whole web site devoted to closing malls - deadmall.com. Even as acres of darkened malls spread over America, that icon of America is trying to spread over the world, past the Middle East into Asia.
One of the top advisors to American retail companies sees the writing on the mall wall: foreclosed. Let's go to Howard Davidowitz, chairman of his own very successful company, in New York.
[Davidowitz interview. This top retail advisor predicts 200,000 stores will close in America in the next year or two. He also warns the former American consumer lifestyle will never, ever, ever! return. I ask Mr. Davidowitz if, as an advisor to all these expanding malls and retailers - was HE part of the problem?]
GLOBESITY: A PLANET OUT OF CONTROL?
As night fell over Los Angeles, I pulled off the freeway to the nearest diner. Like all the freeway restaurants, there was nothing special about it.
It was dim inside, as my eyes adjusted to a horrible scene. Settling into my oversized captains chair, I was the freak. Without a lie, all the other diners were over 250 pounds!
Towering over me, the big waitress took my order. The arriving plate was wider than my shoulders, and laden with three meals in one. I felt so small, as yet another huge couple entered, the man easily 450 pounds, his companion a svelte 300. The waitress sneered when I asked for a take-out box, half my impossible dinner uneaten. These other folks left nothing on their super-sized plates. Monsters waddled toward washrooms, barely fitting through doors.
Later, in the parking lot, I understood the rise of Detroit's personal pickup trucks and SUV's. Two magnificent walri couples arrived at their four-door pickup truck. The driver, easily 500 pounds, and another huge woman, got in, and the vehicle tipped to one side. When their mates sunk down into the passenger side, the truck righted itself, though lower to the ground. These folks were never going to fit into a Toyota Prius. That's when I realized a connection between diet, the world-wide plunge into fat, and climate change.
For one thing, University of Illinois professor Sheldon H. Jacobson calculates it takes a billion more gallons of gas every year, just to carry all the extra weight of fat Americans. That's just the beginning. On May 8th, an article in the British medical journal Lancet calculated overweight and obese people increase greenhouse gases up to 18 percent, with reliance on motor transport, versus walking, and the agricultural gases from producing and shipping all that extra food.
It's certainly not just an American tragedy.
They call it globesity. A writer for the World Health Organization coined the term in 2001, for a rising epidemic of obesity around the globe. In Denmark, South Africa, China, India and the Philippines, people are bloated. There are now more overweight people, over a billion, than underfed or starving humans, estimated at 800 million. The global industrialized food system is producing a health overload. Fat is becoming a leading killer of humans across the planet.
We go to France now, to talk with the author of a new book from the scientific publisher Earthscan. Michelle Holdsworth is Associate Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Nottingham, UK. She is one of four authors behind the book "Globesity, A Planet Out of Control?"
THE SIMPLICITY MOVEMENT
This is Radio Ecoshock, with Alex Smith. As promised, we're going to look at real alternatives to Mall Life and globesity. One of our most downloaded speeches has been "Slow Is Beautiful" with Washington State's Cecile Andrews. It isn't just the slow food movement, but living slower and enjoying it more.
Now Andrews has a new book that is perfect for the present times: "Less Is More - Embracing Simplicity." Her speech in Vancouver May 11th, 2009 was just titled "Simplicity". It's a look at not just surviving, but thriving, with much less. Here is 15 minutes from Cecile Andrews.
[Cecile Andrews speech excerpt]
That was Cecile Andrews, speaking in Canada on May 11th, and recorded by Josh Rimer of VIP Video in Vancouver. Usually I get these speeches up on our web site for your quick download. Hold on my friend. Not so fast this time. Slow is beautiful - and we'll try and get more new Cecile Andrews on coming Radio Ecoshock shows.
I should mention who brought Andrews to town: it was organized by a non-profit called Genuine Progress Index Pacific, and funded by Coast Capital Savings Credit Union.
Meanwhile, we have some important rhubarb on the stove.
GETTING STARTED IN CANNING
Our next topic seems like a steep change. But it isn't. I'll outline how I canned 9 bottles of rhubarb last weekend. You'll learn how to get started.
Ensuring food for my family helps me cope with the frightening financial news. And I'm switching to a lower carbon food supply. It's cheaper too.
That's all part of my bigger claim: we need to put away food at harvest time. No one living in all centuries past could believe we even need to say this. Of course we harvest Nature's bounty when it comes.
Big city folk forget this basic survival trait within one or two generations. We depend on massive food webs, from oil-based industrial agriculture, transported by fossil fuels. Fresh vegetables and fruits arrive improbably in winter, loaded with chemicals. Meanwhile droughts, floods, new pests and fungi threaten food production. As the global financial and trading system collapses.
Maybe you should learn along with me, how to put food away.
Rhubarb is an easy way to start. These tart red stalks are among the first Spring crops.
They arrive about the same time as cheap bottles and canning equipment pop up in hardware stores, and Wal-Mart shelves. And when you see bulk stacks of bottles, that is the time to buy. Canning equipment is a little like fashion clothing. The Summer equipment arrives in Spring, and later in the season it's all gone, replaced by other stock.
I'm committed to learn the canning cycle, so I have more than a dozen cases of 12 1 liter, or one quart, bottles already stored away.
Don't make the mistake I did in choosing a cheap enamel canner. These are the dark, sometimes spotted, enamel canning kettles, that come with a lid and wire bottle rack, usually for less than $40 dollars. Last year, fearing the worst, I bought one for $23 in my favorite hardware store. Last weekend when I went to use it: useless. First of all, this canner could not sit flat on a burner on my electric stove. It was so wide, it either hit one of the stove rims (lifting it off the burner) - or tipped slightly even on the biggest element. That means uneven heat, or even a dangerous situation.
Worse, this alleged 5 quart canning kettle was not deep enough to allow a one liter or quart bottle to boil vigorously. The kettle is only 10 inches deep, and you need at least 12 inches deep, preferably 14, to prevent boiling water from splashing all over the stove. Measure the canner depth before you buy.
I still managed to use this canner though - as a pot to heat up the rhubarb. You'll need two or three big pots anyway.
The project was to get fresh-cut rhubarb, preferably organic, and can it the same day, to preserve all the vitamins and taste. That turns out to be an all-day into the evening deal.
I started with a visit to the first farmer's market to open this year, in the middle of May. The market opens at 8 am, and you have to be there well before 10 to get any decent produce. I bought organic rhubarb at $2 a pound at two different stalls, cleaning one of them out. That's in Canadian dollars, and half the price for non-organic rhubarb at Safeway, where it was $3.99 a pound. Already, I'm set to cut my food costs in half. And later in the winter, rhubarb will show up at Safeway from God-knows-where at $5.99 a pound, three times the price I paid. Plus, my food was grown locally, from a family operation, with much lower carbon costs for transportation.
Rhubarb is a good introduction to canning because it has entry level requirements. The fruit is so acidic that it requires less processing. No need for a pressure canner, the cheap enamel kind works. Since you will be adding sugar, the result keeps well in a fridge for well over a week, maybe two, even when you do open it. And it will be cooked, ready to eat in any emergency, or acting as a quick add-on for cereal when you are busy, busy. This is food that will not crowd out your freezer, and doesn't depend on electricity.
Wash the rhubarb, cut it into one inch pieces. I bought $43 worth - substantial investment - that was 21 pounds of raw rhubarb. It produced 9 and a half liters, maybe 9 quarts, of preserves ready for the winter. If you add in the costs of the bottles, and a little for your canner, that's maybe $6 dollars for a liter or quart. Not bad, as each bottle will provide topping for cereal or yogurt for three people for over a week. Rhubarb is also good for your digestion, as people in the Middle Ages knew well.
When doing a fairly large batch, you have to plan stove use carefully. First of all, you need clean, hot bottles and lids. I don't put my bottles in a dishwasher, even though my fancy Maytag has a "sanitize" option. In my experience, dishwashers wear away at tea cups. The machine may scratch the all important rim area of the bottle, or chip it, making the bottle dangerous to use. Hand wash in hot soapy water, rinse, and then heat the bottles in a big pot of hot water. If you want to sanitize them, bring to a boil for 5 minutes - but that isn't necessary when processing acidic fruit like rhubarb, peaches, or most berries. The bottle will be sanitized in the cooking phase anyway.
Once the rhubarb is chopped up - don't cook it yet! You add sugar - a little less than one half cup to 4 cups of rhubarb. That means you toss cut rhubarb into a measuring cup as you go, and then pour that into your big cooking pot. Keep track, so you'll know how much sugar to add. I use brown sugar. Mix the sugar and fruit together and let stand for 4 hours. Lots of water will come out, making a syrup to accompany the fruit.
The secret now is to have everything hot as it goes into the hot but not boiling water in your canner. The bottles should be hot in a pot of water. I heat up my lids and rings in a separate little pot, because you shouldn't boil the rubber on the lids. And my rhubarb is hot - in this case in two big pots, since it wouldn't fit in my undersized enamel canner, and still leave room to stir in the sugar. So I put another batch of rhubarb in a big kitchen pot. That makes four pots on a four burner stove, with no room to spare.
The hot fruit goes in hot jars, using a canning funnel, with a quick wipe of the rim, by a clean cloth or paper towel, add the lid, screw on the outer ring, and place in the canning kettle so it doesn't touch other jars. In my case, I used the cheap enamel kettle to heat the fruit, bringing the sugary mixture to a boil for just one minute only. Then turn down the heat. It will actually cook in the jars, during the canning process. Load up your jars and bring to a boil for 15 minutes, near Sea Level, maybe 18 minutes for high altitude folks.
I also own a big American Classic Pressure Canner, the 7 quart model. I bought it last winter, by scrimping and saving, foreseeing the coming need to be able to can anything, including vegetables, or even meat, - which unlike acidic fruits, need a pressure canner for sure. At $330, it was an expensive survival tool which should last a lifetime, as this design has no rubber seals to wear out. Highly recommended.
I used the deep Pressure Canner for the rhubarb, but just left the lid unclamped, because all I need is a boiling water bath for the jars. Note the Pressure Canner is plenty deep to allow a rolling boil, and it curves up from the stove at the edges, meaning it gets proper even heat on any stove. My model is advertised as a 7 quart canner, but for the life of me, I can't see how it could hold more than 6 bottles at a time. Maybe there is a taller thinner bottle out there. I used wide-mouth bottles for the rhubarb.
It took two rounds of canning to get 9 full bottles, and I was done by 8:30 that night. Don't forget, four hours of that day was just sitting around while the sugar worked into the fruit. It takes all night for the bottles to cool - and this is when the seal is really made. Put your hot bottles where they can sit undisturbed and totally untouched for 12 hours. Then check that the lids have pulled down, concave, which indicates a tight seal. I won't go into safety procedures now, you can check that on the Net.
The bottles need to be stored in the dark. Most people just put them back in the cardboard box they came in, and then in a cool, dark place as available. This rhubarb will still be great to eat 10 months from now, and may keep up to two or three years, with some decline in taste. The idea is to eat it every year, and replace with fresh stock when that comes in.
That was my trial run, before I go the farms to buy a few bushels of fresh fruit and vegetable this Summer. In fact, I look at this whole year as a trial run, for learning basic survival tactics. It looks like our so-called normal economy will continue, for the employed at least, for another year, maybe. After that, the wheels may come off. Then smart adapters will be using homesteading tools like canning, wherever we live, just to ensure food for the coming year.
But even if a miracle saves the banks, shipping, and shopping malls, you and I can still get fresher, better food, at half the cost or less, buying in bulk, as each crop arrives.
Happy food storage helps me relax in scary times. I'm Alex, and this is Radio Ecoshock. Download this free mp3 anytime from our survival page, at ecoshock dot org.
Join us next week, as we learn about food storage for the faint of heart, from edible landscape expert Robin Wheeler.
Thanks for listening. No doubt, we'll survive this mess together.