industrial civilization

A Year of Autonomous Eating - Rob Greenfield

Photo: Rob Greenfield via

Photo: Rob Greenfield via

People have a hard time wrapping their head around the idea of growing and foraging 100 percent of my food…There are zero exceptions: my salt; my oil; no grocery stores; no restaurants; no taking a nibble at a party; no gifts of food from others; no going to someone else’s garden and eating from their garden; literally growing and foraging 100 percent of the food.
— Rob Greenfield

This week’s guest is adventurer and environmental activist Rob Greenfield, whose societal-boundary-pushing projects have ranged from biking across the United States on a bamboo bicycle for sustainability (three times); to dumpster diving in thousands of grocery store dumpsters to raise awareness about food waste and hunger; to wearing 30 days’ of trash to create a visual of how much trash one American creates. Here, we focus on Rob’s latest extreme endeavor: Growing and foraging 100 percent of his food for One. Entire. Year.

From his 100-square-foot tiny home in Orlando, Florida (hand-built from 99 percent salvaged materials, natch), Rob shares the eating hows and whats of his aptly named Food Freedom project (think harvested salt and golf-course-foraged giant yams; oh, he also grows his own toilet paper). But with no shortage of self-reflection, Rob also digs deeper: into his own impoverished upbringing, the unintended consequences of living with no car or bank account or bills, and finding his true purpose in a life both inside and outside industrial capitalist society. 

Some of what we talk about:

  • What’s behind all the 1s: The launch of Food Freedom on 11/11 and Rob’s 111 possessions

  • The plan to grow and forage 100 percent of his food for one year; building his 100-square-foot tiny house in Orlando (and why Orlando?)

  • Staple crops, salt from scratch and the 160-pound yam 

  • How to make coconut oil; North America’s yerba mate

  • The 11 months of prep that went into the project 

  • Rob’s philosophy on foraging and pesticides

  • A sampling of the 300-500 foods Rob will be eating for the next 12 months 

  • Taking inspiration from subsistence cultures  

  • The paradox of Rob’s impoverished childhood: “We were consumers. My mom was a consumer; I was a consumer.” 

  • His awakening to “not living a delusional life”

  • What it’s like to live with no credit cards, no bank account, no driver’s license, no car, no bills and no taxes 

  • Consumerism and mortality 

  • Rob’s vision for the future 

You can follow Rob’s year of Food Freedom on his website, along with on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan.

Resources from the show:

Orlando Permaculture
Berkey water filter
Rob’s post: On Health Insurance, Age and Death
Rob’s post: My Net Worth Is
Rob’s TED talk: Be the Change in a Messed Up World

The Disappearing Darkness - John Barentine

Photo of Bonito Park (top) in Flagstaff, Arizona, by Deborah Lee Soltesz. Credit: Coconino National Forest, U.S. Forest Service. Bonito Park is just west of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, an IDA-designated Dark Sky Place.

Photo of Bonito Park (top) in Flagstaff, Arizona, by Deborah Lee Soltesz. Credit: Coconino National Forest, U.S. Forest Service. Bonito Park is just west of Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, an IDA-designated Dark Sky Place.

We are fundamentally transforming the nighttime environment in the world in a way that is utterly unlike anything that the world has ever seen in the past.
— John Barentine

Sometimes when I’m up at night thinking about the inexorable alteration of the human existence since my own childhood and in the mere 150 years since America’s Industrial Revolution (yup, this is my brain not on drugs), what haunts me most is this: My two little girls -- and entire generations of human beings -- are now growing up without seeing the stars.

And it’s not only megacity-dwelling people like us: Because of the ceaseless lights of our cities, suburbs and their surrounds, an astounding 80 percent of the world now lives under perpetual skyglow. In fact, two-thirds of Americans have lost the ability to see the Milky Way, and an unfathomable 99 percent of people (not to mention animals and plants) living in the United States and Europe will never experience the circadian rhythms of true darkness and natural light.

Not surprisingly, there is a growing body of evidence on how our disconnection from the darkness may be profoundly impacting human health, not to mention its link to our modern-day epidemic of cancer and chronic disease. But I have bigger questions: What does it mean to the human existence, to our human souls, that we can no longer see and therefore dream about the heavens; that we no longer look up at the night sky and innately recognize our millions-year-old relationship with the universe?

These were some of the topics at hand in my fascinating conversation for today’s episode with John Barentine, an astronomer who’s made it his mission to bring back the natural night sky in his work with the International Dark-Sky Association. John has had a remarkable career as an astronomer (a former researcher at NOAO and the NSO, as well as a former staff member at Apache Point), author and science communicator -- the last of which is apparent when you listen to John so eloquently deconstruct and discuss this epic topic, as well as inspire us on how to take action on light pollution and change our children’s literal vision of the future. 

Here’s what we talked about:

  • Recent natural disasters, and witnessing true darkness in their aftermath: “What was the mysterious glowing cloud in the night sky?”

  • The disconnect between humanity and our access to the night sky

  • Why the industrialized world isn’t talking more about light pollution

  • The history behind the International Dark-Sky Association

  • Limiting artificial light at night: Light for its own sake versus light for specific tasks

  • Light pollution, explained: What we’re facing on a local and global scale

  • What the world was like before the advent of electricity a mere 120 years ago: “All life on earth evolved in those conditions”

  • The impact of artificial light (and nighttime darkness) on human biology

  • The ancient history of the circadian rhythm

  • The connection to chronic disease, mental illness and epigenetic changes

  • Pre-agricultural societies and our relationship to the night sky throughout human history

  • Dark-sky awareness in John’s city of Tucson, Arizona

  • How outdoor lighting policy changes can bring back the night sky

  • The truth about lighting, crime and safety

  • Making the case to take action on light pollution and the single most effective thing you can do to help

  • More resources to help you take action

  • The International Dark Sky Places program, dark sky tourism and how to become an International Dark Sky Community

  • What it’s like to live with a natural level of darkness, and where to go to truly see the night sky

  • The challenge of the developing world and John’s hope for the future

  • The story behind John’s books The Lost Constellations and Uncharted Constellations

You can learn more about John’s work and the urgent issue of light pollution (along with how you can take action) on the International Dark-Sky Association website, as well as follow IDA’s work on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. John’s personal website is at and he himself has a terrific Twitter account; you can connect with him @JohnBarentine.  

John's books:

If you enjoyed this show, subscribe on iTunes so you don’t miss the next one (and don’t forget to leave a rating and review). The theme music is by Paul Damian Hogan. Want to chime in on this episode or have an idea for a future show? Connect with me via my Instagram page, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Resources / further reading:

IDA film: Losing the Dark
National Geographic: “Light Pollution
Gizmodo: “Streetlights Don’t Actually Prevent Crime
Curbed: “How dark sky communities fight light pollution
LA Times: “Light pollution prevents 1 in 3 Americans from seeing the Milky Way at night
The New Yorker: “The Dark Side
FiveThirtyEight: “The Darkest Town in America
National Park Service: “What Happened to the Night Sky?”
The new world atlas of artificial sky brightness
Blue Marble Navigator – Night Lights 2012
Undisturbed Places – a time-lapse film by Maciej Tomków