Taking The Next Step: Choosing Belize or Guatemala

Download Feb 2012 175If you are concerned by the changes taking place with climate chaos, global economy, and peak resource depletion, and want to take active steps to prepare, you may be interested in The Next Step Seminar, which Dr. Guy McPherson and others will facilitate in Belize on May 24-31, 2014, and in Guatemala on June 12-25, 2014.

Both seminars will delve into the Core Human Needs and how to provide for them without relying on industrial inputs.

While both seminar locations will provide you an in-depth exploration of the Core Human Needs and how you can prepare to meet them with increasing independence from the industrial economy, there are a few differences between the two seminar locations and how we will explore the topics of the seminar in each location.

The Next Step Seminar in Guatemala

Frutas del Mundo in Guatemala is an off-grid agroforestry education center and wholesale nursery. Its guesthouse provides the basics (a warm, safe place for you and your things, bed, toilet, shower, clean water) with no frills. There is limited power to charge phones, cameras, and the like. In Guatemala, you can expect to do a lot of walking on uneven natural surfaces. In Guatemala, you’ll be staying in a quad-occupancy dorm room or an open loft space in the guesthouse where you will take a hammock or a foam mat on the wooden floor (or a tent, if you prefer to bring one), where the cold-water shower (usually refreshing in the warm tropical weather) and two composting toilets are shared among all the attendees. Meals in Guatemala will be prepared in a local home kitchen by local cooks with experience preparing meals for seminar groups like ours.

Frutas del Mundo is beautiful, remote, rough-and-ready, and entirely focused on the provision of agroforestry education and off-grid food, mainly in the form of fruit trees, solar-dried fruit, noni juice, and live fish raised via aquiculture.

The Guatemala seminar will NOT have Internet access — unless you wish to create your own hotspot via a 3G-equipped smartphone, obtain a local SIM card, and keep trying to connect until you are able to pull in the spotty, variable 3G signal on the farm.

The folks at Frutas del Mundo are very friendly. Everyone besides your bilingual facilitators Dwight, John and Parama speaks only Spanish.

The Next Step Seminar in Belize

The accommodations at Cotton Tree Lodge in Belize are a bit more plush than those at Frutas del Mundo, Guatemala. You’ll share your lodging in Belize with only one or two other people, as opposed to three or more in Guatemala.  You will sleep in a real bed in a furnished room, which is among the available options in Guatemala, along with sleeping in a hammock, on a foam pad on the wooden floor, or in your own tent. And, you and your roommates will have your own bathroom with with hot and cold running water. The dining room is large and inviting with fairly reliable Internet access. The seminar in Belize offers more personal privacy during non-activity hours and more access to amenities, including Internet access.

Cotton Tree Lodge is beautiful, remote, polished and comfortable. The Cotton Tree Lodge, which consistently gets high marks on Trip Advisor for accommodations, ambience, tours, and food service, is staffed with friendly folks who are trained to accommodate the needs of English-speaking tourists new to Central America.

The Next Step Seminar: Belize or Guatemala?

In addition to the seminar presentations given by Guy, Dwight, Parama and John, the seminar in Belize includes two tours: a tour of a working off-grid cacao farm, where we will explore the Core Human Needs of Food and Medicine, and a trip to a beautiful natural cave and waterfall, where we will delve into the topic of Water.

In Guatemala, we will take more time over the two weeks of the seminar to delve into the Core Human Needs (as described on the About page), as our explorations of these topics will involve more hiking and walking to see how we are meeting those Core Human Needs on the ground. We will cover all the same topics with fewer day trips during the one-week seminar in Belize. In Guatemala, we will cover the same material via local hikes and tours close to the off-grid farm where we will be staying.

The seminar tuition for both Belize and Guatemala includes all your lodging, transportation, and meals from your arrival at the Guatemala City, Guatemala or Punta Gorda, Belize airport through breakfast on the last day of the seminar.

The discrepancy in price comes down to the difference in the accommodations and amenities and what the organizers must pay to hold the seminar at each respective location.

To learn more, check out the seminar About page or Register page.


The Commercial Media Detox


Ready to walk away from empire at home? Claim your personal power by unplugging your TV for a week.

Over the past two years, I have lived in Central America beyond the reach of American media and its persistent commercial cranial intrusions. Where I now work, my ears are filled with the sound of flowing water, the hum of crickets, and the chatter of farm workers. The audio track to my home-to-work commute consists mainly of the lowing of cows and birdsong, punctuated by the occasional hum of a passing motorbike or the rumble of a pickup truck.

Yet, I have also begun undergoing a kind of involuntary “commercial media detox program.” Drowning out this innocuous din at random, unpredictable times, I hear loudly and insistently inside my head the American pop songs that have become the soundtrack to a million of the most mundane moments of my life — relieving myself into restaurant urinals, purchasing thumbtacks at the pharmacy, and waiting to get my teeth (or something else) examined. Interspersed among these “hits” on my mental playlist are perennial commercial jingles — mainly for processed food products and kids’ breakfast cereals. These aural orphans from the consumer culture arrive unbidden even though meditation practice has otherwise pretty much quashed the backdrop din.

Why, suddenly, decades later and entirely out of the blue, are these commercial jingles and songs blaring unbidden at full blast in my brain, now that I am living outside of the culture that created them?

For the same reason, I’d venture, that the air bubbles in a vigorously-shaken bottle of salad oil will slowly, gradually, and inevitably rise to the surface in their own time. Something forced unnaturally into a space that has no natural support for being there will eventually work its way out of that space, given the opportunity.

Just as a political empire cannot exist without the physical violence of armed invasion and occupation, so a commercial empire cannot exist without the “armed invasion” of the psychic space in the head of the consumer.

Production capacity outpaced demand for consumer products in the United States in the early 20th century, creating the need to artificially stoke demand for manufactured products and giving rise to advertising as an institution.

Yet advertising is an unnatural intrusion into our mental space, a forced injection into the area of consciousness where we make basic decisions about what we need and want. Advertising, then, is a form of psychic violence — a vector of control without which industrial humans would not be impelled to purchase things they don’t actually want or need.

When I removed myself from the omnipresent outside influences of commercial advertising by choosing to live with no television or radio and confining my very slow home Internet connection to email, I noticed that those “air bubbles” — the many crass commercials and insipid songs from the past — have, like belches from a thankfully forgotten meal, started to rise to the surface of my consciousness and “pop”, vividly reminding me of their content — complete with all the original lyrics, tones, and visuals. From out of nowhere, for example, I see in my mind’s eye the faces of those poor actors — adults and children — gleefully shoveling processed goo into their smiling mouths or parading around on screen in their underwear, as I am laying out bananas on a drying rack, riding inside a crowded microbus, or collecting firewood.

It didn’t occur to me how invasive and violent that culture of commercials is until I began to live outside of it and then start “detoxing.”

Without the psychic violence of an incessant flow of commercials and commercial anthems, the very foundation of the infinite growth economy and the culture that serves it begins to crumble. No longer being influenced to buy or being told what and how much to buy, industrialized humans would begin to actually perceive their own needs — if they so chose — and the house of cards built upon their unbridled consumption, in the forms of never-ending credit and the issuance of more and more fiat currency based upon the same dwindling resource base, would begin to collapse.

Astute readers may have realized that this house of cards is indeed already collapsing. In the midst of this collapse, there is an opportunity to claim personal power, beginning in one’s own mind.

Such a shift away from the consumer culture’s siren song and toward one’s perception of one’s own actual needs is an essential step in becoming capable of proactively helping oneself, one’s family, and one’s community to prepare for transition.

You can get a running start on a “commercial media detox” by disengaging from commercial media in one single, simple step that you can take right now: If you are a habitué of any kind of television programming, take a week off from all of it. That’s right: Turn off your TV set and keep it off for the entire week. Even the supposedly “good” programming on television steals the precious moments of your private time in which you are otherwise able to collect your thoughts and start building your platform for what you wish to accomplish.

So, loan your remote to a good friend with instructions not to return it to you for one week. Even better, take the TV set out of your daily living space entirely.

In place of the programming sanctioned by the infinite growth economy, program yourself consciously instead — by cozying up with a book, articles, or other resources that will help you fortify your brain and move forward with, or clarify, your plans. Commit to an entire week sans television programming, put it on your calendar, and then go through with it. Enlist your good friend again (the one holding your remote) to pepper you with messages of encouragement throughout the week. Or, you might solicit sympathetic readers to offer you “TV dry-out support” by posting a comment below. Then, see how you feel by the end of the week!

I got a family friend to do this “just turn it off” exercise twenty years ago. Back then, he was an avid TV-watcher. In his new-found downtime, he studied a bit about transition. Eventually, he decided to move out of his suburban apartment in the United States, invest in off-grid food production, and relocate to a farm.

A couple years ago, as he was engaged in his new plans, he thanked me for showing him how to get off the TV habit and explained how big a difference that one change has made for him.

The results of your permanent vacation from television may surprise and delight you, too.