Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Planet at risk - sorry for the inconvenience

We are now one week into our low carbon lifestyle experiment. I have decided the hardest thing to give up is convenience.

In our previous life of ignorant bliss, lowering carbon emissions and saving the planet was not the same consoideration as it is now. I was not racked with guilt by disposable paper napkins, plastic cutlery or clothes made in China. Moving from one destination to another was as simple as getting in the car. I used the little shampoos in motels and plastic straws.

But those days are now past, as I have become increasingly aware of the damage they do. My convenience was not as important as the planet's welfare. Or so I had determined.

Living low carbon and ethically is not as easy as it sounds on paper. Forgotten the milk? This is now a walk in the rain or ride on the bike - and oh look. The tyres are flat. Travelling (using hypermiling of course) for work and feel peckish or like coffee? More questions than food is likely to present. Excuse me, is that coffee fairtrade? Is it served in a reusable cup? And that muffin - where was it made and is it made from local ingredients? And look over there, what a nice cap. Ah, made in China. Can you tell me if this cap was produced in a sweatshop or in fair and safe conditions? And on it goes.

Living in the Western world is complex. There are many things we take for granted. Our way of life is contingent on what is essentially a very unfair world, where people are layered in a hierarchy of have nothing, have something, have a lot, have a whole lot, and filthy rich. Our food is flown or trucked for miles, our clothes are mostly made in sweatshops, and the oil that powers our cars and produces the dispoable plastic goods loved by a society besotted with minimising labour and convenience pollutes the environment and destroys the viability and self-sufficiency of indigenous people.

No wonder Al Gore called his climate change movie "An Inconvenient Truth".

To be truly serious about reducing one's carbon footprint, and to ensure one's clothes aren't made by six year old's in Thailand's sweatshops, does mean serious inconvenience. Banish the idea of spontaneity, it takes planning and work. In fact, I find it exhausting.

I have spent time cancelling the various publications we get and transferring them to digital copies. No plastic wrapping, no energy wasted in producing paper. I have been walking more, and it hurts. I have bad arthritis, and the car would be much easier, but much more carbon-emitting.

No purchasing new goods, and reusing, recycling, repairing and shopping locally has been relatively straightforward, but that only works if you want no new clothes and are happy to cook from scratch. One of the things we have to help us is our tiny urban farm, otherwise known as the backyard. An edible organic garden designed on permaculture principles, it has fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, native bees and hens. Even using family cloth (Google it)and reusable but euphemistically named 'feminine hygiene product' has been relatively easy.

But give up car travel and use public transport? Much harder. Not eating cafe food, avoiding convenience and disposable products, planning to take your own food, serviettes, refillable coffee cup and stainless water bottle and glass starw? Much harder. And trying to continue to work in paid employment whilst finding the extra time to do the above, is anxiety-producing.

So why bother, I hear you cry. Good question, and I am glad you asked it.

Because it gives me hope. It reconnects me with the true complexity of life, the seasons, real food that nourishes,simple cooking, the satisfaction of cooking something youself.

It gives me a purpose in that it helps me feel what I am doing will not deplete the planetary resources any faster than I can help it. I refuse to believe humanity's situation is hopeless, and this is one way of trying to ensure this. And I want to prove it can be done, and that inconvenience can be gotten over and replaced with the sort of care and consideration that noursihes both me and the planet.

Our choices all have ethical and environmental dimensions. Modern-day farming methods, highly processed 'foods', the rise of large monolithic and monopolising corporations that use resources and control supplies, and the miniing of resources that inevitably degrade environments and foul water surely demand that we consider alternatives that use fairer, more sustainable and better systems of food and energy and goods production.

If you want to read more about the rules we have set ourselves, and how we are attempting our low carbon lifestyles, you can read the blog at http://elementcityblog.com/

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