raspberries and rare earth metals

Hidden away among the undergrowth of the manse/house/home  I found a few raspberry canes.
So the past few weeks I’ve been picking them, raspberry by raspberry, setting them on a tray in the freezer and bagging them to see what weight of fruit I can harvest from this piece of land in the garden. (can we reach 500g?)

These canes have been completely neglected and in my excitement I’ve probably been over eager to pick them. They could maybe have been left a few more days to plump up a little. But I was excited to get them picked.

The thing that I am trying to get into my head and visualize is the amount of land that is needed to grow x amount of raspberries. An area of land about 0.5 m sq has so far yield about enough berries to make a pudding. How much land is needed to grow all the pots of raspberry jam that are going mouldy in cupboards all over Ireland?

This is something that is nearly impossible for us to do being disconnected from the land as we are, especially those of us who live in cities or towns. To picture a piece of land somewhere in the world where our raspberries are grown might take a bit of effort.
The same for our wheat, our rice, our potatoes. When we lift a bag in Dunnes Stores we have little reason to think about where the beans for our baked beans are grown or where the sugar for our Coca Cola was grown. But they have been grown and harvested somewhere,in some other community and piece of land.
The metals in that enamel milk jug where dug up somewhere. The rare earth materials in our electronic gadgets came from somewhere.

Thinking about rare metals seems to be something that we need not concern ourselves with and it wasn’t really something I had considered that much until this morning after church when I got chatting to a gentleman from Malaysia who starting talking about a rare earth refining plant in his home town. Our demand for electronics will have consequences for the area he is from.  For him the big concern wasn’t so much the radiation from the processing plant  but the acidification of water from the refining process.  What will people do when trees start dying from the change in acidity? How will the water be neutralized when it costs so much?


He had also mentioned that when you fly into Malaysia you now see unending palm tree plantations to supply the world with palm oil. To plant the palm trees that go into cosmetics and other consumer products the native forests had to be cleared and burnt.  That bar of soap in the bathroom might have come from his neck of the woods and if not it came from someone else part of the world. How many neglected, unused bars of soap are sitting in bathrooms around the UK?

I think talking to this gentleman from this particular part of the world reminded me that buying a new smart phone or coconut milk in Poundland has consequences for real people, not abstract, ghost-like phantoms who’ll just be alright.

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