Perhaps the fact that all of us reading this can probably afford to not eat seasonally if we so choose is a sign that we take more from the world than we need.
We live in an oil dependent 24-7 full on culture, and if we want asparagus we can dander out to our cars, drive to Tesco’s and buy asparagus from Peru, drive home again and eat it.
But do we need as a society need to consume so wildly or with so little regard to the natural resources we are using (such as oil), especially if we believe that the material world is created and ‘matter matters’?
As Wendell Berry writes in The Gift of Good Land
‘Atomic reactors and other big-technological solutions, on the other hand, convey an overwhelming suggestion of the poverty of the world and the scarcity of goods. Thats is because their actuating principle is excessive consumption. The obscure and destroy the vital distinction between abundance and extravagance. The ideal of “unlimited economic growth” is based on the obsessive and fearful conviction that more is always needed. The growth is maintained by the consumers’ panic-stricken suspicion, since they always want more, that they will never have enough’
It seems to me that we have a responsibility to use things wisely and without waste, and that flying asparagus over from Peru is not a wise use of resources if we could eat carrots from Co Down or in season cauliflower.
Or why freight in strawberries from Spain if you could grow some rhubarb in your garden?
We’ve been so indoctrinated by corporations that it’s our right as a free, enlightened, economically strong society to consume when we like, what we like, and that it is fact good for the world and us to consume whatever we like.
We have accepted that it can’t be changed and this is the best way to proceed.
We in the West especially have been living like its an orgy,we like the comfort and we’re unwilling to change.
Like our total dependence on cars to get us from A to B. Or computers.
But perhaps the biggest problem is that we can’t imagine what change might look like, or how we would even go about changing things around for the better. Our imaginations are so tired that few people can hold up the possibilites of what a better, fairer world could actually look like in an actual real world.
The economic empires of our time, the systems and corporations have us completely wrapped up and believing that things can’t be different, we’re powerless to stop them and that if we don’t join the race we’ll be left behind and suffer.
And because we find it hard to imagine beautiful, real life possibilities that replace old bad habits and sins we are burdened and tired.
The recent heavy snow and icy conditions has been making me realise how vulnerable we are to forces much bigger than our ability to control, despite our sophistication and technological advances.
In fact has our reliance on computers and technology made us more clueless in a crisis?
There was the same feeling way back in April when the volcano that I can’t pronounce the name off erupted in Iceland and grounded many flights around Europe. Suddenly we didn’t look so clever as we engaged in ‘Train, Planes and Automobiles’ type escapades to get home from our European destinations.
Then this last couple of weeks icy conditions have made our normal ways of transporting goods around the place not so clever. Various major retailers have refused to guarantee that online orders will be fulfilled by Christmas.
A man in Scotland bought a condenser microphone from me last Monday and I posted it that afternoon. Yesterday he emailed to say that it hadn’t arrived yet.
Which is all well and good when we’re talking about things that don’t really matter. But what happens if oil tankers can’t get to homes to fill up tanks with home heating oil, or what if lorries can’t zip up motorways as per normal and bring in deliveries of bread or milk?
There seems to be a reluctance among BBC Radio Ulster presenters in particular to believe that the forces of nature can’t be tamed. They can put a man on the moon but they can’t grit the pavements and that sort of thing.
Everytime I take stuff out to the bins I am horrified by the amount of waste we go through, even as a couple who are trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
There is so much waste in our lives from packaging, so much that seems beyond our control. We need to eat and with lack of quality and variety in our local foods we need to buy whatever the shops supply, in whatever way the shops and suppliers package it.
There is another thing that worries me. What are we going to do when we’ve exhausted all our oil, or whenever oil becomes much scarcer especially when our homes are mostly heated by oil? We could us wood burning stoves except we live on island with no trees. Does nobody else worry about our lack of trees here in Ireland?
At this time of the year charities who are doing good work to make the world a better place send out letters asking for money, with the paper piling up on the hall floor.
This morning we had a church breakfast this morning and our cereal was all packed in individual little cereal boxes and wrapped in individual plastic wrapping with the minimum amount of highly processed cereal possible inside each of those cardboard boxes and plastic bags
It’s a sin. But who do we blame for life getting this way?
Or is it OK?
Maybe even good?
There was an interesting and disturbing programme on BBC2 a week or so ago about the bottled water industry,an industry that has made it perfectly normal for water to be bottled in France and exported round the world, say to a store in Nashville, then kept cool in a fridge for few weeks until some customer comes in to quench his thirst,
to say nothing of the plastic bottles that the water is kept in that is made from oil to say nothing of the fact that most of us have water piped directly into our homes and workplaces.
I’ve never been to Africa but in my minds eye I see a lady with a large water jar on her head trudging for miles to get a source of clean water every single day to water crops or to cook with or to drink.
Is that right?
Then we have large multi-national companies like Nestle and Danone, Coca Cola and Pepsi fighting wars over branding and sales, selling a basic human right for profit, buts thats OK because the customer is king and wants it.
Last year we had a chance to holiday in Switzerland and one day we walked along Lake Geneva, past the Nestle Headquarters. I think it was a national holiday, which may have explained why it was so quiet for the headquarters of such a major multi-national company. It was weird. I had all this anger towards the company then walked past the building and just felt empty, that we are all locked in a runaway train that nobody seems to be in control of.
And its doing my nut in a bit.
There is an interesting article on The New York Times website about a project in Kansas to cut the carbon footprint of residents who are traditionally sceptical about the idea of climate change.
‘Town managers attribute the new resolve mostly to a yearlong competition sponsored by the Climate and Energy Project, which set out to extricate energy issues from the charged arena of climate politics… If the heartland is to seriously reduce its dependence on coal and oil, Ms. Jackson and others decided, the issues must be separated. So the project ran an experiment to see if by focusing on thrift, patriotism, spiritual conviction and economic prosperity, it could rally residents of six Kansas towns to take meaningful steps to conserve energy and consider renewable fuels.’
It’s interesting what motivates us as people. I’m not sure if I ever like competition as a motivating factor though. The idea of competing for ‘green jobs’ to help the local economy for instance(which you hear more and more about here in Northern Ireland).
At Eco Show Live there was that feeling as well, the idea of people surfing some type of green wave as the next big growth area to make buckets of money. Perhaps that is a bit harsh?Perhaps, but on the other hand I can’t see how life is all about competing and winning.
How sustainable is life if its all about competing?Competing involves winners and losers.
I have just been reading that the price of petrol is set to reach an all time high in the next few weeks due to higher oil prices, increased fuel duty and the blocking of Marseille by French dock workers.
Surely we had better get used to this in the near future?We all know oil is a limited resource but like to forget about it. When more and more of the world population demands oil to fuel a western style lifestyle (more meat, more cars, more flights, more gadgets etc)and all the while earths oil tank is running down what else do we expect?