I want to get all hullabaloo about the environment. Again. It’s a chestnut that won’t be going away anytime soon. Actually that’s not true; our environment – chestnuts and all – will be gone sooner than we think unless we stop planting our heads in the (increasingly grimy) sand and thinking that we can keep on worrying about wrinkles, supporting disposable culture (me) and drooling over 1D (my daughter) while someone else will fix the problems that are killing the planet on which we live.
“Bugger your wrinkles swede-art, one of these days you’ll be wishing that’s all there is to worry about” – shouts the world at me. I’ve tried to ignore it and go on wrapping lunches in Glad, justifying it with my composting/recycling/wiping butt with spintery paper practices, but I’m being reminded time and time again that it’s just not enough. Even though the local tip reportedly dumps most of my painstakingly sorted recycling into landfill and even though what I do is a weeny bee’s breath in the shame-zillion of humans who don’t give a flying shitegeist about the future beyond how many dollars they have in their pockets, I will press on. And further change my ways.
Here are just a few of the climate/environment issues that have recently shame-stalled my plastic-reliant, chemical-happy, throw-away actions in their convenient tracks.
The Tassie Bag Thing
In a few weeks, Tasmania’s Plastic Shopping Bags Ban Act 2013 will come in to force. No more of those ghostie things floating around our road ways or jamming our bottom drawers or housing steaming footy boots. No more flimsy fall backs when we leave the green bags in the car. And a little less unnecessary land fill. Australians use billions of them each year and have become the poster item for our disposable culture. Not sure how these conclusions are reached but I’ve read that about 5% of these bags are recycled, 20% reused and 75% end up as land fill.
The thicker, clothes shop bags will still be about, so will plastic packaging and biodegradable plastic bags, but the supre tee of the plastic bag world will be no longer. Paper or fabric reusable bags are being rolled out in new and exciting designs, colours and patterns so that if green’s not our colour we can go with a fetching stripe or floral. The zip up fridgey jobs are available in on-trend florescent tones. And bring it on I say, use our hunger for STUFF and style for the greater good.
But is eliminating plastic bags really such a big step in the right and decent direction? It’s a start, but I’m pretty sure the focus should be more on changing attitudes and making clean green practices just part of every day lives. A few years ago it was acceptable to smoke on planes. Today, we’d be shocked and outraged if someone lit up on a plane. Maybe and hopefully in a few more years time we will be frowning disapprovingly at people who don’t grow their own veggies and tut tutting in mother’s groups about the family up the road who aren’t off the grid. Maybe cool will be measured by how sustainable or carbon neutral our choices are. Anyway…
I heard an interview about the Marshall Islands
In the Marshall Islands, they are staring down the barrel of the climate change crunch. A Pacific coral atoll of more than 100 islands, they are just 7 feet or 2 metres above sea level. Recent science is predicting a sea level rise of 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century. So they can’t afford to squabble over whether the research is accurate or true, or talk about climate change as though it’s some kind of far away, hipstery beat up; it is being actively fought. Because for Marshall Islanders, fighting climate change is fighting the loss of their country forever. Bugger plastic bags, they are weaning off the ways of the industrial world. Now.
Already the Marshall Islands are in a National Disaster declared state following crippling drought and destructive king tides. Salt water has flooded some farm land and severe fresh water shortages are widespread. Some islands have already gone under. There has been talk of National evacuation and relocation but the Marshall Islanders refuse to count that as an option just yet. They are joining other low lying atoll countries in the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership – accelerating their transition to renewable energy with a goal of 100% by 2020. Foreign minister Julie Bishop has been invited to the islands to have a look at the real effects of climate change. She has indicated that she will squeeze it into her schedule.
Wildfire (sucks balls)
Then there’s the bush fire thing. Last summer my own community was devastated by fire. This spring already communities in New South Wales have faced similar devastation. Our Prime Minister has dismissed links between the latest fires and climate change as ‘complete hogwash’ but a top climate scientist (Dr Will Steffen) has said otherwise – that while we can’t blame climate change for specific events, we can blame it for a hotter atmosphere, longer fire seasons and increased fire risk.
I can’t help but catastrophise over this. As a child I was terrified of the cold war and nuclear winter. Last summer I felt a similar terror as the world around me burned. Is climate change the new cold war? The hot war? If so, this is a war that’s not all top secret missions, military access only and helpless civilians, this is one we can all fight. Change and adaptation and will are our weapons. God I sound like a wanker but I do believe it’s true.
My Car Shat Itself
I have a thing about cars, particularly big ones. My dream car used to be an F250 and I love the sight of a Chevrolet Suburban. When I discovered a surprise pregnancy in 2009 I was forced by law to upgrade from a Honda 4WD to a bigger car to house 3 car seats. And I was thrilled. It seemed like the payoff for another 9 months of vomiting and I relished the search, the deal, the swanky Euro styling, the solid feel of a great big bosomy Volvo when she finally arrived.
Then two weeks ago the bloody thing started blowing evil smoke and wheezing like an emphysemic old woman. A week ago it was discovered that the engine was buggered. And I realised – amid the concern about being car-less with 3 kids, worried about costs and terrified at the prospect of having to drive my father-in-law’s generously proffered and beloved ute – that I don’t want a swanky big car anymore. I want a safe car that doesn’t have a carbon footprint the size of a yeti.
We have to get it fixed; there’s no insurance for wear and tear. And I still love it for its legendary safety status. Is it possible to get a safe car for a family of 5 that isn’t too thirsty? Help required here.
My Washing Machine Shat Itself Too. And I am a disgrace.
Around the same time the bloody washing machine stopped spinning. I washed by hand until my arms ached and the fingers in my left hand felt decidedly fractured. I whinged a bit until I realised what a wuss I am. Women everywhere used to wash like this, stirring big boiling crocks and bleaching and wringing and mangling and starching and perfecting until their swarthy forms were nothing you’d want to mess with. I could, I decided, do with a bit of swarthy in my life. I am puny not only in frame but also in commitment to my values.
Packet of shame
I reach for the most convenient option at pretty much every turn – yep I buy rice in those packets you pop in the microwave for 90 seconds. My family eats ready made, packaged, frozen and heated garlic bread. Sometimes I put smalls in the drier because I can’t be bothered pegging them out. I can’t wring out a windcheater without getting RSI. I have been loading up on supermarket plastic bags before they are banned because they are useful bin liners. I am a hopeless environmentalist, the consummate consumer, the disgraceful disposer. And now my family have stinky clothes.
A new leaf needs turning. And on the fresh side it’s green.
A note about launderettes – I went to one and it was lovely. I was hesitant; they’ve always seemed like slightly sad, lonesome, grimy places – although I’m not sure where that idea came from because I’ve never actually been to one before. Anyway, things were a bit dire in the laundry back home, especially given that little miss skiddy has decided she WILL NOT have any help with bottom wiping ANY MORE, so a visit to the launderette had become essential. I was delightedly surprised; It was clean, smelling like fresh linen, warm, with reading material and interesting up-to-date gig and event posters all over the walls. The swish of the machines was slightly hypnotic. The children were calm. I want to go back.
I Skipped The Hobart Show and Went Skinny Dipping
(SNOBBY SPOILSPORT ALERT)
Roll up roll up to the Royal Show for a fine and stinking example of throw away society. For $25 you can indulge your little girl in a Barbie Fab Life show bag that contains 8 brilliant specimens of shoddy manufacture including hair extensions, glitter eye shadow and a hand bag, all of which will last approximately two days if they ever make it home. In the Ben 10 bag your boy will love the plastic inflatable mallet that will pop after a day of bashing his twin sister and end up in land fill. Even trusty old Bertie Beetle bag comes with a stick on plastic moustache. And I haven’t even started on sideshow alley gonks or junk food. Maybe councils should legislate for back-yard land fill – i.e. bury your own stinking trash – and watch recycling grow and consumption reduce.
Then for another small fortune you can pay toothless weird people to whizz your children around in the air on stinking machines that I’m pretty sure aren’t run on biofuel (they should maybe look into recycling the dagwood dog oil, or maybe it’s too tainted by the lips and arseholes of various animals).
I love the (other) animal sections of shows, the horse riding (I know their methane emissions are probably on par with the carbon-positive joy rides but at least farts aren’t artificially generated) and the arty/craft displays, but I choose not to partake.
Instead, we as a family went to the beach. It was chilly but sunny and we found 18 cowrie shells. When my littlest took all her clothes off, I did too. Feeling all Blue Lagoon I dove into the waves. It was freezing; bits of me shrivelled and goose bumped as other bits wobbled in a decidedly un-Brooke Shields manner, I felt fizzy and fantastic. Better than any G-wizzer. I hope desperately that my children can take their children to this same (blessedly deserted) beach. But I was reminded of an article I read recently about the shocking plight of our oceans…
Ivan McFadyen is a yachtie from Newcastle who reported with horror on what he saw (and did not see) on a recent sailing trip from Melbourne to Osaka. What he didn’t see was fish or birds – all evidently gone. What he saw were huge boats trawling for tuna and dumping the ‘by-catch ‘ – every other fish that isn’t tuna. All killed, all dumped. He also saw, as he got into waters above Hawaii, a whale with a head tumour and “garbage in astounding volumes” – the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami a couple of years ago. He was still at the time this article was published, coming to terms with the shock, saying “The ocean is broken”.
We’re Building A House
With building permit in hand, we are shortly starting work on our dream house build, in planning for six years. From the beginning we wanted a design that would minimise energy consumption, but reasoning has shifted as climate warning signs increase. Six years ago we planned for sunlight exposure and solar energy as a means to reduce costs. Now, while I don’t deny the cost factor, it’s more about reducing footprints, teaching our children about sustainability and planning for a finite fuel free future.
There are a trillion decisions to be made and many of them are influenced (and made easier by) by sustainable choices. Rainfall capture, grey water use, solar panels, heating options, flooring, windows, shower heads, landscaping, lighting, cladding – on and on and on. If you have sustainable home advice please share. Anyone off the grid?
Dr Suzuki Gives a Talk
And here’s the clincher. This one got me in the guts. I was interested to read that scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki, at age 74, wondered what lecture he would give if it were to be his last. In answer to the question, he came up with – and has delivered – a speech about striving for sustainable futures and shifting the emphasis off growth. And wowsers, what he says is, disturbing, terrifying, thought provoking and hopeful all at once. It gave me a few very restless nights sleep and a new resolve. Everybody should watch it. the full speech is here, but I will paraphrase below as I know it’s a bit of a time commitment. (I watched in installments – it’s a bit much to take in all at once anyway).
Find the full talk here.
If you can’t watch the full talk, at least have a look at this snippet – Suzuki’s take on exponential growth and population:
Or you can read his book:
Or read my precis…
Here are his key points:
- comfort and convenience is coming at too high a cost – the planet Earth
- emphasis on economy over ecology is dangerous and frankly insane
- who cares about a strong dollar when 20% of our plant species face extinction by 2050 and our oceans are riddled with ‘dead zones’
- constant demand for growth is suicidal. Already 80% of the world’s forests are destroyed – trees, fish and wild life are no longer in abundance.
- wealth should be measured by family, experience, loved ones, friends, memories
- we should all slow down and think about what legacy we can best leave our children
- we are scarily unprepared for peak oil
- whatever we do to the air we do to ourselves. We should consider air, water, fire and earth as sacred, the way our indigenous people do. There is much to learn from the Aboriginal population.
- a brighter future needs and immediate and enormous shift in focus and re-imagining, before it is too late (some scientists believe – mostly due to exponential population growth – that it is alreday too late).
And his thoughts for a re-imagined future that will bring:
- living, working and playing in the same area, lessening the need for cars and excessive transport
- sunlight and water capture at every opportunity
- cities filled with orchards and productive gardens
- everyone growing food
- extracting heat from the earth during winter and storing it back in the earth during summer
- cancer and ashthma rates falling as environmental toxins fall
- forests being logged forever because they are logged sustainably
- tourists travelling the world sustainably in air ships
- no green parties, just universally accepted green practices and attitudes
He says that these are just hints at possible solutions, just scratching the surface, but that they can all be done and are being done. Here’s one from me:
- Instead of falling over ourselves to get our kids to every gymnastic/tennis/language lesson, should we be taking more time to teach them about living sustainably, which will inevitably one day be Lessons in Survival?
We humans became the dominant species because of our intelligence – our brains. Now it looks like those brains will be our undoing. Is it too hopeful of me (and Dr Suzuki) to think that we can switch that brain power to turn things around? Save the world from ourselves?
I don’t know. Sometimes, terrifyingly, I think so. I hope not.
My New Leaf