Tuesday, 9 July 2013

UNsustainable sustainability

Something's been niggling at me for quite some time and has recently been brought to the fore.

I spend A LOT of time (most of my waking hours) thinking about sustainability and how we can lessen the impact of our lives on the world in general.  Therefore I can get quite narky when I see people taking advantage of what I am trying to achieve.

Greed and indulgence are what brought us to this point.  We now realise we have caused damage to the planet and just about made it impossible to find good healthy food due to our lifestyle choices over the last half century or so.  In wanting life to be easier, we have demanded quick, easy food and lots of material goods to make us more comfortable without needing to be physically involved in the production.

Ok.  So all that's changing right?  We're realising our mistakes and are setting about rectifying the problem by growing veggies, buying thoughtfully and sustainably and trying to use less electricity.  Heck, we might have even changed to a 'green' washing powder!  Well all in all, yes thank goodness!

There are amazing numbers of individuals shopping ethically, growing veggies, making do with what they have and really making change in their communities.  There are also some great businesses springing up.  Many are certified organic and others spend a lot of time sourcing ethical goods.   Organic farmers are working hard to improve the land they are farming.   Many business have chosen not to become certified due to the paperwork and cost but run very ethical businesses all the same.  I support these businesses as much as I can.

However I believe greed and indulgence are beginning to rear their ugly heads in the world of sustainability.  There seem to be more and more businesses 'cashing in' on the fact that people are prepared to pay more because of their ethics.  These businesses use the label of sustainability as a marketing tool, charge a fortune and really only have the dollar as their main interest. They don't use sustainable practices and don't really have the environment in mind.  They're just savvy enough to realise they can make a buck out of this new market.  It makes me angry because while I'm happy to pay extra to ensure I'm covering costs for businesses that are caring about the environment, I don't want to pay top dollar to someone who is taking advantage of me for their own gain!  Nor do I want to do all the extra things I do in a day (because I'm hoping to fix the mess we're in) only to find someone else sitting around in the lap of luxury ensuring my goal can't be reached!!!

One of the three ethics of permaculture is Fair Share.  If these businesses were fair dinkum about their sustainability they would only be aiming to make enough to be comfortable and ensure their business works.  More than that and we enter back into the area of greed which brought us to this point where products are made shoddily, sent overseas for cost advantage and workers are taken advantage of...........

And while I'm at it, there's another area that drives me mad.  This one is to do with individuals, not business.  There seem to be a whole group of people who feel they are addressing climate change and our impact by simply buying more.  You know.  All the sustainable gadgets!  How have they missed the point so completely?!!  Guilt free consumerism in their minds but they are still consuming the planet's resources like they're going out of fashion! 

Is it really so bad to look at the situation we're in and make life changes accordingly?!  We have over-consumed.  Pure and simple.  We need to use less.  I'm not talking about living dreary and miserable lives.  Just a shift in attitude.  Stop seeing comfort in giant screen plasma TVs, the most expensive skiing jacket you can find, or in solar heated spas and the latest gadget to turn off all your switches.

There is comfort in an op-shopped jacket that will keep you warm.  There is comfort in reading a book or knitting or cooking.  There is true comfort in coming into a warm home to the smell of freshly baking bread and soup cooking from locally sourced or home grown ingredients.  There is even comfort in getting off your butt and switching off the power at the wall.  I remember watching my frugal grandparents washing out plastic bags, switching off the power switches and mending things around their homes.  It was a lovely scene of comfort, care and domesticity!

I don't think our problem is so much about a pressing need to find renewable energy alternatives (though that would be great) or finding some scientific answer to climate change (though that would also be great).  I think the biggest problem is some people's attitudes.  If we could do away with greed and selfishness the world would be a better place.  If we weren't so self-centred we wouldn't feel we needed only the best.  Not only would we accept second rate sometimes, we would be happy with it!  We would work with each other to find a way to live happily, comfortably but with respect for the resources we are consuming.

I'm very aware that when I write a post like this I might sound a little holier than thou.  Let me assure you.............   far from it!  As I've written this post I've walked into the hall and found three lights on in empty rooms.  I turned them off.  Neither am I saying we don't have gadgets.  We bought PV solar panels and are grid connected.  We have, however, also reduced our electricity usage by two thirds.  While writing this I have stopped and walked to the garden to pick the kale we will eat with the lamb that's roasting in the oven.  We bought the lamb at our farmer's market on the weekend.

But hey Joe Blow (average citizen), we weren't born as extreme hippies so don't comfort yourself that it's a hippy thing and that you couldn't possibly do it!  In fact, if you'd have seen the hairspray I consumed in the nineties, you'd have a thing or two to say to me about my contribution to climate change! 

So I'm no ecological saint and I'm not getting it all right but I AM  getting lots of it right and I'm passionate!   I'm a mum who loves her family and life in general and I sooo wish I could make people see sense.  We need to change the way we are doing things and we need to do it now!

*Steps off soap box*

14 comments:

Lynda D said...

Amen to above.

D.Hausmann said...

It really is too bad more people don't take to heart the things you have just said. It would only take a few changes by the masses to effect very big changes.

theroadtoserendipity said...

The thing that REALLY grinds me (steps ON her soap box ;) ) is when people wax lyrical about sustainability as a means to support their desire to consume. Second hand just isn't good enough and paying a bit extra to plant a tree somewhere in the outer regions of upper cumbuckance isn't going to solve the problem, the infrastructure of overconsumption is still going strong because we, the people, are supporting it in record numbers. It is going to take governmental change to slow it down because people sure as hell aren't going to give up their comfort by choice but that would be political suicide. We are left living an alternate life alongside people who are spending our childrens future into the dustbowl :(. After all of that I love this blog. I love that you are passionate, that you care about your family, your environment and the state of the world today and I wholeheartedly applaud your desire to minimise your consumption so that future generations have at least a small degree of the choice that we have available to us today. Simple fixes that no-one wants to institute because honesty is painful and no-one wants to be the bad guy. I won't bother to get off my soap box because it appears to have become superglued to my feet ;)

Margaret said...

Hear hear !! Amen....clap clap clap !
NO we are not the most important being on the planet and YES we are doing the most damage.
Baby steps is all it takes, THINK about the food you eat, it is fuel for your body, which has to last your whole life, what would happen if you put rubish fuel into your car?
A sign of maturity is thinking for yourself, ignore advertising and only consider opinions of those you respect.

Busy mum of 3 said...

Yes , yes, yes, yes ,yes, yes , yes!
I hear you loud and clear!
I "get" it too!
Wonderful post!

milow said...

Hi this is a great post, only the other day I had somebody come to my front door wanting to install a gadget that saves me turning of the power at the switch, I said why he said its free. I really didnt understand the whole concept what is wrong with just turning off at the switch and why does the government support these things when it is so simple just turn everything of at the switch. I think I drove the poor man insane with my "but why" and "why is it free" and " i dont get it" Its a simple swith. The gadget that they would have installed had a book of instructions ugh. sorry for the rave lol. xx

Lynn said...

Great rant Linda! I have just finished a book Entropia by Samuel Alexander, I think you would enjoy it. It's about life beyond industrial revolution and how a society copes with life. I agree with everything you said but find it really hard to live ethically in our present society. I believe some scientists have already come up with greener solutions for energy production such as using algae and even wind turbines out at sea but the governments won't acknowledge them because they are making too much money from mining taxes. Until governments change their thinking it will be up to individuals to make the change.

Linda said...

I received a comment from The Road to Serendipity in my emails that hasn't come up on the blog. Maybe because it's wordpress? I'm going to copy and paste it. Back in a day or so with replies!

The Road to Serendipity - The thing that REALLY grinds me (steps ON her soap box ;) ) is when people wax lyrical about sustainability as a means to support their desire to consume. Second hand just isn't good enough and paying a bit extra to plant a tree somewhere in the outer regions of upper cumbuckance isn't going to solve the problem, the infrastructure of overconsumption is still going strong because we, the people, are supporting it in record numbers. It is going to take governmental change to slow it down because people sure as hell aren't going to give up their comfort by choice but that would be political suicide. We are left living an alternate life alongside people who are spending our childrens future into the dustbowl :(. After all of that I love this blog. I love that you are passionate, that you care about your family, your environment and the state of the world today and I wholeheartedly applaud your desire to minimise your consumption so that future generations have at least a small degree of the choice that we have available to us today. Simple fixes that no-one wants to institute because honesty is painful and no-one wants to be the bad guy. I won't bother to get off my soap box because it appears to have become superglued to my feet ;)

purplepear said...

You are doing such a great job Linda.Just back from a little break and found myself dependant on the shops for food. Just couldn't get over the stuff you can buy. We don't get out much so have really isolated ourselves from consumerist society. It was a big eye opener. Found it very hard to buy anything that wasn't wrapped in plastic! and I signed up for plastic free July before we left. But I could see why it would be so easy to get carried along with consumerism if you faced that kind of thing every day and you had no desire to live alternatively. I was on the fringe of that myself 20 years ago. But I found that all too unfulfilling. My life now is so much better with so much less. It really is a change in mind set. I don't know how you get people to see that. By being good role models maybe, just like you.

Nicole (Make Sew Bake Grow) said...

Ah I do love this post. Unfortunately there's not too many people who think like this.
In defense of 'the switch' though, we bought one so that we could switch off our TV and DVD player, the powerpoint for which is located behind my great-grandfather's incredibly heavy old sideboard, and I'm sorry, i am not shoving that thing out of the way every night!!!

Anyhoo, we over here, the 'village hippies', the square pegs in round holes, we'll just keep plugging away......

Jodie said...

Fabulous post (coming from someone who committed some environmental sins involving an air conditioner -whilst living on the Great Barrier Reef only 13 years ago- what was I thinking!).
Your post resonated at the moment because I have been thinking about the issue of palm oil- I recently joined an online campaign targeted at big food companies and their use of palm oil. One of the companies wrote back to me with a big lecture on how palm oil (if "sustainably managed") is actually a good choice because it has a much higher yield per hectare compared to other oil producing plants- such as canola and the apparently more 'eco friendly' 'palm oil free' option of coconut derived products. The idea being if you got rid of palm oil you would need to clear more land over all for its alternatives. Having actually visited a sustainable palm oil plantation (converted from a coconut plantation in PNG) I can attest this is a true fact that complicates the issue.... so the problem really comes back NOT to what type of oil (ie if we spend extra non palm oil cleaning products)- But rather our excessive consumption of the products with palm oil- My thoughts were if we are serious about impacts of palm oil its time to have a look in the bathroom cupboard and under the sink to address our requirements for about a million hair care and beauty and cleaning products rather than simply replacing them with something so called eco organic, cocunut oil, botanical infused.

knitgirl66 said...

I totally agree - sometimes I find myself getting very agitated about this topic - we need to concentrate on 'reduce' and 're-use' before anything else, and hope that people will see through the hype of what you 'must have' to live a sustainable and softer-treading life!
Love your blog - caring for our planet includes caring for ourselves ;)

Linda said...

Thanks Lynda.

D. Hausmann, no it wouldn't take much. Very frustrating!

You're right Margaret. I think people don't even realise that advertising has 'got to them' because it has become so ingrained.

Thanks Busy Mum. I know you feel the same.

Milow, good on you for questioning. And I LOVE the rave.

Sadly Lynn, it is about the money! Nearly always. I wish I had time to read that book but I'm about to go into mad mode again around here with a project.

Road to Serendipity (is that you Narf7?) thank you for being on your soap box. You do it well! Yes it's up to individuals. Govts are not going to be gutsy enough to effect change. Remember the carry on about the Carbon Tax? Imagine if they implemented heavy duty changes!

Kate, you always make me feel so good with your lovely comments! Yes it is mindset and we're competing with the marketing companies when we try to get through to people!

Nicole, I know you're a likeminded and I wasn't picking on the particular switch per se, but the consumer mindset that moves to green purchases instead of consuming less. They still buy unnecessary stuff but convince themselves it's ok.

Jodie, you're right. And shopping just does my head in for this very reason. Aaargh! Which country, what chemicals, who was taken advantage of, is it GM????!!! Easier to consume less! ;)

Knitgirl, yes! The word 'need' is very overused these days. Glad others are bothered by this too.

EMMA said...

Well said! While we do, for the most part, our best to make environmentally sound choices in the way we live, we are far from perfect.
My husband was recently working with a film crew for 2 days on a 'fashion' shoot (he took them to the 'wild location' half way up a mountain side they wanted, which they then decided was a bit chilly and asked would it be possible to artificially heat it!!! - they didn't warm to his suggestion that they simply put on jumpers!!) He said that the film crew's ecological footprint in those two days was probably more than ours in one year!
Sometime I think, why do we even bother, when there are so many people out there that don't give a damn. But then I read posts like yours and am reassured that we, and many others, do bother.