Monday, August 15, 2011

Time out, or - I read the news today. Oh boy.

I pass my days in a small happy activity, developing a humble practical skill that can be used to make things of great beauty and charm; working towards pleasure in a handmade comfort.

I pass my days watching stems rise and leaves uncurl; blossoms unfurl, glimmer, fade and fall; pods emerge, lengthen and fatten.

I think of summer herbs, winter salad, water conservation, mulch and compost; working towards our own green roof, home-grown beauty and produce, and long, peaceful evenings afloat on the mingled scents of mint... dill... jasmine... tarragon... rosemary... honeysuckle... lavender... lemon...

I sit out under the sky in the early morning and late evening, watching the light change, and the comings and goings of birds, insects and clouds.

Sometimes I lie out under the sky at night, watching bats, stars and the moon.

I pass my days listening to the radio, to music I haven't heard before, and the thoughts of people who know and love it.
Re-reading favourite books.
Hopping in and out of Facebook.
Wandering through blogs.

Listening to the news.

Holding the news at a distance.

Staying very still and quiet behind my walls of yarn and plants and music and books and blogs.

Not looking at all the crises, emergencies and disasters produced through the application of human talent, good intentions, ingenuity, effort, diligence, ignorance, thoughtlessness, wilfulness, selfishness and greed. And which we seem powerless to fix.

Unfortunately for my peace of mind, I know
that cheap synthetic yarn comes from non-renewable resources, often extracted through partnerships based on self-interest and mutual exploitation between First World multi-nationals (and their shareholders) and the leaders of resource-rich (usually desert) but rarely democratic Third World countries, or countries with territorial claims to the polar regions, where penguins remain shamefully disenfranchised;
that cheap synthetic dyes derive from toxic manufacturing processes, often in countries with the minimum commitment to environmentally responsible industry that they they can get away with (er... the federally structured USA, communist (?) China;
that in addition to the extraction, refining and manufacturing processes, there's also sea and land transport between, let's say Nigeria, The Netherlands, China and Spain.

All things considered, crocheting a pretty but unnecessary coverlet for a guest room should probably be considered as complicity in a warcrime against the planet.

Even my plants busily converting CO2 into O2, require regular applications of essential, but increasingly undependable, H2O.

The trouble with reading the news is that you find out what's going on, most of it grim, everywhere, and in my case it makes me feel helpless and despondent.

This is what did it for me, first thing this morning.

We did maps and colour charts at school, but not colour-coded like this one on the right. Somalia's been a non-state for twenty years. There is some small hope that Al-Shabab have made such an infernal mess that they may, perhaps, lose their grip and make it possible for help to reach the rest of the population. Otherwise it's just rape and murder as usual, or a long walk to the nearest border, or a boat, with smugglers who'll take everything you have, then throw you or your children overboard as soon as look at you. That's what I learnt this morning.

I don't actually think that I am personally responsible for the famine in Somalia, or the famine which has begun to encroach on Ethiopia (These words, at this distance, from my cute little laptop in my lovely little flat with running water and well-stocked fridge...). I don't know much about Somalia's recent history, or anything at all about its ancient history, when Africa was green and pleasant, or whether one or more colonial powers have been in there. I don't know what resources the country has, or what kinds of international relationships may be part of the picture.

But I do know that climate change is upon us, and everywhere is connected to everywhere else, so the inability of one country to feed its people, and at least explore ways of famine-proofing its territory is something that will affect the rest of the planet.

Climate change is a given, but with each swing, as new species evolve, and old ones adapt, others are lost. It's quite possible that Neanderthal Man was a victim of climate change, leaving the planet to his contemporary, but more adaptable Cro-Magnon Man.

I don't suppose that climate change will wipe out Homo Sapiens directly, but I am depressingly sure that, unless we really begin to think in terms of a combination of equitably sharing or trading what we have; treating the essentials of life, such as food and shelter, as resources, not financial commodities to fatten a few wallets and (oops, collateral damage) condemn millions of the already poor to starvation; and getting serious about food miles, carbon footprints, and living within the planet's means; neighbours will cease to be neighbours except in terms of proximity and competition for available resources, allies will tear up treaties, those with armies will use them in regional/national/market interests, and we'll wipe ourselves out.

When Pandora opened the box (actually, a jar - Were you really that interested?) that Zeus had given her, and all the ills of the world had escaped, there remained in the bottom, like Tinkerbell in Wendy's bedroom, hope.

I take hope from the fact that sustainable development was taken sufficiently seriously for the UN Brundtland Commission to define it........ even if that was in 1987, and there's still a very long way to go in practice:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Economically, environmentally, socially. Sounds right to me.


Miriam said...

Interesting reading. I think about sustainability a lot. I grew up in Houston with a chemist dad whose job it was to create petroleum by-products. Early on I learned how much of our daily lives are created through this process, no matter how unsustainable and horrifying that manufacturing really is (and it is). For example, there are huge piles of radioactive material sitting on the ground in Houston, a product of producing the fertilizer that allows us to feed ourselves. Our laundry detergent, plastic bins, car parts ... as a kid I wondered however it would all work out. As an adult sometimes I think we really will wipe ourselves out.

Yarn often gives me pause. It's made from material that would otherwise be land filled, and chemically speaking it's a less damaging process than creating cotton or bamboo yarn. But still. I'm allergic to wool, so it's hard to find a good compromise.

Mama Duck said...

Thanks for commenting, Miriam. I'm afraid I was in full-on bleat mode that day. I think a lot of people actually feel similarly, hence all those lists and books on X Ways to Save the Planet. If we all do our best and just think (but not too much!)it should help a bit. I don't know if you garden, but I've just bought a book on sustainable gardening as part of my bit towards a greener city. It helps that I've got a thrifty (ok, tightfisted!) streak a mile wide! Anyway, ta muchly.