Each year on Earth Day, I try to make a little pledge, a vow for some kind of increased kindness and/or caretaking towards nature. Nature that supports me, that I’m part of, that I am. It’s a good annual opportunity for me to re-evaluate the size, shape and patterns of my tread on the Earth – something I do at other times too (usually when I’m queuing. Or should be asleep). Still, I like to make a point of doing so on this day because I enjoy the unity in knowing others all around the world are doing similarly.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about a recent post I read from Root Simple. Thinking about how easily I, like the author. can slip into the denial/self-pacification of “I am doing all I can”, or into excuses of “I have a young child, life’s busy and I have to look after myself”. Valid points for anyone. For me they’re also blocks at looking at one else I can do, at examining how I tread on the Earth.
The author of the beautifully-written post reminds us that it is our Western post-industrial revolution lifestyles that have caused the problems we’re now facing and that we are all part of that. We all have responsibility here, no matter how hard a fact that is to swallow. So I took a big gulp and set aside my but-I-don’t-fly-and-don’t-buy-many-consumer-goods smugness for a minute to consider what else makes a Western lifestyle; specifically my Western lifestyle.
There are many “green” choices that I perform daily and constantly tweak further. However, one area I’d mostly overlooked/put on my blinkers about is food. I buy mostly UK-grown seasonal veg and potatoes, often organic, but what else forms my meals? Rice, pasta, noodles, lentils and pulses, sometimes quinoa or couscous. I eat a fair few avocados and sweet potatoes, usually from the other side of the world. What do I snack on? Nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, bananas and other fruit grown abroad for a lot of the year. What do I drink? Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, redbush/herbal tea. Even the herbs in the herbal teas are grown abroad despite being able to be grown here. And then there’s the packaging. Feeling less smug now.
This is an element of my Western lifestyle I’d not given so much thought to. Perhaps is hard to because we need food and drink (unlike the TV that we can ultimately not buy at all). We need it multiple times a day, and our choices are affected by many factors – tastes, tastes of the people we eat with, cost, nutrition, convenience, emotional associations. I know I’m addicted to my Western lifestyle enough to not totally give up any of the above products (and arguably what I buy through Fair Trade initiatives have benefit to people). Yet I can’t honestly put the “I’m doing all I can” card down on my dinner table.
How many of us can hold our hand up to using the phrase “but even if I drastically reduced my energy consumption/car use/etc it wouldn’t make an overall impact on the future of the planet”? Maybe so. Yet if the probably-millions of people who have thought that did, the story could be so different. I see that view as the same as saying “well my one little vote makes no difference to who wins the election”. But obviously if we all vote (let’s just say, for the Green Party)…
To put a more positive spin on this little lifestyle scrutinisation of mine – because it’s often motivation towards perceived rewards rather than guilt-bashing that will support real change in ourselves – I’ll think about what changing my food habits can bring me. Growing food in our garden – including herbs that I could make teas from – is something that provides benefits and enjoyment to my husband, my son and I. Baking bread is something I enjoy doing – particularly with my son (who benefits from experiencing the creative and scientific process, and, as an energy-abundant 3-year-old, from the physical work of kneading). I can do it with UK-grown wheat. Attempting to grow sweet potatoes is, as I understand it, feasible where I live. Finding more snack alternatives to dried dates would reduce my sugar consumption. The list could go on – and this is only in one area of my lifestyle.
There is plenty more that I could do. ♥