Bereavement of hopes lost

There’s part of me that feels reluctant to write here about politics; that wants to keep this as a space about connection to, and celebration with, nature…IMG_3073

… but for me the two are interlinked. And t’s not just that the colour of the party I voted for, it could be argued, is the colour of nature…

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… it’s more about the words of the wise and wonderful David Attenborough:

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”. David Attenborough

I feel that we too often see nature as this separate thing; at best, this detached other. At worst, this resource that’s there for our manipulating, taking and profiting from. If we saw ourselves, nature and each other as part of the same then our awareness, understanding, attitude and language would surely change. Many of our actions would be labelled self-neglect, abuse, self-harm, suicide. And just downright unkindness. Actions like fracking, factory-farming, hunting for sport, burning coal, over-fishing, over-mining, selling off forests to corporations, deforestation, war. Actions like causing people to go cold and hungry, to languish in ill-health when a remedy is available, to be made poorer whilst the rich are made richer. Actions like modern slavery, like forcibly taking resources from one country to benefit another, like creating an education system that robs children of their childhoods and parents of their parenthoods. Attitudes that still deny true gender equality.

I can’t support a political party that endorses – or does nothing about – several of the above. It would feel like volunteering up my own arms for amputation. And, without them, I’d have a lot of trouble feeding myself, dressing, looking after my son, running soil between my fingers, poking a hole to plant a seed in, writing, knitting, sewing, baking bread, lighting candles, holding hands with my husband, doing “round and round the garden like a teddy bear”, picking blackberries. And, yes, hugging trees.

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Someone I know said, on Friday morning, that she felt as if someone had died. I knew exactly what she meant – the bereavement of many hopes lost. It sounds a bit feebly new-agey, but amongst all my “something must be done but what can I do that will honestly make a difference?”-ing, then not losing hope is something I can do. To keep talking about the people who the government would perhaps rather forget about, to keep campaigning against what isn’t acceptable, safe and fair. To give what I can give where it will make a difference. To keep connecting to what I’m part of so that I’m ready and listening for more ideas on just what I can possibly do, tiny as it may be.

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Earth Day… what more can I do?

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.

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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)…

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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. ♥

Earth Day ♥

“it’s a good world. It’s a good, good, good, good world. And it’s a fine world. It’s a fine, fine, fine, fine world. And I think that maybe if we sing this over and over again – like a mantra  – it will manifest somehow.”  Martha Tilston

Earth Day is an allocated day each year when people from all over the world actively do something, or pledge to do something, beneficial for the planet, or organise an event to promote environmental awareness. How awesomely inspiring to think of so many people wanting to nurture and heal our beautiful planet! See http://www.earthday.org/ for a probably-more-comprehensive explanation.

Here in our household, we’re working on 3 new goals to try to tread more lightly on our Earth…

  1. We are trialing being bin-free. We have been finding that our standard-sized pedal bin is just dis-proportionally large for the amount we throw away. When we asked ourselves what exactly it is that we chuck out, plastic food packaging turned out to be the main guilty culprit! We had thought that we don’t buy much pre-packed food; we tend to go for loose fruit and veggies, we very rarely buy ready meals, we buy some dry goods in big 5kg bags and we recycle things like tins, glass and plastic tubs. It’s the pesky bit of plastic wrapping the pasta or the nuts or the cheese comes in that we’re left with. What we’re now doing is taking food packaging that’s a usable plastic bag (for example, like most pasta come in) and using that to bag all the other little bits of rubbish, then putting it straight out in the wheelie bin.
  2. Using the lights less. All hail the candle! Eating and getting Dylan ready for bed by candlelight creates a much calmer, more special, atmosphere. And particularly now we’re in the lightest half of the year, each time I flick the light on, I’m asking myself if it’s really necessary; do I need a light on just to grab something from this room? Do I need to turn on the bathroom light when I’ve left the door open and the landing light is on anyway? Our kitchen is in the middle of the house and so can be quite dark. It’s the room we tend to gravitate towards but I’m asking myself if I could read/use the internet/hang out in another, better-lit room to avoid flicking that switch.
  3. Living life in closer connection with nature.  Noticing and celebrating nature’s cycles, prioritising time outside each day, being more mindful in everything we do. Our little lad really helps us with this; walking at toddler-pace and seeing through toddler eyes slows us right down into the here and now – and how beautiful and interesting it all is. It’s so good for us to savour our experiences rather than to treat the day as a to-do list and wear ourselves out skimming its surface.

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Happy Earthday! ♥

Samhain-tide

 
 
For me, each cross-quarter festival gets celebrated as a lunar month starting from the time when signs of that season are appearing in nature, and the sabbat’s corresponding moon phase comes around. So I’m right now in the middle of Samhain-tide. On Sunday 14th October I awoke to our first frost; nature’s clue to the start of winter. The moon was in the dark part of its cycle: the time the crone, the empty time, the “space in between”. With the next new moon, I’ll move on from this festival.

 

I marked the start of Samhain-tide by decking our alter in appropriate decorations and making a pie of seasonal veg which we ate drinking a purple fruit juice whilst I wore black clothes and smoky eyeshadow. During a chilly walk in the fields near our home, my husband and I admired the majestic autumn colours and shiny berries as we reflected on the year’s harvests, the transformations in our lives, our dreams and our insights. We honoured the Samhain colour of black by gathering many, many blackberries – undoubtedly our son’s favourite part of the celebrations!
Samhain is also a time to gratefully remember our ancestors and those who have passed on. Whilst in our garden this year’s harvest has been very poor, in other areas of our lives it has been so very rich. We have learnt much about the things that we hope will shape our life in the future; sustainable living, living more simply and permaculture among them. We have also learnt much about ourselves and our true values just from becoming a family. The reading we’ve done, support we’ve received and people we’ve talked to or met brand new have only enhanced that, as well as introducing us to new ideas that we now couldn’t imagine living without. This year has truly been one of transformation! I guess I’m honouring ancestors here as not just those who have passed on but those still alive who have more experience and wisdom who we “inherit from”. We will need some small tweaks as well as some major transformations on our path to treading more lightly upon the earth and we will use these dark months to reflect on what changes are right to “birth” in the spring.

 

This week has gone colder here in the south-west UK. Outside, I see everyone wrapping up in their scarves and thick coats. In our home, our winter-cold potions are made, we’ve got our heating on a little in the evenings and we’re attending to improving insulation and heat retention. I love this season of nurture and taking care of ourselves, each other and our homes. Perhaps we need the extra hour that the clocks going back gives us to rest – or to catch up from the busy harvest season. This time I the perfect opportunity to build that sense of camaraderie that comes with snow and approaching Christmas, and to extend it further than this season and further into our communities. As Satish Kumar said in the talk of his that was one of my highlights of this year, when we improve how we connect and take care of ourselves, we will improve how we take care of our planet.
Happy Samhainide; welcome winter!


 

The Plastic Chauffeuring Service

Plastic seems so omnipresent, even for our household actively trying to avoid it. Food packaging, flower pots, toys, computers, the front door, the kitchen sink. It’s EVERYWHERE! In the UK, we generate approaching 5000,000 tonnes of plastic waste annually. (www.ecoforce.co.uk).

Packaging seems to be an area particularly liberal in plastic use, such as food often coming in a plastic punnet/tray that is then wrapped in a plastic film. Some councils are starting to be quite generous in the amount of plastics they collect; Bristol’s doorstep collections now take plastic tubs, trays, yoghurt pots etc as well as bottles. Our address comes under South Gloucestershire Council and bottles are the only plastic they collect for recycling. They don’t even take other plastics at any of their recycling centers so most people probably put it in their general waste to go to landfill where,according to ecoforce.co.uk, it will take around 400 years to break down.
However, we often pass or visit places where you can recycle plastics and have been taking ours for some time. It occurred to us that we could encourage our neighbours to drop their plastic waste round to us (after giving it a quick rinse, and we can take theirs. Likewise with TetraPak waxed cartons, which South Gloucestershire’s recycling centers do take. So flyers were printed and posted through doors, and a receptacle was made by Mr Heartshapedhands for people to leave their plastic in if we’re out. So far, about 5 households are taking us up on the completely free offer (about 100 cards delivered). We hope the number will increase but, judging by the amount I took to a recycling bank today, it will still save a lot going to landfill!