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We only have one world - let's treat it well.
Keith Farnish, Earth.
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Here’s a photo of my vegetable patch. At the front are two rows of lettuce and a patch of spinach – the kinds that you can keep picking and they will keep growing. Halfway down the raised bed (surrounded by thin copper wire to deter the slugs) are some tomato plants – two different types. At the far end is a wigwam consisting of eight bamboo canes cut in half and a piece of plastic-coated metal rod I found in a hedge a couple of weeks ago, thinking that it might come in handy. There are twenty-four French bean plants beginning to curl their way up the canes and I reckon we will be giving beans away in a few months time. The three pots on the left contain herbs: oregano, basil, tarragon and a few garlic cloves I threw in the soil to see what would happen; and there are a couple of chilli pepper plants courtesy of my Dad who also supplied the beans.
It’s not a very big vegetable patch, but it’s the first time I have ever grown my own food – yes, despite all the other things I have striven to do, growing food wasn’t on my list of priorities, but now I’ve started I want to do it properly and learn all about growing seasons, pests, propagation, seed keeping, nutrients and anything else I can find out. It was never really an option, growing food: I left the house at 8 o’clock every morning while I worked in London, and got back at 7, with barely enough time to eat meals and spend some time with the children during daylight hours. I should have tried to grow food, really, but never got round to it. I could have taken the children out with me to plant seeds, water the growing plants and pull out weeds, but it just didn’t seem important: it does now – I am no longer on the corporate treadmill.
Being accused of hypocrisy is something I have had to get used to. I made a comment on DeSmogBlog – a very fine web site – recently, which went like this:
Apart from the conditional nature of this comment, continued growth in emissions until 2025 at the current rate will *GUARANTEE* death to all but a few hardy species on Earth.
The more politicians speak about technology the more virulently anti-technology I get. No solution is effective unless it delivers: technology since the industrial revolution has delivered us to the brink of catastrophe.
Someone, a serial sceptical commentator, leapt on my attitude to technology:
No, you reject evil technology. But from your blog's author profile, we get:
"Keith Farnish is an environmental writer and activist who, in a former life, was a business continuity and IT security manager. He lives in Essex, UK with his wife and two children."
Right, so if you hadn't been an "IT security manager", you could just have easily provided for your family as a subsistence farmer, living in a mud hut? Unfortunately, that wouldn't leave you much discretionary income to spend on a cache of automatic weapons and freeze-dried rations for your underground bunker, for when The End Times come. Hurray for technology!
"The wood burner arrives in 4 weeks (seriously)."
And you (seriously) believe that burning wood is less polluting than heating with electricity or natural gas? You're pretty far gone, bro.
Apart from the incorrect information about wood-burning, I suppose he had a point: I did used to be an IT Manager, and did used to earn quite a bit of money – that makes me a technophile rich-kid, doesn’t it? Well, no actually. We didn’t used to spend much money (we spend even less now) and I genuinely believe that technology is about as helpful in the climate crisis as anything that comes out of George Bush’s mouth (see this article); but it goes deeper than that.
Fundamentally, I don’t consider myself to be a member of this Culture of Maximum Harm: I may still be a component, gradually trying to ease myself and my family out of it, but I refuse to be considered a willing participant, however much this culture wants to sink its unsustainable claws deeper into my unwilling flesh. Market research companies try to shoehorn people into convenient categories and, to my delight, I don’t appear to match a single one these categories. More importantly, despite any “privilege” I may have had, I have changed so much about my life that my working past has become almost irrelevant to my future.
A corporation doesn’t become a greenwashing corporation just because it wants to look green – it is greenwashing because a corporation cannot be anything but a profit-making, resource consuming entity. A person, on the other hand, can change.
Last week we had a wood-burner installed. Here’s a picture of it:
Yesterday I took the children up to our neighbour’s house, and we filled up two wheelbarrows with logs – offcuts from their tree-surgery work. My brother-in-law also delivered some floorboards he had been asked to remove as part of his bathroom fitting work – they will make fantastic kindling. This year we may not have to use the gas-fired central heating at all: a little bit of pain for the gas company and the industrial machine, and a lot less pollution because, whatever the commentator on DeSmogBlog may have thought, the burning of logs in an efficient burner is a lot less polluting than my central heating.
Leaving my well-paid job to do full time environmental work was a step; learning to cook with just local, seasonal and dried produce was a step; starting to grow my own food was a step; switching off my central heating, after progressively turning it down further and further was a step; switching off the television and deciding to talk, play cards, read and just enjoy each other’s company was a step. But here’s an interesting thing: almost none of these steps will be featured in the countless lists you read in newspapers and magazines for “turning green” – they are all too big for the mainstream media, and even the mainstream environmental groups to propose to an “unwilling” public.
The majority of the public may be unwilling to change, but why should that mean that the growing, willing minority aren’t given the kind of information and the kind of inspiration to make the changes that will bring us over to a more sustainable way of life – the kind of life that doesn’t need big energy suppliers, supermarkets, factories, agri-businesses, media systems, and swill-eating politicians who only want us to live the way of life that benefits the industrial economy?
“Doing your bit” isn’t going to change anything; nor is it practical for millions of people to just throw in their lot and opt-out; but it is time to start taking that first, second, third step out of the system. When you do take those steps, though, make sure they are big ones – big enough so that if you slip back a bit, you are still going forwards; big enough so that you are far enough away to fight off the temptations of the consumer culture; big enough to actually make a difference.