If you believe as I do that the world does not resemble the one which you were born into, and which is certainly different in flora and fauna diversity and abundance, sea temperature and temperate weather conditions compared to the earth your parents, grandparents and great grand-parents first saw with wide and appreciative eyes, you will be disheartened and dismayed upon seeing the news each day. Sickened, probably.
Plastic continues to be a permanent mainstay in our personal and professional lives; shitty fleeting glitz, glamour and the comfort of owning a new garment still seduces us like always; we seem as a race content to inhale and absorb and die from pollutants every year.
The language which we use continually in relation to our existence reveals much of our problem as humans. We want to live in an ‘eco-friendly‘ way: a piss-poor and fluffy way of effectively ensuring there will be a cuddly panda in a decent-sized enclosure the next time we visit a zoo when the
enormous worldwide decline apocalypse in our insect population is conveniently over-looked. Hurrah! Black Friday is coming. Participate by incurring more debt and maintain the hegemony of companies devouring precious resources.
Pardon my language but if we aren’t being fucked by someone, we’re fucking ourselves up, so to speak.
The race that enabled a handful of men in 1968 to travel 384, 500 kilometres into space using relatively primitive technology now simply wants its Netflix binge and its take-away latte. Thirteen years previously, in his story ‘Autofac’, Philip K. Dick imagined our horrified realisation at how we will work against ourselves and ultimately fail to collectively unite to save the planet. The situation will have to get worse before we notice, before we actually wake up from our collective slumber and discover we are Soylent Green 2.0.
There are voices protesting against consumerism, but actions speak louder than words. The Chaucerian/Shakespearean statement ‘He who eats until he is sick must fast until he is well‘ comes to mind (and not just because of the impending Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years excess) especially when my favourite newspaper The Guardian produces its polite and reverent guide to exercising careful ethical choice as a shopper. Much more is needed from all of us.
Being a rather cuckoo writer at times, I put forth these crackpot and not entirely humorous nor serious ideas in the hope they spark a chain of action somewhere, somehow – starting with myself (some involve stopping – hence the Spice Girls image – and others a start).
- Re-jig or abandon Christmas/Eid/Thanksgiving/Hannukah/Diwali for a year.
- Remove the fuse from at least one electrical appliance and put it somewhere it will likely be forgotten. You probably have too many devices anyway.
- Feign an illness so you have a reason to not join the masses shopping/rioting.
- Go old school with paper chains and satsumas in stockings/handwritten messages of past memories and love which go out on a limb to show your true feelings rather than a toy/nab a cardboard box from your local market and use your imagination. If you are a parent and you can’t handle the thought of a conversation on how you have shown your love for your child for every day of their life up until the 25 of December, acceding to their demands and putting them first, there’s something wrong.
- Deliberately buy a smaller than needed bird/roast – your family and/or guests are not going to starve.
- Pool together to share one lot of fireworks with friend, family or neighbours.
- Make up party games, board or card games and/or presents which might ultimately be laughably poor but will produce far more laughter and smiles than the polite expressions which are quickly made and permanently remembered over last-minute purchases.
2. Abandon all un-necessary packaging at the store or shop when you do your daily/weekly shop.
- Make a firm point of saying you purchase the item and not what surrounds it.
- Ask at the same time what the company policy is on recycling what it produces and sells.
- Tell/yell everyone within earshot why you’re doing this. Think beforehand to ensure your explanation is simple and effective to ensure it has a chance of catching on. Read this and choose one statistic to quote to people.
- Plan beforehand that you have the right bags with you of course.
3. Google search something important.
- Put in a Freedom of Information request to your local council or authority (UK, European Commission) asking how much monies were spent on measures such as tree planting, pollution monitoring, cracking down on light pollution.
- If your country doesn’t allow you to do that, petition your parliamentary representative to ask for the setting up of such a scheme).
- When that request comes through, analyse the answer with your nonsense-detecting glasses and put in another and another. Be a nuisance… develop that polite but firm side to yourself and believe in your need to be persistent and question.
- If unsure whether you actually have said BS-detecting glasses, put yourself in these shoes and imagine that the person corresponding with you has something to hide and/or protect.
- Find put where your country lies in the Child Deprivation Index table and then search for food banks, drop-in centres, youth clubs/volunteer groups.
- Search what charities work with senior citizens locally and see what volunteer positions are available for a couple of hours.
4. Fast. The verb, the action of giving up something temporarily. The opposite of Vin Diesel and his petrol-headed ilk.
- Best known as a religious term and act, we break our fast every day albeit one which requires no effort whatsoever as we’re sleeping and not capable of skinning up/cracking open a car/ butchering a bird.
- Put in some effort in reaching an achievable target, firstly. Don’t smoke for an hour. Don’t use the internet for two hours. Bring home-made soup to work for a day. Do it again the next week. Be sober for a whole weekend. Live for a week without ordering a take-away. Don’t buy a new item of clothing for a month.
- Save the cash that’s not spent and keep it somewhere memorable and not easy or quick to access i.e. a bank/your grandma’s house.
- Organise an unused and outdated clothes swap with friends and others.
5. Put others first.
This can be done and is achieved every day of our lives. It’s the easiest act we can carry out and one which has the most potential (and not necessarily in a cheesy Pay It Forward, rescue a burnt koala way) to perhaps show all is not lost and we are not self-obsessed, arse-boringly righteous and quick to hate. Remember when you were a child and were endlessly curious about the world compared to now.
- Tell yourself you will ask questions of your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours. Bat away their requests about you and focus on them and what they’re going through.
- Look through your contacts and message someone you’ve not heard from in a while. Wish them well. This does not include Facebook. If you struggle to understand that FB followers are not actual, real friends who will be there for your at times of need, delete your account.
- Delete at least one social media account if not all of them.
- Count in your head your real friends and think what tangible, actual acts of friendship you shown them lately.
- Take in your surroundings on the daily rickshaw/tube/cart/bus/train and have a conversation; see whether someone looks down or tired.
- Learn ‘asalaam aleikum’ [pronoune it ass-a-laam a-lake-um] and use it when talking with a Muslim brother or sister. Say ‘peace be with you’ if speaking with someone who might have some Christian faith. Try ‘happy pesach’ [pay sark] to someone celebrating Passover next April.
- Use brother/sister/friend instead of mate, love, petal.
- Ask someone’s name and say it back to them to help you remember.
- Pop into a shop where you know the staff and – if they’re free – enquire if they’re well. Don’t buy anything. Support the people and not necessarily the business.
- Ask at a local place of religious worship if you can visit and say you’re a neighbour. Chances are either the architecture and/or music/or words used will impress you. You might even make a new friend.
- Ignore the fact that there’s a preachy aspect to this – forgive me for that. I do many of these things listed but am a shi..ty yet humble human.