Wednesday, 21 May 2008

It’s Not Easy Being Green

I’m not good with kids. I’m far too self-involved to ever have the time or patience to raise a child and would much rather have a cat (sleeps all day, hardly ever talks back) – I wasn’t even particularly keen on children when I was one. The best kind of child is the one you hear about from a distant relative, but never actually meet and the second best is the one that you can hand back to someone else as Their Problem.

But even I care enough about the snotty nosed little oiks (sorry, just kidding) to want to protect the world for their, and my, future. I took a cycle ride down the canal path the other day and was saddened by the amount of junk that had been thrown into the water at every bridge by people of all ages too lazy to carry it home and recycle.

Now I have to admit that things are a bit extreme in my house – labels are soaked off jars so that the paper can be recycled separately – but I do think that things are too complicated for the average Joe. Why don’t all products come with a recycle barcode so that when we chuck them away a machine somewhere can automatically sort it out for us? We have machines that sort out our food so that our cornflakes are a uniform size – so surely we can produce one that sorts out our waste?

Another thing that annoys me about trying to care for the environment is how much hard work it is shopping ethically. Like with Fair Trade products – where you pay an extra £1 secure in the knowledge that the particular sweat-shop worker who had to sort through your coffee granules with his teeth was beaten with a stick less regularly than the non Fair-Trade worker.

The problem is that labelling is never clear. For instance “Free Range” chickens can mean anything from “they roam loose over the alps” to “they get a slightly bigger window in the coop” And then there’s organic – a joke and a half if ever there was one.

In my local supermarket they sell organically grown Peppers: fresh, healthy products, grown without nasty insecticides (though probably in a bio-dome that blights the local view).

Yes – fresh, healthy products that are better for the environment…or at least they would be if they weren’t flown direct from Turkey and then individually shrink-wrapped, thereby negating the good done by not using chemicals.

Being a vegetarian/vegan is no better – if you give up milk and convert to soya you are personally responsible for destroying the rainforests, as farmers across the third world are tearing down trees in a frantic rush to plant soya fields. And yet your packaging does not give the option to choose. Also vegetarians passing wind produce more methane and thus damage the environment (NB – this is not an excuse to tuck into a Super Size Whopper)

Every day each one of us eats rubbish – mostly without realising. For instance – most pre-grated cheese is coated in flour to keep it from sticking together, but you won’t find this fact on the labelling.

Labelling in this country is still hit and miss at best – varying from good to bad to confusing within 2 isles of the same store. Every report about the environment says that we are in the eleventh hour with little time to make the changes required – so why are our leaders hesitating so much?

The only answer can be that they are afraid to make the tough decisions because they know it will lose them votes. And so we go on, spending our resources without a thought for the future.

Most of us do what we can – but without a larger commitment from those in charge it’s all too little and far too late.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry. I don't like kids either, and I'm not afraid to say it blatantly. They are a virus, a plague, a disease, to quote Agent Smith. I do what I can to help and encourage them as a moral imperative, but animals have always been much better than humans. Of all ages.

Anyway, mis-labeling is a product of bad design. As you've shown, I guess you make a bad decision in shopping no matter how good your intent is, but that doesn't mean you should give up and eat junk. I'm still addicted to junk, but it isn't because of mislabeling, it's simply because I'm addicted. I still need to find healthy food that tastes good.

However, I don't know about having the machine that recycles for us. Inventing technology to cover the tasks we're supposed to do is progressive towards the kind of future society I described in my post about the commercial with the sneakers without shoelaces. If people want an ideal place to live, they must actively pursue it themselves.

Machines cannot envision a cleaner, better earth and rationally pursue it. Only we can.

Anonymous said...

So they've already implemented the I.D.s in the United Kingdom?

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

They're in the process of it now - not implemented, but the basic laws are in place to allow it and they'll be phased in over the next few years

Honour said...

Do what you can, I think it makes a difference. I remember ten years ago there wasn't even an "organic" section in our mainstream supermarkets. Now, you can go to most grocery stores and there are those sections ... so goes the same for all environmentally friendly products too. Who knew I wouldn't have to go to the one tucked away green store in the city to buy non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner? Who knew that it would become "hip" to be eco-friendly. It will take a long time, but it still may make a difference ... On the other end of complicated (and trying to make a difference by our consumer choices) have you heard about that book called "100 mile diet" ... it talks about only eating food that's made within 100 miles from you. It can be pretty depressing for Canadians, let me tell you!

french panic said...

I go through manic phases with being green, like my compulsive/militant recycler phase: I started giving mini-lectures to the regular customers at a cafe I used to work at - when someone buys his/her 3rd latte of the day in a disposable cup, it makes me cranky. I soon quit that job, partly due to being overwhelmed by the amount of waste happening.

Then I go through periods of despair where I wonder what the point is to me trying my best when others (like political leaders, as you pointed out) don't seem to care or make any effort whatsoever.

But then I remember that I have no control over what other people do, but can definitely control my own actions - so I keep on recycling, and try to get my friends to leave their cars at home (a nice 45 minute walk or a frustrating 30 minute drive in stand-still traffic and an anger-making search for non-existent parking? Hmm, tough choice...) and try to look through the smog instead of AT the smog.....