Tuesday, 3 August 2010

'Stuff'- Part 1

Much has recently been written about ‘stuff’- the clutter in our homes, excess materialism of a first world life, the acquisitive nature of us humans. This week the Autumn issue of Permaculture Magazine arrived (paper stuff?) and as usual I’ve been stimulated into thought and re-examination of my surroundings by its articles.
In particular, this issue has several articles about food; its production, where it comes from, where it WILL come from, practical and ethical questions of its production and distribution…all of which need to be addressed by ALL of us. This should not be a government or Farming or specialist issue- you’ll be sorry later if you have go hungry through lack of engagement and foresight!

As a somewhat disorganised, haphazard person with (I think/ hope) deeply rooted morals and ethics, (Mrs Average?) the food question post Peak Oil raises a combination of issues, many of which I wrestle with without conclusion.

A couple of observations: firstly, having lived through drought, flood and famine in East Africa I have experienced a little of the desperation of neither being able to harvest from the land, nor afford the inflated prices of imported food. I’ve pooled hoarded resources and inadequate vegetable crops with surrounding African families and staggered through the bad times.

Secondly, back in Ireland, depending upon the solid fuel stove for our cooking and heating these last few winters (the price of oil being a problem for us) I have also experienced the inconvenience of running out of stored fuel and having to cast about for more. I can see why people used to burn the furniture during long, hard winters! (We didn’t, quite!).

I know I am not alone in these and similar experiences, everyone has stories of shortfall and making-do, but it gives me a perspective from either end of the spectrum.

Even after we have put the most basic necessity, food, on the table, what then?
Fuel to cook with- oil? Electricity? Where did the power come from?
How many packets did you open and use, or discard, in preparing the meal- tin? Plastic? Glass? With the best will to avoid waste packaging there is bound to be some- even the salt and spice jars eventually head off to the Great Package Heaven in the Sky…or a hole in the ground?

Where am I going with this? It comes back to ‘stuff’.

Recycling is all very well, and certainly a step away from Landfill; but ONLY a STEP- where does it all GO? There was a truly appalling article in the National Geographic Magazine last year about where our recycling goes; it made me literally sick with disgust and FURY. And so it ought- our waste is OUR problem: as the Shell (I think) ad says, ‘When you throw it away, there is no AWAY.’

Consider the amount of rubbish you accumulate in a month and imagine there is no bin collection, what would you do? Rats? Stench? Dirt? Disease? Space to store?

Consider the amount of space this month’s recycling is taking up and how much do you/ are you/ can you actually re-use? A fraction, I’ll bet. A few tins as plant pots or to hold pens and loose items, a few glass jars for chutney and jam making, and vases for flowers, some of the card and paper into the compost, some to start the fire, some plastic bottles to carry drinks or to make ‘fertilizer factories’, or mini cloches for the veg bed, and a few containers as seed trays or children’s art projects. That’s it. That’s probably just kitchen recycling too, what about packaging and containers from the rest of the things we use?


Constructive Attitude said...

wow. i cant believe you experienced a drought. crazyyyy

Amanda said...

It's at times like this that I hate being an 'ordinary' person. We do our very best to cut down on waste, grow much of our own vegetables, buy locally produced food wherever possible, compost as much as we can, recycle as much as we can, etcetera etcetera. But it doesn't seem to make any difference. We still get doom and gloom stories and exhortations to do more. I fear for future generations, but what more can I do. I'd sometimes love to get hold of the people who have real power and bang their heads together!

soggibottom said...

Hum....... thoughtful for a change. I'm sure most cringe when they see that Soggibottom has left a comment.
recycling is just a new word to give some a feel good factor. At least I think so. Half of the problem is that in the Western world we live in a throw a way culture. Don't have much packageing down here. Garden to kitchen... Works for me.. But there are some things that make me mad because of the waste of material for packageing. You haven't mentioned the trouble of getting into a plastic wrapped product.... Milk... where have milk bottles gone to ?
x x x

collettakay said...

Very thought provoking.


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