Oh God, oh God, oh God. My darlings, I am very, very sorry, but posts are going to start getting quite depressing. You might want to click over somewhere else without an existential environmental crisis in progress.
You know how they say 'A Little Information is Dangerous'? Well, I can never stop at a little information, I always need to find out more, which in this case is turning out to be very dangerous indeed... for the continuation of normal, middle-class family life as we know it. The poor Man. He is sitting in meetings on the other side of the world, and in a couple of weeks will come home to a mad woman.
So it all started a few weeks ago, when I became completely mentally paralysed at the discovery that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere has reached 400ppm for the first time in human history. I have always considered myself as a fairly 'green' citizen. I recycle, walk, grow food, limit my consumption of 'stuff', donate to worthy environmental projects, always take my reusable bags.. but suddenly, I saw that was not enough. We in the developed world are using so much more than our share of the world's carbon budget. I did some research and discovered that the world's richest citizens (that's us) need to reduce our impact on the environment by NINETY percent to stabilise the warming of the planet at two degrees. It is already too late for that, but something to aim at. Two countries to look at for comparison are Indonesia, whose citizens use just less than 10% of our emissions, and Turkey, who use just a little more than 10%. I am currently struggling to imagine what 10% of the average Australian power/consumer goods/fuel usage might look like.
Then I started to look at waste. Most of our waste is food, a terrible disgrace in a hungry world, and plastic, which is made of million-year-old sunlight, and turned into items which are 'disposable'. Plastic bags, packaging, pens, drink bottles. Except they aren't in any way disposable. A paper bag, a wooden spoon - they will sink back into the earth from which they came. Plastic may be ground down into smaller and smaller pieces, but it will be with us forever.
Who hasn't seen this image, taken by film maker Chris Jordan? The baby albatross, stomach heartbreakingly filled with plastic detritus from the ocean that the parent albatross mistook for food.
I read about Chris Jordan's work in Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel. Freinkel makes the point that the body of the tiny dead albatross is slowly returning to the earth, but that little pile of plastic will remain, unchanged. And all I can see is the physical legacy I will be leaving my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. An enormous pile of plastic, used once by me, then trapped in a landfill, essentially forever.
And that stuff is killing us. Freinkel interviews toxicologists and medical researchers, and examines a number of studies which all point to the fact that plastic leaks - into our bodies, and into our food, with any number of effects that science is only now starting to work out.
In skipping about the interweb in between being crazy taxi mother, homework enabling mother, supporting exam crises mother and chief cook this weekend, I found this blog. Taina Uitto decided to live for a year without plastic, then found there was no going back. One of her most interesting posts was this one. A few months into her plastic-free life, her endometriosis pain lessened significantly. Her boyfriend's eczema went away. I have a very dear family member who has suffered with endometriosis for too many years. I have a darling daughter with eczema.
I don't know about you, but I knew one single person with cancer when I was a child in the 1970s. One friend with asthma. Never even heard of autism, and no one was allergic to anything except bee stings. Something has happened to our collective health in forty years. It may be plastic, or pollutants, or food additives. I don't know, but I don't want a part of any of it any more. I don't want to contribute to that mountain of plastic, or feed my kids toxic food or use more than my share of carbon.
So, I am going to quit this ugly, evil, modern industrial apocalypse. Enough already. I don't know how I am going to do this, exactly. It may take some time. But I woke up the other morning and thought - I don't have to do this anymore. So I won't. I will be a citizen, a worker, a maker, a gardener, a thoughtful purchaser of products that do not cost, quite literally, the earth. But not a consumer. I refuse to use up the future.
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