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Getting to sustainability

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Mixed messages and avoiding responsibilities

Sustainable Sidmouth a Transition Town


Unsustainable Lifestyles

It is incontrovertible that the earth can not sustain our current lifestyles and that certain things we do make matters worse. And yet …….

Flying around the world for fun or to bring exotic foods to tempt the palate is very much alive and acceptable. See Instagram.

The power-hungry phone and internet systems are constantly upgraded to consume more power. See Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, live streaming, film streaming. However recently it has been reported that fewer people have been upgrading to the newest version phones, so perhaps the trend is slowing? Global, U.S. Growth in Smartphone Growth Starts to Decline [Note: and that was even before the current decline: US Smartphone Market Down 21% as COVID-19 Impacts Both Supply and Demand]

Cheap fashion poisons and dries up rivers, lakes and seas in the producing countries and creates waste disposal problems in the consuming countries. How The Fashion Industry Is Using And Abusing Our Water and Stacey Dooley Investigates: Are your clothes wrecking the planet? – BBC Three and Fixing fashion: clothing consumption and sustainability – Environmental Audit Committee

Pressure groups tell us that drinking milk, eating animal products in general and using leather creates a huge carbon footprint. Carbon Footprint of Food | Green Eatz but Why the vegan diet is not always green – BBC Future

Yet the medical world claims that lack of nutrients that can only be found in animal fats will lead to long term health problems. Replacing meat with Soya products brings its own problems as Soya contains phyto-oestrogens which mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body, skewing our hormonal system, and with the potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Straight Talk About Soy | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

And we all know that replacing leather shoes with plastic ones is not the answer! Leather Shoes vs Man-made Leather Shoes | ShoeTree Project and The Dangers of Plastic Shoes | Vogue

Proper Investigation

So what are we to make of these mixed messages? How can we know the best things to do?

One of the first things is to stop suddenly changing tack without proper investigation. Stop demanding instant fixes. Futures Forum: The techno-fix … Can we engineer our way out of environmental catastrophe? Or … Can we ‘design for the real world’?

The change from petrol to diesel was supposed to be a good thing and yet it has caused illness and further damage to the atmosphere; the investigation was too limited. Generally testing parameters are too narrow when change is considered. We have to stop looking at things in ‘little boxes’ and make sure our investigations are holistic.

There are somethings that are amenable to fast change and some which aren’t, you have to consider unintended consequences.

I can’t accept the inconvenience! (aka ‘Sod the planet’, aka ‘What I do is not important in the scheme of things’ )

There is now a ban on plastic straws and stirrers, and on cotton buds with plastic stems. Government to ban the sale of plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds – Environment Journal [Note: Ban on plastic straws in England pushed back to October 2020]

There is clearly no need for these, as several decades ago any straws were not made of plastic, and straws were a special treat for children not an indispensable aid for adults. Adults were proud of being able to drink from cups, glasses, tankards, mugs, and even horns, without aid: invalids felt shame when they could not manage such a feat.
Yet even such a sensible piece of legislation has some people acting with horror. Groups representing the disabled have said it is discriminatory as for some disabled people straws are necessary, and so plastic straws must still be available. This claim is made despite the fact that there are straws made of stainless steel, silicone and other materials which are dishwasher safe and which many people choose to carry with them.

Other people say it is useless to enact such small changes Banning cotton buds? Michael Gove, stop trying to make us feel guilty and take real action on climate change instead | The Independent

… and that people shouldn’t be made to feel guilt, yet small changes add up to large differences. We need to feel guilty about our actions, because we need to feel personally uncomfortable and not make things the responsibility of some subgroup within society (like Government or Councils). Futures Forum: We like to blame the government or industries for the Earth’s problems, but what we buy makes a big difference but… Futures Forum: Plastic pollution and the invention of ‘litter’ > or, how the packaging industry avoided responsibility for creating the problem in the first place

The thinking of British society today seems to be that there is no point is saving small amounts of money by doing without in the short term, in order to have more money later on. This is just a matter of personal choice.

Unfortunately, the underlying attitude carries over to the whole issue of sustainability, Why deprive ourselves of things we want now to attempt to reach a particular state in the future? Why take individual responsibility for what our life will be in 10/20/30/40/50/60 years? Why doesn’t someone (else) force a big gesture which solves everything at one swoop?

Taking responsibility

The only way our unsustainable way of life can change is by people being willing to take individual responsibility for their own carbon footprint. Don’t engage in mindless consumption, do follow the advice we were given in the 1960s: instead of impulse buying, go home and think about it for 3 days to a week and if it is still something you can’t live without go back and buy it (if you have the money).

Change your habits even if it feels odd to do so, habit is a very strong force on your life, and to work against it is hard but every change helps.

1) Go to the shops and try it on clothing, rather than buying several sizes and returning the unwanted ones, which creates unnecessary van and lorry movements. You may have less choice but you will be reducing carbon.

2) Learn to alter clothes you buy so that if they are not ideal you don’t have to return them and buy something different. Make do and mend – Vision Group for Sidmouth

3) Stop searching for the exotic in food and drink. Try not to keep up with what is on-trend and eat basic foods more often. You don’t need specialist potatoes flown in from another country when we have perfectly good potatoes grown near home. The Incredible Edible Network: growing food locally – Vision Group for Sidmouth

4) Make things last, treat machines, plates, furniture, everything kindly so it doesn’t break. Aim to be mindful about how you handle objects, do so in the same way as you would if they were fragile and irreplaceable. Carelessness costs you money to replace it, it costs you time to find a replacement, it costs to dispose of the broken item and there are the manufacturing costs of creating new products. All these costs can be saved.

5) If something does break then repair it, or find someone to repair it for you. Repair Cafes are springing up all over the country if you fancy learning some DIY. Sidmouth Repair Cafe – Home | Facebook