Tag Archives: sustainable

Making the connection

A guest post by Avril A Brown

 

Statistics from the oxymoronically-named Humane Slaughter Association (https://www.hsa.org.uk/) indicate that every year in the UK approximately 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs, 80 million fish and 950 million birds are slaughtered for human consumption.

That’s an awful lot of blood on human hands.

I was prompted to research these statistics on animal slaughter after a recent visit to the Tribe Animal Sanctuary Scotland (https://tribesanctuary.co.uk/).  After following them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/updatesTASS/), I knew that I wanted to visit the sanctuary.

Nestling in Scotland’s Clyde valley, the 11-acre site is home to around 100 ‘food’ animals rescued from slaughter, neglect or abuse. The sanctuary was set up 2.5 years ago by tattoo artist Morag and her husband John as the culmination of a long-held dream.

Morag told me that she has been vegan for 25 years. Her activism has matured in that time. Less the ‘angry vegan’, she prefers now to help people make the connection between the meat on their plate and the animals that she cares for.

Making the connection is the TASS mantra. Morag and John firmly believe that the pigs, sheep, goats, Highland cows, chicken, turkeys and donkeys have just as much intelligence and personality – and therefore intrinsic value – as all the cats, dogs, rabbits etc that we currently celebrate as pets. However, most people never get to meet one of these creatures, let alone see those sides to them.  That’s why TASS encourages visitors to come and meet the animals in the hope that by being able to look into the eyes of a sheep or a chicken, then people will be able to make that connection that will allow them to forego meat in future.

TASS is a peaceful place, relaxed and full of love.  None of the animals are required to ‘perform’ or to earn their living; they are simply allowed to ‘be’.  The joy and the satisfaction that they bring is obvious as Morag’s face lights up when she talks about them. I asked her if she had a favourite species or animal among her crew, “They are all so different, so special in their own ways that I love them all and couldn’t possibly choose just one. Every animal at TASS has a name and they all have their own story.”

My visit to TASS certainly left me with a lot to think about.

Being neither vegan nor even vegetarian, I have no particular axe – metaphorical or otherwise – to grind over how or even what other people eat. What I have been increasingly conscious of, however, is the impact of animal husbandry on our increasingly fragile ecosystems.

Whatever your own stance may be on meat consumption, I doubt that anyone can argue that much needs to be changed in the world of the intensive agriculture industry that so damages and wastes as much as it produces. At the very least, food animals must no longer be considered as ‘product’ so that they can enjoy better lives.

The rewilding project at Knepp in West Sussex (https://knepp.co.uk/home) shows how ecosystems can recover if left to nature. However, in the short term it is unlikely that such projects will feed populations, particularly in areas where poor soil quality (eg the Scottish Highlands and islands) has led to a dependence on animal husbandry that would be hard to justify let alone unpick.

In the meantime, the very least we can do as individuals is to significantly reduce our consumption of animal products, to support compassion and welfare in farming and to purchase ethically wherever possible.

 


Sustainable, revolutionary gifting

Midwinter, season of over-commercialisation looms. Here are some tips for making your gifts more sustainable.

  • Ask people what they want. Surprises may seem attractive, but unwanted gifts can end up in landfill.
  • Listen to what people tell you they want, especially if you think it’s boring. For the person who can’t afford new socks, new socks are brilliant.
  • Start conversations about budgets. Don’t risk anyone feeling pressured to spend on gifts when they can’t afford to.
  • For the person who has everything – give them gifts that will make their gardens more wildlife friendly. Plant a tree in their name. Donate to a charity on their behalf.
  • Ask people not to use wrapping paper. Tell people that more than anything else, you’d like a waste-free Christmas. Start early on this.
  • Give re-usable things. This is especially powerful for people who have no choice normally but to by the cheaper, throwaway options. You’ll save them money and help the planet.
  • Give less. A few really well chosen gifts that will be loved and valued are far better than a sack full of plastic tat.
  • If there are children in your life, talk to them about consumption and waste ahead of Christmas. Many of them are very aware of the climate crisis and may feel happier doing the festive season in a more sustainable way.
  • Consider debunking Santa. The story of the big sack of toys is part of the commercialmass agenda. It’s not ‘the magic of Christmas’ it’s a tool to emotionally blackmail parents into buying excessive gifts. Consider talking about this with your family if that’s relevant to you.

How to Save the Planet – a review

How to save the Planet is a small book by Luke Eastwood. Luke is an established Druid author, and while the content here is unequivocally suitable for Druids and Pagans, the book is not written specifically for us. It’s written for people who want to do something and don’t know where to start or what would be best.

This is a no-nonsense, no punches pulled ten step guide to living in a way that is viable for the planet. It’s full of interesting bits of information about what kinds of impact different activities have, their history, their place in our culture and how the alternatives work. It’s all very readable and digestible.

Given the subject matter, this is surprisingly comfortable reading. There’s no blaming or shaming for your average, ordinary person, just clarity about where we are and what has to change. The lifestyle changes Luke calls for are reasonable and realistic. They aren’t going to be easy or comfortable for everyone, but, we are long past time for people who have more than they need taking more than the planet can afford. If you are one of those people and this message makes you feel uncomfortable… get over yourself. That’s all there is.

I think the best way to use this book is as follows – buy a copy for someone who needs to make lifestyle changes. It’s not an expensive book and it is raising money for Greenpeace. It may be the ideal Yule/Christmas gift for the annoying uncle who won’t stop flying places, or the sibling who sees fuel guzzling cars as a status symbol, and so on and so forth.

If you’re feeling weary and overwhelmed and are not coping with the emotional impact of the climate emergency, this book may also be for you. It has a clear message about what you can most usefully be doing. Reading it and finding you’re well ahead on that ten point list is, I can promise you, an affirming and encouraging experience. It’s so easy to end up feeling like your personal action isn’t enough – when so much of this does boil down to personal action and how we shape the culture we are part of.  So, buy a copy, read it, give yourself the opportunity to feel like you’re doing ok with this stuff, and then pass the book along. Author Luke Eastwood is actively encouraging people to share copies and hand them on, so do that. Put it in the hands of someone who needs it – either to affirm what they’re already doing, or to encourage them to get stuck in!

This book is widely available from places that sell books, so check out your online seller of preference or see if your local bookstore will get it in for you. Here’s the Book Depository link https://www.bookdepository.com/How-How-Save-Planet-Luke-Eastwood/9781527245983


Radical change is necessary and you do not get a free pass

It will not be enough to change policies, or get new technology in place. We cannot, as a species, continue as we are. We cannot keeping flying in the way that we do. We cannot keep driving in the way that we do – electric cars are not a magic solution, they require too many resources and we have to scale back. Renewable energy might be good, but energy and resources still go into producing it. We have to use less energy.

I’m tired of the ways in which people let themselves off the hook. There’s the ‘you aren’t perfect so why should I bother’ model in which someone identifies that a protestor used a car, or does not hand spin wool for their own clothes and decides this invalidates the whole message and that they don’t have to bother making any changes at all. Not good enough! Most of us aren’t perfect. The failure of activists to manage to live carbon neutral does not excuse anyone else from trying.

I’m tired of the way that the people who have the most justify continuing to take so much more than is fair or sustainable. The feelings of entitlement that underpin the flying, the long car journeys, the over-consumption. I’m honestly tired of watching people I know and like do this and not having the energy to say ‘really?’ when I know I probably should. The Pagans who fly frequently bother me a great deal.

What cheers me, is the people who are fair and realistic. A fine case in point was listening to a talk from Molly Scott Cato recently. She’s an MEP who does not fly. She has no qualms about flagging up where people are priced out of participation in Green movements, and I’m deeply grateful for that. I’ve got very tired of hearing people being blamed for having very few choices open to them, while those who have most might buy their organic veg from the farmer’s market, yes, but still drive cars and are flying places. Not being able to be green because of financial restrictions is very, very different from choosing activities that aren’t sustainable because you can afford them and feel entitled to them.

And yes, honestly, I wish Extinction Rebellion was doing better on this. It’s high profile right now and an opportunity to show radical action. It’s a chance to live your values, and express them in your actions in any way you can think of. We need examples, and we need creativity, and we need people to be willing to make radical changes in their own lives. We aren’t going to solve the impact that transport has unless a lot of people are willing to make different transport choices. The same goes for energy use, throwaway consumerism, food waste, the fashion industry…

If you can afford to make changes in your life, you have a duty to the Earth to make changes towards more sustainable ways of living. I’ve been doing this for a long time, I have a small carbon footprint and I’m still working on shrinking it. I get very tired of people telling me that what I do is too difficult for them. Unless you are more disabled than me, in more pain than me, in more poverty than me… it’s not too difficult. It’s just more difficult than you’re willing to take on and that’s not actually the same thing.

Do I sound cross? It may be because I am. It may be because every time I have to walk past the lines of poison-exuding cars, most with only one occupant, a kind of rage fills me. An absolute rage at the complacency of people, the lack of effort and imagination, and the lack of feeling responsible. Because if you can afford to put a car on the road in the UK, you can afford to do differently at least some of the time. If you want to hang on to aspects of life that put out carbon, please be a bit creative and at least find some ways to reduce the impact.

Try harder!


Transition Towns for Pagans

This May, the Pagan Federation online conference was green themed, and during the planning phase, Debi asked if anyone could talk about the Transition Towns movement. As it happens, Stroud (aka home) has a hefty transition community all working in many different ways towards sustainability and reduced carbon use. Our district council aims to have the district carbon neutral by 2030!

This is the film I made about my experience of being a small part of that…

Find out more about The Transition Network here – https://transitionnetwork.org/


How being smart harms the planet

The fashion industry has been under some scrutiny of late for the environmental harm it does. A lot of clothing gets worn once and sent to landfill, and the notion of fashion is held to blame. However, there’s also the issue of looking smart, and what we now imagine that to mean.

Smart clothes are new clothes. There are no marks, no worn bits, no faded bits and no repairs on smart clothes. My son’s school is big on the idea of ‘smart’ and clear that a visible mend isn’t good enough. This wasn’t always the way of things and for much of the past, clean and neatly mended was smart enough for most of us.

New clothes speak of money. New clothes announce that you do not need to make do and mend, you can afford to throw away and replace. To look smart is to look affluent. However, the planet can’t afford us to keep going with this idea of richness.

It helps that I don’t do the kind of work where people will expect me to look ‘smart’. Authors are renowned for working in their pyjamas. We’re allowed to look a bit eccentric at events. It’s not unusual to find people at Transition meetings with old paint on their clothes, upcycled gear, things mended, and repurposed. I recall a fabulous hat made out of a child’s jumper… Equally in steampunk gatherings, remaking has kudos to it. I can go into those places wearing a skirt made out of offcuts from worn out shirts, and any judgement I get will tend towards the affirmative.

When we focus on smart, we also tend to focus on what we can buy readymade, which in turn means conformity, fitting in, having what everyone else has. Readymade means unoriginal, bland, lacking personal expression – and these might be good ways to push back against the smartness that harms the planet. If we prized innovation and originality more, then we’d be more up for upcycling and re-purposing because it would be all about showing off personal skill and cunning.

The current notion of smart, is modern. Our Viking and Saxon ancestors, I gather, took great care of their kit and meticulously patched damaged clothes to keep them going. When your culture says that your smartness is measured by how deftly you can make repairs, then that’s how you focus yourself. When your culture says ‘smart’ is a poor quality garment you throw away after a couple of wears, that’s apparently what we do.

Conventionally smart clothes are boring, unsustainable, and involve little or no personal creativity. Keeping usable fabric out of landfill leads to much more fun, innovation, skill, delight and scope to be unique.


How community sustains us

I was in Wakefield over the weekend for a Pagan Federation conference. It turned out to be – as these things so often are – a significant learning opportunity for me. I had a number of conversations about how we square up to climate crisis, how we cope and keep going and avoid being overwhelmed by panic and despair.

The answer for me is community. Those conversations made me realise just how blessed I am in where I live and who I work with. Stroud’s District Council has not only declared that there is a climate emergency, but it is also working to make the whole district carbon neutral by 2030. That’s a massive and ambitious plan, and exactly what’s needed right now. It’s easier to feel hopeful when you can see people with the power to make larger scale changes getting involved.

I also have Transition Stroud – which involves hundreds of local people working for sustainability. It’s a hands-on community that pushes for grass roots change. It is hard slogging away at personal change when you feel like no one else cares and your change makes so little difference. When you have a community working towards sustainability, you can start to see how those individual changes stack up into bigger changes. There’s scope to inspire more people and draw them in.

On top of this, I’m a long standing supporter of The Woodland Trust and I also do some volunteering for them. Trees can do so much to help us deal with climate crisis. They lock up carbon, they can reduce flooding if planted in the right places, they’re good for human mental health and they support biodiversity and help protect the soil. Supporting The Woodland Trust means I’m contributing on a national scale as well. There are many charities and organisations working for the good of the land and for wildlife – supporting any of them will give you similar experiences.

When we are connected with other, Likeminded people, we have the power to do more. We can inspire and uplift each other, hold each other accountable and keep each other going. Look around and see what already exists in your area – better to join something heading the right way than start from scratch. If there is truly nothing, then it may fall to you to start the process – but you will not be the only one. People who want radical change are everywhere, often trying to figure out what to do and where to start if nothing is yet moving.


Dreaming differently

What would happen if our dreams were not driven by the desire to consume? What if we weren’t drawing our inspiration from adverts, and weren’t being fed a constant consumerist narrative about what we need to own in order to be happy? What would we daydream about then?

We might stop dreaming about new cars and kitchens and carpets and start dreaming about how to live at our hearth and in our homes. Dreams of community and time spent with people we care for, and who care for us. Not the look of the kitchen itself, but the scope to make good food and share it with good people. Life changes dramatically when you’re less focused on how a home might look and more concerned with what you can do in it.

Equally, if our gardens don’t have to look like something off the telly, we might dream of wildlife havens instead. We might plant trees and welcome insects, birds and small mammals to share the space with us. We might dream of the summer humming of bees and the beauty of butterflies. We might want a space to just chill out and watch the clouds go by – dreaming of a space in which to dream.

We might indeed dream of holidays, but not of planes and other countries. We might dream of having the time to really get to know the land we live on, or having more time for the people who come into our homes or the wild things in our gardens.

We might dream of changing our bodies, but not through the misery and seldom successful methods of commercial dieting, and not by purchasing a new look from the planet trashing fashion industry. We might dream of the things we can joyfully do with our bodies. We might aspire not to thinness or fashion, but to grace and delight. We might start listening to our bodies and let our dreams come from the needs our bodies have.

Rather than dreaming of fame and fortune, we could dream instead of the things we want to achieve. The book we want to write – not to be famous, but to say the things we need to say. The art we want to make. The dance styles we want to learn. The courses we want to study. The things we want to create with our hands. We can make space to dream up ways of re-using rather than throwing away. We can get excited about our own creativity.

We can dream about how good it would feel to know we are living sustainably. The pleasure of not harming the living planet, and of knowing we’ll leave it in good shape for those who come after us. We can dream of a world in which life and beauty flourish, rather than profit and greed. And the more we dream this, the more we move towards it. The more we share these dreams and draw other people into them, the more feasible it all becomes. Dream it and talk about it, and see who you can co-dream with, and then see what you can co-create as those dreams turn into ever more viable possibilities.

(And I can recommend the Transition Towns movement as an excellent place to find inspiration and turn dreams into action – https://transitionnetwork.org/ )


Have a greener Christmas

For the next couple of weeks, this blog is going to be all about having a greener Christmas, Yule, or whatever else you celebrate. I’m going to mostly say ‘Christmas’ because I think more people will find it if I do. Also, Christmas is the festival especially tied in to commercialmass, and it’s the specifically Christmas derived traditions that I am going to be challenging. So, if you’re having an eco-friendly Yule already, or a sustainable solstice, you probably don’t need what I’m wafting about. However, I’m asking for shares, tweets, reblogs and so forth on this content if you can spare me a moment over the coming weeks. (Not this one, this one doesn’t really have much in it…)

Christmas is a terrible time for waste, consumerism, debt and perpetrating the idea that stuff is what we need to be happy. As a species and as a planet, we can’t afford this kind of attitude.


It’s easy… for me

I think one of the big mistakes many people make – especially around radical life changes to be more sustainable, is that if it’s easy for them, it’s easy. How well resourced a person is to begin with makes a lot of odds. Resources like time, money, energy, skills, education, and health all make a lot of difference to how hard or easy something will be. Everything is harder when you are already struggling.

I find it easy living without a car. This is in no small part because I’ve never had a car. I am well enough that I can mostly get where I need to go on foot, and I don’t do things I can’t do without a car. For someone who has always had a car, doing without a car isn’t easy and requires a lot of changes in what you do, how you plan and how long things take. For someone who is ill or disabled, being without a car may be impossible.

Not having a car, I can’t drive to the farmer’s market to pick up a week’s supply of vegetables. I can’t park near my local loose goods store and drive all my plastic-free food home. The process of getting food home has made being plastic free difficult to say the least. I would also struggle to afford to buy all my food on these terms. I’ve cut back on plastic every way I can manage, I’ve questioned my food choices and I’ve given things up. I’m not as good as I want to be.

I feel strongly that we shouldn’t be blaming or shaming people whose lack of resources makes it hard for them to be green. It’s good to flag up ways of being green that save money or aren’t that hard, because if lots of people can engage a bit, that’s progress. It’s often the people with most resources who cause the most harm. Be that with buying things that will soon be thrown away, food waste, flying abroad, travelling by car, using a lot of water, buying products with a lot of air miles on them – it’s the things that cost the most that often also… cost the most.

It’s easy for me to give up flying. I’ve only done it a couple of times in my life. It’s easy to do without holidays when you can’t afford them. It’s easy not to support the environmentally damaging fashion industry when you can’t afford to buy new clothes that often and really have to make your clothing last.

But it’s hard avoiding palm oil on a small budget.

And when you’re tired, and sore and you work long hours and your home isn’t warm enough and everything is a struggle… you probably aren’t going to be able to grow organic veg on an allotment to make nutritious stews to feed your family.

If becoming green is easy, it’s probably because you have the resources that make it easy.

If becoming green is easy there’s a very real chance this is because you had far more than you needed to begin with. Cutting back from a place of excess isn’t so very difficult in practical terms, even if you do feel like you’re doing something heroic.

And if it is easy for you, please, please consider that it might not be easy for someone else.