General ramblings

One Small Step, and all that…

January 12, 2014

Yesterday, I had one of my moments.
I have had them before, and blogged them (you can read them in all their gory detail here, here and here ).
And inevitably, I feel the need to share it with you. Sorry. Here goes.

I have been lucky enough to win some Transition Training from the team behind the Transition Network, (blog post to come!) and I am really excited and hopeful that this will give me the knowledge and skills to go forth and create a Transition Group here in Warminster.

During an unexpected quiet morning this weekend, I did some catching up on Rob Hopkin’s thought-provoking blog.
And it kind of freaked me out. In what, hopefully, ultimately is a good way, but for an hour or two, I was just plain old freaked out.

Rob has done a series of interviews with some really inspirational people like Annie Leonard from The Story of Stuff, and Oliver James who wrote Affluenza , among others.
Several of them make the point that our society is just so rooted in consumerism, that there may actually not be a way out of the mess that we are creating.

Our economic system needs sustained growth, and this is fuelled by increased production, which is fuelled by increased consumption by us. And in order to get us to want more, want better, the clever old chaps at the advertising agencies are constantly thinking of new ways to tell us that we are not good enough, or our clothes are not cool enough, or our gadgets are not up to date enough, so that we go out and buy more and keep the economy growing.
And I hadn’t really thought about advertising as ‘evil’ before, and how ‘everywhere’ it is, and how actually, it’s job is to get us to believe that we are not good enough, and that we can be made good enough or made to feel better by buying  a new x, y or z.

And I just started thinking that actually, we are screwed.
There is no way that the whole economic system-and the planned obsolescence, and the advertising that tells us how much we need new things to make ourselves feel better, and then the need to work more to pay for the things that we are told will make our lives better, and the fact that this means we are all too busy to spend time doing the actual important things like talking to our kids and playing with them, and that this then makes us unhappier, so we buy more, because we are told this will make us feel better, but then we need to earn more to pay for it, so we work harder…. THAT, can change.
Or can change in time to pull our planet back from the brink.

I know that there are some people who still argue that climate change is not man made, and I am assuming that they therefore say that because it might not be man made, then we can ‘t do anything to stop it, so there is no need to curb our excesses and we should all just carry on as normal.
But surely the same argument cannot be applied to resource depletion, and acidification and plasticification of our oceans, and the waste issue, and, and, and….

So I was feeling pretty despondent. And incredibly powerless.
How on earth, can the actions of me, and my family, possibly make a difference?
Would it not be easier, and ultimately we would arrive at the same place anyway, to just throw my hands in the air, and give up?
And stop my feeble pathetic attempts to make a difference.
It feels like, short of taking over the world as some kind of good world saving dictator, who forces people to live more sustainably, and to love, well, more (that may be an oxymoron) then anything else is just a drop in a plastic filled, toxin rich, ocean.
How can what any of us ever do, be enough?

For an hour or two, I felt sick to my stomach. Sick and really quite panicky at the planet that we are creating, that we are going to be handing on to our kids, to MY kids.
And some predictions are that the impacts of climate change will start to be felt in the next 10-20 years, well within our own lifetimes.
I personally think that we are already starting to see the effects of climate change, with all the extreme weather we have been having, both here in the UK, and globally.
And it is set to get worse. Much, much worse.

But I always come back to same point.
What I am doing may not save the planet.
But I can’t stop doing it. I can’t stop doing everything that I personally can do.
Because, at the end of the day, that is all any of us can ever do.
And it may not be enough.
But we have to try.

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  • Reply Emma Croft January 23, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Just realised that I’ve talked to 2 friends / colleagues whose NY resolution was to not buy anything new – that is the ripple effect!!!

    • Reply Jen January 23, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Yay!! How are they getting on?
      Have seen some other people on social media too. Maybe we can change the world…!

  • Reply beth January 22, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    If you’re still thinking about this kind of thing I have some reading for you….
    http://www.raptitude.com/2011/01/how-to-make-trillions-of-dollars/
    and completely different, but still kinda linked
    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/22/getting-rich-from-zero-to-hero-in-one-blog-post/
    http://earlyretirementextreme.com/

    The world is only screwed if we all let it be.
    xxx

    • Reply Jen January 23, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      Wow, these are great! Really inspiring, thanks for linking up 🙂

  • Reply Heather January 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Like you I often feel very overwhelmed by the problem of climate change, mass consumerism and waste. Sometimes I catch myself wondering why I bother when I’m clearly in the minority with my way of thinking. However I read blogs like yours and all the lovely comments you get and I feel heartened to continue. There are lots of us out there cutting back on waste, buying less stuff, using reusable bags and driving our cars less. Keep your chin up and plough on Jen, your blog is inspiring and it certainly helps me feel less alone in my thoughts!

    • Reply Jen January 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Please do continue. As I said in the post, I feel a little like that at times, but the alternative is not something I could do, and still be happy with the choices I was making, and the person I was being.

  • Reply treadingmyownpath January 15, 2014 at 4:07 am

    A friend of mine said that whenever he feels overwhelmed by how big a task it all is, he remembers this story and it keeps him motivated.

    Hope you like it : )

    (I hope the link works okay : /

    • Reply Jen January 15, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      I LOVE this! I have seen it before on FB, such a powerful message. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply sarah hunt January 13, 2014 at 10:58 am

    When you see how much plastic rubbish the Chinese generate each day it makes you think how pointless it is to recycle here as we can never compete. However, the Chinese are destroying so much of their own natural environment that, given how little greenery is left in their cities and how much smog etc they have, the Chinese will get to point where they are literally suffocating themselves. So on the whole, unless they take drastic measures to change their destruction of the environment, they will all soon be dead anyway and will no longer be a problem (ie in terms of their wastage output).

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 11:15 am

      I think we will all reach a point where the results of our actions (or collective inaction) will impact so significantly on our lives, that we will be forced to change. But I fear that by that point it will be late…

    • Reply thedevolutionary January 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      “The Chinese” aren’t generating this rubbish, creating pollution or making useless, breakable plastic things for themselves. It’s being done to satisfy consumer demand in the West (driven largely by advertising as Jen makes clear).

      I assume your comment is ironic and I agree – it’s disgraceful and shameful that Western consumption leads to such mess and devastation on the other side of the world, where we can’t see it, affecting people we will never meet. These are our fellow human beings and our actions directly affect the quality of their lives. Following on from your other point, it’s equally disgraceful that much of our waste is then exported to China to be “processed”. It should be processed here, in the West, so we can see exactly how much garbage we are creating.

  • Reply Vicky Myers January 13, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for this post. I have to admit I really struggle to fully engage with what is happening to our planet, I find it far too overwhelming and difficult to cope with. If I had seriously thought about it in depth I may have chosen not to have children. Your blogs and others help me engage in a way which I can manage:) I am sure you are going to really enjoy the training:)

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

      I agree with you Vicky-I do sometimes question my choice to have children, on an environmental basis. Was it really the right thing to do to add to the growing population? On a very personal level, of course it was the right thing to do for me and and for us, as they bring us so much joy. But I am seriously concerned about the kind of lives they are going to have and the world we are leaving them 🙁

  • Reply kimroper2010 January 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Ive been trying to think about how to comment on this post. It’s true, I think, that focussing on the problems and the seemingly complete lack of ‘action’ by most people could lead one into a deep chasm of despair. “What’s the point?” one might say. “My actions are just a molecule in the drop in the ocean”. I gave up buying stuff (firstly clothes and shoes, then quite a lot of other stuff) for a year which ended on Dec 31st 2013. Now I’m in January, you might think that I’d be wanting to blitz the sales. No. Now I realise how little one needs to be happy, cliches like family, friends, love are true. That’s all one needs. Stuff is wanting not needing. What irks me most is how people in general will say what a great thing you’ve done, but they won’t do it, or anything similar themselves. The only response to our world crisis is for EVERYONE to make a change in their lives. Read what you’ve been doing and then darn well do something about it. I did. It changed me. So come on people, what are you waiting for? No seriously, what ARE you waiting for?

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Congratulations on your year Kim! Sounds like it has been a rally life changing experience for you. I really hope that experiences like yours and mine can show people that they can make small changes, and it’s really not that hard, but that when we ALL do them, it adds up to making a BIG difference.

  • Reply Ms Sarah Winterflood January 12, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    I’m currently reading ‘Zero Waste Home’, there is also a website. It has totally opened my eyes to how I can make personal changes. If you don’t know of it I totally recommend it. I’m new to your blog and have found it very inspiring and educational; I’d never heard of transition before but am keen to learn more, thank you.

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Hi Sarah
      Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
      I am on the look out for a copy of Zero Waste Home-the bits of it I have seen online look great, and really inspiring. So glad you are finding it useful 🙂
      Check out the Transition website-the link is in the blog post-has loads of really great info, book recommendations and you can watch the Transition film too.

  • Reply Kitty Piët January 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    I am sure that every little thing helps. On the subject of all the flooded towns in the UK: it might make a difference if everybody stopped paving up all their gardens, so the rain has more spots to disappear into the ground instead of accumalating in areas where the water is not wanted.
    Keep up your good work!

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

      That’s very true Kitty.

  • Reply thedevolutionary January 12, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Quick response before reading the other comments: You’re absolutely right in your conclusion. As I was reading your post that’s exactly where I wanted you to get. We do these things because we can’t not do them. Trying throwing compostable veggies in the bin, or a bottle – it can’t be done.

    Unfortunately, I also agree with what you wrote before. I strongly suspect that the human experiment will end in failure for our species. That we’ll become a thin layer on the planet’s crust for future beings to dig through or, better still, walk on unaware. But there is still hope. (Excuse me for rambling here – thinking out loud.) And I suppose we’re the ones who are feeding that hope. Because when we do less harm, we are making a difference. And as the sign-off of the Transition 2.0 film says, (words to the effect of), it might be just enough, just in time.

    I’ve decided to stand for election in our village town council. My proposal for the next six years will be a full-on Transition, Incredible Edible, compost toilet extravaganza. The woman standing for mayor is a right-winger, as are a few others in the team. I don’t expect to be taken seriously (tomorrow evening, at the meeting), but I can’t not propose these actions. It would be irresponsible.

    Maybe it’s my age (mid 40s), but I feel that you can either be a spectator or a participant. I’ve spent a long time watching nothing happen, so I’m going to take part as fully as I can.

    Good luck with the Transition stuff. Very exciting. You’ll meet such great people, too.

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Wow, good luck for tomorrow-full of admiration for you. You really are walking the walk! Go get ’em 🙂

  • Reply Sue Parrott January 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I have one of your moments Jen on a regular basis! Your new way of living your life should be an inspiration to everyone. We should all do our bit for a better life for our children and grandchildren. Even if you only encourage one more person to change their wasteful way of living….it will all be worth it. Keep up the good work, we just need to persuade more people to realise that their lifestyle is slowly destroying our planet! But if we all try we can make a change. Xx

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Thanks Sue. I think that the speed with which we are destroying the planet is increasing, and if we do not take drastic action, and soon, it will be too late. But you are right, we have to just keep trying and talking and showing people that making small changes can collectively make a big difference.

      • Reply Sue Parrott January 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        You are so right Jen! People need to stop buying food in plastic bags for a start! I no longer buy fruit, veg or meat in plastic trays, packaging etc. Why on earth do they wrap bananas, (which have a perfectly good outer skin) in plastic bags!!! I don’t have goods wrapped in shops, I always have reusable bags with me! It’s not rocket science for everyone to do their bit….it is after all our planet, and we only get one chance at getting it right….the alternative is unthinkable! X

  • Reply Zoe @ecothrifty January 12, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Last night I was having one of those moments too. I was thinking about how huge the environmental problems of the world are and how I really feel I should be doing much much more than I am now to do something about it. You are totally right though, everything and anything that any individual can do to change things is helpful, necessary and worthwhile!

    • Reply Jen January 13, 2014 at 9:24 am

      I guess we can all, always, do more. And we should keep striving to do just one more thing, and then another. And hope that by doing it, it inspires others to take action, and to demand action, from governments and businesses.

  • Reply Sam Taylor January 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    If it helps Jen – I think of your ideas/principles frequently. I have stopped wasting food. Recycle more, think about meals and using up left overs, packaging and waste. In fact I think of you often when making decisions on what to buy etc. I buy much more ebay/second hand etc. So I am not a madly environmental-type person yet you have influenced me and my decisions which in turn influence my kids etc. Now I don’t necessarily agree with everything you say and actually think gadgets and technology is progress and inevitable, I am actually pleased that Alex can use an ipad and iphone easily, but still ride a bike etc – can’t we have both?
    But in terms of your frustrations/despondence – if you can make wasteful old me change my ways then imagine the effect on all your follower/readers/friends in total?
    hope you are ok!!!!

    • Reply Jen January 12, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      Hey Sam!
      Lovley to hear from you, and thank you so much for your lovely words of encouragement 🙂
      I totally agree with you that most technology is progress, it is just the constant need to upgrade and dispose of the currently still functional one that makes me despair! I am sure it is well within the capabilities of Apple et al to produce things that could have more major downloadable updates and could be repaired more easily, but they don’t as they would sell less of them 🙁
      Hope all is good with you.
      xx

  • Reply helen marshall January 12, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    i try not to think about it and just do my bit as best i can.It overwhelms me.Especially the factory farming issue.That really upsets me.Food and water should be our most precious and valuable commoditys ,not just cheap throwaway items.As the american indians say-‘when will man realise you cannot eat money’. hugs xxxx

    • Reply Jen January 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm

      I agree Helen, it is hugely overwhelming, And maybe this is why most people don’t think or talk about it, Because it is too big and too scary to comprehend. I guess we just have to keep going and encouraging people to do the little things, that when they add up, become big things. And to keep demanding more, and better, from those in power.

  • Reply sandy January 12, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Rampant Consumerism is a relatively new phenomenon. It began post WWI in earnest. Before that a good housewife was judged by how well she husbanded her money, how far she made it go. If you put out a lot of trash you were a spendthrift. If you put out very little you were doing your job.
    Clothes and other articles were mended or made over. Things were passed down rather than buy new. Adult clothes were made over for children. Sheets were split down the middle and re-seamed to get more wear. Etc.
    And yet, I do not remember the economy or government being unable to function any more than they are able to function now, and my FIRM belief is they functioned better.
    I for one do not buy into consumerism. It is not good for our finances, our values, or environment and probably more. I think we need to return to some of our former values : Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do withoout.

    • Reply Jen January 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm

      Couldn’t agree more Sandy. And my hope is that, if in the space of just 2 or 3 generations, we can from the way things were, to the way things are now, then maybe in the same time frame (or hopefully quicker, if we are to pull things back) we can revert, but better and more efficiently, with the technology we have now.

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