Feeling the burn

Like many of my left-leaning compatriots, I have spent the weeks following our federal election alternately despairing and angry, while “our” government dismantles anything to do with climate change and renewable energy, signals its utter contempt for women (they just don’t have much merit, apparently), and sets about making it illegal to publicly support boycotting companies who do environmental or social damage (a move even Chris Berg of the IPA  seems to feel is going too far).

Climate change scares me. Not, as the likes of Andrew Bolt would have it, because I am a crazy alarmist, but because there is an utterly unprecedented degree of scientific consensus saying that we need to act, and act now. That the world is very close to environmental catastrophe. That it may already be too late to avert the worst of it, but that we are making things worse with every day we deny the need to change. Scientists. Climate Scientists. The Scientists whose job it is to study these things.

Sadly Tony Abbott doesn’t feel we need science. What Tony Abbott feels we need is big business making obscene profits at any cost. That’s what’s important. David Suzuki, on QandA on Monday night, said “We now have governments who seem to believe that the corporate agenda is the job of government.” As I watched him debate the audience, I alternated between cheering him on and despairing at some of the questions posed. Not to mention the comments on twitter.

I feel helpless. I can’t influence the government – I lack the billions of dollars required for that. I can’t change the world. I try to live as sustainably as I can, but ultimately what difference does one person – even one family – make?

But then at the end of the program, Dr Suzuki said something striking. He talked about the old slogan “think global, act local” and pointed out that as soon as you think global you are paralysed with horror, and you feel unutterably helpless. He said we need to think locally and act locally. That maybe we can’t influence governments, but we can influence the people around us. We can organise on a local level, and when we do these things successfully, they spread.

I am already trying to organise on a local level – I have a facebook group dedicated to sharing home grown produce (the Monash Area Shared Home grown Produce network, look it up if you are local!) such as fruit, herbs and veggies when they’re in season. It has a small but dedicated band of members, and I have hopes that it will take off. We can do more, like planting fruit trees on our nature strips, and lobbying the council to do the same, rather than planting merely decorative trees.

We are involved with a group organising a veggie garden for our school. We cycle everywhere we can, and encourage others to do the same. There is evidence that your network of friends influences everything from your behaviour to your weight, so perhaps just seeing us out and about with our various bikes is helping to change our corner of the world, just a little bit – just as seeing other people out on their bikes has influenced us.

I am planning to work really hard on my veggie garden this year, and share ideas, techniques and produce with the local network and other friends. I’m going to try to buy seasonal produce grown locally wherever possible, rather than grapes from the US in winter. I am going to stick with my “old” mobile phone when my contract falls due (sorry, telcos, no churn for me!), and put off buying new appliances until the old ones are quite, quite dead. I’m going to drive even less, ride and walk even more, and talk more about it.

Recently I had a birthday and several friends gave me plants, most of them edible. It might be that I have collected like-minded friends around me, but I think it’s also that they know me and know what I like. One friend said she thought about buying me flowers but decided on strawberry plants instead. They make me smile every time I see them, and soon they will be flowering, I hope, and making me salivate too.

Maybe I can’t change the whole world. But I have hopes that I can at least improve my small corner of it. And maybe, just maybe, we will build a future for our children.

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