I’ve been sitting looking at an empty screen for an hour, listening to the same song on repeat (Groceries: Mallrat, since you ask), pondering this post, and wondering how to begin it. The girls and I had a long, blissfully exhausting day yesterday out by the river and among the trees with lovely friends. A mostly plant based supper that was so bloody delicious and had me rediscovering my love for pickled gherkins. A bit of allotment envy. Well, a lot of allotment envy a ctually! We had a late night walk to the train station, and sat awaiting for our train watching bats overhead, an owl swoop low over the train track, listening to the roar of the river, and the roosting birds chattering to each other. Nature all around us. Smallest called it a nature-friends day. You could hear the night breathing all around us. When our train was cancelled and we had to wait an hour until the next one, we danced on the platform to keep warm. Such a beautiful day, and I came home with a desire, finally, to write this long overdue post. And so now I’m sitting, thinking, listening, and tapping words ever so quietly, so that they don’t wake my children.
The absolute euphoria and sheer empowerment of the Extinction Rebellion Occupation of London last week that resulted in the UK government declaring a climate emergency, and had thousands of people truly hearing the penny drop on impending ecological disaster has left me with a bit of an emotional hangover and a sense of “but what now??” I feel a certain dubiousness over the climate emergency declaration. Is the government just paying XR a bit of lip-service to shut us up and make us go away? How can we keep the momentum going when it’s so easy to fall into the despair of how hypocritical it feels to be standing shouting that governments and corporations must create space for change, when it can feel so hard to do that ourselves. How can we keep our voices raised in harmony, and not end up with a cacophony of different voices, all fueled by the same passion to protect the earth but shouting over each other so much that no-one can actually hear what we’re saying?
One of the moments of the XR actions in London that really resonated with me, and which has stayed in my consciousness since, was the evening that the rebels walked and sang together, a funeral procession through the streets of London, raising their voices as one with a Shetland song of Mourning. It captured for me the one-ness and togetherness that the actions of Extinction Rebellion stand for. When a campaign like this one starts to gain momentum and the message starts to permeate the rock solid walls that big business and governments have built around them; when voices rise, there is always the risk that the age old divide and conquer tactic will start to gain momentum too. The comments section of every article that I have read has been chocca block full of words written to inflame argument, and to detract from the main aims of the movement. To deny the urgency of the climate catastrophe we are living through, or to simply shame those who would seek to demand change – “so do you fly? Do you wear leather shoes? How can you be a proper activist if you’re not a tie-dye clad, pot smoking, vegan hippy-type?”
So let me tell you this. I am not a vegan. I’m not even a proper vegetarian. I’d like to be, and one day, perhaps I will be. I am also – saying it loudly for the people in the back – not plastic free or zero waste. I try as hard as anyone else, but our landfill bin is still collected every other week, and half our clothes, while mostly second hand, are still made of acrylic blends (can you get leggings that are not?) Right now, making ends meet as a single mum, and making sure we all eat well and the bills are paid comes higher on my list of priorities than cutting out meat and dairy from my diet or living in natural fibers, however much I yearn to do so. I recognize the importance of a plant based diet, but basically if it’s in the reduced to clear section of my local supermarket, I’ll serve it. Saying that, we eat little to no red meat, and very little chicken or fish these days, so I guess we’re almost there. One of the questions I get asked most when I’m at events is “So are you, like, totally plastic free then?” From behind the pang of shame that no, I’m definitely not plastic free – can anyone actually be that anyway? I push a smile and engage in a conversation about how it’s more about making the changes we can, and using our voices to demand that big business and government do the same.
I have often considered the challenge that being on a low income and/or time poor can bring to the zero waste/plastic free/plant-based lifestyles, and how unattainable it can feel even if you are cash and time rich. There are many things I wish I could do right now that would have a greater impact. But equally, it’s important to recognize and honor the things we are doing and just keep doing them. Adding a new effort here, supporting friends to make changes where they can.
I feel like the work of XR over these last months have really highlighted some deep truths in and for me. One, and most importantly, the single actions of individuals will not be enough to turn the tide on climate devastation. Two, that these single actions are still half of the story, and we must continue, we must keep doing *what we can*, and we must continue every day to inspire, in whatever ways we can, others to do the same. Peacefully, and without shame. Three, that we must resist the natural temptation to get drawn into divisive arguments, but meet such attempts with grace and peace and understanding. We are surely all at different places on the same path, travelling in the same direction. Four, that we must try, wherever we can, to consider the impact of shouting our message over the top of everyone else shouting their message, but rather to raise our voices in respectful harmony, that our words may be heard by many. One voice for the planet, one voice for our children, one voice to inspire and connect and engage.
My blog and everything in it will always be free to inspire and support people to live with less plastic, live more sustainably, live with less, and work to reduce the impact of climate change. It does, however, incur running costs. If you are able to contribute to these costs you are welcome to leave a tip in my tip jar here. If not, please consider sharing this post on your social media platforms. Thanks and love, Kate.