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Activism Environment

Buy Nothing New for a Year

A few days ago I was looking through online January sales for DVDs, and I wondered about how much more happy and fulfilled I feel when I add more material things to my life. Not much, if at all. And this reminded me of Robert Llewellyn buying nothing for a year (about 3/4 down in this article). So I googled it and found a different website all about ‘the movement’, and this has helped me develop my own guidelines for the project:

  1. Stick to the essentials: I will obviously continue to buy food, toiletries and other essentials. But I will make an effort to keep this to a minimum. I don’t buy a lot of toiletries anyway, and rarely waste food so this shouldn’t be too difficult. But I do want to make an effort to cut out excessive packaging, reducing food miles, and possibly growing my own. I’m not very green-fingered though so I don’t want to commit to this.
  2. Support local: I will try to support locally grown food, locally made toiletries, local suppliers, and small businesses.
  3. Carry reusable products: I will keep shopping bags and a travel mug in the car, so I’m not caught short when I’m out and about.
  4. Buy services and experiences: I will continue to spend money on enrichment and entertainment, but be aware of how much ‘new’ stuff they use to provide that service and their impact on the environment. Anything that makes use of local community spaces is OK. Haircuts are OK but not too often. Concerts, museums, etc. are all OK.
  5. Buy used: I want to keep what I buy to a minimum, but if there is anything I have to buy I will try to get it used instead. I’m already pretty good at this – love charity shops and ebay – but I could be better.
  6. Borrow or share: I will check if I can borrow items that I need in the short term, and also have items available for others to borrow.

Saying this, I do have a few conditions to attach:

  • Bathroom: I have bought everything except the bath and tiles, and it would life much easier to have a shower installed and have the extra space in the spare room. The cheapest bath I can find is a new one, and this has been on my list for a year. So if I have the money I am OK with getting this sorted out.
  • Shed: Another thing that has been on my list for a long while, and it is for the wellbeing of the horses. It also has the added benefits of not using bale wrap, saving money, and generating electricity.
  • Gifts: I will try to stick to experiences instead of buying new material stuff for people, but I’ll just have to see how this goes.
  • Christmas vouchers: I still have some vouchers to spend from Christmas and if they’ll expire I will spend them within the year.
  • Amazon Prime: I haven’t decided yet whether this is classed as material stuff or a service. I don’t own the films and TV shows in my playlist, and I watch this more than my TV.

I will also use this time to try to get rid of stuff I don’t need, use or want. I’ve already turned my clothes hangers around so that I can really see what I don’t wear (and make an effort to go places in order to wear any favourites that are in danger of not being kept!). I’m going to get rid of gifts I’ve received once I’ve kept them for an appropriate length of time, which I guess is about 12 months, depending on who the gifter was. I’m going to go through all the stuff I hang on to and decide if I really need to keep it, if it is improving my life in any way. And I’m going to need to be quite ruthless as far as sentimental value goes.

Hopefully I will also use this time to get crafty again, with all the craft stuff, beads and material that is taking up space in the house.

And as a reminder of what our consumerist lifestyles lead to, here are some none-too-heart-warming photos. None of dead, suffering or misshapen animals though.

ocean tyres
Disaster Management Environment

Global Carbon Footprint

This is an interesting graphic I re-posted on my tumblr site a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly it is limited in that it doesn’t show emissions against population, but just a quick glance shows that the USA emits about as much as China, and the UK about as much as Brazil. While I don’t know the populations of each of those countries off hand, I know that they are vastly different.

The graphic is originally from here.

Japan 2012

International Study Tour Day 3: Kamikatsu

We had a much more relaxed start to the day today: breakfast at 7.45am and no educational stuff until 9.30am, which meant we had enough time to go for a walk and see orange trees, bamboo plants, and a random shrine or two in the countryside around the hotel. It was pitch black when we got here last night, so we were able to see just how remote this place is this morning. There is the hotel we’re in, what looks like another hotel across the river, and the village to one side of us. And wooded mountains on every side.

Our first seminar of the day was in the hotel, from the president of Irodori, Mr Tomoji Yokoishi. Irodori is a group that was set up to help people in rural areas make a living. From climbing trees and collecting leaves. Seriously. One person has made 200,000 yen in one day. That’s £2,000. One woman was still climbing trees until she was 95. The concept is that high-end restaurants like to decorate food with leaves of the season, and Kamikatsu is surrounded by the leaves that are in demand. Irodori has helped mostly older people set up a farmers’ cooperative to take advantage of this, and they are reaping the rewards.We got to visit the warehouse that the cooperative paid for, and saw some of the farmers delivering their leaves.

Back to the hotel for lunch, and then to Kamikatsu Zero Waste project on our way back. This rural area has never had household rubbish collections, but the zero waste facility has been set up essentially as a skip, but with a huge emphasis on recycling. People can bring their stuff and sort it into various boxes, and for those residents who are not very mobile, volunteers do household collections every couple of months. There is also a bric-a-brac shop, but you don’t pay for what you take: just note down the weight. Kamikatsu aims to be zero waste by 2020.

Then the long drive back to Takatsuki. Really long. Slept for most of it. We went out for dinner to a Thai and Bali restaurant because a few people were getting fed up of the choice of fish or raw fish. It was probably my least favourite meal so far and it was quite an expensive night. But up to this point I hadn’t paid for anything so I didn’t really mind.

We asked Hideyuki to translate a tattoo Shaun got when he was 15 because he liked the look of it. The look on his face made us think it must have said something like paedophile, but it says “blood and guts”. It was funny to him because the “blood and guts = courage” analogy doesn’t really translate, so in Japanese it kinda means sickness.

Hideyuki’s students – affectionately termed “the boys” by Neill – were quite taken with Chris’s muscles, so he treated them to a big bear hug before they left, lifting them a few feet off the ground.

The “chin chin” conversation was going on on the other table, so I told Shaun, Liv and Marion what it meant. We decided it would be funny to say “chin chin” instead of “kanpai” on the next round, and received shocked looks from Komal and the 3 Japanese people. Komal asked Hideyuki to explain to us what it meant, and I think he was slightly confused when we said we knew exactly what we were saying!

Japan 2012

International Study Tour Day 1, or Auto Face Focus

Official start of the conference today. Started with a 6am phone call from Komal telling me to be at breakfast at 7.30am. Which we had already been told the night before…

We took the shuttle bus from the hotel to the station and walked in what was probably not the most direct route to Kansai University. Very plush building: Shaun, Liv and I were very jealous of it compared to Ellison Building in Northumbria. Not that Ellison Building is that bad: just looking a bit worn.

Disappointingly very few Japanese people came to see us present, but we still had a chance to present our research (or lack thereof). Despite the fact that I have no findings as yet, I didn’t feel that it went that badly.

We had lunch after the postgraduate presentations. I was presented with a basket of salad sandwiches.

In the afternoon, David Cope (Director of Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology) did an informal presentation; then Neill and Chris from the Fire Service presented, and then a postgraduate from Kansai. Finally Bernard and Hideyuki led a participatory workshop; after which we were all feeling quite tired!

We had long enough at the hotel to change and freshen up, before going to a restaurant on the 15th floor of a building next to City Hall. It was really really nice, and free drinks for the first 90 minutes. We got small glasses to go with our beer, so we had no idea how much we drank, but it led to concepts like “auto face focus” (the feature on cameras that automatically locates and focuses on faces; not it’s real name but sounds funny when said in a Japanese accent).

A few people left early and the stragglers were asked to leave around 9pm. Not because we’d done anything wrong: restaurants just seem to shut early here. There was still a full bottle of beer left which we didn’t want to leave, so Shaun hid it in his coat pocket. But he still had to put his shoes on with a few of the staff hanging around. Cue me putting on his trainers and attempting to tie the laces while both of us were wetting ourselves and no one else had a clue what was going on.

We decided to get some more beers and “cheap sake” in the 7-11 on the way back to the hotel (apparently we hadn’t had enough!). Once again I was Shaun’s bitch, getting beer out of the fridge because he couldn’t bend down.

Six of us congregated in Marion’s room for drinks and giggles. The sake didn’t go down too well (we’re pretty sure the shop assistant lied when we asked if it was sake) but everything else did, and Chris even had to get more beer. The night eventually ended around 1.30am, but not before fun misheard comments like “where are your trousers pet?” (“where’s your trouser press?”) and “where’s your winkie?” (“where’s your room key?”).

Activism Environment Justice

Avaaz Climate Petition

Right now, a major climate fight is blowing up in Australia — the government is about to pass a law that would cut carbon emissions and get polluters to pay. But big businesses are trying to kill the bill.

This carbon pricing law is a win-win measure — it will push dirty businesses towards clean production and generate more resources for working families. If it passes, it will spur other major emitters to follow suit and could be the next best hope for our climate.

Sign the urgent petition to back this bold initiative

The measure would make polluting companies pay, encouraging them to become more efficient while funding technologies of the future and increasing support to the most needy.

Countries like Denmark, Sweden and Costa Rica have already introduced carbon-pricing, spurring innovation and reducing pollution. If we now embolden Australia — the worst rich country per person carbon polluter — to follow their lead, it will generate momentum for other major emitters such as China and the US to follow suit, boosting our chances of a global climate deal next year.


Resolutions 2011

Yep, that time of year again. Looking back on 2010’s resolutions:

  • Become a vegan: started late and probably made a couple of errors along the way, but I’m getting better at it.
  • Reduce emissions: no idea! Heating and electric has been easy but not the car, until I moved to Newcastle in September and I’ve been walking much more.
  • Exercise more: I haven’t made a concerted effort at this. I joined the gym in uni which started out pretty well but has fallen away recently.
  • Become an activist: I have been doing more petition signing and writing to politicians and decision makers, but I could definitely do more.

And ones for 2011:

  1. Go teetotal: I did it for 14 months then stopped for no apparent reason. I’ve had a good time whilst drinking again, but I think it’s time to stop again. It was about proving I could enjoy myself without alcohol, be fun without it, and also as a rebellion against what’s expected in our drinking culture. I’m more nervous about it this time round with my new university friends, but I’m willing to give it a go.
  2. Stop torturing myself: I’m expecting (or hoping) certain people will change. And they won’t. And it’s about time for me to be honest with myself and give up on it. Just stop pretending.
  3. Work hard: So far I’m on the cusp between a first and a 2:1, and I’d really like the first. As well as the grade, the lecturers can probably do a lot for me in terms of internships and work, so I need to make the most of this time.
  4. Be an activist: I really need to do more on this. It’s who I want to be and I shouldn’t be afraid of sharing my knowledge and expressing my opinions. It’s the only way to change the world.

I’ll also be continuing the veganism, exercise, keeping my emissions down, and as always, try to blog more.

Activism Environment Justice

Airplot wins!

I’m not yet sure how I feel about this new government – especially with planned increases on VAT – but I am glad they’ve chosen to scrap the third runway plans at Heathrow. I signed up to airplot a few weeks ago, along with thousands of other people over the past 18 months, including Nick Clegg, Justine Greening (Cons) and Susan Kramer (LD). Zac Goldsmith, one of the legal owners, was also Environmental Adviser to the Conservative Party, and is now MP for Richmond Park.

It might not be reducing the effects of climate change, but it certainly goes some way to ensuring they don’t get even more out of control.

Activism Environment Justice

Copenhagen Climate Talks

I won’t go into any great detail right now (mostly because I’ve only been hearing the headlines), but it would be a great disappointment if the ‘world leaders’ don’t reach a substantial agreement in Copenhagen this week. Developed nations seem content to continue as they are, despite all the warnings. And why should we trust these leaders, when we already know they’re only interested in short term gains that keep them in office?

They seem perfectly happy to spend billions to wage war and access more oil, rather than spend less (still billions, but much less) on developing renewable energy technology and reducing demand (through actions such as better insulation and behaviour change to produce less waste).

But fair play to the Small Island nations, who are being outspoken and getting their views across. And why shouldn’t they? The behaviour of developed nations over the past 200 years means they may have to abandon their entire island (see Dan Box’s blog on the Carteret Islands for the first climate change refugees).

The New Economics Foundation are conducting research on monetary reform: “A combination of centralisation, globalisation and deregulation has allowed private financial institutions to create a credit bubble which has now burst”. This financial system has crippled the natural world: businesses buy and ship products worldwide; massive consumption has lead to huge tracts of land being brought into ‘productive’ use; people with disposable income are encouraged to spend their money on the latest stuff, then throw it away and replace it with the newer stuff six months later; nothing is built to last. Everything is secondary to the market: family, community, the natural environment, politics, democracy…

And to finish I will quote a Cree Indian proverb: “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.”

Follow COP15 with:
Friends of the Earth
The Ecologist Magazine