Sinking in shallow depths!

I’ve gone running in feet first and now I am out of my depth.  I thought all this saving the planet would be quite simple, all I’d have to do was a bit more walking, remember to switch off a few lights and when writing shopping lists in January to put down Cox’s apples instead of strawberries.  Environmental issues however, are beset by contradictions and I’ve realised I’m going to have to do a lot more thinking.  What got me into this whirlpool of confusion was reading an article in The Sunday Observer a week or so ago, (Welcome to My World, The Observer Magazine, 15.02.09.)  It was an article about Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face, an outdoor-gear fashion empire. I think his shopping list is a little different to mine.  His probably goes more like; milk, coffee, eggs, a Picasso, and vast expanse of wilderness.

Tompkins has bought a large tract of land in central Chile in order to protect and preserve it.  He is a supporter and promoter of Deep Ecology.  Deep Ecology demands a complete rethink of  current economic, political and social values and practices. It promotes instead the inherent value of all life on the planet and celebrates both bio-diversity and cultural diversity.  Deep Ecology entails; taking our place within nature, rather than exploiting it for our own ends; population control – there are too many of us making unsustainable demands on the planet; a rejection of industrialisation and economic globalisation and a rejection of the worship of mega-technologies – including ’green’ technologies and computers.    I discovered all this on the Foundation for Deep Ecology website – it is well designed and reads well,  it is simple, grey and minimalist - it does seem rather embarrassed by its own existence.  Visit www.deepecology.org for more information.   

For Sale

I find this buying up of land problematic, partly because I am disturbed by possibility of an individual  wielding power without legitimate, democratic authority, especially in some one else’s country. However, I do not doubt Tompkins has benign motives.  But mostly I find this problematic because, unless more of the planet is for sale and an environmentalist happens to be buying, this doesn’t seem a workable solution to all the planet’s challenges.   Those challenges require, not (or not only) rich environmental philanthropists, but political will and popular support. 

It is not an intelligent response, but most of us are unlikely to take kindly to being told we should be leading a simpler, (much,much simpler) existence, by a neatly laundered fashion tycoon with a nice art collection and four aeroplanes in his garden shed.  We are just coming to terms with what the deep ecology movement refers to as shallow ecology – recycling, energy efficiency, organic farming etc.  Most of us now are happy and willing to embrace this.   I was interested then to hear (Jon Land, 24dash.com 09.02.09) of the charity BioRegional and its partnership with Sutton Council.  Together they are going to transform the London suburb of Hackbridge into a haven of modern eco-living.  Their plans include the building of new energy efficient homes, powering buildings with locally produced renewable energy, new parks and open spaces, the improvement of transport infrastructure to support walking, cycling and public transport, attracting business and creating employment and more shops and entertainment.  It is a model of sustainability that most people would be happy to live with, and no disrespect but I think shallow is where we have to start if popular support is required for change.  I had fun visiting the BioRegional website, it’s full of interesting stuff. I undertook their Eco-footprint calculator challenge.  My score was 2.9, meaning that if everybody in the world lived like me we would need 2.9 planets to sustain us, the U.K average is 3.  I’m going to try it in a year’s time and see if I do any better.  It is,  like all questionnaires, something of a blunt tool, it didn’t ask me if I’d bought any wildernesses lately or whether I’d taken my plane out for a spin, but it does prompt thought and action.  Go and visit www.BioRegional.com.

Shallow? Me?  I’ve only just dipped my toe in the water!  

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