Earth Day 2018

Last month saw witness to Earth Hour, and at the weekend (Sunday 22nd) it was Earth Day.

I couldn’t think of anything particular I could do to make the day special. In previous years I have perhaps gone out on my bike, or considered not using my computer. This year though I’ve been routinely going round my sister’s for lunch on Sunday and other than mentioning it was Earth Day, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Quite fitting then that our area was experiencing power cuts! I’d sat down at my computer in the morning (perhaps to write something about Earth Day!) when the power kept going off, so I headed round to my sister’s to see if hers was any better, and it wasn’t. She’d had the joint in the slow cooker over night, so that was cooked, but we had no way to boil the veg. We waited in hope for the power to return but it didn’t so we settled on beef burgers and salad. By the afternoon I could have really done with a cup of coffee, and we would normally watch something on her Netflix (we’ve been watching The Expanse since the Star Trek series finished), but it wasn’t to be; but a clear lesson in how much we take “power on tap” for granted.

After all that I did indeed go out on my bike for an hour and the electricity returned some time later.

Come Monday, and I managed to stay off my computer (even though I had this post to write) and get on with work around the house; hoovering and painting a wall – two things that wouldn’t do themselves, and would never never get done if I wasted every day off from work in front of the computer. Unbeknownst to me that my internet was down! So when I finally sat down on my computer (feeling happy with myself about how much stuff I’d got done), I laughed when it seemed like two days in a row the gods had played their games.

Anyway, I’m here now; my internet had returned by the next day.

As per my earlier post about ‘Cutting Down‘ you will know that my life involves cutting down (and out) a lot of the environmentally-harmful stuff that we are to be mindful of on these days (if not every day). Largely this seems to be about plastic, but I try to cut down on electricity usage (I’ve been using just 14kwhs a week for the past few weeks) and my time online; generally this is intentional, but as you’ve seen, sometimes external influences dictate (or assist!) my efforts.

Plastic was again in the news last week, since Theresa May, in addition to her wanting to have ‘plastic-free aisles’ at supermarkets, wants to ban drinking straws, has added plastic drinks stirrers to her list, along with cotton buds.

Not that I use drink stirrers, because if I’m going out for coffee I’ll pay for it to be in a proper cup where proper spoons are provided for stirring, and anyway, a wooden stirrer would work. As for cotton buds, the ones I get from Co-op don’t have plastic sticks (that’s just how they make them, I didn’t originally choose them because of that), but it’s not anyone uses them every day, and they’re filling up landfill, is it?

I like to see the effort, such as with carrier bags, because seeing those blowing around the countryside is annoying, and there are a lot of drinks straws discarded each week (I’m sure), but now it seems like Theresa May is literally clutching at straws and just making a long list of silly small things rather than tackle something big, or change attitudes (how do you do that?); I mean, why not ban cars? Even if it’s about plastic, still ban cars – there’s a lot of plastic in cars, more so in modern ones, many drinks-stirrers-worth.

OK, some people actually need a car here in the UK, but far too many cars are driven when they don’t need to be (just like a lot of waste comes from discarding things we didn’t actually need), like when I hear my neighbour drive a mile down the road (and back) in the morning because (I assume) they forgot to get milk for breakfast while they were out the day before. I would never have done that, in fact as I started to use my car less and less I began to mentally calculate how much the running costs of my car were (vehicle tax, insurance, routine maintenance, petrol, plus a share of the cost of the car itself) for those few days a year when I did actually drive it, and factor that into the cost of what I was going out for.

Will we really solve the problem of plastic by addressing each plastic thing in turn?

4 comments

  1. Power cuts: We have a cardboard box easily accessible just inside the loft containing a small camping stove with butane cylinder, similar camping light, extra candles and matches, solid fuel pocket hand warmer (which I thought was a relic of the seventies but am surprise to find you can still buy them), old pulse telephone (definite pre-touch-tone, pre-mobile relic but it still works from the line power when you plug it in), wind up torch (we’re not entirely stone-age). Once every couple of years or so the power supplier gives us an excuse get it out and sit smugly in glowing pools of light with our warm drinks while (we imagine) the neighbours watch enviously from their darkened windows.

    • Yes, back at home I too have a camping stove which is ideal for heating up a pan of something for myself, although I admitted to my sister that it wouldn’t been ideal for boiling veg for four of us. Other useful things like candles and torches are dotted around; though not as thoughtfully placed as your kit, but I would bask in reasonable smugness too.

  2. Micromanaging products is NOT the role of government.

    Market forces in conjunction with intelligent laws are best used to guide and direct the will of the people. For instance:

    • Plastics in the environment are deemed bad by the people.
    • Companies that steer their products toward recycled or biodegradable materials should be rewarded. Those that do not should be penalized — through market forces.
    • A simple law could be enacted that says all communities will be gauged as to the plastic content of their garbage and rewarded for less than X% and penalized for more than that.

    What would happen then? If your community relied on government grants and funding, and will lose if you don’t change your behavior…?

    Government sets and maintains the level playing (economic) playing field — as determined by society. Market forces then do the rest.

    • Hmm, if it was the will of the people surely no guidance would be required. Of course some people care and some people don’t. The same with businesses; some care about the recyclability of their packaging and products, others just go with what provides the best return (the short-sighted view). Here intelligent laws can bring things on track with “how we (the people who care) want things to be”.

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