Sunday, February 04, 2007

I do some of my best thinking while doing things like ironing, brushing my teeth, etc. I have been thinking about the whole issue that has popped up in my various groups under the guise of wool vs acrylic, allergies, organic wool, etc. There was a brief article in one of the papers this weekend about the illegal logging industry in Indonesia, a lot of which ends up in Australia. I had already wondered how that much teak could be produced to end up in outdoor furniture at "bargain prices" in Sydney. Chances are it was illegally harvested by a logging company who offered cold hard cash to subsistence farmers who didn't particularly care what the strangers did, at least not until their woodlands were gone.

I know we are supposed to "think globally, act locally" but there are so many issues at play here in so many different environments that acting at all seems counter-productive. How were the sheets on my bed dyed and what happened to the wastewater? Was my semi-antique Moroccan carpet made with child labour? Am I contributing to pollution by eating watermelon that was grown on irrigated and over-fertilized land? What happens to the drugs I take once they pass through my body (one of the one I pop like candy for pain is not metabolized at all) and go into the sewage system? Those Christmas ornaments I bought were made in China with labour that was not paid what we would call a living wage. Do we in the first world have the right to tell anybody else how they should live? So much of my life revolves around computers, the one I'm typing on, the one the Bear is using which also is the network hub, the one I use at work that produces data which is then available to people around the world. I live a digital life with digital friends and look for land to buy and books to read and music to load onto my iPod through this package of chips and discs and displays.

Consumerism drives our economy and in some cases makes it possible for those Chinese labourers to get a better quality of life than they originally might have been sentenced to. The Indonesian farmer may now buy a TV and either be lulled into stupidity by the dren we (first world) feed to the airwaves, or they might have their minds opened to the simple knowledge about a world other than their own and who know may spark an impressionable youth to act on what he/she perceives as injustice and the need to make us know the things he sees. If we are lucky he won't become a potential Islamic terrorist, but will "merely" take on the Indonesian loggers or the government (goodbye now!) in an effort to tell the world about what has happened to his corner of the world. Will people stop buying teak furniture in Sydney or even ask if the timber was obtained legally? Will we ask about child labour and fair trade and pollution when we make purchasing decisions? I didn't when I bought sheets recently but all of this puts an incredible load and responsibility on each consumer that I wager even Peter Garrett doesn't exercise every day. Those of us suffering chronic illness, or worse, a potentially fatal illness, know how hard it is to get through a single day without adding asking all these questions at every turn.

Even if I could produce all our food, our clothes, get off the grid for power and water, live without computers (not in this household), read books from the library instead of buying them online, would it make a difference? Even if my entire city (350,000) could do that (not possible in this landscape) would that have a impact on what we are all collectively doing to our planet? Now that the major powers have finally admitted that climate change is real, is it too late to make a significant difference? Some say yes; some say no.

There seem to be an awful lot of question marks in the preceding paragraphs. That's because I have no answers. I can comfort myself in knowing that I have skills in growing things and making things that truly twenty-first century folks do now. But that isn't going to matter at all if the system completely implodes. If I lose my pharmaceutical supply, I might as well be dead because, even if I make through withdrawal, I will be useless physically. The kind they used to leave out on the ice to die. Just some cheery thoughts for your Sunday sermon. But do think; it's the only advantage we primates have over the rest of life. We got us into this mess, maybe we can think our way out.

1 comment:

amanda j said...

You have certainly offered some food for thought. I take comfort in the fact that we are now thinking about our impact after some blind 'progress' throughout the past couple of centuries. I would like to believe we have turned a corner. So often in life I find at the very least some irony about the way we go about things. Great post.