Plastic Prohibition and the Time machine.
My enjoyment for doing crazy things on mountains had got me noticed and I had been approached by a climate change awareness campaign to be an ambassador for their day of activities on the Wainwrights.
The day was called “Another Waynwright day” – https://www.another-way.org.uk/another-waynwright/ and on my 51st birthday I committed to spin on Melbreak and help raise awareness of the effects of climate change and the scourge of plastic pollution.
I had intended to walk over Hencombe, but I woke up to driving rain and initially thought I might have to just spend the day in The Kirkstile pub – spinning – of course.
Finally at noon I was able to walk out, but missed the deadline for sending pictures at 1pm from the summit. It was wet and windy, but a pleasant, easy walk from home on a bridleway. I found the perfect location for taking photos of The Wild Wool Barn in autumn when the leaves are no longer on the trees.
As is often the way with a pleasant walk the rhythm of my steps and the fuggy cocoon of being wrapped up against the unseasonably wet weather my mind wandered to the purpose of being an ambassador for a cause. In my life I have never been on any form of protest or activism. I always worried that I might discover that afterall I don’t agree with everything the cause stands for. Today I realised that all political groupings have different levels and areas where members’ beliefs will not be wholly represented. I understood I supported the cause in principal even if I did not agree with all the nuance of the argument.
I wanted to take part and show my comfortable level of involvement of concern for climate change for me and for my son who was of an age for me to need to show that I was capable of putting my money where my mouth is.
My concerns for being involved were that campaigns can often be black and white, or highlight just one argument for a cause. My personal worries were that “Plastic Prohibition” may be a red herring and that those campaigning for it have not fully thought about how we manage life without it. Had they really thought through how life was 30-40 years ago and why we bought into the convenience of single use plastics.
So what had got our generation to the point that the next generation are angry at us for our lack of action or lack of care for the consequences of our action?
I am hearing a lot of (mostly young) activists, who suggest prohibition and removal of the conveniences that the use of single use plastics has created for us and I wonder if they realise it is my generation who have given them the power to speak out, who spent our working lives, banging on glass ceilings with “no-entry to females” written firmly on them.
The Growth of the Use of Plastic in my Lifetime
I grew up with the female work options of being a nurse or a spinster teacher, a lawyer, a doctor or a wife. To speak when I was spoken to and to be pretty. I learnt to type on a manual typewriter and have learnt and relearnt every incarnation of “Word Processing” and electronic communication over 40 years. All my phones have been 2nd hand given to me by well meaning friends who thought I ought to have one and I finally succumbed to a smart phone as an essential business need. I have grown through such vast change. We were the generation who went without, who made do and mended. We had 1 tv in our household, and it was black and white when the rest of the world had colour. I have friends who chose to walk, take the bus, cycle because is make economic and moral sense without the world telling them to do so. Or others who did not own a fridge because they could not afford it. Who went without. Weddings were saved up for and 2 pairs of shoes was quite enough. A foreign holiday was a once in a life-time event and you saved up for it. A hen-do was a meal at the local Italian. We had lunch boxes and flasks and we had a biscuit tin not individually wrapped snack packs. I certainly did not ask for all this single use convenience, but it has arrived as a natural need for progress, as the scaffold for equality and stops me going insane with exhaustion, while I try and define myself by my career, be at home and at work and at school for my child. Cook, shop, clean and own, afford and maintain a house and be seen to be having the most fulfilling life which has to be reported in all its shininess on social media.
What do we really need to do?
I wonder how many activists have considered that convenience in the form of plastic is not a question of irresponsibility but is a response to equality, equal opportunities and the social pressure to have and be seen to be having everything. So if we want to save the planet we need to save ourselves. We need to sit down and not say I am going to do without this plastic , but ask ourselves why do I need it and how am I going to create the time to cope without it? What do I have to change in my lifestyle to find time to be able to work without the conveniences. The changes we need to make are surprising and are considerably greater than buying a reusable water bottle. Considerations like 2 parents working full time with 3 cars on the drive and 3 foreign holidays a year will have to be ditched. If 2 parents are working full time with children, who does the shopping and cooking from scratch, hanging the washing out, walking to the shops? Who is going to have time to do that? Who will work part time? We have to ask why have we had children if we really don’t have time to be with them (and I don’t mean ferrying them to afterschool clubs where somebody else parents them) or care about the quality of their life style ?And make those difficult changes.
The True Change to Save the Planet
In order to create a life-style that needs less convenience we need to slow down and possibly accept a lower income. It is about balance, it is about re-balancing family life so that we have time to think and shop and be there for one another. Only then will we have time to insulate our homes and buy our groceries from individual, local suppliers using our own reusable containers. We need to put value on the home-maker so that we can walk our children to school and have time to hang our washing out when the sun is shining and not use a tumble drier. These are the real changes we need to make before we have time to say I don’t need to buy my lunch in a plastic tub with it’s own fork from the convenience store. When I was growing up these everyday, “menial” duties were assumed the work of a woman. Now we need to value everybody’s contribution to the healthy balance of a family. They are not menial they are valuable
I see this imbalance in our human value system as the main reason we have come to a climate crisis, We have lost sight of what really matters.
But we are where we are at. I doubt many people are going to sacrifice their comfortable life-styles and dual incomes, so that leaves us with the legacy of the plastic waste. We need to be planning its reuse before we produce it. The Plastic in itself is not evil, it is what we do or don’t do with it once we no longer have a use for it. But not to be overlooked is the fact that global warming is not the fault of plastic. Production of plastic accounts for just 15% of the use of oil. Burning fuel for cars/ and home heating and manufacturing is responsible for the greater problems of global warming. Plastic is making a mess and polluting the environment and needs a legacy plan, but the heating of the planet is the realm of burning fossil fuels.
Time to get insulating and building windmills.