If we want to live sustainably, we can increase our efforts to live local.
Wherever possible – in other words, without going fifty miles out of our way, spending a whole day driving around in the car trying to find something, or parting with an overdraft-crippling amount of cash – as a household we try to avoid air-miles and motorway-miles in the sourcing of our food. We also try to avoid and reduce our use of palm oil, refined goods, soft drinks and plastic-wrapped produce. And generally to reduce our reliance on those things that we think we need, but which, actually, are surprisingly unhealthy, un-necessary and expensive. Personally, I do try to avoid refined carbs, sugar and caffeine but I can’t realistically place such restrictions on others: I simply recognise that, as the main cook and bottle washer in our house, I can certainly influence what we purchase and eat.
It is ironic that, whereas a hundred years ago, a diet of wholemeal bread, brown rice and cabbage was seen as crude and primitive, nowadays plain, whole, home-produced food is seen as highly desirable – think of artisan bakeries and health food shops – and comes at a premium both in terms of cost and the time and human labour expended in producing and sourcing it.
In “living local” I also consider alternative modes of getting around: the bus instead of the car, the train instead of the plane. I have reason to be very grateful to airlines – and I do sympathise with their plight in the current economic slowdown – but without them, I’m sure that alternative arrangements would have been possible and I would have been reconciled to travelling less. As an easily accessible way of getting from A to B, I have made use of flying, which for longer journeys is often less expensive than train travel. With flying falling slightly out of favour, might rail fares reduce?
A recent and peculiarly disjointed news bulletin has me thinking with fresh urgency about the difficulties that arise in making consistent, national policy decisions in response to the climate emergency. Three headlines, all delivered without any ironic inflection, the first about the battle to construct a third runway at Heathrow; the second, about the impact of the coronovirus in shrinking the global economy; and the third, about the likelihood of further flooding in areas of Britain already metres deep in water.
Since it appears very challenging for national agencies to come up with a clear, co-ordinated policy to tackle climate change, once again, the onus falls on consumers to vote with their choices. Let’s hope that our choices, and our voices for change, can make a difference.
Thanks for listening.