The Deadly Convenience of Modern Life

We are drowning in plastic, the oceans are awash with it. Land fills bulge and recycling is often no more than a token gesture. We ship it somewhere else and say we’ve recycled it but a large proportion of the stuff we send to Asia to be recycled ends up holes in the ground or floating about in the sea. (Don’t even think about the horrendous conditions in which adults and children toil day in day out sorting the stuff. That’s the subject of another blog.)

At the last count there was something like 8.3 billion tons of the stuff in existence. That’s an awful lot of plastic and we add to that amount every single day. Plastic takes a long time to go away. Just one example – plastic bottles take 450 years to decompose. 

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. So in the time it takes to make a cup of tea – say three minutes – we’ve added three million plastic bottles to the world all of which last about 450 years. Think of it this way – 450 years ago William Shakespeare was four years old. If he’d had a plastic bottle it would just about have decomposed by now.

We are plastic junkies. It has crept insidiously into every nook and cranny of our lives even things we don’t associate with plastic contain it. Which brings me to Teabags. Yes Teabags contain plastic. The mesh is polypropylene which is why your teabags never completely compost down. Now I consider myself a bit better than average when it comes to awareness of what we’re doing to the planet and why we need to stop so it was a something of a shock when I recently discovered this fact about teabags. 165 million cups of tea are drunk every day in Britain – it will be less in other countries but it will still be a significant contributor to the plastic waste mountain that threatens to bury us all.

What to do about it?

The trouble is tea bags are so convenient. The trick I decided would be to find teabags that scratch headdidn’t contain plastic. I already buy organic to avoid the pesticides. By my reasoning companies making organic teabags would have thought about the plastic problem so perhaps I was alright after all! I took to that trusty eco warrior’s steed – the internet and googled the problem. I also tried a few like Duckduckgo and Steemit that are less main stream shall we say. The news there was just as bad as that provided by Google – worse in fact because I learnt that paper teabags are frequently treated with epichlorohydrin. No, I hadn’t heard of it either. It’s manufactured by people like Dow Chemicals. Apparently epichlorhydrin hydrolyzes to the carcinogen 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs. Yes you are right – teabags do go in water.

Solution!

light bulb momentBuy loose tea! But tea bags are so convenient. Think of the hassle with leaves and warming the pot… That’s it – that is our problem. The deadly convenience of modern life.

We have become indoctrinated with the idea that everything must be super easy and convenient – no effort required. The perfect triumph of capitalism. Buy this and you’re life will be so much better. Our snouts are so far in the consumerist trough it’s difficult to see over the swill. I’m as guilty as everyone else. I really, really thought I was going to martyr myself for the cause by using a teapot and loose tea. What a myth that turned out to be. Buying loose tea is cheaper and better quality (if you don’t believe me open a teabag and compare).Plus I buy them in my local health food store where they keep big tins and measure out your purchase into a paper bag. Plastic free. I bought a pot with a wire mesh insert. It’s not a hassle at all in fact it is less trouble than teabags. I kid you not. I couldn’t believe it either but it’s true. I chuck the leaves on the compost and any left over tea is great for house plants. I’ve kicked my teabag habit and I’m never going back.

For those of you who want to check this out further here are some useful articles I found – there are lots more but these will give you a good starting point

http://plastic-pollution.org/

https://phys.org/news/2017-07-billion-metric-tons-scientists-total.html

http://moralfibres.co.uk/is-there-plastic-in-your-tea/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jul/02/teabags-biodegradeable

and for anyone who wants to get involved in making a change to tea bag

https://treadingmyownpath.com/2014/07/29/plastic-free-tea-lets-start-a-campaign/

Saith Maen

saith maen haiku 1

Wales is a land of mystery and magic.

Saith Maen (seven stones) lies high on the slopes of Cribarth (Crest of the Bear). Not far from the brooding depths of Lynn y Fan Fawr and Lynn y Fan Fach with it’s legend of the lady. They point to the circle of Cerrig Duon also called Maen Mawr.

Sleep out on these hills under a full moon and you sink into the mindscapes of myth. This land is powerful and ancient with iron in it’s soul and and birdsong on it’s lips.

 

Another one bites the dust

Another year bites the dust. I’m getting to the point where there’s rather more of those than I like to admit.  A year of mixed fortunes which has seen me slump into inactivity on my blog. Sometimes one needs to step back and simply walk in the woods. Out of that has come a new creativity in photographs and paintings and a resurgence of an old project. Never give up on that novel! christmas card 2017

Anyway I wave 2017, with all it’s contradictions, ups, downs and side-slips, on its way and look forward as ever to what the next year will bring. I am the eternal optimist even about humanity and Brexit.
So to finish here is this year’s bit of doggerel and greeting card and hopes that 2018 will be…… whatever makes your toes curl in delight.

Happy Hogmanay one and all

 

Great Aunt Ellen

 

Tea time and I’m sat down
watching the spikes of grey hair
bobbing about above
the bright shout of an apron

I’ve rattled out my day
with the plates and cups
the table laid to her chorus
of ‘never’ and ‘och away’,

I’m shooed out doors
to sit on the back step
‘away with your blether
tell it to the Ancestors’.

They live In the hedge jostled
between kitchen and coal bunker
my day does not interest them
there’s not whisper or rustle

about the fact Millie is a tongue split
and no longer my best friend.
Nor about my gold star for reading
or any of the rest of it

but there’s a stir of interest in the privet
when Aunt Ellen comes out
and we go down the cinder path,
me with a bowl for the tomatoes
and her with a knife for the lettuce.

 

Light the blue touch paper 2016

cartwheel2016 has brought us Brexit and President elect Trump and a feeling that the wheel of fortune is turning; the world is changing. Already the Infosphere* is awash with explanations, ideas and remedies for these perceived disasters. I say perceived because we don’t yet know the actual trajectory events will take and where we will end up as a result of these votes. An energy of discontent and disillusionment has been building not just since the Bankers plunged the world into turmoil in 2008 but since the philosophy (if one can call it that) of an unrestrained free market capitalism skewed in favour of the rich took hold. The stored potential energy for change that has been building in the system discharged in 2016, converted into the kinetic energy of motion. The ball has started bouncing. Eventually it will run out of energy but the question is what will have happened in the interim?

So we wait like small children on bonfire night full of anticipation and trepidation as the blue touch paper slowly ignites. Hope and fear curling round each other in a finely balanced state of gleeful apprehension. Will the rocket take off and reward us with a glittering spectacle or will it topple over and screech across the garden sending us shrieking and running for safety (and kind of enjoying the danger and excitement of this out of control moment).

Like everyone else who takes even a passing interest in the affairs of the world quite a lot of articles about the how and why of Trump’s victory. I’ve listed a few at the bottom of this blog if anyone wants to go and check them out. I found there to be thoughtful and insightful analysis both from those on the left and right of the political spectrum about the events of 2016. The more I read, however, the more I realised that in my opinion they all missed one small but vital point. The ability of humans to tell stories. Each of these articles represent one person’s story about the events. We make stories because that is how we make sense of the world.

Humans are compulsive story tellers. It is our greatest strength and also our greatest weakness. I think that is the single most important genetic quirk that set us on the path to being different. My dog, clever and sagacious as he is, does not come home from his wander round the village and regale me with the story of his morning. We have been doing it for countless millennia. Our ability to tell stories is inseparably linked to the asking of questions like ‘what if’ and ‘why not’? Science is at its root the story of ‘what if’ questions and history well the name tells us what that is. We make our own individual story as we go through life, we map the world and experience into narrative and we speculate about the future through what if and why. So it is no surprise that all these commentators tell their story. Each of us has a story about 2016. Why we voted or didn’t vote, who we voted for, what we had for breakfast that day, the row with our neighbour over the dustbin, the happy feeling from someone complimenting us etc., etc. Gradually this narrative will solidify and become the history of 2016.

At the moment we’re all trying to guess what will happen and there are some scary scenarios that ty-newydd-etc-118acould well come to pass and justify any amount of anxiety. We are all ‘What iffing’ like mad. The future is uncertain because it is unknown and unknowable but that has always been the case – modern life merely gives us an illusion of security. We know this in our subconscious but our conscious mind wants a plan, wants a map through uncertain geographies. So we ‘normalise’ and therein lies our biggest threat to our species. We try to explain away or rationalise but with some things we mustn’t do that. It happened with fascism in the thirties and ended up in the second world war. We do not live in the thirties the challenges the world faces are very different and though the name fascist is applied to many on the far right this is not fascism as practised by Hitler or Mussolini or Franco. This is something different, less definite. It is born out of a system that is collapsing round our ears.

This desire to rationalise away the uncomfortable is why nothing will be done about the over exploitation of resources until disaster has occurred. Why people hope Trump will turn out to be a reasonable and enlightened President. Why Boris Johnson can say if we don’t sell arms to the Saudis someone else will. Why the Sun, Daily Mail and Express voice ever more vile sentiments about immigration and about the rule of law while politicians make feeble comments about the freedom of the press. It is why the far right deftly use the Overton principle to move humanity along the conveyor belt to the shredder.

ty-newydd-etc-120aOne of the constant questions I hear from my friends and kindred spirits is ‘how could the left have lost the hearts and minds of the dispossessed and disadvantaged to the point where they would support the very people and system that has brought them such misery. My answer? The story told by the left was complicated confusing and boring. Like one of those books where you have to keep going back to check who is who because the plot is unclear. The right on the other hand tell a rattling yarn.’Once upon a time our country was great…’ and so on and people remember the story. Well now we have to invent o new story. One that doesn’t normalise the worst aspects of the human psyche. One that celebrates co-operation and compassion as values to be cherished. Not politics not left or right but just people getting along and living together on a very small planet.

Fears discussed and addressed dissipate like mist when the sun breaks through. Fears closeted and suppressed canker and grow and are fed by those with their own agenda. Brexit happens, Trump happens Shit happens, etc., etc. We need to talk to each other. To admit that we all have a shadow line inside us even though we don’t like to admit it. It is there, those knee jerk reactions, the synaptic pathways laid down in our brains by repeated use. We need to make an effort not to normalise. To stand up against injustice even in the small everyday compass of our lives. Be open, be friendly why not? When a system is collapsing all bets are off and there is a chance this could lead to a much better future for humanity. There is a chance it could lead to another dark era for humanity. No sleepwalking allowed in interesting times otherwise in the words of Tom Leherer

“And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
Universal bereavement,
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we all will go together when we go.”

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Infosphere = the place where all communication happens – whether media, social media or just talking to each other.

These are some articles that resonated with me so no surprises that they are from the liberal left wing area of the Infosphere. There are several from the Guardian which these days is a toothless old dog but one of the few bits of the mainstream media that I still read.

http://charleseisenstein.net/hategriefandanewstory/

http://theconversation.com/trump-victory-comes-with-a-silver-lining-for-the-worlds-progressives-68523 (Yanis Varoufakis)

http://paulkingsnorth.net/2016/11/07/the-revolutionary-moment/

https://agentofhistory.com/ send your love to Donald Trump

https://www.theguardian.com/uk/commentisfree

Aditya Chakrabortty – Rust-belt romantics don’t get it: the middle class is being wiped out too

Owen Jones – A win for Trump was a win for bigotry. Here’s how we resist him

George Monbiot –Neoliberalism: the deep story that lies beneath Donald Trump’s triumph

Jaqueline Rose – Donald Trump’s victory is a disaster for modern masculinity

Suzanne Moore – So much has been broken by this election, but we can’t collapse in on ourselves