They who dare
One of many beneficial consequences of The Guardian's arrival in Oz has been increased exposure to the thoughts of George Monbiot. He writes about the environment, social injustice and other things that make him angry. Sometimes that's politics. He tackles subjects that most people are only too glad to brush under carpets: ones in the 'too difficult' box; those that require you to take a long hard look at the way you live. On occasion, you need to be strong of heart and mind to read Monbiot.
Now I feel I should give up chicken. In the UK I could avoid the obvious burns on the flesh of factory farmed offerings by buying organic, but in Australia organic chicken isn't easy to find. Butchers look blank when I ask for it. It's available in larger Woolworths, but can you be sure of its origin? I only buy eggs off companies that offer me webcam footage of happy chooks in paddocks.
There are lots of food products my friend and I reject. I have never knowingly bought Nestlé products since my youngest daughter came home from school more than a decade ago and asked me not to after she'd learned about the baby milk scandal (read here). I'd loved KitKat since childhood but I haven't eaten one since. The company still ranks high on the morally indefensible ladder. Recently they admitted they would happily bottle more water in seriously drought-ridden California if permitted (see here).
In the UK, I never bought Israeli food produce, and often had to forgo citrus fruits, sweet peppers and other veggies for weeks in winter when they weren't available in Europe. But we survived without any of these things, having put our minds to it.
These days, we won't eat fish unless we know it is on our list of sustainably fished varieties. Five and a half years ago when we moved here, and asked at the fish counter of an upmarket deli in New Farm if they knew where their fish was sourced, they told us we were the first to have asked that question. The best-value prawns ever – from a farmers' market in the same suburb – were sacrificed as soon as we learned they were bottom-trawled in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
George makes you rethink all sorts of things you may have condoned for years without question: eating meat, overfishing, eating chicken, nature conservation methods, spoiling soil, consuming more stuff, subsidising large landowners, subsidising fossil fuels, offsetting biodiversity, climate change delaying tactics, tolerating bank scams, overpopulating, building more roads, using plastic bags, over-packaging, fracking ignorance, sitting idly by…
This week we learned that some frickin' idiot shooter from Texas paid $350,000 to 'hunt' and kill a black rhino in Namibia, as part of a supposed conservation fundraiser. Disbelief and despair combined in the imagined joy of shooting Corey Knowlton, the perpetrator of this unspeakable crime. I feel as if the-world's-gone-mad moments are becoming much more frequent than they used to be. Is that a symptom of getting older? Or a natural fearful reaction as we hurtle, seemingly powerless, towards the inevitable devastation of the planet?
Increasingly I have to conclude that politicians are not going to do what is necessary until a large-scale catastrophe hits their voters. We must take our heads out from beneath the pillow and change things, starting with our lifestyle, before setting more ambitious targets.
I leave you, naturally, with George's words:
It's not blind spots we suffer from. We have vision spots, tiny illuminated patches of perception, around which everything else is blanked out. How often have I seen environmentalists gather to bemoan the state of the world, then repair to a restaurant in which they gorge on beef or salmon? The Guardian and Observer urge us to go green, then publish recipes for fish whose capture rips apart the life of the sea.
It's so hard to get it right. So much to learn, in so little time. But so many places you can start.