OK, your New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside, but here is something that will make a difference.
You may think you are not well off, but even the poorest Europeans enjoy more luxuries than an average family in much of the world. Solid walls not insecure mud, tin or plastic, warm dry rooms, water, even hot water, skilled doctors not quacks, dentists not tooth extractors, sufficient food and more variety of choice in literally everything. The ‘poor ‘ in Europe, many studies have found, consume most junk food being sold, spending a huge portion of their income on pizzas, burgers, sweets, fizzy drinks. Huge proportions of people living in less privileged societies can’t afford a single one of these luxury items. Those of us with State pensions, can’t either.
Our homes, sparse as we might consider them, could fill a rural village. When walking the high Himalaya, my rucksack contained more than a farming family of six had in theIr entire house. And on that point, Europeans often worry they won’t afford a break - few in the world have holidays, or even days off. We fret over mobile phone deals, not realising we are fuelling a complex, vicious African gang war contesting the rare minerals used in their construction, as well as threatening mountain gorillas.
And meat. As people get wealthier they eat more meat and the world’s swelling populations are exerting enormous pressure to produce more. Yet the Kenyan tribe I grew up with, whose members keep winning long distant races, hardly eat meat, beans are and have been their main source of protein for centuries. Vast tracts of forest are cleared to feed the worldwide boom in cattle needed to give us this extravagant diet. Everywhere treasured environments are being turned into farmland, depleting habitats, destroying countless species - to graze cattle, sheep, goats. And seeking more flesh, we rape the sea, hauling vast nets, diminishing fish stocks.
Then there’s plastics. I’m sure you’re aware of the BBC’s excellent ‘Blue Planet’ series. Plastics wrap the stuff we buy daily. Some time ago, I wrote to all the major UK supermarkets about this, but only Sainsbury’s engaged. Why turn from biodegradable solutions when plastics are polluting everywhere, including the seas, breaking down into particles so small they get into dolphin milk, killing their babies.
This means we, me, you, all of us, are responsible. And we’ve not even mentioned chemicals, nor the transport of non-seasonal produce, and much much more. The question is complicated, but the answer is simple if you wish to hear it.
Refuse to buy stuff wrapped in plastic, people have started to dump it at the supermarket as they buy their goods. Try to cut out anything made of the stuff. Business responds to us the customer. On that point, buy less. We really don’t need the next gadget, that dress, shoe design or whatever. Ideally, wear your clothes until they can no longer be repaired and then buy from second hand shops. A shirt I bought in a Cancer shop is deadly smart!
AND Ignore the tug of consumerism. We need an economy based on sustainability not environmental devastation. If you feel the need, eat red meat only once a week, or better still, once a month, which is far more than we do in our household. Try to buy from sustainable, local sources. he best are mussels farmed, trout too if organic as that doesn’t add miserable chemicals into the water. Eat more veg - one of our best mountaineers, Doug Scott, is a vegetarian.
If we continue as we are our planet will soon soon be a disaster zone. On top of this, we won’t be able to grow enough food to support the growing population.
Hesitate, think about all of this, then buy with skill. That’s the best legacy to leave your children, grandchildren and those mountain gorillas, to say nothing of endangered creatures and the world’s future.
Go on, you can do it.