I have often found myself wincing as I hear people talking about saving the planet. It’s felt wrong! I can hear the voices of condemnation screaming at me now … ‘What a horrible person you are not to agree with saving the planet.’… but let me explain.
I’m the same age as Geoff Lawton! Though I think he’s doing better than me!
I was brought up in the 50s/60s. I had two dads, my biological one and my step dad. My father was a left wing, ‘why is the government giving money to the farmers just because they have a drought’ type of person. He was always railing against the government because it didn’t look after the poor people. He was also the one who would order me out of the room so he could spray DDT in the living room to kill the flies. We left when I was 10.
My step dad was right wing. He didn’t believe the government should be giving out free money to people. He believed in self responsibility. What can you do to get yourself out of the situation? He was also a firm believer in organic farming, no poisons, and natural health solutions. (Yes, I know that sounds counterintuitive, but you’d be amazed how many right wing people believe in self responsibly and growing their own food!)
My teen years saw my parents growing all our produce organically and sharing produce with friends who also grew organically.
In Grade 10, a science teacher gave us a scenario. He explained that all energy can be quantified as BTUs, from the physical energy you put into something, to the energy it takes to make a product. He gave us an example…
Most farmers in China are subsistence farmers. They have about two acres to feed their family and to make enough to sell to pay taxes and buy extras. On the farm are fruits, vegetables, ducks and maybe a goat etc. Question. For every BTU of energy the Chinese family puts into the farm,how many BTUs do they get out? We thought 10-20? No, 2.5! Wow, that’s so small!
What about Western farmers? How much energy do we get for every BTU we put in? We guessed at least 20-50! No, he said, for every 1 BTU of energy out, we put in 19 BTUs! We were stunned into silence. I asked the question ‘ How?’ He said what do farmers use? Fertiliser? Where did that come from? How did it get there? How many people had to be involved in its production? Same for seeds, transport, machinery, selling… I said, ‘But if it takes more energy to produce than the energy you get, wouldn’t you go broke?’ He smiled and said ‘Exactly!’
I married young and we had idealistic dreams of communal living. It was the mid 70s and we would get a magazine called Mother Earth News. There was a contributor in the late 70s called Bill Mollison. He had some strange and interesting ideas like growing kangaroos for food because they were already adapted to the environment (eww!) and putting chickens under mulberry trees so they can harvest the dropped fruit (makes sense)!
Then life caught up and I became a natural health practitioner and mother and all those Permaculture concept went out the door along with expensive organic food.
But the logic of that Grade 10 lesson has stayed with me all these years.
Back to our original topic. People today keep talking about saving the planet. Let’s get real here! The planet will be here LONG after we puny humans have killed ourselves off! The planet doesn’t need to be saved. If we’re honest what we really want, and need, is to save ourselves! If we continue to use high energy embodied food and resources, we are on the path to self destruction. If we continue with high consumerism, we are willingly signing our own death warrant.
The answer is to be responsible for yourself. Don’t expect the government or others to look after your needs. Look after them for yourself. Start growing your own food, whether it’s in a backyard, a farm or a balcony. When you buy, buy local. Go to farmers markets. Invest your money in local people making your clothes and have less, or make them yourself. And when you shop, don’t buy out of season produce! It comes from the other side of the earth! Clothing made locally, helps your community, even if it’s more expensive.
We can actually have a good lifestyle this way. But we won’t have as much ‘stuff’. We might, however, have more peace of mind because we are looking after our own needs. We are also looking after each other on a more personal level. After all, that is the way we lived successfully for generations.
No one can save the planet, but we can all have a go at saving ourselves.