It was a term of derision thirty years ago when someone referred to me mockingly as a ‘brown- rice greenie’. These days however, eating brown rice is respectable and being green is mainstream. But I’ve just discovered there are different degrees of greenery!
Feeding the birds has always been a pleasure of mine, but now I find I’m feeding the wrong birds! This can be construed as non-environmentally friendly since it encourages non- native birds in a place where only native birds are valued… meaning places where others are trying to return the area to its pre-European pristine purity.
Ironically, the increase of non-native species where I live is a result of an ongoing and increasingly successful predator control programme which has meant many more fledglings survive since there are now fewer rats to prey upon the bird populations. But my feeding of the wrong birds – green finches, quails and chaffinches around our little potted garden – is sometimes perceived as a problem!
So though I thought our environmental footprint was a reasonably small one, in that we have a compost loo, which means using at least thirty per cent less water than if we had a normal loo, we only run one car, we don’t use up jet-fuel by travelling overseas, so don’t participate in producing the prodigious gas emissions of jet exhaust, we ‘re not really very green in other people’s eyes.
We eat very little meat, tending to the organic chicken spectrum and free-range eggs, and I never buy fish since we over -fish the oceans so dreadfully, but in the scales of green virtue these private attempts to preserve the planet don’t seem to balance out the detrimental practise of feeding introduced species of birds.
I was staggered to read that during a recent typhoon China recalled its fleet of more than 18,000 fishing boats in the interests of safety. My mind boggled! Eighteen thousand boats going out every day to strip the seas! Then there are the fishing fleets of all the other seven countries surrounding the South China Sea, not to mention the vast fishing fleets that range across all the other oceans of the world.
When David Rothschild replicated the voyage of the Kon-Toki across the Pacific a few years ago, they couldn’t live off the ocean like Thor Heyerdahl’s crew seventy years back … there were no fish left to catch. In the waters surrounding this remote country, Japanese, Taiwanese, South Korean and Soviet fishing vessels trawl perpetually … the Japanese still indulging in whale hunting to the despair of many who live here.
The fishing fleets of Europe have so denuded the waters in the north Atlantic, that cod, once the cheapest and most plentiful of fishes when I was a child is now a delicacy… so yes, in this household, fish is off the menu.
Much of our house is built of re-cycled materials, even the foundations are concrete set in the big plastic water bottles in which we had to buy water when we first came here, and were waiting for a water tank to arrive. Whenever neighbours undertake renovations, we’re the often recipients of their unwanted or extra insulation, wood, kitchen fittings, etc.
My partner uses an environmentally friendly manual earth re-structuring implement for all his earth-moving work on site, which requires no fuel to operate, makes no noise- polluting sound and cost very little compared to a digger. This spade is one of our most useful possessions, and has slowly changed the contours of this building site with no impact on the environment.
But degrees of green-ness mean that in some doctrinaire eyes we probably aren’t green at all. I grow flowers instead of vegetables, and try not to feel guilty about it, telling myself that it’s good for the bees anyway. But this brings me to another degree of green-ness.
Being a vegan is not an option for me, attractive though the idea is, of being able to exist without exploiting any form of life. (I can’t digest soya beans, which provide much needed nutrients in a non- meat, non- egg non-dairy diet.) But now I read that even vegans can be up against it in this strange interlocking world, where so many natural processes now seem under threat from our various polluting or destructive modern practices.
The vegan – vegetarian options of eating avocadoes which provide so much badly needed protein in a vegan diet, drinking almond milk in preference to exploiting cows for dairy food, and eating almond meal for those needing gluten free options are now suspect apparently.
Because both avocadoes and almonds for western markets tend to be grown in California, where bees are now rare forms of life, bee-hives are carted around from different growing areas to pollinate the avocado and almond trees. No-one is sure at the moment if this is detrimental to the well-being of bees, but it’s a good guess that they may be conscious and dislike these upheavals. So if you’re a vegan because you don’t want to exploit or cause distress to other forms of life, suddenly there’s a new dilemma.
Up till now I have withstood the muted dis-approval of supermarket check-out staff when I opt for plastic bags instead of using my collection of hessian shopping bags and old baskets. This is because I use those despised plastic bags to line wastepaper baskets and for non-compostable rubbish to go into the rubbish bin, including the endless plastic wrappings which come with everything, from jars of vitamins to cucumbers and bread, packets of bacon or biscuits.
Now plastic bags are banned from our local supermarket I ask myself what we wrapped our rubbish in when it went into the dust-bin before plastic bags exploded into our lives, and I realise we used sheets of newspaper. But newspapers are almost as environmentally unfriendly as plastic bags in that they require acres of trees to be chopped down every day. World demand for trees for paper has risen by four hundred per cent per cent in the last forty years – two and a half million trees are cut down every day.
In the USA in one year, two billion books, three hundred and fifty million magazines, and twenty- four billion newspapers are published. To get the paper for these books requires consuming over thirty- two million trees. And those figures don’t include the huge output of books and newspapers everywhere else in the world.
The average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year! Apart from papermaking, unbelievably, more than two hundred thousand acres of rainforest are burned every day. That is more than one hundred and fifty acres lost every minute of every day, and seventy-eight million acres lost every year!
The profligate destruction of trees is so awful that I rarely buy new books any more, and second hand book-shops are my go-to place for reading matter – just finished John Mortimer’s ‘Paradise Postponed’ from the St John’s Op Shop, and before that a fascinating book about Mary Magdalen found in the re-cycle shop at the local dump. Gibbons ‘Decline and fall of the Roman Empire’, from the Cancer Charity Bookshop is waiting in the wings! Can I justify writing any more books myself? Better stick to blogging.
Trying to reconcile the conflicting claims of environmental correctness is one of the ethical challenges of our day, and we all have different points of view, depending on whether one is a western greenie, a third world farmer, a fisherman, a miner, or even a writer! Intelligent, sensitive and aware people who compost, grow vegetables and native plants, support environmental projects and live on a green moral high ground, yet can own several cars and enjoy a rich calendar of overseas travel are as inconsistent as I am.
I feel that my environmentally incorrect pastime of feeding non-native birds can be seen as another facet of the green debate in these times of the Sixth Great Extinction. (Greenfinch populations have plunged by 59 per cent in the UK in the last ten years)
Yet feeding the birds has also been found to be good for emotional and mental health according to an article in a bird watcher’s magazine. So that’s good enough for me… preserving my emotional and mental health is one of my top priorities. Green is a state of mind and there are myriad shades of green! Vive les differences.
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
I’ve discovered this tasty recipe in an old scrapbook for a sauce to eat with raw vegetables or a baked potato… all it needs is quarter of a pint of mayonnaise, half a green pepper chopped very finely, two sticks of chopped celery, a cup of finely chopped cucumber, clove of garlic, crushed with some salt, six table spoons of tomato sauce/ketchup, and a table spoon of horseradish sauce. Mix all the ingredients together, add salt and pepper if needed, and chill before serving.
Food for Thought
“I saw a Divine Being. I’m afraid I’m going to have to revise all my various books and opinions.”
A.J.Ayer, British philosopher and atheist
21 responses to “Fifty Shades of Green”
Damned if you and damned if you don’t sort of situation regarding the use of other products than plastic. The recycling in France where we are currently is very active. Though we still come across rubbish been dumped around on properties on very rarely public sites. The process of recycling in itself isn’t very environmentally friendly. It is I must admit a feel-good moment when using recycled bags is the norm over here. Most people do not go to the supermarket without their bags.
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Apologies for the writing errors, I have made a mental note to myself to finish my first cup of coffee before typing!
I think you covered everything in this post Valerie. Some people nowadays go way over the top and try to force their views on the rest of us. There are problems and we can do a little bit to ease the situation. All I can suggest is to be yourself, do what you think is right for your way of living. Anyway, Jesus told the fishermen to cast the net on the other side of the boat and fed bread and fish to the congregation. He didn’t feed avocados and almond milk to them, did He ? 😉
We need to figure out a way that plastic can decompose in a reasonable amount of time. As for your birds, perhaps it’s part of the naturally changing world. I’m sure someone was upset when the neanderthals started to die out. The good news is that the cause isn’t cataclysmic. Yet. I share your distress at the over fished seas. Locally they sell something called farm raised fish but I’m always suspicious.
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I am always so terribly horrified when we take our rare drive to the dump…the mountains of trash overwhelms me. I applaud those areas who are using the gas build up to create heat but not here in our area…we just keep covering it up…making it go away (out of eye-sight) and lightly go on down our merry little road. I too feed the birds…even the invasive birds, for I can’t separate them out. Sigh!
Very interesting thoughts Valerie – I always worry when non-native species are demonised, and it often seems overwhelming what we can and can’t do to help the planet.
And so I have to be a-green with you on all counts (up to 50)!
We live in a complex world when it comes to environmental issues, but we can be certain that our world is in peril. David Suzuki, a Vancouverite, is quoted as saying: “We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.” My family has recycled for years and now that Vancouver has adopted organic recycling, we have learned about how much food we waste. We changed our shopping habits. I was a vegetarian for over three years until I realized that I was allergic to cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cucumber etc. I grieved but learned to adapt and still keep consumption to organic and free range chicken. We have one car which we use rarely as we have moved from a single family dwelling to condo living. Just recently, I read that our washing machines are causing micro plastic to enter the water systems because of the type of materials that go into making clothes. By the time I read all of the research, articles, what is left is a confusing array of information to sort through. Even so, I know that every time I make a decision to walk, to reduce consumption, to recycle, – I have made peace with the environment. A wonderful post, as always, Valerie!
I am often frustrated by the difficulty in differentiating between real green and greenwash; and lack of information to work out what makes a positive difference and what is virtue signalling. There’s a lot of pressure to recycle, but stories about the human and environmental cost of recycling in third world countries makes me question if that really is the green thing to do.
What a tangle of issues we all have to navigate now, if we seek to be green. You identify a host of them, Valerie, with great clarity. All we can do is to do our best. I now put my rubbish into the robust brown paper bags I get from bulk food at the health food shop. In Auckland we have bins to collect soft plastics, which I believe go to Australia to be made into outdoor furniture. Not doing something like many air flights counts for a lot. And not generating a lot of rubbish, plus living kindly on this earth, which I’m sure you do. As Kermit sang, It’s not easy being green. But that needn’t stop us from trying.
Having had the privilege of seeing pictures of your home, I appreciate it all the more after reading your article.
As an author with new books out, I’m a little conflicted about the paper and trees.
My doctor has suggested a plant based diet which is a challenge for me, having given up many foods due to digestive issues. I try to lean toward the plant but it’s not always easy. Perhaps if the powers that were back in the day had listened to the “tree huggers” we wouldn’t be in the mell of a hess we’re in.
Ah well…I’d say, keep feeding your birds and enjoy them. 😉
Shalom and hugs to you and himself.
An eloquent touch on just a few green issues Valerie. So much to research and think about. Your clarity is helpful, thank you. How can you edit which birds you feed? I find that the bird food I put out is very quickly eaten by the pigeons. They are still birds and hungry. Hugs and much love, Xxx ❤
A couple of years ago when the threat of drought was hanging over California, (sit down for this) they cut down all the almond orchards!!!!!!!!! There wasn’t actually a real drought, but it was built up for someone’s purposes somewhere. And now nobody talks of drought, but gorgeous almond trees are gone. And we drink almond milk because of lactose intolerance. YOU CAN’T WIN. We’re too interconnected and we are too far gone.
great to hear from you… yes, I did sit down!!!
I used to drink almond milk ( attempt to save cows!) until I read a breakdown of dairy alternatives – and almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, all have added sugar to make them palatable…. you really can’t win !
Love to your furry creatures, especially you know who !!!!
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Perry!!! Thank you! Yes, we can’t drink milk or eat ice cream, although we can have some cheese and yogurt (because of the lactose intolerance). So almond milk it is even with the sugar, unfortunately.
Dear Valerie, I am just beginning to catch up on your blogs in the realisation that you haven’t written for some time. I’m worried about you and hope you and your love are well and safe.
I send you my love, Sally xx
Sally, how lovely to hear from you I was thrilled to see your name…I have been very remiss and behind both in reading blogs and answering comments I went into a sort of collapse after finishing writing my autobiography … hadnl’t realised how draining it actually was… and have had a few health blips , both me and family, since then. Am fine now.
Do read the English papers though, and what chaos thing seem to be in, including the French dong what they do best – having a revolution !!!
We are well and happy in our little refuge from the world! And I hope all is well in your world… must get back to the peace and sanity of your Beautiful things…
Wishing you a merry Christmas, and hoping we re-connect in the New year, With love from Valerie
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You have no idea how happy I am to hear from you! I am delighted to read that all is well. I am not surprised to hear that your fabulous autobiography took it out of you. It really should be published as a book. I’d buy copies for everyone I know!
Happy Christmas to you too and the best for 2019 when I too hope we can reconnect.
With love, Sally
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I was wondering how you are too, Valerie. It was a mammoth task you set yourself but you did it! And it’s amazing too! So pleased to see your response to Sally. Wishing you a healthy and happy new year. Love from LynneXX
Hello Valerie, I was updating the Slim School Web Site and it hit me that I had not read your blog for a while and going to your blog I noticed there was nothing new since October 2018 and began to wonder if everything was OK. Reading through the comments I’m relieved to read all is well. Look forward to the time you put pen back to paper… or fingers to the keys…
David Wilmot Slim 58 to 60
Hello David, how nice to hear from you – have been reading all the news and perusing all the pictures on the web… what a great job you do… apart from Tony Collins and Sheila Stone haven’t recognised many familiar old faces !!! Had a good old natter with Tony when he came to Kerikeri in NZ back in 2002/3 it must have been…
busy at the moment organising a book for a publisher, but will be back !!
Blogging is time-consuming – not my blog, but the housekeeping, – reading and commenting on other people’s blogs..
if you’re in touch with Margot, remember me her, what an enthusiastic and energetic asset she is !!!
Hope the next re-union goes well, look forward to reading about it…
very best wishes, Valerie