Jules Does

On Message

Posted on: May 16, 2012

A little less than a month ago, I had a brief ecological panic.

I was reading the excellent sewing blog ‘So, Zo, What Do You Know?‘ and realised that I hadn’t really given the environmental impact of my sewing hobby any thought at all. If anything, I thought I was doing a great thing by not buying sweatshop made clothes and not using child labour (maybe). However, I failed to take into account the following:

  • the use of dyes in fabric production
  • the wastage of old fabric as new is produced
  • the ecological cost of shipping fabric to me from where it is produced

So I started to worry more generally. What about my fondness for/dependence on out-of-season fruits and vegetables? A girl can only eat kale for so long before she goes mad. What about all my various orders to overseas people/companies who helpfully promise to have things at my door the next day or the day after? Let’s not even think about the emissions of the several plane journeys I make every year to see overseas family.

What did I do in response to this panic? I did what any modern person without too much cash would do: I put a boatload of books about ecological, inexpensive and sustainable living on my Amazon wishlist.

Skip to now, and I idly wander over to recommendations (for me! how thoughtful of you, robot) on Amazon for some e-window shopping and what do I find? Mostly the same products (film noir, sewing books, CDs for bands I used to like), but now mixed in with the others are books upon books, all telling me how to live without money, how to tread lightly on the planet, how little things I do every day without thinking are killing the planet and so on. My favourite though, has to be Enough, by John Naish. This book seems to promise (thank you, ‘Click to Look Inside’ button) to scare/teach readers how to be satisfied with what they have, rather than constantly reaching for more, an urge which got us out of the trees but which is now killing us and the planet.

Do you see my problem? Even breaking free from commodities has become a commodity, to be written about, packaged up and sent all over the place just like any other commodity that it teaches you to push away. Books on saving money cost money, and I’ve seen very few books about ecological living that were actually published on recycled paper. You can put the books on being satisfied with what you have next to your gigantic pile of CDs, DVDs, books and gadgets and still notice the space where your next new thing could be. It’s just more stuff, and just because this particular stuff (book, motivational CD, documentary on environmental degradation) is telling you you shouldn’t want/don’t need to have more stuff, it is still stuff.

I’ m not sure what can be done about this. We could all share our ideas for free online, but that overlooks the people who are genuinely talented at coming up with solutions beyond ‘recycle more’ and their need to buy stuff (useful stuff, like food or supplies to make their great inventions).

Well, until someone smarter than me comes up with a good idea for breaking free of the cycle of want-have-want-have in a way that wouldn’t destroy society or the Earth, I’ll be here putting more stuff on my Wish List.

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