I’m writing this from my suburban home where I live with my husband and our two cats. Like most European homes, it’s equipped with modern equipment, gas heating and hot water. We own a suite of electrical appliances, even more devices, gadgets and gizmos, and multiple vehicles. We’ve taken at least one return flight for at least eight of the last ten years.
For me personally, I’ve unwittingly sold myself into the ‘must have new’ consumerist society and bought far more things into my home that would be necessary for a lifetime. I’ve discarded things well before their time. I’ve left lights on, taps running, windows open.
I have done many of the things all of us do – blindly – every single day, each of which leave a footprint on the Earth that we can’t take back.
More recently, it’s become increasingly stark to me the excesses and wastefulness of my life and the contradiction in this with how I see myself. I truly cannot bear the thought that I hurt someone or something. That my impact will be one of neglect, materialism and consumption. That I have taken more than I have given, without a second thought.
We think that – because we recycle, take our old (or not so old) clothes to the charity shop, and clutch our reusable coffee cups and no-longer-plastic straws – we are doing our part. We watch David Attenborough and Greta Thurnburg and nod sagely (#thinkoftheturtles). We are shaken by news of devastating floods moving ever closer, or forest fires consuming towns and villages in their wake. But we carry on regardless. We have an inordinate ability to distance our thoughts and behaviours from the reality of the evidence in front of us, especially when it comes to climate change.
Sustainability and concern for the climate started me on a trail of discovery that shocked and dismayed me. It opened my eyes to the savage exploitation of resources that goes into so much of what we consume in the West. I read – in horror – about animal agriculture, from industrial farming to fisheries and ocean fishing. I learned about the unethical way our clothing, shoes as well as our beloved phones are produced. The endemic racism, exploitation, slavery and corruption across all of it.
If I’m honest, I felt foolish for being naive to as much of this as I was. I am forty years old and I am ashamed that I have allowed myself to turn away from the truth of the way we live for so long.
I’ve made a lot of changes very quickly, and it’s been both overwhelming and revelatory in equal measure. My motivation began as climate change, but it has evolved to be so much more than that. Sustainability, social justice, animal welfare – are all encompassed in the choices that I have made, and will continue to make.
Some of these changes were done almost overnight, others over a period of time, and still more remain a work in progress. These will all be posts for another time.
For now, this is my confession. I am not eco, but I want to do better and I will share as much as I can along the way. From the books I’ve read, to the actions I’ve taken, along with all my mistakes too. I will never be perfect. But I will always be trying.