It is an apparent fact that we like to get away with things for free.
This is no surprise, and neither should it be. We are often told that the best things in life are free, and indeed that is largely the case. Money can’t buy happiness, or love. True again.
What is not an apparent fact though and, I believe, is not so because of wilful ignorance, is that not much we consider free is actually free.
To be more specific, I’m referring to those things that we enjoy daily, at either end of the complexity spectrum. Nature and Technology. But, here, I’m just going to talk about Nature.
Nature is at risk.
All of nature. This is not an overstatement. Seas are polluted, deforestation is increasing, greenfield building sites are proliferating, mono-cultures are killing diversity, poaching and farming is destroying the world’s animals and climate change is damaging everything.
Here’s the thing though – we are to blame for all of it. There is nothing in the litany of crimes above that are not performed for the pleasure, and custom, of joe public. As consuming inhabitants we make living, eating and recreational choices that drive those activities we claim to loathe.
But what can I do?
Individually nothing, or not much. But as one of many, a lot. Everything in fact. You have to start though. It’s no good saying and doing nothing.
Join a charity that campaigns and takes action. They’ll do the stuff you don’t have the time and energy for. And they only want £3 a month. Say no to the free gifts and mailings, just hand over the money.
Go and pick up litter. There is a group near you that does this, I guarantee it. You’ll feel so much better. People are less likely to litter when there is none as well. It’s the Broken Window theory, and it’s true. Reduce evidence of damage and you halt, or stifle the increase in damage. No-one gives a shit about making a mess when there’s already a mess. But a small mess in a clean place is an abomination.
‘The council should do it!’ – No, it shouldn’t be there in the first place, and you have to pay the council to recruit and employ someone to pick it up. It isn’t FREE.
Stop adding to the destruction.
Tiny things will help, they really will. Don’t buy the things wrapped in plastic, or the things flown from the other side of the world. A packet of green beans from Kenya? Asparagus from Peru? Apples from New Zealand and South Africa? Seriously, don’t do this, it all adds cost, and we are paying that cost.
Buy the things from Warwickshire, from Yorkshire, Somerset. Or Scotland and France maybe. Believe me, supermarkets track every single item that is sold, and they will know that you’re doing it. Don’t put your veg in plastic bags, just put it in the basket or trolley. Remember the hand-wringing when plastic bags were being phased out? No-one cares now, and the supermarkets save money. They would love to spend less serving you. So, give them reasons to not import from around the world and supply you with tonnes of unnecessary packaging. It all costs, and companies push ethics aside to manage costs, so make those costs go away.
Buy better meat.
I know, I know. Everyone says that this is the biggest issue that can be solved the fastest. But, I don’t think just stopping is the answer. Doing things better is the answer. Buying better meat means you encourage stores to stock better meat. It means that better animal husbandry and welfare is promoted and encouraged. It will bring prices down too, as the demand goes up. That’s how it always works.
Eat meat better. Seriously. Take pride in cooking things well and you won’t need so much of it. You don’t already, but knowing that you’re cooking excellent meat means you are less flippant about it. That’s how we treat things we believe are valuable, we cherish and respect them more. You can learn this, and decide that a cheap steak in a tray from Tesco really isn’t better than a cut from a butcher, just because it’s £3 cheaper. In fact, it’s evidently the exact reason that it’s worse.
Final point. Go to the places that are yet to be destroyed. Remind yourself that these places are in the minority. Remind yourself that they can be protected, and regrown, if the will is there. Then decide to have that will, and then take a small step toward proving that, but only to you. Don’t do it to impress someone else. Your behaviour always leaves an impression on other people, so you can let them decide themselves.