A reflection on relevance: an excerpt from my book, I Quit Plastics.
It’s time for all of us individuals to create a better world—as of right now.
Start with your plastics, your footprint, your personal impact. Then you can feel good about demanding better solutions of our leaders.
I urge folks not to wait to take action. For the pollution on our planet is far beyond what we can ever hope to manage, and it is only mounting with the plastics industry planning to almost double their production in the next 10 years.
So we must act now.
Already, the pollution we are living with is too much. It is killing our necessarily diverse ecosystems, particularly dominating the marine systems that cannot endure in such volumes of microscopic plastics. In my book, I unpack the social impact of plastic. From humans having fewer and fewer fresh options for food as plastic packaged foods beat out even the prices of local growers, creating food deserts and malnourished communities. To the end result of the pollution being shipped to the poorest corners of the earth where there are no waste management systems to deal with even their local waste, much less the mountains of imported trash from addict consumers of the west.
We throw things “away,” but this only fuels the unhealthy detachment from all we buy, consume, tire of, and dispose of.
I call for us to cultivate more awareness. Cultivate more consciousness. Cultivate more connection to what we do, say, eat, and even waste.
But in this current pandemic, in this culture of fear and anxiety, of separation and isolation, of heightened triggers and sensitivities; where we watch our skies clear of pollution as the planes are grounded, and the rivers flow clean since tourism halts, and the animals frolic, and nature regrows where so recently trampled thousands of boots—we celebrate these certainly. And I quietly watch the plastic masks, the plastic gloves, the plastic gowns, the plastic wipes, the plastic personal-sized hand sanitisers, the plastic to-go food containers—delivered, picked up, discarded—the plastic takeaway cups, the plastic bottles. Plastics emerging as the key to health and hygiene.
This synthetic barrier trusted over our own natural instincts and intuitions to protect ourselves. This plastic material clawing its way into every aspect of this pandemic positioned as protection, positioned as saving lives.
I have been quietly observing. Perhaps a slight bit of wisdom is coming as this little activist ages into her place in this world, and her experiences of yelling for action and celebrating too soon give her more thoughts than words.
I watch as mining executives and oil magnates are put in charge of restoring the economy. I watch as deals for coal mines and oil rigs that we’ve been protesting and successful holding off, get pushed through in the name of bailout. People nod their heads in the name of jobs. While we are distracted by clear skies, coal gets lined up for another half-century of the dirtiest air pollution we know we can’t handle.
I have been a bit quiet. Sharing some tips for making things at home. Sharing my book I have worked so long and hard on. Sensitive to my brothers and sisters who have lost jobs, who are trapped at home in abusive situations, who are experiencing anxiety and depression and loneliness and despair. I haven’t said anything about the plastic used or the corrupt government plays being spun as COVID-19 heroism.
But I’m ready for the discussion.
I think it’s so important that we use this global reset to pause, slow down, reassess how we live this one, precious life we have been gifted, and really allow ourselves to regenerate. If doing nothing is what you need, live your truth, and I support you. I also ask if we are faced with an opportunity here to redesign the world we live in, or if we can only accept what is given to us.
And if my words—which encourage individual action and emphasise the ripple effect of individual behaviour change—if these words are perhaps now more relevant than ever.
As we are still mandated to stay home. As we spend more time on screens and online than ever before, social distanced, and indoors. As our governments push shady deals and reverse the progress made in renewables and plastic bans and extended producer responsibility and corporate transparency. Instead of entering into complete despair, or pulling the wool over our eyes by celebrating the clear skies over once polluting factories that have temporarily shut down. Because we know the keys are twitching to be switched back on. And the skies that cleared will smog over once more.
And this call for realism comes from an ever-optimistic, overly idealistic, magical mermaid! As we take this all in, can we dig deep for some courage to make a few changes in this time we spend at home? What are some steps we can take to reduce our personal ecological footprint? While we are ordering takeout, watching Netflix, and Zoom-ing everyone we know—what little shifts were we resisting before the pandemic that we could create space for now?
So that not only are these new, crushing coal mines and dirty, sucking oil rigs a result of this Earth-stopping virus, but that also a race of humans more conscious, more conscientious, more environmentally aware emerge from this.
Is it possible to reform so many individuals in their little home cocoons that we emerge a stronger force to reckon with the politics that set us back? Without bothering ourselves with the odds or stressing our mind calculating the impact, is it worthy to just focus on our own life, our one personal footprint? Can we each find a why that resonates deeply with us, that supports us to make a few changes in what we buy, use, and waste that can carry on after this pandemic?
Will these little choices matter? Will they add up? Is it possible these behaviours will influence our identity, our politics, our socialising? Will our behaviours be witnessed, admired, adopted, shared? Can we believe in people power again? Or are we so jaded by the failures and disappointments of our leaders and governments that we simply give up?
I enjoy many an argument with colleagues and friends about system change versus individual change—where they resist giving up plastic water bottles or flying in jets. And my position remains the same. Neither are mutually exclusive—in other words, we need both and both at the same time or one before the other, and necessarily both. So by that roundabout logic, why wait for one to embark on the other?
If system change will require us to bring our own reusable water bottles, then we should start bringing our own bottle and never forget. And in this, we begin to create the system change ourselves. If we continue to buy plastic bottles, the system change is not forced or altered by our cut off demand. The system’s supply is unaffected and corporates go on manufacturing. If we wait for governments to ban plastics, we are now watching these bans we toiled for decades to put into effect now turned over in an instant to support small businesses and prevent spread of disease. If we wait for corporations to have a change of conscience, we will first drown ourselves in the pollution of these very brands.
I call for individual change not because I think making oat milk at home is cute. I call for individual change because we all have influence.
I call for individual change because we all add up to the collective.
I call for individual change because our actions create the systems and our demand effects supply.
If we can each phase out of plastics during this time, we can influence the systems that will crank back up once pandemic is over.
Because, already, the pollution we live with on this earth is too much. And with the masks and gloves, the mountain of trash with nowhere to go but into our air and our water only grows.
So let us dig deep for courage and be a bit austere. Where can we make changes in our personal life? And if you have no energy for these changes, it is your time to truly regenerate your being.
If any of this resonates with you, please comment and join this discussion. We need not burden ourselves with understanding what the government is truly up to or how to save the world. We need only take on our personal consumption of plastics or composting and planting our food scraps or buying local produce. We need only take on what’s within our personal capacity.
This is all. And this is everything.
Please see this link for more information on my book here.