Friday, 23 May 2008

In which Ms Heathen lets off steam

Sometimes I wonder, is this really any sort of world to bring a child into?

A Very Nice Man has just been to mend my cooker. 'Don't worry,' he exclaimed, peering into the nether regions of the oven. 'I know exactly what the problem is. I'll have you up and running again in no time.' He explained that the element had gone. 'I see this all the time. How long have you had the oven for?'

'Three years,' I replied.

'That's about the length of time I would have expected,' he answered. 'Manufacturers no longer build these things to last; instead they hope that, when they do break, you'll just go out and buy another one.'

Since he left, I have been thinking about this a lot. Apparently, we now live in such a disposable culture that, when something breaks, we simply replace it with a newer model. But what happens to everything we throw out? We live on an extremely small island; all this rubbish has to go somewhere. All morning, I have been haunted by visions of vast stacks of discarded white goods being piled up in fields across the country. If we do have a child, will it grow up to consider itself fortunate if it finds an abandoned chest freezer to live in?

The ice caps are melting, the polar bears are drowning, and yet we carry on consuming. The way in which we lead our lives really does seem to me fundamentally unsustainable. It is at moments like this when I am sorely tempted to decamp to a small holding somewhere in the wilds of Wales, where I can grow my own vegetables and spin my own yarn...


Shinejil said...

I think about the same thing all the time, Mrs. H. I wonder what kind of war, famine, natural catastrophe I'd be forcing this new human to face, and what kind of idiots I'd be encouraging her/him to deal with in order to get by. The current food crisis feels like the beginning of something, not just a little blip on the screen of history.

My guy and I are, by US standards, underconsuming, but there's still so much waste. And for what? I can't say.

luna said...

I also think about this too. I can't stand the consumeristic disposable culture in which we live. electronics get me too, how obsolete something becomes just year or so later. things we could do without. but even things we need are not built to last anymore.

we do our best to live a sustainable life but we are not perfect. and as you say everything around us seems disposable. it is very frustrating. perhaps you can make a new planter out of your old cooker?

kate said...

Oh, yes. These thoughts cross my mind frequently. I've kind of decided to cut back on TV (at least cut back on watching commercials), hoping that I can get myself out of this "I'm-not-good-enough-but-if-I-buy-more-I-can-be" type mindset. I live in a 70 year old house that was last renovated in the late 60s. The materials they used were intended to last a damn long time, and they have. I'm glad, too, because if the appliances or floors were even just a bit more worn, I would gladly replace them, even though I know how unnecessary that is.

I find myself in a conundrum, though, because appliances built that long ago are grossly inefficient, but since they aren't broken, if I replace them, then I'm just sending something perfectly fine off to the landfill to live a second life as a block of white taking up necessary space. Feh. What to do, what to do...

annacyclopedia said...

What say we start a virtual commune, friends? Living in the wilds, spinning yarn and eating our own food, singing songs - away from the money-obsessed world we live in? Sounds damn good to me.

the Babychaser: said...

I think about this a lot. Especially in the past year. It's odd -- this was the kind of think I used to think in the early 90s, when the world seemed so bleak and the future seemed so impossible. But then the tide turned in America, and there seemed to be hope and progress and awareness again, and I stopped wondering if it was fair to bring a child into this world.

But now it's different. And I think I could live with the problems with the economy, and the disappearing oil, and the global conflict. I think I could still see a future in that.

But the environment? How do we come back from what we've already done? Is it even possible to reverse what has happened by now?

All I can say is this -- our kids will be different than us. Their minds will work differently (thank the internet, cell phones, etc for that). And they will function differently as a society. Occasionally, I take a deep breath and try to have faith that they will accomplish what we cannot: not just global awareness of the tenuous grip we have on our planet, but a willingness to make DRASTIC lifestyle changes to DO something about it.

But mostly I just fear. And then that makes me sad so I don't let myself think about it anymore.