Living Upstream and Downstream in a Global Community
When you think about it, every revolution in human history started with a trickle, a small group of humans pushing for change. As the trickle moved downstream it gathered volume and momentum, followers, and the push for change intensified until it became a flood that the most obstinate could not stand against. It follows then, that if we want to create a revolution to save our place on the Earth, every little drop of change adds to the trickle and keeps it moving towards that flood.
I started saving water by being mindful of consumption. I had short showers, washed laundry only when I had enough for a full load and minimized use wherever I could. I learned about permaculture and started purposefully using my greywater and built contour banks on our slope to catch and store the rain water and topsoil that was being washed into nearby waterways. I planted and planted and planted. I learned that scientists estimate that more than 35% of microplastic pollution in our oceans comes from laundering synthetic clothing. I started checking tags and buying natural fabrics whenever I could. Did it cost more? Yes, it cost more money from my pocket, but it reduced the cost to the Earth. I am spending my money in ways that support the society that I want to live in. And the trickle grows…
I started composting. Only the “bad compost foods” like citrus and alliums made it to landfill. I learned about soldier flies and started composting anything biological in origin. I got a worm farm and fed them carrot peels and banana skins and eggshells. I researched how people used to store vegetables before refrigerators and tried them. I was stunned to discover that in combination with refrigeration this made my vegetables last longer. I learned about biochar and started charring bones and meat scraps. My general refuse bin started going to the kerb with less than a third of the original waste each week. And the trickle of change became stronger…
I started reusing plastic containers and glass jars. I stopped buying matching plastic containers. I learned to live with a “mismatched” pantry full of all kinds of containers. I started preferencing brands that used containers that I could reuse or repurpose afterwards. I started turning lights off. We got solar panels on our roof. I started spending extra to buy more energy efficient appliances. I am trying to stop throwing things away and repair or repurpose instead. I am asking myself, “Do I need that appliance?” I am buying less cheap plastic and more items that will last. And the trickle of change continues to grow…
I live in a rural area with no public transport. I started minimizing my trips by going without or being organized enough to get everything at once. I started parking in one place and walking between locations rather than driving and parking again. I started buying local produce even if it meant going to multiple shops and using seasonal produce in the kitchen. I planted vegetables and fruit trees. I started carpooling whenever I could. I am staying home more and eating better food. And the trickle gains momentum…
All my life I have witnessed the damage that invasive species can cause. We bought property covered in invasive Lantana. We spent every weekend for months clearing it with a machete and a mattock, no power tools or machines. I planted and planted and planted. We moved on. We bought property covered in many different invasive species. We cleared and cleared. I planted and planted. We sectioned off a part of the property to rehabilitate and another part to live in. In the rehabilitation section I planted endemic natives and identified each new species that appeared once the neighbours’ herding animals were fenced out. New natives stayed, I removed the invasives. I wanted to see more frogs. I started hunting cane toads, horrified at having to kill them even using stepped hypothermia. The frog population exploded. The local wildlife discovered my vegetable and herb gardens. I planted more and more to share. An ecosystem is starting to develop and we have seen at least five endangered animals and I have planted and nurtured rare and endangered plants whenever I can find them. Trickle, trickle…
I am a teacher. I taught Drama and History, then I seized an opportunity to teach Science. I taught my students to analyse, theorise and criticise. I gave them raw data and conflicting opinions and I told them to challenge me. They did. I told them to have their own opinions. They began challenging each other and we had debates and they disagreed and I was glad. There is no change without a pressing need and those to argue the pressing need against those who wish to stay the same. And the trickle meets other trickles and the volume heading downstream grows…
This is a summary of my contribution to the trickle of environmental change. Do I still use plastic? Of course! It’s hard not to in this day and age. Do I still drive my car? Yes. Do I still buy synthetic fabrics? Sometimes.
Robin Wall Kimmerer said “we all live downstream” in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass, and I love that concept. I am trying my hardest to send only good stuff downstream but I’m not perfect and I am a product of my time and place in history. I can only work with what I get from the society upstream from me.
There is cause for hope. I am sure that the trickle has grown in my lifetime. I have seen things become normal that were unheard of in my childhood. Reusable coffee cups are everywhere. Plant-based plastics are getting more shelf space in supermarkets. Countries are banning plastic straws and cutlery.
My greatest hope is with the children. No one is better at changing minds than a child and they are more environmentally aware than ever before. I hope as each year of new adults take their place in society and voting lines they bring with them enough understanding to push that trickle to a flood that saves our Earth. Until then I will keep trying to add drops of change to the trickle I send downstream and spread the word, as revolutionaries have always done, before the flood of change.
Wishing you wonderful trickles from upstream,
Jane Grows Garden Rooms