Accidental Activist

This past week I've been bed ridden, I've had a lot of time to think. Here are some thoughts. 

A few weeks ago I started telling my story over and over again, it's all part and parcel of being an author. Writing a book is step one, promoting is step two. Over the course of a few weeks of re-telling my story, I'm realising more and more that I've fallen into the box labeled 'Social Activist'. I'm kind of split by this. On one side there's the lovely idealistic notion that I'm part of some people power movement instigating positive social change, and then there's the other side which has me looking for some alone quiet time and maybe finding that peace I've been chasing for years. I'm not going to rabbit on about what it's like to be an agent of change, instead I want to talk about how I've shifted my expectations for that social change. 

In the beginning I wanted to go extreme, I wanted everyone to return to the roots, to the soil, to provide for themselves. It didn't take me long to realise that the many humans are simply not interested in this approach, well not in the way that I am anyway. That realisation broke my precious little naive heart. That naive, enthusiastic spirit, full of good intentions to save the world. Over the years my nativity wore down like the epidermal layers of my practiculture hands. The outcome is that I've become more realistic in my expectations. So much so that I have no expectations for what anyone else does, or thinks, or puts into action. I also used to care when people would criticise me, for what I was doing, or for my 'success' (welcome to Australia), and for that matter, I no longer give a shit. Sounds harsh, allow me to continue. 

Jamie Oliver is releasing a new book soon that has a focus on healthy eating. Jamie Oliver, you may have heard of him. This bloke is so well known, has done so much in regards to 'educating' the community about eating real food. His actions are worthy of a Excellent Human Award, if there was such a thing. This book (like many of his others) will make a difference in many peoples lives, and that's magnificent outcome. But no matter how famous or wide reaching this message will travel, the reality is that many people won't hear it, or they will hear it, they just won't 'get it'. And you just can't lose sleep over it, although I used to, which in hindsight was a complete waste of time. I used to think it was a mission of mine to 'convert' people to eating healthy real food and maybe persuade them into 'giving a shit' about their impact on natural world.  I've tried many different techniques of communicating this message, from calm, positive, scientific, to fists of rage raised high into the internet air. I've since realised that people will do what people want to do. Let us take nutrition, or personal health as an example. If people choose to ignore the likes of Jamie Oliver waving a flag for real food, and instead choose to eat crap food, then they're the ones, that at some point will have to deal with whatever health consequences may arise as a result of their choices. That was me in my previous life. I clearly knew I was eating crap food, but I liked it, it was cheap and convenient. I only started making changes when my health began to falter. Not suggesting that that's the only way someone with transition from a diet of crap food, to a diet of real food, but it is a common thing and I've been writing about it (the transition) for many years now. Looking back, it's clear to me that the experience was a social activist trap. It's not at all a bad thing, in fact, the process has been a great learning experience, so much so that it's shifted my views on many things. You might say it's this view is pessimistic or realistic, please continue. 

It's comforting to know that each day, all I can really do is feed myself and my family the food that is based on my belief system. This is food that comes mostly from the backyard, the things I can't grow I can source from local ethical producers, the rest  I can get from the ever reliable stupidmarket. That's what I do because I've made deliberate choices in my life to make that happen (this does not mean that I think I'm better than you or more ethical or some bullshit like that). I constantly get told that my lifestyle is not applicable to people living in the city and I agree with that, especially if you're living in a studio apartment.  But there are alternatives to producing most of your food, from CSA's to veg box schemes to home delivered meat straight from the farmer, farmers markets, fresh food markets, there are backyards in cities, soil on crown land, community gardens, and there is also the fresh produce department at a supermarket. I'm yet to visit a supermarket that doesn't have a fresh produce section.  The point I'm making is that there is always another option to simply eating mostly processed foods. But regardless of that point, really who's to say what anyone else should eat. It's all personal choice right?

photo @bobbyandtide

photo @bobbyandtide

And that's the very reason why change will be slow. Because it's up to us, the collective of individuals. It's the individual that needs to first recognise that changes need to be made, and secondly to actively implement those changes. But you can't be told to do that, it has to be personally motivated. I go to great lengths not to tell people how they should be living their lives, instead I take the approach of saying, this is what I do, and this is why I do it. Last week I did a cooking event at a fresh produce market, it was a wonderful looking market, with fresh produce displayed all neat and pretty like. However with the experience of being a veg grower, all I could  see was out of season produce that had most likely been sprayed with pesticide and fertilised with some inorganic shit, and had no doubt travelled a long distance to get to the market (Chanterelles from France, case in point). But is it my place to yell and scream and explain to the people at that market that the food they're eating has a high carbon legacy, or that has residual pesticides on it. No it is not my place to do that, instead they have to figure that out for themselves. And that is why we are doomed. Because people find this reality confronting and shit, because it is. And let's face it, who wants to go with out eggplant for 8 months of the year? It's unthinkable. 

So why do people have to figure it out for themselves? Why can't we have a television show that explains it all, clear and scientific like? Because not many people would watch it. No one likes bad news, people like happy shiny things, like sportsball, hot chicks in bikinis and masculine ripped abs. It helps to distract them from the realities of existence. Life is not easy. Sometimes it's ok, but usually it's busy, stressful and everyones short on time. Well that's what we tell each other anyway, but it's all down to choice, if you catch my drift. You buy the big houses, you pay the big bank loan. You buy the new car, you pay the big bank loan. It's maths baby. 

The same can be applied to diet and lifestyle choices. Some people choose to eat protein shakes, some take supplements, some eat chicken nuggets, some are cooking imported French Chanterelles and some are eating backyard kale. Everyones eating something based on their belief system. Which belief system is right? Does there even need to be a right believe system? The only thing I've figured out is that we probably should care about what is actually going into our bodies as it may impact on our health. We kinda should care about the wellbeing of the natural world, cause it kinda supports our very existence. And just a little cherry on top, maybe it's not such a bad thing to care about the conditions the animals we end up eating live in, or to maybe care about how the worker humans that make our food are treated. But hey, that's up to the individual to want to care. 

I'm comforted by the idea that no matter how much us humans end up damaging ourselves, each other or the natural world, at least the planet has the ability to recover, given the right conditions of time and a reduction in the amount damaging humans. Here's hoping. Enjoy the Chanterelles.