The Epoch of Facepalmocene

Geologists have declared a new age to describe the extensive human impact on the globe, they call it Anthropocene. Officially it hasn’t been accepted by all the lab coat wearing community, but at the very least it’s up for discussion at the water fountain just outside the lecture theatre. Technically we’re still in the Holocene epoch, but our modern consumerist way of living is creating such impact with all that pesky carbon, plastic and other stuff we’re leaving around, that gosh darn it, let’s create a new epoch to celebrate. 

Even though I have a pair of science based tertiary courses under my belt, I’m not really a member of the scientific fraternity, I never did finish that doctorate. Useless personal information aside, I’d like to propose a new epoch, the FacePalmocene. 

Never before have we had such a well documented, scientifically accepted observation of our impacts on the natural world, but we’re just not quite getting the message. I’m not going to point the finger at politicians, the poor bastards can’t see past a four year term at the best of times. It’s us that’s to blame. Consumers.

As individuals, we’re paying more attention to ‘me’ and ‘now’ than we are to things like ‘us’ and ‘future’. Generally speaking our priorities continue to revolve around consumer values. Yes there is a sector of the community that is mindful and consumes less, eats well (of which you probably fall into), but it’s not representative of the greater majority. There are many complex reasons for this, none of which can be solved or described entirely in a few well written sentences. Suffice to say there is a machine at work, turn on a television and it’s acutely obvious.

So much has changed in my short lifetime, alternatively many things have remained the same. Human behaviour for instance, so diverse, so complex remains unchanged in many respects. We aren't too keen on a bit of enlightenment, opting instead for self destructiveness, ultimately because the problem is so complex, it's just too difficult to change. There probably isn’t a government in the western world that hasn’t yet commissioned a report into the public health crisis of obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, heart and lifestyle induced diseases. Authorities are aware, the media is aware, much of the population is aware, if you wake up in the morning and you can’t see your dick because your gut is so large, surely you must be aware. Two thirds of the population is either overweight or obese now, so when ever you’re in a crowded public place, you can’t ignore the reality, just don’t stare it’s rude, especially don’t eyeball the man looking for his dick. 

We know we have a problem with food, but we just can’t manage to unpopularise the ‘food’ that’s making the majority of us sick. Why is that? It’s obvious that the ‘food’ that’s available to us is driven by a market economy, not practical, sensible or balanced diets. Promoting the concept of eating real food, not being a celebrity chef, not labelling it with a buzz’s words or having a hip image is not cool, and it doesn’t sell lots of cook books (I know this, ouch). The concept of eating seasonally, mostly plant matter with a little meat is not a new idea, it’s been around for thousands of years. For the last 60 odd years though, we’ve messed things right up, to the point of absolute confusion and bewilderment. So confused are we humans that we’re constantly coming up with new diets, fads and hero ingredients that will return us to a tantric state of health, but the underlying food and health issue remains because we are yet to alter our culture. Healthy eating is actually really simple, it’s just not as hip when compared to what most people are obviously eating, and it's not getting the media attention needed to alter our culture, please pass the chicken salt. 

As a general population, we still can’t seem to give much of a poo about how what we produce impacts on the natural world. This week the news highlighted the Aussie cotton growers having a hard time with a poor yield this season. Is anyone even asking the question whether we should be growing cotton in Australia in the first place? Are there alternatives? Hemp perhaps? More alarmingly though I was surprised by the lack of discussion about one of the main reasons for the low yield this cotton growing season; it was from accidental drift of a sprayed herbicide, Phenoxy 2-4D. If you’re unaware of what ‘drift’ refers to, it’s when an agricultural pesticide/fertiliser gets carried ‘off target’ by wind and air to a place it’s not supposed to be, in this case it reportedly traveled 10km, yes 10km.  2-4D, the juice the World Health Organisation suggests might be kinda like, almost, possibly, carcinogenic did travel around in the air for a while before landing on the cotton crop, whoopsy! Before any chemists start sending me scientifically correct hate mail, we can at least agree that the jury is still out on the toxicity of this juice. Some say it’s ok, some say there isn’t enough evidence, and some say it’s potentially dangerous. That argument aside, it’s still being used, like Kenny Rogers it’s a gamblers game, we may not understand its impacts for decades. It drifted 10km down wind, might be carcinogenic, probably not good for food crops, that’s a concern right? Oh wait, the Bachelors on, I can’t miss this episode. 

My Face Palm action is so frequent, I’ve considered surgery to get the whole damn thing permanently attached. You may feel the same, you may feel helpless in the epoch of FacePalmocene. What can we, as insignificant multi celled organisms with consciousness possibly do? Maybe we could share articles like this on social media in between the cat memes, drunk festival photos and inspirational quotes. Perhaps we could have open discussions with friends and family, good old communication. What about a whole of country intervention? We could hug, tightly embrace each other and employ some laughter therapy, it was all the rage a few years ago, seemed to do the trick. Or maybe we take to a boring practical and uncool approach and use things for longer, buy better, well made quality that will last, hold back from ‘upgrading’, reuse, recycle, source better food if possible, get our learning on and become aware about how we can reduce. 

Reduce has so much potential for positive change in this modern world. Not to stop consuming completely, simply to reduce our consuming, to reduce the impacts of our consuming. This would make a massive difference and result in far less face palming.