A few weeks ago I read an interview with David Suzuki in a magazine called Dumbo Feather, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Some time back in the 1980's I remember first encountering this man, probably via a VHS played to us at primary school on one of those televisions that took a few minutes to warm up. I vaguely remember watching one or two of his documentaries at home, on weekends when we where allowed to watch TV. In any case, his message about the importance of the natural world seemed to have snuck into my subconscious, helping form me into the human I am today.
The general vibe of this article in Dumbo Feather was about reflection. Mr Suzuki is now 80, has fought his entire career for environmental change and is now nearing his winter season. My heart hurts with the very thought of it, he's been such an inspiring human. He still has energy, still fights for change and continues to influence. I saw him speak a few years ago, he visited our town to talk about his life work for the release of his memoir. Somehow I ended up with two copies of this book, but I can't bring myself to read either one.
I walked away from the magazine article thinking a lot about the broader futility of human behaviour. Here we have an intelligent man of science, one that's spent a life time begging our leaders for change, pleading to the wider community of humans to make change, and he failed. Scrap that, he didn't fail, his message did, and so did the people he communicated it too (well most of them anyway).
I'm not sure exactly what it is within us as a species that refuses to heed the warnings we should be paying so much attention to, maybe we're just too distracted by other trivial things to notice. The older I get, the more I have to simply accept it as part of who we are. For so many of our human issues, change has taken many years, not just decades, but hundreds of years. You'd like to think that human issues of slavery, racism, human trafficking, homophobia don't exist anymore, but they do, as do many others, some worse than in all of human history. Media is full of humans doing stupid things, cruel and mean things to other humans, so much so that it's painful to keep up with. And before anyone says "this is why I don't watch the news anymore" let me explain that until we're active in making change as individuals, our world will remain troubled. So popping the head in the sand won't help the situation.
The Suzuki article has troubled me ever since I read it. Since my life altering change from being an 'asleep at the wheel unhealthy mindless consumer' to 'slightly more aware than some, but probably not as awesome as David Suzuki' I've been writing, talking, teaching, workshopping and what not, all for a cause. This cause is built on the principle, that, as individuals we have the power to make significant change regarding issues, notably our personally health and how our consumer choices impact the natural world.
The article got me questioning my own actions. Maybe I'm wasting a good deal of my life away, maybe I'm putting my energy into something that won't really make that much of a difference. I'm not being completely nihilistic but one can't help think that change isn't going to happen, not on a grand scale anyway. Simple observation of encouraged population growth, installation of more fast food chain outlets, the continuing dominance of supermarkets, the endless building of road infrastructure, the blind faith in a market driven economy (not one driven by carrying capacity of natural resources), rising obesity, apathetic populations happily living within the illusion dream they're sold etc. You can observe all these goings on free of charge via the internet, or simply mingling amongst other humans and the built environment.
As challenged as I am, I'll continue to work on my projects, to share the message about food, humans and the natural world, with the understanding that some people will get reached, some will poke fun at me, many will ignore and most will not even hear me.
Regardless of what happens in my personal world, the outlook for us all is pretty bleak. I'd love to read over these paragraphs in 20-30 years (if I'm still around). I'm no futurist but I'm fairly confident most of my predictions will come true (at least over the next few hundred years) based on current trends and forecasts.
We will continue to get fatter, much fatter, and more of us. This will place a heavy burden on our already struggling health care system. Preventable lifestyle diseases will overtake natural and age related disease. This isn't just the fault of people choosing to eat 'bad' food, the fundamental problem is that this 'bad' food is approved and legal to sell, this is the root cause. Our alternative? Take the shit off the shelves, replace it with real food, teach people how to cook and watch health return. But this will never happen.
Climate change is only starting to rear it's ugly head. In decades to come we will see countries and entire geographical regions struggle with drought, flooding, extreme heat and severe storms. Crops will fail, water supplies will be compromised, people will die for lack of food, people will also fight to take other countries resources. Richer countries will try to help poorer countries, but eventually richer countries will themselves face turmoil. Mega migrations of populations will take place, people driven from one area to another due to increased tensions, wars and persecution. Good quality natural resources will replace valuable commodities like gold and oil, and people will kill for them. Our alternative? Embrace cleaner energy regardless of the current cost. Undertake massive by-back schemes for marginal farming land, reforest and improve biodiversity. Consume less material items (not all, just less), embrace 'local' where possible, support the emergence of local manufacturing industries, opt for anything with reduced road miles, improve public transport for large cities, tax single driver city cars, subsidise efficient small scale regenerative farming business, subsidise the re-introduction of multi species small scale agg on the outskirts of major cities that supply fresh real food to city dwellers and replace the single species crops currently supplying processed food production, penalise waste for companies and individuals, address food waste and invest in new technologies to search for cleaner energy.
The population of the western world will continue to get dumber, lazier and more apathetic. Will ask less questions, and will trust more in what they're told. They will continue to be fed all information and entertainment by different forms of media, sold the dream of the perfect house, full of natural resource hungry material items and sold food that will make them unhealthy (but happy for the short term, .....as it gets eaten). Some groups will try to fight against this but will fail, beaten down by the much louder voices of large companies and the governments that are in their pockets. It's been happening for a long time, and continues to happen. Even in the past few weeks the lobbyist's for industrialised poultry farms had the term 'free range' to brand farms where 10,000 birds occupy 1 hectare, by state governments at a recent meeting in Canberra. How much news coverage did this get, very little. The idea is to feed as many people, as economically cheaply as possible, regardless of the welfare or environmental implications.
Yes these are all generalisations, and I'm sure someone will tear me apart for writing it (the joys of social media and being an idiot magnet) but the future is bleak. I don't want this future, I'm sure no one does, but maybe I'm wrong.
I hate to use this term, but I think we may need to look at many of these issues with a 'holistic' approach. For example, we won't save the world by all of us simply going vegan, especially if we're eating fresh produce out of season that's travelled thousands of kilometres to reach us, we'd just be adding to more green house emissions, and wildlife causalities. Or if we eat processed vegan food that's doing nasty things to our insides, simply because we believe it to be a better option than eating animals. If we want to make change happen we need to think outside our comfort zone. In this case, instead of eating imported summer vegetables and fruit that's travelled great distances, lets look at local, in season produce, and maybe produce that's not required huge energy inputs to create it. Let's look for food thats not packaged, which means less landfill, less finite resources required to produce said packaging. Everything needs to be broken down and analysed. And we can't get it right all of the time. This shift will come about by actively making changes we can realistically make. Starting with our food will bring about massive results. Most of the food we're currently eating requires huge energy inputs to create, it's not a sensible long term approach. We need to embrace regenerative, because sustainable isn't actually possible. I can't tell you what to do, you have to discover shit for yourself, otherwise real change doesn't happen (long term). Whats needed is some serious habitual transformation as consumers, in every aspect.
But none of this change will happen on a scale that is required. It's an unfortunate reality we must face. Someone once commented that we just need to learn to live with this bleak future, to adapt to the shit that's heading towards us. It's not really a very positive world to be raising children in, but we have to make do with the situation. I wonder how David Suzuki feels about the future that he spent a lifetime trying to change. I wonder if he feels hope. Once you're engaged with these issues and the subsequent realities of future, it's difficult to feel that same sense of hope you felt as a child, watching those magical Suzuki films.