Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Let’s have a crisis!

You’re supposed to have a mid life crisis, right? Well, I don’t seem to be having much luck on that one, so let’s try to manufacture one.

Well, not so much a crisis as an assessment - to put in place some of the things I’ve been meaning to do for the last 40 years, but never got around to. You know, all those vague ideas you always have floating around about getting fit, donating to charity and doing all that other stuff?

So it’s not actually much of a crisis at all really… I mean, a few years ago, I went traveling to find myself.. most people didn’t notice because I only went to Cornwall, and I went for the weekend.

The thing is, I pretty much knew where I was to begin with.

I’m not really one for having total re-thinks about who you are every few years – I’ve seen people do it and it leads to them creating havoc around them most of the time…

So what do I want to do? Well, to start with, let’s have a mission statement:

“I want the world to be a better place for my having lived in it.”

Pretty straightforward, that, but when you start unpacking it, you find that as a middle aged, middle class westerner, you’re not starting from a good point.

So the first real question is where am I at now?

Well, I can start by calculating my carbon footprint… trendy, so it’s easy to work out.
But carbon’s not the only pollutant my life produces – There’s pesticides, nuclear waste, and poisons created by any number of chemical processes that wouldn’t have been needed if I hadn’t existed. And how much landfill will I create in my life that will need to be recycled?

Then there’s the damage farming the foods I’ve eaten done in terms of water use, the destruction of rainforests, etc..? Plus, how many fish have I taken out of the oceans to eat – they need replacing if I’m to make my life a positive effect on the world?

How about my clothes and other consumer goods? How much exploitation has their been in their creation throughout my life – and more importantly what can I do to redress that?

So the question is, going back to my mission statement: Is it possible to make yourself an asset to this overcrowded world rather than a drain on it? What would it take to do it? And if it is possible, given that I don’t have lots of time to donate to worthy causes - how much will it cost me?

I’m not going to go for political fixes – It might be very worthwhile to (for example) contribute to lobbying African governments to pay a minimum wage (or even campaigning to make our government take stronger action)…but it’s not an immediate and practical response. Instead, in this project I’m only going to look at things that actually have a measurable effect.

Also, I’m trying to do the best I can to recycle, reduce waste, buy ethical stuff, and buy locally produced food, but the effect of this is not measurable, so I’m going to ignore it. I mean, I can recycle and do my best to reduce my carbon footprint and I can smile at people in the street, and that’s all good stuff, but sometimes it’s worth looking at the big picture.

Ok – over the next few days I’ll take a look at the parts of this plan and see what I can do.

Well, it’ll be an interesting exercise if nothing else….

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