Making a sustained effort

When I began blogging, as the site title suggests, I had planned to write about environmental issues, in addition to education and equality. Over the last few years, other than the odd post about spending some of my time at the PLANT Tayport Community Garden I’ve given less attention to issues of the environment and sustainability. But over the last month or so I’ve been giving this a lot more thought. First up was Veganuary, I’ve been vegetarian for 28 years which, now I say it, seems a rather long time ago.

I’ve often toyed with the idea of veganism especially given the environmental and animal welfare issues associated with dairy foods. This year several friends were giving the vegan lifestyle a try, and this encouraged me to do the same. I was surprised at how it wasn’t that difficult to cut down on egg and cheese. However, there are challenges when eating out, or if attending catered events (sandwiches without meat, cheese or egg seem rare). I’ve not yet made the full switch, and might not, but what I have done is reduce the amount of dairy in my diet at home, and where available if eating out I go for the vegan option.

Last weekend I was away in Brighton and London, which illustrated to me how big the vegan lifestyle has become. Brighton is well known for being a ‘green’ city but it also seemed really normal too. Many cafes and restaurants seemed to be entirely meat free, but looking at the choices on offer I would challenge even the most hardened carnivore not to have been impressed. Within a few hours I’d completely stopped noticing. Once back in London, I was staying in Brixton which apparently, my friend tells me, in the process of being gentrified (judge this anyway you want). While I was looking for breakfast I was intrigued to see a vegetarian cafe where you pay what you can (PWYC) afford, which is part of the Brixton Pound project. They also take food waste, that would go to landfill, and turn into food to sell. I love this idea, and given the number of customers who came and went it seems to be going well. The PWYC principle is also fascinating and is something I’d love to explore with primary age learners as, from my experience, they have a really sophisticated understanding of fairness.

These recent experiences have shown me how these lifestyle changes might not be as tough as we initially think. Also, I’ve realised, that lots of small level activities, projects and individual action can quickly add up and make a difference. Politically I’m left of centre, and make no secret of this. But over the years, including through my own learning, I’ve come to embrace the idea of grassroots action. The traditional, top-down application of socialist principles has serious limitations. Of course I am not proposing anarchism – or a libertarian system – but life and the way society exists is complex, and to me hierarchical, heavily managed systems are fast losing their appeal.

One way for grassroots action to build is through people examining their own behaviour and acting on it. Which itself requires a good degree of, sometimes selfless, self-awareness. And so returning to my own impact on the environment I am taking part in Kaska’s Carbon Conversation project, run via the Tayport PLANT project. This should give me further opportunities to explore how I can reduce my impact on the environment. From what I can gather this is very much a member-led project. So I’ll provide an update on this at some point, but in the same way you PWYC in Brixton I am certainly looking forward to LWYC (Learning What You Can) over the next couple of months.

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