When asked how to change the world for the better its easy to make grandiose plans on how to restructure the system to make it more just and ecological. These plans can become so big that you are overwhelmed and can’t see where to start or how you personally can contribute to the Herculean task at hand.
Sometimes a simple gesture of kindness can be a good place to start. Earlier this week I was walking down Rundle Street and was handed a daffodil and told I was beautiful by a young women. She and her two friends had a bunch of daffodils which they were passing out to people as they walked by. A smile, a kind word and a flower and yet it instantly made me feel happier.
I am not suggesting that we all need to start handing out flowers, but maybe next time you pass someone on the road say hello and smile. We are social animals and yet these days many of us live very isolated lives. So the simple act of making a connection with another living being, however fleeting, is making a chink in the impersonal system where the opportunity for random human interactions are increasingly being replaced by machines.
The need for these simple acts of connection is perhaps highlighted by the huge popularity the Free Hug Campaign. The following video of the Free Hug Campaign made in 2004 was one of the first videos to go viral with over 7 million people watching. Its interesting to note that officials in Australia tried to ban the campaign under the context of Public Liability. A sad world indeed when when even a hug isn’t free!
Free Money Day taking place on 15 September is another interesting and fun global campaign based on giving something away for free to complete strangers -in this case two coins or two notes with the recipient being asked to pass one on. The aim being to “raise awareness and start conversations about the benefits of economies based on sharing, as well as offer a liberating experience to inspire more critical and creative thinking about our relationships with money and how we can have new types of economic activity”.
These might seem trivial but creative acts such as these are one way to disrupt to the status quo and perhaps reach a wider or different audience to that which would be reached by scientific papers and conferences.
Are there any random events that you have experienced that have made positive disruption to a otherwise mundane day? Or piece of art that has made you look at the system in a new way?
Last month I spent a enjoyable day with a few other Sustainable Communities SA members learning how to make chutney. The informal skill sharing session was hosted by Patricia and David from the McLaren Vale group. Myself and Eleanor from the Unley group first got to enjoy the numerous local and sustainable initiatives that Willunga has to offer including the WIllunga Farmers and Quarry Markets, the Willunga Community Share, Singing Cricket Food Co-op and Willunga Environment Centre. I dropped off some oranges and books at the Community Share and came away with some celery and a lemongrass plant which has since found a home in my garden.
We then headed back to David and Patricia’s home for an afternoon of chutney making. For many of you this might be a simple thing to make, but for me, not having ever made a chutney, jam or any preserve before, it was a bit daunting. So it was great to get hands on experience from Patricia and to pick up all the little tips and tricks that you don’t get from a book.
Making your own chutney, preserves and jams is a great way to control what goes in (no nasty preservatives), is much cheaper than buying it and can be a good way to use up excess garden produce. Just as important for me though was the great conversation and laughs we shared while making the chutney. It turned what could be quite a laborious task if done individually into a fun afternoon with good company and delicious chutney to take home at the end.
Earth Overshoot Day is not a day to celebrate. It marks the estimated day in the year when humanity collectively exceeds the planet’s ability to replenish the natural resources we use. This sobering reminder of the importance of reducing our ecological footprint occurred on August 19 this year. So at current rates of resource use we are using a years worth of renewable resources in just 8 months!
The task of restructuring our civilisation so that it works within the limits of our planet is daunting (if it is possible at all). Yet markers like Earth Overshoot Day should be an important reminder that we need to be discussing, exploring and creating alternative ways of being. Its too important to leave up to someone else to fix!
The Green Electricity Guide newly released from Greenpeace and the Total Environment Centre gives a great summary of the various energy suppliers in Australia, including where they source their energy from and whether the companies invest in coal seam gas.
(photo courtesy Stephen Mosel cc-by-2.0)