Twitter tells me that the German word of the year for 2018 is weltschmerz (n.) - the feeling of depression that comes on when you compare the current state of the world with how it could be ideally.
However, in a continuing monologue from my previous post, I have reached the conclusion that we must continue to fight "the good fight" in whatever ways we can feasibly manage [even if they seem pointlessly small by themselves]. I never really believed otherwise, but sometimes it would be a great relief to just forget about our impending doom for a moment. Unfortunately, we don't have time; climate scientists have warned there are only twelve years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond that point even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people, not to mention the effects on our ecosystem. The oceans are drowning in plastic, habitat for our dwindling numbers of remaining species is being eradicated as I type, we are still ignoring the millions of refugees and homeless people worldwide and we seem totally unable to tackle the vast inequality in our own country (the UK for me), let alone internationally.
We need to do something dramatic and I am so proud of all my friends who are trying. Personally, I am starting small as I am not sure what else to do right now.
In January 2018, not organised enough to put it together before the 1st, I wrote myself a list of self-improvements. It was a total disaster. These are all the ways I failed last year...
- Be as "plastic free" as possible. In the UK I have this 85% sorted. Sometimes I slip up when visiting friends as I don't always want to be the super awkward one, but I am pretty good the rest of the time. However, in West Africa I probably purchased one hundred large bottles of water. This could easily have been prevented by buying a decent water filter before I left the UK! In Iceland it is also extremely difficult to buy plastic free food in our nearest supermarket. There are some alternatives, such as the bakery, but they are very limited and usually cripplingly expensive. On a positive note, I have done vast amounts of beach cleaning (mostly in Portugal, Scotland and Iceland).
- Work towards being "zero-waste". I darn the holes in my socks, buy everything second hand (if I really need it), write in pencil so I can rub it out and use the paper again, make my own toiletries or buy them without plastic, I meticulously sort every item of recycling and use old Cornish pasty bags to buy mushrooms in... oooh yes, very successful, apart from the entire van and 95% of its contents which we had to scrap in Portugal in April! Aaaaaargh!
- Continue being vegetarian and try to cut out dairy. Despite finding this extremely easy (the vegetarian part) for the rest of the time, I totally forgot about it for six weeks in The Gambia. I couldn't face explaining the concept to people who were struggling to get by. Suddenly the whole concept seemed ridiculous. Cutting out dairy was easy there as there wasn't an opportunity to eat it, but I haven't done very well with that the rest of the year and I still eat too much cheese.
- Volunteer with either homeless in UK or work with refugees again. This was actually somewhat of a success, but not in the way I imagined. I am just helping to run the social media pages for Phone Credit for Refugees and am finding that a good way to help productively while still maintaining my own mental health.
- Make some money from writing somehow. Actually I did do this on a small scale too by working with Friendly Soap. I have something much bigger in the pipe-line for 2019 though...
- Visit one new country. Yes ok, I did this one as well - The Gambia and Senegal!
Do not fly (apart from to Iceland for work in June and back again once the season finishes). No, no, no... Once the van broke, we had to fly back to the UK (with all our things) from Portugal. Two weeks later (spontaneously, to drown our sorrows in another adventure) we flew to The Gambia and then we had another flight back to the UK from Senegal. We also flew from the UK to Iceland and then back again. One year and five flights... this is definitely the worst thing I did in 2018.
So, lets start again!
Here we go then, these are my attainable "New Year's Resolutions" for 2019:
1. Spend more time outside/writing/reading/painting/cooking/anything and less on boring procrastination (social media).
Because you cannot save the world from the midst of an existential crisis and hours of pointless scrolling is bad for my brain. I am determined to live in the real World as much as possible this year.
- Turn off wifi for chunks of the day?!
- Hike/run [even] more. Get super fit. Run a marathon? Raise a load of money for Phone Credit for Refugees?!
2. Continue to work with Phone Credit for Refugees and keep up the momentum.
Directly contradicting my first aim, I want to continue helping PCFR as much as possible. Running their Twitter and Instagram pages is not a difficult job and feels like the most productive thing I can do to help refugees right now while still retaining my sanity. We have made some excellent progress this year and I am desperate to help keep them afloat (or even thrive).
3. Reduce "Carbon Footprint".
- Put pressure on government to invest in renewable sources of energy.
- Find ways to pester businesses to care about their output too. Support organisations making a positive change; continue to use Ecosia even though it is definitely still slightly worse than Google...
- Do not visit a new country "just for fun" by plane! Unfortunately, as my life is split between Iceland and the UK at the moment, I can't cut out flying entirely just yet. Yes, I am aware that this makes me a huge hypocrite.
- Use public transport/walk/hitchhike where possible.
- Continue to be vegetarian and do not buy cow's milk.
- Try to buy local groceries and think about air miles when buying anything.
- Think about (and act upon) ways to save energy in day to day life, both at home and at work.
- Find somewhere I can plant a lot of trees?
4. Creep towards "Plastic Free" and "Zero Waste"...
This is more of a continuation and gradual improvement of things I already try to do. I look forward to having somewhere more permanent to live one day, so I can finally grow my own vegetables; at the moment I just sprout cress and various beans indoors.
- Continue to visit greengrocers/markets whenever possible; reuse bags and containers.
- Do not buy any new clothes and continue to fix old ones. Get better at sewing!
- Pester government and supermarkets about plastic packaging and other wasteful practices.
5. Do even more beach cleans.
I enjoy doing this, it's easily achievable for me and the impact is purely positive.
6. Pressure government about UK homeless and refugees.
Petitions are better than nothing, but it is much more effective to write to our MPs (or other representatives if you are not UK based). Check out Write To Them if you are not yet in regular correspondence with your MP. Other forms of activism can be even more effective, but I am never in the right place at the right time.
- Supporting local homeless charities/organisations is important, but only the government can really tackle the root causes. Ending austerity and making stricter regulations about keeping property empty would be a start.
- For refugees and displaced people, I will continue to demand compassion, legal and safe routes into the UK, an end to indefinite detention and for people to be allowed to work while they are waiting (sometimes years) for their asylum claims to be processed.
No doubt I will be posting something else this time next year to tell you what a disaster this list was too!