Wednesday, June 30, 2010

More supermarket trolley politics...

Further to my previous post about the paucity of available sustainably fished tuna in Australia, I found around $8.00 for a tiny tin! Think I'll stick with going without for the time being, but if you love your tuna so much its worth the premium, check it out at I came across this at the local organic farmer's market we've been going to each Saturday morning. Contrary to my previous assumptions, the fruit and veg here is actually not all that much more expensive than that available at the local supermarket. And they taste so much better! They also have stalls selling 'upcycled' goods and the obligatory rock crystal deoderants and, newly, a cafe selling excellent coffee (organic fairtrade of course) in compostable cups. Eco-geek heaven.

As if things at the supermarket weren't ethically fraught enough, I've just become aware of another issue to bear in mind - palm oil! Apparently the vast majority of our palm oil is sourced from plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. Unfortunately the clearing of native rainforest for palm oil plantations is apparently the main cause of loss of Orangutan habitat. For more details check out the Perth Zoo campaign website at

Palm oil is used in up to 50% of processed consumer products - from chocolate to shampoo. I went to buy some supposedly 'green' dishwashing liquid the other day - until I saw that it had palm oil in it. Unfortunately in Australia we're generally currently kept none the wiser as to what contains palm oil and what doesn't - usually it will just be labelled as 'vegetable oil' (which could be pretty much anything). A 'Truth In Labelling Palm Oil Bill' will be brought before our Australian Parliament in August of this year. If successful, all products containing palm oil will have to be labelled as such. This will give the consumer the opportunity to put pressure on manufacters to use only Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Worth a letter to the local MP, I think. In the meanttime, a 'Scorecard' has been produced by WWF rating different companies according to the sustainability of their palm oil use - check it out at

Thursday, June 17, 2010

We're just monkeys living in a plastic world

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how it is we've all ended up living in a way that seems to be so bad for our bodies and our planet - and why we're so resistant to change. Having evolved to survive times of scarcity, our instincts tell us to accumulate resources. Our monkey nature tells us to eat lots of high calorie food when its there, to acquire things when they are available, to insure ourselves against time of need. And for those people on our planet who continue to go hungry, these instincts are probably appropriate. However, for those of us who live in the world of Happy Meals, living like monkeys is backfiring. Consumption has spun out of control because we're not living the life we were designed to live. This is no revelation - I'm far from the first to say this! But I think if we're ever going to work our way out of this mess, it bears repeating. Obeying our instinctive avarice and greed is no longer adaptive. Sustainably navigating our plastic world with our monkey brains is going to require instinct override - conscious consumption.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Raj Rocks

I've finally got my hands on a copy of Raj Patel's 'The Value of Nothing' (from the library, of course - sorry Raj). I wouldn't exactly call it light reading - especially for me as I don't really know all that much about Economics - but so far it certainly provides a piercing examination of the basic assumptions upon which our free market world has been built. In an analysis of the relationship between material wealth and happiness, Patel makes the observation (based on the results of research) that "after a certain point, more money doesn't make us happier. Instead, we find ourselves on a hedonic treadmill, in which happiness is about matching our level of consumption with our peers". This rings true to me. How sad.

To have and to hoard

I am so messy. Something that has struck me lately is that messiness leads to needless consumption, and waste. Because when I'm messy, I can't find things, and/or I forget that I had them in the first place. So then I end up needing to buy more things - that I wouldn't have had to, if I'd been more neat! This goes for the dismal state of our pantry, to our woeful bathroom cabinet, to the 'stationary drawer' which has somehow turned into a 'stationary room' - in manner of opening door, closing our eyes, and tossing things in that we can't be bothered putting away (now exacerbated by the fact that the state of said room has deteriorated to such a state that we're embarassed to look at it, and wouldn't be able to find the drawer to put things away in it even if we wanted to).
I've come across some really interesting blogs pertaining to sustainability and 'simple living' lately. Some strike a tone of 'thou-shalt-not'-ness which jars a little for me (and I agree with them - imagine the response of those who don't! Hardly receptive, I would think). Anyway, the point is one particular blog I've come across is written by an Australian woman who has vowed not to buy ANY clothes for one year - a 'fashion fast' (see link below). She has also recently committed to not purchase any more pantry items until her cupboards are bare. I like this idea. I think I'll try applying it to my bathroom cabinet, which bears an embarassing excess of various duplicate lotions and potions (I didn't like the smell of this one, that one made my hair frizzy....etc). Its self indulgent really, isn't it? And a waste of money to boot.
I might even clean out that stationary room one of these days too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A fishy business

I've never really been a big fan of seafood, but I do enjoy canned tuna. Whoever knew the consumption of a good old tuna sandwich should really be a guilty pleasure? Apparently, we've tuna-sandwiched ocean stocks of all but one species of tuna (the Skipjack) to critically low levels. Oops - sorry, guys. As if that weren't bad enough, the indiscriminate method used for catching most commercial tuna - dirty great big nets -results in the death of devastatingly large quantities of innocent marine bystanders such as turtles, dolphins and whales. Hmmm....might rethink that next tuna mornay. Luckily Greenpeace have generated a scale of the least to most offending canned tuna providores (and I found my favourite brand - Sirena - ranked as the naughtiest! oh no!). Check out the link below. Thanks to said Greenpeace website for the sad photo too.