The dan­ger of do­ing your bit

Ill­ness con­tracted from poorly main­tained car­rier bags is mod­ern­day nat­u­ral se­lec­tion at work, but ex­plod­ing com­post heaps? Now that’s just bad luck…

Element - - UPFRONT -

Ioften sug­gest to peo­ple that they should con­sider a com­post pile. What I’ve never said is that they should also be aware that this seem­ingly in­nocu­ous pile of de­com­pos­ing veg­e­ta­tion is ca­pa­ble of spon­ta­neously com­bust­ing and raz­ing their prop­erty to the (now more fer­tile) ground.

This calamity hap­pened a few weeks ago at a Ro­torua school. I had no idea you had to be­ware your com­post doesn’t com­bust?

I once read that com­post­ing at home saves the equiv­a­lent of all of the CO2 your ket­tle pro­duces an­nu­ally. If that isn’t a mind-bog­glingly ba­nal fact I don’t know what is. It’s also a lit­tle dis­cour­ag­ing. Who knew there wasn’t such a thing as Green tea?

When asked what peo­ple can do I look for tan­gi­ble

“It’s sim­ple hy­giene, a form of Dar­win­ism based on a lack of dili­gence and de­ter­gent.”

small-scale so­lu­tions, some­thing they can see mak­ing an ac­tual dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­ni­ties. Some on Wai­heke are try­ing to get plas­tic bags banned from the is­land. A com­mend­able cause, and not with­out prece­dent.

You don’t have to be­lieve the Big Pic­ture nar­ra­tive that you’ll sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the use of fos­sil fu­els to agree to ban the bag. Many places have banned them be­cause they es­cape into wa­ter­ways where they cause may­hem by block­ing storm-water drains, sew­ers, and fish in­nards.

When I vis­ited Rwanda, which has such a ban, there was a large sign at the air­port re­mind­ing peo­ple of both the fact and the fine should they be found in pos­ses­sion of th­ese con­tra-bags. But this is a coun­try that also sees Umu­ganda Day held ev­ery month. On this half-day of na­tional ser­vice it’s il­le­gal to un­der­take any en­ter­prise other than vol­un­teer com­mu­nity work. That is un­less you are em­ployed by the state to en­sure that the law is be­ing up­held. How de­light­fully com­mu­nity minded.

But! wail the naysay­ers, with plas­tic bags banned in many lo­cales around the world some have re­ported a con­cur­rent rise of food-borne ill­nesses. It seems peo­ple don’t wash their re­us­able bags af­ter cram­ming them with gro­ceries, al­low­ing them to be­come vec­tors of disease rather than handy haulage op­tions.

This shouldn’t be taken as a neg­a­tive. The same thing would hap­pen if peo­ple didn’t do their dishes. It’s sim­ple hy­giene, a form of Dar­win­ism based on a lack of dili­gence and de­ter­gent.

Per­haps the big­ger ques­tion is how many peo­ple re­mem­ber to take their re­us­able bags with them? I own mul­ti­tudes and in­vari­ably for­get to re­turn them to the car for that next stop at the su­per­mar­ket (on a mul­ti­task­ing car jour­ney of course).

This leads to the in­evitable fruit­less me­an­der through the aisles look­ing for a card­board box, quick men­tal cal­cu­la­tions to fig­ure out if it’s in­stead pos­si­ble to carry ev­ery­thing, (usu­ally the de­ci­sion is yes when the an­swer should be not really), and then pre­car­i­ous tot­ter­ing across the car park jug­gling pro­duce while try­ing find my keys.

Here arises an­other eco so­lu­tion that could be more dan­ger­ous to me per­son­ally than to those who en­gage with it. That’s be­cause it re­lies on my sug­gest­ing quite strongly that we, as a na­tion, are bad drivers.

We must all learn how to drive more sus­tain­ably. It’s not a case of lim­it­ing the num­ber of jour­neys taken. Some busi­nesses have reaped huge sav­ings from train­ing their drivers to sim­ply drive more eco­nom­i­cally. Down­ers NZ, for ex­am­ple, re­duced its fuel use by 20%. Imag­ine if we aimed for that as a so­ci­ety. Heaven for­bid that we man­date com­pul­sory driver re-ed­u­ca­tion to show peo­ple how to do such a thing.

And who, other than fuel re­tail­ers, could ar­gue that that’s a bad thing? Per­haps only the tax de­part­ment who would also see a de­crease in their ex­tor­tion­ate fuel tax rev­enue.

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