I’m a big fan of Greta Thunburg. But when I think of the poorly planet Greta* has opened our eyes to, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand she inspires great hope. Here is a young woman with everything and nothing to lose, with the guts to warn us of a natural disaster on a scale not seen since it started getting too chilly for even the mammoths.
That someone her age should be so switched on, not to mention motivated to get off her teenage behind and do something about it, while the rest of us procrastinate around the peripheries is just plain awesome.
That this amazing young woman who hasn’t even finished school yet is in the running for a Nobel Prize – Piers Morgan’s odious Twitter outbursts notwithstanding – is profoundly positive. Imagine a future populated by mini Gretas: informed and eloquent stars of tomorrow, unafraid to practise what they preach.
And it’s inspiring that after thirty-odd years of climate-change apathy, someone is finally willing to peak above the parapet and say, ‘yep, I’ll take this on’.
But then, on the other hand, it’s pretty depressing that a sixteen-year-old has to school us on this stuff at all. I can’t help but feel that, even by the time our teenage hero had started clanging her chimes of doom, it may already have been too late for our sad little planet.
So what now? Oddly it seems that the only way forward in this predicament may be backwards. We’re all too bound up by layer upon layer of progress. Our world is built for convenience, to make life simple, to placate us with that comforting old lie that we can have it all.
Take supermarkets for example. Surely they have to go: they’re just too convenient by half. Everything you want under one roof, a one-stop shop, crammed to the rafters with overly-packaged goods you probably didn’t come in for, and accessible by car? Yes please.
I polished my eco halo last week and popped into our local pop-up refill shop. (Full Circle https://fullcircleshop.co.uk ) to fill up a bottle of fabric conditioner – my own tiny drop in the plastic-filled ocean.
Looking around the shelves at the vast array of washing liquids, detergents, seeds and pulses available by weight or volume, it occurred to me that if you chose to refill everything here you would need endless empty bottles and boxes plus limitless time on your hands to fill, weigh and pay for each item. And then you’d probably need your car to get them home. Bang goes convenience…
It’s why supermarkets came along in the first place. They do away with the time and effort it takes you to hoik your containers from shop to shop till you have everything you need. One step forward, two steps back.
The idea of shopping locally was all well and good when there was someone at home all day with the time and inclination to schlep round a myriad of individual stores to “pick up the messages”, as my Scottish Granny used to call them. It’s just not what we do any more. The milkman was right all along… who knew re-usable glass and electric vehicles were a good idea anyway? We used to be green by necessity, now I think we’re plastic by choice.
In our defence, we do have a lot on our plate. We’re all supposed to be raising our own young Gretas, enjoying ‘me time’ as well as couple time, spa days and date nights. Our homes should be ideal; and our horizons must be expanded by travel – (just don’t go by plane). Then there’s the active social life we’re told to have, the hours spent at the gym, not to mention mindful minutes and time set aside for box-set bingeing. Hands up for less convenience in their life? No thanks.
But in the end, we have to do something. For me I’m replacing the word ‘need’ with ‘want’ in my family’s vocabulary to see if it changes our story. And if facing the future means a little backward thinking, then so be it. I’ll be here re-filling and re-using, taking baby steps towards our greener goal.
Greta is the kick up the backside we all needed to change. I just really hope we don’t let her down.
*Greta – so famous she needs only one name as a moniker, like Madonna or Prince.
Words: Lucy Callington