I remember, when it was me and not her, there was a song that kept coming up on the radio. I sat there motionless in the passenger seat of the car, my head against the window, as my mother drove me to and from the hospital. And I fell into that same slow song, pretended it was my own pulse as it came out of the great looping playlist that was the radio station.
Many years later, when I fly to Auckland for my mother’s surgery, I’m much more restless. Only hours before my flight, my mother calls me to say that her surgery on Tuesday has been moved to Monday instead. And I’m just lucky that I had originally bought my flights to arrive a day early as well. I feel like I need to quicken my pace, but the schedules around me—playing through predetermined departures and arrivals—keep me locked in and unable to move any faster. When I land in Auckland, my mother is already at the hospital for pre-surgery preparation.
We are stuffed and starved. Stuffed, because we produce more food than ever before, and there are 1 billion people who are overweight. Starved, because at the same time, 800 million people are hungry.
These two factors are symptoms of the same problem: the control of giant corporations in the food industry.
Raj provides a helpful diagram outlining where power is concentrated in the food industry. At the top and bottom of this diagram are billions of people, who take the form of consumers and farmers. But in the middle, there is a much smaller bottleneck. Here, the number of companies in play is much less than the number of farmers and consumers. These companies buy food from farmers and sell it to consumers. By controlling this gateway, they have the power to control—and exploit—those who grow food as well as those who eat it.
I think about alternate universes a lot. I find the idea of a place that could be just like our universe, but different because of a small history-changing moment, so fascinating.
I think about what an alternate version of myself would look like. I wonder how different I would be if I made a different decision at a crucial turning point. Would such a decision take me to a different branch from where I am now? If I met that other version of myself, would we agree on the same things? I wonder how much of my personality is predetermined, and how much effect external influences have had on the person I am now.
Recently I watched a video that made me again think about this. The video is about a girl named Kati Pohler. She was born in China, and was later adopted by an American family. Her biological parents gave her up when she was only three days old, leaving her at a market in China. They did this because of one of the same reasons my parents left China: the one-child policy.
Paul Hawken is also the author of The Ecology of Commerce, and so there are similarities between the two books. Both explore ways to reduce toxic waste and combat the waste of throwaway products. But Natural Capitalism also talks about how to reduce other kinds of waste.
The book refers to a concept called muda, which is Japanese for waste, futility, or purposelessness. This concept was coined by Taiichi Ohno, who defined waste and therefore muda as “any human activity which absorbs resources but creates no value”. Therefore, other kinds of waste can be included in this definition, such as wasted time and wasted human resources. This is what natural capitalism is: a new kind of industrialism that promotes “economic efficiency, ecological conservation, and social equity”.
Working in a food caravan means that I’ve looked through all the packaging and cutlery available in the bulk section of Moore Wilson’s. There are many disappointing plastics. But what’s also disappointing is to see products made out of wood or sugarcane that are in an outer wrap of plastic. Even though we buy non-plastic packaging to avoid plastic, we still can’t seem to escape it. The non-plastic packaging is still packaged in plastic.
The first brand I called was BioChoice, which sits under the great umbrella of Bonson. Bonson also sells plastic packaging, so I wondered how receptive they would be.
I currently have two main jobs. I work part time as a librarian at a university. I work casually as a kitchen assistant at a food truck. I also do odd writing jobs and work contracted as an editorial assistant at a poetry magazine. Which one of these is a real job?
Whenever I tell people where I work, their reaction tells me a lot about who they are. My favourite reaction is from my friend Danny, who said to me, “That’s so indie!”. And some truly find it inspiring that I work to fit different interests in.
But some people look down at the food truck job. They say, well, if you can get that library job, then why would you work somewhere like a food truck? Get a real job. For them, having a hospo job means that I’m uneducated. And having an office job means that I’m educated. And because of these two facts that they hold in their mind, they can’t seem to reconcile the two. They can’t figure me out. (It's almost like all humans are multi-faceted individuals!). And the conversation dies down pretty quickly after that.
When we were organising our zero waste challenge, my friend and I agreed to just collect the trash we produced during the month. We wanted to see how much we could reduce, rather than trying to collate all the things that we bought before the challenge (although I will also talk about that later).
Before the challenge, I thought I was already pretty good at reducing my waste. But holding myself accountable has helped me to create many new and valuable habits. However, in the first week, I did start to feel pretty stressed. I was thinking of all the things I would have to implement, and I felt like I was carrying this great overwhelming responsibility. But once I took it easy, telling myself to focus only on a few urgent things at a time, I was able to work through the challenge better.
I am always, incredibly, preoccupied with trying to remember everything.
I have journals dating back to the start of 2014. I have an entry for every day since that beginning. Each entry details my favourite things that happened that day, as well as a rating of the day out of 5. When I’m too busy to write in my journal at the end of the day and have to wait until tomorrow, I start to feel a little stressed, because some part of me is scared that I’m going to forget everything. I look back at the things that happened on the same day, one year ago, three years ago, five years ago. It is strange because I only write down my favourite things, and so everything is automatically romanticised. The only hint of something beyond this are roughly drawn stars, some not even close to 5, that remind me that there are many things unwritten. And when I look back, I feel this great bittersweet every time I do so. But also a great relief, that the memory is still there. And I feel like my memory is actually better because of how I write all those moments down.
The first red flag that told me that this book is not quite right, was the header at the back:
Feel fabulous? Such a phrase reduces the environment to something trite, like a trendy jacket that you can throw on. It sounds like a phrase that an Instagram influencer would spout out, not an environmentalist.
And as I continued reading, these red flags just kept coming up. Another sign was this disclaimer at the front of the book:
“I have come to believe that we… do not know what business really is, or, therefore, what it can become” writes Paul Hawken in his Preface, “the ultimate purpose of business is not, or should not be, simply to make money… the promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, a creative invention and ethical philosophy”. It is in the first page that Paul delivers this little nugget, a perspective so unlike what the world has ever suggested to me about commerce.