March 06, 2005 | Ronda Jambe

You’ve got to be mean to be green

It’s not easy being an eco-fem. That why Vandana Shiva and Arundhati Roy are heroines. Long ago, I also had some sympathy for Ros Kelly as she struggled to place ‘brown issues’ on the policy agenda. Overall Labor has not enjoyed my full respect since Whitlam flooded Lake Pedder, but let’s not talk of ‘who killed who’. He is, after all, a bloke. It’s just one of many little grudges that keep me going. Labor people have always been good haters, that’s one of the things that attracted me to them. But like love, it’s sometimes easier from a distance.
But do women really have a corner on environmental sensitivity? Lots of female bureaucrats of my acquaintance have done a splendid job of stifling environmental progress. However, international research has shown that women with small children have the highest levels of awareness and concern about the environment. Clearly they are thinking about where their kids will be spending the rest of their lives-the future. Not to mention the motherly urge and immediate utility of rubbing their noses in their messes as early and often as possible.
As Director of Domesticity, I know that every plastic bag entering the premises has to be accounted for. Is it worth one seabird’s choking? I can’t handle that sort of guilt, so I head them off at the door.
But will those I abide with accept my guidance? In the past my beloved and I have had screaming sessions at the supermarket check-out counter: he wanted plastic bags, I insisted on boxes to complete the cycle- they served as holding bins for all the paper that must be recycled to save the planet, even if I do miss the pick up date occasionally. That should be his job, anyway. Suddenly last year he capitulated and now finds the green carrier bags quite acceptable. Reason has prevailed, and it is possible to once again believe in human edification. There has been a phase transition, and he just manifested that on a local, fractal level. (Excuse me, I’m losing my lucidity, but complex adaptive systems and fractals are ‘my thing’)
And it wasn’t my moralistic whip-cracking that did the job. He always mistook my womanly altruism for perverse eccentricity. But now that the reusable bags have become mainstream, his main defence has collapsed.
His retaliation to my green regime has more subtle dimensions. He rejects my home grown veggies, makes a show of choking on my luscious herbs. The reason? ‘They don’t have all the right chemicals added.’ And ‘I saw a bug once on them.’ So what? At least there is evidence something ate them and lived. The kids were easier to convince. They grew up believing lettuce should be bright green, but only because they always had the colour turned up on the TV.
Disposing of plastic bottles was another crusade. After much angst over whether to have milk delivered, use glass or cartons, the problem was solved when Canberra set up recycling bins. Before that, if one can reach so far into the past, getting rid of recyclables meant a bicycle trip with the snail-infested cardboard box bouncing along in my basket. At the time I knew the sight of a hippie in an organically grown cotton track suit and orange helmet would not cut it as a marketing ploy. But common sense has again triumphed, and recycling is widespread, if not obsessive in some places.
My family, with only a few scars resulting from my impatient acceleration of learning process, now obediently makes the treks with the compost bucket. Alas, they do not yet appreciate the need to clean it occasionally. Sometimes I deliberately leave things to ripen in the fridge, because it is instructive for them to observe the totality of the food cycle. So far no one has become ill, as I am vigilant and swoop triumphant, noisy and saviour-like at the first sign of mould.
It seems my fate is to struggle on, ever educating, handing out jumpers as I turn down the heat, replacing aerosols with pump packs and budgeting for long life light bulbs. Can’t a young fellow understand that turning on a heater to dry his jeans is the very essence of why we have climate change? He might as well be out slaughtering butterflies in Brazil himself, inducing effects such as the tragedy of the commons and other unintended consequences with every careless action. It also implies bad planning.
While I like to think I am as sybaritic as the next person, I cannot derive pleasure from having lights on in every unoccupied room, as is often the case when I return home on a winter’s evening.
The other day I couldn’t resist pointing out to my darling mate that his method of washing up was extremely wasteful. ‘So what?’ he said, ‘It’s only water.’ I nearly stabbed him with the fork I was holding. Just in time I remembered I’m a pacifist.
And as I cultivate my little garden, other plots enter my mind. Just once, I’ll sneak a dead fly into that over-packaged, over-priced and over-produced cereal they all love.
Vandana and Arundhati would appreciate that.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 6:53 pm | Comments Off on You’ve got to be mean to be green |
Filed under: Environment

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