Skip to content

Reality checks relieve despair

  • by

Doomscrolling is depressing but wilful ignorance is dangerous. Individual action seems pointless:
so where does a weary climate warrior turn?

I regularly sing the praises of my community garden but not all my neighbours are converts. “With gourmet tomatoes at $3.99 a kilo, why would I battle the possums, pests and beating sun to grow a handful of mangy looking fruit?” one of them asked me.

Fair question.

Let me count the ways.

Before I launch into a list of virtues around community resilience in the face of the apocalypse, though, let’s take a chill pill, let’s accept the premise of the question at face value and actually take a good hard look at what we are doing. As we say at Your Life Your Planet, let’s take a Reality Check.

The Reality Check gets to the nitty gritty of what’s really going on

I love picking breakfast or the salad for dinner from the garden. I hate driving to the supermarket, filling single use plastic bags with tired fruit and handing over hard earned cash (well, swiping my card so that my theoretical wealth is digitally diminished). Some people love it.

Retail therapy soothes some in the way that walking the paddock soothes me. Who am I to lecture them? Tell them that my social pastimes are better than theirs?

This is not just a question of different tastes, it goes to the heart of Trump’s America, the anti-vax movement and the No campaign in Australia’s referendum to recognise the First Nations people that whose ancestors my ancestors hunted, poisoned and enslaved.

The sign at a Gilets Jaunes protest says it all.



The Yellow Jackets initially protested about Climate laws not because they are in Climate Denial and are wilfully ignorant, they are simply making the point that Maslo was onto something when he defined the hierarchy of needs. Unless we have a full belly and a warm shelter, we do not have time or energy to ponder the future.

So, accurate information is not only depressing it can appear insulting. If I am struggling to feed my family, then a plastic wrapped loaf of sliced white bread at $3.50 and a family sized can of baked beans might be particularly appealing. Telling me that it is not good for the planet does not show much empathy for my plight.

The Reality Check for Tip 44, Pause before breakfast notes, “Yep, white bread is cheap and spinach is not. Check out the section Eating Weeds in the Garden chapter.” There are ways around these dilemmas but no-one is going to find them unless we walk in their shoes.

The Yellow Jackets tried to join the climate change and cost of living movements in the sign used to illustrate this article, pointing out that the end of the month and the end of the world are both fights against the mega-rich. Your Life Your Planet seeks to create a survival plan that might head off the battle, rather than fanning the flames.

Of course, some people are just wilfully ignorant. The wealthy man waving a drink bottle at me before he throws it in the bin and shouting, “See! Container deposits don’t work. It’s just another tax. I’d prefer to pay 11c more on every bottle of drink than gift wrap my garbage” is not protesting my lack of empathy. He is challenging the notion of shaping collective action for the common good. He is embarking on the anti-vaxxer journey down the path to individual freedom, “Why should I modify my behaviour so that others might benefit in the long term?”

Even when we have the financial capacity and social will to make better choices, individual action can seem pointless. We carefully separate the food waste and the recyclables from the general rubbish at the office, and then the cleaner comes along and tips all three bins into one bag. We use a bucket in the shower to save water that we use to flush the toilet and then the water authorities turn on the fire hydrant to keep the sewer moving. We need systemic change to support our individual actions.

So, back to the tomatoes.

I grow tomatoes because I enjoy the process and the results.

I know that it’s worth it because I eat the food I grow there every day. I have to buy food as well, but I buy less and less each week. I have no food waste and one small bag of rubbish a fortnight, because I don’t buy packaged food and I compost all my food scraps. I am constantly giving people pickles, preserves, marmalade and homemade dips mostly using food from the garden. I am growing more and more of the food I eat, including staple carbs like potatoes, lentils and mung beans.

I know that it makes other people feel good, too, because they are joining me in the garden and growing their own food. Not only do we share it with each other, there is a constant stream of other residents heading down the garden to pick herbs, greens and even fruit they really should ask about first. To the horror of many residents, gangs of neighbourhood kids have started to come and hang around the orchard, lighting fires in the barbecue area and making use of the facilities. We are building community.

I’m encouraging other people to join me. That’s different than exhorting them to stop shopping. I’m creating the future I want to see and working my bum off to make it seem cool and exciting. I’m having a great time too.

We use Personal Stories and Reality Check’s throughout Your Life Your Planet to join the facts about your climate and water impact with the reality about how we live our daily lives. If you know the facts and you work out what really matters, you can make a difference AND have fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.