The Power Of One’s Money

This is one of the ideas that I adhere to most closely, the one that I not only vote once every 3 years in an election, but every day – when I buy things. Every single item I buy has influence, because the transaction talks the only truly international language – money. Let’s consider just one item, a tin of tomatoes, and dissect what we might be voting for when we part with our $1.20.

–       Large supermarket vs small grocer, or somewhere in between

–       Global vegetable supplier vs independent producer

–       Local vs overseas grown and processed

–       Shipped vs trucked vs flown

–       Organic vs pesticides

–       Additives vs none

–       Fair workers rights vs poor working conditions

I’m sure there are more factors one might be voting on in this circumstance, I welcome any additions via the comments section! Of course, you can also vote to not have packaging because after all, a tin of chopped tomatoes is just that – chopped tomatoes, which is not that hard to do.

Some votes are simple choices to make, ie I would suggest that if the supply chain were transparent then most shoppers would favour humanely slaughtered meat over non-humane. Others can be more difficult – I spent a good deal of time recently trying to choose between an organic coffee vs fair trade coffee, the deadlock in my head being broken by my dad who was keen to leave the supermarket (thankfully because I might have gone a bit loopy).

So, it is virtually impossible to be in control of every aspect above, and often one needs to choose between one area and another. Being a vote, everyone can make their own choice too, ie I might choose organic overseas products over chemical local ones, but others would sit on the other side of the fence. The point is, just this single item in your basket influences many people, animals and places in many other parts of the world – and this voting occurs with every item of every transaction.

Every purchase can also have unintended consequences, if one buys entirely from a big chain supermarket one should not be surprised to see the walking-distance fruit store close down, or if one favours cheaper overseas products there should not be complaints when local jobs are lost.

What I try to do is picture the perfect world I would like to live in, and vote for the products that best follow that path.

Small Habit, Big Change – be conscious of the signal your money is sending everytime you shop. Try thinking about it when you’re travelling to work instead of at the shop shelves.

Solving Multiple Problems At Once?

Differing interests have been converging for me in recent weeks. The carbon tax issue in Australia has highlighted to many the need to plan for a world where we don’t rely on fossil fuels. I have also been patiently awaiting a harvest for our balcony babies that sadly receive too little sunlight. The plants and herbs do add colour and character to the balcony but I wish I could grow more of our own food. Lastly, I’ve been reading about past societal collapses and ways in which we can avoid doing the same to ourselves.

All of these interests have magically wound themselves together in one bundle called permaculture. My introduction has been through a friend whose friend is a permaculture junkie, and then through further investigation in the form of reading; and watching a few documentaries – the foremost being “How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”.

The premise of the movie is that we don’t need to wait to see what impact an oil-less future will have on our lives; an example already exists in post-Soviet era Cuba – whose oil supply was dramatically cut with the fall of the Iron Curtain. They had no oil to power their agricultural machinery and very quickly the big cities were facing a food shortage crisis (amongst other major problems). Havana today, a city of about 2 million people, grows 50% of it’s food within the city limits through permaculture techniques – doing away with those oil-sucking machines in the process.

The goal of permaculture is to mimic patterns that occur in nature to create interwoven relationships that grow the majority of a household’s food supply on their own block – everything within walking distance. The thinking that formed the techniques was that nature has evolved these relationships over such a long period of time and therefore she, and not humans, knows the most efficient ways to do it.

I have only read one book on the subject, but just 10 pages in I knew that I had potential to become an addict too. Stay tuned for more confessions.