Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wakey, wakey...

Today's Independent carries a worrying story about the dangers to the world's wheat crop through a virulent mutation of "wheat rust", a fungal disease. It follows on from a more encouraging story last week from National Geographic that revealed that despite being infested with the same pests and diseases that are wiping out bees across the globe, Kenyan honey bees are so far proving completely immune to them.

Both stories are linked - they reveal how our industrialised approach to agriculture is starting to catch up with us. Successive generations of bees have seen their immune systems weakened by poor husbandry and increased stresses, much of which can be traced to pesticides like Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, which incidentally are doing as much damage to us as they are to bees.

I think most reasonable human beings accept that we have an effect on the environment around us. I'd like to think most people can make the connection between the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases we emit each year (while simultaneously chopping down vast swathes of forest that would help to absorb at least some of those gases) and climate change. There are still a vocal minority of frankly idiotic people who deny this, who claim it's all some global conspiracy despite the evidence in front of their eyes. I accept we've gone too far now to reverse or halt the effects of climate change, that our legacy to our children will be an unhappy one - even if we were to somehow develop magical climate capture technologies that allowed us to continue burning fossil fuels, what about the rest of the damage we're doing?

Everything is geared towards globalisation, from our energy and food supplies to economic systems. Even at a local level it's plain to see centralisation of services and power is bad, if only because individuals cannot possibly manage or micro-manage counties or states, never mind countries or blocs of countries like the EU. Yet we persist in this fallacy that big is better, that endless rounds of "efficiencies" and "savings" produces better (or even equal) quality.

We can all see this, and yet we choose to ignore it. For all the hot air blown about climate change, the fact is that taking steps to transform ourselves from this unsustainable way of living can't do any harm, but would - even if climate change somehow proved to be a fallacy - make our lives much better and more sustainable in the long run. Oh, and we'd be saving money too. But then if people can't see what's happening in the world around them, I'm probably expecting too much of them to see the cold, hard cash they could be saving by adopting a more responsible approach to the way they live their lives.

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