Ecological Mindfulness

England - Worth saving too

England – Worth saving too

Sunday, morning,
Nothing in my head,
Aint it good to be in bed,
On Sunday morning

So sang somebody in my youth.

Sunday morning I slept late then arose and drank tea. After a decent interval I grilled some bacon, fried some eggs and sat down to Desert Island Discs. Sunday’s guest was Wayne McGreggor and his selection inappropriate so I switched it off. After pouring liberal doses of ketchup, Worcester and chilli sauce I munched my bacon in silence. My mind began the familiar trudge down well-trodden neural pathways. Why had I had that last glass of wine? Why had I not finished that book? Should I take that job if it’s offered? I pulled myself up – MINDFULNESS!

I attended a mindfulness class last year and still keep it up in fits and starts. It occurred to me that one could be mindful while eating. So I tried. Off went my mind like a greyhound with me hanging on for dear life….I am the inventor of a lucrative gastronomic fashion, plaudits abound, interviewed on the telly I say “Well, I got the idea when….” – I pulled myself up – MINDFULLESS! – Bacon and chilli on the tongue……mmmm…..sweet ketchup……Surely somebody’s done it already, that’s the thing with our over commercialised society, ideas are monetised in weeks not years – MINDFULNESS! – Tangy Worcester sauce and chewy granary bread….mmmmm. Eating must surely be one of the best times to practice mindfulness as taste and smell are such potent senses.



Individually we, in the West, live in a semi-permanent state of distraction. A dog and a child see the world as it is but we adults, we worry about the past and plan for the future and constantly struggle to make congruent the disparity between perception and the fantasy sold us by the commercial/political complex.

Collectively too, we ignore our surroundings and obsess over the abstract and the remote. We ignore the flowers in the park but sit in dark rooms watching wild life programs. We engage with national politics but have not a clue what’s going on locally. We jet off to the other side of the world to marvel at the wonders of nature while ignoring the decimation of British wild life and cheering increasing populations and expanding urbanisation believing that it somehow brings “diversity”.

Painted Lady

Painted Lady

A recent BBC Four program on butterfly migration from the Atlas Mountains to Great Britain was as wondrous as anything on colourful fish off the Barrier reef but a third of Britain’s butterfly species are under threat of extinction or have already vanished.

Whenever I pass St. George’s Place in Brighton I like to visit ONCA, a charity which promotes conservation and the arts and often has thoughtful and interesting exhibits. Last year I had some time on my hands and thought I’d like to get involved. They were running a project to sail a yacht around the Caribbean promoting ecological ideas. For around £3,000 I could take part. I’m a competent sailor. I had the time, the money and the inclination. What’s not to like?

The pitfalls of this plan are obvious: The Caribbean is nearly 5,000 miles away and, though ONCA encouraged people not to fly, alternatives are mostly impractical. The idea of a bunch of amateur English ecologists bobbing around in a boat telling local people what to do is a great theme for the next Carry On film but will do nothing to save the planet.

If you drink 2 bottles of wine per week then one economy return flight from London to Puerto España will wipe out the gains from recycling 159 year’s worth of wine bottles*.

A blind spot has emerged in modern green activism as marketing has replaced action. We’re exhorted to  run a marathon or repost on Facebook as if this constitutes action. It does not. At best it promotes green awareness, at worst it is self-indulgent displacement activity.

It’s not just well meaning amateurs who miss the point. Around 40,000 people took part in the Paris climate change conference in 2015 flying in from all over the globe. Surely the majority of these must have been professional policy makers, lobbyists and journalists. How smug they must have felt and the great thing is, there’s a conference every year!

Paris Climate Change Confernece

One Paris Climate Change Conference  > 6 million years of recycling my wine bottles

Ecology is not just about sea level rise and shutdown of the Gulf Stream. A major United Nations assessment of human impact on the environment released in 2005 highlighted a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth, with some 10-30% of the mammal, bird and amphibian species threatened with extinction, due to human actions and much of this “action” is just expansion and industrialisation.

We have become so preoccupied by “climate change”  that we ignore the massive ecological damage that humanity is doing irrespective of whether the Earth warms up, cools down or stays the same.

This gradual destruction of global ecology is not just something that happens on TV; and it’s not just C02 emissions. It’s here and now. It’s the marketing of further expansion of Harlow New Town as “Garden Villages”; it’s the skyscrapers going up all around Vauxhall; it’s Heathrow expansion; it’s global corporations and urban MPs addicted to mass immigration and clever economists deciding that London no longer needs a green belt.

“Think Global, Act Local” is a common slogan for the environmentalist movement. We’ve become expert at thinking globally but the problems then appear so insurmountable that we’re stunned into inaction. Not only do we fail to act locally, we’re not even mindful of the effect of human activity on the local environment.

It is hypocritical to whine about the rain forest if you accept the continued urbanisation of rural England.

We all want change but nobody wants to change. We delude ourselves that some fantastic technology is just around the corner which will fix everything. It is not. Oil and coal are extremely efficient stores of energy. Diesel has an energy density more than 54 times that of a lithium Ion battery! The recently announced tidal lagoons will cause havoc for local marine life. A few wind farms are very pretty but sufficient wind farms to make a difference would ruin the countryside.

At some stage we have to decide just how far we want to go with the commercialisation and industrialisation of planet Earth. The future currently in mind by all sides of the climate change debate is a planet made up of enormous mega-cities and the rest of the land area given over to either industry or intensive farming.

This is a dystopian vision.

Population Matters. It’s time to start talking about it.

* Assumptions for claim that C02 emissions of economy return flight London to Trinidad and Tobago greater than saved by recylcing 2 bottles of wine / week for for more than 159 years: