and night comes
Welcome to this very first bongbork digest post! I’m Rachel Macaulay, and I’m glad you’re here.
The idea for bongbork digest came from a desire to do something about our climate and social justice problems, and the aim is to combine art and action (you can read more about the thinking behind bongbork digest here).
So if you’ll indulge my poetry and prose, I’ll offer you information, entertainment, community, and, most importantly, suggestions for actions you (we!) can take to address our problems. Simple! Here goes…
my ecological sins I think of my ecological sins, piling up behind me, something like the chains Jacob Marley wears in the afterlife—the coffee cups, the wilted bags of lettuce, the cheap, mass-produced-in-sweatshops clothes, the petrol, the jet fuel—and I want to drop to my knees, gnash my gums, and repent, repent, repent And I think of the sins of my parents’ generation—the mushroom cloud of postwar progress pouring smoke into the skies, chemicals into the waters, plastics into landfill—and I want to weep, for all that has been lost to us already And I think of the sins of our so-called leaders—hiding the truth, taking backhanders, parroting useless soundbites—and I want to take to the streets like a temperance march, shouting and banging pots and pans at dawn until the whole world wakes, because there is work to be done, and night comes, when none of us can work
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The first lines of my ecological sins came to me as I was falling asleep one night, and as soon as I had this image in my head—a pile of waste as a sin I must atone for—I had to get up and write it down. Plastic packaging was just one of the topics on my mind as I wrote, but it’s an important one, connected as it is to climate change and ecosystem damage.
I’m sure, since the UK produces more plastic1 packaging per person than almost any other country in the world, you can relate to the guilt I feel when I remember the abandon with which I used to2 use plastic shopping bags and buy plastic bottles of water and drinks in disposable cups. But while those of us in wealthy nations must reduce our packaging waste, there’s a limit to the impact individuals can have: we need companies and our governments to act.
In Scotland, legislation will shortly3 come into effect which bans many single-use plastics. The UK government supports the ‘UK Plastics Pact’, which most of our supermarkets and many leading retailers have signed up to. But Darcy Williams, writing for Greenpeace, points out:
‘Supermarkets, brands and the government continue to push recycling as the solution to the plastic waste crisis, even though we’re producing too much in the first place and our recycling systems can’t cope. Recycling alone isn’t going to solve our plastic problem.’
Many companies indulge in greenwashing rather than make real attempts to affect change (notice how often packaging boasts of being ‘100% recyclable’, intended, I suspect, to be read as ‘100% recycled’), and so we must both pressure companies with our purchasing choices, and pressure our governments with our voting choices: elections in the UK tomorrow(!) offer the opportunity to put green issues on the local agenda.
The final words of my ecological sins (‘and night comes, when none of us can work’) paraphrase John 9:4, a bible passage that, though I’m not religious, reminds me of the urgency of our situation: time is running out, and we must get to work. So what to do about packaging waste? Suggestions below…
The single most important thing we can do is vote for politicians who are serious about climate change and ecological damage. And it’s important to vote in every election: local elections in the UK, for example, are notorious for low turnout, but local councils are responsible for social care, schools, housing, planning and waste collection—a breadth of opportunity for green decision-making.
action#002: pressure your government
Protest works, but if joining a march or striking isn’t possible for you, you can join the clamour for better green policies by signing petitions and open letters. I’ve signed Friends of the Earth’s open letter calling on Secretary of State George Eustice to set ambitious targets for ending plastic pollution, and Greenpeace’s petition telling UK ministers to fix the plastic waste crisis.
action#003: reduce your packaging waste
There are many online resources for reducing your packaging waste: the infographic below has some ideas, and I got a lot of tips from this discussion in honour of Earth Day. The most recent change I’ve made is to start buying shampoo, conditioner and other household products in five litre bottles (from Faith In Nature)—using less plastic comes with the added bonus of needing to shop less often.
action#004: take part in The Big Plastic Count
The Big Plastic Count, 16-22 May, aims to prove to the government, big brands and supermarkets the extent of our plastic problem, by asking people to tally all the plastic packaging they throw away for one week. If you’re not in the UK, you could undertake your own plastic count, share the results on social media, and encourage others to do the same.
action#005: look out for greenwashing
It’s hard to check the credentials of every company we buy from, but if we learn to spot greenwashing (and the companies most guilty of it), we can choose to spend our money elsewhere (and/or call out the perpetrators on social media).
If you take any of these actions—or there are others you’d like to share—comment below!
Help your friends, family, or followers do something by sharing bongbork digest:
only the US is worse
and still do, when circumstances necessitate, I’m not a saint