Thursday, 25 January 2007

The scrag end diet

If we’re looking seriously at one-planet living, food leaps up near the top of the agenda. Especially meat. Land which is used to feed animals could produce far more crops (except for unploughable hilly land, of which there’s a lot round here). Plus, animal farts are speeding up global warming. (There must be a way to store this methane for use as fuel...?)
Have you noticed that most meat sold today is the prime cuts? What’s happened to the ends, knuckles, tails, tongues and offal that our grandparents made do with so readily?With the thought of moving towards weaning ourselves off meat, I decided to subject my long-suffering family to a new experiment: the scrag end diet. I was talking about this recently with Derek, the butcher at Boathouse Farm, my favourite organic meat supplier. He recommended I get hold of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Do you know this lady had four children, ran her house like a ship and died in 1854, aged 28? This week I asked Martin of Boathouse what were the most nutritious cuts to feed a family of six for a week for a tenner. He suggested liver…
Hm. I took home a brisket of beef (which I stewed, fatty and thick, with root vegetables and lashings of mash), some chicken carcasses, which I boiled down for stock for two soups, and some sausages which turned into Toad in the Hole with a massive winter salad. Results! No leftovers. Next week, liver..?

Thursday, 18 January 2007

The demise of the oil eaters

I’ve just read a report by Caroline Lucas, our excellent Green MEP for the South East, called Fuelling a Food Crisis: the impact of Peak Oil on Food Security. Peak Oil means that we are reaching the peak of production of oil and gas, globally. The timing is not clear; most estimates are between now and 2020. What this means is anything based on oil and gas will become dramatically more expensive afterwards. Which is almost everything, including, worryingly, food.

Basically, most of us Westerners are ‘oil eaters’: Huge amounts of oil are involved in the growing, fertilising, processing, packaging, transporting, selling and preparation of food.When I came across this information last autumn I had a crisis that went like this:
1. Not another global problem.
2. Things are going to change in my lifetime.
3. But actually it could work out for the better.
4. I’m sure the government has a plan to get us through this.
5. But why would any government or corporation knowingly precipitate an economic decline?
6. Why didn’t anyone tell me?
7. What about alternative fuels/technologies? Not on any scale.
8. Biofuels? They will compete with food and step up climate change problems.
9.What the hell are our world leaders doing?
10. Hope this is not just another conspiracy theory
11. Where do I get more information?
12. What can I do?

If you’re still interested, can I suggest the Energy Bulletin, and Powerswitch as a starting point? Let me know how you get on.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

These are a few of my favourite things

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child - a long way from home. Where are our leaders? Blair tells us there’s no point in cutting back our personal consumption. Russia threatens Europe’s oil supply - new power games ahead. Heat wave on the East Coast. The first year that winter didn’t happen?

These are a few of my favourite things; thinking about them helps offset the depression.

  • Hearing the choir practise in St John’s Hall on a Sunday afternoon.
  • The Ouse when it’s flat and brown.
  • The winter mimosa down by the Railway land.
  • The smell of bhajis from the stall at the Farmer’s Market.
  • Lying on a grass bank near the Ouse up from Willey’s Bridge, watching the sunset.
  • The walnut trees in Baxter’s Field.
  • The lights of Lewes from the golf course at night.
  • Downstairs at the Needlemakers; it smells old and there are trinkets that people have stockpiled over the years.
  • The bowling green in the watery light of a winter morning.
  • Picnic on the banks of the river under the blossom trees.
  • The first apple from Oakhurst Farm and knowing apple season has started again.
What are your fears and dreams?

Friday, 5 January 2007

New Year habit changing

I had a nasty shock last autumn when I measured my eco-footprint and realised that my standard of living would require three planets to sustain it. This is one of those virus-like pieces of information that sits in your brain until you have time to relax, at which point it unravels and reveals its full power. I think I was in the woods when the penny dropped. First, this standard of living (average for Lewes, apparently) is unsustainable: It-Has-To-Stop. Second it is unfair: I easily imagined a sister, across the world, unable to feed herself. Third, it leaves me, my family, and most people I know, in rather a vulnerable position during these changing times.

Al Gore (yes, him again) warns us not to go from Denial to Despair, a very convenient segue. So I decided to take action instead. Apparently it’s all about changing habits. At the Climate Change March last November, George Monbiot urged everyone there to give up watching telly and dedicate that time instead to campaign for the environment. It’s one of the best things I’ve done. New Year is an excellent time for fresh starts. I’m working on cutting down on alcohol, my personal fuel addiction (hmmmm), and have pledged to not fly this year. Lewes District Council has published a draft report: Taking Action in a Changing Climate, which has a lot of excellent ideas for commitments we can make at home and work. The great thing about all this habit changing is that it’ll make us more robust, physically, emotionally and financially.