Friday, 18 December 2009

Repair, reuse...

This morning I spent five minutes attacking a frying-pan with a hammer; this afternoon I spent two hours taking a bike wheel apart and putting it back together again. Repair and reuse.

The frying-pan had an increasingly large rise in the middle -- bad enough by now that you were guaranteed a patch of burnt-on stuff where the oil wouldn't sit. Not sure if the hammer solution will actually work, as I didn't get it all that flat, but it was getting to be unusable, so I can't have gone that far wrong. So that was the repair.

The bike wheel is suffering from a broken hub. I did take the hub apart to see if I could fix that, but the cup (definitely) and the bearing races (probably) are dented, so it's a bit past that stage. I did keep the bearings, though, in case they come in handy. What I figured I could do was to reuse the spokes, nipples (the bits that attach the spokes to the rim), and rim. So far, so good: took everything apart successfully, and have got the basic tensioning done. Next job is to true it properly and put the sprocket back on -- probably about another hour's work. And that was the reuse.

There's something very satisfying about fixing a broken thing, or about not wasting reusable parts. I doubt I've saved any money (when I account for my time) with the bike wheel, but the satisfaction is more than worth it even without the environmental advantages. And I trust my wheel-building over a factory wheel every time.

Plus I got to hit something with a hammer, which is always a pleasing experience.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Sustainability and self-judgement

The last week & a half, I have spent a certain amount of time over at Trafalgar Square, where a bunch of awesome people have been camping out for the duration of the Copenhagen talks. I've been going to and from, and doing some useful things, but I haven't been camping out, for a couple of reasons*.

What I've noticed is the amount of guilt I have about that decision and the way I want to justify or explain it to other people. I worry that the people camping out there -- many of whom I have a lot of respect for -- will be thinking less of me for that choice. (I should note that no one has in fact indicated, in word or deed, anything of the sort.)

But in truth, it's more about my own attitude. I don't entirely trust my own decision; part of me thinks that if I were really dedicated, or if I were stronger, or if... then I would be down there in my tent.

Which is nonsense. I am, in fact, competent to make decisions about my own abilities and what I can sustainably do. More to the point, it is OK for what I can sustainably do, and what other people can sustainably do, to be different. And just as I wouldn't (and don't) judge other people on what they feel able to do, other people are not in fact going to judge me (and if they did, then that would be a sign that perhaps they're not people I respect after all). In particular, my experience of Climate Camp is that there genuinely is an enormous amount of respect for everyone's individual comfort levels.

This ties in to two things I've been thinking about of late: my tendency to judge myself unduly harshly, and my ongoing concern about the judgements of others (rather than relying on my own beliefs). I think those things are perhaps more closely related than I believe them to be; my fears about the opinions of others reflecting my self-doubt.

I genuinely believe that sustainable communities need to recognise individual abilities and needs. And for that to work, it has to operate both internally and externally; after all, if you can't be fair and kind to yourself, then how can you let other people be fair and kind to you, or believe them when they are?

* Which I'm deliberately not specifying because as per above, I am trying to avoid the need to externally self-justify.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Letting go

Earlier this year, I spent five very awesome months living in Sydney, in a small flat with very few belongings. (You buy less when you know that everything you acquire has to either be got rid of or expensively shipped in a few months.) Returning to the UK in July, I was taken aback by how much stuff I have.

The sense of having so many things around me is overpowering, even stifling. I find myself thinking longingly of my nice, empty flat in Sydney. The washing-up has less chance to build up when you only have two plates. It never takes more than ten minutes to tidy everything away. It's easy to choose clothes (though I admit I was kind of bored by my half-a-dozen tops and three skirts by the time I left). There's just more space.

And yet I still find it hard to let things go. To get rid of a bookcase's worth of books took multiple passes. The book I removed from the shelves on the fourth pass was no more nor less valuable to me then than it was on the first pass, but it took me that long to wear down my attachment to the concreteness of it; to allow myself to let go.

This week, I've let go of a stack of Audax brevet cards (to the recycling), a dozen-odd festival programmes (posted to the John Johnson Collection), and some more clothes.

I also went through my craft drawers, and found a stack of "requires mending or altering" projects. One in particular, a top I knitted, made my heart sink. Currently it's a little too wide, the seams are lumpy, it's not the right length; and I can't even begin to work out how I'd alter it so it's enjoyable to wear.

For the last year -- more? -- I've been looking at it, and thinking those same thoughts, and then putting it back in the drawer, to lurk there and generate guilt. Because I knitted it, and so surely it's worth doing something with.

This time, I took a deep breath, asked myself honestly whether I was ever really going to fix it, or if I even really wanted to (do I need another top?), and acknowledged that the answer was no. So I took another deep breath and started to rip it out (I do still like the yarn!).

It feels so freeing. I enjoyed making that top; I learnt some things from doing it; but I don't actually wear it. So I'm letting it go, and the decision leaves me feeling lighter. That's worth remembering.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

COP15: more links

If you're in London, come down to Trafalgar Square to visit the Climate Camp COP OUT CAMP OUT activists. We'll be there until the end of the COP15 talks! I was down there yesterday and there's tea and biscuits. Extra sleeping bags, food, things to sit on, & so on would be appreciated by the campers. In particular, if anyone has a source of some kind of marquee or market stall that would stand up on its own (can't use pegs on Trafalgar Square...) that would be really, really useful as the kitchen marquee was only hired for the weekend & has gone away now.

COP OUT CAMP OUT protestors blockade the European Climate Exchange yesterday.

Climate Refugee Santas sing climate carols to those catching the last flight to Copenhagen before the talks start. Their photographer was arrested.

Download the Climate Justice Chronicle, being published every other day during the Copenhagen talks.

The article's not in English, but I think the picture says it all. 'Reception centre' for climate activists arrested over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

More carbon trading, and dodgy US subpoena

The Story of Cap & Trade. A short (just shy of 10 min), well-written and well-produced video explaining clearly why cap & trade isn't a solution to the carbon crisis. From the "Story of Stuff" people.

On a slightly different note, EFF discuss the subpoena issued by the US government to, which included an illegally-broad information-fishing expedition and a bogus gag order. Good work by Indymedia & the EFF in standing up to this.

And finally, another reminder to come along to COP OUT CAMP OUT this weekend, where you will very probably be able to see The Story of Cap & Trade on a bicycle-powered projector.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Land grabs in the developing world

An interesting (and infuriating) post on The Angry Black Woman about land grabs. Executive summary: 'investors', initially officials from richer countries apparently concerned about food security, latterly all sorts of other people just interested in the financial value, have been buying up land in the developing world, especially in Africa.

There's lots of useful resources and links from that post, but it doesn't really take a genius to recognise that this is unlikely to end well for the people living in those countries. It's the same as the biofuels issue: the rich buy up the land at the expense of those who live off it.

Even if you think that local people where the land is being bought are actually getting the money (which is, frankly, pretty monumentally unlikely), the economics of the situation (on an assumption of food scarcity, which is after all why the 'investment' is considered valuable) means that it's a bad deal. The money can't make up for the loss of the food -- because the cost of the food is going to be greater than the cost of the land (otherwise no money is made). Not only that, but the food is going to go first to richer countries who can afford to pay more.

Yet another way in which climate change and capitalism are screwing the poor of the world over first. Unfortunately it looks like it's going to be business as usual in Copenhagen; continuing to put financial interests over global wellbeing. If you're in the UK, the Wave march is this Saturday; after that there's the more radically-inclined Climate Camp COP OUT CAMP OUT event. Come along to push the idea that Copenhagen needs to produce radical results.