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Stepping Up My Game

Yesterday I went to market, and as I do every Saturday, I stopped by my new favourite coffee stand where they sell exclusively fair trade organic coffee.  When I arrive, I suddenly realized I had forgotten my mug.  No worries, they told me, the cups biodegrade in – what was it? – 90 days? even the lids!  Well that’s a relief…

Until he mentioned that they are made of corn-starch.  Uh-oh. 

I’ve mentioned a number of times now that we are in a food crisis, which is echoing all over the news these days.  Food riots are happening in as diverse locations as Brazil, Egypt and Haiti. People have been trampled to death trying to buy cooking oil in China.  And just in the last few months, India, China, Vietnam and Pakistan have implemented curbs on rice exports, while Egypt and Cambodia have banned exports all together, in the name of “food security.”

Now what does this have to do with my coffee cup? 

We are experiencing a global panic over impending potential food shortages.  Analysts say this is because of a “perfect storm” of increased oil prices (industrial food needs oil to grow and travel), several years of bad weather & extended droughts (global warming anyone?), food stores being at their lowest levels in decades (thanks to neoliberal economic policies), the meatization of our diets (cows and chickens are eating all the grain so we can eat them), and the sudden demand for biofuels (growing corn to feed cars instead of people). 

All of this is adding up to a very serious situation for the inhabitants of planet earth, and now we are turning food (corn) into disposable coffee cups.   In fact, last week I came across “plastic” water bottles made from corn.  Great idea, wrong time. 

The problem is, as I see it, that we just don’t want to change our ways.  We keep looking to technology to perpetuate our excessive consumption habits: not enough oil?  Find a way to synthesis it!  Coffee cups pollute?  Make them biodegradable!  Genetically modify corn!  Animals!  Let’s alter the world so we don’t have to alter our habits!

I’m afraid it’s just not going to work, folks.  Our beloved planet earth is trying to tell us that she’s just about had it with us, and we need to listen.  And that means we need to start changing our habits.  And yes, I do think that every little bit counts, and every individual effort matters.  I know that my footprint is very small compared to industry and global trade, but it’s really the only thing I can do something about.  And if we all do our part, there will be change.

So now I’m feeling guilty about having bought that cup of coffee yesterday.  I’m not going to beat myself up about it, but I am going to harness that discomfort and use it to train myself to bring my mug with me next time.  The last few months have been very busy and I’ve let some things slide that I shouldn’t: forgetting my cloth bags when I shop, driving when I could walk, grabbing (industrial) food on campus instead of packing a (local, organic) lunch.  Spring is here, classes are over, no more excuses.  It’s time to step up my game. 


One Response

  1. Interesting. They’ve just started an initiative on one of our local shopping streets to get people to stop using plastic bags. It’s in all the shops, stickers in all the shop windows, etc. Maybe it’s naive, but I do believe in the power of small actions to create exponentially larger ones, even if we don’t always anticipate exactly what those will be. We have to feel the effort isn’t wasted and it certainly isn’t if it inspires others to do the same – or even just stop and think once in a while.

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