Candlelit Carols

My favourite part of Christmas as a child was Christmas Eve. Christmas Day itself always tumbled by too quickly – a turbulent mix of torn wrapping paper, long distance car-sweat, swollen stomachs and heated tempers. In contrast, Christmas Eve was quiet, peaceful and candlelit – my family would sit around our decorated pine tree and sing carols with a little portable keyboard, enjoying my mother’s delightful fruitcake. I absolutely loved it.

The traditional carols hold so much more connotation and imagination between the notes than our modern day ‘pop carols’. And by ‘traditional’, I mean those that don’t talk about Santa Claus or our modern Christmas traditions of over-indulgence, over-spending and overwhelmed. Traditional carols are those that conjure up images of the true nature of Christmas. Continue reading

The Hare and the Tortoise

Æsop’s fable of the reckless, over-confident hare and the far-sighted tortoise is one of my favourites. For those of you who can’t remember it, the moral is that although the hare got going fast and almost reached the destination first, his cockiness got the better of him. As the hare took a pre-finish line nap, thinking he had the result in the bag, the tenacious tortoise, moving more slowly and methodically, plodded straight past him and over the finish line…proving that slow and steady wins the race.

These days we seem to have evolved into Hares. Always rushing around, jumping off the springboards of our rash desires without checking what we’re diving into, or what the consequences will be. What with work, meetings, worry, offspring-advancement activities and snatched coffee dates with our friends, we’re constantly on the move and racing against time…which incidentally seems to have sped up. But that’s another story. Continue reading

A Ghost of an Idea

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

– William Morris

There is so much STUFF in the world.  Once upon a time newspapers were printed once a week.  Magazines (or periodicals) were mostly available through the post by subscription, or a small amount of copies were sold at city newsstands. Clothes and shoes were made on demand, only when they were needed.  Milk was delivered only to customers that ordered it.  Gift-giving occasions (Christmas, birthdays, Mothers Day, Easter etc.) were more tradition and family-based than present-based, and one or two thoughtful, quality items were considered more worthy of a ‘gift’ than multiple, cheap and useless items. Continue reading

The Modern Nomad

Once upon a time, humans were nomadic.  Our belongings were limited to the skin wrapped around our hips, a weapon or tool or two, and maybe some animals, rugs or random pots thrown in too.  We roamed free through the forests and across the plains.  We didn’t have to be home by nightfall, we just slept under the stars, wherever we were.

Then we got sick of roaming and settled down, building walls around us to shut out the night…or shut ourselves in.  We began to collect things—furniture, clothes, books, pianos, fine china dishes, cushions and crystal glasses.  A home quickly changed from a safe place to pass the night and spend time with your family to a showroom of your life, full of advertisements of your wealth, status and style.  Furniture was once built to last generations, fine china dishes were family heirlooms and clothes came in two sets—Good and Everyday. Continue reading

Recycled cars

I’ve already written about how waste has conquered the world through the rise of Convenience (read All hail the Goddess Disposability!), particularly in light of electronic rubbish.  But there’s a myriad of other gratuitous waste surpluses floating around the world.

Cars are just one of these.  Remember watching the cars on the road about 15 years ago?  You could pick the ‘rich’ people in town because they were the ones driving the few new cars, still shiny with the novelty of recent purchase.  Everyone else was still driving around in the first and only car they ever bought new, 5, 10 or even 15 years ago.  If it still started and stayed in one piece, there wasn’t really a reason to buy a new one.

Now, cars are designed specifically (yes, it’s true, I’m not being a cynic) to last only a few years.  You are encouraged to buy a new car every 5 years (and you thought the sudden rise of perfect competition in new car extended warranties was just your lucky day!).  The concept of dud car makes has become pretty much obsolete because EVERY make is built to run like a dream for the first few years. Continue reading

Engineering Nature

Humans are the greatest ecosystem engineers.  We’ve already altered most of the world’s land surface through mining, agriculture and urban development; we’ve modified marine ecosystems through introduced species, commercial fishing and shipping infrastructure; chemical pollutants from our greywater entering waterways are creating inter-sex fish; and light pollution from our cities, and even from ski-runs, is altering behaviour, reproduction and circadian rhythms of resident wildlife.

Now even the mere sound of our existence is reworking Nature.  Noise pollution from development, airports, mining, and road traffic has always been an issue, not just as an annoyance to our own communities, but as a threat to nearby wildlife.  Animals and birds can abandon their habitats through fright, or be driven out because the human-made noise makes it too difficult for them to find food or mates.  Many birds and even whales have been forced to change the volume, sound frequency or timing of their calls to ensure they are heard above the din of human existence. Continue reading

All hail the Goddess Disposability!

I think our future holds a problem even more pressing than climate change—the burgeoning issue of waste disposal.

Since the invention of Convenience, disposable everything has become commonplace and it’s beginning to catch up with us.  Once upon a time, milk was delivered to the house and poured straight into your own milk jug.  Store bought books and clothes were wrapped in cloth or newspaper to be carried home.  Food was bought from markets and put directly into your basket or wooden box, sans plastic wrapping.

It worked.  It may not have been the most luxurious way of living, but it worked.  But someone decided that it wasn’t good enough for us, and the Goddess Disposability was born.

At first there was just plastic in all shapes and forms with some glass, cardboard and aluminium thrown in for good measure.  But then we stepped it up a notch.  Everything from food cans to aeroplanes couldn’t be manufactured without at least one ingredient that was toxic, immutable or just plain unfriendly.  Hence, we have a problem. Continue reading

Supermarket ecology

I have an amensal relationship with my local supermarket—I give it money, it gives me rotten fruit and rancid yoghurt in return.

My fridge was low on fresh food the other day, so I headed off to my neighbourhood Superagora megabyssiae. Mine’s about 10 minutes up the road. It lies in wait like a huge concrete anglerfish, luring me into its automatic-opening jaws with its promises of “fresh food” and “everyday low prices”. I stood in the ‘fresh’ produce section eyeing soft apples, wilting lettuce and green potatoes with distaste. I even found a mouldy capsicum. And don’t get me started on the dairy cabinet. Continue reading