Tag Archives: environment

The Ecosexuals are Coming!

Last week, I sat down with a legend – a porn legend. Annie Sprinkle, sex worker, porn actress, performance artist and activist, has been making performances, films, and visual art for decades, educating her audiences about female sexuality and the political power of pleasure. Her work has played an impactful role in the history of feminism and the heated debates around pornography.

But recently, like other famously outspoken feminists – Germaine Greer, Vivienne Westwood, and Isabella Rossellini – Sprinkle’s work has turned eco-friendly, or to use a more appropriate term, ecosexual. Beth Stephens, artist, educator, and Sprinkle’s romantic partner and collaborator for the past 13 years, is the leader of their current project – a film about the devastating effects of mountaintop removal in Stephens’ homeland of West Virginia. Their film, Goodbye Gauley Mountain: An Ecosexual Love Story, premiered at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and the East End Film Festival this month. Over a lovely and lengthy brunch, Stephens and Sprinkle talked to me about their new film, their sensual relationship with the Earth, and their loving relationship with feminism.

LBH: I’m going to rewind a bit first – to 1989. Annie, Post-Porn Modernist was probably your most famous piece in the UK – do you consider that show feminist?

AS: Absolutely. 100%. I was trying to say that porn was a feminist issue, that you could make feminist porn. I did this show from 1989-1994. Post-Porn Modernist was a well-known piece, but the only place in England I did it was in Newcastle. I performed once at the ICA, but I had to censor the shit out of everything. Porn was illegal here, so I wasn’t able to do my shows. Post-Porn Modernist was my first one-woman show, and I was kind of like the first sex worker to do performance art, so it was hotly debated – is it art or is it porn? People were trying to figure out, can you be a sex worker and be a feminist? Can you be a pornographer and a feminist?

LBH: Do you feel like the work was accepted by the feminist movement at the time? I think what was so interesting about this piece is that it was happening at this incredibly rich moment in feminist history, where the issue of porn created a number of divergent feminist factions.

BS: It was accepted by the pro-porn movement, I can tell you that.

AS: I was never against the anti-porn feminists. I welcomed them, I welcomed the debate, I loved them. But they would often protest, shut things down. And they didn’t play fair – they wouldn’t even be in the same room with me, or have a discussion with me. Andrea Dworkin was the face of anti-porn feminist movement. I heard her speak and she gave a very impassioned speech. I disagreed with 75% but the other 25% was, yeah, there are crazy serial killers murdering women and children in their garages and videotaping it. Yes, we share that concern. But then she was speaking for me, that I was a victim, and I’m like, no, you’ve got that wrong. But I say we needed to have this conversation, and I was at the frontlines of that debate.

But you know what, when I was younger I wasn’t a feminist because I thought, if feminists were anti-porn, then I wasn’t feminist. It wasn’t until someone came up with the term  ‘sex-positive feminist’ that I said, ok I can identify. It gave a doorway for sex-workers, for all the women who weren’t anti-porn, to enter, and claim the feminist identity. That term gave me a place. That’s what we’re trying to do with ecosex. We’re trying to open the door for those who don’t feel they fit into the debate. The fact that there’s been no other queer, environmetalist film – that we know of yet – [means] there’s been no place.

LBH: Ok, so to the present day – can you tell me what ‘ecosexuality’ is?

AS: Ecosex is a sexual identity, in a way. Sexocology is the field of ecosexual art, theory, practice, and activism. In LoveArt Lab [a series of art and performance works about love] we performed 18 or 19 performance art weddings. In the first weddings we did, we married each other and the community. But in the 4th one, we married the Earth. The next day we were changed people. We made vows to love, honor and cherish the Earth in front of 400 people. Everyone there who wanted to also took the vows. We were thinking, how we can we care for our lover, Earth?

BS: What was really incredible about our green wedding is this: I was the chair of the Art Department of Santa Cruz (University of California) and we were able to get a lot of funding (from the University) to launch this wedding. The Chancellor of our university was there, a lot of sex workers, a lot of my students – [these weddings] are huge community building events, pedagogical events, political events. This marriage actually took place on the day that Prop 8 was overturned. Annie and I are of the position that if human beings can get all these rights through the act of marriage, why can’t the Earth get these rights too? The Earth is being destroyed.

AS: We teach these ecosexual workshops, where we teach people to connect sensually with the Earth. The pleasure, the erotic, sensual pleasure of just laying in the sun. Everything is alive, and everything is sexual. There is sex going on all around us in nature. So we put on these ecosexual eyes in the workshop and it really expands what sex is, which is a very feminist issue.

BS: It’s hugely empowering. Because women are really taught what sex is, how to have sex, and how to have the correct kind of sex. But sex can be anything you want it to be.

LBH: How do feminism and sexecology come together? How does your feminist politics inform the ecological politics of what you’re doing?

AS: It’s a feminist issue because people are raping, abusing, and disrespecting their mother. Our basic idea is instead of imagining the Earth as a mother – because within this metaphor, she is old, exploited, pissed off, and being treated like shit– we want to change this maternal archetype to lover.

BS: I think it’s a feminist issue because– I’m going to essentalise a little bit here – whether it’s biological or sociological, women have been left to take care of the children, and left to take care of each other. Free domestic labour is really about taking care of everyone else. And I think feminists have turned that care-taking into a theoretical position where women are more likely to be concerned about the good of the whole, rather than the promotion of individuals to dominate the whole. Feminists can definitely be bitchy or egocentric, which I actually think is great – when men are that way, they’re heroes; when women are that way, they’re put down. There is a component of individuality [about that bitchiness or egocentrism], but even the most individualist feminist thinkers are systems-thinkers, thinking about the whole. What Annie and I are trying to do is to knock down some of these binaries: [gender and sexuality binaries, but also those] between nature and culture, human and non-human, source and resource.

LBH: Can you tell me more about the film? Like most of your work, the film seems political, but also silly and warm. What is this film about for you?

BS: In Appalachia, 500 mountaintops have been removed through mountaintop removal. The Appalachian Mountains are the 2nd most bio-diverse region in the Western Hemisphere, and they’re being devastated. We’re really trying to garner empathy for the Earth [through this film]. There really is an interesting movement in feminist thought around our current geological age, which is an age caused by man-made destruction. So what we’re trying to do with the ecosexual movement is make it more sexy, fun and diverse. But we’re also trying to engage queer people and women. I think women need to mobilise and start thinking about the entire social body, which, like it or not, we’re responsible for.

AS: The environmental movement has a certain image of either the Sierra Club, this kind of conservative and white [organisation], and then the tree-hugger version, which is actually very heterosexual. We adore them all, but where is the place for the queers, the drag queens, the sex workers, the art students, the people of colour?

LBH: What do you feel are the biggest challenges for women today?

AS: I feel the movements I’ve been a part of are starting to eat their own, and kill their parents. For example, the trans movement now is eating their own. Some of these young people are anti-drag, and attacking Ru Paul, who’s done so much for the trans community.

BS: I encounter a lot of young women who don’t want to associate with ‘feminism’. But I think we’re at this moment where we really need to regroup, re-imagine and redefine what the issues we want to address are. And that’s what we’re doing through ecosexuality. I just heard Germaine Greer say, “Feminism has not happened yet”. That is so radical – and we completely agree.

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Happy Valentine’s from Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

There’s no better day to celebrate the Earth.

Here are 25 Ways to Make Love with the Earth and our Ecosex Manifesto to inspire your amorous devotion. As we are all part of, not separate from nature, all sex is ecosex! So make love to the Earth today, and every day!

Beth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle

(Click on images to enlarge)

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Elizabeth Stephens & Annie Sprinkle are two ecosexual artists-in-love who have been collaborating with each other, and with various international communities, for 11 years. They created a new field of research, “Sexecology,” exploring the places where sexology and ecology intersect in our culture– in art, theory, practice and activism. Their ecosex performance art weddings have involved thousands of collaborators and participants in eight countries. They also do Sexecological Walking Tours, visual art installations, and are finishing a film about mountain top removal coal mining destruction in Appalachia, called Goodbye Gauley Mountain—An Ecosexual Love Story. Stephens is a professor of art at UCSC and a Ph.D. candidate in performance studies at UC Davis. Sprinkle is a popular visiting artist who holds a Ph.D. in human sexuality. They love to collaborate! Find out more here.

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Bums, heels and media darlings: What feminists want?

Now there’s a headline. I bet that got you clicking through before you got to the end of the sentence. Here’s one that will have you hitting the back button just as fast:

Obama: “Climate change is a fact

He said that just a few days ago. Yawn. Snore. Bummer. Why do people have that response? It’s only the leader of the free world rubber-stamping the biggest known threat to mankind’s survival. Hello? How can that be dull? How can devastating floods consuming lives and homes, or rampant hellfire devouring forests, hurricanes flattening towns, or expanding deserts be anything other than disaster-movie thrilling?

Why does the biggest story in mankind’s history have all the appeal of a genital wart when by rights it should be box office gold?

I thought it would be different with you lot. I thought feminists were an intelligent bunch with broad horizons, engaged with social issues beyond their own spheres of existence and sensitive to the needs of the common good. But take a look at the evidence: Feminist Times site stats suggest that you’re at least three times as keen on stories involving celebrities or magazine retouching than stories about the environment – though at least they didn’t offer $10,000 for unretouched photos of Lena Dunham.

I kind of get it – we all love a bit of a gossip – but still it infuriates me because this lack of engagement with environment is rife across all media. The Guardian recently slashed the size of its environment desk and the New York Times no longer even has one. Not because the editors don’t think the issues are important but because the stories don’t attract the eyeballs and therefore the advertisers, the revenue and so on… an infinite spiral that can only end in a Murdochian world of up-skirt shots, botched boob jobs, Miley’s tongue and Hugh Grant’s burgeoning child army.

You’re just like all the others, then. I suppose it was stupid of me to think you would be any different, after all you can’t project a shared trait – flattering or otherwise – on such a disparate group of people.

But I’m being unfair. Plenty of you do engage with the story of the anthropocene, and the rest of you are far from being alone. Academics have even coined a term, the Environmentalist’s Paradox, to explain the endemic apathy – it’s hard for people to accept what’s happening to the planet when life in general is getting better all the time. Your brain’s no good at perceiving gradual changes and climate change is happening so slowly that our brains have had time to normalise it. Alarm bells which should be deafening each and every one of us remain silent.

Robert Gifford, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at the University of Victoria, reckons we need to defeat our “dragons of inaction” – psychological barriers that prevent us from taking action to mitigate climate change.

These dragons take many forms – we don’t think about climate change enough; we hold ideological views that preclude pro-environment behaviour; we don’t see our peers reacting so we aren’t compelled to act ourselves; we have sunk irretrievable costs into our existing way of life and are too afraid to disentangle ourselves because the risks are perceived to be too high – and so on. We must find our own dragons and slay them, I guess. Bloody easy to say.

I’d add one more dragon to Gifford’s list: there is no time. The rabid quest for increased productivity has left the average person with precious little time to devote to themselves, to discover anything new, to think about anything beyond the immediate demands of day-to-day life. Hardly anyone I know reads books any more because their lives are full. To imagine they’re going to come home from work, put the kids to bed, eat, sleep, repeat and then spend any spare time fretting about deforestation is unreasonable.

And yet… Later in life, time is given back. And later in life you have a clearer sense of perspective. Could this be part of the reason some of our greatest older feminists are focusing their formidable talents on environmental projects?

Germaine Greer can be found knee deep in her own restored patch of rainforest; Rosie Boycott’s busying herself trying to make London a sustainable fish city; Isabella Rossellini is into insects and farming; and Annie Sprinkle calls herself an Ecosexual Sexecologist – someone who is madly, passionately and fiercely in love with the Earth and who lives in collaboration with it. She makes it sound the best fun. Campaigners should take note.

Even Vivienne Westwood, notable non feminist (but who seems to me to be a paragon of everything great about being your own woman and doing things your own way) is pledging her own money to tackle climate change.

These women know. They have time. They have perspective. Once they nurtured the idea of womanhood, of taking control of your sexual self, and now they nurture nature. Are the two so different? Not for Sprinkle who says that all sex is ecosex.

We should follow in their muddy footsteps. Take up your hoes hos! Don’t let the rakes rake all the profit and life out of the land… and other weak garden equipment puns. Get interested, get involved. Engagement is the first step away from the cliff. Alternatively we can continue our lemming-like shuffle towards the precipice because we’re too busy or too scared to look around us. Come on! It’s life and death on a grand scale! It’s action and drama and injustice! It’s The Day After Tomorrow, today!

And it’s a smidgeon more important than bums, heels and media darlings, lovely as they are.

Rachel Salvidge is a freelance journalist specialising in the environment, with a background in book publishing. Find out more @RachSalv.

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Your dinner’s been spiked

Everyone loves fish and chips, right? Hot and battery, the vinegar fumes gently scorching your eyeballs. Or maybe you’re more of a sushi person, riding the Yo Sushi conveyor belts with raw abandon. Or perhaps you’re more of a shellfish type, happiest scooping mussels from a garlicky bucket or ripping the exoskeleton off some hapless marine insect.

Whatever your inclination, you’re not alone in your fish love. The average person eats around 17kg of fish each year – that’s equivalent to consuming a 4-year-old human child, and we’ve all done that. Today we’re sliding twice as much fish down our oily gullets as we were in the 1960s. Kudos everyone.

Fish is a great source of protein so we should all be extremely chuffed with ourselves. It’s also a fabulous source of flame retardants, which is excellent news if you’re a sofa.

A new study reveals that plastic in the ocean is breaking down into microscopic particles which are harmful enough in themselves, but which also act like tiny lifeboats for grisly toxins from industrial byproducts like PBDE (the aforementioned flame retardant) and PCB (a coolant). The toxins clamber aboard and drift aimlessly, like Robert Redford in All is Lost, until devoured by marine life, and voila – it’s in the food chain.

Pollutants become more concentrated the further you move up the food chain. The tiddlers ingest the plastic and are in turn consumed in large numbers by their predators. These predators are then consumed by a higher level predator (it’s the circle of life, haven’t you seen The Lion King?) and so on, right up to the herb encrusted tuna that’s steaming fragrantly on your plate. I’m afraid someone’s spiked supper.

Many plastics contain chemicals already known to affect human and animal health, mainly affecting the endocrine system. Some contain toxic monomers, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, but the actual role of plastic waste in these conditions is uncertain and there currently isn’t enough evidence to start splashing Daily Mail style hysteria across the globe. But scarily, even less is known about the effects of the toxic hitchhikers.

Some bonkers cosmetic products come with ready-made teeny tiny plastic particles. Exfoliants, shower gels and even some toothpastes contain micro-beads so small they are designed to go down the plughole and straight out to sea. Many companies such as Unilever have pledged to exorcise the evil beads, but not until 2015, so the clever people at Beat the Microbead have stepped in and compiled a nifty list of products for you to avoid  until they’re happily bead-free.

But all this is just the tip of the plasberg. Plastic production has increased 560 fold in just over 60 years and if we continue at this rate we’ll be dumping 220 million tons of the stuff every year by 2025. It doesn’t take a scientist to work out that this can’t be good news for man nor beast.

And it hangs around for so long too. In 2005 a piece of plastic found in an albatross’s stomach bore a serial number traced to a World War II seaplane shot down in 1944. It’s hard not to be a tiny bit impressed by this plucky plastic.

That is until you consider its role in the deaths of hundreds of species – fish, birds, dolphins, whales – who die of starvation, their stomachs bursting with plastic water bottles, carrier bags and the like; or those strangled, poisoned or cut up by our waste.

Something to think about the next time you gob a fish finger. I really hope I haven’t spoiled your appetite.

 

Rachel Salvidge is a freelance journalist specialising in the environment, with a background in book publishing. Find out more @RachSalv.

Photo: Dan Century

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#IDontBuyIt: Profile – Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day was started by the Canadian organisation Adbusters in the 90s and has grown into an international event celebrated in more than 65 countries. It’s a simple idea, which challenges consumer culture by asking us to switch off from shopping for a day. The day is celebrated as a holiday by some, a street party by others; anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!

The idea of not shopping for a day (particularly the busiest Saturday before Christmas) seems absurd! But there is a serious side to Buy Nothing Day, which highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The rich western countries – only 20 per cent of the world population is consuming over 80 per cent of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth.

As consumers we need to question our culture of shopping, especially when people simply shop to feel good or just to impress each other. We all have different needs and ultimately we are all consumers, so will never be able to escape consumerism altogether. But this shouldn’t stop us from questioning the products we buy or challenging the companies who produce them.

The issues connected with Buy Nothing Day are broad and deep, but we focus on promoting ethical and responsible consumerism, recycling and re-using. We want people to become aware that large corporations are exploiting labour conditions in developing countries, using up vital resources because they are cheap, and there aren’t the systems in place to protect workers or the environment like those in the west.

The gap between rich and poor nations is growing in spite of the much-heralded benefits of globalisation. There are still 1.3 billion people world wide who live on less than $1 a day and a similar number of people do not have access to clean water.

Workers’ rights in developing countries are frequently violated, including payment of low wages and long working hours. The lives of workers may also be endangered by poor health and safety provision. Supporters of globalisation offer economic growth as a solution to world poverty; they propose that impoverished nations and individuals can eventually attain a standard of living similar to our own through the ‘trickle down’ of wealth. But the current globalisation model is leading to an increase in world poverty and inequality.

Buy Nothing Day is a non-confrontational campaign – we ask people to have a bit of fun, play a few pranks, use their imagination, and simply escape consumerism for a day. It could be argued that this method of campaigning won’t capture the public’s attention or is laughing in the face of the more important issues, but if people laugh at the ingenuity and genius of Buy Nothing Day, then we’ve got their attention and we are opening the door.

Buy Nothing Day isn’t about changing your lifestyle for just one day – hopefully it becomes a lasting relationship – maybe a life changing experience? Modern consumerism may offer great choice, but this shouldn’t be at the cost of people developing countries or the environment.

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Bee on pink background

The Cassandra Complex: Bubble Trouble

Like Violet Beauregarde emptying her lungs into her gum, we heave into our economic bubbles, watch them expand and burst, leaving us shocked, unsurprised and covered in sticky pink goo.

You’re probably a little tired of economic bubbles by now – stock market bubbles, dot.com bubbles, housing bubbles – it’s all a bit passé and no one ends up having any fun.

And yet a new bubble is being inflated which makes the others look like a fart in a bathtub. This enormous floater is the Death Star of all bubbles. It’s called the Carbon Bubble and can be explained by a little simple maths.

In 2009 the Conference of the Parties, the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, agreed to recognise “the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius” in a bid to avoid catastrophic levels of man made climate change.

This agreement’s known as the Copenhagen Accord and was recognised by all of the 193 nations at the summit. This might sound like a breakthrough, until you realise that it’s not legally binding and represents about as much commitment as your hungover friend telling you they’ll give up alcohol at some unspecified point in the future.

To have a reasonable (here reasonable is defined as 4/5) chance of staying below the 2 degree mark we can pump a maximum of around 565 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But there’s a tiny problem. Fossil fuel companies’ existing reserves amount to around 2,795 gigatonnes of CO2. That’s almost five times the amount we can burn without turning the planet into Tatooine. Upshot: if you burn everything in the inventories of these companies we are fucked.

However, and let’s call this the profiteers’ paradox, if fossil fuel companies agreed not to burn their stock (out of the goodness of their hearts, so it’s a possibility) they’d write off trillions of dollars in assets and… KABOOM! Globally linked economies are spattered in Hubba Bubba.

So what are they doing about this existential dilemma? Well, they’re busy continuing exploration to uncover more oil, coal or gas… which they can’t burn. And investors continue to pump money into projects that can’t be realised without bringing about climageddon. It’s a lose-lose situation.

So what can we do? We can switch to energy providers such as Good Energy or Ecotricity (they provide the grid with renewable energy but you still receive gas and electricity in the normal way). We can demand that politicians don’t remove green taxes from our energy providers who whine about the levies while simultaneously dodging tax. We can welcome, or even initiate, solar, hydro and wind projects into our communities and we can petition MPs for a clean energy revolution.

What we need now – and when I say now, I mean about 20 years ago – is a clear and methodical roadmap with which to gently transition us into a world where energy is cheap, secure and sustainable and where the future is a possibility.

Or we can make like Violet and keep blowing.

 

Rachel Salvidge is a freelance journalist specialising in the environment, with a background in book publishing. Find out more @RachSalv.

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Bee on pink background

The Cassandra Complex

By 2050 there’ll be nine billion of us living on the planet. NINE BILLION. Consider that as recently as 1960 there were only three billion of us. That’s a lot of extra bodies. Things are going to get sweaty.

But whiffy pits are the least of our worries. If we continue with the current rate of growth and don’t temper the way we behave there’ll be stiff and hungry competition for food, water and a fertile patch of soil to call home. One billion of us don’t have enough to eat today and the demand for food is predicted to rise by around 70% by 2050.

Factor in climate change and things start to look a little less rosy.

I’m sorry, I’m not usually one to scaremonger, but I’ve got so much scare right now that I feel obliged to mong it. I recently made the mistake of hoovering up as much information on climate change as I could and I’m now suffering from weapons-grade anxiety attacks. I can’t unknow what I now know (I’ve tried) so I thought I’d share it with you. You’re welcome.

Water is already a problem, even on our sodden little island. England and Wales could face water deficits of up to 3,082 mega-litres per day as early as 2020, according to a Government report. To put that in context, we currently have a surplus of 1,200 Ml/day.

Water companies are now beavering away creating 25 year plans in an attempt to get the water supply to meet the increasing demand, although a cursory look at these plans reveals an emphasis on getting the demand down rather than improving the infrastructure. Water companies may have to share their supply in future, but shifting water around is an expensive undertaking and will only happen if it’s economically viable.

Thames Water recently announced a £29 increase in next year’s bills to pay for a fancy new super sewer, just weeks after suggesting that Londoners may have to accept treated sewage in their taps because that’s cheaper than investing in more supply infrastructure. A case of let them eat urinal cake. Expect water to get scarcer, more expensive and altogether less refreshing.

Globally there’s rising water panic. Saudi Arabia has even tinkered with the delicious idea of dragging giant icebergs from Canada to provide water for its parched citizens. A private company in Chile is exporting bulk meltwater to Qatar. Egypt is freaking out over Ethiopia’s plan to dam the Nile, which flows through both their countries. Now India, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are racing to dam Himalayan rivers which will have untold effects on the environment, agriculture and the chaps downstream. It’s squeaky bum time. If not now, in a decade or so – it’s not just a problem for future generations.

Wars have been fought over oil. What happens when the disputed resource is one on which survival is predicated?

This is just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. I have plenty more to impart about droughts, heat waves, floods, wildfires, degraded rivers and oceans, extreme weather, food supply, climate refugees (who already exist in their millions), bees, trees, carbon sinks, plastic islands, climate deniers, energy, and the root cause of all of this: short termism. The future is being sold. Excuse me while I breathe into a paper bag.

So climate change is here. It’s too late to stop it. We’re already feeling the effects and we’re going to see some consequences in our lifetime. BUT. There’s still time to adapt and there’s a brief window in which we can repair some of the damage. Don’t worry, you don’t have to change your lifestyle, no one’s going to ask you to wear sackcloth, eat grubs or, heaven forfend, turn your telly off standby, so relax. The solution lies with industry and politicians; we have to urge them into action, not the other way around. It’s not in your power to save the planet – that’s a big fat buck-passing lie – but it is in theirs. They can be heroes if they so choose. All we need to do is be informed and to kick them enthusiastically in the right direction.

The main reason I’m not filling my pockets with stones and throwing myself into the nearest floodwater is because a small group of individuals has found a way of speaking to business and leaders in a language they understand. They’re a mix of economists, campaigners and financiers and they’ve begun to put a financial value on the services provided, free of charge, by nature. If you remove reefs you will have to build sea defences; if you remove wetlands you’ll have to build levees (ask a resident of New Orleans about this one); if you take out vegetation that filters water, you will have to build a water purifying plant; if you overfish you lose the fish and the fishing industry. Simple stuff, but more powerful with the dollar signs attached. Slowly people are taking note.

According to Tony Juniper, in his excellent book, What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? the penny is beginning to drop. New York City invested $1 billion in managing and preserving the surrounding woodlands which filter Manhattan’s water supply. Artificial filtration would have cost the city around $6-8 billion, and the equipment would have cost up to $500 million a year to operate. It’s the largest unfiltered public water supply in the United States and it has kept New Yorkers’ water bills down.

Others are less forward-thinking. In Sichuan, China, pesticides have all but wiped out the bees. People are having to HAND POLLINATE their crops. I shit you not. They climb the trees wearing bee costumes and dust pollen from flower to flower. OK, so I’m lying about the bee suits, but the rest is true and just as absurd. I haven’t done the maths, but it’s a safe bet to assume that bees are cheaper than Chinamen.

So there are behemoth problems but there are simple solutions which I will bother you with in future posts, should you choose to read them.

I’m sorry if I’ve just assaulted your peace of mind, but I needed company in my newfound fear. It’s true what they say: ignorance really is bliss. Until you find bumwater flowing from your taps and your neighbour’s car floats into your living room.

 

Rachel Salvidge is a freelance journalist specialising in the environment, with a background in book publishing. Find out more @RachSalv.

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