Every Little Helps – September 2011

Every Little HelpsLast month saw the worst and best behaviour I’ve seen in London. It’s still with me as I write this. I dislike moralising: being “the first to cast a stone” would be hypocritical and rather ironic. However, rampant consumerism must have influenced decisions people made to steal what they wanted: electronic goods, designer clothes but not books or (much) food. Unthinking, uncaring of consequences, selfish, rapacious, devastating.

Then came the amazing heart-warming local community response to the aftermath: donating goods and services, voluntary clean ups, sharing homes, remonstrating and standing up for what’s right. Generous, mindful, creative, energising, cooperative.

In bringing people together with a common purpose, what permanent positive changes will this have? I can’t avoid thinking of parallels with how our day-to-day buying decisions can effect the local and global environment, directly or indirectly.

Last year I wrote about over-buying and waste management – this year there’s a real possibility of two-weekly rubbish collections, charging for household waste tipping and the collapse of the waste disposal market (for lack of commercial places to put it). This could lead to an increase in fly-tipping and littering, but it would be great if the community response to waste was as effective as that following the riots.

Clearly it takes a lot to get the majority of people even to voice opposition to wrong thinking, let alone change the ways of life they are used to. That’s why there are scare stories about climate change: people who want change to happen try to motivate us through visions of the apocalypse. That doesn’t really change what we do.

Small acts of random kindness; thoughtfully choosing what we actually need; returning unnecessary packaging to sender; disposing of all waste appropriately – we can all do that. When we do it together, it makes a real difference, locally and long-term.

Here’s a place to help in Haringey


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