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This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

We live in an age of consumerism, in which people are used to spend and waste.  Our social environment is invaded with messages encouraging us to consume more and it has become difficult to resist the discourse of consumerism.  We buy more than we need and we throw away… 

I remember how my grandmothers used to keep everything and reuse it, probably because they had lived through the war and had experienced a lack of daily resources.  Now, this seems like a myth, in Western societies anyway.  However, people still suffer from poverty, but this does not prevent us from wasting.

Whatever your views on capitalism are, one can hardly deny the negative impact it has had on the planet.  I am not here taking a position for or against capitalism, just asking people to become conscious of its impact on the environment and the consequences it has had.

Sometimes, it feels like we do not have the choice.  For instance, goods come in packages and there seems to be little we can do.  However, we are still agents and have the power to resist the messages coming from our consumerist society.  Unfortunately, I cannot force the producer to build goods that last longer and use less packaging (although this is arguable), but I can choose to buy less and to reuse more.

Waste takes on diverse forms: we want the latest brand, the most up-to-date gadget, we buy too much food and trow it away (maybe we should consider reducing our portions as well?).  Money has no value anymore, except when you do not have any.

Packaging has become an increasingly worrying symptom of such mass consumption and of the convenient and fast-paced society we live in.  Everything is packaged in single portion and repackaged again in lots.  It seems that we have little control on this.  However, I believe it is still possible to buy in bulk and portion food ourselves, especially since most household now own a freezer.  One can also choose to buy only products in packages that are recyclable.

We need to start realising what is behind this huge phenomenom and try to resist it as best as we can.  How often do we think about how goods are produced and how they are discarded, about the impact it has on the planet and its population?  Do we really need to have so much, too much?  We consume above our needs; yet most people on earth can barely access a tiny proportion of what we have.

I know some of us are conscious of it, but many are not or do not care.  It would be a positive change to see people think about this and take at least one step towards reducing or improving their habits of consumption.

Children are growing spoiled and are not able to appreciate the important values in life.  How can we fight against the ideological messages thrown their ways at every corner of life? 

What step do you suggest we should take in our daily life to resist consumerism?  I would be happy to hear your suggestions and what you would be ready to do in this direction.

Here are some suggestions, please add to them:

  • Reuse food plastic containers
  • Reuse plastic bags
  • Buy second-hand
  • Buy food in bulk and divide it yourself (using those small containers you have kept)
  • Reduce food portions (especially in restaurants where most of it ends up in a bin anyway)
  • Buy fair-trade products
  • Boycott non-recyclable packaging
  • Ask yourself if you really need this brand new product
  • Don’t throw away: give it to friends or charity shops
  • Use goods until they die

A few days ago, I was telling you in my post on the conference in Milan about a documentary by Aaraon Diaz on Mexican workers in Canada.  The film raises awareness about the conditions in which these immigrants work and the consequences ensued, resulting sometimes in death.  It is a moving documentary and I would recommend to see it.

There will be a preview of this documentary this Friday  at 17:00 pm at the Montreal University, room 6453, Pavillon 3744, Jean Brillant Street in Montreal, Canada.  If you are in the area, why not go?

A facebook page has also been created and here is the trailer:

If I’m not mistaken, today is Halloween.  We should thus see pumkins and all the paraphernalia associated to this holiday in the shops.  Can someone explain me why the first thing I saw when entering the supermarket on Friday was a Christmas tree?

I know, I know.  We are in a period of recession and supermarkets are trying to boost their sales.  I can understand people starting to do a bit of Christmas shopping in advance in order to spread the spendings, but I cannot accept decorations being put up two months in advance.  Have we not any respect for children anymore?

Where is the magic of Christmas going?  How can we expect the kids to marvel at Christmas and be excited for the length of eight weeks?  Christmas before December just does not make sense.

I used to love Christmas as a kid, my mum was brilliant at making it a magic moment.  I have grown up and I have become more or less indifferent to the whole thing.  However, there are some years when I still wait for Christmas impatiently, particularly if I know that I am going to spend this moment with some loved friends.  I actually told to myself that this year I should make an effort and get into the Christmas spirit (when the time comes), but seeing that Christmas tree in October shattered my resolution.

Is it only an Irish thing or is it happening where you are too?

It has taken me a while to get to write this review of Atwood’s The Tent, but today seems more appropriate than ever.

Going around the news in Ireland at the moment is the story of the party wallaby.  Last weekend at a 30th birthday party in some hotel nightclub in Dublin, a wallaby was introduced among the crowd.  It was roughly played with on the dancefloor, given alcohol and possibly ecstasy.  It did not survive.  I was a bit shaken by the story, not only because of the death of an animal (I’m an animal lover), but also because this is one more of many examples of how sick the human race is.  This is one example, but it happens every day and not only animals are victims but other human beings also.

How does this connect to The Tent?  Well, it does in many ways…

One of the stories in the collection is called “Thylacine Ragout”.  In the story, the Thylacine is a Tasmanian marsupial, extinct for so many years that “no one still alive had ever actually seen” it.  Through a process of cloning, scientifics brought back the marsupial to life.  However, it was bought by a rich person who ate it because “he wanted to be the only person ever to eat a Thylacine”.

This story as it is already makes a heavy comment on science and human values; however, there is even more to it.  Shuli Barzilai, in her essay “Unfabulating a Fable, or Two Readings of ‘Thylacine Ragout'” (in Once Upon a Time: Myth, Fairy Tales and Legends in Margaret Atwood’s Writings, edited by Sarah Appleton), explains how at first she read this piece as a fable created by Atwood.  Yet, led by curiosity, she did a bit of googling, which prompted more research.  Barzilai discovered that the Thylacine is not a creation of Atwood, but an animal that really existed in Tasmania and disappeared as a result of colonisation.  In the story, “they named [the Thylacine] Trugannini, after the last fully Aboriginal inhabitant of that island”.  Indeed, Barzilai found out that Trugannini also existed and that her death (after much mistreatment from colonisers) became synonymous with the extinction of her race.  Barzilai’s analysis is enlightening and reveals how much can be packed in such a short piece.  “Thylacine Ragout” becomes a critique of power politics, colonisation and much more, as well as of science, humanity (as superior to Nature and in its will to control it), human values, etc.

There are many such pieces in The Tent: pieces concerned with the irrationality of human beings, with what we have done to our planet, with human greed and so on.  Those pieces hand a mirror to ourselves and show us what has happened to society and the planet because of our so-called superiority since we are endowed with reason  The tone is often ironic and sarcastic.  One piece I particularly like in connection to this theme is “Faster”.  In this piece, the narrator describes our desire to always go faster thanks to technological developments and then starts wondering what happened to our souls in the process since “they can only go as fast as a man can walk”.  It seems that this is indeed convenient as the narrator concludes that: “That’s why we can go so fast: our sould don’t weigh us down”.  The piece is only one page long but it tells a lot about our society.

Many other topics are touched in these pieces, as is not surprising with Atwood.  One of these is the role of the writer who is gifted with a voice (see “Voice” for instance).  In the light of Atwood’s critical writings this means a lot since Atwood thinks that the writer’s role is to show and lead readers to question society.  She believes words are powerful and that we should use them as a way to resist and possibly to enlighten those who are over-protected and refuse to see what is going on around them.

Like Good Bones, The Tent is a collection of those short pieces (I say more on the genre in my review of Good Bones) which say a lot in a few words.

And here is a video of Atwood reading “Our Cat Enters Heaven”:

I am sick of seeing people use ‘lol’, ‘rofl’, ‘pmsl’, and such other abbreviations expressing the fact that something is funny when they are communicating on the internet. I mean, how many of them actually roll on the floor laughing when reading a post? It has become systematic and doesn’t mean anything. Now, even French people use it, do they actually know what it means? I doubt it. I agree that when chatting to someone on the internet on prefers to use lively language reflecting everyday conversation. However, these letters do not reflect anything at all. How difficult is it to type ‘that’s funny’? or even ‘ahah’? or just to put a smiley, which has more meaning than these few letters? At least a smiley does show an emotion and when I see the letters LOL, the smiley I want to use is 😡 .

In fact, I despise abbreviations in general. I think they are a nuisance to communication. Language is already not a perfect tool, but if we use abbreviations the risk of misunderstandings is increased. I DO use abbreviations, but only to myself or in certain conventional ways, as in writing bibliographies. We already make spelling, grammar and typographical mistakes, with the addition of abbreviations the text often becomes unintelligible. Despite the fact that French is my native language, I often don’t understand what many French people say because of their use of the ‘abbreviated French language’ and I waste precious time trying to decipher what they actually mean. The same is true in English, however I’m a little bit more fluent in ‘abbreviated English’, it still drives me mad though. I do tolerate abbreviations in mobile phone texts for cost reasons, although I try to avoid them as much as possible. Yet, when one is typing on a computer keyboard, it is just a sign of laziness, it is disrespectful towards the person you are talking to and also towards the language you are using.

Rant over!

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Sheep at TaraSheep at TaraSheep at Tara

Sheep at TaraSheep at Tara

I’m sorry, but I will have to start with a big scream for my country of adoption, Ireland. ‘Stop building the motorway through Tara!’.

For those of you who do not know Ireland, the Hill of Tara was the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. It is one of the most significant heritage site in Ireland. A motorway is at this moment being built, which is supposed to go through the Tara-Skryne valley. I invite you to have a look at this BBC article to have an idea of what’s going on.

Basically, the debate goes between those who want to preserve the national heritage and those who wish for a motorway so that they can get to work faster. I do support the improvement of roads in Ireland, but I think it shouldn’t be to the detriment of the national heritage.

Since the economic boom, the Celtic tiger as it is called, the country has been ravaged by new buildings. Housing estates are sprouting everywhere and deteriorating the beauty of the Irish landscape. There doesn’t seem to be any laws to protect the national heritage, or if there are, there are not obvious to the common eye. The infrastructure of the country does need to be improved, but it should also be planned and thought through, which I think is not the case.

In my opinion, if the motorway goes through the valley, it means that there are no limits, anything can be done to the country!

If you wish to learn more about the situation at Tara, visit the Hill of Tara blog or the activists site. If you feel concerned, you can sign the petition here. Help to preserve one of the most beautiful countries in the world!

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