Snapshots throughout the post are from today's Sunday Market. (Click to enlarge.)
I had planned a post about reusing and re-cycling ideas but decided it might be better to simplify a bit, get down to the nitty-gritty of things since there will be a whole lot of us bloggers posting on the environment for Blog Action Day today, and you just might like to read a few of them. I know I will be reading as many as I can.
This is first time I have have participated in Blog Action Day, since this is my first year of blogging. I find I'm really excited. Being from that now somewhat faded generation known as "the flower children" I find more than a bit of joy in returning to my youth-driven ideals through re-discovering vegetarianism and trying to educate myself to be a better citizen of Earth. It's fun, I tell you. I feel joy in discovery every day and that's something that feels brand new, no matter how many years between those days and this. A lot of that I credit to the inspiration and learning from reading so many of your blogs. I feel inspired when I see people who care enough to live thoughtfully and share those thoughts with me and the world through their generous gift of blogging. Let me take this time to thank you all for that. It feels great to be doing this together, all 14oo81 of us, as of the time I write this.
Tonight I was watching the Discovery channel and happened to see a documentary on the great heat waves that hit Chicago in the 1990s and Paris and much of Europe in 2003. I was shocked to see that about 50, 000 people had died from nothing more than getting too hot and not being able to cool down their body temperatures. Politicians didn't help, mostly ignoring the problem until it was too late. Since then, they have put some warning measures in place, but they predict that these kind of heat waves will only increase as the planet warms up. I don't think we can depend on political will to protect us from disasters.
It's pretty hard to ignore this problem if you live in Japan where summer temperatures in the cities now routinely top 40 degrees. This year we had record high temperatures here and the summer was so long and hot that most people were starting to become bone weary of it by September. And it killed some of the elderly and physically weaker or disadvantaged of us. It does every year. That's truly sad.
For those of us it doesn't kill, it drains our energy, defeats our appetites, muddles thinking and takes the joy out of exercise, being outdoors, or doing much of anything at all. For me it makes concentrating on delivering a lesson a challenge, while sweat streams down my face and body. I spent most of July and August teaching with a sweat towel draped around my neck. And this year the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, (at least I think it was his idea) suggested that businesses turn down their air conditioning and workers wear lighter clothing. A good idea in theory, but in practicality it meant bosses felt free to turn off the air conditioning and allow us to cook in our own juices, not exactly the kind of culinary event that I usually enjoy.
To get back to the point, and to cut myself off before this becomes a book, when a book is not called for, I'll just say that I've decided to make a list of five suggestions of simple things I (or anyone) can do if we want to start to take a few steps to halt the runaway heat. Easy steps that may lead on to others. Every good thing has a beginning. Today might be the perfect day to do that.
1. Shop at a farmers market.
You'll reap the benefits of better flavour and the prices are great. Everything is healthier because it's fresher and full of vitamins. You can meet your neighbours, support local farms and keep the farmland in use, and inspire yourself with the great panorama of the living and edible art you see to make yourself some delicious food.
2. Buy organic food.
Whenever you can buy organic produce and other staples because it will add to the health of you and your family since you will be eating fewer pesticides and artificial hormones. You will also encourage more farmers to go organic, and add to the health of the soil and water we all drink, add diversity to our food supply, and if you believe in karma, I'm sure reduce your lifetimes by a few hundred . :) You can help finance the extra cost of this by also shopping at farmer's markets.
3. Drink tap water.
We've all become addicted to bottled water but as many people are starting to recognize, tap water is better regulated than bottled water, hasn't travelled halfway around the world burning fuel to get to you, and isn't bottled in that modern scourge of landfills, the almost indestructible PET bottle. I've switched to tap water, filtered with a Brita filter (which I recycle) since the local water doesn't taste very good. The filtered water does.
I have almost eliminated my use of PET bottles, and this recycling day I had none to put out. By making and bottling my own tea and coffee to take to work I have been saving around 4000-5000 yen a month!
4. Hang up your clothes to dry.
If you live in Japan this is a given, because almost everyone already does this. We have wonderful little carousels with attached clothespins that maximize the laundry you can put out in a small space, like on a balcony. Outside clothes smell much better (assuming you don't live in a congested city) and the electricity we save by doing this must be considerable.
5. Carry a cloth or other re-usable shopping bag and refuse all plastic ones.
I know many people already do this, but many still don't. In Japan we are literally drowned in these bags. And they're put around things which are already wrapped in cello packs or other packages. It's easy to fold up a used grocery bag and fit it in your purse. If you drive a car you can keep a few bags in there.