Beyond Plastic

Where to start? Thoughts have been reverberating around in my mind on this for some time in my ongoing nomadic wondering…

In this post-oil avatar of mine*, in which I am now fully embodied, I have become accustomed to an initial reaction of incredulity when, in my encounters,  I tell people my background. “How is it that you could have spent so much of your past existence supporting the industry of evil” I am often asked.

“It’s not that simple” I reply. Oil was such an amazing and exciting discovery back in the 1860’s, simply used as a fuel to power Edison’s light enabling us to see with ease into the night. Chemists, engineers and a whole host of other brilliant minds went on from there to develop its uses far beyond what could ever have been envisaged.

And now… one billion cars on the world’s roads. A little more than half of every barrel of oil is used to produce gasoline and jet fuel. So many of us enjoy the freedom to travel that the black liquid brought us. The remainder of every barrel – we can find this, most of us unwittingly, in just about everything we touch on a daily basis – plastic, ink, paint, cosmetics, candles, paper cups, shoes, vaseline… the list of petrochemical uses goes on and on.

Yes, of course there were vested interests in Rockefeller and Marcus Samuel’s race to the East via the Suez Canal, yet… I do not believe that there was an intentional desire to do widespread harm. No huge conspiracy to bring humanity to its knees. Nor was there such a conspiracy in the plethora of other corporations, often called “corporations of evil”, involved in the likes of pharmaceuticals, foods, pesticides, factory farming, sanitation, chlorination…

I do not believe that we are yet sophisticated enough to have gone intentionally into the mess that we are in. The vast majority of us do not even know the rudimentary machinations of our most vital life force, the breath, we even feed ourselves to obesity and early death.

So what next? Carry on with cries against the beleaguered and guilty few? Or all of us to stop, come together and to do our bit?

I am in Ibiza writing this now. Amazed at the abundance of organic products; fig, almond, carob, and orange trees, grapes growing on their own in abundance; flowers, birds and (thankfully still) bees. Even the jelly fish in their numbers after a stormy night are a beautiful sight.

I have signed petitions recently to convince Pepsi to desist from manufacturing the 100 billion plastic bottles that they apparently do on an annual basis. But it all has to start with us.

Let’s just stop buying so much shit – pre-packaged, genetically modified, pesticide laden, processed foods; we absolutely do not need to bleach our homes and our hair. Change needs to start with every one of us joining together towards a better world with the knowledge that we now have.

I was in Johannesburg recently delivering a workshop “Me and My Environment” to a class of 25 teenagers, sowing a seed for change there.

Would love to hear more from anyone reading and keen for change, life is meant to be so beautiful.

* Editor’s note – Barbara was a senior executive with Shell for much of her career.

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