Tidings of comfort and joy!

Well I will write a little about our Christmas at the Potwell Inn – which went extremely well; everyone behaved themselves and we had some great time with our family. I can also write a bit more about our attempt to feed ourselves from local and ethical sources. The almost inevitable criticism of locally, sustainable, ethical and organic food is that for every added adjective there’s another substantial markup in the price – and it’s true; there’s no denying it, and if price, disregarding any other consideration, is the final arbiter – there’s no argument either. However the other side to the argument is that the adjective laden local etc. etc. food not only fulfills an ethical, environmental and economic function; it almost always goes further and tastes far better plus it’s healthier in every sense. The catchall argument that cheaper is necessarily better is at the heart of a collapsing environment.

But that’s enough theorizing – we grow our own vegetables as far as we possibly can and trust me the premium in flavour is not some kind of placebo effect. We buy locally produced milk from a machine in the market and, because it’s low temperature pasteurised and not homogenized but treated just sufficiently to get past the regulatory hurdles it’s perceptibly better. The commodification of milk has resulted in an inferior product that carries a big carbon footprint and depends upon the exploitation of sentient creatures. We get better tasting milk, the cows get a better life and the farmer earns a sustainable income from the business.

The same trade off applies exactly to much of the food we manage to source locally, and the tragedy is that if governments across the world transferred the subsidies presently paid to fossil fuel industries mining coal and oil, to sustainable farming we’d all be able to eat better quality food for less while tackling environmental degradation, atmospheric pollution and the climate catastrophe at the same time.

However what’s really on my mind is the fact that we were attacked by vandals on the allotment over Christmas and they trashed our greenhouse, smashed the shed window as well as poking holes through the polytunnel. They also damaged three other allotment plots. I don’t want to start building any simple narratives about this. Anger, hatred and revenge are paralysing distractions when there’s so much we need to be getting on with.

These are strange times indeed; and on Boxing day we were sitting in the flat with four of our extended family, taking lateral flow tests and consulting the NHS app on mobile phones. Of all the things we might have imagined two years ago at the beginning of this pandemic, a game of self-testing would have seemed ridiculous. What’s truly worrying is that our society seems to be breaking down not just at street level but at the very top as well. It recalls the Chinese curse – may you live in interesting times!

Trying to protect the earth from our own collective greed and stupidity sometimes feels like trying to row the Atlantic in a coracle. As Thomas Edison once said – Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration – but perspiration without vision is a treadmill – so let’s keep the vision going!

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