Walking home in the early evening darkness, I was surrounded by the smell of fireworks. For most people, the 5th November is not about remembering an historical event in which a guy tried to blow up parliament. It is about spending an extortionate amount of money, on magnificent fireworks displays. Fireworks are full of gunpowder, metallic compounds, and carcinogenic, hormone disrupting toxins, which shower onto the soil and water, many of which are dangerous for humans (Mother Nature Network). They leave a trail of smoke and plastic debris in their wake. You can get fined for littering these days, but it is apparently perfectly okay to litter with fireworks.
Permaculture is at the centre of the three ethics of Earth care, People Care and Fair shares. Fireworks are clearly not about caring for the Earth. While councils spend thousands of pounds on fireworks displays, at the same time that cuts are being made which adversely effect vulnerable people, I don’t believe that fireworks fit into the ethics of People Care of Fair Shares. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have celebrations, which are good for community and remembering important events, but there are definitely better ways to go about it. We could celebrate in a positive way, by creating something, rather than burning something.
It’s not just the 5th November that bothers me. Last year, a local newspaper called to ask me to provide their readers with ideas for what to do with carved up pumpkins, after Halloween. The Surrey Mirror run an environmental column, and I was the Chairwoman of the local environmental group at the time. Had I not been sick with Pleurisy…had I not honestly felt like I was dying, (It hurt to breath and move, and 2 year olds don’t tend to give you a week off being a mum, when you are sick) I may have been more diplomatic in my response to the reporter. I would have given them positive ideas, like how to start a compost heap. Or maybe using marker pens to draw faces on the pumpkins, so that they are still edible after they have sat on a doorstep all week. Instead, they quoted me (perfectly) saying, “Carving up pumpkins for Halloween, is as wasteful as chopping down a tree at Christmas, so that you can watch it die slowly in your living room”…..I was sick. Please forgive me! Millions of pumpkins are grown every year, just so that we can carve them up and throw them away. This is at the same time that 14% of the world’s population is undernourished, and 6 million children die of hunger each year (Wikepedia). The Surrey Mirror called me a pumpkin protestor.
I spent Halloween at the Wizard of Squash festival in Dorking, where hundreds of varieties of locally grown Pumpkins and squash, were on display. There were village fate style competitions, you could buy them, eat them, and there were free recipes being given away. It was a fantastic, positive and productive way to celebrate.
And now we are fast approaching Christmas. Shall I mention the millions of trees that are grown in a mono-crop, only to be clear cut….Or the fake plastic trees which last for 10 years (I’m being generous) before they end up in landfill…. The consumerism, the waste of energy, resources, and money. Last year my friend hand sewed me some beautiful Christmas decorations from scrap fabric. My daughter and I painted a Christmas tree on an old cardboard box, which we hung on the wall. I made about 20 jars of chestnut spread which I gave as presents. This year, naturally, it will be jam… I believe in decorating a tree which is alive, and giving home made gifts. I believe in celebrating being with your family, and sharing a nutritious meal, taking a walk, laughing, playing, making music.
I want to end on a positive note. I’m not against celebrating holidays. I think we should take every opportunity to celebrate every holiday that we can possibly think of. But we do need a new culture for how to celebrate them. A culture that doesn’t cost the earth.