What can we do to make a difference? …How do our everyday choices really affect the planet? …Do we believe that they can? This ‘story’ is an extract from a pilot radio programme considering our impact on the planet.

When I was younger, my brother and I used to help an elderly, blind friend of the family with the gardening, decorating and odd jobs. She was a delightful woman, Marie. She was quick-witted, intelligent and generous. Over some summer holidays, as a student, I used to read to her. She was particularly keen on books by Lyall Watson, and I remember clearly reading all of his fabulous Supernature, and Lifetide over consecutive summers, by the caravan in her garden in sunshine. If you know the books, I think you’ll agree that Lyall has the ability to bring apparently disparate things together, to allow us to marvel at nature in all of her mysterious connections. Marie was fascinated by his descriptions of the unusual, the miraculous in nature, and would despair at Man’s exploitation of the planet.

If you’re like me you’ll care passionately about our home, planet earth. It grieves me that the everyday things I do damage the environment: consuming energy, contributing to waste, from the moment I flush the loo, switch on the kettle, travel to work, buy my weekly shopping, my ecological footprint is stamped all over the earth. And there are millions like me, like you. Together we would need several more Earths for us all to sustain our current standard of living. For the whole world’s population this could mean over four more Earths (see www.myfootprint.htm) We cannot continue consuming resources, and wasting so much as we do now. It is not sustainable.

Some time ago I wrote to my local supermarket – well, all my local supermarkets in fact -about an apparently silly thing…I’d noticed that more and more of the bottles of wine I bought, and I was buying a lot of them (!) had plastic corks. Now sometimes little things can seem particularly annoying. Why? Why plastic corks, what’s wrong with natural cork? Perhaps it’s better that they’re not cutting down the cork trees, I thought, naively. Then I noticed a newspaper article about a campaign by the RSPB (the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

Apparently they had been campaigning for a couple of years. Their website (www.rspb.org) is full of useful information including a report they’d commissioned – ‘the Cork report.’ I discovered that the increased use of plastic could have serious damaging effects on Europe’s natural cork forests in Spain and Portugal.

Many species of birds and animals rely on healthy cork forest for food and shelter and the forests also contribute to the local economies. If the natural cork industry declines, species such as the Booted eagle, black kite and turtle dove could disappear from large areas of Spain and Portugal, along with many other already threatened animals and plants.
Natural cork is a truly sustainable product (since it’s taken from the bark and the trees keep on growing) and its one which benefits people and wildlife. The Iberian cork forests have taken thousands of years to develop but it will take only a few years for them to disappear.

And, unwittingly, I am responsible for increasing the market for plastics and threatening these forests because I am buying the wine! I wrote to the supermarkets not only to challenge the policy of using plastic corks but also to ask for the choice. How can I tell what types of cork are used unless the bottlesare labelled? Since then, M&S at least have taken to labelling their wines in this way, identifying where synthetic corks are used.

As the North American Indian, Chief Sealth, or Seattle as he is now known, is reported to have said in 1854:

The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man does not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

These connections matter. The connections between what we choose to do and the future of life on the planet matter – making connections matter. In future pages we’ll consider the links between our lives and the planet. We’ll talk about our choices and their impacts on others and on the planet,on product life cycles, and much more. We’ll hear how some peoples’ choices really have made a difference and I’ll take you back to that sunny garden reading the wonders of Supernature. Do join me again.


What can we do to make a difference?