I’m fighting climate change imperfectly – which is the only way I know how, really
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Inspired by recent reports on climate change – and, OK, by Leonardo Dicaprio’s Instagram account – I’ve been making an effort to be a bit more eco-friendly lately.
I say a “bit” more. There’s a quote I really like from Anne-Marie Bonneaux, who said this:
We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.
This quote – well, it speaks to me. “Why, I can do zero waste imperfectly!” I thought, excitedly. I mean, I’m already doing everything ELSE in my life imperfectly, so why not this, too?
And so, slowly but… well, slowly… I started my mission to live a greener lifestyle. Eating less meat. Paying more attention to the recycling. Hanging the laundry on the line on a dry day, rather than just sticking it in the drier. And, finally, walking instead of driving, as often as I reasonably can.
Now, to be fair, 7-hour trips to Kent aside, we don’t actually do a huge amount of driving, really. Because we both work from home, and therefore don’t have a daily commute to contend with, our driving is mostly restricted to the weekends… and the nursery run. Which, OK, is pretty much indefensible of us, because Max’s nursery is definitely within walking distance – even for Max’s little legs. We drive it through pure laziness, which, combined with my hatred of cold/wet weather, has always made taking the car feel like the preferable option. For US, obviously.
It’s not, however, the preferable option for the planet, and, with that in mind, last weekend I cheerfully announced my intention to start walking to Max’s nursery to collect him every afternoon, and then walking back home with him.
(We have a system whereby Terry takes Max to nursery, and I collect him, which is why I don’t mention walking TO nursery with him. That one’s on Terry’s conscience.)
“You’ll never do that,” Terry said, as soon as I made my announcement. “You hate walking. And rain. And cold. And Max will hate it, too.”
“Well, I probably won’t do it EVERY day,” I pointed out. “But I don’t need to! Because I’m doing this imperfectly, remember?”
Secretly, though, I was planning to do it PERFECTLY. As in, 100% walking to nursery, no driving EVER. I imagined Max and I cheerfully splashing through the puddles on our way home, both of us wearing bright yellow raincoats that neither of us actually owns. (Note to self: buy raincoats.) Or strolling in the golden autumn light, Max holding my hand and chattering excitedly as he told me about his day, me looking a bit like a younger Nicole Kidman, as I always do in these daydreams of mine. It was going to be ace.
“I don’t want to walk home from nursery!” Max wailed when I told him my plan the next morning. “Please don’t make me!”
I thought for a moment, then hit on an idea.
“What if I bring your bike with me?” I suggested. “And you can ride it all the way home? It’ll be super-fun! And we can stop at the play park on the way! Do we have a deal?”
“No,” said Max. “I hate your deal. I want a new deal.”
But the deal was non-negotiable, as far as I was concerned, so I waved him off to nursery… then switched on my laptop, at which point I realised I couldn’t actually see it properly.
Yup, it was a focal migraine, arriving just in time to cancel my Monday afternoon plans: or, if not CANCEL them, exactly, at least force me to half-ass all of them, as I struggled to function through a fog of headache and nausea. “Maybe the fresh air will help?” I thought doubtfully, opening the front door shortly before nursery pick-up time, and being immediately slapped in the face by the pouring rain that was blown through it.
I know, of course, that some of you reading this will say there is no excuse, and that I should’ve walked to nursery and back in the rain, AND while feeling like I might throw up at any second, and all I can say to you is that you are obviously a far better person than I am. And also part of the reason so many people feel like there’s no point in even TRYING to do their bit to address climate change, because unless you can do it PERFECTLY, there’s no point doing it at all, according to you, right?
But I don’t believe that. And, yes, I took the car to nursery: where Max took one look at me, and immediately burst into inconsolable tears, because I PROMISED I’D BRING HIS BIKE, AND WHERE IS HIS BIKE, OMG, BRING ME THE BIKE! Seriously, it was a full-throttle tantrum, right there at the nursery gates, in the rain. Over the bike he hadn’t wanted to ride home on in the first place.
Max cried about his bike all the way home, and was only vaguely consoled when I promised him repeatedly that I would DEFINITELY bring the bike the next day, and he would DEFINITELY get to ride home on it.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. I did not have a migraine. There really WAS no excuse not to walk to the damn nursery with the bike, so I hauled it out of the shed, where it lives, and DAMN, that thing is heavy. Like, really, REALLY heavy.
Max’s bike, you see, is a retro-style tricycle. It’s not light. I couldn’t just carry it on my back all the way to nursery, say, and I didn’t particularly fancy the idea of having to do the entire walk – and the return journey – bent double in order to push/wheel the thing there, either. So I gave it some thought, and then, going back into the house, I re-emerged with a sturdy leather belt, which I attached to the handlebars of the trike, ready to tow it with me to nursery.
“Look, it’s like a little pet!” I said to Terry, who had decided to join me on my walk: mostly, I think, so he could point out how stupid we looked walking along with a bike on a leash, and no child in sight.
But Max was delighted to see the promised bike waiting for him at the nursery gates. And, yes, he rode it for all of two minutes, before giving up and insisting that we basically just tow him home on it. Uphill, naturally. Both ways.
“Did you enjoy that, Max?” I said brightly, as we finally approached the house again, our epic journey at an end. “Yes,” said Max, doubtfully. “You should have bringed the car, though! You better bring it tomorrow!”
“Told you so!” said Terry, triumphantly, as Max ran into the house. “He’s going to HATE this!”
The next morning, I decided to pre-empt any meltdowns by producing Max’s ‘Baby Loves Green Energy‘ book, and reading it with him. “So, the earth’s blanket is getting too warm,” I finished, earnestly. “And that’s why we need to walk home from nursery instead of taking the car. Do you understand, Max?”
“No!” wailed Max, devastated. “I just want you to bring the caaaaarrrrr.”
Then he threw himself onto the floor and started beating it with his fists. I mean, he better not try to blame my generation for the state of the planet one day, is all I’m saying.
Luckily for me, a quick conversation with my friend Lindsay at lunchtime reminded me of the existence of Pokémon Go, which I had briefly interested Max in during the first lockdown, when we got so bored we were reduced to hunting Pokémon around the house.
“Max!” I said, “I have an idea! Why don’t we search for Pokémon on the way home from nursery?”
Max wasn’t thrilled by this idea, but he grudgingly agreed to it, so, he headed off to nursery, and Terry and I prepared to set out on a quick walk through the forest / weird bit of post-apocalyptic wasteland opposite our house.
Three hours later, we were lost.
As in, properly lost.
As in, you’ll notice that there’s not an actual PATH in this photo, just some weirdly bumpy ground which was filled with nettles and spiderwebs, and if you put your foot in the wrong place, you’d fall down a hole. Then you’d do it again 20 seconds later. So that was fun.
As in, I did not know there was a small lake near my house. No idea. How’d that get there?
As in, this car was probably new when we started this walk. Also, where are we?
Terry would probably like me to point out here that we weren’t really lost, because we had Google Maps on our phones, which we were able to use to navigate. So, we knew where we WERE, but, well, let’s just say this is an area which is several square miles in size, and we spent at least 45 minutes of the three hours we were in it clambering over a particularly swampy/bumpy part of land, while wondering if we’d ever see our loved ones again. In 26 degree heat. Without water.
There were poisonous looking mushrooms. Tons of spider’s webs. Air vents for abandoned mine shafts. (Yes, really.) The sound of a ghost train somewhere in the distance. (OK, NOT really, but it sounded like it, and it would’ve been cool if it had been true, because the exact same thing happened to the Famous Five one time, and I’d love that for us.) The kind of landscape where I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if we’d stumbled upon a spaceship in a clearing, or discovered that we’d somehow slipped into some kind of time loop, in which we eventually discovered that the rusted car was actually the vehicle we’d arrived in, and that we’d been walking for 500 years. Because it sure felt like it.
We finally emerged, blinking and shaking, on a main road outside the town closest to our village, having walked what felt like 101 miles, but which was probably closer to… I dunno, five, maybe? Six? From there, however, it was another 2 miles home, meaning that we arrived at the entrance to our street at exactly the same time I’d normally be leaving it to collect Max from nursery.
“You could just take the car,” said Terry, who has clearly assumed the role of Devil on My Shoulder right now. But I was not going to give in, so he headed home, while I continued on to Max’s nursery, hot, sweaty, covered in scratches from all of the trees and nettles I’d squeezed past, and with a random selection of leaves and other small pieces of vegetation attached to my hair and clothes, which I only discovered once I was back home again. I am KILLING it with the whole “school gate chic” thing, seriously. KILLING. IT.
Anyway, I got to nursery… where Max burst into furious sobs the second he realised I did not have his beloved car with me. GOD.
To be fair, Pokémon Go did occupy him some of the way home, but the rest of the time was spent with him earnestly explaining how much he HATES walking, and LOVES the car. Yes.
His grandparents are collecting him this afternoon, and taking him to their place for a sleepover, so the well-being of the planet is their problem now. Or, at least until Monday, at which point I’ll be setting out once again with my bike-on-a-leash, which Max has grudgingly agreed to give another go, as long as I pull him ALL the way home on it, rather than just SOME of the way home.
I’m not kidding myself that I’m doing something amazing, or making a huge difference, here, obviously: it is, quite literally, the very least I can do. And, even then, I’m doing it imperfectly – as always. But I think this just might be my hill to die on, folks. (Possibly literally, if we decide to go back into them there woods…) Because, I am, quite frankly, terrified by everything I’ve been reading about climate change lately. And I WILL walk to and from nursery, rather than taking the car, as God is my witness.
So, tune in next week for more climate change AND parenting tips: I got ’em all, folks…