Opinionista Tony Weaver 15 October 2019

A broken gate motor delivers a few mournful electronic beeps – and a lesson in deep ecology

Do we live our daily lives in a way that makes any difference to the climate crisis? And are we individually contributing to or fighting back against the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity?

First published in Die Burger

Our gate motor packed up last week. Gave a few mournful electronic beeps and, like Martin Luther, said: “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

So, I opened the casing, and was confronted by a nest of black button spiders. My first instinct was to kill them, they carry a nasty neurotoxic venom. I took a closer look at the electronics inside the casing and realised it was time to call in the professionals.

I warned the motor man about the button spiders and suggested he might want to clean them out before starting work.

No ways,” he replied, “I’ll work around them. They’re fantastic because they stop the ants and geckos from nesting and those two really mess with the motors.”

The day before, one of our gas cylinders for our hob ran dry. We switched cylinders, and when my wife lit one of the plates, there was an almighty bang and the electric oven was blown a couple of centimetres out of its housing.

Scary stuff. Time to call in the professionals. The gas man came to call and diagnosed a faulty regulator. He pulled the oven out to get to the pipes and several cockroaches went scuttling away.

I’d better put some cockroach traps behind there before we put the oven back,” I said.

No,” he reproached me, “people don’t like cockroaches because they think they’re dirty, but they eat the food scraps that lie around, otherwise they would rot and stink.”

Two deep ecology lessons right there, in one week, from technicians coming to fix some of the modern consumer goods we all rely on.

I mused over these two encounters and pondered whether our family of four was living a lifestyle that vaguely offsets our existence on Earth. Whether we were living in a way that made any difference to the climate crisis. And whether or not we were contributing to or fighting back against the collapse of ecosystems and biodiversity.

So I ran through a mental check-list of our home: solar geyser, tick; rainwater tanks, tick; vegetable garden, tick; compost heap, tick; all reusable waste recycled, tick; indigenous garden, mostly a tick; don’t accept plastic bags at supermarkets, tick; buy local products wherever possible, tick; only burn alien invasive wood in our fireplace, tick; no aircon, tick; swimming pool converted to a natural eco-pool full of plants and wildlife, tick; no rat poison, tick; and chickens for eggs and manure, tick.

Not bad. But then I looked around our house: electric lighting, four laptops, two desktops, printer, flat screen HD TV, dishwasher, washing machine, four cellphones, microwave, two fridges, freezer, vacuum cleaner, five cars (OK, one’s a 28-year-old Land Rover that only gets used for overland expeditions), hairdryer, gate motor, garage door motor, electric lawnmower and a swimming pool pump. All using fossil-fuel and nuclear generated electricity, and several containing rare-earth minerals that were probably strip mined in the rain forests of the Congo.

Developing a conservation consciousness can be tough on the psyche, but when the Earth is facing an existential catastrophe that could mean the end of life as we know it, every action counts. DM

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