Itchy fingers

Friday October 13, 2006

When we were at IKEA yesterday we stocked up on low-energy light bulbs and today we did one small bit for the environment by going right round the house and replacing every single old-fashioned light bulb with a new 11 watt low energy one. Looking at the wattage of the ones we replaced, I calculate a 75 percent saving on our future lighting bills. The new bulbs have an expected life time of ten years against the one year typical life time of the old ones so there’s a saving there, too, though not so easy to calculate.

Yes, it’s a small bit, and I know the arguments about the greater manufacturing cost of the new bulbs over the old ones. Even so, I have also seen it estimated that if everyone in the Kingdom did the same we’d be saving the equivalent output of three nuclear generating plants. It’s the spirit of the individual effort that matters, seems to me, rather than the individual impact. We need to relearn the lesson of the widow’s mite, though even here the simple message is so often clouded by sour arguments on its meaning.

Thinking of the small things we can do as individuals to improve the state of our world I’m drawn to the question of the tragedy unfolding in Darfur, and across Africa. The spectre of Famine is stalking the land once more and it’s the little people there that are suffering. As always. Here again, it’s not a simple question, being a mix of climate, politics and human greed. Poverty at the individual level is simple enough, though, and it’s heart-breaking to see children dying for want of a little food, clean water and basic medication.

What to do as an individual? Easy:

  • If everyone in the wealthier countries were to forgo one cup of boughten coffee on each shopping expedition, or one burger, and set the cash aside to send to the aid agencies the question of starvation and poverty would be solved immediately. If we keep on doing it the solution will be permanent.
  • The question of the politics isn’t so easy, though the solution is simple enough for the individual. Come election time, and at every point of contact with our political leaders, ask them one simple direct question: “What are you going to do to end world poverty?” If the response isn’t satisfactory, tell them so, simply and firmly, to their face, and add that they are not going to get your vote. If we all did that and kept doing it then a solution would be found, and implemented, so fast you wouldn’t believe.

Ach! That’s quite enough on do-gooding for me, for a long, long time.

We were not all goody-goody in our IKEA purchases, of course. Walking through the prints and pictures section of the market hall I spotted a piece of modern art that smacked me right in the eye. I pointed it out to Graham and he grabbed it without a moment’s hesitation. This is a house that cries out for modern art.


Our new picture
print on canvas, 46.5″ x 36.5″


When we got it home the debate started, and continues. Should it go over the sofa in the living room or over my desk in the study? I prefer the former but Graham’s leaning to the latter.

“Well,” I said. “You paid for it and you’ll be the one wielding the hammer and the picture hook. I’ll be happy just to have it in the house, wherever it may hang.”

Oh, but I do like it, though. It’s so very close to what I was beginning to aim for when I put my brushes and paints aside in the last house, ready for the move. My fingers itch every time I see it.


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