About a year ago I switched over from using a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo one; one less plastic brush among the 3.6 billion we produce each year. It was, I know, a small, rather pathetic gesture in my fight to save the planet. That, combined with composting, recycling and purchasing most of my clothes second hand, makes up almost the sum total of my war effort.
We are constantly bombarded with disheartening statistics and reports as to just how badly we are doing as custodians of planet earth. Plastic waste, species extinction, deforestation and global weather change are just some of the man-made disasters that are occurring on our watch, and which continue to occur at an ever increasing rate. It is tempting, when exposed to such devastation, to throw our hands up in despair and abandon hope, or action. After all, not all of us can jump onto the Sea Sheppard and defend whales in the Southern Ocean or join an anti-poaching team tracking rhino poachers in some dusty African state.
The people who should be leading this fight are the politicians. They were all, when we elected them, paying loud lip service to the cause. Having wheedled a vote out of us, they invariably seem to move onto other priorities, while the survival of the planet gets kicked into the long grass. One of the great failings of democracy is that it seems to favour short term thinking over long term reality.
Faced with so much political inaction, my pathetic little gestures suddenly don’t seem quite so pathetic, if I can only persuade others to join me. I recently decided to up the ante in the plastic conflict. Concerned at the amount of plastic waste I was generating, I decided to do away with the plastic disposable razors I had been using. Instead, I turned back to the all metal safety razor of my youth. Safety razor, I should point out, is a misnomer that ranks right up there with starfish, which is not a fish at all, and Paris’s Pont Neuf, or new bridge, which is the oldest bridge in the city.
The safety razor is not for the faint hearted. Its use demands the sort of attention to detail that one would expect from a brain surgeon or NASA scientist. Lose focus for just a second and your chin begins to look like you shaved it with a weed whacker. It is, however, made entirely of recyclable parts and therefore poses less threat to our oceans than its more user friendly plastic equivalent. True, your paper usage increases slightly as you try to stem the blood flow with tiny tissue compresses, but I still think the environmental benefits outweigh the losses. I am also hoping that my shaving skills improve with practice.
This might just be one more insignificant step, and it may appear pathetic, but it is a step none the less. It is unlikely that our politicians are going to suddenly awaken from their slumber and recognize what their constant drive towards growth is doing to this planet. For many of us, small, almost insignificant actions are the best we can offer. On its own, each tiny advance may not even cause a ripple. Multiply it a million times and we create a wave. The worst thing we can do, is to do nothing at all.