by AJ Place
‘And so this is Christmas and what have we done…’ As we see out the decade, John Lennon’s words reflect the pensive mood; we are reaping what was sown.
A smoky haze shrouds the sun, exposing a festering, stinky mess lurking in the shadows. Farmers battle the distressing effects of a crippling drought, climate change lurches into emergency mode, multiple failures in animal welfare shock, the chasm between the have and have-nots swells, spirits are shattered by the deficit of humanity in our country’s treatment of asylum seekers and the catastrophic fires just keep burning. These crushing issues are linked by bad decisions, misplaced trust and a failure in our checks and balances of compassion and action, for what sits outside our direct vision. We have spent so long looking in; we forgot or failed to look out. It’s not feeling very jolly.
There’s division between generations; the caustic smugness of ‘OK boomer’, pitted against the dreary scolding of millennials with diatribes around laziness and claims of greedily accessing the convenience of single use items, plastics and disposable technology, while complaining about the state of the climate. The self righteous narrative of ‘being on the right side of history’; dogmatic conviction that your opinion is static and will always be the right one, despite history actually showing time and again that beliefs are fluid and humans are fundamentally contrary beasts. We learn, our views shift and we modify.
It’s all pretty pointless, this snarky finger pointing and blaming; all generations are impacted and all have to make changes. No matter your age, we are all subject to the consequences and hold accountability to listen, respond and adapt to doing it differently. It is clear; this can’t go on.
It often seems a waste of time to think individuals can make any real impact on the environment or treatment of others, when compared to the inaction and impudence of squabbling world leaders. The changes have to be big scale; the science must be acknowledged. In the meantime, many of us wonder if our reusable coffee cups, compost bins, attempts to reduce our household waste, rejecting plastic and single use items and being mindful of the resources we use, makes any real difference, or of it is just a feel good attempt to reduce our guilt.
I don’t know; it’s complex, scary and very confronting.
The sands are shifting. It may seem negligible but there is a growing sense of change afoot; leaning away from amassing stuff and towards awareness of impact and sharing the spoils. A demand for transparency, in the origin of clothing and textiles, what proportion of the end price paid for produce returns to the grower, where super funds are investing, the treatment of the land, forests and animals in the industrial, racing, food and beauty product chains and the carbon footprint of big business, are informing where consumers spend their dollars. These are, of course, choices and decisions made from positions of privilege, which should amplify responsibility.
Increasingly, the season of giving is being embraced as a time to source gifts through charities or donate to the vulnerable in our community, the lonely or isolated, those who are experiencing homelessness, animal welfare groups, voluntary emergency services or local and international aid organisations. Various businesses set up donation posts for food, essentials and gift items for people facing less fortunate circumstances.
Bendigo Bank’s Seddon Community Branch is collecting donations of women’s essential products for Share the Dignity, http://www.sharethedignity.com.au/ , up to December 6th. They are also a drop off point for West Welcome Wagon’s Christmas Toy Drive. This volunteer group ‘provides aid and support for asylum seekers in Melbourne’s west’. After December 4th, contact via https://www.westwelcomewagon.org.au/ to arrange a donation.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in Footscray, through their Foodbank, ‘provides groceries to more than 800 people every week, many who rely on the Foodbank as their only source of food as they have no work rights and no income’. Donations can be made at nominated collection points around Melbourne, directly delivered to their centre in Footscray or by shopping online via the link on their website: https://www.asrc.org.au/, where a list of specific food items can also be found. They are running a Christmas Food Drive aimed at work places, groups, friends etc getting together to donate food items to support refugees and people seeking asylum.
Adversity can and has brought out the good, kind and generous. In the midst of terrible, devastating loss of property, animals and life during the bushfires, communities have rallied around each other to offer comfort and support. Stories of immense bravery and generosity have trickled through.
Heartbreaking reports of the decimation of koala populations within the fire zones have been accompanied by an unprecedented outpouring of donations to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, enabling them to not only care for fire affected koalas but also increase the resources they have to provide water stations for wildlife and hopefully establish a koala breeding program. Given the devastation of their habitat, it will take years and dedication for the area to recover.
For many, the festive season won’t feel very festive. It won’t bring rain or fix the stinking mess we’ve found ourselves in but it will bring the opportunity to look out, and use our individual power to act with kindness and goodwill towards others. Going into this next decade, it is our new dawn; our collective eyes are opening and we know we can do better. It is the little things, they do count; small actions lead onto bigger conversations.