Isabel’s 3rd birthday

We celebrated Isabel’s third birthday at our friends house in the Hague last weekend. They have a nearly three year old too and the girls got on very well, which was so sweet to see. Also the Hague is lovely (although way more cars than I was expecting for a place which has such great cycling facilities) and walking on the very windy beach helped clear out all the cobwebs!

This will probably be my last post for a while, as today is my final day with both girls in childcare before 6 weeks of summer holidays begin….I wish that fact did not fill me with quite so much dread, but it is going to be quite intense I think, especially with this heat wave/heat dome thing coming up. Good luck getting through it, and I’ll be back in September!

It’s not the lights, it’s the flights..

I don’t know how much of it is wilful ignorance and how much is actual ignorance, but many people I know are in complete denial about how bad flying is. They are the kind of people who would say they ‘believe’ in climate change and want to do their bit for the environment, but will happily brag about how many flights they’ve been on.

We actually had this conversation with one of my husbands friends who came to visit us from the UK recently and it was just incredible. Obviously the UK is an island and yes that makes it harder to get anywhere else without flying (thankfully he did take the Eurostar to visit us) but the sheer gratuitousness of the number of flights was shocking, and left me speechless. Travelling seems to have become this game of one up man-ship totally disconnected from the reality in which we are living and the harms that it causes.

We’re at the point where we can’t just do the small things like turn off the lights when we are not using them and recycle, we need to do big, actual lifestyle change type things like changing the way we travel.

It’s not the lights, it’s the flights

The Stay Grounded organisation has loads of great facts on the climate impact of aviation, and this image from them sums up why flying is incompatible with meeting climate targets in any kind of equitable way:

Source: Stay Grounded Network Twitter

If you are rich enough to fly frequently, luckily you are also rich enough to choose where you live and organise your life in such a way that you don’t have to (i.e. it’s not necessary for your job, or to see your family or to escape grimy living conditions). And not flying doesn’t mean not travelling! The Man in Seat 61 has great tips on how to travel by train to just about anywhere!

Heatwave

On June 18th 2022 there was a heatwave in Brussels and temperatures reached 34 degrees Celsius (they over 40 degrees in parts of France and Spain).

This is our families version of the typical fun in the sun* front page news photograph VS the unphotographable night time heat stress made worse by plane noise:

*Fun in the sun lasted approximately 30 minutes before the girls had had enough in the paddling pool and we had to spend the afternoon inside hiding from the sun.

Change our relationship to TIME

In my last blog post I wrote about how I always feel like I don’t have enough time to act on the climate crisis because of the daily grind of our parenting routine. I think our whole relationship with time needs to change to tackle the problems we are facing, which in turn requires an over haul of all our routines.

We need to SLOW down and move to a four day working week so people have more time to take care of themselves and others, and can travel more slowly and reduce the amount they consume and waste by instead repairing and mending and maintaining and repurposing the things they already have:

We need to switch to an energy system powered almost entirely by renewables and instead of that energy system trying to match supply to demand, have our demand match the supply as it fluctuates with the weather:

We need to adapt to the changes that have already happened (more extreme weather fluctuations, increased heat waves during summer, a global pandemic etc) and change school timetables and daylight savings time and adopt more flexible schedules depending on the weather:

How do we get from the time we have now that is hurtling us to disaster to a time which is slower but also less repetitive, less able to be pinned down to fixed routines? Unless we do it deliberately we’re going to be forced into it as fewer and fewer people are healthy enough to work and more and more areas and populations are hit by extreme weather events and everything grinds to a halt.

Parenting in a climate crisis

I’ve just finished reading Britt Wray’s book ‘Generation Dread‘ on how to cope with the emotions that knowledge of the climate crisis stirs up, and how to channel them into action without burning out. I highly recommend reading it, especially as a follow on from Matt Winnings book Hot Mess which somehow manages to be a very funny overview of the facts on climate change, and so is a good review/primer before then finding out how to deal with knowing said facts in Generation Dread.

In both books the authors write about their internal debates and fears as to whether or not to have children given what they know about our current state of climate emergency. I struggled similarly when trying to decide whether or not to have a second child and I wrote about it here. Ultimately, (SPOILER ALERT) both the authors and I did decide to go ahead and I don’t regret my decision, but despite obviously feeling terribly invested in their future (and mine for that matter) and wanting to fight for it and do what I can to make it a good one, I’m mainly just being hit by a bus when it comes to our daily routine:

Ok, so it’s not everyday that Isabel has to stay home from creche, and sometimes like today when she’s well and I’m on top of the housework I do have some time to myself to draw and write, but with Covid now in the mix parenting has just gotten tougher.

Even with me not working and being on hand to look after the kids when they are ill or when there are school or creche closures, with the daily grind of parenting the only thing I have energy for is blearily watching an hour of TV before heading to bed. I feel too overwhelmed to fight for systemic change and go any further than we already have to change our lifestyle and routine to cut our carbon footprint (see my blog post here where I quite enthusiastically made lists of all the next steps we need to make that 6 months later I haven’t yet managed to put into action).

At the same with the double whammy of long covid and climate change to worry about when it comes to thinking about the VERY NEAR future I find it’s getting harder to keep my feelings about both crises’ under wraps:

Which in turn is making it harder to NOT act, and not start screaming when someone tells me about the summer holiday flights they have planned. Someone near to our daughter’s creche has bought a massive pick up truck and every time I walk past it I am fighting the urge to puncture its tires.

I feel paralyzed knowing all the huge changes I need to make to my life at the same time as dealing with the kids and not having very much time at all to deal with anything. It feels so urgent to act and yet the immediate problems of what to make for dinner that both kids will eat, and how much washing there is to do always take precedence. I also know having read Generation Dread that I need to set up a climate coffee morning or talk to somebody about the anxiety I feel about the future and process the grief I have for the things we are losing everyday that goes by that we don’t act (biodiversity, summer temperatures that aren’t stifling, the possibility of grandchildren) and not just rant on here, but aargh that also feels like pressure on time I don’t have!

I hope the authors are managing better than I am and are able to continue their work in climate with a small child in the mix.

Center Parcs

In May we went to Center Parcs in De Haan, Belgium for the long weekend and it was quite possibly the worst holiday we’ve ever been on.

To start with I got the dates of our trip wrong, so we spent the entirety of Thursday morning packing up the car while the girls got steadily grouchier and grouchier, only to realise when I double checked our booking just as we were about to leave that it was for the 27th of May and not the 26th. So then we had to un-pack most of the car and deal with everyone’s tantrums about not being able to go to the beach that afternoon, only to then have to repack the car the next morning. Once we arrived on Friday Isabel started behaving strangely – biting and pushing her sister, bursting into tears at the smallest thing, and she spiked a fever that evening. Hugo came down with whatever she had and also felt feverish (though fortunately he didn’t start biting), so neither of them could go in the water park that was pretty much the raison d’etre for having a holiday at Centre Parcs. He did a covid test which was negative, and Sarah and I were well, so she and I had an hour on the water slides on the Saturday and Sunday (we didn’t want to spend too long as Hugo was struggling to look after Isabel whilst they were both ill) and we were both pretty happy about that (although not whilst on the wild water ride which was terrifying), but basically the only time in the three day holiday that everyone was happy at the same was for a ten minute period on a hired giant car/bicycle thing that we rode round the holiday park. By the time we got home on Monday Hugo and I were both absolutely exhausted from the non-stop packing/re-packing/un-packing and screaming children, and questioning the entire point of holidays.

Center Parcs De Haan May 2022

The Home Edit

At the end of April I binged watched the entirety of The Home Edit on Netflix and reorganised the house. Which yes, was therapeutic, but also raised some questions about the things we need to keep:

Home Edit

While I was doing this I was reading ‘Time for Things: Labour, Leisure and the rise of Mass Consumption’ by Dr Stephen D. Rosenberg which endeavours to explain why we choose consumption over leisure time. It was interesting reading his theory as to how: ‘during the 20th century workers began to construe consumer goods as stores of potential free time to rationalize the exchange of their labour for a wage. For example, when a worker exchanges his labour for an automobile, he acquires a duration of free activity that can be held in reserve, counterbalancing the unfree activity represented by work.’ (Good reads review ) and during the same period watch the Home Edit and see how unbelievably happy people are to have their things organised and arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way so they can get more (potential at least) use out of them.

I don’t know what Dr Rosenberg would think about the show and whether or not it would inspire him to organise his cupboards, but I think it helps reinforce his theory. The goal of the Home Edit company and show is in no way to get clients to consume less, even though you would think this is quite an obviously achievable goal once you have organised your home so that your things are easily accessible and arranged attractively to make you want to use them, and so you can see what it is that is actually missing so you don’t buy something you already have, and yet they never mention it as an outcome.

What they want seems to be for you to be able to consume ‘better’ without creating clutter and give you the satisfaction of being able to value your consumption more highly once it is beautifully organised (as it has more use value or potential free activity associated with it per Dr Rosenberg’s theory).

Obviously they have products to sell and would be out of a job if people stopped buying things that then need organising, but the entwined climate and biodiversity crisis we are rushing headlong into due in large part to mass consumerism are going to put them out of a job too, so I think they could go in an explicitly environmental direction with their home edits and get people to reduce their consumption through being organised and knowing what they have and appreciating it and mending it. They could also reduce the amount of organisational products they use in clients homes to display their items and instead recycle old packaging material and use as much as possible containers the clients already have. Which is what I tried to do when I home edited our house:

I do feel quite satisfied having done this reorganisation, and I do appreciate the things that we have more, but then again I’ve never been a big shopper and I’ve become even less of one despite now having more disposable income. Maybe this is because for the past 9 years I haven’t done any paid work (my husband works and I look after the kids) and I actually have had quite a bit of free time, so I don’t feel that impulse that Dr Rosenberg describes to consume?

‘Materialist consumerism- the felt urgency, compulsion even, to spend earnings on things-makes more sense if the point of spending is to fill a deficit (of free life activity) incurred through waged labour and made up for through commodity accumulation’. (Dr Stephen D. Rosenberg)

How can this self-destructive impulse be reduced in our society? In the book Dr Rosenberg concludes that:

‘What would need to be in place for patterns of work, free time, and consumption to be more attuned to human welfare? Part of the answer surely has to do with making consumption and work matters of explicit public deliberation, about alternatives that are very often incommensurable’.

Maybe this public deliberation will come about with the current awful cost of living crisis? Or will enough of us still be able to individually shop until we all drop?

‘..the dynamism of consumer demand, which is so crucial to industrial capitalism, rest on peculiar aspects of capitalisms normative structure- namely the notion of the possibility of objective commensuration between wage and work, and the privacy of the criterion that determines whether or no consumers have ultimately made the two commensurate through their particular spending decisions.’ (Dr Stephen D. Rosenberg)

I really recommend the book, and I think it has big implications for the Degrowth movement and for campaigns for shorter working weeks, like the 4-day week campaign.

Easter 2022

I haven’t painted or written anything in a long time now because at the end of February our youngest daughter got very ill with some horrendous gastro bug and had to spend 3 nights in hospital on a drip, and then ten days after getting out of hospital for that she slipped in the playground and did something to her foot. According to the x-ray it wasn’t broken but it was bad enough that she refused to walk on it and so the emergency doctors decided to put her in a cast for a week to let it heal. All this meant she was off creche for weeks, and we didn’t know if we were going to have to cancel our first family trip back to the UK in nearly 2 years to wait for her foot to heal and/or because the P&O ferry we were booked on from Zeebrugge to Hull was probably not going to be running… In the end we did decide to go, with a toddler who even with the cast off still refused to walk and on a DFDS ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle instead.

I’m glad we did, it was really nice to catch up with family and some old friends, and about five days into the holiday Isabel decided she could walk again which was such a relief. Also, thankfully, we managed to get away without catching or having to make any changes to our plans because of Covid. However, cousin James having chickenpox did thwart our original itinerary of staying with my brother and his family (one can never escape all plagues when children are involved).

Holiday cartoon Easter 2022

We’ve now been back home for a few weeks and I don’t know what’s wrong with me (long covid without knowing I’ve had covid in the first place?), but I’ve been really struggling to find inspiration and motivation to draw anything else beyond this holiday cartoon. Instead I’ve been maniacally reorganizing the house after binge watching ‘The Home Edit’ on Netflix. Now our house is organized to within an inch of it’s life I really have no excuses not to get back to cartooning, so fingers crossed next week this fug of brain fatigue will lift and some flash of creativity will hit me!