The cost of being green
Many people want to look after the environment. They are trying to eat food that does not come at a big cost to the environment. This includes eating less meat and more fresh vegetables. But it is not always easy for people with a disability to look after the environment. Many people have to put their own health ahead of the planet.
Posted by: Nyx Mathews, on 26/08/10
More people are considering the effect of what we eat on the environment
More and more people are now trying to consider the effect of what they eat on the environment. Important steps to sustainability are widely publicised. They include eating organic foods that are produced locally. We are also told to eat less meat, less frozen food, and more fresh produce that is in season.
It all sounds pretty easy, right? But when you add in a disability, eating to sustain yourself and the environment gets more complex.
Many people with a disability are not able to shop any further afield than their local supermarket. Others do not have the regular computer access needed to order groceries online. Some people also have to have dietary supplements that are imported from overseas to ensure their health.
As a result of such constraints, eating sustainably might be more difficult for many people with a disability. But I don’t think we should assume that having a disability and being environmentally aware are mutually exclusive. Instead, I think we need to re-examine and update ideas on what constitutes sustainability. We also need to think about how we can be more sustainable while living with the realities of a disability.
I don’t believe sustainability is an exclusively environmental issue. I think it’s a human one as well. Environmental impact should be measured in the positive as well as negative effects we have on the world. The current cultural obsession is on people’s carbon footprints. It's hard not to feel guilty when you have to do things like:
- Drive to work
- Buy something new and environmentally costly in order to communicate effectively or maintain a network of relationships
- Purchase food pre-packaged.
It would be easy to allow guilt to loom large for those of us who require more resources than most people to sustain a reasonable standard of living. But your own well-being should be put before that of the planet.
Consumption in context
It is important to view our consumption in context. Fuelling our bodies so we can build relationships or just make it out of the house is important. It enables something vital for both the individual and the society around them. Without adequate resources you cannot function. If you cannot function, you certainly cannot contribute.
The rhetoric of carbon footprints and sustainability fails to take into account the differing needs of people. It does not include those of us who do not meet western cultural standards of what is “able”. I worry when someone with a disability is made to feel guilt about requiring more resources than somebody without a disability. I think part of this guilt is grounded in a belief that people with a disability are not so much differently-capable as incapable. This belief suggests that what we can contribute is not worth the cost given the resources we need.
I do not believe this is true. Part of my active resistance begins in the supermarket and my internet connection bill. I do not take these resources lightly. But I have come to realise that without them I would be stripped entirely of my ability to make a substantial contribution to the community. I believe that what I have to contribute is worth the cost.
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