Thursday, 7 October 2010


Hello Internet, it has been a very long time. I'm not sure whether to be sorry about that or not, but by way of an excuse, it probably has something to do with spending my working days with words.

I promised a friend very early this year (or very late last year) that I would do another of my New Year's lists, and well, better late than never.

I decided on only two resolutions this year, but important ones. They both stem from the same belief - that you can't change the world, but you can change how you live in it. Maybe I'm just getting Kantian as I grow older, but I've decided that you can't really judge most actions by their possible results - you really just need to think about what is the most ethical way to live and hope that everyone else does the same. It can get a bit overwhelming, because trying to do the right thing can feel like a drop in the ocean, but I've decided that opting out on those grounds is really more of a cop-out. How can you hold theoretical beliefs on what we all should do, if you're not willing to see them through yourself? How can you benefit so much from your place in the world when you're not willing to give a little thought to what you should do with it? And look, I can't be perfect, but I can try and make the world I live in a tiny bit better, instead of a tiny bit worse. Maybe this is all an exercise in pointlesslness, but at least it's something.

1. Reduce my greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in 2010.

Honestly - I really don't understand why we're still arguing about climate change. Every single single scientific institution of international standing agrees that climate change is occurring, and that we have caused it. Yeah, there are individual deniers, but you know what? I'm going to go with the scientists on this one.

(Incidentally, it makes me utterly rageful when I talk to someone about this and they say something like 'yeah, that's what they say, but why was this winter so cold then?'. Right. Well that proves it then. Please directly pass 'Go' and collect your PhD in Climate Science.)

Now, if that's the case, we should be doing something about it, right? I've gotten pretty disheartened by leaders who don't do the right thing, and people who are wilfully ignorant because it's more convenient. So I'm doing what I can.

Which is this - reducing my my emissions by 10%. This is a manageable amount, and an appropriate amount if we want to continue inhabiting this planet.

You can read more here and here.

(As another aside - I kind of love this quote from the last link above, about politicans arguing about climate change and doing nothing: 'Unless there is a radical change of plan ... world leaders will not only be discussing the alignment of deckchairs on the Titanic, but hotly disputing whose deckchairs they really are and who has the responsibility for moving them. Fascinating as this argument may be, it does nothing to alter the course of the liner.')

2. Give a proportion of my income to help fight poverty

I've thought about this for a while, and I've just never gotten around to it. Inexcusable really, but now's the time. And it's not even that hard when you think about. What good reasons are there for not sharing your relative wealth with those who can't even afford to eat?

And then I read Peter Singer's views on it all, and as ever, the man convinced me. He's just so damned logical! Did you know that extreme poverty could literally be wiped out if the top 10% of U.S. earners gave a proportion of their wealth away? That is freaking ridiculous. It would be a significant proportion for sure, but still small enough that they could continue living in the lap of elegant luxury. They wouldn't have to give up their yachts or anything.

And if that's true, then if all of the world's 'regularly' well-off people (i.e. those that can spare the cash for a coffee every day) gave a very small proportion of their income, then we could achieve the same result. Extreme poverty is literally a fixable problem.

For me, this means giving away about 1% of my income. That is extraordinarly do-able!

You can read more about it all here and here (and it is very interesting too).


Perhaps there is an ulterior motive for me writing this all on the Internet. One further conclusion that I've come to recently is that it's important to challenge people's beliefs if you think something is important. I find this really difficult to do - I was brought up to be polite, never to imply that someone might be wrong, to believe that it's ok for people to have their own opinions, regardless of how misguided they may be. Well, I'm not so sure about that any more. I will never aim to be rude to people, and it sure can be hard to talk people out of their comfortable bubbles; however, I've also come to the conclusion that it's really not okay to ignore dangerous thoughts, just out of a fear of being thought 'impolite'.

So here you go, Internet, friends. These are things I think are important. I would really like it if you would have a serious think about them, maybe read the articles I've linked to, and consider making my resolutions yours too. And you know what? They're easy things. Cutting 10% of your emissions might be as simple as turning off all your blinking electronics at the powerpoint when you're not using them. And 1% of your income? You won't even notice it, and you might like the warm fuzzy feeling.

End proselytising.


Just two resolutions? Did I say two? umm...well (surprise surprise) there's actually a few more than that. I can't think of them all off the top of my head, but here's a few for posterity:
  • wear a wider range of my clothes - stop wearing the same three outfits because they're comfortable and no-one sees you most of the time anyway, while lots of lovely clothes languish in the wardrobe because they're too dressy or too wacky
  • start running again (again)
  • become a mostly vegetarian (again)
  • cook at least one new dish per week
  • visit Sydney
  • be more pro-active about wordsmithing.
Hmm. Can't think of any more. I'm sure there are more. I might update this list at a later stage.


Review of last year's resolutions:

1. Play music - find an orchestra, join a band...whatever. Don't let it slide more. 90%
I joined a band or two and did a bit of teaching. Tick. Now working on actually practising.

2. Watch 1 French film per week 10%
Yeah. I maybe managed 5 French films. Lame.

3. Improve my skills in a visual art (perhaps take a drawing class?) 30%
I took a class or two, no drawing classes.

4. Become a morning person (get out of bed) 5%
I begin to wonder if this will ever happen. Actually I watched this documentary about how more people have heart attacks in the morning, so maybe I should hope it doesn't.

5. Get back to running - 5k before my birthday 20%
Well, this patently didn't happen before the deadline. But I have started again, so that's something.

6. Write one short story per month 0%
Strike out. I did do a bunch of voluntary and fun non-fiction though, so not a total loss I guess.

7. Be more pro-active about being social 55%
I did make a bunch of new friends last year, though I'm not sure being pro-active had much to do with it.

8. Learn to drive a manual car (REALLY this year) 60%
This is another one where the deadline got me. I have started, though.

9. More books/less screens 55%
There are still too many screens, however, there are also more books.

10. Continue to take photos as if i were not in my hometown 55%
I kept this up for a while, and then lost momentum. Time to start again.

11. Continue to cultivate an independent sense of style (even though it's harder here) 12%
Yeah. It's harder here.

12. Become a mostly-vegetarian 70%
I did pretty well on this one, fell off the wagon, and now I'm mostly back on it again.

13. Strike 'should' from my vocabulary 30%
Honestly, mostly I forget. But I think this might be one of those ones where just thinking about it is half the importance.

14. Begin learning another language (Japanese?) 0%
Strike two.

15. Limit my usage of the word 'awesome' to only those situations which truly warrant it. 51%
See item #13.

Average score: 29.53%.
Let's be honest - this is not great. But funnily enough, 2009 turned out to be another one of those years where heaps of life-changing stuff happened. I moved (more than) a few times, got a new job (the first step in a career I'm actually interested in), got a new boyfriend, saved up enough to buy a sweet sweet ride (and one or two other beautiful investement-y items). So in light of the context, maybe 29-odd-% is not so bad. And looking at that list 18 months later reminds me of a few things I might like to have another crack at. So I think I'm ok with it.

And since it is nearly the end of 2010, how am I doing with this year's list? Well. Really? Pretty abysmal. Which is totally unacceptable and inexcusable, since I set myself Important yet Achievable goals this year. Still, there is time to work it. And I have always been a bit of a last minute girl.

Resolution #1 - well, I'm in a rather inflexible living situation at the moment, and I'm pretty conscientious about emissions wastefulness already, so this is proving a challenge. I'm sure the re-vegetarianism is helping, and I am growing my own veggie garden. Maybe I have already made 10%, but I feel in my guts that I should be trying harder. I think the best thing I could do would be to start riding a bike, but honestly - I'm really scared I will fall off and badly hurt myself. This is a painfully true but still crap excuse. Time to try harder! It is lovely weather! Get it together, Emily!

Resolution #2 - I started off trying to put aside a little each week, but somehow it kept getting sucked into bills etc. I am getting a goodly tax return though, so this will be done in a week or so. I am not giving myself a tick yet, because it should not have taken me so long to get around to it; however, I am confident it will indeed happen and soon. The challenge will be to plan better for next year.

As for the other resolutions, well, I'm not doing so good in general honestly. I am doing a lot of stock-taking right now anyway - I am not feeling very happy and I feel that I am stagnating. Having gotten closer to figuring out what I do want, I have gotten too good at convincing myself that it is unattainable, to the point that I don't even try any more. It is time to start making plans again, and more importantly, taking action again. This applies to the small things as well as the big ones, but mainly to the big ones. I have an abiding fear of realising at age 80 that I've wasted my life, but I seem to be doing a good job of letting that fear push me in the direction of making it a reality. Time to wake up!

Gosh. 2000 words. How is it that I can dribble on about navel-gazing, but writing about something that people might actually be interested in still feels like the words are my teeth and I am pulling at them?

This is not a very exciting place to end, but this is it I suppose. I wonder if this will be the end of this blog altogether?

Just in case here is a picture. This is all of the drinks I tried from the Asian grocer in 2009: