air miles

  • I operate a just-in-time supply chain

    Apples packaged in plastic on a supermarket shelf
    (Photo by Ethan Feng)

    It’s called my ‘supermarket-to-kitchen run’. But I hadn’t realised – until I read Dan Hancox’s article in the June issue of Prospect magazine – just how recent and unusual my lifestyle is. 

    Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring!

    We’ve all heard the tales of rationing, and how it lasted into the mid-50s for Britons. But it always felt very far away from a 1980s childhood. 

    Hancox relates how responsibility for food security has been handed to supermarkets by the British government since the 1960s, and in earnest since the 90s. 

    But since the 90s, just-in-time supply chains have become the norm, reducing waste and unused capacity, and allowing us ever cheaper chickens and strawberries whenever we want them.

    Freezers are for losers

    I don’t really do freezers. Like many of my generation, I smirk at 70-somethings with their bursting freezers and their back-up chest freezer in the garage with another years’ supply of Findus crispy pancakes and Quiche Lorraines. 

    Just like Sainsbury’s, my supply chain has about enough capacity to last two days in a crisis. I haven’t even planned for what I’ll eat tomorrow, let alone at the weekend. 

    But I am also completely at ease with the idea that what I will eat might be a poké bowl, or a Greek salad, or perhaps some tuna sashimi. Because growing up in this culture has given me infinite choice. 

    Meat and two veg

    This has shielded me from another uncomfortable truth. I don’t much like the food that actually grows in my country. I’ve often been given pause by Blackadder episodes where Baldrick bangs on about turnips. Turnips! Are they edible?

    I’ve always preferred mezze to Sunday roast. I’ll take calamari over fish’n’chips. I’d rather an olive than a turnip. If I hadn’t lived in this hyper-connected age, what might I have never tasted? 

    While we’re on the subject of food, Fancy a Dinner Share?

  • If we go local do we end up divided?

    To drop in or drop out? (Photo by Karim MANJRA)

    If we all go local, will the walls go up? It’s a paradox I mused on this week when I visited Hay Festival to see the incredible Spell Songs – a musical reimagining of Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris’ The Lost Words – a book that’s spawning its own eco-activist movement. 

    Extinction rebellion!

    Everything right now happens in the shadow of Greta Thunberg – the Swedish teen who is bringing the adults of the world to attention about the crisis of climate change. So, too, Hay Festival. Her presence was everywhere in talks on every environmental subject of importance. 

    No more air miles

    Greta has famously given up on air travel. She visits European leaders by train from Stockholm. Her stance is common. I know many who have limited or abstained from planes, cars and anything that has been brought a long way to reach them. 

    There’s a balancing act here. If we go local enough for long enough, will we simply develop silos? Stop flying. Go offline. Eat food grown within thirty miles of your doorstep. All cool. But limiting. 

    If we all followed through on this for long enough, would we simply reinvent the pre-industrial age? Would foreigners become like fairytale beasts? Would the diversity of the world start to evaporate from our minds? 

    I am an internationalist

    For those who prize internationalism over nativism, climate change offers a tightrope. You wanna do all the right things, but you wanna keep waving to the others over there. You wanna stay connected.

    It’s a sweet irony that climate change offers a rather neat excuse for nativists and protectionists the world over, and yet they are generally ideologically inclined towards denial. 

    The right spells

    What I saw from Spell Songs at Hay Festival was eco activism. It was from-the-gut passion for the natural order of which we are a tiny part. It was a slow-down, do-less mantra. But it was offered by musicians celebrating the coming together of music and culture from around the world. 

    Are you local, or are you global? I am both.  

    When I showed my son The Lost Words, he began making up new ones. Discover some of them in my blog