Pamela Nowicka asks the question whether living greener makes life worse? Does doing things differently mean losing the things we enjoy? Or can it give huge benefits?
As responsible adults who’ve done our bit for society, working, bringing up kids, paying taxes, sometimes it’s possible to feel that we don’t need to do any more.
We’ve got a condo, an income, some stocks and bonds which are performing pretty reasonably. Some of us are working, some are carers, some are retired.
And isn’t it easy to think: well, let someone else do that ‘green/eco’ thing? If you’re working hard inside or outside the home; if you’ve paid your societal dues and are now reaping the rewards of a company pension, why on earth be bothered? Perhaps you do a bit of recycling (or would do if there were facilities, but there aren’t so you don’t); perhaps you avoid the odd plastic bag?
Or maybe you think (like hundreds of millions of others) what can one person do? Until the politicians sort things out, no-one’s going to change. And in the meantime, my life is pretty comfy. All that green/eco stuff. It’s just not my problem.
But does living greener make life worse? Does doing things differently mean losing the things we enjoy? Or can it give huge benefits?
The main thing about being green is that it’s a lifestyle, not a purchase or an action. Bottom up, top down. Integral to our existence.
For example, I have a huge garden. After I’d been in the house for a few weeks the grass was knee high. I paid someone RM50 to cut it. Noisy. Using up petrol. Not particularly effective. There must be a better way. I had a bit of a moan to a neighbour. The next thing I knew, she’d presented me with a scythe.
I must admit, that in London, I have had little (ok, no) experience of scything. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was missing. Until you have had the satisfaction of hacking away through knee high swathes of grass, your clothes wringing wet with sweat as it drips off your nose and onto the ground, I can honestly say, you haven’t lived.
Not just a workout, but an upper body workout! For the bingo wings! Free! And you’re saving money twice. Once by not paying someone to make noise, pollute the environment, use fossil fuels and be fairly ineffective. And once by not having to pay additional gym or personal trainer fees. Talk about a result. Not to mention the biophilia benefits of stress reduction and emotional upliftment triggered by being in a natural environment.
Two Wheels Good
Then there’s cycling. In London I cycled everywhere, work, play, fun. It’s relatively straightforward and I know the quiet routes. I must admit, though, that even to a committed cyclist of the two wheels good, four wheels bad, variety, cycling out of Tanjung Bungah has taken some building up to.
Unlike many places, with cycle lanes and routes, cycle priority lights and traffic calming measures, the roads out of Tanjung Bungah provide similar options.
Slalom of Death
The Slalom of Death is marked by red and white stripes along the bendy motorway like road, with no pavement, slalom like twists and turns and no cycle lane. The few cyclists (and pedestrians) who decide to gamble with their lives on this stretch of road face stiff competition from hurtling cars, scooters, buses, motor bikes and lorries whose drivers/riders seem blissfully unaware (like the guy in a grey Merc this morning, who shot past so close that I actually gasped with shock) that a few inches clearance are terrifying when it’s several tonnes of speeding steel versus the relative fragility of an unprotected human body.
The Pretty Way
I made it to Straits Quay, then decided to investigate a different route back. By a bit of exploring, easy on a bike, I discovered a beautiful park I’d never have found otherwise. A gorgeous lagoon with two seaside temples. And a stretch of beach with sand like powder snow.
The views were incredible: vistas of grey clouds and sea slapping on rocks; locals splashing, swimming and walking, and the pleasure of finding this natural beauty on my doorstep, where I had no idea it was there, just by a bit of pedaling. The Pretty Way. Priceless.
Four Wheels Bad
In a car you simply wouldn’t find these places. If you tried, you’d struggle to park. If you parked you might get a ticket. And what about fitness? I always find it a little strange that people pay good money to join a gym, and good money for a car and petrol, and drive to the gym, like they haven’t figured out that most journeys are less than 4km long.
The majority of trips made in cars are easily walkable or cyclable. And if more people embraced these healthy forms of transport, what would be the result? Fitter, calmer happier people. Fitter, calmer happier kids. Neighbourhoods where, if you see a friend on the other side of the road, you don’t wave weakly across six lanes of speeding metal.
Oh, and ‘the environment’. You’d be able to enjoy the lagoons and the sea views, little nooks and crannies of interest, as you re-energised yourself breathing in the fresh salty air and thanking God you were alive.
Get out of your car, get on a bike. Have some fun. Get fit and stay healthy. You know it makes sense.
Green Guru, Pamela Nowicka, is a journalist and blogger. Catch up with the latest from her at Go Green Penang on Facebook.