Asking the Elephants

My first thought on entering the small wood not far from my 7 year-old granddaughter’s backyard was, “I’d love to sleep under these trees.” That was in summer when the ground was warm underneath our feet.

A few months later, during lockdown, my granddaughter asked, “Would you come camping with me in the woods”?

I began to answer with my usual stalling tactics: “I’ll have to think about it … I can’t decide now… I’ll get back to you” but she must have been ready for me and said something which I can’t remember now, but resulted in me saying “Yes!” But saying “Yes” wasn’t enough. I had to say “I promise” and then I had to agree, “if I break my promise…” but that’s another story.

True to her word, my granddaughter organised everything, so I just had to arrive at the tent in time for sleep. She wasn’t able to organize the weather though, it was very cold and very wet. But there was no turning back, I had made my promise.

It was dark inside the tent. Everything had to be battened down in the tent to keep out the rain and wind. We had a torch for emergency, but it wasn’t suitable to read by, so my granddaughter asked me to tell her a goodnight story.

We got to the end of the first story when a bright light flashed into the tent. I could tell by the feel of my granddaughter’s body that she was relaxing and getting close to sleep, so I tried not to worry about the light and told her another story and before long, she was fast asleep.

I felt myself dozing off when another light followed by the loud noise of motor vehicles – followed by more lights and the sound of more motor vehicles, one followed by another and another… It was continuous. It felt like I was lying on the side of a busy highway! “How could this be? It was lockdown. We were camping in a small wood. We lived in a rural area with a small population.” I finally fell into an uneasy sleep.

During the next day, I thought more about it. We live in a food producing area. A lot of the transport would be taking food out of the area. We are in an area that links through to other areas as well, so there will be a lot of food and other supplies coming through this area as well.

From the perspective of the Transition Monday proposal I can see how it might not be possible to have a break from using fossil fuels on Mondays. However on Mondays it is possible to take time while we still have it to:

  1. Understand the current situation: particularly to what extent we currently rely on global supply chains (with cheap and abundant fossil-fuel energy) to meet basic needs, such as for food.
  2. Understand the challenges: such as when these global supply chains break down, as is already happening in many places in the world.
  3. Understand the new possibilities: if we can only use this time to create a safety net, so people can be supported to connect more effectively locally, to meet basic needs

We suggest it could be easier, more effective, and even enjoyable, if we could only start asking important Elephant in the Room questions, like “Where does our food come from?” And, “How can we manage to feed local populations if there’s a problem with global supply chains?” And, “What can we do now, on Monday, each Monday, to get these important conversations going?”

It’s now mid-winter and my granddaughter wants me to go camping with her again. This time she’d like to travel to the location by bike. I said “yes, but you need to find somewhere suitable, not too far away, where I don’t hear the traffic.” I don’t want to be reminded of those elephants in the tent 🙂

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