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Frogs, baseline readjustment and hope

Fable would have it that if the temperature is raised slowly enough, a frog will sit in a pan of water until it is boiled alive rather than jump out.

Wikipedia tells me this isn’t true – but the principle that we tolerate small incremental changes, which if amassed would cause revolt, certainly is (of humans, if not of frogs).

George Monbiot describes it as “baseline readjustment”; we have slowly got used to the depletion of moths, fish, bees, the dawn chorus, and arguably empathy for the vulnerable, slightly readjusting our expectations each year based on recent experience, rather than that of our youth.

If we notice changes at all, somehow we are convinced that resistance is futile, impractical, or just too expensive to economic growth. We have surrendered our autonomy and the future of our planet to market forces, despite the fact that, collectively, we are those forces. Sometimes it takes a shock to wake the frog from its stupor and make it jump. 

Perhaps it is not inevitable that half our food is imported (as I write, my neighbour is ploughing a field to plant with courgettes at one week’s notice); that what we do grow is almost exclusively picked by imported hands (we have been inundated with applications from UK nationals); that culinary fulfilment is seen as dependent on having the choice of eight types of tomato, 365 days a year (so far almost everyone seems happy with our radically reduced offering).

Rhubarb on the farm
A new dawn for self-sufficiency and cooking from scratch?

Perhaps we can cook for ourselves, from scratch, from what is available, rather than ordering a take-away or ready-meal (UK searches for 'how to cook' are up 3,600 per cent). Perhaps we might spend more of our huge wealth on looking after the vulnerable (there seems to be a growing acceptance that businesses should serve rather than exploit).

Despite the suffering and tragedy, one silver lining of coronavirus must be this undeniable proof that we are not the boiled frogs of the fable. We do have control over our destiny; we are not eight billion heartless, mindless consumers, just waiting to be cooked alive.

If we can mount this response to one global crisis, perhaps we will finally realise that we can do better over climate breakdown, which will kill many more, and offer no chance of recovery.

Rather than readjusting each year to an incrementally crueller, uglier planet, we could take a collective pride in finding collective solutions. I think we might need to rid ourselves of Trump first, though.


matt zasso

10 Months 3 Weeks

Get rid of Trump if you want but what about the obnoxious President of China and the communist regime he fronts that punished the doctor who first broadcast the severity of the Wuhan virus and required him to retract his warnings? I suggest we rid ourselves of Xi Jinping and his repressive, corrupt regime first and then Trump can go in the mop up operation.

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10 Months 3 Weeks

At least the Chinese are making some attempts to deal with climate change. Not denying that it exists and that it and Covid 19 are just Democrat plots to stop him getting re-elected.

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Mark Bevis

10 Months 3 Weeks

It wouldn't really matter who you got rid of - behind Trump there is Pense, who actually believes in the Rapture. Get rid of Boris and you have the Hancocks, Prithi Patels, Ian Duncan Smiths, Demonic Cummings of the world, all ready to pursue unlimited economic growth on a finite planet backed up by racism and eugenics, with a growth that is only aimed at benefitng the already extremely wealthy.

We have to get rid of a complete way of thinking that generates such psycopaths in the first place. The measurement of society by GDP alone must be abolished, and ultimately, making money from money abolished. There was a reason the main religions used to ban interest (usury) and Islam still doesn as far as I know.

We have to develop a sustainable sharing economy, if we are to have "economy" at all, and do it soon. Otherwise, as Covid-19 is already showing, it will be forced upon us by Mother Nature in the random, brutal fashion we are seeing. If you think this one is bad, wait unitl Covid-20 or -21 or whatever. Science papers releases last month show there are another 10,000-600,000 of these diseases just waiting the wings and the happenchance to cross over to humans, now that their normal animal/bird hosts are being forced into extinction by human destruction of wild places.

No, until we get rid of all ideologies that require unlimited economic growth on a finite planet, it won't matter who leads us.

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10 Months 3 Weeks

Well said. Hit it on the head. Unlimited economic growth on a finite planet.

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10 Months 2 Weeks

I agree with you.

(I really just wanted to "like" your comment; thought I could hit the heart icon to the left but nothing happens. So, what's it for?)

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Comments Editor

10 Months 2 Weeks

Thanks for raising that - it just shows the number of replies next to it rather than acting as a 'like' button but I will pass your feedback on.

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10 Months 3 Weeks

Why has this degenerated into a futile argument about who is worse - Trump or China. We are all to blame for this with our extravagant and wasteful lifestyles. We are also the solution. We all need to lead more sustainable lives and live them with love and not hate and anger.

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C’est moi

10 Months 3 Weeks

Yes Jennifer I agree it’s down to each one of us to make changes and live life consciously without pointing fingers 👍🏽 Well done for your comment! There is hope!

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10 Months 2 Weeks

I have a copy of a UK government document in front of me.
133 pages of A4.
The report is called'Prosperity without growth?' with a sub-title of: 'The transition to a sustainable economy'.
Author; Sustainable Development Commission, which ceased March 2011.

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10 Months 2 Weeks

The report was dated March 2009

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Guy Singh-Watson

Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 80,000 customers a week. Tired of meetings, brands and the assumption that greed is our predominant motivation, Guy converted the business to employee ownership in 2018, using the proceeds to buy a small farm and return to growing organic vegetables. In common with many of Riverford’s new co-owners, Guy is an advocate of using business to shape a part of the world, however small, to be kinder, more considerate and sustainable; more like the world most of us want to live in.  His weekly newsletters connect people to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.


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