A little off the beaten path for tourists in London is the Imperial War Museum. It’s still a quick tube ride from the central part of the city and it is just a two stops away from the always tasty Borough Market. Plus, depending on the line you take you will get to stop at the Elephant & Castle station. I think that name is just smashing.
The museum has all the usual exhibits that glorify the British Empire—one quarter of the world’s landmass, one quarter of the world’s population, the sun never sets on the British Empire, etc.—through World War I and II with a small, yet quite impactful, exhibit on the Holocaust. However, the part of the museum that I found most interesting dealt with the home front during World War II.
The home front usually gets short shrift in any analysis of a war effort. World War II in Britain was a little different because the horrors of war made it across the English Channel in German raids on London and other cities. Children were shipped to the countryside where it was deemed safer and Londoners huddled in shelters as bombs or rockets rained down. With a stiff upper lip, so to speak, the nation kept calm and carried on.
My daughter and I probably spent close to an hour in the home front exhibition looking at the types of food that were available or not available and why or the measures taken by households to conserve materials in order to supply troops. The impression that my ten year old daughter was left with was how little a house could make do with if it had to. Her seven year old brother, naturally, loved the display of World War I grenades.
As we face an uncertain climate in the coming decades and the attendant consequences of that climate change we may be forced into a situation where our everyday begins to resemble the home front during an armed global conflagration.
Victory is in the Kitchen
It is my belief that we can make some of the biggest impacts from the comfort of our homes and the center of our homes is the kitchen. It is the place where my family spends the most time together and it is probably where I spend the most time teaching my children. Some parents play catch or go on hikes, I teach my kids how to dice onions, mince garlic, deglaze pans, and build flavors.
Change starts at home. The food we choose to make and eat forms the core of our value system as self-described environmentalists. If you are not trying to be a better human in the kitchen you might as well stop sweating the other stuff.
Food: Don’t Waste It
In the United States it is estimated that 30 to 40% of food goes to waste. Given the impact of agriculture on climate change this is unacceptable. Furthermore, given that in this age of abundance when we are dealing with diseases of over consumption, e.g. obesity related illnesses, there are still millions of people that go hungry every day.
Make Do and Mend
Repair is the forgotten action that we can take to conserve. Almost everything, save for our homes and automobiles, is basically disposable in modern capitalist economies. Even big ticket items like appliances are seen as disposable, which blows my mind. Here’s the thing, repairing stuff has never been easier. The internet is literally chock a block full of people posting repair instructions, wiring diagrams, parts lists, etc. that can help even the least handy of us repair many of the items we once viewed as disposable.
Can I do Without It?
Is there a better question to ask yourself about any purchase that you make? The most environmentally conscious purchase is usually one that we do not make. Sure, there are the obvious wins like replacing high usage light bulbs with the most efficient LED bulbs or replacing a fifteen year old refrigerator with a more efficient model. However, many of the “green” purchases we make are just adding consumption to the system that is destroying our planet. It may be made of organic cotton, but do you really need another t-shirt?
Self-Indulgence at This Time is Helping the Enemy
I just love how direct some of the messaging was during World War II. This poster is basically saying, “Don’t be a dick, we’re fighting a war here.” How many of our problems, with regard to climate change, could be solved if people were just somewhat less self-indulgent? I will let you stew on that thought for now.