At 16.00 Today I Was 19

On Ramsgate beach with Nadira and Cameron, playing with the sand, wondering why I had ever wasted any of my life living in London. Emily is with us but had gone off to buy materials for her A level Art project. Jamie is up in Glasgow organising this year’s Doune The Rabbit Hole Festival. I spoke to him on the phone yesterday. He has taken to bin picking as a lifestyle choice, lifting just date expired sealed food from supermarket bins. I kind of approve in principle, but it is a somewhat alarming thought for a parent.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

19 thoughts on “At 16.00 Today I Was

  • Richard

    Which principle, Craig?

    Living in Portland, OR, in the US where dumpster diving is raised to a civic art — tolerance for degradation being given a progressive mark of honor — I see it as a failure of capitalist democracy and of social imagination by the putative conscience of our system. In Portland, the dumpster lids rattle behind the million dollar condos packed with their Woodstock-honoring, tax-deferred Boomer “green consumers,” soundtrack to social-planning-by-housing-bubble — in short the same brutal laissez-faire of Reaganism burnished in west coast liberal piety. I don’t approve; I despise a society where this practice is necessary or enabled.

  • Deep green puddock.

    In a funny way it is a credit that he is confident enough to get by in that way.
    All on its own it is a very subversive act that most of us are frightened by.

    No doubt though he will have a mobile and, at least access to a laptop, to get by with. (not a criticism-just an observation on the weird way things are now).
    I don't think we can continue to have such a palpably inadequate way of distribution that it creates waste and want on an unprecedented scale in such a fundamentally important life and death aspect of life as the food we eat, and creates the destructive absurdities inherent in such a technologised world.
    Why can't we get relatively simple things as food production right, and why do such complex things as mass communication seem to be an inalienable right. Is this really an inversion of normality? Maybe material technology is relatively more simple than applying the moral rigours that would lead to less harm from inadequate means of survival. Two thousand years of progress?

  • Chris, Glasgow

    The UK term is called "freegan food." To be honest it does highlight the terrible wastage supermarkets create. However, can't imagine that there is a huge amount of choice and I wouldn't be going for any raw meat if I were him.

  • Michael.K

    Previously, when I pretended to be poor, and lived in a charming and colourful slum, we funished our entire flat with funiture salvaged from skips/dumsters. Looking in skips became a kind of hobby. All our televisions come from skips, as does one of our record-players, approximately three hundred l.p.s, two Sony transistor radios, a truly wonderful pair of enormous vintage KEF loudspeakers, lamps, rugs, loads of books; but I do draw the line at food.

    • Clark

      Hey, good score with those KEFs! I found a magnificent librarian's desk made of solid oak. It has five drawers and twelve card-index tray drawers, all constructed with beautiful dovetailing. I attached wheels to it and pushed it home.

  • technicolour

    In fact there is often a huge amount of choice: I have had excellent three course meals, followed by fine real coffee, from skips. Why is it at all odd or threatening to try and reclaim undamaged food (apart from minor bruises to fruit and veg, or crumpled packaging, and sometimes not even that) before it goes to the bloated underbelly of landfill?

  • evgueni

    I'd like to see some proof of supermarket wastage. The inefficiencies of supermaket model have to be compared with realistic alternatives. 0% waste is not realistic, so the question worth asking would be something along the lines of "are 1000 corner shops or 100 co-ops less wasteful of food than a supermarket?" I doubt it.

    There are plenty more serious critisisms that can be levelled at the supermarket model – geographical monopoly, packaging, underhand marketing ploys etc.

    • Deep green puddock.

      I think the waste is different, and the point is arguable but in the past unsold food usually ended up on the plates of the family running the shop, and there was very little waste in a well managed corner shop. I think the issue has a lot to do with packaging. Packaging is both good and bad. It adds greatly to the capacity for movement and resale but also to the demands on the environment, and the nature of the way we work and do business.
      I am intuitively 'sure' that traditional patterns of distribution were much more efficient than they are given credit for, and the much vaunted efficiency of supermarketing is a huge charade based on certain closed systemic assumptions, but it is impossible to make a proper comparison (or at least very complex) to make a comprehensive assessment as it is not like for like comparison.
      It is an undeniable fact however that corner shops and small enterprises grew up in a time of limited energy for transport and local communication, and supermarkets grew out of the cheap plentiful energy and mass communication business paradigm of the mid-late 20th century. This is also true of the agricultural industry. 'methods' are related to politics, resources and technology and it is becoming palpably clear that supermarkets will be unsupportable if there is no resolution of the (declining) energy problem we seem to be in the midst of at the moment.
      At some point , as energy costs rise (and there is no decisive technical change) we will reach a crossover point where small distribution systems will begin to return. Other issues such as food quality are also becoming important.
      Industrial production is horrendously wasteful of 'quality' and subject to 'marketing' , (value adding= price inflation), rather than functionality and best outcome.

      • Clark

        I strongly agree with this. However, I urge you to write "liquid fuel" rather than "energy" in this context in future. There's loads of available energy. The current wars are about fuel in liquid form. When "oil" is mentioned, people supportive of our current lifestyle leap to its defence with proclamations about "electric cars" – always their personal involvement, cars, cars, cars. During the harvest, the moderately sized combine-harvesters used in the UK burn forty litres of liquid fuel per hour. The grain is transported and dried using oil. Fresh fruit and other perishable goods are transported by air-freight. For every calorie in our food, ten calories worth of oil are burnt. And then there's the military, to take and hold the oil fields… These things cannot be run effectively on batteries!

      • evgueni

        I agree in principle but cannot be sure that the reason for thinking along these lines isn't rooted in prejudice against the villain supermarkets and in favour of the local shop. Hence it would be nice to see a back-of-an-envelope calculation based on some known facts.

        In favour of the supermarket is the large scale of operations that makes the sales more predictable and less subject to transient fluctuations. This ought to make it easier to plan. A large scale opearion ought to be better resourced also for identifying waste and dealing with it.

        • deep green puddock

          I certainly am not prejudiced against supermarkets. They are a creation of the time and circumstances, and are as related to the refrigerated truck as anything we think . I might as well be prejudiced against galvanised fence wire.
          It is almost impossible to make a comparison, as both the corner shop and supermarket are catering to a different set of circumstances. If a corner shop exists, it is for a reason-a semi- captive clientele is one reason, and many a corner shop has been operated by people who have been, if anything, more desperately venal and punitive of their customers than any supermarket, which is more detached from human connections. Try VS Naipaul for devastating and (also uplifting) insights into the nature of the small mind of the shop keeper. (A House for Mr Biswas and The Mystic Masseur are brilliant).
          The more apt comparison is the distribution system pre -60's and that post 80's-the advent of the era of the large national chains. Efficiency is a difficult concept besides. Does it mean absolute energy efficiency measured in joules, labour efficiency or organisational efficiency which may have an abstract or complex relationship to joules. There were fantastically refined, efficient organisations pre-60's, taking into account the then technical constraints, but which were trounced commercially by faster movers into innovations, such as refrigeration and packaging.
          At the moment the price of oil is conducive to the food organisational systems we see now, and the real problem will be if oil and energy supply becomes compromised faster than the technology systems can adapt to change. the intervening periiod is likely to be painful. Personally I think we will have to find a way to adapt food distribution as i cannot see how the current system is sustainable in the long term. For instance the food that is grown in Spain has caused depletion of the water resources and as the cost of water rises and other environmental damage, hidden til now, move into the 'cost' column of the business, such businesses will cease to be viable. It will then be more economic to return to local market gardens, a system that was dismantled when the UK joined the EEC.
          Our habits will also change. People under 40 years of age probably don't realise that tomatoes were never seen between October and May on the UK mainland before the mid -70's, and the shops used to have a strangely anomalous thing called a "Scotch tomato".
          I think we are seeing a widespread technology failure at the moment. The EU and the globalisation process is creaking badly, and it looks as if the realities of the laws of thermodynamics, especially the 2nd law, are asserting themselves in some 'not quite understood' way within the political and economic systems.


  • ingo

    I know a chap who has lived like that for over five years, its second nature to him and he is doing a great job in decreasingh the supermarket wastage that is almost criminal.
    If there'll be a law that requires supermarkets to give away food two/one day before expiry dates( the date it is still safe to eat the food, but not necessarilly the max. date) and give it to local institutions, hospitals anyone who 'gurantess to use it within the 24 hour period', then we would have no problem with wastage.

    Jamie, off course, would then have to feed himself at one of his many female admirers, I presume.

    Good luck to him and this years Doune the rabbit hole fair, I wish you well with it.

  • Clark

    My ex girlfriend is a single mother of one daughter. The daughter's school threw out all their PCs, and replaced them, probably via the Tesco "Computers for Schools" voucher scheme. I took a handcart to the skip, and collected assorted parts from which I later built various PC systems. People looked at me aghast, asking me what I wanted such "rubbish" for. But those salvaged computers helped get several young people from poor families through their GCSEs.

    My entire front room is furnished with stuff discarded by other people. I'm writing this on a discarded PC, loaded with a Free/Libre operating system. I build similar computers for other people, not because GNU/Linux cost nothing, but because it's far more secure and reliable than Windows. My clothing comes from charity shops. This ties in with my previous comment on "Tories and Clegg Out-Manouevre Lib Dems on Banking". I spend as little money as I can in the normal shops. I wish to send as little money as possible to the corporate system, as money only encourages them to more of their wasteful, inhumane behaviour. Developing the necessary skills to truly recycle enriches my life, and elevates me above being a mere "consumer".

    In Huxley's in Brave New World the state-produced babies are brainwashed in their cots by a tape – "Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending, we don't like old, broken things, we like new, shiny things…". In our modern world, many parents, too overworked by their corporate employment to engage enough with their children, instead sit them in front of the TV/video, which fills them with the messages of consumerism.

  • Grant

    Every time you mention Cameron I have to do a double talk. This time it was what the hell is he doing on the beach with the Prime Minister LOL

    • Jon

      Trying to push him into the sea, hopefully! (The big Cameron, that is – not the small one).

Comments are closed.