Green Drinks at Josephine’s Mill (20 June 2011)

Posted on June 24, 2011

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Green Drinks at Josephine’s Mill (20 June 2011)

Invited by Peter Becker, a strong social character in the local environmental awareness arena, I knew this event would be one worth attending. Plus, the name sounded so cool. ‘Green Drinks,’ I muttered under my breath and I boarded the train headed for Newlands, imagining food dye and large, glass goblets.

It turned out the evening would consist of 3 lectures, each focusing on how different aspects of lifestyle would look in a post-petroleum age. There was a good turnout, around 50 guests I reckon, and the talk was entirely free. There was soup and alcoholic beverages available for a donation.
We were all there to envision a world without oil. Scary, I know, but worth thinking about if you ask me, from a pragmatic point of view, as well as a sort of fun sci-fi ideology.

Peter gave a short introduction, reminding us all that oil is in fact becoming a scarce commodity on our earth and it’s going to be very relevant soon that we start making changes to our lifestyles, either before or when we are forced to. No one can deny oil prices have risen exponentially in the recent years.

Firstly there was a talk on how the art world would be affected, then a chat about the future food industry and lastly how people of the future will perhaps travel.

What we were told about art after petroleum:
We were told that future artists will be forced to use local materials, as travelling will become inefficient and expensive – thus having to use what is easily available and abundant in their local community. It is interesting to think how most artists at present are ignorant as to where their materials come from and how they are made. Future artists will have to find local alternatives, the speaker pointed out. She mentions natural materials such as plant dyes and paints made from ground stones. When it comes to art materials made from natural and available resources, there will also be less emphasis on money and so bartering will be encouraged, which will done in close proximity. Materials will be shared found or made.
She points out that there will be more land art such as labyrinths, as well as an upsurge of performance art. Artworks that must be moved large distances will have to be small so they can easily be transported by bicycle or similar. Bigger art pieces will have to be site-based and the artist will have to travel to the exact place to install it. Art will become more purely for the enjoyment, as an expression rather than  a commodity.

So after the art talk I’m feeling enthusiastic about the future. I was especially excited about the slide she showed featuring a large wheel-like press that left its fish pattern marks in wet sand. So future art sounded great. Now what about food?

At this point Natalie Reid of Earth Shine (a raw food company ) gets up. I had already dabbled a bit in this new food fad of ‘raw food’. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, although it was difficult to imagine my diet consisting purely of it.

Firstly, she points out the obvious fact that cooking in oil will become an exstinct practise. My mind flashes to french fries, a dish I’ve never been too mad about. Okidoke, I think, still smiling. Plastic packaging will also stop, she continues, I nod. Very good.
Wheat is an inefficient thing to grow, she begins to explain. My smile droops. No more bread?
She goes on to say that a space as large as can provide all the vegetables a family needs annually would only be able to yield 68 loafs a year if it was replaced with wheat.
Natalie tells the crowd that in this post-petroleum reality our diet will consist mostly of micro greens, as these are efficient in space and provide good energy to the human body if consumed. Sea vegetables will also become big too, she says, as they are more edible than you’d think as well as being a good garden fertiliser. She envisions us using the common UK trend of allotments. ‘Sharing of resources and surplus will become fundamental,’ she adds.
‘And I believe we will finally begin to understand nutrition.’ She suggests we began scouring the local beaches for the aforementioned sea vegetables, armed with a good reference book.

Just before the talk on post-petroleum transport begins, the crowd enjoys a good banter, touching on subjects like ‘Super-foods’. ‘No one has ever been able to give me a good definition of the term ‘‘super foods,’ Peter quips. ‘Except ‘very expensive.’ We all enjoy a good laugh, and it becomes obvious this crowd has been researching lifestyle alternatives for quite while already.

The transport of the future: a talk by Andrew of BEN (bicycle empowerment and network)

He begins his lecture by telling us the in the last 130 years the motor car has caused 100 million deaths, not counting the oil wars. He also claims that cars have divided communities. He says that the biggest challenge BEN face is changing people’s behavioural patterns.
Andrew believes that bicycles encourage a sense of community. His dream is to start making bicycles locally, instead of having to buy them in from places like Shanghai.
At the moment BEN visits schools raising awareness about ethical and environmentally friendly transport, namely the bicycle. He says most people object to using a bicycle as a normal means of transport because they fear their safety. Andrew says the answer to this is bicycle riders in critical mass, like the reality of the Netherlands, where 20 million people have bikes. ‘All people aspire to sex, money, power and speed – and bicycles bring you all of these,’ Andrew cracks jokes, but you can see he is serious about what he does.
BEN plans to hold more bicycle events, open bicycle empowerment centres and get safe bike lanes made throughout Cape Town. I ask if there will still be trains in this future. ‘Yes,’ Andrew answers. ‘But they’ll be pedal-powered.’
We discuss bicycle stigma ( rich white elitist using them for competitive sport) and how hard it is to find a nice normal bicycle locally. (‘They could only offer me a mountain bike or a racing bike,’ Peter says.)

I leave with a sense of nostalgia and panic. However uncomfortable, I still believe the future is worth thinking about, and there is no denying there will come a time when petroleum will be too expensive or simply completely dried up. Of course nobody knows for sure when this will be, and who can say how our lifestyles will really change. But we do know things are going to have to change, and whether this is for the better or worse is entirely up to us. So lets keep talking and drinking ‘green’.

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