Terrifying Chickens, Green Dreams.

There’s a green festival at the Other place, and they do a plenty of musical dreaming up the road, but what’s especially dear to the hearts of many Worthing folk is the future of the planet and questions of how we can support sustainability. This was the 3rd Green Dreams festival, where a very motley crew of organisations, activists and local businesses gathered to offer activities, information and opportunities to interact – with donkeys, chickens, trees, eco-materials and, of course, each other.  A proper description would run to thousands of words and a full roll-call of participants would be a deadly list: look it up to find out more. Here are some of our favourites (without implying favouritism).

Transition Town Worthing was taking the opportunity to publicise their latest initiative: a repair cafe. We all now think about recycling and re-using, but perhaps we don’t always realise how much scope there is for repairing. It – sadly – often feels easier to throw away and buy new than it is to mend something. The repair cafe helps us jump this hurdle and steps into the gaps in our practice, our skills and our equipment by offering a space where we can bring broken stuff and meet volunteers who have the expertise and the equipment to help us save money and save waste by doing repairs.

Ferring Country Centre talked to us about the work they do in supporting adults with learning disabilities to be part of a working farm. Keep Lancing Lovely impressed – and shocked – us with their statistics on how much rubbish (much of it plastic) they clean up from the beach. They also offered bargain join-up fees: only a quid! We’d already heard tales of good effects to be had on hayfever by long-term eating of local honey and were happy to be able to buy a Tarring jar from Worthing Beekeepers, an expanding network open to novices, and with several new hives up and running. Food pioneers promised savoury coastal foraged delicacies – no need to go to Cornwall. The vast basket of bright and comfy cloth on display was part of the cloth nappy library – saving money, passing on expertise, while offering parents a social and support network too.

Just when we were lulled into peaceful and bucolic mode by all this, petting the donkeys and admiring the handiwork from Men in Sheds, a terrifying interlude … Sustainable Sussex / The Sussex Chilli farm was showing plump handsome chickens.  As we clucked and cooed over them, a volunteer filled us in on chicken behaviour.  “They’re carnivorous and quite vicious, actually.  If you go in to feed them with an open wound on your leg, they’ll have it.  And they chase and fight each other really violently.”  As she multiplied chicken horror stories (too bloody for this blog, my dears), she explained that chickens come from velociraptors.  Stunned by these revelations, we stumbled off to the comfort offered by Vice Puddings.

Green Dreams and its community-rooted initiatives feel several planets away from high-profile lifestyle blogging, from classy ethical fashion or from neo-Buddhist (and other) inspired self-cultivation movements, but they do share something. This is a realisation that change starts with us. With me. With you.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR – expecting big producers to address sustainability issues in their products) has been called out over and over – for hiding dirty practice along the way in the supply chain and for willfully engaging in greenwashing. This problem is so widespread and well-known by now that even the marketing sector is telling business to wake up. Without waste-shaming baby-boomers, millenials may have a head start here. Research is telling us that this generation is urgently seeking change, has different values from its predecessors and is ready to live differently in pursuit of those values.

These days, to want to step towards sustainable and green living, you don’t have to be part of neo-indigeneity or of longstanding spiritual visions for ethical stewardship of a sacred earth, and there’s absolutely no need to go hug trees or chant to Gaia if you don’t want to. We just have to feel ready to stop the endless cycle of want-and-waste that has not been making any of us happy since it began. And we can start local.

Published by Caroline

After 30 years as an academic anthropologist doing ethnography in India and the Gulf, Caroline now avoids airports and spends a lot of time walking, cycling or quad skating around for conversations and stories in their adopted home of Worthing. Caroline writes, coaches postgrads, and does public sector consultancy work and project evaluation, using creative research methods.

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