Thursday, 29 July 2010

Meeting in August - and afterwards

posted by kathy

For many years, Beeston Quakers haven't met together in August. This started because it was hard to organise when many members had young families and it gave the small core of Beeston Quakers, who took responsibility for the Meeting week after week, a chance to enjoy other weekend activities and to attend other Meetings.

The people involved with any Meeting change over the years and so do their needs and commitments. This August we're experimenting. There will be a Sunday Meeting for Worship on the first three Sundays in August (the 1st, 8th and 15th) at 10.30 a.m. (but not on the last two Sundays). Visitors are, as always, welcome.

Meanwhile there's a danger that the Day Centre (properly the Middle Street Resource Centre) where we meet will be closed in the current round of County Council cuts. This won't be a disaster for Beeston Quakers who can move to another building or attend other Meetings. However it presents a serious problem for the people who use the Centre in the week - and they're busy campaigning against it.

The Middle Street Resource Centre is used by people with mental health difficulties - and, judging from what we see at Meeting on Sundays, it's well used. In the time we've been meeting there - 18 years, I think - we've seen the centre grow from a functional institution to a place that is loved and cared for by its users. We've seen and enjoyed the wonderful gardens that have been planted. We've read the notices on the walls and seen the signs of a supportive social life in which the people who come to the centre help and teach one another. We've seen that people do art and creative writing, go on outings together, learn a huge range of subjects. It's a place which people value - and where they feel valued. The centre is a living witness to what we as Quakers recognise as "that of God in every one" - though the users of the centre would probably have different language to describe it. The centre as it is now doesn't feel like a place of difficulty and illness but a place of healing and health.

Visiting the centre on Sundays, we've read the notices and information about mental health on the walls and tables and have become much better informed. Some of us have talked about our own experiences. 1 in 4 of the population have mental health difficulties at some point in their lives - the centre helps people with the kind of problems that everyone encounters in themselves, their families or friends. I've never seen a centre set up to help people that so evidently does a good job.

The county council is proposing to give centre users an individual account so that they can still get help. But this would deprive the users of the support they have now and the network of friendships they have built up. The centre is a sociable place. It feels loved.

The users are campaigning to keep the centre which means so much to them - and to which they have given such care. Readers of this blog may wish to sign their petition. There's a copy in the Oxfam shop on Beeston High Road and you can also sign it on-line, HERE.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Ethical Dilemmas in the Shops

posted by Rhiannon

This theme may be old to many f/Friends, but I am feeling it afresh, spurred on in part by a green issues home group in Leeds and in part by reading about Cat Chapin-Bishop's plastic fast. In seeking to be ethical consumers, how do we make choices?

Here are three considerations - not the whole picture, but enough to get us started.

On the one hand, I believe in social justice, and that movements such as Fairtrade are worth supporting.

On the other hand, I see good reasons to think that we need to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and hence of fossil fuel powered transport, plastic, and other related products.

And in a third corner, sitting behind me because I am reluctant to admit to it, I have a need to look after myself to a certain extent: to feed myself healthy food at a reasonable price, to travel sometimes, to use products which come in plastic packets.

Now let me tell about my local supermarket. It's the cheapest place with the widest selection within a walking distance which is reasonable at my present level of health. They sell, for example, two kinds of bananas: fairly traded bananas in plastic bags, and ordinary bananas which are loose. (Should I be sad or thankful that they don't complicate this further by selling organic bananas?)

Sometimes I want to buy bananas - I like them and they're good for me. I want to buy fairly traded bananas because, well, I want to be fair. However, I don't want to buy a plastic bag. Which kind do I buy?

For bananas, I have developed an arbitrary mechanism. I like my bananas greener than most people do, and it takes me a week to eat a bunch, so I buy the greenest ones. This seems to produce about the same result as if I flipped a coin to choose between the two kinds.

Needless to say, I find this solution intellectually unsatisfying and non-transferable, although it satisfies the hunger better than not buying bananas at all. Almost every food comes with a similar dilemma: all fresh fruit and veg in the shop is a plastic/fair trade/organic/food miles toss up (I'd grow it, but I rent a house which only has a tiny concrete garden). The frozen veg is in plastic, and though it might be brought by boat rather than plane, freezing requires fuel. Putting things in tins takes energy, too. Pasta, rice, many potatoes, and bread all come in plastic, and who knows how far? I'm vegetarian, but milk and cheese come in plastic, possibly a long way; even if I went vegan, the rice milk or soy milk (which might be GM...) would come in a Tetrapak - as does my fruit juice now. I can drink water but I can't swallow tablets with it, and when you take them every day, you get through juice. In any case, water's good but it's hardly full of vitamins and doesn't count as one of your five a day.

Sometimes this makes me want to throw up my hands in horror and give up eating entirely. Other times, it makes me want to move to a smallholding in Wales and try desperately to grow everything for myself. Mostly, I just sigh and feel a bit guilty while I eat my banana - whichever kind it is.

Which bananas would you buy? Why? What buying choices do you struggle with?