Don’t blame the footprint

Posted: April 23, 2012 in climate change, environment, pollution
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Roughseasinthemed has drawn my attention to the FOE of Gib, here http://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/earth-day-in-gib/#comment-2070.
FoE Gib is also publicising the idea of ‘handprint’ which is:

based around the idea that concentrating on our carbon footprint is a negative idea that cannot motivate people and in fact only serves to de-motivate us into thinking we can’t do anything to help the earth or to change it. On the other hand, the idea of a ‘handprint’ reverses this notion and wants us to focus on the positive we can and maybe already do.

I would say that perhaps the way we are beaten with Carbon Footprint can be seen as negative. That is how the message is presented instead of presenting the footprint as a signpost, part of the solution and a gentler way of thinking about life. Personally I think footprint is a term that is more expressive of the way we treat the planet, the damage we do and the mark each of us leaves on the earth without meaning to.

A handprint is a smudge, a dirty transient mark on the paintwork. A handprint is an ancient piece of artwork deliberately created or manufactured. None of this is contrary to the message that we must behave more responsibly.

However, the idea of footprint more accurately, for me conveys the idea. It is the unthinking, natural and unavoidable. The only time I think about making footprints is when we have a fresh fall of snow, or walking on a beach for the joy of watching the water wash them away.  Few people think about their feet until they ache, something goes wrong with them. Footprints are unimportant, transitory, unlike the rock painting above. And yet …

The Uskmouth footprints and others just like them show what an effect a single human can have on the planet even in those unthinking moments. These are not the prints I was looking for. Channel 4’s Time Team did a programme where they found a family group’s footprints in the mud. Even the tiniest child was visible. The weight, height, probable age and the fact that the child was running and playing could be discerned from the footprint. It is the unthinking acts that cause the damage to our earth. I do not believe many people take a conscious decision to drive, they just do because they always do. We buy prepackaged supermarket products, not because we WANT the packaging, it is easy and we don’t need to think. We can shop and text and chat at the same time.

Uskmouth footprints (Newport).
(Click to enlarge)
Uskmouth footprints (Newport).

This trail of human footprints is one of three found at Uskmouth that head out towards the sea. Scientific study has revealed that the man who left these prints had a shoe size equivalent to modern UK size 8 (European 42, USA 8.5). He stood about 1.70m tall (5.5 feet), and the way his big toe splays outwards indicates that he was accustomed to walking without shoes.

The footprints have been preserved because very soon after he took his walk a period of hot dry weather baked the mud on which he trod. This mud was then gradually covered over by a layer of peat. Recent erosion in the Severn Estuary has resulted in the exposure of these footprints again, some 6,250 years after this Mesolithic man walked towards the sea.

Thanks to the Museum of Wales found here

http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/rhagor/article/1962/

more about ancient footprints here

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090226-oldest-footprints.html

Sorry FOE Gib, footprint for me. It is the casual unthinking more intimate and revealing damage that needs to be stopped, it is the way the argument, idea that is presented that is the problem. The handprint is artful, can be manipulated and presented as the artist wishes it to be seen. The footprint is honest has no sides, it is just there.

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Comments
  1. Gah!!!! Bashes head with fists. You have exposed my unintentional sloppiness on my original post. It’s not an FoE Gib original, they are promoting the idea of some Harvard guy but I was too idle to write that thinking no-one would be interested in a post on Earth Day anyway! I’m going to have to edit it now as am feeling guilty. Trust a lawyer/copper/whatever.

    The only problem with the ‘carbon footprint’ concept is the negativity and the fact that it is totally linked to energy consumption. A more sophisticated message of ‘what we leave behind us’ – illustrated beautifully by those photos (doesn’t enlarge btw) – would have given people the idea they could contribute to the future rather than rapping them over the knuckles for jumping in their Hummer. Too late now. New message and new PR people needed!

    • Oh Harvard, that’ll be why the idea is flawed then. See what does wealth and a good education get you in the states. An inability to think further than the next sound bite and a desire to dream up some crass gobledegook (I did spell check that but …) that doesn’t bear examination by a by a 2:1 from that finest of educational establishments, Ealing College Of Higher Education.

      Not that it matters, I enjoyed the thoughts the Hooray from Harvard precipitated. :0

    • Don’t know why, but the links don’t work either, if you can be faffed to cut and paste you can see a bigger image of the footprints ,

      Of course if we just drop carbon, use footprint, I am sure the PR people, if they gave a toss, would be able to work their miracles. Sadly I don’t think that will happen and they will end up, like the rest of us, living some post apocalyptic style life where life expectancy dwindles due to poor living conditions. What did Fraser say, ‘We’re all dooomed!’ Not that I expect you to have watched that particular comedic gem.

  2. The links don’t work because you can’t just post them on their own – unlike comments, you need to ‘link’ them to a word, so either use here, or something relevant, copy and then hit on link on the toolbar and paste into the pop-up that appears.

    I was thinking it was porridge, but it’s dad’s army! We’re all dooooooomed, doooomeed, in that scottish (?) accent. I liked dad’s army 🙂

    Life expectancy is already changing. My parents died at a younger age than their mothers. Older than their fathers, but neither reached 80. Too much meat? smoking? drinking? Not enough aerobic type exercise? Who knows? Not me but my Spanish neighbours are well turned 80 so that has to be a lifestyle issue.

    • I’ll try the linky thing, thanks. My mother in law had a house in France, the old farmer lived to a grand age, his wife, who was in her 70’s when I knew her, looked 50 ish, slim, agile, bright as a button and georgeous grey eyes in a leather tan skin. He smoked Gitanes she did all the cooking. Food from the farm (yes even the meat) but unadulterated with all the chemical mush.

      • When you get time the latest journo one has a couple of linkies. The only other way to do it is to write the text as you did, then highlight it, and click on link etc etc – unless you can the do <a href= html stuff yourself. Which is hardly as difficult as growing quinoa.

        I remember the inconsiderate MIL chucking the palais Francaise 😦 Adelina has lovely hazely green eyes. Can't read which may explain why her eyesight is so good.

        It is beyond me why people want to eat chemicals. Oh, must write about the quorn ocean fish pie I bought the other day!!

      • Sounds lovely but I’m allergic to quorn.

        Time to ‘fes’ up. I know I should know Adelina?

        I like forward to the post.

  3. Vicky says:

    Sorry to side track away from the meaning of your post, but I find the story about those footprints totally mesmerising.

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