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Byron Shire
October 4, 2022

Climate crisis in a nutshell

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Yesterday I was retrieving an almond I dropped on the floor. I used this as an opportunity to practice Uttanasana (forward bend) to keep my yoga teacher happy.

I wondered in amazement that I could put my full palm on the floor with my legs unbent in my dotage.

Well, unbent in a Possum Shoot Road kind of bent way.

David Heilpern is a retired NSW Magistrate having sat in regional and rural NSW for over 20 years. He is an Adjunct and Practice Professor at Southern Cross University, and is Director of “Drive Change” an organisation dedicated to law reform in the area of drug driving, with particular emphasis on prescribed cannabis patients.

Anyway, as I grasped the almond I had a flash of realisation that this almond, this single nut, symbolised all that was wrong with the world in the lead up to the Glasgow Climate Summit.

To understand the connection, know these few things: A few years ago I won a soy/nut/grain milk maker appliance.

They are all the rage in Asia. Almond milk is a big thing in my household.

My favourite ratio for milk is 100g of almonds, to 1 litre of water. Once the pulp is removed, that equates to around five per cent almonds. And before you criticise, remember how utterly inappropriate and privileged it is to use ‘my body my choice’, and ‘no segregation’ in the vegan/carnivore/no-dairy divide as well.

So, it costs me around $30 a kilo for organic almonds. And I love Santos and The Source and believe in shopping locally, so sometimes I lash out and buy from them which is, *cough* somewhat dearer.

So, the almonds cost me at least $3 a litre to make my milk. I use filtered water for the milk, use some electricity for the appliance, then use washing water and elbow grease to clean the appliance.

I pour it into glass bottles I have to clean. There is pulp leftover, and I could use it for cakes and stuff but, lazily, I rarely do.

The chickens adore it.

Imagine my disgust when I walk down the aisle at the supermarket, and there in the fake milk section is organic almond milk in a pretty Tetrapak for $2 a litre and sometimes even less.

I have to shield my eyes from this abomination.

This week on Amazon there is organic almond milk for $1.55, delivered free all the way to my actual door! Traitorous bastards!

How is it possible that my almond milk home-made sans packaging costs much more that the supermarket or mail order equivalent?

Tetrapaks are made from several layers of wood, plastic and aluminium, with a plastic lid and glue and printing and transported to where they are filled with almonds and water and emulsifier and minerals, stabilisers and sugars, and then the Tetrapaks are put in a printed cardboard box and all the cardboard boxes are cling wrapped and put onto a pallet.

The wood for the pallet is grown in South America, the aluminium comes from Africa, the plastic is made in Asia and the printing inks from Europe. And then, once filled, the boxes of Tetrapaks are transported to my supermarket by train and truck and then stacked on shelves by my neighbour’s daughter and lit and air conditioned until I deny my inner Earth-mother and buy it and take it home.

Then there is all the energy used to dispose of the whole thing, which is supposedly recyclable, but I reckon just ends up underneath new suburbs on the Gold Coast called something eye-twitching, like ‘Advancetown’, once transported there from Myocum tip.

So I tried to work out the food miles in all of that, but maths is not my strong point – one of my many childhood humiliations was when, during primary school my teacher asked me in front of the class ‘If you have twelve apples, and give your friend six, what do you have?’ I answered ‘A better friend’. So, let’s just say the quantum of food miles must be in the squillions.

Looking at the almond on the floor I had dropped while making almond milk I realised that this is the reason for climate change. It is easier and cheaper to use all that energy and packaging and transportation and crap than it is for me to just make it myself. And much as I hate to admit to this out-loud, they actually taste pretty much the same.

How is it possible that we have got to this point of human existence? Surely this is not just about bulk buying. Is it because we have somehow priced environmental destruction so cheaply, or the raw materials so expensively? Probably both. But this has to stop. Apart from anything else there is the joy of making liquid from solids, of using my prize – what’s the point of winning something otherwise – of saving calves and their mothers from separation anxiety, and of knowing that I have done the right thing, even though no-body knows about it (knew about it). Tree, fall, forest, Bruce Cockburn.

So when I can finally manage to stand up straight after my way-too-long pose, I pledge to send my almond to the Queen, because I know she cares. And I’m asking her to take it with her to Glasgow and hold it high in her un-handbagged mitt and eat it in front of the world’s cameras and explain that this simple little single-seeded fruit is the symbol of all we need to change.

Gracefully and seamlessly, at least in my own mind, I transition from Uttanassana to Prasarita Padottanasana (so concave!), and thence to Tadassana (Me Mountain). I realise I’ve dropped the almond again. I’m so sore from my forward bend it’s hands and knees for now. Bugger the planet, I’m buying the Tetrapak next time. The nut-milk maker is in the shed. I’ll donate what I save to Greenpeace.

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  1. David, sorry to crash your party but the Queen will not be in Glasgow to do your Almond request. Perhaps a change of venue can be arranged as she is, for the next couple of weeks , on desk duties.

  2. Yep – as we all (should) know – it’s much bigger than ‘just’ reducing carbon emissions… yet our glorious leaders can’t even manage to get their heads around that, let alone everything else we need to get prioritised!

  3. Comment … so allow my comment. The reason the supermarket milk is half the price is mass production (a swan winging). If everyone made their own almond milk the squillion miles would be double (crouched tiger). Send your almond to the Queen, in an aeroplane presumably. Or buy the milk off the shelf and give your savings to your favourite public relations machine (snapping turtle).

  4. Having said that I have to add: I appreciate the argument, because it is an argument with some interesting detail, and process, as one would expect from a magistrate. Most environmentalist/alternative/Marxist commentators just state some absolute truth because someone else has. Mr Heilpern sets out an argument based on some research and logical thought. I’m not convinced but I’ve had to think twice or thrice. And I may be wrong (alerted deer).

  5. This concept of high costs of raw materials in Australia in particular is nothing new…two issues that come to mind immediately is the gauging of locals, ( costs more, and has for 50 years+, example BHP price for raw iron higher than buying finished steel products from USA per KG), and secondly, volume and efficiency of scale, it is more costly to buy a small portion of a natural product, ship, market, store, etc than load bulk into a truck, process it do that storage and distribution keeps it palatable (not as healthy)…and profitable. It is extremely unlikely the major cost of any raw material is the material itself but the costs in getting it sold, scale matters here…if we did not buy the processed version out of convenience, the raw materials may be cheaper due to lower demand. We are the drivers…but not likely to change direction!

  6. That looks more like a long court judgement than a “nutshell” David. Here’s a nutshell version: Humans are almost universally too greedy to give up their lifestyles, even when faced with the fact that they are threatening their own existence living them, so they are destroying the ability of the planet to maintain a livable biosphere for them. Some want to talk about it, but generally only to blame others, not to discuss how to change, so this process solves nothing, just driving people apart when they need to come together to respond and need to be less selfish in their expectations of maintaining the lifestyles that threaten our existence.

  7. I did not get past this sentence.
    “Yesterday I was retrieving an almond I dropped on the floor.”
    Why would you drop on the floor in retrieving an almond?


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