Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The City of Light (and sugar)

All this reading about George Washington and visiting WWII museums has been making me think about sugar. I usually take one teaspoon in my tea, and I’m up to about three cups a day, so that’s quite a bit of sugar. I was contemplating this commodity this morning as the kettle at work boiled, how we as a modern society take it totally for granted that we will have sugar on our tables. White sugar, refined sugar, but the crystally stuff we have grown up with. We had to learn that honey, maple syrup, and the like were perfectly acceptable substitutes for tea.

The reason I was thinking about sugar was because I want to go to Paris for a weekend, and the Eurostar has a deal where I can get tikkies for about 80 pounds. easyJet, on the other hand, has tickets for about 20 pounds. Round-trip. I’m not a huge fan of flying, I’d rather take the train, which is also better for the environment. But for that price, I think I may have to fly. My work colleague pointed out that the plane is going anyway—and if I’m environmentally conscious, it’s better for the plane to fly full than it is to fly half empty. She also pointed out that 60 pounds is over 100 euros, “and think of all the French clothes you could buy!” Commemorative statuettes of Napoleon, more like. I could dig in my heels though and demand cheaper train tickets but unless I get several planeloads of people to dig in with me, I’m not likely to change anything. Which brings me back to Washington. Like most of the Virginia planter class, he was in debt to several British companies, but unlike most of them, he did something about it by deciding to act locally. Rather than order everything from abroad, he started having his clothes made in Virginia, growing crops he could sell directly to buyers without the middleman and, yes, buying his supplies (including sugar) from American suppliers. Along the way indicating, of course, that the best way to throw off the yoke of British oppression was to stop buying their goods. A good example of “think globally, act locally.” I haven’t been acting very locally lately. But I want to go to Paris. I don’t know if I can balance out the act of flying to another country by other good deeds such as buying British-grown produce, fair-trade coffee and recycling. I know a lot of people roll their eyes at my minor attempts to be a good Earth citizen (or rather, at my picking and choosing which bits to be militant about) but I will keep trying.

And I am going to Paris. Damnit. It’s not fair that a student of history is kept away from the seat of one of the most explosive revolutions in the world while suited businessmen jaunt over for the day to attend meetings where they discuss how to tear down historical buildings just because she is trying to save the planet. Damnit.

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