Can you imagine going into a time-machine and going back in time to before the industrial revolution? Back then life was hard and most people lived off the land. There were horses to draw carts and farm machinery. There was minimal medical care and babies were born at home enabled by local women acting as midwives. People were born, lived and died in a way that was more simple than today. They worked hard from the land and there was only basic medical care. Communities would be very important and everyone felt connected.
Today when people with TV crews live among indigenous tribes of the world they find it a profoundly life-changing event. They are deeply moved by their strong sense of community although they own very little.
I remember watching a woman on TV who stayed with a tribe in the Kalahari Desert. She was ailing from the change of diet. Her hosts looked very concerned for her as she awoke one morning in what can only be described as a mud hut. As they presented her with some fresh honeycomb she was shocked to discover that a tribesman walked over ten miles in search of the honey for her earlier that day. She was a stranger to them but that act of care and hospitality made her question her whole existence living in her comfortable but lonely life in Britain. I imagine that most communities were like that in the past before our lives became so busy and complicated.
As we consider our western lives a few hundred years ago there will be one thing you will never see. This will be plastic. In fact plastic was invented in 1907 in New York. Before then you would probably not see landfill sites because nearly everything could be reused or recycled. You would not see plastic packaging on food or bottles of toiletries full of gunk products with strange, long scientific names.
The toiletries they used back then would have been based on soaps, oil, fat, beeswax and natural perfumes. They would be packaged in glass or ceramic without preservatives.
You would not see plastic bags caught in trees or plastic cups discarded along roadsides or waterways. There would not have been rubbish bins overflowing with plastic and polystyrene cartons. In those days everything was reused or returned back to the environment in a natural biodegradable way. Everything had a natural shelf-life.
All food was organic. There were naturally more pests but there was also an abundance of other creatures that fed upon the pests such as birds. Can you imagine the sound of the dawn chorus of so many more species? These birds would feast upon the invertebrate pests around the farm. There would be an abundance of butterflies, dragonflies and bees without the presence of pesticides.
There would be an abundance of wild flowers for there were no herbicides and man-made fertilisers that caused crops to outcompete the hedgerow flora. Crops would be pollinated by the same bees that pollinated the wild flowers. Humans lived in harmony with nature and I expect that they had a wonderful quality of life and community.
Yet there would be no plastic or other man-made chemicals in the environment. It is worth letting our minds wonder and consider a world without plastic pervading every corner.
We cannot go back in time and maybe we wouldn’t want to. There is one thing that we can do together and that is to build a better future. If millions of us all made one small choice that is kind to nature we could see change for the better. Governments and corporations will not do this for us. It is up to us.