Pete, Nicola, Lola and Nell love to travel. Here are ways they keep their carbon footprint light simply by exploring as they stay put. Post by Nicola
Years ago in Zanzibar Town when I was new to travel, I went to the famous Stone Town night market where loads of stalls serve supper - or bitings - with the most basic of equipment. Fingers for forks, stars for parafin lights.
It was magic picking the best things to eat in the blue-black, super-scented dark. Perhaps because night markets lead to sensory overload - try the salt tang of the Indian ocean, bright Southern Hemisphere stars, crash of surf on reef, charcoal fires, the spit of grilling chilli fish, sweet taint of rubbish piles, ladies' perfume, sweat, mosquito buzz - the food at the original spice island tasted delicious. Just remembering has got my mouth watering.
Fast forward 23 years and I've just raided my own neighbourhood for food. Near my home the street trees that produce fruit (eg, rowans, crab apple, plums, elderberry, pear, sweet chestnut) are dropping their load. Inspired by Finsbury Park Transition Town's fair/fete (where I bought a jar of N4 crab apple and greengage jelly for £2), I decided to harvest what was left of the non-stomped on crab apples in my nearest street.
My first attempt - a half pound of mushy mini apples mixed with my homegrown redcurrants - produced two delicious jars of jelly. Later in the day I zipped around on my bike to pick up the very last of the edible fruit starting to rot along the pavement. Whilst doing this - bike parked by the side of the road, fruit popped into my upturned bike helmet - I had the strangest sensation of what it's like to know food poverty. Two guys in shalwar kameez walked past, oblivious to the rubbish picker (me). One woman plugged into an i-pod attempted to turn off my flashing back bike light (to save money she said!), a dog walker crossed the road. And then a friendly man, Rex, came out with his young son to hand me an orange plastic bag.
"It's alright, " I said quickly, "I know there's a shop just round the corner, but I want to pick these apples to make some really local jam." Rex did his best to humour the mad woman outside his house, promising me empty jam jars next time he saw me...
Really it's me who should feel smug. I now have five lovely pots of old-fashioned crab apple jam sourced spitting distance from my home.
But I'm still disturbed by that out of 21st century experience. It feels very rural - even in a city - to sort through and reject fallen fruit. Secondly I had a taste of what it is like to be absolutely invisible, how I guess a refugee might feel. People tried as hard as they could to ignore a street gleaner. Most looked faintly disgusted as if my parsimony might force them to drop to their knees and fill their own Tesco bags with unpackaged food.
The obvious third thought was how lucky we all are here in the UK with this profligate glut of food that no one fights over. If this was the flooded parts of Pakistan how different our approach to food would be.
The shocking media quiet about how our climate is changing - as highlighted by Bill McKibben who set up http://www.350.org/ - makes chilling reading about the speed our planet is warming, see here. For example Russia, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan have all set their all-time temperature records during 2010. Big changes like this change how things grow.
I won't be setting up a food stall outside my house yet. Which is lucky as goodness knows what health and safety would make of run over, chewing gum flecked, dog poo avoided fruit jams? But I still think these experiences are going to inspire me to make more produce I can store. What I hope this means is that if climate changes mean I actually have to do foraging for real I won't be an absolute beginner...