Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fairtrade for the poor student?

Linacre is an entirely "green" and "Fairtrade" college, possibly (my memory fails me), the only one in Oxford. I enjoy it very much, because the emphasis on recycling and such makes it feel more like home (Portland, where EVERYONE recycles). I get frustrated sometimes over here when I can find nothing to do with cans but throw them away. There's a something programmed into me that makes me cringe and feel incredibly guilty when I throw away plain paper or glass jars...

Unfortunately, however, I cannot afford to completely offset my carbon footprint, a growing trend. I have yet to have been in a car in Oxford, and have taken the bus only a handful of times. I ride my bike and walk. I recycle what I can, turn off lights, take showers, etc. All good things. But when I started looking at flights home, I was told that I should be paying more money to buy carbon shares in order to offset the pollution caused by my flight. I agree, the pollution sucks. But I can't afford to double the cost of my flight. I would also like to limit my grocery and clothing purchases to organic, fairtrade, and generally ethically sound products. Often, this is a simple substitution. To completely overhaul my purchases, however, I would have to have a substantially larger income. What's wrong with the fact that only the rich can be ethical?

Not only that, but now that it's "trendy" to be organic and the oversight of farming/harvesting/production processes is a bit shaky, I'm not even sure that things at the supermarket are worth paying more for. As one professor put it, it seems a bit absurd to buy Marks and Spencers Organics in their normal, ridiculously plastic-y packaging.

I would love to limit my own damage of the environment. The co-op's plastic bags are super-biodegradable. Oxford's buses have exhaust filters. I walk everywhere. It's all good. And scientific advances that help our world are also excellent. But in many ways, isn't it silly to ignore what my own family and friends did when I was younger? We reused packaging. We turned off lights. Etc. We didn't HAVE to shop at Whole Foods to save the world. GRRRR. That's my vent for the day.


On another note, this week will be CRAZY but I am enjoying myself. I've organized drinks for my course on Tuesday, and a Halloween party for our house on Wednesday. And I'm going to the ballet on Thurs....hooray!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time is marching on...

It feels very very odd to have had only two weeks of my term while other schools are on fall break/half term holidays. That said, however, the term is really only eight weeks long, which means I only have four more weeks of certain classes and my essays are due startlingly soon. And it's almost Halloween!! Time does fly...

Now that I've settled in a bit, I will say that Oxford is still lovely and still cold. It seems to rain every Tuesday without fail, but has been fairly sunny the rest of the time. I tend to spend my free evenings/afternoons curled up either by my window looking out onto the yard, or, if I'm brave, on the bench in the back garden with tea, blankets, hats, sweaters, and my books. And Olly, our squirrel. I've been climbing the apple tree to get at the last of the apples, and they are quite yummy :).

My course is going well, although I feel as if I can never ever possibly read everything I should. I've also been taking advantage of a few other lectures/seminars/classes...in addition to three basic classes I have to take, I've been going to an undergraduate lecture series on Brian Friel, the Postcolonial Literatures Seminar, and the Irish literature seminar (both of the seminars are interdisciplinary seminars that are open to anyone...generally they consist of lectures followed by questions, although the post-colonial one is changing this term (apparently) and we are doing a reading group and presentations and such as well). This means I get to meet more people and see more colleges. I am also taking an actual Printing Class...this has me more excited than one might think (in fact, Dean takes great pleasure in laughing at me when I talk about it because I jump up and down with excitement). It's taught by Paul Nash, who owns a fine press of his own, and takes place in the basement bibliography room of the Bodleian, and we get to produce books on the hand press there. More and more I am thinking about a career in special collections, and I am finding so many opportunities like this "thrown" in my way...I sat next to the head of Western Manuscripts at a formal dessert last week, and left with his card and a great deal of excitement!

Speaking of formal desserts...formal guest dinners consist of lots of food, wine, gowns (academic ones of course), and then more wine. And more food. They are very nice :).