leeks

I had aims to write something more extended and reflective about gender, class and dangerous work this week. The debate about extractive industries is so often framed around corporate interests (I'm talking about from a supposedly left wing perspective here, not just from the right), and does not, in my opinion, look at the opportunities and costs from the perspective of men looking for manual work. I think the concerns of the 'green' movement often arise from people who earn their living at quite some remove from that basic need to find something raw that can be sold for quite a lot of money. On the West Coast, danger money is a feature of all well paid manual work and the days of strong unions are largely gone. The strongest was/is the miners' union. The contractual nature of much logging at the moment seems to leave workers very vulnerable. Women are a strong presence in manual jobs on the coast, but the hours required by logging, mining and fishing deter people who have primary responsibility for children and this skews pay rates by gender before we even get into cultural and physical strength factors in the workplace. I don't have the mental space to reflect on some of the challenges posed by these realities at the moment, but I'm putting these setnences up here as a reminder to come back to it later and also if anyone has any comments already, then I'd love to read them.

Leeks. When Christmas and work and family ill-health and the holiday which looms incredibly close are all a bit much, then leeks are the answer. I planted 40 leeks tonight and then watered the garden until it got too dark to see what was in the garden. I put beetroot in in the weekend and have celery and passionfruit to go in tomorrow. Tonight I made/assembled little Christmas hampers for our much loved childminders and delivered them. I had some eggs to go with them but when I realised I had forgotten to include them in the wrapping, I decided that those 24 eggs should go to the Salvation Army instead.

My hair is now brown and blonde instead of grey and brown. Favourite Handyman is on antibiotics (needs must sometimes unfortunately, sometimes the bacteria win for too long). The fact that we leave for our Big Holiday North in only 65 hours is a little alarming, but after the zen of my gardening time, it seems possible that we shall pull it off. I think.

Tomorrow involves rubbish disposal, the cemetery, Christmas tree displays, kindy/school/sick husband and hopefully some progress on the Big Trip prep.

Comments

Sharonnz said…
I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on these issues. My brain has certainly been working overtime on them the last few weeks but I'm struggling with my left/green thinking when clearly positioned in the "safe" middle classes;-) Was interested to hear from my grandmother that my great-grandmother also worked in the coal mines of Scotland before they came out to the West Coast so hope to ask her more about this.
Heather said…
Did you hear this on National Radio this morning?

http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20101208-1147-Arts_with_Courtney_Johnston-048.mp3

it's about interesting museums and has a very positive plug for your working class history museum :-)

Also, re. the mining situation, I think that my position on buying goods from developing countries might have some relevance. My (current and very in flux) position is that:

a. I won't buy goods that I suspect were produced by people in coercive situations (which in practise means non-fair trade cocoa products as I understand slavery to be relatively common in cocoa production).
b. I will try to buy products produced in the best labour conditions available (first choice being fair trade certified or from companies I trust like Dilmah or Icebreaker, but sweatshop goods if nothing else is available).

This comes from a belief that people will tend to make whatever is the best choice for themselves from the available options, so long as they are free to do so. But I have feel I have a responsibility to expand the market for goods produced in better conditions. It is also dependent on me having more information (and more information-processing-time) than I could ever imagine really happening, but it's the direction I want to go in.

For mining, then, I guess it's the same. People will tend to make the best choice for themselves from the available options. And, in NZ, moving to another town as there are no acceptable jobs at home (or, indeed, going on the dole) are options, if unpalatable ones. No one *has* to go down the mines. However, if they are not informed of risks, or are told that safety stuff is in place when it's not, then they can't really make that choice properly, so we all have a responsibility to 'truth-telling' in such matters.

Also, we have to think about what risks and costs we as a community are prepared to accept. For example, it was recently drawn to my attention that so-called 'surgical mining' which appears more 'green' is also 'single-exit' mining and hence less safe. We need to be aware of this when we require it of mines. And at some point we may have to collectively say that we are not prepared to pay the social/environmental/health and safety costs of coal mining and that we as a country are wealthy enough to leave the stuff in the ground. Not saying we're there, just saying that it's amongst the options.

Lastly and unrelatedly, will your trip north include the Hauraki Plains? If so, you may want to visit Wilderness Gems in Ngatea. A great barn of a place with everything from geodes as tall as people and luminous rocks to carved marble chess sets and nice jewellery. It has picnic tables outside and may even have a playground, I can't quite remember, but it's definitely kid-friendly.

--Heather :-)
Megan said…
I too am looking forward to your future writing on this topic. I am hopelessly confused re:the greenie issue. I'm a middle class greenie. I don't like mining. But I recall this feeling I first got on an anti-rimu logging protest in HariHari in the early 90s - a sick feeling when I realised the scary man who had been threatening to burn our tents was crying - because he was losing his job. I've had that same feeling over the last few weeks. It makes me hopelessly confused.
As for 'danger money' should we be letting young men who are too young to vote risk their lives for otherwise unobtainably big pay? if we do, is a real choice for our boys?
Sharon how very interesting, love to know more about your great grandmother.

Heather thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I will listen to the national radio interview as soon as I can, and respond to your other points.

Megan I know what you mean about hopeless confusion and I also know that I have to get beyond hopeless confusion - we will all have to as the Royal Commission fallout hits our community. I'm glad I got this post up and will make myself respond in some detail when we return from the Big Trip North.

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