One of the downsides to living on an island is that you either need to be completely self-sufficient or to have a very reliable means of getting hold of those things you can’t produce yourself. Jersey has done well out of the petrol engine, as there isn’t much we can’t import from the British mainland or our camembert-loving continental cousins – assuming we make sacrificial offerings to whatever evil spirits cause a bag of pasta to magically double in price during a three hour ferry journey.
Island life seems safe and predictable, if irritatingly expensive, but there was a time when fickle Amazon Prime deliveries were the least of our worries. History shows that wars, disasters and environmental crises can easily disrupt more than just our supply of M&S barbecue food, and whilst some of the hipsters among us might enjoy the authentic experience of eating ‘locally sourced’ limpets, I doubt even the fixed-gear bicycle brigade would still be enthusiastic after a couple of weeks dining on something that essentially tastes like a hot bogey. Food is just the tip of the iceberg, as our comfortable society relies on a steady import of machinery, clothing and building materials, not to mention the people required to operate, sell and repair them.
With wobbly ferries, the global threat of climate change and the possibility that shifting EU politics may turn us into the next Cuba, we would be sensible to make the most of our own resources – the problem is that we’re only truly self-sufficient in three things: new potatoes, creamy milk and lukewarm office banter. Believe me, a society cannot run solely on potato dauphinoise flavoured with anecdotes about what the lads from accounts got up to in Amsterdam. If we’re to lessen our dependence on the outside world, we must take some urgent steps to become more-self sufficient in the essentials that will allow us to continue, if that outside world stops taking our calls.
Local essential #1:
I think we can all agree that we love potatoes, whether they are grown ourselves, bought from Waitrose, or bought from Waitrose, covered in garden soil and resold for a £1 markup at an ‘honesty’ box in the country parishes. The rub is that a mostly-potato diet is lacking in other essential nutrients, so the island must learn to fill in the vitamin gaps as best it can, in case global events doom us to a future as scurvy-ridden, toothless monsters (hello readers in Sark). The best solution is probably to bludgeon two birds with one stone by allowing young people to finally scrabble onto the housing ladder – with the condition that they make a family home inside a derelict greenhouse, rather than the developer just knocking one down and building a three bed semi to sell for £700,000. Instead of Parish rates, they can pay their way in tomatoes, broccoli and mail-order carnations – just like in the good old days.
Local essential #2:
a source of energy
It’s nice having access to cheap French electricity, but we’d be silly not to consider the possibility that one day they might get tired of sending thousands of school children here every Summer to wander around King Street wearing backpacks. They might decide to blockade our ports in retaliation for a century of St Malo stag parties, and Jersey would need to make use of its wealth of natural resources to produce its own electricity. This probably involves wind and wave power (with equipment we need to buy from the French whilst we’re still on speaking terms) but we shouldn’t rule out a technological breakthrough that allows the island to draw power from its abundant fog, perhaps compressed by the plaintive wails of somebody who took the day off work to go to the beach.
Local essential #3:
warm and comfortable clothing
Once the island was so famous for its knitting that we are lucky that ‘Cardigan’ was already taken and we didn’t end up being known as ‘the Isle of Jumper’. 400 years later we can’t even produce flammable garments that say “My Mum Went To Jersey And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt (and 800 duty-free Rothmans)”. It’s a sad state of affairs, but one that could be remedied in the time it takes to expel Top Shop and New Look, shift the school curriculum towards knitting classes and enact a variant of Sharia law that forces men and women alike to wear itchy robes made by our plentiful supply of village crones. Where wool is not suitable, they will use dried seaweed or paper flowers. I personally can’t wait for the rugged comfort of Genuine Jersey woollen boxer briefs and some socks made out of vraic.
Local essential #4:
Despite all the companies that have registered offices here, Jersey doesn’t actually carry out medical research – unless you count St Ouen’s attempt to breed the perfect farmhand. I’m not sure we’d even manage to produce our own paracetamol, which means that becoming self-sufficient in medicine would involve either a sea-change in local industry or the more likely outcome that we would heal the sick through dubious folk remedies and by shunning the afflicted to live on the Minquiers. The upside to a 100% locally-sourced medical industry is that, as a native, it should be a lot easier for me to find a genetic match for that spare kidney I’ve been looking for. I’m less excited about potato vodka anaesthetic and a surgeon whose only qualification is a food hygiene certificate from Highlands.
Local essential #5:
news, culture and entertainment
Jersey is a modern, high-technology society, and the last thing we want if we are temporarily cut off from the outside world is to fall behind the times. That is why we need to develop a technological plan B in the form of our own media, internet and communications devices, like in China. The growth sector of modern media appears to be teenagers talking about things on YouTube, so why not put our own youngsters to work and replace Jersey’s access to the Daily Mail, Guardian and BBC with locally-produced videos where stroppy teens explore the issues of the day? If there’s an issue with balance towards the young, the solution is to also recruit the army of retired people who currently spend their days writing letters to the JEP. Who needs John Snow and Jeremy Paxman when you’ve got the perspectives of S3xxiBieberrFan1998 and Doris from Trinity?
Local essential #6:
The ocean of high-quality content produced by #5 will be wasted unless we have the means to access it, so we should prepare to draw on the pool of talent found in our corporate IT departments to build our own computers, phones, flatscreen televisions, Playstations and wireless routers. I like my smartphone just fine, but really what I’ve always wanted is to support local business and replace it with a model built in St Mary, costing £5,000 and powered by the solar strip from an old calculator. The AhYesAyePhone will do everything the iPhone does, except it runs on Internet Explorer 6 and only gets reception if you’re at the top of a hill. I think we can probably manage without the other stuff, as long as our in-island brain trust can develop a version of Angry Birds that has seagulls in it.