This essay is a statement some may find strong. It is designed to provoke people into realising their greatest and worst potentials.
Interviewing people all over the country, all over the world:
(go to China, Brazil, USA, Russia, Canada, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Germany, Tonga, etc…)
“I’d do something about climate change, but what can I do? Look at the rest of the world. Are they going to do anything? No! What I do makes no difference!”
Isn’t it funny how, no matter where you go, people seem to have it all worked out? Yeah, they have a certain amount of knowledge of the world and they are pretty confident that they are right. Wow, aren’t you all so smart?; an inspiration. The impression that so many of you have left in my heart is over whelming! Wrong!
In a democracy, it is not merely the knowledge that I have the power to vote that makes a difference. It is the knowledge that I am participating in a decision that I have confidence a significant portion of society agrees with and thus represents that decision together, as a community. How often is the public demanding drastic change in our economic system to mitigate the effects of climate change? Not often enough to make that change. Right now, by doing nothing, the world’s majority has voted for the status quo.
In the past, people did not have such strength to vote. But they had another kind of vote. When things weren’t going people’s way it was more blatant. Landlords threw whole families off their land (which oft they appropriated from these families’ ancestors) and rebellions kicked off. This was a stronger form of vote because voters in a rebellion were not merely expressing their choice, they were active in seeing the decision carried through till the end. Whether they succeeded or not, they could see the change happen by the work of theirs and their neighbour’s hands. This was a much stronger form of community than today’s “democracy”.
Now, with the prevalence of literacy levels and worldwide education it could be assumed that voting has never been stronger. This is not the case. It has been widely reported in the western world that second and third level education standards have been declining. The same goes for peoples’ interests in voting. So why is this happening and why does it matter? It matters because, in its most comfortable and, frankly, stagnant state in history, human civilisation not so ironically (though it may seem ironic to the ignorant) faces its greatest threat ever. That is, the combination of climate change, mass extinction, natural resource scarcity and population increase. This doesn’t merely threaten our potential to have ‘stuff’. It is not simply that we will be forced back to the land or forced to be more adaptable to rapidly changing seasons. Our culture and values are under threat.
Much of the simple little trraditions from how to prepare a certain kind of dish or how to decorate the home the way our grandparents did to being able to live and communicate with simple mannerisms or profoundly as is in great works of literature, will be lost by humanity’s desperation for necessity. I’m not saying that we will forget how to joke or forget cultural cues, but as we have already proven to have lost countless values and traditions that once kept communities together, we will continue to lose more when we will no longer have time to think of them. Though ironically, when this age of necessity reaches us, we might have more time to reflect on these things because we will have to dump all the time wasting of social pressures that has symbolised the modern age. If the scientists were telling us that the natural disasters ahead were not serious then we mightn’t have to worry about these possibilities. But the fact is that it is serious, which means that if we are to keep human civilisation intact, people will have to be forced out of their comfort zones and be coerced by nature itself to learn and act in the ways of their ancestors and in ways humans have never done before.
Education and voting is declining because, one, people have everything they need provided for them even with the most minimal of effort, two, they are distracted and entertained by mediums such as advertising and audio-visual experiences to the point that they are unwilling to focus on the things that lie beneath the haze of modern society and, three, social pressure is forcing us to invest a significant amount of in things that do not contribute to pure well-being. Given that, one might ask why the educated and active people on this planet are not succeeding in persuading or preaching the gospel of empowerment and environmental democracy. It is quite clear that many in this field are indeed lacking in certain educational tools also, most importantly solidarity.
Education is not simply about quantity of information in the brain, it is about the quality, the wisdom and the right information. To me, solidarity whispers many profound values in one word: trust, patience, faith, guidance, support, perseverance, respect, hope, empowerment, friendship, love, joy and even pain. If you lack these values, then you are as uneducated as any slave. Why? Because this means your lifestyle agrees with a system that supports the few and destroys the foundations of your current economy, your natural and human environments.
Does what I am saying sound extreme? Would any person on this planet honestly say that seeking a brotherhood/sisterhood of man is a bad thing? I don’t think so. Some might deny the concept in the beginning by drawing from examples of how humans have not been kind to one another and thus cannot achieve this. But rather than addressing the point, this evades it. That would be to say that we don’t believe in fresh vegetables because we don’t like them when they are rotting. The point is that we don’t want humans to be bad to one another, at least not as bad as we are today. That is a principle that resonates from the word ‘solidarity’.
If you do not agree with me, then I beg you to please enlighten me with a plausible argument. If you cannot deny what I am saying, then you know that everything in your life has to fundamentally change. Once you have come to terms with this, you can join the network for change by finding others who will listen to you. Believe me, if you don’t do it now, you will one day be forced to do it when you are least prepared. That is the nature of modern capitalism, an anti-nature.
In a conversation with a classmate of mine I once told him that he might be very disappointed if he does not achieve the aspiration of being rich. To that he retorted “you want to save the world. You will be much more disappointed”. My obvious reply was “disappointment will be inevitable if I do nothing.” At least I have given myself a choice to not be disappointed. He admitted that the world was in great peril, yet he believed that he would one day become rich. That’s kind of a contradiction is it not? I think he will be the ‘most-est’ disappointed.
Now, you might admit to yourself that if you are to guarantee personal success for years to come, something has to be done to sort out this planet. But, you see no realistic way to begin. You then convince yourself that the world’s problems are out of your hands and you shut them out. You comfort yourself by seeing the smiles and confidence on so many of your friend’s faces. It seems so far-fetched that modern human progress could ever bring this to a standstill. So you agree that you will be able to continue on your current trend, going to university, getting a nice career, etc. Then you are again reminded by something you heard on the television, that ‘hey’ we mightn’t be able to continue on this way. So you might think to yourself, you are among the top 5% in the world economy, you have smart friends and if the world cannot support all the billions in the coming decades, it will at least support you if you are clever enough with where you spend your money. So you have taken the individualist approach. Just like Marie Antoinette, Leopold the 16th and all the aristocrats who were beheaded and evicted when the people of France did not get the treatment they demanded, the world’s poor and indeed middle class will be demanding resources in the coming decades.
These days, a lot of people know all they think they need to know to support themselves in this economic system that the “wisdom” of non-science has been so adamantly persuading them. Just as the Catholic church authorised culture in the previous centuries, science has again been dominated by the religion of materialism. So many people claim wisdom by denying spirituality, yet they live as if science was wrong all along. All the signs of science are pointing to the greatest global disaster human civilisation will ever face. Wake the fuck up!
These days, a lot of people vote in governments based on the very knowledge they think is enough to survive in today’s growing consumption bubble. A new vote is needed, like countless revolutions of the past, people need to join arms and the government will react. I’m not talking about an uprising of violence. I’m talking about smarter living, a togetherness of living and knowing the planet and all its splendid creatures and beings, so that violent uprisings can be avoided once and for all.
Here, I propose a chart that maps out the worst and best case scenarios for the future of humanity on this Earth. An estimated guess, based on the current trends that scientists, economists and sociologists have finally been able to start getting right, points to a scenario of accelerating global conflicts in competition for diminishing resources and mass migrations from deserted lands both resulting in huge pressures on “developed” economies, the disruption of trade routes caused by political instability, food shortages and extreme weather, the need for titanic investments into solutions to weather protection for settlements and food production, etc. Each of these problems exacerbates the other, while the changing climate causes carbon and methane gases to continue being released from the oceans and peatlands long into the future.
Without knowing all of the facts, anyone can in fact easily learn enough facts to see how easily humans will lose control in the face of these accelerating challenges. That is because we know that there are enough pressures on Earth’s resources and their extraction processes to take western peoples’ comforts away from them and take low income peoples’ subsistence away from them. Having confidence in the dynamics of humanity’s logic to react peacefully and safely against challenges far greater than the ones that we today are already failing to deal with is ludicrous. Thus we can only expect our reactions to be weaker or more extreme when more of us will be faced with little choice but to accept symbols of power to save our nations, as have many previous extreme governments, western or elsewhere, even to this day.
For an “educated” westerner, it is easy to fall into the assumption that you will know better how people will react to such global pressures than would an “uneducated” farmer of the third world. But many people of poorer nations are living this experience now. They are seeing their nations tumble under pressures of climate change and resource losses, and many are turning to military extremism to survive. Choose to fight or to flee and most of you will eventually feel the brunt of climate catastrophe. There is only one truly wise way to secure a healthy future for ourselves and our children, solidarity. I am not a poor man, nor have I been under privileged in life. But I have grown up in a world where I have seen a sense of solidarity slipping in the face of mass culture. It has not been particularly enjoyable to see so many people in the society around me treat each other with such insincerity. Subtly or bluntly, I see this behaviour performed by “educated” people daily. This is because we have been at the mercy of materialism and mainstream social appeal. I see people all wearing the same clothes and laughing at others for being themselves or for appreciating the undisputed beauty of nature. If people are not unkind to one another, many are indifferent to one another. They are “polite” and avoid offending. But what is worst is that so many people who live in solidarity for the greater good, in appreciation of nature, are simply ignored. Humanity has been facing a losing battle for a long time. It has turned against itself. Since tribal peoples settled into the complexity of agricultural civilisations thousands of years ago, we have slowly been losing this battle through fear and alienation. But the strength exists within all of us. We can now use the positive outcomes of civilisation, such as science, to regain our intimate nature of oneness. I almost completely lost myself in this mess. Now I ask the rest of you not to lose yourselves either.
So, what do I propose? With strength in numbers we can start with simple changes in our communities, our neighbourhoods, schools, places of work, sports clubs, etc. Look at the basic knowledge. How much does the average person in your community or country consume? If you can’t get the information, find a group of people who you can discuss these things with so you can motivate each other to find the answers. Start a group that is willing to spare an hour each week to meet and propose a plan to reduce your consumption of environmentally damaging products by, say, 10% each month. Measure your monthly garbage weight, your water litre usage, your electricity, heating and transport energy usage, and other material consumption. Find ways to reduce this. If you don’t know how, help each other to search for the information. If you can’t find it, find someone qualified to give you guidance. A year down the line, see if your group can achieve reducing waste by 50%. How do you do this? Motivate each other to buy less packaged goods by buying more loose healthy vegetables and carrying them in your own reusable bags. Find out your transport carbon footprint by looking online what it means to drive or take the bus. Try and walk or cycle where and when you can, and use your car only if necessary. All of these things are actually pointless if you do them alone. But if you do them with other people, you not only see massive environmental and financial savings, you can have fun being involved in something that is practical, educational, moral and social.
But don’t stop there. This isn’t good enough. Make sure people know about your progress. Contact journalists and schools and prove to the world how easy and fun it is to make a difference. If you can get a whole school, office building or neighbourhood to reduce their waste by 50%, together you are saving a lot of money that can be pooled together into a pot which could be spent on further improving your community by investments in, say, solar panels, remedial supports for school kids,
I guarantee that if you can get a whole neighbourhood or office building to make these simple changes, others will follow. You might find that your neighbourhood is saving so much money that it can set up a voluntary office and fund materials and projects for further sustainable community development. Eventually, there will be some communities out there that achieve this. They will then spread their knowledge and support other communities in making such developments. This is not just about making the world better in the environmental future, it is about getting people involved in their local areas and with their suppliers outside the community, such as farmers. It’s about knowing where all your possessions and privileges come from and empowering you to decide how they be better managed. This is about making people realise their worth and stimulating them to act beyond their own immediate impulses.
What weaknesses do I see in this project? People will laugh at me. They will say it’s too cheesy, boring or it won’t come to anything and people will just end up disappointed. People will say that these are tiny goals among a sea of issues. There’s that word again, ‘people’. It is the people who stop things from happening and it is people who make things happen. This has always been the case since the dawning of Homo sapiens. When my critics look at this project, they see great efforts for simple reductions in waste or whatever. When I look at this project, I see how simple beginnings can grow if the people executing them wish to do so. And they will, some of them will. These shall be the pioneers of our age. There are two things that will get others on Earth to follow, one positive and one negative. The positive is that people can prove to society that this works, not only to solve problems that we do not feel, but solve problems that are right on our doorstep. The negative is that people will take this route of solidarity when they have no other choice. The worst case scenario is that people fail in the face of greater challenges and instead act upon immediate satisfaction by consuming more resources and attacking those who defy them. Should such a situation persist, then the planet will cease to sustain perhaps every one of us. These are the choices: act responsibly or act irresponsibly. There is no middle ground, “I did my bit, now leave me alone”. Do or do not, then see the results if you are sane enough to care.
You see, we are all of us somewhat set in our ways. It generally takes a hell of a lot to challenge our minds to think differently. I know the problems that lie ahead, yet I often do not feel them. I am alienated from it because it seems more like an idea than a reality. The same goes for creating the necessary changes to set us on the right path. I often sit and visualise how humanity might go about these changes in a realistic way. The complexity of information overwhelms me and whatever plans I have devised in my head go stale and seem senseless. It is also very easy to give up on these things when most people you come across tell you that you are wrong. But the fact is that they are wrong. Why? Because they are basing their arguments on something that has not happened. That is a lack of empirical evidence. Somehow, people decide that if something has never been done before it never will be done. But that is denying everything that humanity stands for. Everything that has ever been made in the arts, science and social progress has come from countless things that humanity had never done before. If anything, that is empirical evidence that suggests I am right and most people who choose to argue against me are wrong.
As the old saying goes, famously quoted from Oscar Wilde “whenever people agree with me, I always feel I must be wrong”.
There is another stream of hope; the Jagger generation, the people of the sixties. These days I find myself struggling to convince people of my parent’s generation about solutions to global change, when they used to do the same when they were my age. If they believed once, they will believe again.
– Social Enterprise
– solidarity is education