The defence forces of the world need to start publishing reports and publicising statements of concern about long term consumerist trends for the sake of national and global security. They need to call on governments to invest in community resilience and wellbeing orientated job markets. You have the power to remind the military of its role and educate it on how to fulfill this. Together we can communicate to make this happen. Wars are won by ensuring they do not happen
Somewhere in history, between discovering that we were the dominant species and no longer being on speaking terms with all members of our communities, we got off track about what life was about. After living an eternity in the wild, we quickly found ourselves in a new situation with no manual to guide us. So, we made one up along the way and got caught in disagreements which led to a need for “order”. Now it’s only emerging that this adolescent event ever took place and that we need to become the adult society before we completely go off the rails.
Yes, we have formed rules to maintain some sort of order instead of allowing ourselves go through our rites of passage and become whole beings. We no longer have control over our resources. We’re all relying on someone else to clean up the e-coli in our water, to rehabilitate the mentally ill, or to put out the forest fire. With the event of climate change, among other comparable threats to our ‘order’, we are finding problems arising faster than we can handle them. This is because we have made each other powerless with the very same rules we “agreed” upon to keep these things from happening.
Even the most powerful people in the world don’t have a solution to creating order for just their bubble. They have to follow the same rule book, at least a bit. It must suck to be that high up in your tower and believe that all those little people down there can’t be tamed. But there lies part of the problem: the idea that people must be tamed. We are not inherently evil. But if we believe we are, this will manifest in our actions.
In general, hunter gatherer societies do not breed corruption or deplete resources. This is because community members are all free from control of others and are free to decide what’s best for them, i.e. sharing and playing with others, and ensuring a consistent supply of food and fibres for their everyday needs. We need to prioritize the goodness in our nature over the badness of our self belief.
Where is your tribe? What do you really love to do? How can you help people at the height or bottom of society to find their tribe? It is not enough for me to find my tribe. If I truly wish to be free, I need you to find your tribe too. There is no obligation for any of us to do what others tell us. It might take a while to really come to know what you like, but you certainly won’t be dropping bombs or committing bank fraud if everyone else is truly doing their own thing. You’re free!
In the possible event of a global financial collapse, it is of utmost importance to minimise both panic and the potential power interventions (in all facets of society, from state and military level to local and family level) to subdue that panic. In a time of uneducated and irrational individualism, humanity is not socially prepared to handle an economic collapse and thus power will inevitably intervene. Nonetheless, we can reduce the effects of power, or violent backlashes, and increase democratic participation within those constraints by rolling out an emergency forum plan. This would entail:
- educating people on all the areas of need (e.g. food, time efficiency & all the vulnerable people, such as pensioners)
- & on methods of local development & provision
- forming ambitious local working groups and training to solve for each of the areas of need
- instill confidence in the people that peace can be achieved through cooperation
- Understanding that we will all have a better check on power interventions if we create strength in numbers and that power structures will become less vertical if our attempts to freely collaborate demonstrate success
For such a plan to be effective, it would also be advisable to get the military and state to support such a plan, prior to any collapse, so they don’t need to resort to less imaginative resolutions. Therefore, an emergency forum has the best chance of materialising if it is preceded by a preliminary emergency forum. If we don’t do these things under (& before) an emergency situation, barriers to cooperation will become more defined between different factions of society. That is when the threat of violence or authority over freedom takes place.
This essay is intended for the general public, though I fear it will only travel as far as the choir to which I can’t avoid preaching. I only wish that this choir would unite in composing a song that can be heard across all the land.
The world leaders of sustainability ARE the world’s leaders. Period. (e.g. the leaders in the book ‘Visions 2100’ by John O’brien, the leaders on www.shareable.com, etc.). All the business leaders and politicians, even some artists and alleged philanthropists, that aren’t pursuing something in line with a sustainable human planet, are nothing more than the obstacles that our leaders must convert or work around. Most of the time, these people are confused as being our leaders, while the real leaders are too busy working. Here’s why this select few are leaders: they care about a kind future in which all beings can flourish and work laterally with one another. The idea of a universally flourishing society is a way of life that the majority of the world has united in advocating. Where we have not united is in agreeing on actually making it happen. But that’s not the nature of humans, it’s the nature of distraction.
As many of you know, the kinds of leaders who are working on uniting the world towards a liveable and thriving future are not only a handful of politicians and big business executives. They often live by a new system, before it has even arrived. Imagine the functions of a business, government institution, NGO and local community all working as one unit, of which its owners, customers, suppliers and employees are all the same people. These days, many folk in civil society are demonstrating the ability to fulfil all of these functions: tackling government policies and promoting healthy developments through large local movements; bypassing government by sharing so many local resources that they can in fact impact and incentivise local people’s lifestyles more so than the ‘authorities’, through their relationships, cooperative organisations and enterprises; co-designing their town plans to promote social mixing and proximity to access; putting more time into community for long term payback and less time for short returns in full time, out-of-date, ‘fossil’ jobs; community supported agriculture & circular economy manufacturing; replacing commerce by marketing between themselves and other communities who recognise the ‘higher’ value of choosing ethical, clean, local and happily produced products over cheap ones; and it goes on. It’s all been proven. It just needs to be pieced together.
These days, a leader can come from any kind of background. Every occupation which does not aim to speculate for individual ‘gain’ (if you wanna call it that) at the expense of the many can be noble and worthy of a world leader. It is what the executor of that job is doing from day to day, whether inside the job or outside, that matters – more than ever. Many are also quite traditional and work through the old framework to communicate with the lagging electorate and with the traditionalists who possess the power to impact the markets and institutions, influence public perceptions and make wide reaching decisions. And of course, some leaders are a mixed bag. They might be following the status quo and doing deals with big corporations, but at the same time they might be coordinating neighbourhood watch schemes, raising ethical funds from tycoons, lobbying the government on improving childcare or carpooling to work. It’s up to you to recognise which of the leaders recognise the issues of our time and are genuinely working in the right direction for yours and everyone’s future.
Yes, ‘everyone’s’! The new paradigm is showing us that a better world, and the only one that can save us, is a shared world. The beginnings of a real democracy, and even a consensus based democracy, is unfolding in all corners of the world. In the meantime, through consumerist and status motivated propaganda, we are witnessing mass distraction away from this grassroots revolution. However, as the sapling of this new paradigm continues to be nurtured by our ‘leaders’, more people are beginning to discover better distractions. Although plenty of “grownups” are ‘capitalising’ on the emerging trend of wellbeing, the trend is evolving beyond shareholders’ pockets. More people are gaining ground on what wellbeing ‘really’ is, including those who are marketing it.
Despite these encouraging echoes from the future, they often seem overshadowed by screams. The stubbornness of the ignorant and the powerful and its resulting mismanagement of nature may yet prevail in bringing these great developments to a halt or at least stagnation. How is this possible? Not simply by providing ever cheaper goods and services that the public would ignore any notion of a collaborative commons. When this pushes towards a crisis in which resources become very scarce and expensive to control, those who are addicted to that abundance or control will likely tighten their grip and seek more desperate measures to sustain their own habits and identities. It is this irrational behaviour that is the greatest threat of climate change and its complimentary problems (e.g. species extinction, ecosystem tipping points, increasing resource extraction costs, competition for those resources, and the need for resources to build a replacement infrastructure, etc.). If all beings united in the face of a desertifying and flooding planet, we could survive on far less resources than today. But first the people have to understand this.
Allowing the current establishment to call the shots on this planet is synonymous to allowing a toddler have complete autonomy in his/her daily activities. While it is proven that a psychopathic condition is more prevalent among those in power than the general public, we must remember that they be treated as such. That is, neither to submit to psychopathic demands, nor to chastise these megalomaniac types for their mistakes. They are mentally ill-equipped for this world and are in great need of therapy.
To get the masses to stop looking up to these phony leaders and realise their potential doesn’t just involve telling them. They need to witness and experience that way of life, as proposed by those who are offering them that opportunity – i.e. our ‘real’ leaders. So how do we make it happen? Firstly, as I mentioned above, those of us who are aware of the issues at hand and are willing to address them, will have to become leaders of this new age by propagating that message, by telling and showing. And remember, the leaders of our time are those who trust that all of us are capable of learning from our mistakes and are capable of making decisions jointly if given the space and respect to do it.
The emerging paradigm
When Bob Dylan told us that the times they are a changin’, he was right. But the extent to which this writer and critic prophecised with his pen was premature. The counterculture movement of the 1960s was led by many commercial artists who lived quite decadently. The crowds accepted this and followed in their footsteps. Perhaps they saw more than they heard, looked more than they listened.
The world of intent civil society has advanced a lot since the lessons of the 60s and is creating a new economic system for us all to participate in. Everything is becoming shared, more social and becoming cheaper. If you know how and where to join in, then you no longer need to worry about a 9 to 5 office job (unless you enjoy it of course). You don’t need to worry about mortgage repayments. Food, transport, energy, entertainment, tools and technology are becoming cheaper (not just from destructive land-grabbed monocultures) because people are connecting. There is a growing demographic that is investing in ‘meaning’ instead of ‘stuff’. The human race is rattling.
In order for all things to be almost free, this society first needs to be built. If people share, it will be built a lot faster and we can start having more fun, while working on solving the longer term issues of our survival. Just think about all your expenses and provisions, all your material and emotional needs. Go through your head and list them. Better yet, write them down. All of them. Somewhere in the world people have figured out systems to solve for each and every one of these needs and are practicing them daily. Food? Solved. Healthcare? Solved. Free transport? Solved. Free time? Solved. Entertainment? Solved. Anxiety? Solved. Mortgage repayments? Solved. Lasting friendships? Solved. Then there are whole communities that have one or several of these needs totally provided for. Soon enough there will be communities all over the world that will achieve the entire list, and people from everywhere will want to move there or bring these ideas back home. Then you start seeing whole cities following these models and the local people become so fulfilled, so educated and so affluent that they become powerhouses of global impact.
What? Too good to be true? You have to have the guts to change and make it true. It won’t arrive in your mail any time soon. While a lot can be done to start one or several of these initiatives in your local area, you might find yourself alone or in a minority. 9 times out of 10, these kinds of initiatives fail. They become great learning experiences, but a lot of the people involved become disheartened and return to business as usual. Others end up wandering for decades, start new projects with new people and face them with greater stubbornness – because they can’t face wasting several years more on a dead project. If you’ve been through these experiences you will have acquired some of the necessary skills to achieve perhaps one of your dreams. At times, projects succeed but stagnate years later as older members tire faster than newer members arrive. They may remain at a certain stage of success but lack the energy to go the long haul. Such is the nature of the typical 10% of community initiatives that manage to succeed.
I’m not attempting to discourage you from pursuing what you believe in. Rather, I’m encouraging you by illustrating such attempts, no matter how successful, in the wider context of our world today. We need people everywhere, all the time, to start community initiatives that generate healthy, vibrant, economical and environmentally sound societies. But half good isn’t a glass half empty nor half full. It is just half a glass. And we need full glasses everywhere if we want to avoid the mass hysteria that we are currently pointing towards. If you are one of the few in your area who is dedicated to saving your community, then please look to the greater community from which you share inspiration. That is, the global sustainability community (environmental movement, social justice network or whatever you want to call it. They overlap).
Allow me to draw an analogy that our movement is an army and each of us in our own countries, neighbourhoods, schools, sofa’s, laboratories, office buildings, farms, forests and fishing grounds are the soldiers sitting and standing at our respective command posts and frontlines. Do you see yourself winning your battle, or even the war? How often do you witness casualties? How often do you witness great triumph over the mighty forces that bustle your streets everyday, consuming the riches of nature and communities from halfway across the globe? If we were a real army, would we spread our forces so wide? My argument here is that we will not win the war on hyper-consumerism, climate change, inequality, and war for that matter, if we do not organise ourselves like an army (but not top-down) and ‘invade’ one region at a time with practical models of sustainability. Perhaps there are enough of us to expand an environmental media invasion into several regions simultaneously. Perhaps not. We certainly will not remove society of the cynical view that humanity is too greedy to save itself, if we don’t stop everything we’re doing and start connecting our activities and co-create ambitious action plans to ignite real proven solutions to the big mess!
As a matter of fact, a hell of a lot of battles have been won. We have ‘won answers’ from millennia of lessons: from the dawn of agricultural civilisation to the French Revolution; from the industrial revolution to the counter culture of the 1960s; from the rebirth of the liberal economic doctrine to the rise of the information age; from the ever more organised demonstrations towards Paris to the reclamation of our grassroots. Until now, we have built up many command posts, and scouted many horizons. The intelligence that has been received back at ‘HQ’ is that all of the 000’s of battles we are facing at the frontlines stem from the one fundamental problem: Where is the cusp between love and community? Funny thing is, our “community” of command posts hasn’t built the HQ yet.
The fear of change stems from the fear of sameness. We always see change in the same way. This cognitive dissonance can be cured with a simple formula: (i) The pioneers and leaders of our age go out and prove to the world that things are possible, (ii) The early adopters refine and share this proof, (iii) eventually it reaches 10% of the population in a given place and it becomes normalised in society, (iv) if it’s good enough, it goes mainstream. Don’t worry about the stubborn farts. They’ll get the help they need. After this process is completed at the micro community level, it is repeated at the town level, then the city level, then global.
This is the formula corporations have been working by for decades. They are organised and competitive. We are not. But these leaders are out there, and this formula is manifesting at this very moment. And they are proving things to doubtful and distracted people by offering them the experience to believe and join in. As long as we recognise this path and normalise all the solutions to life’s problems at the local level, the numbers in our movement will grow. Here’s my suggestion: We begin by opening up this discussion. We brainstorm. We identify all the resources available to us and multiply their utility through innovation in communications and practice. We begin to support each other in the sharing economy so that we can free up our time to engage. We support the communities in our regions that show the most promise. We adopt their many practices and form community centres in our own towns. We connect the wider environmental movement and strategically penetrate a significant portion of the marketing sector to inform the people of this new paradigm and the consequences of ignoring it. We have a lot of fun while we’re doing it. The chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re maturing into one of the many leaders of this new age.
Will a better world be boring?
Considering the pastimes of today, this question is worth exploring. The reason being, a lot of things we derive pleasure from are sinful, bipolar or plain destructive.
No longer will there be movies about wars or court cases. No more crime dramas. At least, these films will all be from a historical context. So appreciate our entertainingly dysfunctional world while it lasts. You might get to tell your grandchildren about the comically endless debates that people would have around issues as simple as education, health and universal citizens wages. Really, how we shit on each other and on the environment from day to day must look so ridiculous to future generations. Perhaps history will become a popular subject of entertainment. Or perhaps the future will be so bright that historical conversation will seem so petty. I guess you had to have been there.
If we achieve this better world, I think it will be “better”. Providing for your family, fitting in, facing disease and finding meaning will all be things of the past. People won’t bear huge burdens of grief, stress, anger and anxiety. Sure, we might still experience or even embrace these emotions in the future, but we shan’t be overwhelmed by them to the point of depression, despair or numbness. And these things won’t lead to broken hearts, broken families and outright wars. I must point out that these kinds of problems will likely be explored and studied through supervised experiences in safe environments. People will be allowed to go through the experience of deep depression or madness and lift themselves out from it because our culture, technology and healthcare system will be so advanced that we will have the resilience to withstand all weathers. Mind you, we could also become more fragile if we start to roboticise and digitise every aspect of our lifestyles.
That doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to explore our emotions on a deeper level. On the contrary, technology will allow us to experience all kinds of worlds, as if they were real. The holodeck on Star Trek and The Matrix aren’t far from reality at this early stage. Imagine if you woke up from a cyber dream tomorrow, in a fruitful garden, and you were met with loved ones whom you had forgotten about. It may be a creepy notion, but the power of technology and our vast imaginations will allow us to fully immerse ourselves in fantasy if we so wish. The study of phenomenology will be the full treat of experiential fantasy, taking academic analysis of experience and moving more towards fully integrated gaming entertainment of every sort (action adventure, RPG, etc.). What was it like to be James Joyce, Leonardo De Vinci or Adolf Hitler? How can we understand the experience of slavery or of struggles of indigenous peoples? Catalogues will be available.
But if you think I’m suggesting people’s lives will revolve around imaginary worlds or of the constant study and experience of others, you are mistaken. There will be plenty of room for individual interpretations and individual identity, if people so choose. Which reminds me… less time writing, more time living!
If anyone wishes to contribute to the discussion by posting links to the many proven collaborative solution models to all of our problems/needs (bills, free time, affordable healthy food, depression, addictions, affordable housing, free transport, biodiversity, fair trade, conflict facilitation, organisational structure, etc.), please comment and/or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Many of us are working hard to arrange meetings, events and even local actions in sustainable development. But we are making things difficult for ourselves. We split up our common interests into thousands of topics, groups, NGO’s, projects, media strands and social brackets. Indeed, these are things we must do. But on our priority list, they must rank below our ‘common action’. In order for all of these other actions to be taken seriously enough for subsequent change, we need the ‘weight’ behind us. That is why it is required that everyone engaged in sustainable development first pool resources and participate in strategic solidarity for the common good. The basis of all our works require the following:
- create a central network forum (where all our actions and visions are pieced together in a holistic picture)
- Step up our level of common knowledge so that we are speaking the same language that allows us to move forward.
- occupy a significant portion of the ‘marketing space‘ (so that people are bombarded not only with consumer products but with messages about how the world works and what they can do about it)
- create ambitious campaigns to allow ordinary people make easy & fun contributions
- create multi-organisational pilot projects for ‘real change’, instead of individual groups struggling on their own
- Establish ‘permanent’ meeting places in every city or town
- collaborate in creating ‘time‘ by minimising our lifestyle expenses
- Create a fund for ‘free problem solvers’ (a relaxed environment, without any targets or demands, can be created for those of us who have the knowledge, energy and openness to work together on coming up with solutions – unhindered)
- begin with focussing most of our time in discussing and implementing these things, through networking and events
If we do not focus together on these social needs, all our efforts of public participation, integration, political reform, responsible research, consumer evolution, system change, etc. will continue to advance slowly at this critical point in history.
Recently I attended a symposium on the circumstances revolving around the IPCC consensus on what the world’s goals should be regarding Ghg’s and their dire politicisation. While it is necessary that we understand the situation, I find that the political side, at least in Sweden, takes over most of the public discussion space. The symposium’s hosts, the Centre for Sustainable Development at Uppsala University, of course see beyond this. But we are focussing a lot through 2015 on the big talks this December in Paris, and less on where we can make impact. I was relieved to find that during the Q&A session, many audience members shifted the conversation from the politicisation of the 2° Celsius goal to what we can do in actuality.
An audience member, Per Ribbing, challenged a climate-scientist/panel-member that, in order to change the global structures, we first need to present successful solutions or models to the politicians. He gave one example of changing yourself by investing green, one audience member talked about city level transition and another about carbon capture and storage. Here there was talk of solutions – ‘what’ needs to be done. One important point was missing.
Both the problems of climate change and the problems we face in solving it are big in global discussion. (I must point out that, while this takes up a significant amount of attention, the worst of the problems are not clearly presented to the public – which perhaps is just as well. The public wouldn’t react well, if at all, without solutions being presented to them as well). There has also been significant focus on the practical solutions – e.g. investing green, community windfarms, e-cars, consuming less, etc. What there has been little or no focus on, at local and global levels, is the ‘how’ we actually solve the problems – yet it is the most fundamental. The general public are becoming more aware that there are things we can or should do to prevent the obscure image of climate change from prevailing – or at least adapting to it. If they are not too skeptical, they will only go so far as to conclude that the likelihood of all these ‘solutions’ being adopted by people or put in place by governments, is slim. Question: If that is your ‘expert’ conclusion, why not try to figure out a solution? Answer: Cognitive dissonance.
Of course the whole world is in disarray on the subject of climate change (as well as: mass extinction & biodiversity loss; ecosystem service tipping points; natural resource depletion, competition & mismanagement; the growing, urbanising, migrating and aging populations of the world; resulting spread of disease, food shortages, increasing conflicts, loss of education and cultural values & potential collapse of civilisation; etc.). What we are missing from the forefront of global sustainability discussions is the ‘how’.
The Heart & Brains of a Paradigm Shift
If you look throughout history, did any mass social movement or revolution that reached any amount of success manage to do so without the key ingredients – ‘Solidarity’ & ‘Strategy’? People had to be supportive of each other – the heart – and they had to so in a well organised manner – the brain.
I network quite regularly with passionate students, activists and Sustainability professionals. You see, I consider these people to be ‘world leaders’, as they are among the few who see which way the world is going and wish to do something about it. If these people aren’t going to solve the world’s problems, who will? While many of them believe there are possible ways for us to achieve a sustainable future, they lack the sense of necessity to support each other in coming up with ambitious solutions. People have studies to complete, jobs to apply for, homes to move into, families to run & cars to buy. All the while, it is very important to balance work with play. So my suggestion is that we turn any ‘extra’ activity, in sustainable development, into play. This is where the brains come in to meet the heart.
For me, any activity in sustainable development is a struggle. There is no money, no time, no people and no place to go. When there is people, their schedules do not cross. Look at these fundamental resources: Time, money, people & place. If we had all these things, doing sustainability would be fun. There are people out there who really want to give their time but they have bills to pay. There are those who can afford it but are simply too busy, whether in social activity, work or eco-activism. (These people are most valued in what I am suggesting here). While it is difficult to cross people’s schedules, it is more difficult for them to converge without a central location or HQ. In the past, whether the black movement, the feminist movement or a revolution of social classes, pioneers would have secret meetings at different locations. Keeping track of this proved their commitments to the cause. These days we do not need to hide any more. We can do everything in the open. These days we are richer than ever, yet have less time to use these assets. Our ancestors fought for us to reach this point. Now that we possess this luxury, we turn away from it. To those who want to act fully on climate change, the world needs to offer the money, so that people have the time, and offer the place, so people can openly work on it. Those of us who are as committed as any past revolutionaries, shall propose this to the world so that all the right resources become available to us. From there, we can put in all the heart & brains we desire. Imagine what that could do.
A lot of sustainability folk respond to me by saying that they do not believe in being too ambitious or “artificial” in our actions, that sustainability will and must come about “naturally” or organically – that we should let people do things on their own when the time is right. And that is exactly why we need to use our hearts and brains. I mean, define natural! Is it unnatural to act, as best as one can (strategically in solidarity)?