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to access; putting more time into community for long term payback and less time for short returns in full time, out-of-date, ‘fossil’ jobs; community supported agriculture & circular economy manufacturing; replacing commerce by marketing between themselves and other communities who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