Western paradigms, systems and ideologies (*cough* capitalism, neoliberalism) are unequivocally to blame for the predicament unfolding before us every single day. So far, Jason Hickel’s Less is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World has laid out emergence of capitalism, and it’s pretty dang ugly. In short, there was a gradual shift humanity’s relationship to the earth. Dualism* and colonial conquest worked together to transform the minds of people, establish a hierarchy, and move the power away from the commons and into the hands of the elite few. We moved from a subsistence-based existence to a surplus-based, growth-driven way of life. Indigenous people worldwide, with their animist** philosophies, were forcibly massacred and brainwashed into perceived “civilised” ways of being. Largely, because animism was a threat to capitalist theory and did nothing to contribute to financial growth.
*Dualism is two-fold. It purports the separation of mind and body, with mind reigning over body and the idea that people are separate to their environment, with people lording over their environment. Having studied dualism from a western philosophical lens at university, I got a nasty shock as I realised the role that Descartes and other proponents of the time played in accelerating capitalism’s reign and ensuring its entrenchment into modern society.
**Animism is directly oppositional, where land, sea, places and creatures are anthropomorphised and have a spiritual essence. They are seen as living beings humans are in partnership with, rather than in submission to. The earth is not merely resources to be extracted or land to profit from, but a sentient being to honour.
Most alarming to me, was the realisation that language we use today when discussing our world solidifies this demarcation line between humans and everything else. Hickel gave examples: ecosystem services, natural resources, raw materials, environment.
Embracing indigenous ways of being, including a profound respect to the environment – i.e. treating her as an ancestor, seems like a no-brainer to me.
5. [De]transition to Older Technology
Perhaps this is less obvious upon first glance. I want to use my smartphone less, primarily for my mental health and productivity, but also because planned obsolescence is an absolute doozy and a brick phone I have that was made in 2012 still works exactly the same as it did back then. When I was 18, I did a one month digital detox and blogged about the results. In short, I was notably calmer, more present, and more content with life.
In an ideal world, I would give it up entirely, but it’s increasingly impractical and it would take a lot of sacrifice convenience-wise to de-transition successfully. I know it will result in more meaningful ways to spend my time – whether that’s art and crafts, time with friends and family, spending time in nature, or practicing guitar/piano. The opportunities are endless! Obviously this isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it’s just an idea.
Climate change-wise, there are also practical possibilities (probabilities) of compromised internet access, digital goods, services etc, potentially for for prolonged periods (e.g. in “natural” disasters). Given our reliance on the internet for things like banking, instant messaging, and other digital communications, the effects could be cataclysmic.
Side note: when I was researching about this I found the best clickbaity article ever:
“The Sun is angrier than expected, but we don’t know why“
Solar flares are a Fun Cool Thing which could hypothetically happen at any given moment. They can cause geomagnetic storms which disrupt satellites, can cause widespread power outages, and would have the potential to damage computers, smartphones and other digital technologies in an instant.
6. Strengthen Relationships
Because that shit makes or breaks you. Because it’s kind of the only thing that matters, in the end. It’s your sanity, your lifelife, your meaning. Building community, having a sense of belonging, purpose and feeling understood by others will be more important than ever in an increasingly polarised world – politically, climatically, the whole shebang. Prioritise people you care about, do it with regularity, and do it meaningfully. Not just because some random 20-something who thinks she’s got something profound to say told you it was worthwhile, but because investing in people is far more lucrative than most anything else.
I’m talkin’ familial, platonic, romantic and… so much more! The Ancient Greeks historically categorised eight distinct types of love:
7. Digital-Free Hobbies
While I already have many of these, I want to acquire new and strengthen pre-existing hobbies. As in number 5, less time on smartphones = more time to get bored. From boredom, creativity is born. Those moments – ever fleeting in this hyper-digitalised, instantaneous, too-convenient-for-its-own-good kind of world – where you don’t know how to pass the time, and your mind is forced to make its own fun. Maybe there’s been a power cut, and you’re left with analog options. No YouTube rabbit holes to go down, no What do you do? For me, it could be any number of things guitar, pottery, reading, writing, logic puzzles, languages, chess, etc etc. While perhaps it’s some peoples personal hell to be left to their own (deviceless) devices, solitude informs my writing, art, music, poetry and so much heck’n more.
8. Stay Informed
Being up to date on news, learning about science and technologies will likely have some use. That said, be discerning, and go easy on yourself. The gradual nature of this environmental change can be deceptive, it’s no wonder we are all so numb and tuned out.
Know what you can and can’t take on, and set yourself boundaries when it comes to checking news, i.e. only do so when emotionally capable. Environmental/climate change fatigue is a thing, and there is no end to the onslaught of distressing reports of climate breakdown.
Finally: Be Open to the Good and Celebrate the Hell Out of It
9. Learn About the Past
I always thought I found history boring, but all it takes is a connection, a human story, a neurodivergent tunnel visioned moment where Everything is Extremely Interesting (iykyk). The past holds a wealth of knowledge about what does and doesn’t work, as well as a warning of what humanity is capable of. We can utilise this knowledge to inform how we proceed with what we know about the future, and envision how things could play out geopolitically. I’ll be honest, it’s a bit freaky to imagine what could eventuate. Mostly though, I find comfort in knowing about those who came before me, and it’s important to preserve those narratives.
10. Skill Acquisition
Same as hobbies really, but for reasons more pragmatic and less entertainment-driven. Fostering resourcefulness can’t hurt, can it? Any excuse to watch Bear Grylls, tbh.
- improving short-term memory and recall
- wilderness “survival” skills (bivouacs, making fires etc)
- first aid
- electricity-free cooking
Mammoth one from me, lots to unpack here. Frankly, I’m exhausted.