|Last week I listed forty actions — technological, social, entrepreneurial, political — that could create a new ‘tipping point’ to restore our planet’s, and our, health, and replace the thirty thousand year old, well-intentioned but fatally flawed and unsustainable culture called civilization. These forty actions would undermine civilization and render it obsolete, not by taking us back to hunter-gatherer culture, but by taking us forward to a post-civilization culture in balance and harmony with nature.
This transition to a new culture –which I have called Relater-Sharer culture — could, I argued yesterday, take decades or even centuries to accomplish. It will start slowly, as more and more of us abandon the existing political, educational, economic, business, religious and media systems and institutions, and build a new culture with the building blocks shown in blue in the chart above. Increasing natural scarcities, pressures and disasters (factors shown in green above) — all consequences of civilization’s excesses and failures — will begin to dissuade adherants of civilization’s perpetual growth mantra, and create a further sense of urgency for a sustainable, Relater-Sharer culture, as the established institutions of civilization continue to prove themselves unable to adapt.
I also made the point yesterday that the mechanisms by which we usually try to bring about change — politics, law, economics, and formal education — really aren’t up to the job this time, and although sympathetic changes to these systems won’t hurt, ultimately they’re neither sufficient nor necessary to take us forward out of the mess we have created for ourselves and our world. For that reason, they’re not represented in the building blocks of Relater-Sharer culture shown above. And although these artefacts of wealth and power will be wielded, as always, by those most determined to maintain the status quo, they ultimately won’t be effective against builders of the new culture who will simply opt out of these bankrupt systems, which are as unnecessary in a Relater-Sharer world as they were in the Hunter-Gatherer culture that preceded civilization.
Several readers have said this analysis is informative but not helpful — it doesn’t indicate what each of us, as individuals, can do that will at least not make things worse, and which could make the transition a little less painful and a little quicker, perhaps, for our descendants. Here is such a list, a combination of the forty actions in last week’s post and the Save the World Roadmap I published last year, but taken down to the personal, practical, present-day level. Answers to the question: What Can I Do Now?
Trust your instincts: Reconnect with them, listen to them, and don’t let other people tell you you’re stupid, crazy, irrational, or immoral. If you’re unhappy it’s for a reason. Your gut feeling, your intuition, is written in your DNA, and it’s the source of knowledge that allows every living creature to know what to do. And it worked for man for the first three million years of his life on Earth as well — before language, before laws, before codes of right and wrong — and these were arguably the most successful, leisurely, and happy years of man’s existence. Listen to them, and they’ll tell you what to do.
Listen, Learn, and Teach Others: Spend time both in nature, away from civilization, and with people, listening and talking about things that matter. In nature, reawaken and reconnect with your senses, focus each sense until you really see, hear, smell, taste, feel, connect with the rest of the living organism called Earth. Open yourself up to the joy, and learning of nature. Pay attention. Re-learn to wonder. Then, ‘back’ in civilization, have the courage to talk openly to people about things that really matter to you. Ignore the raised eyebrows and comments about your seriousness and intensity — you’ll find most people care, too. Then listen, don’t preach. Leave behind one practiced, important (to you), articulate idea or thought with the other person, like planting a seed. Learn to tell stories — it’s the only effective way to teach. But share what you know. When you’re talking to someone who strongly disagrees with you, listen, don’t try to convert them. There’s a reason why they feel so differently from you — ferret out and really understand what that reason is (don’t assume they’re ignorant or stupid). Then sow a single seed of doubt. And read quickly and selectively, but don’t let it keep you indoors, or away from people. The real learning is outside. So travel when you can, but forget the hotel chains and chain restaurants. Live with the locals, talk to them, try different things, listen and learn.
Learn and Practice Critical Thinking: Challenge ‘established wisdom’, especially your instincts tell you it’s dubious. Learn your vulnerability to spin, and how to recognize and discount it. Learn to avoid the intellectual fallacies of groupthink and arrogance, but also avoid black hat thinking. Develop emotional intelligence, but never use it to manipulate.
Re-Learn How to Imagine: The school system and most business environments drive it out of us, and it’s easy to get caught up in your own left brain. It can also be frightening: imagining literally means putting your thoughts into images. But it’s powerful, motivating, educational, and creative. Imagine — picture it – what it happening in Sudan where genocide is happening right now. Imagine what is happening in the factory farms before you decide what to make for dinner. Imagine what you could be doing if it wasn’t for your boring, meaningless job. Imagine a better way of doing something, a better way to live. Imagine what could be. Your instincts will tell you what to do next. If we can’t imagine, we can do anything. That’s what got us into this mess.
Use Less Stuff: Consumerism is doubly addictive — you get the fleeting pleasure of acquiring something, and then you have to work harder and earn more money for The Man so you can pay off the debt you incurred to buy it. Learn to live a Radically Simple life — buy better quality stuff that lasts longer, make your own meals instead of using processed foods, think before you buy, don’t get into debt (only buy when you have the cash in your account), buy local rather than imported goods (especially stuff from countries that have poor social and environmental standards), complain about excessive packaging, recycle, reuse, buy used, share tools with neighbours, turn off the lights, cover the pool, use energy-efficient lighting, keep your tires inflated, carpool, walk or bike instead of driving — you know what to do. Make a list, draw up a schedule, and do it.
Stop at One: Consider the virtues of a single-child family. Learn why children in such families are the happiest and most successful. Better yet, adopt.
Become Less Dependent: Learn how to fix things and make things instead of always having to buy replacements. Cut your own lawn, and perform other services yourself, even if you can afford someone else to do it. Self-sufficiency is good for your self-esteem, reduces consumption and waste, helps the environment, and is good exercise.
Become an Activist: Pick a cause you care about, research what needs to be done, use the Internet to organize, and do it. But follow Peter Singer’s advice to make sure your time is well-spent. Especially the parts about not getting caught up in administration, and not trying to change, or enforce, laws. The most fruitful activism is all about informing and educating people, making them aware of their options, and their power as citizens and consumers, often one person at a time, until enough people have changed their minds or their behaviours to change the system.
Volunteer: Rather than sending guilt money, go out and spend time helping those suffering or in need. Pick a charity that you really care about — the soup kitchen, the animal shelter, whatever. Get involved, and talk to the people you’re helping. Don’t get talked into fundraising activities — really get out there and do something with your own two hands. You’ll learn a lot, you’ll feel better, you’ll make a difference, and you just might find out something important about yourself.
Be a Role Model: Talk to others about, and show others, what you’re doing, not just what you’re thinking. People are far more inspired by a good role model than a good speech. And if people tell you you’re a good role model, get out there and flaunt it in the right places — if you’re a woman engineer, go out to the schools and tell girls what a great career it is. If you’re doing half the things on this list, you’re a great role model — inspire others to follow your example.
Be a Pioneer: If you have the time and the passion for it, pick a new cause, use the Internet to find like minds, do your homework, organize, and do something completely new. Start a community energy co-op. Set up a ‘virtual’ market for local crafts, organic or free-range foods, or whatever needs better local distribution. Establish a community-based business. Or create a whole community, self-selected, self-organized, self-sufficient, with people you love, and show the world how much more sense this makes than living in a community of strangers and driving long distances to work for someone you dislike so you can buy stuff you don’t need made by other strangers even unhappier with their lives than you are. The new culture will be built bottom-up, one community at a time, and the sooner we start finding a community model that works well in a post-civilization society, the better.
Find or Create a Meaningful Job: Each of us has talents, interests, and time. It’s amazing how many of us spend all our time doing work that we find uninteresting, and which doesn’t effectively use our talents. We become wage slaves, underemployed and bored because we’re convinced or afraid that a better job doesn’t exist. And we work so hard at it we have no time left to challenge that conviction or fear. That’s what the corporatists are counting on. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Find the time to figure out what you really would like to do with your life, how you’d really like to make a living. Then research the possibilities, talk to people who are doing it, find out what’s possible, learn what’s involved in creating your own business (and don’t listen to accountants or MBAs). If we were all doing jobs we loved, with people we love, and in charge of our own careers, the corporatists would have no staff, and their environmentally devastating empires would crumble.
Share Your Expertise: If you have talents, specialized know-how, or technical or scientific skills and knowledge that could be useful in solving birth control, clean energy, disease prevention, conservation, animal cruelty, pollution and waste, local self-sufficiency, non-animal foods, ‘more-with-less’ product streamlining, self-organization, collaboration, consumer and citizen awareness and activism, animal communication, conflict resolution, mental illness, and other issues contributing to environmental deterioration, create ‘open source’ spaces where others can access what you know, contact you, and collaborate with you and with others to solve these problems.
Be Good to Yourself: You’re not going to be any use saving the world if you’re depressed, unfit or stressed out. Don’t take the problems of the world personally, or blame yourself for them. If news or failure to accomplish something gets you down, go out and do something you enjoy. Eat healthy and stay fit, but don’t make a religion of it — indulge yourself from time to time. Learn how to prevent illnesses instead of waiting for them to occur. Spend time with people who like you, and accept their compliments warmly. Love yourself, realize that you can do anything you want to do. Appreciate that you’re part of the solution, and that makes you extraordinary.
Infect Others With Your Spirit and Passion: Love openly, completely, as many people as you can. Be emotional, except in those very rare occasions when dispassion is needed. Smile excessively. But refuse to tolerate cruelty, suffering, unfairness, bullying, jealousy, apathy, despair, cynicism or hate, in yourself or others — alleviate it, disarm it, discharge it, whatever it takes to stop these negative emotions and activities, and appreciate that they’re signs of sickness, not evil.
A period of great change is always turbulent and unsettling, and the transformation to a Relater-Sharer culture won’t be achieved in our lifetime. So we will need to be, like all pioneers, patient, indefatiguable, and aware that the beneficiaries of what we do starting now will be our descendents, future generations who will only know us from stories. As human beings, and as the species that created this mess in the first place, we owe them no less. We know, instinctively, that that is why we’re here.