Two years ago I put together a set of 15 actions that anyone can take to help create a new relater-sharer culture, a new, sustainable, collaborative and egalitarian economy and a new, responsible political system. I thought it would be useful to integrate this ‘what you can do’ list with actions that I have argued need to be done either as top-down political actions (institutional changes to public policies, programs and laws), or as peer-to-peer grassroots collective actions. To do so, I have regrouped the 15 actions into four categories:
Personal Learning and Preparedness Actions:
Learn and Practice Critical Thinking: Challenge ‘established wisdom’, especially when 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.
Reconnect With Your Senses and Instincts: 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. Reconnect with your instincts, 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.
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. Understand that at the heart of the modern age is a core of grief but don’t let that grief consume you. 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. 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.
Personal Actions You Do One-on-One:
Listen, Learn, and Teach Others: 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.
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, about what needs to be done, about your purpose, about who needs your gift now.
Stop at One and Encourage Others to Do Likewise: Consider the virtues of a single-child family. Learn why children in such families are the happiest and most successful. Better yet, adopt. Explain to others why you’re doing this, without being preachy about it.
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.
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.
Personal Actions You Do As Part of Community:
Share Your Expertise & Knowledge: 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 exchanges and spaces where others can access what you know, contact you, and collaborate with you and with others to solve these problems. This work is essential to making Sustainability Information Exchanges work: Using shared, citizen/consumer knowledge to wrench power from irresponsible oligopolies and corporatists, and creating peer-to-peer networks that will render them obsolete.
Find and Do Meaningful Work: 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 natural, sustainable enterprise (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. We need to create a whole peer-to-peer economy of sustainable, egalitarian, responsible enterprises to replace them, and it starts with each of us ensuring our genius is ‘on purpose’, and what we do is of meaningful use.
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 (and consider a vegan diet, using local ingredients), 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. And then connect with, and teach others, to increase your own and your community’s resilience even more, while reducing your collective impact on the Earth.
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, so you need less money and are not so needlessly dependent on others. Learn how to teach your children, even if you don’t home-school them. Learn how to prevent, self-diagnose and self-treat accidents and illnesses. Learn how to resolve disputes and grievances without using the dysfunctional legal system. Self-sufficiency is good for your self-esteem, lowers stress, reduces consumption and waste, helps the environment, and is good exercise. And if things go badly for civilization this century, it could be a survival skill.
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. Establish an Intentional Community with people you love, 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. 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. Establisha community-based business. The new culture will be built bottom-up, one community at a time, and the sooner we start finding community models that work well in a post-civilization society, the better.
Personal Actions You Do to Bring About High-Level Political and Economic Reform:
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. The next most fruitful activism is the only thing that can bring about political and economic reform: Knowing how the existing system works, why it’s failing, why it is the way it is, and precisely how to change it. This requires patience, expertise, time and persistence. But it has paid off in Europe, for example, where energy conservation and alternative energy programs are light years ahead of North America’s, and where ecological tax-shifting has occurred because it was presented knowledgeably and effectively as a win-win.
I’m a never-say-die change provocateur, but I’ve left activism until last for a reason. I really believe it is the least effective, and most discouraging, thing one can do to try to make the world a better place. The advice from Peter Singer I linked to above is brilliant, absolutely essential if you’re determined to bring about political change, but I know some people who have followed it and still failed. The system works the way it does for a reason, and often that reason is to increase the wealth and power of those who already have a disproportionate share of it, and to throw impossible barriers in the road of anyone seeking to change the status quo, even when that status quo is obscene. As Singer says, “The real battle is for the hearts and minds of people. Keeping in touch with what the public is thinking, selecting a target, setting an achievable goal, getting accurate information, maintaining credibility, suggesting alternative solutions, being ready to talk to adversaries or to confront them if they will not talkóall of these are directed toward creating a campaign that is a practical means of making a difference.” Such work is not for everyone.
And it is not necessary that everyone be an activist. Unless saner minds prevail than the ones making most of the critical political and economic decisions today, we are heading on many fronts for a collision with unsustainability, and the inevitable political upheaval that always follows horrific scarcity and outrageous inequality in the distribution of wealth and power. In such a case the centralized and fragile institutions of our civilization may well not survive, making the struggle for needed political, legal and economic reforms moot. If that happens, billions of people will be looking for alternatives, another way to live, and those who have pursued the 15 actions above will be in the best position to show them how, and to lead our fierce and intelligent species forward to confront what could be its greatest challenge, and, after a long exile, to find our way home.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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