Another call to change. (A.k.a. Writing about an ecological crisis while trying to live ‘alternatively’)

It’s just before 2 in the morning – I’m lucky enough, and possibly strange enough, to be accustomed to staring at our view of the Milky Way and pondering our place as cognitive human beings at this serene time of the day (or morning, or night – whatever) due to my polyphasic sleep pattern – a pattern that now seems to involve ‘proper’ Everyman 3 polyphasic sleeping every second day (look it up if you are unfamiliar with it and some other content on this blog).

What is notably different about this mid-winter night/early-morning is that the temperature is 20 degrees Celsius, which is somewhat unnerving considering that we awoke to frost about a month ago. Sure, this is a notoriously schizophrenic part of the southern hemisphere generally, and I have been surprised by the undulating weather patterns frequently, but I did feel rather alarmed when I stepped outside in my scarf and the several layers of clothing I am used to putting on at such a ridiculous time of these winter mornings, only to be slapped by a wave of heat when I opened the door!

Maybe it’s due to to my current research into the ecological crisis that I’m sensitive to notable deviations from weather ‘norms’. I won’t get started on the topic of climate change here – I’ve done that in other writing for my PhD recently and it is clear that I have reason to be sensitive to such changes. I have also focused on loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, deforestation, loss of topsoil, water issues, landfill waste, associated pollution, and toxic and chemical waste, and genetically modified organisms. FUN! It is the groundwork for the following 6 chapters of the study, so a necessary evil – a very eye-opening one. Not that I am finished this part of the research yet; more awaits.

It is very weird writing these sub-sections for chapter 1 of a 7 chapter study, realising that we all really need to be involved in actualising considerable lifestyle changes on a massive scale, or, having made personal changes, equipping other people to do the same. This is not an opinion, by the way, for those critics who always start ‘umming and ahing’ about the attitudes of environmentalists or ecologists and then start talking about life in the ‘real’ world versus the ideals of the greenies‘ (the ‘green’ revolution, by the way, is bullshit; it has been kidnapped by capitalists, the same people widely responsible for the eco-crisis; a brown revolution is needed, where people get their hands properly dirty, and reconnect to the Earth – for a start!). The research I have done, which is only a tip of an ice-berg, and which I intend to start posting to this site soon (despite the widespread availability of the information, if only the masses could be bothered to stop paying attention to the ‘news’ of the corporate mass media), shows unambiguously that change to ecologically-sensitive, cooperativeand restorative systems is imperative if we are to survive as a species. It is crystal clear to me now: when someone calls me or ‘my’ ecologically-focused imperative ‘idealistic’, it is indeed the critic who is idealistic, in the sense that they have fallen hook-line-and-sinker for ideology that has resulted in the widespread alteration of our fragile ecosystems for anthropocentric material gain; in posting the research I have done so far in the near future, I will substantiate these claims – it will be a 2-and-a-half year process though, so be patient.

The paradox is, of course, that while I’m sitting and researching and typing, I am not directly involved with helping people achieve the necessary realisations that precede physical changes to more sustainable lifestyles. It is the case, however, that when I think about this paradox, I remember also that I have been on the protesting and activism band-wagon for a long time, for example, in the Occupy movement in the UK. I have brought up the ‘serious’ topics with my family and friends, well, too often since being back in South Africa – almost 2 years to the day. All of it may have resulted in a lifestyle change in a person here and there. My actions, I hoped, spoke louder than my words – my frugal, mostly-sustainable lifestyle has been well documented on this blog. Yet looking at my family and friends, and at the too-many strangers I see when I’m in town, business as usual prevails – for now, at least.

The research I am doing into the ecological crisis at the moment implies, in my view, that we are screwed – even if everyone stopped business as usual right now, or even 5 years ago, we would still have to deal with the combined massive consequences of widespread ecological destruction that has been part-and-parcel of industrial consumer society. (Good luck to your kids; and theirs; I am certainly not having any!) Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should keep up the mad lifestyles that currently underlie the eco-crisis; rather, it elevates the call to act from a shout to a scream. Knowing that I have done what I can, for now at least, I am happy to be behind a computer a lot these days; I feel like I have achieved a good balance between the use of technology (this laptop and the internet) and an ecologically-sensitive and healthy lifestyle. It might all be pissing-into-the-wind considering that the numbers of people voluntarily and knowingly living such a lifestyle are negligible when compared to the 3 or so billion people in the developed world who consume far more per person than ‘we’, the converted, ever will. And to be honest, I’m tired of the usual responses of ‘Yes, but the reality is that…’ and ‘At the end of the day…’ – no no no, your reality is that, and at the end of your day blah blah blah; take a bloody look around mate – we’re really screwing things up for more than just ourselves.

Ecocide – the extensive damage or destruction of the natural landscape and disruption or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory to such an extent that the survival of the inhabitants of that territory is endangered. That’s where we are at. We all need to make drastic changes quickly; some of us have already done so, and are examples of the fact that it is possible. But nobody can force anyone else to make these changes – it is always a personal choice. Currently, the business-as-usual approach is the dominant choice, albeit one akin to sticking one’s head in the sand. It will not be an option for very much longer. For now I will continue to tread as softly as possible and step back from the ecological debate – there isn’t one, despite what the capitalists have allowed themselves to believe. Human beings are the biggest threat that we have ever faced (so far; maybe a threat of a comet impact or something similar could unite us). Again, the information to support such a statement is a few clicks away online, or alternatively, available from any ecologically-focused friend you have previously ignored.

So maybe I have reached the point where I have realised that it’s time to let people continue digging humanity’s grave; humanity in its current manifestation, at least – indeed, it might be a good thing for other life on the planet that we eradicate ourselves. The problem is that we are on track to take so many life-forms out with us, and the world we’ll leave behind might be inhospitable to the diversity of life as we know it for many millions of years into the future. So best ‘we’ change – but judging by the way that most of you act, it’s unlikely. My hope is that I can be proved wrong.

How would you prove me wrong? Well, I’m glad you asked! Permanently turn off your television, geyser/boiler, washing machine, dishwasher, any lights over 5 watts, refrigerator, deep-freeze, etc. Stop driving so much – in fact, drive only in emergencies; walk or cycle instead. Stop buying anything that you might have to throw away – ever. Stop using so much water; wash only when you are ‘dirty’). Stop supporting the pharmaceutical industry; alternative medicines abound. Stop believing that human nature is competitive, which means stopping competitive sports too! Stop prioritising money. Stop viewing the world as purely ‘material’. Stop voting and instead participate in democracy directly – its called direct democracy (look it up). Start a vegetable garden – convert your entire garden, street, neighbourhood. Stop eating meat and GMOs. Start planting trees, lots of them. Start composting your own human wastes (properly, of course!). Start building structures from recycled or sustainable materials. Start living slowly, appreciating the tiny and fragile things in life. Start remembering ancient knowledge, or at least ‘old’ knowledge. (Oh so many more dos and don’ts, but oh it’s getting late, or early, whatever.)

You don’t want to do any of the above? Well, unfortunately, it is now an either-or scenario: either you stop the kinds of problematic actions and habits I’ve only started to list above, and start adopting the kinds of alternatives I’ve also only touched upon, or you continue to actively participate in the acceleration towards the shitstorm that is currently unfolding globally, one which is only beginning. Technology will not save us, nor will political or economic reform. YOU have the choice, and YOUR actions are the only ones that matter. And no, there is no debate regarding this matter; there is only delay.