“I didn’t become an environmentalist because someone made a rational argument that convinced me that the planet was in danger. I became an environmentalist out of love and pain: love for the world and its beauty and the grief of seeing it destroyed. It was only because I was in touch with these feelings that I had the ears to listen to evidence and reason and the eyes to see what is happening to our world. I believe that this love and this grief are latent in every human being. When they awaken, that person becomes an environmentalist.”
~ Charles Eisenstein
Here is how real change happens: you are exposed to facts and information, until suddenly something “clicks” inside (the information may or may not be especially impactful) but then you say “enough!”…
If the exposure happens at a daily basis (as from TV news, newspapers, websites, tweets, where news from a killer typhoon and the last Hollywood movie star are treated as they have the same importance) we may become overwhelmed and our reaction is to ignore or minimize them: too much exposure doesn’t bring enlightenment or action, it makes us used to things that should be unacceptable.
Change comes from the heart: you suddenly understand there is a line, a threshold you don’t want to cross. For most of us, the threshold has stretched too much: we passively accept social and ecological injustice; what is even worse is that we actively support and feed a system that allows or creates these injustices in the first place.
Last night I read an excellent post from Rob Hopkins, the initiator of Transition: “The day I closed my Amazon Account”: http://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2013-12/day-i-closed-my-amazon-account . The post sent me to read Carole Cadwalladr’s article on how she went undercover, worked for one of Amazon’s warehouses in Britain and discover how these corporations are sweeping +100 of human and workers’ rights history and advances: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/01/week-amazon-insider-feature-treatment-employees-work
For many in the so called “Third World” countries and for many in the forgotten lower classes or minorities in rich countries this is no news at all. Human and workers’ rights have never existed for them (or they do exist but have to be continuously reminded and enforced through strikes, protests and riots). What makes this news more appalling is that this is happening in Europe, where just a few years ago economies were “thriving” and the middle class was pushed to get more and more indebted and buy houses and “stuff” with the promise that nothing but growth was expected ahead…what is also scary and heartbreaking, is that many of these underpaid and overworked temporary employees come from that middle class: as Carole describes in her article: “they’re builders, hospitality managers, marketing graduates, IT technicians, carpenters, electricians. They owned their own businesses, and they were made redundant. Or the business went bust. Or they had a stroke. Or their contract ended. They are people who had skilled jobs, or professional jobs, or just better-paying jobs. And now they work for Amazon, earning the minimum wage, and most of them are grateful to have that.”
What is more heartbreaking for me is that we start paying attention because it is becoming close: because is not happening in some far away country (or county). We suddenly become aware and awake: the system we support with our Amazon’s convenient stock and delivery of goods, our Walmart’s lower prices and our thirst for more and cheaper “stuff” is engulfing the local economies (as they have already done in other countries) and taking advantage of people’s needs; these big stores and corporations are stealing our children’s future and creating the scene for a back to slavery and the creation of small elites that will survive and feed their machines with their addictions. They are ravaging ecosystems and social systems equally with no vision of future beyond their greedy noses.
How far should they go until we say “enough!”, how far until we stop them? Where is the threshold? When are we going to change?
These weeks, I have taken a well deserved break (not from work, but from many other causes I support) to read the three books I was given as an assignment for my Diploma in Permaculture. I had read these books as textbooks or to consult a particular strategy before, but never sat and read them properly. These books are “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual”, “Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture” and “Gaia’s Garden”…since I became aware of Permaculture, I understood it was much more than a sustainable system to grow food: it is a way to see the world, a way to interpret how ecology works and our role in all this: a humble role in acknowledging (and accepting) that we are just another specie, not some special ones who have the right to sack it all and can live independently of Nature…
But it struck me, reading “A Designer’s manual” for the second time, that Permaculture is a manual for social justice and change. It is a manual for empowering ourselves and others and become unsupportive of a system that is killing the planet and other fellow beings.
Each one of us has become so dependent! Look at us: we “need” jobs. Without jobs we become nothing: our identities are reflected in the way we introduce ourselves: “I’m a teacher”, “I’m a nurse”, “I work in IT”. Without jobs we not only lose
identity, we lose structure and meaning, we lose our access to the basics of life: food, shelter, clothing…and we become easy prey of those in power, those who have the means to provide shelter, food, clothing and all the other “needs” and “wants”.
We have forgotten how to feed and shelter ourselves. Most of us have no idea of how to make clothes or shoes and if the system breaks, we have no way to exchange skills or goods for these services from others, as most in our communities are like us: completely dependent on “far away”, on “technology”, on “energy”…We don’t even have tools, or land or access to the basics to make our lives bearable: recent New Zealand earthquakes showed how dependant we are: the main cause of affliction was not that houses and roads were destroyed. The main problem was that people didn’t have a safe place to poop. And we are talking about thousands of educated, middle class citizens…going to their backyards (in plain sight) and using portable toilets nobody knew were to empty. This became their reality for weeks, if not months: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10710587
All my life, I have been familiar with that feeling of being at the edge: our lives are so vulnerable! As Carole says in her article: “I’ve always known that there’s only a tissue-thin piece of luck between very different sorts of lives.”
We tend to believe that our current lifestyles and jobs are stable; that tomorrow will probably be like today or even better, that somewhat, “somebody” will provide: for some, that somebody is their parents, their employers, their children, their government, God or the last one: “the Universe”. Our irresponsibility and denial is rampant and appallingly spread out. If we didn’t think that way, we wouldn’t take on debts, mortgages or destroy the actual and only system that supports us: Mother Nature.
As a human being, I ask myself what is the path to follow.
Gardening is the ultimate activism: if you fight and complain but you don’t know how to feed yourself and your loved ones, you are a slave. Along with gardening, getting out of debt, cutting the dependence from a sick and unfair system by re-skilling in basic areas to be able to both exchange and supply for your loved ones, as well as creating “friction” in the system (as Naomi Klein explains in her article: http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt ) are all important things to do.
As a career counsellor and community worker, I also ask myself what is my role.
Empowering others to do the above so they don’t need to accept whatever is thrown at them (as it is the case for those Amazon’s workers and many more around the world), helping them to create a stronger and people-ecosystems-centered economy, spreading the word and helping them to cut their support to this system may be the answer.
Good Bye Amazon, welcome Permaculture.
2014 will be a year of important resolutions, and it has just begun…