“So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
~ Malcolm X
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Wow! I just finished working on my upcoming conference presentations…one about the use of Web 2.0 when working with clients and the second about the green, the sharing and the gift economies…this is a conference for career practitioners and my goal is to start a conversation about our role to guide, encourage and support clients through the huge transition ahead: a necessary transition away from consumption and continuous “growth”; a transition away from fossil fuel dependence and towards a more sustainable and resilient lifestyle (and livelihood)…
When I first encounter the topics I usually discuss here (Climate Change, Peak Oil, resource depletion, soil and water degradation, food security, social inequality, unsustainable debt, economic injustice and so one) my main struggle was: how do I continue (or whether I continue) with a career path whose purpose is to help people to find and keep jobs and to figure out what career/studies to take…when this (my own) career is based on (and supports) the system (social, economic, political) I no longer believe in or support?
Not that I wasn’t aware of the problems listed above when I chose to become a career practitioner. My first thought (when choosing this particular career path) was: how to help people like me (with multiple career paths before moving to Canada and the challenge of being a completely unknown ESL immigrant with no recognized credentials or local experience); how to help them to find their way and a job to support their families?
And being “aware” of the above topics was not enough: they were inside my head…but not yet inside my heart. I was “aware” as many out there who read about the crisis in Europe or the still ongoing foreclosing in US, or about how scientists had connected climate change with the increase of natural disasters and food insecurity, etc. and then I would go to work and shop as usual and read my books and dream my dreams thinking that the world of the future would be, more or less, as the world we have today or even better…with ups and downs here and there, but probably growing to its never-ending progress…
And then, it hit me: among many people in this “community” we call it “taking the red pill”. It is the time when you understand not only in your head but also (and mostly) in your heart, even in your stomach, that climate change is real, that resource depletion is real, that things are going to change and are in fact changing, that the problems we will have (both as individuals and collectively) will not be magically solved by “human ingenuity and science” because we don’t have enough leadership to make the shift fast enough and deep enough…
I understood that my future, my children’s future and everybody else’s future will be very, very different from what we have been used to.
My first move was to read as crazy: I have an entire library (two bookshelves) full of books about the topics…I also have videos and follow blogs and groups. I joined the local Transition group, I learned Permaculture, I became serious about growing food and community gardens, I joined the local Food Action Coalition, I started doing community work, I trained in emergency preparedness, disaster management and first aid…I was frantic doing all this and thinking: I need to change my career too!
But what do I do???
And then I realized that I am also in transition, and that I can leverage on my own career as “career practitioner” to help the transition take place. I needed to make noise, I needed to share the news, not to scare people, but to connect with their hearts and learn together how we can support others in their own transition towards a more sustainable career path, where people don’t “need” to go to Alberta to work on the Tar Sands to earn a living, and where people don’t need to accept enslaving and unfulfilling jobs earning a penny for their efforts and their lives.
That is partially why I am presenting at this conference.
The two topics are interconnected: the use of Web 2.0 will be really important in this transition: both the sharing and the gift economies may not be able to exist (or may exist in smaller scale) without social media. And social media provides people with the tools to create their own jobs, connect with others to find potential partners for co-ops and social entrepreneurship or develop sustainable projects.
In an environment where most career practitioners become excited when a company moves to town and open its doors (because the potential for “job creation”), or when a new mining, dam, liquefied gas, pipelines or other project is approved for operations we rarely ask critical (and ethical) questions such as
- How is this new company impacting the local environment, the local economy, beyond “creating” jobs and “creating” artificial needs for goods and services?
- How are my clients benefiting as human beings (themselves, their children and families) when they move to a horrible town where the main purpose is to extract as much oil, gas, coal, etc. with disregard for their health, their dreamed purposes in life, their community connections and their own internal fulfilment as human beings?
- How is this project impacting the long-term health and wellbeing of my community, my clients and future generations?
And probably the most important of all the questions for us as career practitioners:
- What am I doing, as a person of influence over other people’s career lives, to create awareness and help the necessary shift?
This shift will come, no matter whether we want it or not, no matter whether we help it or not. The difference will be how it comes and how it affects us.
If we proactively and positively embrace the predicaments and start pushing and working for a better, more sustainable, respectful, just and resilient world, we may be able to create realistic EDAPs (Energy Descent Action Plans) for both communities and individuals…and these action plans may welcome all the available and potential tools, ideas and projects emerging from the green (not to be confused with the “green-washing”), the sharing and the gift economies to create new livelihoods (jobs) that will be more local, fulfilling, meaningful, community-oriented and justly rewarded.
But if we look at the other side or continue sleep-walking and believing these predicaments are unreal, too far away in the future or that somebody or something will magically “save” us, then the shift will not be smooth nor comfortable: it will be a tough and painful rollercoaster where many will suffer and even die.
I don’t know how my news will be received or whether they will pay attention and take steps towards a necessary change…I only have my passion, all the research I have done and hope: active and powerful hope.
“Quand tu veux construire un bateau, ne commence pas par rassembler du bois, couper des planches et distribuer du travail, mais reveille au sein des hommes le desir de la mer grande et large.
(If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea).”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry