Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Discussion of Our Best Strategy Right Now

(This is the ninth of a nine-part installment, offering a fresh new perspective on Climate Change.  For the big picture summary, see Turning Climate Change on its Head.)


The development of action plans for social change is miles out of my background and comfort level.  You won't find a practical action plan here.  However, I do have some (naive) ideas.  My goal is not to start implementing a To-Do list - it's to inspire some discussion.

If we're talking about Climate Change being a catalyst in bringing about the end of civilization as we know it (something the United Nations is beginning to seriously theorize on, I might add), then we're really talking about the human species possibly surviving in a civilization that's not as we know it now.

How might civilization be different?

There are a number of well-accepted models for healthier economies and civilizations.  Some examples have been around for tens of thousands of years:

First Nations Medicine Wheel

Others are relatively new proposals:

8 Principles of Regenerative Vitality
from The Capital Insitute

There is no single answer; nor should there be.  Cultures must be as diverse as the communities they're found in.  The one truth that we must hold on to, moving forward, is that quantitative value systems (where More Is Always Better), cannot be allowed to predominate and trump innate human values.  There is nothing in nature that exists without any concept of sufficiency, and our next civilization has to remember that we are all part of the nature around us.

A sustainable civilization is not one that has enough resources to last a long time; it is one that does not destroy its resources faster than they can be replaced.

It's paramount that we never lose sight of our actual objective.  An example I often use is to ask:  Which do you think will move us closer to our goal - insulating your house, using recycled paper in your printer, and driving a hybrid vehicle; OR replacing paper tissues with a cotton handkerchief?  In terms of a direct assault on climate change, the first set of actions would likely have more impact, but that's not my recommended objective.  Instead, I believe we have to change mindsets in a more fundamental way.  Insulation, recycled paper, and a hybrid vehicle are commonplace, and will soon be forgotten.

I switched to cotton handkerchiefs after inheriting an unused set from my parents, and immediately noticed the following impacts:

  • Having made that decision, I am constantly reminded of it whenever I reached for my handkerchief.  That makes me feel good, every time.
  • Cotton is stronger than paper tissue and can do a much better job.
  • A cotton handkerchief is always at hand and does not mess up my pocket in any way.
  • I prefer the feel of warm cotton on my nose.  It takes me back to the days of my grandfather.
  • I'm constantly reminded of how corporations lured us into the single-use, bleached-white world of paper tissues by amplifying and then exploiting a distorted 'ick' factor.
  • It's not something everyone is doing.  When people notice the handkerchief, it often inspires a conversation.  Those conversations are powerful and necessary.

Those are the objectives I push for: doing the right thing, feeling better about it, being constantly reminded of how good your value-choice feels, and sharing that with others.  Allowing human values to override the numeric values that everyone else now considers unimpeachable is precisely the point.

The only way this species is going to be sustainable on this planet is if it drops the idea that More Is Always Better.

Nature has given us all of the appropriate values to exist under a paradigm of sufficiency and sustainability.  We simply(!) have to stop allowing our impossible, contrived values to trump those qualitative ones imbued by nature.

How do we make that happen?

I believe it's too late to change our current society.  That's not going to happen before the tipping point of climate change is well past.  If you want to start preparing for life after climate change, the best audiences will be found in two groups: (1) our youth and children, and (2) communities that already get it.  I have twice mentioned my Value Change Conundrum in this post series - the challenge of getting people to question the precedence of their core value systems.  There's no time to go changing most people's perspective on humanity before it all hits the fan.  So, change agents should start with the people who either have no indoctrination in civilization's flawed More-Is-Always-Better value system (children), or those who have already rejected it.  The rest of the world will come on board when that flawed value system has totally failed them (i.e. when they are dealing with the full impacts of climate change).

(Interestingly, I have also found senior citizens to also be very receptive to the messaging around restoring living values to prominence.  This might be attributable to their memory of different times, but I think it more likely that all of us, as we enter our sunset years, start to realize the stupidity of our over-consumption and obsession with monetary wealth.  Our elders may not be around for the next generation, but they may still be able to influence it.)

We should be making better use of the time and energy that we have.  So, let's look at some things that (I believe) waste that time and energy:

  • Talking to Politicians - Yes, there are champions and heroic leaders out there, but Modern Techno-Industrial governments will not get this started.

  • Turning to Technology - Yes, we will eventually need technological help and solutions, but they will not lead the way.  At this point, the vast majority of technology will make matters worse.

  • Changing Existing Business Models - Yes, there are 'B' corporations, 'green initiatives', and other good intentions, but the whole status quo concept of the publicly-traded commercial corporations has to go.  The public sector will not be doing that by choice.

Here are some basic ideas for where to start:

  • Leverage existing networks - Who are the people who will be most receptive to accepting that climate change might actually be an important part of the solution to our species dilemma?  One possibility is the people who have been actively supporting the Transition Town Movement since 2006.  Originally started to transition local communities away from a dependence on fossil fuels, there are now over 1000 groups in communities all over the world, independently making a positive difference, using the values we need championed.

  • Rethink education - Our education system is predicated on preparing our children for their future.  However, the status quo is not our future, so the curriculum needs some serious re-examination.  Unfortunately, going through school boards is not the best approach for preparing our children for value system changes - the education system is far too politicized for that.  Better to focus on smaller cohorts like individual teachers who are interested, home-schooling, summer camps, etc.

What should we be doing right now?

My sequel to The Value Crisis (titled Our Second Chance) ends every chapter with a "What You Can Do Right Now" section, addressed to a wide audience of readers.  For this particular blog series, I'll try to be more targeted.

My thoughts are not unique.  There are others who have reached the same conclusion.  We have to gather such people together, in person, for a symposium to gel ideas, get on the same page, and combine forces.  The in-person component is important.  This is essentially human work, and humans were not designed to interact by text or video.  Yes, others may be included remotely, but the core has to meet face-to-face.

The people gathered will be thought leaders and will include experts who have been thinking about these issues for a long time.  They have much to offer, not just in perspective and visionary thinking, but also in very practical terms: how to deal with local impacts of climate events, how to cut through the disinformation and pitches for dead-end climate solutions, how to communicate hope and possibilities to the next generation.  That content has to be put together in accessible and practical formats.

We then have to reach out to the audiences identified - Transition Town groups, Green Party members, PROBUS groups - those who will be most receptive to the message.  Amongst those people, we hope to find connections into youth groups and tomorrow's leaders.  The human values which have been so long trampled must be demonstrated, exemplified, championed, and relearned by the next generation.

Resources must be created which will help parents, educators, and those who work with youth to learn ways to restore values like joy, integrity, justice, beauty, and respect for nature to the prominence needed for a civilization that is sustainable.  Climate Change may now be a sure thing, but we can change the values that brought this on and discover ways that our species can once again fit into the biosphere in a way that does not destroy it.

My essential message is really quite simple:

The concept that More Is Always Better has led our species into catastrophe and scarcity.  It is not part of our natural value set - we invented it.  It has perhaps served us for a time, but it is completely unsustainable.  So long as such a concept is allowed to trump living human values, our species is doomed.  The alternative is innately programmed in all of us - we simply have to give it a chance to bring joy and abundance back to our civilization.