Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Is It Time For Radical Change?

Two weeks ago I was in Paris during COP21 to research climate related artworks, mainly by handing out questionnaires about each of them, to learn more about the way people experience climate art and whether it can move people to action. The experience was both inspiring and depressing. It was inspiring because I met so many wonderful people who care about the environment and are actively living alternative lifestyles and trying to inspire change around the world, through being the change and peaceful, powerful protest. But it was depressing at the same time, because so many of the artworks that we saw had an ominous, sinister feel to them, and confronted me once again with the very real threats the earth's inhabitants are facing. On top of that, the 'agreement' that came out of the COP21 climate discussions was very disappointing. There is no binding agreement, which makes me wonder if anything will be done on a worldwide, governmental scale.

This means the future of our planet is 100% in our hands. It is not up to governments to save the world (in fact, it never was): it is up to us. The good news is that everybody has an equal opportunity to make a significant difference in this matter. This is an issue that concerns all of us and can bring humanity together, especially when we no longer worry about governments and society's rules, and instead start to follow our own peaceful path of moral justice. But the downside is that there is no plan B. If we don't make the changes, there is no one else who will do it for us.

Here is a list of what I am currently doing for the planet:
- Remaining purposefully childless
- Creating zero waste (because I stopped shopping)
- ^ This also means I don't finance the destruction of the planet (> every penny you spend goes somewhere...)
- Being mostly vegan 
- Being meds- and substance-free, and being responsible for my own health
- Reusing and recycling society's waste
- Reducing food waste / Saving food by dumpster diving
- Donating rescued food to others (although not so much now as I used to)
- Not owning a car (and I don't have the desire to own one ever again)
- Biking and walking everywhere, even though there are plenty of hills here, and icy roads in winter (I also don't use public transport, which still makes use of fossil fuels)
- Taking the train whenever possible when traveling for my PhD (after I finish my PhD I no longer want to travel by plane, car or public transport at all (only by (hitch)hiking, horse and bicycle))
- Limiting water use (for example by taking short and infrequent showers)
- Sharing a home with others (instead of renting my own house or apartment), which curbs the use of heating and electricity
- Blogging about my experiences so that these ideas can spread and so that change can be created on a larger scale

It's a good start, I suppose. But my week in Paris made it all seem futile. Climate change and world pollution are such huge problems that it can easily become overwhelming and we can start to wonder what the point is of individual change, because one person is only a very tiny part of this huge world (and an even tinier part of the whole universe). And when you are reminded of (and bombarded with) all the reasons why life on earth as we know it is on the brink of destruction due to human activities despite all of your efforts to make a difference, it can be quite depressing and discouraging. It is not that it made me want to go back to old ways (because I will never go back), but I can understand that people who have not made changes yet just feel like there is not much point for them to even bother. And this realization made me lose some of my hope for humanity.

Then I came across this sign:

... and suddenly it all made sense. I realized I was only feeling hopeless because I was slowly getting into other people's business (check out Byron Katie's blog for more on this), which -of course- I don't have any power over and therefore is frustrating and inherently disappointing. Giving up all hope for humanity helped me to once again focus all of my attention where it matters: on me and on what I can do to help the earth. Because that is all I can do. The rest is pointless and likely to demotivate and dishearten me. I am only responsible for my part, but only for 100%. There is no hiding behind rules, cultural traditions, job responsibilities, or other excuses. If there is a will to change, there is always a way.

I still feel dissatisfied with the state of affairs and the outcome of the COP21 though, so I still want to do more. I feel it is time to take more drastic and radical action. I have had plans for a while to take my activism one step further, but why wait? What am I waiting for? I have pledged that the earth is my first priority, so what could be more important?

Therefore I want to take my commitment to care for the earth to the next level. To prepare for moving completely off-grid and thereby reducing my environmental footprint even further, I want to learn more about basic survival skills (I have been wanting to get serious about this for years now): for example advanced foraging skills and learning to build a shelter. I also want to start giving free workshops and talks around the world, to spread ideas, knowledge, skills and inspiration. Additionally, I would like to start an eco-community, where I can help build a new future with like-minded people. If you are interested in contributing to any of these ideas, please feel free to get in touch.

Another thing I really want to do more of, something I have not done enough lately, is appreciate the earth. I want to take the time to sit in nature and admire the beauty around me. I want to enjoy the fresh air and the wildlife around me. I want to appreciate the trees and admire plants and flowers. These are the reasons why I am on this journey to begin with and so it is a welcome and much needed reminder. Besides, the very reason we are in this mess is because nature and all that the earth offers us free of charge has all too often been taken for granted.

At this moment I am therefore planning a nomadic adventure, where I will live completely off-grid for a while. I would like to travel through Europe on foot (or maybe on horseback or by bike), living on dumpster-dived and foraged foods only, and along the way giving free workshops and talks wherever I go. I will also attempt to source my own drinking water as much as possible (from natural sources). Living the nomad lifestyle without a tiny home on wheels means I will have to stay within comfortable temperatures, so I am planning to move from north (Norway) to south (Spain/Portugal) during wintertime and possibly back to the north again during the following summertime. I have never attempted a trip like this before and of course I don't know whether it will even be possible. But I can try. At least it will be a great opportunity for me to learn and practice my foraging skills (and other survival skills), and to take the time to appreciate nature along the way. If the nomadic lifestyle turns out to be impossible to realize or maintain, I may go for plan B instead: setting up an Eco-community.

In everything I do, I always try to demonstrate alternative ways of living. I believe that options create freedom, because if there is another way, you don't have to stay where you are if you don't want to. By sharing my story and experiences, I am hoping to inspire change in others as well. But my main motivation for doing what I do is that doing good feels good. It feels good to take care of the earth. It feels good to support what is important to me, not just with words and thoughts, but also with targeted actions. If this inspires others, then that's great. And if it doesn't, then there is nothing I can do about it.

Nevertheless, I still hope some of you will join me on this quest to reconnect with nature.

PS: Have you looked yourself in the eyes lately? Find a mirror, look yourself in the eye and ask yourself: Am I doing enough? What else can I do for this planet... today? Remember that today can include planning for tomorrow. But do it today and follow up tomorrow.

Feel free to send out your own ripple of change to inspire the world and add your commitment to the planet in the comments below.

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