Monday, 12 December 2016

Why We Will Suffocate If We Don't Change Our Ways

The importance of phytoplankton
One of the effects of climate change that is -strangely- hardly ever talked about, is that it depletes the oxygen levels in our oceans. Most people don't really see the harm in this, because they see themselves as separate from nature, oceans and other species, but the truth is that everything is interconnected, and the oceans are extremely important for human survival.

The vast majority of the oxygen we breathe comes from the oceans, or more specifically: from phytoplankton. If the oceans suffocate, then so do we. Nevertheless, due to continued overfishing and the rising temperatures of the oceans as a result of climate change, we have been creating oceanic dead zones like there is no tomorrow (and if we continue, there indeed won't be a tomorrow) and yet most people do not seem to feel overly concerned. At the same time we have been steadily cutting down rainforests, so it almost seems like we want to make sure that we don't make it out alive.

I hope we do though, and that we all start to take this problem seriously, and make the necessary changes in our lives (**NB: this link contains suggestions that will not be sufficient anymore to avert climate change, but which can offer a way for you to get started. Eventually (and rather sooner than later) a carbon neutral - and preferably carbon negative- lifestyle is the only way to go**).

Why are people not massively taking action?
The 'consensus' among the public seems to be that they won't be personally affected by climate change, they will still have time when disaster strikes, or perhaps that others should fix it. However, this is not so. When the oceans suffocate, then oxygen levels are likely to drop down to levels that are no longer sufficient for humans to survive, which will give us just a few more minutes on the planet (however much time is needed to suffocate) before we all go extinct. This shift is most likely to happen suddenly, without warning (other than the many warnings we have already had) and therefore result in almost instant, global human extinction - along with most other life on the planet. There will be nowhere to hide either. No safe zones. 

The solution
As we are all contributing to climate change with carbon output, we are all partly responsible for this and so it is up to us all to lower our collective carbon footprints, all the way down to zero and ideally into the negative - before it is too late. (Going moneyless can be a huge step in the right direction! I personally believe this is the only solution - as money has become so intimately connected with destruction to the planet, but I am always open to other suggestions.)

Remember that whatever objections you may have to making changes, whatever difficulties you project, or whatever you may think is more important for you to focus on right now, it all fades into insignificance when you consider the alternative: extinction.

Links for further reading:

Please read this article about oxygen depletion, which I think is the most important research related to climate change that is currently out there: (you need a university subscription in order to read the complete article, but if you don't have one you can email me a request: make sure to include the link).

The link at number 1 explained in a way that is easier to understand.

Check here to see if you have these misconceptions about climate change. (Again, if you cannot read the full article, but you want to read it, please email me this link with a request for the full article).

Clear description of the research about deoxygenation of the oceans.

The link between climate change and ocean oxygen depletion explained.

More on the link between climate change and the oceans, and an explanation of mass extinction.

More about climate change and ocean dead zones.

The relationship between climate change and capitalism, plus some history.

This article is from 2006, about biodiversity loss in the oceans. At that point it was still reversible. I hope that it still is. In any case it is a good reason not to consume ANY seafood anymore. Let's keep our oceans as healthy as possible, because the oceans are the basis for life on earth.

Mass extinction evidence from an article written in 2008 (basically old news by now from a scientific view point - remember that conditions continue to change, and changes are speeding up now as human populations continue to grow and continue to do more and more damage (on average).

On human domination of the planet, and how it has harmed other species and the land.

More about the suffocation of the oceans. (see 4)

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Taking A Break From Moneyless Living: Why I Miss It


Right now I am on a trip to Australia by train, which I managed to make a part of my research project. This means that I am taking a break from living a moneyless life for the duration of this trip: I buy train tickets, overnight stays and some food.
I try to stick to minimal spending, but I am definitely using money. However, from the very first day I was missing rewilded / moneyless living  already, and here is what I miss about it.

People usually think that money buys them freedom, but this is actually not true. There is in fact a lot more planning and scheduling involved when you are using money: You have to book tickets that are only available in limited quantities, you have to book hotels or hostels that need to be arranged beforehand (also available in limited numbers) and if you only stick to using money, your travels are restricted to touristically developed areas.
You may think this buys you security at the very least (knowing you will have a place to stay), but this is not always the case either (there are always scammers around who are ready to take your money, hotels can get fully booked, you can end up in a less-than-great location or a hotel that is infested with bedbugs, etc).

Basic Kindness
It is interesting to see how just basic human kindness quickly gets lost as soon as money is involved. There have been several times here in China that people kindly offered to give me directions, but then wanted to sell me something (a ride, a ticket (far more expensive than the usual), or whatever), and then if I decline they happily send me off in the wrong direction, or lie about certain conditions. Several times these kinds of people have told me that 'the bus won't come for another hour! You will have to wait a long time!' I have time so I wait, and then of course it arrives within five minutes. It is very frustrating and quite sad to see how basic human kindness, helpfulness and love are lost just because of money. When money is the sole requirement for survival, all people care about is how much money they can squeeze out of you. They no longer see you as a fellow human being. No. They see you as an ATM. And that feels horrid. So I really miss the basic kindness and unconditionality that comes with living the moneyless life. In fact, kindness is what makes us human. It is what living beings are. Why compromise our very being and integrity just for some external reward? That is no reward. It is a punishment.

Somehow I feel less fulfilled when I am spending money. Not only is there an absence of a feeling of achievement as I take care of my needs (after all, there is not much creativity or skill required when you use money: no real survival skills are necessary, and no learning or personal growth is required to happen at all) but I also feel a sense of emptiness in my day-to-day activities. This latter part is hard to describe, but I will try. When money is involved, it seems like my actions lose meaning to some degree: there is an added sense of emptiness and that causes an additional need to create meaning; a need that would not be there in the absence of money, because then each (inter)action has meaning and purpose. I am still not entirely sure how to describe this aspect exactly, but I think it has something to do with the conditionality that money creates and how it feels fake, complicated, cumbersome and draining us of our natural qualities.

I miss the sense of connection that comes from living without money. It just naturally leads to a life that is connected to everything: my fellow beings (human and non-human), the resources I use, the ecosystem I am a part of, nature as a whole... everything! There is nothing that feels as good as being immersed in and connected to life. It brings peace of mind.

People often say that they like the independence that money gives them, but I actually enjoy and miss the interdependence that moneyless living brings. It forms bonds and relationships that are real and lasting. It brings intense gratitude, a sense of happiness and a feeling of purpose on both sides. And most of all; it demonstrates what really matters in life (relationships). Life is all about relationships and what we can give to and share with each other. This is the meaning of life. If you live without money this is just so obvious and clear. And when money enters the equation, all of this is lost. Not just this realization, but also the very meaning of life.

I still encourage everyone to try moneyless living, even if it is just for a while. You will notice the differences and you will understand what I am talking about. You will also understand most of the current problems in the world and see the connections. You will see the solutions too. There is a way for us to live awesome, connected lives and to live in harmony with nature. There is a way for us all to feel fulfilled and live happy and healthy lives. There is a way for humans to live in real freedom (not the limited, fake freedom we have created). And contrary to popular belief, the way to do this does not involve money.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Benefits of Train Travel

I have recently started my trip to Australia by train, and so far I am loving it! Here are some of the many benefits of train travel, especially compared to flying.

No jet lag!
When traveling to Australia by plane, usually people experience jet lag because the time is shifting so rapidly. There are also other -more serious- health concerns related to traveling by plane (especially long-distance), such as the risk of developing deep-vein thrombosis. Also, if you are traveling to high-altitude regions, there is a smaller risk of getting altitude sickness when you travel by train, because your body gets more time to adjust (depending on the route you take of course: e.g. the train from Beijing to Lhasa can be an exception if you don't make a stopover in Xining).

It brings you closer to main sights
You usually arrive in or near the city/town center, or close to interesting locations that you may want to visit, so you can rely on walking most of the time to get around. Also, if you want to travel further, there are usually plenty of buses around that can take you into all directions. If you fly, you usually arrive in a very uninspiring place and it can take a while to get away from there.

Guilin sunset, as viewed from one of the mountain tops (walking distance from the train station)

You see more along the way
While traveling by train you see scenery you would not have seen otherwise. On my trip so far I have encountered so many different landscapes and it is amazing to watch the landscape change as I travel across different countries, different climates and time-zones, and through urban as well as more remote regions. I have been traveling for nearly three weeks now and it has not been boring yet.

You get time to relax / slow down
Even though train travel is far from slow (see below) it does help you to slow down and do things you never have time for, because you are usually stuck in a space without internet (and sometimes also without electricity) for quite some time. It can be a very meditative experience to just stare out the window, watching the world go by and watching the scenery change continuously.

You meet interesting people
Because you are on a train for quite a while, often in compartments you share with other people, you get a chance to talk with them and hear their interesting stories. You can ask them questions about their home country and they can learn more about yours. I met only friendly people on the way so far and many of them were very interesting.

Raushan is one of those cool people I met along the way. Definitely a highlight!

It is more enjoyable
Because travel is slower and there is so much to see (and do) along the way, you tend to enjoy the journey more: the journey is the destination. It is the same with life, but sometimes we forget because we get too efficient in our way of thinking and planning everything. If everything happens (too) fast, we don’t get time to adjust and enjoy the road. We lose our flexibility and our flow.

The flexibility of train travel translates directly into more freedom: especially if you don’t pre-book anything. Even when I need to get visas, I try to book as little as possible in advance, because that gives me freedom to change my plans. Sometimes you may decide to take a different route, or stay somewhere longer (or shorter) than originally planned. For example, I decided to travel through China much faster than I planned originally, because I caught a severe cold and wanted to get to the warm weather as soon as possible. Right now I am in Guilin with 20C.
Every time you need to book a ticket in advance, it is restricting to some degree. Fortunately, when you travel by train it is often quite easy to get last minute tickets (which are usually the same price no matter when you buy them, unlike plane tickets which skyrocket the closer you get to your travel date).

Traveling by train is not that expensive, and relatively speaking it is much cheaper than flying if you count in all the extra places you can visit (plus considering you also get accommodation on overnight trains).

More environmentally friendly
Train travel is better for the environment than flying and can still be considerably better for the environment than car travel (especially if you travel with electric trains). I am hoping that popularization of train travel will encourage the electrification of trains around the world, which will make global train travel an even more sustainable option because it would cut carbon emissions on long-distance train travel even further.

To summarize:
As with most things in life: 
Less cost + slowing down (in this case slower travel) = more enjoyment, freedom and happiness.
I would like to add that traveling with slightly less comfort (third class tickets, staying overnight in simple locations) is also more interesting, because you experience the trip more fully and get pushed to appreciate the little things more and more. Also this way of traveling helps you to stay connected to where you are and what you are doing, and the challenges that may come with it help you to become a wiser and more balanced person. Life is no fun if you don't challenge yourself!

The details of my trip so far:

* I covered 6461 km in the first week (Helsinki - St Petersburg - Moscow - Astana - Almaty - Urumqi). I spent 356,22 Euros on train tickets for this part of the trip.
* I covered another 3793,1 km in the second week to get from Urumqi to Guilin (via Tianshui, Baoji, Chongqing and Guiyang). Tickets totaled 144,97 Euros for this part of the journey.
* That is a total of 501,19 euro so far, for 10.254,1 km, visiting 10 cities along the way.