In 2019, when I first looked at the steep exponential curve that now represents our CO2 emissions, my heart sank. It was only a few weeks after I had seen the ‘Heading for Extinction’ talk offered by the Extinction Rebellion (XR). That CO2 curve told me that disaster was already well underway. The worst aspect of that period was my isolation. None of my climate activist friends seemed to realise the massive and universal shift in our behaviour that would be needed to have any impact on our destiny. My close friends and family were even less aware.
I found myself examining my skills-set in a sanguine fashion. I concluded that some might serve as as strengths for a lone climate activist, for instance:
- poor team-worker, very self-reliant, unwilling to tow-the-line
- poor at low level detail, more interested in abstract big picture
- university degree in Maths and Physics, so I have reliable analytical skills.
- anonymity – I had no reputation to worry about, I never made a name for myself
- a realist
- an optimist
- a solution seeker rather than a complainer
- fledgling wordsmith skills, with a high regard for brevity
I had always been bewildered by the self-destructive behaviour of mankind with regard to their environment. I had taken an evening class in psychology after my retirement, to try and fill in some gaps. The Stanley Milgram obedience experiment resonated very deeply, the gullibility and the powerful and potentially destructive herd instinct of mankind was laid bare. I felt that this gave me a powerful insight to start understanding the cultural and psychological reasons that explain why, despite his intelligence, mankind seems unable to change his self-destructive behaviour.
That quest led me to questioning the wisdom of Article 16 of our Human Rights and from there to the idea of paradigm shift to Degrowth. Since I wrote this poem, the real possibility of paradigm shift seems to be growing. I sense a growing awareness and panic in the media as reporting about climate and ecological collapse becomes ever more engaged and realistic. The thought of actually being involved in the transition seems incredibly exciting to me.
I am convinced that once we change our objectives and start to aim in the opposite direction, we can achieve massive change in all our behaviour patterns. We have all the marketing skills, we are just using them to encourage the wrong behaviour. I think if that shift happened I would be full of excitement and hope and ideas. The hope is already bubbling just at the prospect.
But is that realistic? Can mankind change his direction? I think COVID showed us how awareness of danger can influence us to alter our behaviour massively. If we had a government-led awareness campaign of the type carried out during the COVID experience we could alter our behaviour almost overnight.
We shall have to be more realistic in our attitude to death. The COVID campaign is all about shying away from death, at high ecological and financial cost. We need to embrace voluntary death as one of the solutions to the predicament that we have created, and not to give those who wish to choose that route a hard time. Things are going to get extremely tough, I personally would prefer an easy way out once the going gets tough, if not earlier. I am not sure that I can face watching the reality of the damage to our environment as it progresses. These poems are evidence of the anguish that I have felt so far, but at that point I was alone in dreaming of paradigm shift. Therefore my anguish was two-fold, in that I could see the reality of eco-collapse but none of the people around me were willing to contemplate the implications of voluntary IPAT Degrowth.
I resent those maudlin novels that are full of self-pity and self-absorption after the death of a loved one. I have lost a loved one. I know that once you have learned the art of unselfish love you will find it easy to bestow on others. You lose your loved one, and you are left with spare capacity to love, so it finds a different direction in which to flow. Am sure that there are many bereaved folk who will identify with this experience.
We need to grow-up, we need to discern the difference between the artificial ‘happy-endings’ that we love so much in our literature and the frightening reality of the future that we in the very affluent UK have all contributed to building.