Today on Earth Day, although we shouldn’t need an ‘Earth Day’, my interview with Kyle Hilding of Library of Humanity, is published.
Today on Earth Day, although we shouldn’t need an ‘Earth Day’, my interview with Kyle Hilding of Library of Humanity, is published.
!Hello you lovely activists, heroines and heroes! Are you rested after the ‘Christmas break’? Are you full of beans or your choice of protein (less of the animal protein please) and ready to go? Or are you still a little fatigued, like I am? Still a little overwhelmed and stressed out at the state of the world, as I am? Still a little sad at the way the world seems to be going, as I am?
And yet, I have so much joy in my heart, and yes, there is a growing energetic spirit within me, despite this nasty ongoing cold and cough I have. It is the joy of courage and determination that being part of the wonderful movement of Extinction Rebellion (XR) has given me. It is also the joy I have gained from getting back in touch with Nature recently, albeit a Nature artificially divided up into industrialised beef, lamb and milk pastures. In the leaf-mouldy footpaths in-between the fields, where edible succulent leaves grow from the shades of Devon banks (yes even in January), and where I imagine up fairy stories about the souls of extinct animals, my soulful strength returns.
The past couple of weeks for me has been dominated by XR once more, and yet I trust that the experience is also giving me valuable insight into activists and what would help us be more effective. My Well Gathered spreadsheet is addressing this question. (It will be given free to committed XR people).
Well Gathered will launch for sale to most of you on 29th March. I have put forward the launch date by a few weeks for about the fifth time, but I have the best possible reason this time -my government employed business adviser thinks that this is giving myself the best chance in terms of government benefits I can receive. I can receive Jobseekers Allowance payments at £70 for 12 more weeks before signing on to the reduced £60 per week New Enterprise Allowance payments for a further 13 weeks. During all this time I don’t have to look for work, and any business money I make doesn’t affect my benefits.
I have been wondering today whether I should narrow down my audience more to ‘climate activists’ rather than ‘vegan and climate activists’, especially as I am struggling a little to get my head around the different attitudes towards veganism and plant-based diets of different people who identify with these diets (sorry, vegans, ways of living), as well as the attitudes of meat and dairy eaters towards vegans and vice versa.
Just a couple of days ago I had a long chat with a fellow XR volunteer over the phone (the first time we had spoken) about the potential difficulty of encouraging urban vegan activists to de-stress themselves and recuperate by staying in the countryside and learning about land use and land-based livelihoods. We agreed that WWOOF could be a better used resource for urban activists to de-stress, and links could be made between WWOOF and XR.
But for vegan activists (and there are many vegans in XR) there is a potential barrier, in that Permaculture growing systems (established by some good WWOOF hosts) incorporate animals to be most energy-efficient, e.g. by rotating their grazing to prepare vegetable beds and use their manure for food growing. This is a standard energy-saving traditional farming technique (as opposed to modern industrial farming). It arguably kills many less living beings than mass-grown (polyculture) plant crops in a single large field requiring imported fertilisers, even if the animals are eaten near the end of their long lives. (Think of all the animal deaths indirectly caused by fertiliser production and transportation).
I identify as vegan myself for approximately 95% of the time (or does that make me ‘plant-based’, I’m still not sure?). Yet I have enough understanding of sustainable land use to know that some compassionate animal husbandry can be part of the answer for long-term relocalised food systems. And we do need to relocalise the whole of society. Flying around the world, whether people or food, is fucking up the atmosphere.
Speaking of fucking things up, I was arrested for graffiti-ing the front of Barclays Bank in Exeter (southwest England) the other day for an XR action. But it’s Barclays who are really fucking things up. Read this article, if you dare. So this occasion counted as in the 5% of the time that I am not vegan, as I accepted the cheese slice and then the biscuits that were offered to me in the police cell after the action. When I was released at 11pm I did have a fully vegan sandwich in Exeter’s 24 hour Subway, but that would have been more than cancelled out by the general ecological destruction entailed by any large multinational corporation, especially one as massive as Subway.
I must admit, I felt pretty heroic on this action. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I bet there will be many activists reading this who like to get in touch with the heroic too. Indeed, in these extraordinary times of climate and ecological crisis, we need to call on the heroines inside all of us. We need to call loudly, firmly, to call inwardly to ourselves and outwardly to society.
You are heroic. I know what efforts you put in as an activist. I really do. With the activism-related information I gather as part of my efforts for Epic Tomorrows, I sincerely hope that I will save you some legwork. Damn, you’re busy! I know you are!
Being a rural activist. I’m lonely. XR activists are spread all over the country and now the world, but it’s in the towns and cities they gather. My life is full of paradox, as living alone, I do get lots of work done, including work for XR and Epic Tomorrows. I also communicate daily with other XR activists working in all the different departments, especially the Regenerative Culture (including well-being) team of which I am a member, and the Media and Messaging team which I am in close touch with due to my role as an editor -and the founder- of XR Blog. Yet when the communications stop, when I close the laptop after spending too much time (again) online, I can feel suddenly isolated, even depressed. It’s a common story.
Nevertheless, something positive is starting to happen. Something that I remember writing about in a post a while back. Something about how online communications can eventually result in greater human connection than ever was possible before the internet, if these communications are pursued wisely. I refer to a long-term vision, not yet realised, of the deep connections formed in activist circles becoming more manifest in geographically based communities. Sure, it happens, but nowhere near enough, or not quite in the way I would like to see it. You’ll have to bear with me a few years on that one.
So now I find myself starting to have conference calls and phonecalls with my new XR friends that previously I may have only emailed. This in turn has encouraged me to get out into my village, and start to see again those old friends that were waiting for me to call round all along.
And I received quite a shock when the building developer putting up some flats across from the row I’m in, came round to measure my porch (to measure against the new porches across the way), and informed me: ‘My wife’s joined Extinction Rebellion’.
In more ways than one, XR is helping me gather myself socially, and I’m getting more grounded with it.
When it comes to dating, most of the time I am quite happy being single. Every few days I do get overcome by waves of loneliness, but I watch them pass. Very recently my phone informed me that ‘Zara has joined Signal’ (name changed to protect Zara’s identity). Signal is a secure messaging service, highly recommended for activists to say the least. I struggled for a second to remember who Zara was, and then I remembered she was a contact from the Ok Cupid dating site, from a couple of years back.
So now XR Namibia may be starting up. You think I’m joking. Wait and see. There’s no symbol on this map of XR groups over Namibia yet, but check it in one month’s time. Admittedly, that would have been an impossibly long-distance relationship…
Single activists probably get more done, I think, and now is a very urgent time to get things done in terms of the global climate breakdown and ongoing ecological catastrophe (surely you agree with me if you’ve read this far?). I am starting to meet lots of lovely women through activist conference calls and phonecalls. For now I am happy to admire from a place of detachment -I have my hero quest to pursue!
How about you?
For an audio representation of some of this content i.e. me rambling on, visit Soundcloud.
As always, get in touch with your vegan and climate activist dilemmas, and I’ll try to help, or at least signpost you to some good information. Info gathering is what I have a knack for afterall. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
DEEPLY SUST: sustainable events management. Don’t you think it’s a good name? Use it if you like and please feel free to credit me. This is just a vague idea I had for a company. Festivals, even the most ecological ones, have dubious sustainability credentials. They involve the transportation of materials and people from miles around, sometimes even from abroad, to all converge on one poor overburdened location before being transported all the way back again. A truly sustainable events management company would look at how different festivals and events could better network with each other and share infrastructures and materials. It would also advise events and festivals within a given region or even nation on how to organise and synchronise calendars for maximum efficiency, skillshare, custom and positive ecological impact between all. Additionally, lasting legacies for all local communities that hosted festivals and events would have to be looked at. How about that for sustainability?
‘REAL BOYS’, ‘REAL GIRLS’ and ‘TRANSREAL’: Where are the magazines for real girls and real boys, and for that matter, trans kids and the genderwild? When I walk into a big newsagents and look at the magazines sections for children and teenagers, I want to throw up. They are full of damaging stereotypes, plastic toys and the usual bullshit obsession with celebrity. I know that isn’t what every child wants, but somehow, because it’s what most children have been convinced they want, this vacuous culture revolving around Barbie and Action Man -like stereotypes still dominates. Apparently there are no risk-taking entrepreneurs in the children’s magazine industry. Where is ‘Real Girls’ magazine? ‘Real Boys’? ‘Transreal’?
CO-OPETITION: My idea for a co-opetition is a competition that rewards co-operation over competition at every step of the process. I understand this is a paradox. It would take some clever designing to create motivating and sustainable co-opetitions with prizes. I know there are people doing this already, and maybe I / you can join them. We need innovation to save the world from ourselves, but innovation does not just happen in ruthlessly competitive contexts, as the hyper-capitalists would have us believe. Innovation happens in regenerative community contexts, indeed it must if society is to survive.
POSITIVE SCENARIO MATHEMATICS: Where are the software designers and mathematicians working together with ecologists, permaculturists, alternative financial analysts, energy experts and complex systems theorists to design scenario planning apps for the lay person, and the activist or business organisation, ensuring the greatest positive ecological impact of all our trajectories, in ways which reflexively weave as many human life-paths as possible into well defined mutually agreeable outcomes? Come on people, get to work!
ECOMOVES: Where are all the companies that offer to clear houses and bankrupt business premises in the most ecologically sound ways possible? Including the recycling and ‘upcycling’ of objects and materials and selling for profit, using the timing of moving to new homes and premises to introduce more sustainable practices and materials as standard? These companies could build up databases of sustainable clients and businesses with which to woo their customers, providing much more than standard removal and installation services.
PSYCHEDELIC CARE-HOMES: Where are all the psychedelic carehomes? I mean the ones playing 60’s and 70’s music, the ones with space hoppers, magic mushrooms, meditation, radical politics and all the other signs of the counter-cultural revolution? I haven’t visited any care-homes for the elderly in a while, but the people who turned 18 in 1960 are now aged 76. Are the more alternative and radically left wing elderly types being catered for? Are they being catered for enough?
Maybe Elon Musk should be sticking to Tesla and forgetting about SpaceX, but the way things go / are going, it’s likely that a colony will be built on Mars.
As much as I like I can bemoan the state of ‘technological progress’ which seems to be at the expense of life on Earth, whether that technology is on Earth or off it. However, once this dire state of affairs is acknowledged, there is no reason not to accept it and temper it appropriately towards more sustainable ends, however desperate that may seem. And some fun can be found in the despair.
As some human beings strive towards Mars, how can we make sure that any Martian colony does not become a place of privilege and prejudice? It is bound to happen to a degree, but if we lobby Musk from now onwards, surely we have a chance at ensuring that appropriate diversity in the colony is maintained. Not that he won’t have thought of this, but history has a way of falling into old habits.
The first Arts festival on Mars will be crucial. How diverse will it be? How will it reflect a united Earth, back to Earth, potentially making a purifying mirror of Mars, if only temporarily and artificially? Ideally, Mars could become a microcosm of the best of humanity on Earth. But…it could also become many other things.
For the first time, once babies are born off Earth, we will be able to truly speak of a post-Earth psychology. We will be able to observe and discern those elements of human psychology that are dependent upon us living on Earth, and those elements which are not so dependent. How fascinating will be the development of post-Earth psychology!
We should not be distracted from the task of healing Earth and ushering in the next stage of civilisation, post-capitalist, post-globalist, post-communist, post- most of what we are used to in contemporary human politics and culture.
Neverthleless, if Mars is happening regardless, let us go with the flow, as permaculturists, as environmentalists, as followers of the rivers of life. How can we use Mars to the advantage of Earth? It is guaranteed, there will be hidden paths opened up by the colonisation of Mars that although rocky and red, could paradoxically lead to a greater reparation of our dear Earth and the human culture within it. I don’t say this is likely, but it has to be possible. Because so much is possible.
Positive affirmations: they only work if you imbue them with emotional content, and if you also work to manifest what they relate to. Otherwise they can result in internal conflict and soul-destroying disappointment.
Here are some positive affirmations and wisdom sayings I’ve used, some self-penned, some assimilated from elsewhere: ‘I am enough’ /// ‘I am innocent’ /// ‘I am fearless’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…total observation of Nature’ /// ‘Love is the Law, Love under Will’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…beginning everything with death in mind’ /// ‘Enlightenment is…total freedom from addiction’ /// ‘Character is greater than personality’ /// ‘The best heroes have a combination of vulnerability and strength’ /// ‘Anxiety and stress can often be a sign of doing too much or too little’ /// ‘Private victory before public victory’ /// ‘Victorious warriors win in their hearts before going into battle’ /// ‘Everything is me’ /// ‘The opposite of addiction is connection’ /// ‘Be proactive’ /// ‘Begin with the end in mind’ /// ‘I am not afraid to be a leader. I am not afraid to explore uncharted territories.’
City-country conduits: Statistics like these show that the world’s population is increasingly urbanised. Articles like these show that humanity could be at risk of a major breakdown of civilisation either this century or the next. Since cities import most of their food, energy and water from outside the city limits, their densely-packed populations are more immediately at risk from a society-wide breakdown in economic and energy infrastructures. I have long thought that the resilience of civilisation as a whole could be improved by establishing conduits between city and country in a way which increased understanding and communication between rural and urban populations, as well as flows of energy and resources both ways to reduce the impact of infrastructure breakdown on cities, and the potential burden on the country of fleeing urban citizens. This would in essence be a releasing of pressure on cities by ‘merging’ them better with their rural surrounds, but not in an environmentally destructive way. Regional food security is also implied in this vision, so that ideally, polyculture food growing systems would surround the city and provide all of its food needs (not a new idea). Most importantly I would like to see well-planned and sustainable mobility between city and country increased significantly. I smile at the prejudice of ignorance that exists between city and country dwellers. When I am in the city, sometimes even my most intelligent city friends may make ignorant remarks about rural dwellers and rural life, and when I am around my rural home, I will likewise hear fearful and ill-informed remarks about city-dwellers. This isn’t necessary! This kind of two-way prejudice will only make any serious large-scale infrastructure shocks -which as I’ve said are not unlikely this century- be felt worse and dealt with less efficiently.
Ensuring Earth is fit for the next seven generations: This is the ‘7th generation principle’ of governance and human culture in general, as propounded by various Native American tribes. It is the idea that every human action and every human decision should have a benign or regenerative effect on the next seven generations of humans to live on the planet, by caring for Nature as a whole (that which supports us). By average modern understandings seven generations amounts to 7 x 25 years = 175 years. This benchmark of sustainability is often quoted in modern movements towards ecological living, but we don’t always stop to appreciate that seven generations is 175 years. Perhaps we should. I advocate sitting in meditation, alone or as part of a group, and trying to envision what the Earth might be like in 175 years. It is almost impossible to guess at, which is precisely the point. How often do communities, businesses and governments plan this far ahead? With the the increasing intelligence of our software, one hopes that more of this will be directed towards scenario planning and global strategy with Earth’s overall ecology at its core. If well-directed, and that means by human beings with deep empathy and experience of Nature, AI could be a force for greatness in putting the 7th generation principle into practice. It’s time to bring the wilderness into Silicon Valley!
The global strategy of any human being, entrepreneur, business, community or organisation can only start with a practice of love and a willingness to embrace and understand.
Since love is acceptance, and since we cannot accept what we are unaware of, any global strategy must include cultivating awareness and knowledge of disparate sections of the global population. This is the quintessential challenge for modern strategists; since everything and everyone is interconnected, how can we be aware of a balance of trends across a balance of cultures and markers across the globe, in a way that is productive rather than overwhelming?
My personal vision for Epic Tomorrows is the Heroine Quest. But what global strategic elements should I be aware of to manifest the HQ on a local level? No individual, community or region exists in a vacuum.
It is easy to come up with a static strategy based on a handful of books and research findings, even if they are very good ones. However if we are to develop resilient strategies for ourselves, our groups and organisations, then they must be reflexive to current information, on an ongoing basis. This means putting procedures into place which enable focused, discerning and regular information gathering and processing from across the internet -since it is the internet that is enabling of and reflective of the radically interconnected global culture we now live in, for the time being at least.
Gestalt Therapy teaches that it is only by accepting the whole of onesself, that one can move forward in life and heal. Denial of any part of onesself is an obstruction to growth in the whole. Imagine an oak tree denying one of its branches -it’s impossible; it is not the behaviour of a living organism.
Difficult as it may seem, if we really are arrogant and pretentious enough to presume that we can have a healing effect on global culture, and on the planet as a whole, then the starting place must be an acceptance of every part of what is going on on this planet, and a willingness to understand it, although we may abhor it.
A living global human culture, if it is destined to be an interconnected one longterm, can only be a culture that is aware of and reflexive to all its parts. If this seems impossible, as well it may be, then we could do better by focusing our intentions on creating living, breathing, localised cultures that are likewise aware of, and so healing of, all their constituent parts. It is central to my vision, my quest -the Heroine Quest– that we build such localised cultures. Due to increasing natural resource restraints around the world, to an extent these localised cultures are inevitable, whether we ‘Descend’ civilisation deliberately or whether it crashes. Nevertheless, there may still be a place for a global online infrastructure, and hopefully a radically democratised one.
Whatever happens globally, my own view is that whilst we are still all connected via the web and global economic, energy and food infrastructures, we would do well to strategise for this as comprehensively as possible, following our ethical paths of activism, ecopreneurship and relocalisation, but reflexively to one another’s efforts around the world, and global trends as a whole, whether they are healing and regenerative trends, or destructive ones.
Ultimately, the goal of global strategy is resilience to global shocks, and whether from widespread economic collapse or climate breakdown, such shocks are becoming increasingly likely.
The red flower fell at my feet, as I walked past the high hanging basket in Exeter High Street. This was divine providence; synchronicity. On the bus journey to Exeter this morning I had been studying The Roots of Civilisation by Abdullah Ocalan. I am near to the end of this momentous literary and historiographical achievement, written by Ocalan from the prison cells where he has been incarcerated for the past twenty years.
I am at an exciting stage in the book, where Ocalan is describing the crisis of contemporary global capitalism and the corresponding crisis in democracy. His incredibly pragmatic and yet optimistic view of the progression of history is that contemporary capitalist civilisation, inseperable from contemporary democratic civilisation, is the most advanced form of human society that we have yet seen upon Earth -advanced towards our highest good. This is despite the obvious gross abuses within the system, which are in fact integral to the system.
Ocalan does not whine for some communist utopia like some other leftists. Instead, he is a truly radical and progressive leftist. He sees that within the limited democratic institutions and societies that already exist, alongside the disruptive technologies of the 21st century which show great potential for widespread distribution in a democratic and commonly owned way, there are seeds for a truly scientific socialism, as the next natural stage of advancement for human civilisation -in fact a necessary and urgently required stage in the face of the capitalist-ecological global crisis.
Ocalan gives a compelling and damning critique of what he calls ‘real socialism’ -the historical (actually ignorantly a-historical) attempts at socialism which have claimed to be scientific, but which have failed due to their gross materialism (divorced from the creativity and diversity of Nature), their adoption of oppressive centralised state structures in order to maintain their ‘liberated’ systems, their failure to address the oppression of women and finally the technological and scientific immaturity of the historical contexts which could not facilitate the true transcendence of class -not for very long anyway. This overall failure of ‘real socialism’, shows Ocalan, was down to an incomplete understanding of history.
In ‘The Roots…’ it is shown that level of technological advancement and class are intertwined within a society, and it is actually only now within the first quarter of the 21st century that we have the beginnings of the scientific and technological conditions that, in tandem with a grassroots democratic culture, can allow the development of forms of scientific socialism. My own view is that this scientific socialism, although it has not yet been defined to my satisfaction, could be arrived at via hybrid entrepreneurial-socialist localised economic and political systems which compete peacefully against wider capitalist-democratic systems for local dominance and local, democratic economic stability. In other words, my current understanding of ‘scientific socialism’ is a localised economic and political system with vastly reduced disparity between the rich and poor, and increased participation of everyone in democratic life, enabled by ubiquitously shared, close to zero cost, technologies (such as democratic decision-making mobile phone apps). I will expand on this in future posts. Localised food and energy production is also implied, and civil disobedience is also implied, as at least some of the functions of the state are relocalised in grassroots decision-making bodies.
When the blood-red flower fell freshly at my feet, it was as if the fresh scientific socialism advocated by Ocalan had entered the immediate physical world around me in a symbol of Nature-borne presence -but soon to decay if not acted upon.
I then sat in a cafe -a fine capitalist institution that sold me a hazlenut and chocolate croissant and a soya milk latte, an institution that despite its ethical credentials cannot claim to be seperated from the gross oppressions of capitalism- and wrote the bulk of this post.
After I left the cafe I hurried to the Quay and met for the first time an ‘indie online content creator’s group’ (advertised on Meetup.com.) I can’t tell you how enriching this experience was, in terms of how much I learnt about presenting my online writing in a more accessible and commercial way (since I intend to make money from my writing) and meeting other friendly people sharing the struggles of creating and marketing content and some of the solutions. Even the free version of the platform of WordPress that I use to blog, is an incredible system of magic (to anyone except the most technologically minded, those who understand coding) which the democratic culture of modern civilisation has allowed to be propagated and used freely by anyone with a computer and an internet connection (anyone who can get to a public library).
I do not see it as problematic at all that I exist and work in the capitalist sphere in a very active way, as an entrepreneur, and also exist in an activist socialist political sphere, where I aspire to the redistribution of wealth for a more balanced and stable society. This hypocrisy is integral to contemporary capitalist-democratic civilisation and I can’t pretend to be outside of it. Can you? The question is, how do we utilise this hypocrisy constructively, towards greater moral ends. The hypocrisy is in fact necessary in the transition phase to something like ‘scientific socialism’ or a scientific, technology-enabled socialist-capitalist localised hybrid. The hypocrisy of capitalism (and the hypocrisy of all oppressive human civilisations throughout history i.e. in some aspects, every civilisation) continues but is potentially resolved in the current transition phase between the decline of global capitalism and the emergent democratic (including technological) forms which contradict global capitalist forms in many respects, but simultaneously are enabled by them. The so-called sharing economy could be the typical and dominant phenomenon of what I describe. Needless to say, this sharing economy is not available to all. Not yet anyway.
Perhaps another feature of the necessary progression through the current global crisis is the full automation of all menial jobs globally, (excluding sustainable farming which should be fairly shared, fulfilling work) if coupled with a reversal of the negative impacts on the ecological environment of contemporary capitalist civilisation. Anthropogenic climate change could be the worst of these impacts and the one needing addressing most urgently, but not in isolation from every related negative environmental impact of modern human society.
Abdullah Ocalan, freedom fighter, more deeply feminist than some of the feminist Western women I have met, nobody knows whether you are still alive or whether you have died at the hands of your Turkish oppressors. In your honour Ocalan, and for the sake of the positive evolution of the human species, I internalise the strategically evolved tear-like petals of the red flower-head that earlier today was on the coffee-shop table in front of me, that every petal may symbolise a flame of tactical advance towards a reconciled global society -reconciled with Nature and honestly reconciled with the bloody history, including the oppression of women, that the progression of civilisations throughout history has depended upon.
Let these delicate flames not tell of more bloodshed and misguided ‘revolution’ (I do not refer to the Rojava revolution as misguided). As you say, Ocalan, the seeds of the new world system are already with us, are already beginning to flower in some places. All our courage, all our peaceful civil disobedience, all our entrepreneurship, is called upon to optimise the fate of the contemporary capitalist crisis.