How I Got Here: An Ecopreneur’s Story #4

I burn with a vision for a radically different society, a radically improved one.

I’m so grateful to have these tools of the internet and the personal computer, and this WordPress platform. It’s like magic. I just can’t conceive of what the environmental impact is of these tools. It is probably and conveniently impossible to calculate the environmental impact of one laptop, one window onto the net, one blog site. How many animals killed. How much water polluted. It’s a shame that people like Bill Gates have a vision for a personal computer for every human being on Earth, instead of a community internet cafe (and multifunctional space) for every town, which would be far more sustainable.

Whilst still based in my woodland home at Silent Haven, Devon, my entrepreneurial thinking deepened. I don’t know if the wildness of my surroundings contributed to the wildness of my dreams, but I think it did. I developed big dreams, all very egotistical of course, and yet also reflective of my frustration with how the world is, and how much better it could be for everyone -other species included. I have massive dreams for my business, but only because I believe I could help facilitate ‘business to end all business’, in a very literal sense. I do not believe that human beings are governed by market forces, except that we have made it so across most of the globe. It is only by utilising markets as they are, that we can radically change them and to an extent, dissolve them, revealing and renewing those human co-creative forces that have nothing to do with markets and everything to do with evolutionary multi-species-enlightened self-interest.

Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that it is only not-for-profit and non-business areas of society that have a monopoly on human wisdom, ingenuity, excellence in communication and co-operation, and even ‘love’. Both Adam Smith and Karl Marx reduced human beings to economic actors. An unfortunate result of classical / dogmatic Marxist thinking (notwithstanding Marx’s great contribution to history) has been a neglect amongst leftists of the great creative potential in human beings to create all kinds of diverse economies based on local, including environmental, needs, as opposed to centralised power structures. Both classical Marxism and Smithsonian economics presuppose a centralised state. The centralised state has allowed the rise of massive corporations, and all their implied unethical ways of being, essentially their environmental impact. In modern times we need ecopreneurs -ethical and ecological entrepreneurs, to break down the intertwined power of state and corporation, to create local and diverse economies. For the Marxists, I would like to suggest to you that this is the best and most grounded path towards socialism. With the right technologies employed and shared, local diverse economies could indeed give rise to ‘scientific socialism’, (although not necessarily in every locality) as Abdullah Ocalan calls it, as opposed to the ‘real socialism’ that we have suffered through history.

-As I deepened my interest in business, I started to read some good business books -books for the independent entrepreneur. I realised that the modern business world, if isolated in environmental context, is full of genius. Genius of logic, strategic thinking, communication skills, envisioning techniques, creative organisational structure and so on. But much more than this: the world of business, especially the world of creative independent entrepreneurs, contains some passionate, loving people, who genuinely want to share their passion and knowledge and love for the world. Yes, they make a living from their creative mission, but hopefully these people would also be facilitated in their joy and innovation in scientific socialist and localised diverse economic contexts, with a greater respect for ecology all round.

One book I read was ‘The Lean Start-up’ by Eric Ries. The key lesson I learnt from this book is the importance of envisioning (visualising and emotionally connecting with) what you want to achieve with any business, and the importance of pivoting, i.e. changing direction with the precise business model and / or product(s) it takes to realise the vision. Before reading this book, I was in danger of confusing product or current business model, with overall vision for change, and thus thinking that my vision had failed whenever a product idea failed (which was all of them, all the time).

Another entrepreneur’s book I read early on was ‘The 100$ Start-up’ by Chris Guillebeau.  More than anything this taught me that almost anyone can be an entrepreneur, and that almost anyone can be a consultant on something they are knowledgeable on or passionate about. The book also taught the concept of ‘just in time’ learning, meaning, it is possible to be engaged on a path of learning whereby you share your knowledge with customers as soon as you learn it, rather than thinking you have to get a degree in something before sharing and capitalising on your knowledge.

I also read the well-known ‘Influence: The Power of Persuasion’ by Robert Cialdini, but to be honest I found this book on marketing technique unsettling and a little dishonest.

Let me reassert, I understand that the modern globalised system of capitalism that we live with is an obsolete and destructive system which must be transformed and dismantled by varying degrees, and without delay. I understand that books like ‘The Lean Start-up’ and ‘The $100 Start-up’ are products of a few privileged minds that are invested in the current prevailing paradigm, and that rely on centuries of oppression of human beings and the planet, and are intertwined with continued oppression, however ‘ethical’ they are in places. But I cannot claim to be any less intertwined with oppression. Unless I throw my laptop away, throw away my connection to the internet, and live very frugally in a monastery-like setting, whether I like it or not I am a symptom and cause of the prevailing paradigm. My personal way of taking responsibility for that is to be a subversive entrepreneur, to draw capital to me from the middle classes and redistribute it for social and ecological justice.

-At one point I contacted a place that gives free business advice in Okehampton. I passed by them an idea for an ecologically-themed online directory. I was asked, ‘how are you going to compete with Google?’ and my answer was that people don’t always know what they are looking for with search engines -my directory would curate information and guide sustainable behaviour. I didn’t pursue this idea at the time, partly because I was put off by the official nature of the feedback I received, which was in terms of SWOT (the supposed strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats model of business planning). Classic SWOT doesn’t really work for me, although I think I use the concept implicitly in a more lateral way in everything I do now.

During this period of taking on a more entrepreneurial mindset, allowing space for my vision to grow, I managed to live quite frugally, partaking in scraps of part-time work here and there, and living rent-free in an ‘unlawful’ self-built dwelling in the woods. I would encourage anyone to do this, if on a careful and ecologically sound basis. The laws of the state are of course, no measure for what is sustainable behaviour for the continuance of our species.

I still feel like ‘I’m not businessy enough’. I have been conned by the business world into thinking that because I dress scruffily and ideally wish to live in a borderless and relocalised world, I can never be an entrepreneur, much less a CEO. The business elites of the status quo quite rightly feel threatened by my vision.

I say to you that we need to throw off the shackles of the stereotypes of the business person and the entrepreneur once and for all. Yes, this has been happening for a while now, but not in the radical way that I envision.

Now more than ever we need an army of super-ethical ecopreneurs, breaking down the environmental impact and excessive power of the large corporations and the state, liberating capital to flow more freely to where it is needed, and supporting the creation of buzzing localised economic hives, with a radically re-worked concept of ‘profit’, equated with enriching one community without disadvantaging another.

Loneliness

This is really hard. I’m listening to Seth Godin, the marketing guru give me advice on how to connect with people and develop a free blog that people will actually be interested in, in a time-poor and choice-saturated modern world. Surely with my writing skills, envisioning skills, empathy and imagination I can do this?

But I want to do more than just this. I want to provide a service that helps our relationship with the rest of Nature, that integrates society more closely with Nature and itself, that there are no more lonely people; that the multiplicity of possible connections online actually translate better into meaningful face to face connections, and those all-important oxytocin-releasing hugs. (Anyone got a hug for me? I need one.) Here is a great TED talk on Youtube about the negative feedback loops, biological and neurological, that happen as a result of loneliness: The lethality of loneliness

It seems to me, from what I’ve observed and the reading I’ve done, that the capitalist model of society, as it currently exists in its dominant form, prevents a proper integration of culture that could almost eliminate loneliness.

Three examples (which overlap in various ways):

  • A key unit of contemporary capitalism, the monogamous family unit, does not always bring with it an extended network of familial support. Further, when the unit is encouraged to compete with other units in a capitalist sense, this can often prevent a well-connected social embeddedness in a community, or in wider society -especially when waged work is done away from home. Social embeddedness is key to preventing loneliness, felt both on the inside and outside of families. The relative economic predictability of the monogamous family unit plays a role in its prime position in contemporary capitalist society. See The Extraordinary Political Power of Moving Beyond Monogamy But economic predictability is not mental health. Many monogamous families are very happy, but I hypothesize that this norm creates the polar opposite of many lonely people, the incidence of which would be reduced in a society that wasn’t mono- family unit -centric. A properly integrated culture, one relatively free from loneliness, is surely one where the shared identities of everyone are constantly reinforced in face to face interactions, (not just online ones), including at home. These interactions are on some level ‘cultural events’ in that they propogate or carry forward culture, ideally often involving a degree of human touch as well, and not just between lovers, family and friends. This can still all function if you are someone who ‘likes their own space’ (as I do) -that’s fine.
  • In the UK, the relatively large number of single person households (7.7 million in 2016), I think does not reflect the desires of those people for human connection. See Families and households in the UK: 2016 The modern consumerist mantra is ‘I want whatever I want and I want it now’. We are marketed capitalism-driven stories by mass Media that tell us we shouldn’t settle for anything less than the perfect home, with the perfect life partner, and the perfect job. We ‘happily’ continually dislodge ourselves from neighbourhoods in the hope of finding better ones. I contend that this has a detrimental effect on the coherent sense of culture that I think is integral to making meaningful human connections. Many people say they ‘just like living alone’ and ‘can’t share’ but I contend that this is a faulty attitude (which I often have myself, in my own flat!) borne of a lack of understanding or exploration of the diverse private / communal living boundaries and arrangements which are possible, or alternatively a lack of appropriate communal living situations on offer.
  • Economically-driven loneliness is common in modern society. I suffer from it myself. There are different kinds of economically-driven loneliness; I discuss only one kind here. For people who find it difficult to make money, and for people like me who find it difficult to orientate their lives around making money, the financially affordable options for meeting likeminded people face to face are drastically reduced -especially in rural areas, unless you are lucky enough to be connected to charitable land-based enterprises or fulfilling volunteering opportunities. In modern society the ‘likemindedness’ of people is often dependent on the type of culture they spend money on consuming. Although internet-based culture is largely free, if I am financially poor I am by default uncultured by the dominant capitalist model and moreover there are large gaps in my very understanding of the whole culture I live in. It is largely up to individuals to work out a sense of the whole culture they live in, based on what they consume. So the important work of cultural integration in modern society, you could say, is done by individuals and groups of individuals in a haphazard way, depending on what culture they have consumed, largely dependent on what they’ve spent their money on (whether food or cinema trips or academic textbooks), in turn dependent on the capitalist forces of marketing. The financially poor are often emotionally isolated from this whole process, and end up lonely. This blog is my own haphazard project of integration, but by eventually including as many sources (especially integrative sources) and people as possible, I hope that over time it may bear useful fruit. Otherwise, I may just be another force for disintegration, especially if I charge people for what should be free, once the business wing of this blog is developed. I do think capitalism can be reformed or gradually usurped by something more evolved. A re-orientation of society to Nature / land -based socialising and culture must be key.

Possible solutions to these examples of loneliness, briefly (to be expanded on in future posts):

  • More normalisation and society-wide support -including legal and financial -for extended family living units (as used to be the case in this country, for instance), communal living units and polyamorous (ethically non-monogamous) living units. In normalised polyamory living units, the travelling of some individuals between units would be common, in a culturally supported way. This type of living unit is potentially inclusive of individual-types who are failed by the strict monogamous standard.
  • More support in Government Planning and in architectural practices, for more of a diversity of housing designs and living arrangements for single people, including more allowance of self-builds, and different options for managing private / communal boundaries and spaces. On a deeper level, the reduction in power of consumer-driven culture.
  • More opportunities for socialisation and the consumption of culture for the financially poor, especially in rural areas. Alternative localised economies which are not aggressively competition based. On a deeper level, the evolution of capitalism into something which has the whole of Nature, alongside human social justice, at its core.

The internet may be the most powerful tool that we’ve ever had, ironically, to reconnect with Nature and with each other face to face. How can I use the internet to translate the multiplicity of possible online connections into actual face to face connections (and hugging!) ? How can we use diverse connections online to reshape the actual, physical society we live in, in a way that all but eradicates loneliness?

Perhaps this blog -Epic Tomorrows- could be a force for good on this mission. Will you help me? Feel free to comment below. Additionally, see my Heroine Quest -my ultimate remedy for human loneliness.