Categories
Anthropocene

a change of heart

Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next…
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology

it’s all very good talking about climate change but unless we (i.e. humanity) change our relationship with nature and our non-human brothers and sisters, then we’ll simply replace one death-dealing regime with another. (it’s chortle worthy to call it green technology — don’t you think?)

of course, i can’t know that — who can? — but we still don’t see how intertwined we are (not just rely upon) with the natural world.

but like all these exhortations, it’s much easier said than done.

as we know, the capitalist system is weighted heavily in living only one way. put more simply, if we were to want to change our lives — and i’m not talking about living off-grid (at least not for now) — just look how the system conspires against us. think about the way you buy your food, services and utilities. you might be lucky enough to grow some of your own food, have weaned yourself off the need for a wee bit of hedonism to supplant the ennui that we’re all feeling in these pandemic times and have installed a plethora of green technologies to avert the need to buy from the privatised utility companies who only have one thing in mind — and it sure ain’t saving the planet –but you’d be in a tiny minority of people. even in my village, who have a sustainable mindset, it’s clear that we’re still all plugged into the capitalist modality — me included — and in that space, unless i’m off my head, i don’t see how we’re going to change things to the degree necessary to avoid the worst effects of the Anthropocene. yes, we might use a little less, and yes it might come from a more renewable source, but unless we’re prepared to have a conversation around population (and also not wanting constantly to move up the scale of needs and wants), living a more village-minded way and not having to find a job to generate income (i’d like to think we could live in the gift economy, as unrealistic as that sounds) then nothing is going to change.

but you know all this, right?

or at least i’d like to think you realise how hard it’s going to be to row back from circa 200 years of consumption etc. to a new sunlight upland where we’ll be able to bask in the glory of our success. i jest of course, but the truth is we’re headed in one direction only and whilst we might think we can slow our trajectory, if you only stop to think about the projected population increase between now and the end of the century — i.e. 10.9 billion people — you’ll realise the enormity of the problem. but no one is talking about this. in fact, the conversation is all pronatalist to stem the falling birth rates across certain parts of the developed world (“As that happens, the population gets older, which can stand in the way of economic growth. It’s something governments are usually keen to avoid” — BBC, 16 May 2021).

i pause for one moment to invite you to consider this point. imagine being one of those people who decide to have children because you’ve been encouraged to do so to stem the falling birth rate. that might not be the sole or even the main reason but it’s in the mix. you know there needs to be a certain number of people of working age to support the older generation — and that means you in time. some years later, when you’re asked by your children why you had them, it emerges that selfishly you only did so so you wouldn’t be disadvantaged in your old age. i don’t know about you, but if your kids have struggled through the worst effects of the Anthropocene, they may not be best pleased with you. this is at least one argument to consider antinatalism but of course, it’s likely to break asunder the capitalist model and that just won’t do!

if i return to the main thrust of this post, namely how we get closer to nature, as you can tell i’m not hopeful. in fact, i think with the declining species and those that exist being pushed further to the margins, even stepping out into nature may prove a waste of time or not as exhilarating as it might otherwise be because everything will be gone. only yesterday did this thought cross my mind as i was trudging across the lower slopes of Dartmoor and reflecting on the fact that save for one or two small birds, there was no wildlife in sight. i realise this is overly pessimistic and i’m sure, be it forest bathing, walking or simply being outside that they’re all beneficial but there’s a world of difference between this as a pastime and changing forever the way we live our lives.

what do you think?

do you think we’ll ever recover that sense of wonderment and reverie that might have existed in bygone years to the extent necessary to break apart the capitalist ideal?

take care.

Julian