Since my teens, I have been passionate about sustainability, deep ecology, simple living, and so on. (And worked in that area for several years.)
For decades, we have known that we are creating an ecological bottleneck for ourselves and what we have seen so far is only the beginning. We are entering an era of continuous ecological crises with extreme weather, continued extinction of species, unraveling ecosystems, famine, mass migration, and so on. And a lot of people will die, perhaps most of humanity. (And, as usual, those already worst off will be hit the hardest.)
So what do we do at a personal level?
In my case, there is a lot of grieving, also from seeing the loss of ecological vibrancy and diversity in the areas I know the best, including at the cabin in Norway which is in the middle of a large forested area. (Which soon hopefully will become a national park.)
I have chosen a relatively simple life, relying on less than most people do. (Although I do travel, and I love delicious simple food.)
I have learned to grow my own food, build with local materials and traditions, and so on.
And I am planning for the future. My partner and I have land in the Andes mountains where we can cover most of life’s essentials locally. We are building using local materials and building techniques. We have water and will provide for more natural water storage. We’ll grow food. We are creating good connections with the neighbors and the local community, which is our greatest and most essential resource. We live in a place where heating and cooling is not necessary. (Especially with good building design.)
We are very fortunate in that we have resources to choose where to live, buy land, build a house, and do all of this. Most people in the world are unable to do that, either because they don’t have the resources or because they are tied to where they already are for family or work reasons.
In addition to this (and perhaps it’s a bit excessive), we are going to a place in Europe next week to check it out. It’s a place that’s geographically isolated. They have plenty of water. The soil is very fertile. It’s relatively protected from sea level rise. (Which will be several meters or tens of meters this century.) And here too, there is no need for heating or cooling. It may be another place to live as the current ecological and humanitarian crisis worsens.
Personally, I cannot do much about the bigger picture. But I can make good decisions for myself and my family. And I can create mutually beneficial ties with those in the local community. And that’s perhaps enough.
There is also another thing I am doing, and that’s what I typically write about here. The less I am caught up in issues and traumas, I am better able to deal with change, and I am hopefully able to make slightly better decisions.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT OUR HUMAN-MADE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS
Why are we in this situation?
And why does it seem unlikely that we can prevent massive ecological and social problems?
Many like to talk about greed, blame others, and so on.
To me, it looks different and much simpler.
We live in a system where much of what’s destructive for our planet is easy and inexpensive to do, at individual and collective levels. So just by living our daily lives we contribute to the destruction of our ecosystems. (And our future.)
Why did these systems come in place? Not because of any malevolent intention, but because they made sense at the time they were created. They come about centuries ago when nature, for all practical purposes, was unlimited. It was an unlimited source of resources, and it had an unlimited capacity to absorb waste.
What’s the solution?
The solution is to create systems – economic systems and systems of transportation, production, energy, and so on – where what’s easy and attractive to do is also beneficial for our ecosystems. It’s very possible to do this. Many people have developed and explored ways to do it.
What we need is the collective will.
Are we going to find this collective will? Certainly not soon enough to avoid a lot of problems, because that “soon enough” was several decades ago.
Will we find it at all? I am not sure.
As long as we misdiagnose the problem (through blaming greed, others, etc.), we won’t find the real solutions. And as long as we assume that piecemeal solutions (recycling, electric cars) are enough, we won’t find the collective will.
My guess is that most of humanity will have to die off before the ones left collectively seriously address the real causes and start implementing real solutions, and even then we may not since our reduced numbers again allow us to use human systems that don’t take ecological systems into account.
It’s all very simple. Our human systems exists within, depend on, and are part of the larger ecological systems. That means that our human systems – at all levels – need to take ecological realities into account.
If they don’t – and if we have a large population and powerful technology– we will inevitably damage and destroy large parts of the ecological systems we are part of and depend on.
Why don’t more people do more about it?
I suspect many feel they can’t do much on their own so they choose to focus on their own day-to-day lives instead. They may trust that if their leaders don’t take it seriously, it’s because it’s not necessary (yet). Politicians are typically elected for just a few years at a time, so they focus on that timeframe rather than a timeframe that goes over decades or centuries.
I also suspect that more are concerned about this than is sometimes apparent. To others, it may appear that I too am just living a day-to-day life without too much concern about this. (Which is partially true.) What they may not know is the grief I am experiencing over what’s happening with the ecosystems and what will happen with humanity. And they may also not know that when we bought land in the Andes and are building a house there, and are also considering buying something in a location in Europe, it’s with this in mind.
Why do I call it ecological bottleneck?
Because we are in a metaphorical bottleneck right now, and it will continue to tighten in the next decades and perhaps centuries. It’s a bottleneck created by our current economic and other systems which do not take ecological realities into account. Many species won’t survive. (Many are already lost.) Many ecosystems will be severely degraded and damaged, and some will be gone. And as mentioned above, I suspect much of humanity won’t make it through either.
In a sense, the doom is certain. We are already in it and it will get worse. The question is how we will deal with it. I suspect many countries will close down their borders, perhaps even within the EU. A lot of collective and individual resources will be used to deal with an ongoing series of ecological crises. And as usual in a time of crisis, many will focus mostly on their own survival while some will look at the bigger picture and try to find solutions that work for everyone, and there will likely be an increased polarization between the two.