I have been involved with environmental and social justice movements for around fifty years. I have been thinking of such issues and occasionally writing about them for almost as long. Since starting this blogsite eight years ago, I have been thinking, researching, and writing about environmental and social issues consistently.
I am now perhaps more jubilant than I have been at any time in the past fifty years. That sounds paradoxical when placed alongside the first part of the title for this blog – It’s the end of our world. Note that the title says our world, not the world.
If the end of our world, our civilisation, seems imminent, or at least, plausible, then how is that I feel jubilant?
Fifty years ago as a youth and young man I was full of idealism, believing that we needed a different social system, one that respected other people and that also respected the environment. To get to that utopian dream required dismantling the systems that stood in the way.
I, and many of my cohort, trod a path between a “smash the system” destructiveness and the hippie inspired universalism of “love is all you need.” I believed it, I worked towards it.
Yet, what I was doing then (without realising it,) was simply participating in the same paradigm I was hoping to dismantle. My destructive voice, based in part on my ego-driven anger and desire for revenge (or at least reprisal), only added to the fear, hate, distrust, and separateness of the system. On the other hand, my adherence to a future of “flowers, beads, and love,” kept me disconnected from the earth and from other people. Either way, I remained disconnected. Either way, I was convinced that human agency was needed to bring about the change needed, and that what I (and others) did was the vehicle for that change.
I didn’t work.
Now, fifty years later, the signs are clear. Our industrial-fed, technologically-driven, patriarchally-stratified, and Eurocentric planetary system is under threat of imminent collapse.
And, I’m jubilant.
Nature is taking back control; a control we erroneously thought we had. Nature is saying “enough is enough.” Nature is smashing the system that we have imposed upon her.
Accepting that our (human) world is coming to an end, means that everything becomes possible. When what we know no longer exists, then everything becomes thinkable. We can rethink everything.
I can rethink everything from how I comb my hair (what’s left of it) to what choices I make to get myself from here to there.
We, collectively, can rethink everything from how we transport ourselves (indeed, rethinking if we need to transport ourselves) through to how we go about making collective and social decisions (a.k.a. politics).
We can rethink that maybe instead of what we do being important, but that what we don’t do is more important. We can rethink what it is that we must stop doing.
Hope and False Hope
To say that our world is ending sounds fatalistic, or at least as if I have given up hope. However, as Paul Kingsnorth1 notes, it is not hope that is being given up, but false hope. We have to stop deluding ourselves. The environment within which our systems exist is collapsing, and we are running out of solutions to fix it.
Solutions? That may be the other hope we have to give up on. As Rupert Read2 says, “Really facing up to climate reality means giving up all hope of solutions – without giving up on hope itself.”
I am hopeful. I am jubilant.
1. Paul Kingsnorth is the co-founder of DarkMountain Project.2. Rupert Read is an active member of Extinction Rebellion UK.