The question seems to be a reasonable one to ask. Perhaps even an obvious question to ask.
If we did not ask questions, then we would not devise answers. And answers to questions around climate change, collapse, and extinction, mean solutions – do they not?
More Beautiful Questions
The answers (solutions) we come up with are shaped by, if not determined by, the questions we ask. To take this understanding further, we must admit that the answers we come up with are limited by the questions we ask. It is possible to contend that it is our questions that are the limiting factors, not the answers.
Warren Berger has spent a lot of time asking questions about questions. In his 2014 book A More Beautiful Question1 Berger defines a beautiful question as one that is:
‘…an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something – and that might serve as a catalyst to bring about change.’
Note that Berger asserts that a beautiful question is one that helps to ‘shift the way we perceive or think about something.’ This is a critical observation when it comes to asking questions about climate, collapse and extinction.
What Shall We Do?
When we ask this question, we are asking; what shall we perform, execute, achieve, or carry out? We are asking ourselves, what action shall we take?
Therein lie the limitations around asking this question (what shall we do?) The answers inevitably lead to actions and things to make or do.
It can be argued that asking what shall we do? has steered us towards answers that have led us into the predicaments we face. It is a one way, uni-directional, linear question, with progress (and its twin – perpetual growth) as its favoured answers.
The question itself tempts us into believing that solutions are possible. We get enticed into seeking answers in new technology. It is such a seductive question that we answer it without really considering the by-products or long-term consequences of what we do.
Woefully, many of the answers (solutions) put forward to “solve” the “problems”2 of climate, collapse, and extinction serve only to exacerbate the predicaments, and/or to shift the problem from one ecosystem to another.
What if we were to ask a totally different question? What if we asked a more beautiful question, one that shifts the way we perceive or think about climate, collapse, and extinction?
What could we ask?
What Shall We Don’t?
Asking What shall we don’t? is one such question.
Admittedly, this is an uncomfortable question. What do you mean – what shall I don’t?
Don’t, do not, refrain from, stop, desist, cease, abstain. You can’t be serious!
Indeed, it is this reaction to the question – that it asks for something unnatural of us – that is its potency. It is a question that very few of those facing the predicaments of climate, collapse, and extinction are asking. Perhaps the only movement asking this question is the degrowth movement, although possibly not so explicitly and not as succinctly.
Ask it we must.
If what we have done has led us into the predicaments, then surely asking what we do not do is a viable and useful question to ask.
This blogpiece does not intend answering the question, suffice to say that the question can be applied to every sphere of human life and activity. How we travel, where we shop, what we eat, how we build, what we build – all these domains, and more, can be exposed to such a question.
This blogpiece is simply posing the question as a stimulus to shifting the ways in which we perceive climate, collapse, and extinction.
Furthermore, if the question helps to bring about change then all the better.
What is on your To Don't list?
1. Berger, Warren, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, Bloomsbury, USA, 2014.
2. Problems may or may not have solutions. However, predicaments (as we are currently experiencing) do not have solutions, only outcomes.