• On Not Looking Down

    Sometimes it’s difficult to ignore the doom-mongers; they can stalk or pounce or seek to wear you down by mere attrition. There may appear to be any number of reasons that can cause us to lose hope, if we decide to adopt, or abandon, a certain attitude. But whatever the rational, the prophets of doom can sometimes fail to comprehend a very fundamental point; about that which keeps us going, that which can define what it means to be human at our best.

    Certainly the state of the climate in particular is clearly cause for concern. You can lay out any number of observations over this concerning hope. There’re those who decry wishful thinking as a kind of false hope that lulls us into supplication. There’s the no hope scenario that’s it too late to prevent atmospheric Armageddon. And then there’s the so far unquantified hope that somehow, undefined events will conspire to deliver a better day tomorrow.

    If discussions of all of the above can be considered necessary, it's worth remembering that hope itself is a necessity of life – be it the hope of a golden age of ecological harmony or the hope that you will find food and shelter for the night and that tomorrow may be easier. Hope is the given that makes all human effort possible. That the future may contain uncertainty, that none of us can say with any real conviction at this stage what it will hold; both of these are fundamentals of human existence.

    So those who decry all hope as false operate counter to some fundamental truths – firstly that the future can be more malleable than we might suppose. The weight of declaring no hope is such that those who do so must be absolutely certain, and even then the value of it is questionable. I don’t see how anyone, at this stage, can lay claim to the real justifications of such conviction. There may be a case for encouraging ‘life boat’ scenarios but it still seems our main thrust should be to do what we can to moderate the impact of society at large to change its ways. Possibly the two should be kept in tandem but we should be wary of the temptation to bury our heads too deep in the sands of various communities while there is still so much we can have an influence over out in the wider world.

    Secondly, there is the issue of how we choose to conduct our lives whatever the future holds. If there is uncertainty, we should be bold in continuing to address the problems, not give in to despair if problems can seem insurmountable. And if things were to go against us in the long run, we still have these days left us, to act with humanity and compassion, to be the best that we can come what may.

    That real hope for the future rests in the degree to which we can modify our behaviour and that of corporate elites in the here and now is surely cause for greater galvanization of effort. We are poised at a kind of global, environmental Dunkirk moment. Even while there were those stashing poison in the event of invasion and the country was preparing for a guerilla resistance, time was bought and years of struggle eventually made good even against what seemed at the time unmerciful odds.

    That’s not to say we should adopt some conspiracy of silence about the future or that those moved to evoke what a dark future may look like do so without justification or value. If apocalyptic visions are, as Ben Okri says, moral signposts on the road to hell, giving in to despair conditions us to be less likely to actively look for the signs of upcoming turnings. Such visions should spur us on to prevent their occurrence, in the knowledge that everything we do today can make a difference and that the kind of far future we leave depends on our efforts today.

    Environmentalists often despair at our culture itself, at the depressing statistics that however many people seem aboard, society at large lumbers on and sleeping masses seem bewildered at the problems or simply don’t care and we all seem locked in to a momentum that will take us all down. But by the same token, anyone who defines themselves as an environmentalist – which should be anyone who cares about the problems we face and is prepared to take steps to overcome them – any such person can become a conduit for effecting change, not just in whatever scheme or issue they fight or champion, but in how such raised voices can stir things up, can help catalyse us all towards the kind of changes that are clearly so vitally needed.

    The need for action, be it direct action, behavioural change, governmental or international edicts – has never been clearer. But maybe prescriptions miss the point. Perhaps the wider point is our ability to ask as humanity en masse a very big ‘What If?’ What If people could wake up on a huge scale to the harm that overconsumption is doing? What If people were able suddenly overnight to awake to the land around them like an old love, to see more clearly her beauty, to feel more acutely her pain at the harm we are doing? What If ages of prophesies heralded just this: a clarion call to remember who we really are, what we are really capable of and how much we depend upon the earth beneath and around us much more than the myriad flotsam we’re told we must have, the things that mask our fire and pain? What If none of that was needed any more? What If we remembered our promise, our dream of how we and the world can all be at our best, at the very peak of our potential?



The posts here originally grew from a website that was set up to advertise a book that describes things a long time ago. That book was always intended to address more than any single issue, even if it encompassed that as well.

At its broadest, I hoped it could help express how things can be when anyone of us acts on behalf of the environment, of their community, of our collective future itself. It was informed by far more than simply the times it describes; it was an attempt to articulate a feeling that has carried on and grown and means more than just a narrow 'us and them'.

I'm mainly working on other writing at the moment but thought there was probably something to be said for keeping these posts online while the issues they deal with remain relevant. I hope you find something on these pages that proves of interest or use as we all rise to meet the new times.

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