Close to four months ago I took the first step and abandoned the mothership. Pulled up the anchor, yes, laid myself off. By now I have taken the first few steps into the wilderness. Why, and what the next steps entail, should, hopefully, become clearer in the coming articles of this blog. If I can get those intricate circuits of my mind to find expression in a clear language.

Yes, This is about Climate Change

The basic point of this article is, as regards our global human community, that we need to make a grand effort to empathize with each other´s individual and common needs, small and big, as well as those of our children, grandchildren and so on. The context I am relating to is that of a transition to a society within atmospheric boundaries. Yes, climate change!

The Failure of the Current Approaches

We need to do this now more than ever in our age of planetary overshoot and manmade disruption of our planet´s climate system. We have embarked on a grand transition to a sustainable society. But we are running out of time and therefore need to ensure sufficient speed of this transition. And politics as usual – changing the government, winning the election, gaining the support of some majority population, or embarrassing or outcompeting our opponent, or even persuading our friends through purely rational arguments – simply don´t work. Or at least don´t suffice.

What all these approaches to fighting for a cause have in common is that, first; they depend on the clear definition of an opponent, second; they depend on the possibility of enforcing your will on this opponent; third, they depend on rational, ethical persuasion in its pure form.

The greatest challenges we are facing today seem much more complex than any previous challenges, and therefore our most common concepts of opponents – in the forms of the elite, the government, capitalism the right or the left etc. simply don´t provide a clear picture of the threats we are facing.

Much of the change needed for a sustainable society – consumer choices such as choosing to eat less meat or avoiding food waste, can hardly be addressed in time through political frameworks, legal battles or technological change. For instance, In Denmark my home country, a tax on beef was suggested in 2016, but the suggestion was met with harsh rejection and abandoned. Enforcing our will on those we have not yet won over is impossible, and the current political climate in many countries is poorly suited to establish societal frameworks of the kind needed. In the words of the British climate change researcher, Professor Kevin Anderson, who hasn´t taken an airplane since 2004, “No industrial countries are living up to the requirements of the 2015 Paris Agreement”! He also emphasizes grassroots initiatives as the source for inspiration for national politics.

The Failure of Rational Persuation

Pure rational persuasion to win those around us over to see things from a sustainability perspective also tends to fail, particularly because it does not simultaneously address the needs and desires of our personal lives.

We need to deal with these factors in order to convince ourselves and those around us that the limits to growth and to the amount of greenhouse gasses we can sustainably emit to the atmosphere have been reached and passed; that we are all responsible; and that we all can and must commit significantly to change our ways without committing to the sufferings of some austere life-style.

The Alternative: A Grassroots Practice and Preach Approach

So, what to put in the place of an opponent? And what means to employ, if power is much less about one group of people enforcing their will upon another or freeing themselves from such force? And how to persuade, if rational arguments fall alarmingly short?

If the concept of the force of an opponent eludes the definition of our problems, and, instead, we acknowledge that we are all responsible, perhaps inclusive communities and networks committed to sustainable practices and the fight against climate change is the answer? So many politicians excel, when it comes to assuring the rest of us that they know better than all the scientists. It might, therefore, be easier, instead, to commit ourselves to live more sustainably and inspire others to do the same. Business-as-usual apologists are seated in the parliament and in control of government, because this reckless mentally is rooted among ourselves. Popular commitment to sustainable practices, therefore, seem to come before a change in politics.

And if enforcement is not an option, perhaps being role models for each other might work better? Meeting people who commit enthusiastically to the common cause might carry more power of persuasion than any scientific conclusion made over and over again read in the newspaper or heard in TV. Such is the psyche of humans: the choices we make are arrived at perhaps much more from the desire to be accepted by the community we are part of than by our own moral judgement. Few will commit without the sense of belonging to a group, which the presence of role models and communities can do.

Taking Fulfillment, Excitement and Enchantment into Consideration

And if, therefore, rational persuasion falls pitifully short, perhaps sharing, of food, of electric car rides etc., and fun events can substitute for the despised moralistic attitudes, and perhaps means of fulfillment, excitement and enchantment – such as those found in community engagement, in active life-styles and in arts such as storytelling – can bridge the transition gaps that rational arguments cannot.

An example such as: “Eating meat is bad for the climate, so we must eat less meat”, is often experienced as a rude and intruding message. Many people simply feel they got enough to deal with personally, to take such “distant” issues into consideration. And personally, I have found it exhausting to be the messenger of such propositions, seeing the exhaustion and anxiety it triggers in the listener and feeling the dislike in relation to me.

I still believe, beyond doubt, in the overall climate change message stated above and agitate strongly in favor of it, though I prefer the nuanced version of it. (If we don´t trust the science, what else can we rely on?) I have simply begun to wrap the message up in some more colorful wrappings and added some real-life adventure to it, the results of which will be detailed in the coming articles.

Basically, the rational and normative syllogism:
Climate change and resource depletion are really, really bad.
We must do this and that to avoid these.
Therefore we will do this and that.
seems not to be sufficiently more convincing than this obviously flawed one:
Penguins are black and white
Some old TV-shows are black and white
Therefore, some penguins are old TV-shows.

The Conclusion: Now, having argued the points made in the beginning, it´s time to conclude by reiterating them: we need to listen to, and understand, the needs, small and great, that make us strain ourselves to look anywhere else but at the increasing droughts and melting ice caps; that make us listen to anyone else but the climate scientists; and make us think about something much more tangible and pleasant than the clear correlation between the amount of greenhouse gases we have emitted over time and the rise in temperatures.

I am relating, here, to first world responsibilities. We are the major emitters, and those whose ways need to change the most. And the kinds of issues that bar the way to the transition by pulling our attention away from the sustainability issues, are issues such as personal needs, needs for community and fitting in, even for social status. But also for excitement, adventure and enchantment. And for activity and exercise. All the concerns that need to be addressed to meet the requirements of the good life. If campaigns to change our collective consumption patterns do not take these quality of life issues into consideration, they will fail to capture the attention of a large very large group needed for the transition: the whole global segment of privileged consumers and heavy emitters!

While the words I have put together in this article might seem like some weird hints at my personal life situation, coupled with the well-known climate change doom and gloom and some fluffy concepts meant to solve the matter, I promise you, in the next article I will do my best to clarify my purpose and mission. Writing this article I had just taken the first step into the wilderness: abandoning the principal mothership of modern society; the labor market. Now, editing and finishing the article, I have just taken the next few ones. In the coming articles I will elaborate on the specific meaning of this and invite you to join me and step outside. Into the wilderness.