Beware: More philosophical discussion ahead. I write this post as I have had difficulties in the past reconciling the feeling of powerlessness to change the issues facing us in the world. Environmental degradation, climate change, war… so many things seem too big for little old me to make a difference. BUT I CARE, and I cannot stop caring. I come across many others that care in my line of work and they often mention feeling or having felt very similarly. Hence my want to share my thoughts on this.
Permaculture being a very holistic approach to life and sustainability, it would be silly to neglect the subject of our psychology within this. Especially considering our mental state guides the very ways we behave, decisions we make, and actions we take in day to day life. Following this logic, the setup and management of more tangible Permaculture zones (I→VI), even society itself, will be governed somewhat by Zone i/me.
– KNOWLEDGE IS POWER –
For human beings to make the right environmental decisions in order to minimise their continued negative impact on life-supporting ecosystems, awareness is crucial. If one hasn’t the specific knowledge of how their behaviour influences the environment, then acquiring the ability to choose the actions of lesser negative impact or greater positive impact isn’t possible. The more awareness we have and observations we make of our surrounding ecosystems, the more knowledge we gain on how our particular choices affect this environment, and the more power we gain to choose how we act accordingly. Granted, it is difficult for those fighting for their lives or well-being to find the time or energy to think and act on this scale, being more concerned with day-to-day survival of themselves and their loved ones. As such, those of us with the privilege to live in the first world and have ready access to the appropriate knowledge, have the responsibility of forging the way on these important local and global matters.
– WITH GREAT POWER (and privilege) COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY –
However, the more you know, the more deliberation is required in working out the path of lesser destruction. This process of deliberation requires a greater expenditure of energy, and becoming aware of the faults in our current method of existence can be painful. Especially as by knowing of a problem, there follows some degree of responsibility within your individual power to improve on it or fix it. It is this effort and pain that many people, perhaps the vast majority, wish to avoid. Finding it easier to just keep following the old comfortable behavioural patterns already developed and known. It is at least partly this path of least resistance and humanity’s penchant for it that drives the need to maintain the status-quot in the face of massive climate change. Ironically, what will end up a much more painful and destructively forceful change in our collective behaviours in the long run.
So… in order to make a change from current standards of living to much more equitable and sustainable standards, one must endure suffering. There are things one must give up, things one must change, things one must repeatedly consider… but the other side of this coin is a sense of connectivity with nature, local/global communities and a sense of peace knowing you are doing your part.
– BALANCE IN ALL THINGS –
Different individuals will have a varying level of innate tolerance or resilience to dealing with this suffering. Some will be barely able to function under the pressure, while some will have an inexplicable drive to forge through it and overcome it. The feeling of being overwhelmed can be easily reached when the problems are so numerous and complex, lending itself towards a mode of ‘analysis paralysis’. In this state, it is tempting to just say “its too much for me to handle so i’ll do nothing”. Nevertheless, to do nothing is to be part of the problem.
However I maintain that regardless of your personal ‘innate’ level of resilience, there are tactics that you can employ to help improve your ability to tolerate this required suffering. The trick is to balance the weight of this responsibility with your actual ability to create change, not letting the seemingly overwhelming number of problems confronting us as humanity push you back into a pattern of ignorance and lethargy.
If you start small and work your way toward a greater understanding, your ability to tolerate the necessary burden will grow with that understanding. Also, you will gradually access more of the positive feedback of love and connectivity which helps power the furthering of the journey. Limiting excessive or unnecessary exposure to sensationalised news cycles can definitely be somewhat helpful, as long as you aren’t completely cutting yourself off from new information.
It has helped me personally to remember that an individual has only so much time and energy per day and lifetime. Believing you can do more than what these time and energy limits allow is a fast way to burn-out, fostering more disappointment at your lack of effective impact. There are ways of spending this finite time and energy that can maximise your individual impact such as; setting a good example, educating others and collaboration.
Setting a good example: By making the best, most appropriate environmental choices available to you, you are proving to others that those choices are viable and an available path for others to follow.
Educating others: Your positive impact on massive problems can only be so much as a lone individual, but as soon as you make the information/knowledge available to another human your impact can be multiplied many times over. The best way to do this is not to ‘preach’, but to engage in thoughtful discussion and conversation. Coming from a ‘holier than thou’ position tends to breed resistance to an idea.
Collaboration: The Capitalist model of current society encourages competition as the main operative relationship option, particularly in business. In nature, sure there is competition, but there is also an enormous number of diverse forms of collaboration. Many hands make light work and it will take a collaborative effort to overcome all of the issues facing us on this earth. It is also important to mention that as social beings, collaboration is a great way to reaffirm that we are not alone in this battle and there are an increasing number of others on the same page. Technically everyone on this Earth is on the same boat, sinking or not.
If you have any thoughts on this please don’t hesitate to message me and discuss. 🙂