I am a writer of fantasy. I do world building. I do big picture stuff. Not very good on the detailed practical work. I am a relative newcomer to the world of environmental politics, and I’m really not an activist. I have only ever been on one protest march in my life – the peace march opposing the Iraq war. I just write stuff. Talk to people, if they’re interested in talking. Listen, if they have a good story to tell. You never know the truth until you have heard all the stories, and as you never hear all the stories, you never know the whole truth.
I am what one of my delightful Facebook friends calls the chattering liberal middle class. I don’t just write about a fantasy world, half the time I live there. It’s nicer than the fantasy world the mass media try and tell us is reality – all that doom and gloom and death. As if doom and gloom and death were not an intrinsic and indivisible part of life. Just as much as love, hope and laughter are.
Our living, breathing presence on planet Earth is the only reality. The gift of life that is given to us at birth and taken from us at death, and the interdependencies of the complex adaptive system we are born into. Economy, society, politics, religion, nationality – these are all stories told by human beings about how human beings live on planet Earth. They only have credibility because a significant mass of human beings believe the same story. We can change those stories. We can believe in something better. We can’t change the interdependencies of the complex adaptive system, nor the impact our stories have on it. But belief – faith – can move mountains.
To change our whole global economic system is a huge ask, and I think it will take more than one generation. I also think if you take the long view, we’re making huge progress in the right direction, it just doesn’t look like it from the front line. Partly that is because the media constantly batter us with news of our defeats. Stories about the triumph of gloom, doom and death. But a lot of the reason is that we do think of it as a battle. We think in terms of winning it or losing it. We have been conditioned by the story of “good and evil” to think that all life is a battle between the two. You can see it that way. Or you can see it more like the Tai Chi philosophy, as a constant flow of energy from negative to positive, the tension between the two being what creates energy. AKA life. Evolution. Everything. The complex adaptive system reacts to the pull and push of that energy flow – so there is no ultimate victory. Every life, every day, every moment, contributes to the positive, or to the negative. And often to both. Like COVID-19. It’s a human tragedy. But a chance for Earth to take a breath after the hammering humanity has been giving it. Maybe teach us to use our adaptation for survival – our large brains – a bit more than we have been doing.
If you want a battle, then seek out humanity’s main competitor for the accolade of most successful life form on earth. Viruses. Once we start realising that all humanity is on one side and the “aliens” (the viruses) are on the other, we might start thinking differently about where we invest our energy, resources and capital, including financial capital. We combat viruses with healthy human societies where no one is left without the basic essentials of life – food, water, shelter, warmth. Dignity and self-respect. We combat it with investment in healthcare, and scientific research. We combat it by looking after and looking out for each other, around the world. We combat it with a joint sense of purpose that celebrates life over money. Those are the foundation stones for sustainable human life on Earth.
Most people won’t want to understand any of that. They just want to do things the way they’ve always done them and bullishly defend their “right” to do so. But once a new normal is established, those people forget that they ever did it a different way. They’ll defend their new “tradition” just as bullishly as they defended the old one. So it is down to those of us who are privileged to have the time, security and inclination to try and understand more – those chattering liberal middle class people – to guide, shape, steer and above all, to dream. That’s where the magic of creativity comes from.
And in the meantime, we can start building a Wellbeing Economy one community at a time.