By Matthew Tehanu
I feel despair daily. Across from my flat, a new row of flats is being built. The workmen are at it from early in the morning. I will glad when it’s done for then the lorry depot will be hidden from view. If I make millions I will buy that lorry depot and end its life in this village. On the other side, through my back windows I can see crumbling old mill buildings half overgrown with ivy. Let them be that way till Nature takes them back.
I feel despair because of the various catch-22’s and hypocrisies I find myself in. I’m too intelligent and too unqualified to find suitable regular paid work, yet too privileged for that to matter. I am very well connected online, yet lonely as soon as I turn off the computer. I am full of love yet often painfully unable to express it, or find people who can receive it without attaching to me or misunderstanding the nature of my gift.
I am sexually liberated and yet celibate, because society in general is not refined enough for my sexual fulfilment, and would sooner ‘slut-shame’ me. Those rare individuals who ‘get me’ sexually, I very rarely encounter, and then don’t have more than a couple of minutes to practice my social skills with them.
I also feel despair because there is so much ignorance in the world, especially ignorance amongst so-called authorities -authorities on mental health, the environment, politics, economics, and so little readiness or opportunity for me to offer my knowledge and healing to so many people that could do with it.
I am isolated, but there is an advantage to leading this lonely life. It gives me perspective. Perspective on myself, on this country I live in, on Earth. With this perspective, carefully supplemented by reading and studying, I have come to the same old conclusion that many others have come to: the collapse of contemporary globalised industrial capitalist civilisation is inevitable, probably this century. It is up to us whether or not we choose to make this collapse more, or less, painful.
Human-caused climate breakdown has become the linchpin issue of the collapse, or ‘The Event’ as the world’s wealthy elites call it. Climate breakdown is the linchpin issue for two reasons. Firstly, it is a matter of timescale. There are many ecological catastrophes afflicting this Earth, but in the case of the climate, we are obliged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to near zero within ten years to avoid a high probability of disastrous climate change, meaning the loss of billions of human lives within decades.
The necessary scaling back and re-designing of industrial civilisation (more is required than just the simple ‘conversion’ to renewable energies) will also have great potential to address the other ecological pressures that we are putting upon this Earth, in terms of for instance, pollution, soil exhaustion, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
The second main reason, as I see it, that climate breakdown can be seen as a linchpin issue for global civilisation collapse and / or transformation (if we’re careful and lucky), is that a change in our political and economic orders will be necessary in order to reduce carbon emissions to zero and kick our global addiction to fossil fuels. The necessity of global collapse or transition to a different form of civilisation (or more realistically, a different ‘civilisation mesh’ demonstrating various political and economic local alternatives) is driven by the finiteness of natural resources being fundamentally at odds with the perpetual economic growth that is demanded to keep the current economic system from crashing.
Economic growth is a function of the system, not just a desirable outcome for people who want to make money. The global economic-political system itself depends upon economic growth. It’s like a balloon that you can’t stop blowing up, or it will deflate entirely.
Governments have shown that they are consistently not powerful enough to challenge large fossil fuel companies. These companies have between them pledged to burn five times more fossil fuels than the planet’s atmosphere can handle. Five times more than would keep us safely below 2 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. The only way to respond to this reality is to change our economic and political systems to make them more accountable to the planet and the billions of people that may otherwise die.
This means complete ‘system change’. Either this will happen in a very painful, destructive way, pressured by failing stock markets, failing crops and billions of climate refugees, or it can happen by ‘controlled revolution’, employing the mass civil disobedience, from now onwards, that leading social scientists say is vital for us to ‘save civilisation’ in any recognisable form i.e. to save the globe from runaway climate breakdown. Our governments have failed us.
This is why I have whole-heartedly joined Extinction Rebellion. Ironically enough, XR has given me a renewed passion for life. If I can survive on government benefits for now, so much the better. I am learning just as many work skills, if not more, as part of XR than I have done in any paid job. These include founding and developing a local branch of the campaign, conference calling, mentoring newcomers to the campaign, delivering the XR talk, organising and promoting talks, general marketing skills, innovating subcampaigns and subgroups, time management, and making links with others nationally and internationally who share the Extinction Rebellion campaign aims and values.
As for my loneliness, the online connections I am making with many XR members are starting to be reflected in face to face meetings and gatherings. Everyone is worthy of love, although it is not always easy to give. But in XR I may have found some people who I can show my love and friendship to more freely than the average. When catastrophe comes, as it must to some degree, if I am still alive at that point I hope I can count amongst my Tribe, many members of this great force for change that is Rising Up! and Extinction Rebellion.
All my virile energy is channelled into this great force for change.
For more of my writing, feel free to visit my blog: www.epictomorrows.com