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Rabbit Holes 🕳 #31
From reframing climate change to umuganda, the age of creativity, the entangled activist, and new forms of 'development'
Rabbit Holes 🕳
As always, here are five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some fun extras:
#1 🖼️ Reframing Climate Change As An Opportunity
If you enjoyed my post on Pleasure Activism and the two-part series of Why We Lost Our Groove and How To Get It Back, oh and if you also generally think that we need a more positive, optimistic story of the future, then you must (!) read the following article.
“A monastic once told me renunciation can be great if it means giving up things that make you miserable. This vision, I think, is what has been missing when we talk about the climate crisis — and how we should respond to it.
Much of the reluctance to do what climate change requires comes from the assumption that it means trading abundance for austerity, and trading all our stuff and conveniences for less stuff, less convenience. But what if it meant giving up things we’re well rid of, from deadly emissions to nagging feelings of doom and complicity in destruction? What if the austerity is how we live now — and the abundance could be what is to come?
Look closely, and you can see that by measures other than goods and money, we are impoverished. Even the affluent live in a world where confidence in the future, and in the society and institutions around us, is fading — and where a sense of security, social connectedness, mental and physical health, and other measures of well-being are often dismal.”
“[…] we need a large-scale change in perspective. To reframe climate change as an opportunity — a chance to rethink who we are and what we desire.”
“What if we imagined “wealth” consisting not of the money we stuff into banks or the fossil-fuel-derived goods we pile up, but of joy, beauty, friendship, community, closeness to flourishing nature, to good food produced without abuse of labor? What if we were to think of wealth as security in our environments and societies, and as confidence in a viable future?”
“For so many of us, being busy with work has leached away our capacity to pursue true riches. What if we were to prioritize reclaiming our time — to fret less about getting and spending — and instead “spend” this precious resource on creative pursuits, on adventure and learning, on building stronger societies and being better citizens, on caring for the people (and other species and places) we love, on taking care of ourselves?”
“To respond to the climate crisis — a disaster on a more immense scale than anything our species has faced — we can and must summon what people facing disasters have: a sense of meaning, of deep connection and generosity, of being truly alive in the face of uncertainty. Of joy.”
#2 🤲 Umuganda: Coming Together In Common Purpose
This is such a great and successful example of tackling societal and environmental problems through simple community empowerment.
“On the last Saturday of each month, everyone stops what they’re doing and works together to improve their communities. It’s called Umuganda.”
“Luc, along with just about every able-bodied Rwandan aged 18 to 65, participates in the monthly activity known as “Umuganda,” a Kinyarwanda word that means “coming together in common purpose.” On the last Saturday of every month, from 8 to 11 a.m., Rwandans across the country gather together to partake in community improvement projects. In Luc’s neighborhood, this has meant trimming back bushes that attract malaria-spreading mosquitoes, and making sure roads are clear of trash and debris. “It not only ensured that we have a clean environment,” he says, “but also had a long-run positive effect on our health and physical wellbeing. And you know what they say, a healthy nation leads to a wealthy nation.””
“According to Luc, these monthly gatherings have helped his community recover from a long, devastating period of genocide, making it clean, innovative, loving and self-reliant. Across the country, in ways big and small, the tradition of Umuganda has unfolded in similar fashion, helping Rwanda to piece itself back together and recover from ruin.””
“[…] Umuganda projects range from helping a neighbor construct a shelter to building a community hospital. Sometimes it’s as simple as a community coming together to pick up litter. Other Umuganda projects are more unexpected — for instance, it has been used to collect voice data from Rwandans in an initiative to make voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant more inclusive. For projects that can’t be completed entirely through Umuganda, participants get things started, then fill the gap by contributing money to hand the work over to specialists.”
“Today, a country that was once known for brutal ethnic cleansing and dysfunction is relatively safe and orderly. Rwanda’s public spaces are famously clean, thanks, in part, to a pioneering plastic bag ban enacted in 2008. And after years of violent division, a remarkable cultural unity now prevails.”
#3 🎨 The Age of
This article went quite viral, so you may have seen it already. When I read it, I immediately thought that all of this links very well to the implications of a massive new wave of AI-generated content that will very soon hit us. Because all of this will only make truly creative ideas and work even more important. My previous issue called Visualizing Minimalist Design and especially the Design for Emergence idea I wrote about, reads very interestingly with that in mind.
“This article argues that from film to fashion and architecture to advertising, creative fields have become dominated and defined by convention and cliché. Distinctiveness has died. In every field we look at, we find that everything looks the same.”
Here are just a few of the visuals from the article:
International Airbnb Style:
The generic city:
The wind tunnel effect (Source: Adrian Hanft, User Zero)
Sweary self-help books
“So, there you have it. The interiors of our homes, coffee shops and restaurants all look the same. The buildings where we live and work all look the same. The cars we drive, their colours and their logos all look the same. The way we look and the way we dress all looks the same. Our movies, books and video games all look the same. And the brands we buy, their adverts, identities and taglines all look the same.
But it doesn’t end there. In the age of average, homogeneity can be found in an almost indefinite number of domains.
The Instagram pictures we post, the tweets we read, the TV we watch, the app icons we click, the skylines we see, the websites we visit and the illustrations which adorn them all look the same. The list goes on, and on, and on.”
“But it’s not all bad news.
I believe that the age of average is the age of opportunity.
When every supermarket aisle looks like a sea of sameness, when every category abides by the same conventions, when every industry has converged on its own singular style, bold brands and courageous companies have the chance to chart a different course. To be different, distinctive and disruptive.
So, this is your call to arms. Whether you’re in film or fashion, media or marketing, architecture, automotive or advertising, it doesn’t matter. Our visual culture is flatlining and the only cure is creativity.
It’s time to cast aside conformity. It’s time to exorcise the expected. It’s time to decline the indistinguishable.
For years the world has been moving in the same stylistic direction. And it’s time we reintroduced some originality.”
#4 ✊ The Entangled Activist
“By considering how unexamined shadows and assumptions impede well-intentioned goals, and how campaigners are caught up in the very systems and ideologies they seek to alter, [Anthea Lawson] dismantles hierarchies that have shaped the field [of activism] for too long.
The Entangled Activist is a profound call to acknowledge our entanglement with the world. To those sceptical of ‘activism’, it offers possibilities for action beyond righteous reactivity. And to those who so want to help, it unearths a different starting place, one where transforming ourselves is inherently part of transforming the world.”
Quotes from the YouTube video below:
“We were replicating, recreating, reusing the system that we thought we wanted to change. […] I really noticed in our work was this tendency to, as kind of professional policy campaigners, use the same assumptions of a rational actor that underpin the homo oeconomicus type of economics […] in our own tactics. […] We were putting our carefully sourced and libel-checked facts in front of policymakers and expecting them to respond on a rational basis. Of course, they didn't.”
“[…] finally I'm not sure we can even call it changing the world because that whole that very phrase, I mean the grammar of it fascinates me. When we say I am going to change the world, we are bringing in the subject-object thinking and division […] that's at the very underpinning arguably of some of the problems we're talking about. […] But […] we're part of the world, the world's part of us, and I think then we're just talking about taking action in a troubled world as part of that world.”
#5 ▶️ New Forms Of ‘Development’
A key direction I try to explore with this newsletter is a new story of development, a new narrative of progress so to say. The following article highlights how all over the world, millions of people are already practicing or, at least, experimenting with alternative stories of development.
“For more than two hundred years it has been taken for granted that progress, the good life, high living standards and development involve rising to higher incomes, greater material wealth and economic output, and more technically sophisticated and resource-intensive ways. For the poorer countries this has meant striving to be like the rich countries. The possibility that the rich countries have made a dreadful, indeed suicidal mistake never occurred to anyone… until recently when it has begun to dawn on us that the pursuit of affluence and growth is killing the planet.
It is imperative that a very different conception of development should be adopted as quickly as possible. It is not difficult to imagine a sane, sustainable, just and fulfilling alternative.”
“The Alternative: The Simpler Way claim is that the kind of society we must transition to, in rich and poor countries too, must have the following characteristics. […]
Most people would live in small and highly self-sufficient and self-governing communities in control of zero growth local economies in which market forces played only a very minor role, there are strongly cooperative and collectivist values and arrangements (e.g., commons, committees, working bees), government is via thoroughly participatory processes (such as town meetings and referenda), and economies were needs-driven and not profit-driven. Above all there would have to be a culture of willing self-sufficiency, collectivism, frugality and life satisfactions derived from non-material pursuits. There would still be (small) cities, (some) mass production factories, universities, national rail etc. systems, high tech research and modern health care etc.
The integration and proximity within such settlements enables intensive recycling, overlapping functions, reductions in overheads, and synergism. For instance a study of egg supply (Trainer, Malik and Lenzen, 2019) found that production via backyards and local poultry co-operatives could reduce resource and dollar costs to around 2% of those within the conventional supermarket path.”
“A government operating from this perspective would keep the country out of the global economy as much as possible, strive to make it as self-sufficient as possible, export only that small amount that would pay for crucial imports, accept little or no foreign investment, take on very few loans, focus on development of what is needed not what is profitable, prevent the market from making important decisions, and forget about the GDP, preserve traditions and assess policies in terms of quality of life indices.”
“This conception of development flatly contradicts the indubitable conventional view. What is not generally understood that a revolution establishing it involving millions of people is well underway. In rich countries many are working in Degrowth, Ecovillage, Transition towns, Voluntary Simplicity, Down-shifting and other movements to establish elements within the above vision. But the biggest and most radical movements are mostly to be found among tribal and peasant regions within poor countries, for instance among the Andean peasant movements, and the Zapatistas, Campesinos, Ubuntu and Swaraj movements, the Catalans (Trainer, 2018) and the Rojavan Kurds (Trainer, 2018.) The Senegalese government intends to establish 1400 Eco-villages.”
This is a remarkable and little-recognised revolution. Millions are simply dumping the conventional capitalist model of development, turning away to build their own collective, self-sufficient, non-market and frugal ways according to cultural traditions. (See Barkin 2022 for detail.)”
Into the Rewild - a short film series exploring rewilding and deep ecology
A great little film by Make My Money Matter
11 Sustainability Visuals curated by Post Growth Guide
This joke somehow fits perfectly to the AI hype as we increasingly hand over more power to our new ChatGPT gods:
That’s it for this week! 😉