Updated: Nov 5, 2019
For an audio version of this blog post, click here.
My friend Katja asked me to say more about what I think it looks like when my two dreams are realized. That’s fair. After all, working towards those dreams is what I say I do for a living so it seems the least I can do.
How will we get through the climate crisis and allow ecosystems to be restored, species to bounce back? What does a human economy look like when we value what is valuable? These are questions I have been steeping in for some time now.
So, sure I’ll say more, since you asked so nicely, Katja. It will be stream of consciousness though, in mispunctuated fragments lifted from the dreams that come and go in my sleep and some waking moments. Fragments because these are dreams. And because it’s shaping into nothing like what I thought I was looking for so it’s hard to make it recognizable with the twenty-six letters I can recombine in this non-dream form called writing.
Even these partly processed pieces may cause recoil among those who ask for answers, and almost certainly among those who pay for answers by way of advisors and innovators, conferences and workshops. Maybe the recoil will mean it continues to bounce out of the information flows of decision-makers as many similar ideas have done before. (There is nothing new here. I am merely sharing what has been described and discovered countless times before, piecing it together in a way I can fathom.) Or maybe these words will unjam one more log in the river of industrialized knowledge so the truth can move more freely along its course. Either way is fine.
It’s coming in fragments, yes but also in pairs, in counterpoints. A what-it-isn’t versus a what-it-is’ness, a seeking versus having already found, a Dorothy fighting the wind and witch and wizard and then surrendering to what her own tapping heels and voice lead to.
Here follows some of what sparked those dreams.
And then what happens when they come true.
Social media noises of colleagues whose children are participating in the climate strikes. Knowing that these youngsters mean well, or at least a few of them must and the rest are ready to join in. Reading the sign held up by one in Melbourne that says, “Give me back my future and I’ll go back to school.” This gives me pause.
Pausing to wonder how far back, how deep the break in intergenerational knowledge goes – do they know of the open gas fires millennia ago on the waters of the Caspian Sea, and inland near what our maps now call Baku? Do they know how this fueled Zoroastrianism long before there was a stock market with poor policies? Only more recently did Royal Dutch Shell come onto the scene for what we now call fossil fuels. That may seem unrelated but nothing is. It is in our unrelating that we got lost, not just in our quest for things to burn.
Where are the pipelines to the secrets locked in those fossils, fueling those fuels? Surely not in school. That the schools from which they strike are mostly standardized versions of long gone Prussians’ ideas on learning is in and of itself worth a strike or two, dating back a while before Shell dipped its toes in those fiery Caucasian waters. Why go back to that school? Like running back to the abuser thinking, Now things will be different after all that noisy fuss we made, surely. But things won’t be different due to noisy fuss. This much we know.
Have these youth any idea what they are asking for? Perhaps yes, they do. Perhaps some are close enough to a time they still had all their senses so they can feel the openings to the deeper boreholes into which their requests seep. We can all feel this if we let ourselves. See also: Surrendered Dorothy.
But the way they shout about it now, even if all the placarded requests were fulfilled, we are destined for another round of t-shirts and Insta-memes before the grid fails, before Instagram and all else that Facebook owns is irrelevant and the shirts grow ragged.
Instead, in the dreams, the non-existent placards say, “We’ll change now.” And then the youth turn to each other, ringed by elders for safety and for Knowledge, with open hearts, and they listen. They hear what is connected to what, and place themselves in that set of connections, and their slogans turn to song sounding to a steady drumbeat. The pavement under their feet softens, turns alive, sends signals up into their toes. Life grows. Anger goes.
They strike towards, not against. They are not waiting for others to dictate. Like a customized sneaker they can create online, they set the new world aflame.
The memes about divesting from big oil, closing coal-fired plants, increasing electric vehicle charging stations, the shift, the drift towards inevitable parity, the perceived preference for renewables. China’s doing it. Citibank’s doing it. Everyone’s doing it. It’s happening. Next we’ll all be vegan. So say the memes, so we must be making real progress. Yet the numbers point to a catastrophic lock-in of unknown proportions, and soils can be killed by chips and salsa as from confined cattle so maybe the yellow brick road isn’t a clear path after all.
Our refusal to let go of what got us here, to separate from our separation, to divest from our acquisition of more things to plug in, from our need to need, our need to defend needing as not just a need but a right, and not just the right of a few but one which should be granted to the next billion or so. Flinching and switching gears as soon as there is possible mention of letting go of things in a way that sounds like “less” – lest we be abrasive – where the closest we can get to meeting our needs is more memes and podcasts and workshops about less being more. The industry of lessness, just one more thing to want more of.
But there really is a lessness. This is it.
The moment we’re ready, the lessness is ready too. It’s not wearing expensive yoga pants though. It’s stretching naked, unarmed. It’s letting go. And seeing what comes.
Tools and measurements that tell us how we’re doing, how far we’ve come, how much further to go, how much more time or less time to adjust our sets and set our expectations and reset ourselves. Where to put our money, what to eat, how much and how fast and how far and how forward-looking. The forecasts and forewords and fast-forwards to forestall what was forewarned. We want those tools. Now please.
A deepening sense of knowing that there is no tool for the thing we’re so keen to retool, there is no measurement except the one we have all had stitched in among our vital organs since long before conception, the one we mete out in song and poetry and play and friendship and a wistful glance at tall grasses or the sparkling surface of an urban canal. The non-tool tool we keep skipping over in favour of the tool-tool we can pay for if we could just tune it better. Returning to that non-tool and accepting it’s tuned just right, now, and always has been.
Breathing in. Listening. Breathing out. Tuning.
A discipline, a schedule, a set of commitments and goals, blazing a trail through a blizzard of acronyms, taking on board the SDGs and the latest ESG investor analysis, applying the TCFD recommendations – a taskforce! a forceful task! – while honing the craft of GRI disclosures so that the most eagle-eyed reviewer will find everything s/he desires. Disclosed satisfaction. “Satisfaction” meaning “no box is left unchecked.”
A knowledge, a Knowledge, that the 1.5 - 2 C scenario applied by the taskforce is a cruel joke ratified by a wide enough swath of consensus builders as to make it seem as true as the currency markets and trading systems that got us into this fix in the first place without recognizing that we don’t get to decide what’s true. That truth just is. A knowing Knowing that the deep adapters following Jem Bendell and co are blithely or blindly doing their best to wiggle their feet into the pre-cast footsteps of generations of First Peoples who have been noting this darkness was foretold, even Knowing the darkness is already here, that it has been here for some time, we just hadn’t smelled it coming in under the door as we cooked our dinners and forgot how to listen to our own selves much less those who know how to drive this thing.
Trusting that there is more than enough to feed ourselves and our many neighbours near and far, if we put down our placards and policies, uninvite our police, and push forward not a moment before we have truly listened, and then move swiftly.
And during the time we pass through this transition – for it will take time, even as we learn that it is happening now – being open and generous to one another, for what other way is there to be?
Watching markets soar out of reach for people who are forced to hedge, accept their lot as owners and non-owners, made to wonder how hard to pitch themselves into the pit of achievement that may or may not soothe them at the end of the day, depending on how visibly they’ve marched, how well they’ve wielded the tools, how ambitious were their goals, and how hard they toiled to earn that second bathroom and extra plush duvet and anniversary river cruise although the water levels seem in a different spot than the photo in the brochure.
A sense that there are strong shoulders walking visible and invisible alongside us, there is a soft and warm place to sleep inside us all, there is clear flowing water and blue skies full of the sights and sounds that show up when they are meant to be there. There are night skies bright with stars, alive with birds and bats coming and going without anything in their way when it is their time to bridge continents and seasons. A known and protected connection to the roots that run up and down and through all of us, coursing currencies that cannot be bought or sold, only cultivated.
Accepting. Sugars trading carbon underground to make us rich with breathable air, courtesy of sunshine and water, while winds swaddle the lovable ones we have become.
Images: Fragments of a chalk diagram that emerged when I tried to draw the dreams.