By Disaster or by Design?

Let us stoke the fire of ecological democracy that is burning in our eyes, not because we think we will succeed in producing a just and sustainable world, but because if we do not try, something noble in our hearts and spirits will be lost. As John Holloway writes: ‘We need no promise of a happy ending to justify our rejection of a world we believe to be wrong’.”

The end of growth is coming one way or another, due to environmental limits. Better the transition comes by design than disaster.” ~ Samuel Alexander on “What is Degrowth? Envisioning a Prosperoud Descent


Consumerism is a gross failure of imagination, a debilitating addiction that degrades nature and doesn’t even satisfy the human need for a meaningful existence.” ~ Samuel Alexander

Concept Image Of Global Warming Photo by scottchan From:
Concept Image Of Global Warming
Photo by scottchan

What makes an addict to finally decide to go clean? A battered wife to leave her abusive husband?

Sometimes is a matter of “the last straw”, something that has been building up inside, slowly or bumpy: suddenly, a decision is made and there is no going back…

The last weeks have been specially challenging and have made me very volatile in my decision making: I started a new assignment for which I have to commute almost four hours (by public transit) every day, leaving almost no room for my community and household projects and commitments.

Following all the news coming about climate change negotiations and the general status of the world have added to my concerns and the question of when to radicalize and fully embrace what I see as necessary for us all: an Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) or Degrowth Path for individuals, households and communities. (If you want a full rationalization of why we need this and how this would look like, I highly encourage you to read Samuel Alexander last post: What is Degrowth? Envisioning a Prosperoud Descent

The EDAP is also part of both my map and design for my Advanced Permaculture Diploma and the intention is to create a blueprint for those like me: trapped in mainstream by a job, a somewhat idle family (in relation to all what concerns me, i.e. climate change and resource depletion), super scared about losing all what makes my life feel secure and comfortable but at the same time becoming mentally and physically sick if I don’t do anything about all this!

A friend I admire once said that you have to do what scares you, because other people may be even more scared by the same things, and if you do it, you’ll empower them: it will be a real demonstration that it can be done…

So my decision is made and there is no coming back: now what’s needed is a plan, a design and the stamina to stick to while allowing for flexibility.

I am scared: where the income I need will come from when I leave my full time job; how will I be able to pay our family bills and debts; what if my health and age don’t allow me to do certain things; what if I lose friends and the support from people I love; what if I become exhausted and overwhelmed; what if I ruin my “career” and become a pariah…all those feelings are there and I need to acknowledge them…

But I also need to acknowledge those are the feelings of a slave and/or an addict: the fear of not being strong or skilled or loved enough to face reality and become an agent of real change…

The potential gains are enormous: freedom to work on what I really love and how I think is best (and not having to follow guidelines I may not fully accept in my heart); the sense of not being a tool for a necessary evil and instead being a tool to create the good things we all need; time to be with those I love and admire; time to read and garden and cook and practice all the skills I’ve been re-learning and teaching others: how to garden, cook from scratch, make my own clothes or fix old ones; preserve food, make soap and other cleaning supplies; knit and sew; write and teach…and so much more!

The gains in terms of true sustainability and resilience are also enormous: the potential for me to share and learn and teach all the things I know, reduce my consumption and waste even more and completely re-localize my needs and production of resources, goods and services…

As I embark on this EDAP/Degrowth Path, I anticipate that similarly to the addict who finally decides to leave their “drug” behind, there will be temptations and weak moments, there will be regrets and “what ifs” and complaints from others around me…

The thing is, as in any addict or slave path: how long can this go on? How long the duality trying to satisfy everyone? How long can we all of us stay in this unsustainable path?

There will be a time (for some has already arrived, for all the rest, the time is approaching really fast) where we will not have  a choice: we will all be hit in one way or another by the consequences of unsustainable growth in a limited planet. If it is not climate change it will be the increasing move of displaced people, the wars and the failing economy and political models…in the meantime and while we are not yet hit, we are supporting (directly or indirectly) a system that hurts not only the ecosystems our lives depend on but other human beings, both current and future generations.

There will be a time where we all will be forced to live with less and it won’t be happy or beautiful. That’s the forced, the imposed descent by disaster…or we can work on designing a descent with dignity and resilience…

The decision, however, has been made: I have become a “radical”

The value of doing something does not lie in the ease or difficulty, the probability or improbability of its achievement, but in the vision, the plan, the determination and the perseverance, the effort and the struggle which go into the project. Life is enriched by aspiration and effort, rather than by acquisition and accumulation.”
~ Helen Nearing, The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living

I assume that ardent endeavor to discover the ideal, and to embody it in individual and collective life, develops the bone and sinew of body, mind and spirit.” ~ Scott Nearing, in The Making of a Radical, A Political Autobiography.

2 Comments on “By Disaster or by Design?

  1. Helen and Scott Nearing were an inspiration to me in my own decision to work towards “living the good live”.
    Sounds like your in metamorphosis Silvia – the beautiful butterfly that emerges will be an inspiration to all those around you. I’m with in the difficulties and the unknowns.

    Liked by 1 person

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