Is it the “Leap Manifesto” naïve, radical and unrealistic and leading to nothing or there is something in it we could utilize as a framework to discuss how we would develop our own personal, household, community and global Energy Descent Action Plans?
Wouldn’t be more unrealistic, naïve and “radical” to think we can continue leading this same path of exponential growth in a limited planet while the gap between the haves and the non-haves widens and the loss of resources, biodiversity and overall health increases?
I was looking into electrical trikes this past weekend: I’m not so strong and fit as to ride a bike for long distances and I’m surrounded by hills…it struck me how frustrating is to spend $1,500 or more in a good adult trike with a basket (something I could use to go grocery shopping, approach farms for CSAs or volunteering/goods exchange, teaching workshops where I have to carry lots of stuff, or just having a nice weekend ride through the Lower Mainland parks). What’s the point, I realized, if there are not enough or safe biking paths around my home? What’s the point if bikes (much less trikes!) are not allowed in skytrain at rush hours? And what’s the point when cars and even buses don’t respect cyclists and riding a bike in my city is an act of bravery?
I interjected this story because it reflects what I suspect is keeping us paralyzed, even those of us who should know (and behave) better in the face of climate change, resource depletion, etc.: we can only do so much as individuals, but if the systems and structures around us are not supportive, many of us become frustrated and disengaged.
I hear/read a lot of people talking about personal responsibility, encouraging things such as embracing voluntary simplicity, going back to our relationship with nature, reducing our consumption, commute, and so on…the same proponents usually talk about spiritual ecology, forest or nature retreats, workshops, etc. I have come to the realization that many of these things come from an unchecked (and deeply discriminatory) state of privilege: they tend to come from middle class, North American people, most of them young and educated, some single and some childless.
The conversation includes things I’m also guilty of: implying that we somewhat are in charge and control of our lives, choices, decisions and reactions. That if something is not working, it is our fault; that it is in our hands to “change the world” and make it more as we would like it to be…this, unfortunately, steams from the deeply ingrained sense that we are individuals, separated from others and from nature.
We share quotes and reinforce each other around these stories…so I needed to look deeply and further away to find an answer, a very elusive answer as the predicaments we face are complex and elusive too.
Last weekend I watched the movie “Suffragette” (about women’s movement towards getting women’s vote) and the first show of the Netflix series “Rebellion” (about the struggles and birth of modern Ireland, staring in the Easter Rising in 1916)…I was in bed with a bad cold!
When we see how things have changed in our world, few changes have come from the top or elites: in most cases, it has been the work and struggle of those at the bottom, many times messy and dysfunctional and many more times, violent. We rarely think about the individual struggles, isolation and sacrifices of those involved in those fights: many women were made outcasts, incarcerated, abandoned by husbands, families and entire neighbourhoods, some also lost their jobs and even their children because of their involvement in a cause they deeply believed as just and necessary. The uprising from these and similar movements that changed the world (i.e. Civil Rights) may have started as dreams and naïve, unrealistic, laughable expectations from a few. But they grew into organized resistance where people were trained and many times also armed.
None of them had their paths paved: some had privileges and were from wealthy families, but chose to risk that privilege in the name of something bigger. Many had few or no privileges at all.
I wonder if I need to peacefully wait for Cloverdale and Surrey roads to be bike/trike safe by a top-down decision and meanwhile continue with carpool rides, walks and public transportation, or should I buy my trike (another privilege!) and challenge the current mainstream so everybody can walk through the Energy Descent Action Plan now and in the future.
The trike is, obviously, an analogy.
A serious conversation of how we would become the next “suffragettes” and “rebels” needs to urgently take place, based on The Leap Manifest or whatever you want to call it. We may need to re-learn from the past and see what worked and what didn’t. And bravely embrace the level of sacrifices and outcast-ism we are willing to offer to the cause.